The Problem and The Plan

So this is another new day. A delicious cup of coffee is beginning to make its way through my system. A gorgeous half moon waning is poised over the Bay Area. Life begins to proceed along its normal course. Children prepare for school. Parents prepare for work. Students prepare for study. Politicians shake hands with the servants of mammon. And life does what it does. It thrives, it spreads, it overcomes adversity.

One can get a very jaded view of this simple process,  because we are a part of it. It is natural to simply attend to business and let some of these basic fundamentals of our society fade into the white noise of the background. After all, we are saturated with information. It is a very good thing that our minds have the capacity to deprioritize, ignore, forget and focus on what is most important. And what is most important is the next step. Although every journey begins with a first step, it is easy to forget that we took steps to get to this metaphorical first step, and unless we take the next step we will never get where we are going.

I have a long journey in front of me. Fortunately (or unfortunately), I have done this before. In 1995, I experienced my first grand mal life crash. It was a similar experience to what I endured in the months of May, June and July of this year. Hell, similar? It was the same thing. The same symptoms, the same outcomes. I had gotten myself to a place in my life where, in pride and hubris, I thought everything was about to be perfect and somehow, someway, I sabotaged everything.

Here is the thing about Mania: It feels fucking amazing. The sense of power one feels is intoxicating. The speed of thought is faster than I can even describe. Energy pours through one and sleep and food seem unnecessary. Delusions of grandeur are common. Identification with mythological characters is a particular manifestation of my episodes. So, honestly, I never wanted to treat it because I was getting by “just fine”. Sure, the flip side of the roller coaster is hopeless depression. But I self-medicated for that, got prescription anti-depressants, meditated, tried to stay focused. I failed almost every time because I was treating the wrong illness. But what I knew, my little secret that I kept from everyone, was that I Wanted the mania. It was the only time I felt alive, normal, more than normal.

I come from a family of fundamentalist and conservative christians who do not particularly believe in decadent theories about biochemistry and brain chemical imbalances. It is all a matter of willpower. I don’t blame them. Much. The other aspect of my lack of treatment, however, was an attempt to use simple willpower to prevent episodic problems.  I can not allow this to ever happen again, so I am abandoning that course of action.

Abraham Maslow has a well known psychological model of the hierarchy of needs. Envision it as a pyramid and at the bottom are the most basic needs that we as humans must engage in. These are eating, sleeping, breathing. Next, in the hierarchy comes the needs for security, warmth, shelter from the elements. This particular stage also includes the need for gainful employment, property, self-reliance and proactive thinking. The third stage is love. Family, friends and the attendant concepts of simple self-worth that are associated.

This is what I am working on. Everyday, all I think about are these three things. Do I have food available? Am I out of the elements? Do I still have my backpack with 3 changes of clothes and the books I got in jail? What steps can I make toward public assistance and a job as soon as possible? How can I get psychological help and the appropriate medication as soon as possible?

“Maslow used the terms Physiological, Safety, Belongingness and Love, Esteem, and Self-Actualization needs to describe the pattern that human motivations generally move through.”

What is interesting is that by engaging in this writing, I am actually able to engage those upper levels of Esteem and Self-Actualization as well. So, due to technology, and due to friends who are helping me out, I am able to satisfy some of those other needs. It is greatly improving my positive outlook. I’ll talk more about the undeniable value of lines of communication and what happens to the consciousness when they are cut in later posts.

So what is my plan? I am sure a lot of people have been wondering that? Wondering what my limitations are and why I have not returned to the State of Washington. The short answer is that our legal system provides me no legal right to leave the State of California while I am on probation. It does not matter to the system where my support network is; it does not matter where my job prospects are; it does not matter where my family is. If they release me at 1 am into the rain of downtown Sacramento and I end up homeless, it is no concern. It does not matter that I am not a career criminal; my extenuating circumstances are not part of that equation.

Of course, I am an exception. The majority of inmates are from the county where they are jailed or imprisoned. The majority Are career criminals who will simply return. The majority have a support network, gang oriented though it may be, that they can return to.

