Memories From the Balcony – The Right to Stand Up After Falling Down

And I get it . . .
It’s not so easy when you’re in the middle of it all. Everything around you is in turmoil and your thoughts are raging with the worst possibilities. The ideas of shame, exposure and catastrophe are imposing and the impending doom is unrelenting.
I can say that I’ve been through times like this. I can say that anxiety and me are on a first name basis.
In fact, I call this “Me!”
But I am here with news that although times can be hard and pain can be pretty painful; the one thing I know is that we all have the right, the ability and the freedom to change and improve.
Nothing can stop this unless we let it.
Unless we bow out or give up or unless we surrender our desire to win or challenge or endure and persevere, nothing can stop us.

I’ve come to this section in my journal with a reason. As another traveler on this grand conveyor belt we call our planet or as I like to call it “Project Earth,” I am looking to bridge the gaps where doubt sets in and sets us apart.
To be clear, we should never be apart.
Never. I say this because we both know what happens when we’re apart. We both know what happens when we show up late or not at all. The loss column is full for me. Therefore, I need some more wins in my book.

  • It’s a day late and a dollar short.

Ever hear that?
It is too little too late and then you’re looking back and thinking about the things you said or did and next, you hear the sound of a caged door as it rolls shut with the grand exclamation point of a slam that will never be forgotten. 
This was me. This was me both figuratively and, at one point, this was me in the literal sense as well.

I know this sound. It’s the sound of doom.
I know it all too well and while I am not one to go backwards, I can remember the time when I was on the right side of the investigation.
I remember being escorted down a hallway with arresting officers and somehow, either immaturely or frightened or perhaps with the demons of my past, I turned submissively as if I were going to be led in direction of a holding cell – only I wasn’t.
I had a flashback and then I snapped out of this only to realize that it was me who was a hired professional. Indeed, I was on my way to the holding cells and the stationing area.
However, I was not referred to as a convict or criminal. I was not spoken to as a felon or a crook.
On the contrary, I was being brought back as a specialist.

Please believe me when I tell you, this was intense!
You see them. You watch them sitting, awaiting their process.
In my case, they were dope sick and squirming because they knew their dosage was confiscated and if their release was granted (especially with bail reform) they had to get out. They had to get their ride.
They had to get their money together and, of course, they had to get back to the same spot that got them arrested in the first place.
Why, you ask?
It was to get more heroin.

This was my first interaction with a law enforcement initiative. This weird too because in my best estimation, I never assumed that anyone from law enforcement was human. I never saw it as this was their job.
No, I saw the world in a more “us against them” fashion.
I believed in the good guys against the bad guys.
I certainly never assumed that human life existed beyond the badge or the legal offices, or beyond the tiles of desk sergeants, or beyond the bars in the cells, or outsider of the hard-shoe officers with keys on their belt who patrol the tier – nor did I ever grasp the concept that life happens to everyone, even the officials in the courtroom. No,
I never considered anything about someone in these positions because up until this moment, I was obviously misinformed. I had my opinions about law enforcement. I certainly had my thoughts about the abuse of power and the corruption, which is definitely prominent on the news – especially these days.
However, I was also heavily misled and severely misinformed. 

I used to struggle with seeing people as people. What I mean is I saw people as their jobs or their social standards.
I saw them as the roles they played in the world. For example, most people never see their parents as human.
In most cases, parents are supposed to be this role model. They’re supposed to define what a person is supposed to look like in this world.
Most people grow up and never see their parents and think about their life before parenthood. We might know the stories and we might know some of the details (gory and all) but at the same time, this isn’t real to us because this all happened before us. In all fairness, the human mind is prone to be biased.
We are all egocentric to at least some degree. Thus, we often fail to recognize and see the other sides of life’s equations. Hence, the saying “hindsight is always 20/20.”

Life happens to everyone.
This was a great lesson for me to learn!

It’s a day late and a dollar short . . .
I can relate to the idea of thinking “Good-God, I gotta get out of this!”
I can relate to looking back and over-questioning myself as in, “Why did I go back there?” or “Why didn’t I leave when I had the chance?”
“Why did I do that” or “Why did I say that?”
I can relate to thinking about the consequences of my actions and humbly apologizing while being as profusely sorry as all who are damned and condemned, I wished that I could get myself out of this mess – but hey, it’s too little too late kid. 
I know all about this.

I can remember thinking about the upcoming falls and all that was about to happen. I can also remember sitting in a holding cell and looking up at a row of windows that hung just beneath the ceiling.
Everything about this place was institutionalized and remanufactured.
This was only the way station . . .
The air was stagnant and recirculated. The hum from the overhead fluorescent lighting in the hallway outside of the cages were synthetic – even the glimpse of outside air from the slightly opened window which tilted outwards and exposed a tiny section of the sky – this too was nothing short of a message that had been accentuated with an damned exclamation point; as if to say, nothing here is free. Say goodbye to the life you just lost.

Come to think of it, I can remember a field trip when I was a small boy. Our camp was taken to the police station to see what they did for the community. We were also taken to the office which led to the holding cells before appearing before the county judges. I can remember looking up at a sign which read, “No guns beyond this point.”

