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14 March 2011 @ 10:28 am
Bzzzy brain  
For the first time in years my head is full of thoughts that want to be put down in writing. My head was full and busy last night, a bee-hive. This morning after a restless sleep some of the bees have flown without me. The buzzing of the hive is less urgent.

Around midnight I ate some trail mix and thought about food. I worked here in the downtown area for years and have my own unique mental map of food finds--crumpets, California rolls, blueberry tarts, grinders, pizza. I'm not someone who goes to clubs (I'm a lone drinker) so being here again doesn't spark drink cravings the way it does food. The Nordstrom Grill, though, used to have $4 Jack & Cokes, strong ones. There's something about being waited on in a dimmed cave, in your own high-backed booth, ordering a meal, reading a book, and drinking Jack & Cokes.

So anyway, that's a place to avoid.

B., one of my bunkmates--I'll call her Beryl--got on a mentoring jag last night, giving me the benefit of her own experience. Mostly these took the form of dire warnings. YES, I should beware the toilet seats. Do NOT lend clothing to others, especially hats. BEWARE of sitting next to someone who is scratching themselves. Apparently there's a lice issue in the main area of the shelter.

If my introduction to a homeless shelter had been the main women's dorm, I might have turned around and left, gotten into my car that I still precariously cling to, and driven off a bridge. As it was, I spent my first few insomniac hours last night monitoring every stray phantom twitch in my pubes, imagining the birth of millions. My childhood fear of toilet seats has been restored and reinforced. This morning I grabbed a large handful of seat covers from a public bathroom and stuffed them in my backpack.

Beryl also had stories of suicide attempts ("You mean here--in this room?" -- "Yes!") that occurred during the six weeks she's been there, including one that required her to wrestle a bunkmate into submission in the absence of shelter staff, and another that resulted in a full-on invasion of EMT and police, and a sea of blood that required forever mopping up.

I should say that Beryl is a skillful and dedicated conversationalist. She's attentive to precisely what is being said, the words used, the implications and shades of meaning along with any cultural resonance a phrase might have. She mentioned writing poetry and she has a poet's fascination with shiny turns of expression. I like talking to her a lot, and I'm someone with limited patience for chit-chat when I'm trying to read a book. The fact that I often find myself putting my book down and engaging in talk says a lot. We fill in each other's sentences when we're groping for words and often synch up on sensibilities.

She also spends time just hanging out in the main shelter, talking to people. I admire that without really wanting to emulate it. I feel like mingling would make me a better person, but it's the deep end of the pool and I'm afraid to immerse myself.

I had twinges of feeling yesterday that I haven't had in a while--the feeling of being where I'm supposed to be, of events unfolding as they should to give a specific shape and path to my life. It's not happiness--I'm definitely not happy to be where I am. But that particular feeling, which I've had in the past, is probably the closest thing I have to a spiritual instinct. Beryl said emphatically last night, after telling me scary stories: "I want you to have some of these experiences yourself." I'd just begged her to stop talking about body lice and bodily fluids. But later I thought, maybe I should get a case of lice, at least once in my life. Maybe that's what it will take to make me feel human and to connect to the rest of humanity. I'm so attached to fear. Here I am in a homeless shelter, broke and desperate, and there's still a large part of me that clings to any hiding place it can find, like a child determined to keep her unseeing head buried in a book while a fight breaks out around her.

Of course, a fight did break out last night; I listened through the walls. And I'd really prefer not to get lice. So my personal evolution and enlightenment proceeds in fits and starts.
 
 
 
Trepkos: Arthur and Kai smiletrepkos on March 14th, 2011 06:27 pm (UTC)
Well, call me crazy, but I hope you don't get lice too!

And it occurs to me that some newspaper should be paying for your reporting on life in a shelter.
Shapinglightshapinglight on March 14th, 2011 06:42 pm (UTC)
Seconded.
ruthless1ruthless1 on March 14th, 2011 10:24 pm (UTC)
Thirdeded. Is that a word?
Doctor Sciencemecurtin on March 15th, 2011 10:58 pm (UTC)
Indeed.
Kasskassrachel on March 14th, 2011 06:55 pm (UTC)
I don't know that mingling necessarily makes one a better person. I'd say: if it sounds appealing, then try it? and if it doesn't, stick to your comfort zone. You're already so far outside of what had previously been familiar that you're already stretching in all sorts of directions, emotionally and spiritually, I imagine. Just being present to what's going on for you sounds to me like one hell of a spiritual education; you might leave listening to / counseling / interacting with the other folks in the shelter to others, at least for now. At least, I think you'd be entirely reasonable if you chose to do so.