Some will consider the concept of Providence (divine or otherwise) to be far too mystical and woo woo for serious consideration in this age of Science. But, let me tell you, I have experienced it. Directly. Without photo ID, I managed to end up in a hotel for 2 nights due to the awesome efforts of my friend Peter. A man I met in jail put me up for a week after that, while I helped him with a landscaping project, carting 5 yards of gravel and other fun stuff. When I discovered that I could not board Greyhound even without photo ID, I called upon my friend Joelle in Oakland, which is where I am now. I am safe. I am eating. I am going to be OK. I have to keep reminding myself of that, even though at every step the opportunities keep presenting themselves.

From the probation department, I obtained permission to leave the county and go to Los Angeles County. Ok, that works, sort of. I have friends down there. I have a place that I can probably stay for a little while as I rebuild. But it’s not where I want to be. I am sorry to say that my opinion of California has somewhat soured. I do not want to stay here. But I am trapped. Violating my probation will do one thing: result in a warrant for my arrest and a return to jail. Hello recidivism: it’s quite literally built into the system. Though that may be a bit unfair due to the amount of repeat offenders, it bears thinking upon because in this era of austerity, budget cuts and stripped down government, rehabilitation is quite simply not a factor. It is someone else’s problem. Another department of the State, possibly, but not the problem of the legal system.

Right now, I am awaiting documentation to be sent to me so I can obtain the simple expedient of a Photo ID. I lost my wallet during my madness and it is now a problem to be solved. Again, simple things are so important. Once that happens, I can catch a bus to LA. Very possibly, I will be riding to LA with Joelle in the week before Thanksgiving. I do not know yet. Everything is in flux and the story develops every single day.

Once I get in LA and get the assistance I need, I will petition probation to move to another state. This is not an easy process. States do not want new felons in their state. They have every reason to reject it for any reason whatsoever. And since we are dealing with bureaucracy, it could take 60 days just to hear from them that they have turned you down. At this point, I do not even know whether it is best to return to Washington or go to Utah where my beautiful wife and daughter are. But I will try every option available. I will research every option and I will prevail. One thing I know: raising a daughter in Southern California is a really fucking bad idea.

At least I am in the Bay Area now. From here North is the only part of CA that I would even consider living on voluntary terms. My choices are not all voluntary, however. What I did (and I do not deny that what I did was wrong and violated law) has put me in the position where limitations exist that must be dealt with. All I know now is that I want to be with my family. Fortunately, at Thanksgiving, I will be able to see my daughter and wife after 5 long months.

I also contend with the difficulty of obtaining gainful employment with a record. There is a possibility that I can get this reduced to a misdemeanor. People have suggested it, but I do not know the details. I don’t know if I will be working with computers again, contracting, landscaping, cooking on a line, picking fruit, or writing books. Doesn’t matter much. I must make money. Must. My family needs me desperately. They were and are as affected by my actions as I am. This is something I feel intense remorse about. My daughter misses me. My wife misses me. There are heavy emotions involved and while it contributes to a feeling of hopelessness and fear at times, I can not let that overcome me. I must stay positive. I must make progress.

So this is the skeletal outlines of the Plan. I hope it explains my current situation a bit better than the snippets found on facebook.

One thing for everyone to keep in mind (myself included): there are people in far worse circumstances than mine. I am so blessed with good friends, my wife, my daughter and I thank Creator every day for this. I have my intellect still. I have my skills. I have some seeds of wisdom that may germinate over time. While I sometimes consider my situation dire compared to my previous lifestyle, I must acknowledge that I am actually in a state of mind, body and spirit that can find a path through the wilderness.

All that is gold does not glitter,
Not all those who wander are lost;
The old that is strong does not wither,
Deep roots are not reached by the frost.
From the ashes a fire shall be woken,
A light from the shadows shall spring;
Renewed shall be blade that was broken,
The crownless again shall be king.



~ by Shane Harris on November 6, 2012.

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