I was small then and even at my young age, I could almost sense the intensity and the need for this sign; as if to say “There’s some bad people on the other side of that wall . . . so be careful.”
Perhaps one could offer the idea or sentiment of foreshadowing because there I was, older and not so young, not so innocent and this time, when I looked up to see the sign above the door that read, “No guns beyond this point,” I recognized that I had been here before – only, I suppose I didn’t learn the lesson I was supposed to learn back then. 
Life can be like that sometimes.

I remember sitting in a cell thinking about all of the terrible things that were about to come my way. Yet, there was a part of me that was relieved. At least a change was about to come my way.
At least I knew that something new was about to come my way – and whether it was hell or highwater, I wasn’t going back to where I was (or who I was).

There is hope – even in hell (I hoped).

Again, this was a very long time ago in a life that happened lifetimes ago.
There I was with decades of time between myself and my unsuccessful past. I was clean. I was hired as a specialist. I was undergoing training to become a useful part in this thing we call the war on drugs. 

I saw them – the arrested . . .
They all had a similar look on their faces. To be clear, you can always tell who’s been arrested before as opposed to the first-time offenders. By the way, even the tough ones cry.
I can definitely say the tough ones cried in front of me. 

I had to redefine this process. I had to change my own biases and my own thinking because otherwise, I know that I would’ve been counterproductive. I was there to be part of an initiative that was intended to help (and not hurt).
What were the results?

I left with an education. I left with an understanding that people are people before they are anything else. I understand that there is good and bad with anything and everything.
I understand that with all the downfalls comes the morning after.
We all have the chance and the choice to step away or change, to recover, to regroup, or to repair our sad and crazy little lives. 

I also came to the humanizing understanding that mental health stems across the great divide of social status (or standings) and that mental illness can find its way into any crevice or crack. Whether this is in a homeless shelter or the governor’s office or anywhere in between, life is only life and people are only people.
Everything else is only bullshit.

I had to change my view, which is often in need of updating and improvement. I had to recognize that my biases are not always true or close to accurate. While I have both good and bad experiences, this does not allow me the right to predict or assume the future. I can guestimate all I want and assume but, in the end, I don’t know what’s to come. 

Here it was that I was hired to be helpful yet it was me who was being helped.
I received a dose of my own medicine. No differently from when I was in my own troubles and awaiting the sentencing from a judge behind a bench, I had the opportunity to come to an understanding that a new beginning can take place at any given moment. 

I remember discussing this with a young man who was sitting in an interrogation room. He opened up to me after my introduction.
We began speaking after I told him about my first trip into the holding cells.
He smiled and told me, “I knew you were cool because as soon as you sat down the first thing you said to me was, I’m not a cop . . .”

We talked for a while.
He agreed to take the help he needed. He went to detox, followed up with rehab and, in part with other supervision and while being in contact with me as his recovery specialist, he stayed the course. 

We lost touch but the last I heard, he’s a licensed drug and alcohol counselor now.
This is one of my proudest interactions.
He took his lumps for sure. He took the fall and then he took the chance on giving himself a new choice in life.

It’s true that we find ourselves in the red-alert section of life.
It is also true that we often find ourselves with our feet to the fire.
We have the worst possible outcomes right at our doorstep.
But we also have the ability to get up and recover.
Not every day will be a great one, but not all days have to be bad ones either.

I am saying this to you while the sun is coming up. Nothing around me is remanufactured or synthetic anymore.
I don’t have to hear the sounds of slamming doors or cages rolling shut. Even if I do – I have you.
I have this. I have my voice and I have my hope that even in hell, there’s always hope,
at least I hope so. 

Hear me winds.
Hear me hope.
Hear my hopes for change and to find myself in greener pastures with an ongoing option to improve myself one step more, each day until at last, my sun goes down at the final bow. 

Everyone has a day where it’s a case of too little too late.
But for now, the new morning sun has returned.
In a short while, I am going to take a walk.
I’m going to breathe. I’m going to take a step forward because until the day comes when my body refuses to let me move, no one can ever stop me from stepping forward – not unless I let them.

Then again –
I don’t have to worry about things like that.
I don’t have to worry about quitting or giving in or about allowing myself to fold under the weight of the tide, or worry about succumbing to downfalls without recognizing one uplifting truth – there’s always a way to recover.

I will close this here but before I go, looking back at where I was and where I am now; I have grown more than any prediction that was given to me. I have surpassed myself. I’ve lived and fallen and learned to get back up.
I swear though, if you were to go back and find me when I was sitting in a cell or waiting with cuffs on to be processed and told me that “This” would be “Me,” I’d have thought that you were on more drugs than I was. . . 

Our ability to survive, to heal, to regroup and to recover is absolutely heroic.
This, my most special beautiful friend, is exactly what we are to each other heroic.

No matter what hell you’re in.
You will never be alone.
Ever – 

Ever wonder what the sky might look like in Marina Del Rey?
Me too.

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