I'm glad you're getting twinges of feeling that you're in the right place. I hope that this turns out to be a good pausing-place and that good things are coming.

Here I am in a homeless shelter, broke and desperate, and there's still a large part of me that clings to any hiding place it can find, like a child determined to keep her unseeing head buried in a book while a fight breaks out around her.

Well, yeah. That makes perfect sense to me. I can't really imagine responding otherwise! :-)
Loligololigo on March 14th, 2011 07:22 pm (UTC)
You're already so far outside of what had previously been familiar that you're already stretching in all sorts of directions, emotionally and spiritually, I imagine. Just being present to what's going on for you sounds to me like one hell of a spiritual education;

Yes, this! I really don't think that lice are a necessary part of the learning experience. (I am with you in ectoparasite paranoia; when we moved into our new place, we were worried that it had bedbugs, and I was hardly able to sleep at all. Luckily, we soon figured out that it was just Evil Mutant Super Fleas eating us alive in the night. Still gross, but easier to kill.)
WesleysGirlwesleysgirl on March 14th, 2011 07:25 pm (UTC)
I think there are times when stepping out of your comfort zone is a good thing, and don't feel qualified to say if this is one of them. A therapist etc might be, though!
(Deleted comment)
dovildovil on March 14th, 2011 08:45 pm (UTC)
Forget Paypal, I'm now thinking we can all sponsor a lice each for a $1 a day. They can be given names and we can exchange cards (I'm thinking you can be the ghostwriter, lice have terrible penmanship) and there can be an annual newsletter describing their travels across the groins of America.

I'm glad to hear that you have a Beryl in your life right now though I think it's more than understandable that you would want to bury your head in a book. Your writing remains brilliant and all things shiny!

(Don't forget Paypal - do eeeet!)
tabaquitabaqui on March 14th, 2011 08:54 pm (UTC)
Ah ha ha, yeah, no. Perhaps, instead of lice, you could...um.

Well, experience life to the fullest in some way that does *not* include parasites and harsh chemicals and possible head-shaving.

*hugs on offer, 24/7*
JaneDavittjanedavitt on March 14th, 2011 11:57 pm (UTC)
Lice are a pain. My kids have had head lice three times after epidemics at school and I ended up with a couple since it was Mommy's job to deal with it so I spent two hours a night patiently combing through strand by strand and hunting the suckers down.

It's a hell of a job to get rid of them and a two-person job really; the shampoo helps but someone with a strong metal finetooth comb and good eyes is even better.

There are other experiences you can have to connect, truly :-)
MELODY GLOUCESTER PEGASUSjolielaide on March 15th, 2011 12:58 am (UTC)
<3
Dess: dame vaako scheming by pumahmistressdessert_first on March 15th, 2011 01:22 am (UTC)
But later I thought, maybe I should get a case of lice, at least once in my life. Maybe that's what it will take to make me feel human and to connect to the rest of humanity.

You know, I get that. I think you already are on that journey, though. The twinges of feeling sound so hopeful.

"She Who Procrastinates"logovo on March 15th, 2011 05:11 am (UTC)
So now I'm thinking of my own lice story. As a kid there was an outbreak at school and so brought them home. I remember chemicals in my hair and a great fear that it was all going to fall out, once someone told my mom that she was supposed to dilute the stuff before rubbing it into my scalp. Oops.

Sylvike: HedgehogAfishsanwitt on March 16th, 2011 12:06 am (UTC)
Sending good thoughts :) and *no* lice!
Ditto: SHAKATANYstretfordditto on March 18th, 2011 06:00 pm (UTC)
Eat some garlic every day, fleas don't like it so I bet lice don't neither. I make the dog have it, he's none too chuffed but I can't bear him scratching...he makes such a song and dance of it.