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Posted by: Elron Mings | 5September2018

My Crazy Life… Or, the Last Decade Thereof [Part III]

Part III is not that exciting… it can’t be.  It’s of the loneliest and darkest part of my Life.  Not because of my own personal feeling(s) per se regarding the time/situation, but more so because of my surroundings.  There hadn’t been a time in my Life where I identified so much with “Daniel in the Lion’s Den” as while I was incarcerated.  Though some of the greatest Blessings I received were being able to avoid the darkest of men’s hearts during this time, I was constantly aware that my situation could have gone from bad to worse in a moment’s time, without warning.  There is little happiness behind those concertina wire lined fences, concrete walls and asphalt.  And one who is perpetually happy with the fact of being alive could have made a very easy target.

This part in particular is more of an overview of my activity(ies), while the next will be more of the emotion(s), the events, the personal trauma(s), and so one.  Brace yourselves, the ride’s going to be bumpy!  LOL

Ready to go down ‘the Rabbit Hole’??

—-

 

Herein is where Life takes a turn I did not see coming.  For several months at this point, I had been befriending a guy not far from where I’d been camping, a long-time Friend of the guy whom I’d shared a room and being “kicked out” together.

To spare the legalities, we’ll call the former roommate/Friend Bob, and the one I was getting to know Joe (The “facts” are a matter of public record, but to avoid unnecessary problems and potential grief, pseudo-names suffice).

Bob was spending much of his free time at Joe’s, and Joe would occasionally invite me over (through Bob) to spend the day/afternoon.  We seemed to be hitting it off!  In fact, Joe and I had much in common (or so I perceived it to be… in hindsight, I’m not sure how much, if any of our “relationship” was real), and were quite like minded in serious philosophical/metaphysical matters.  Our Friendship (again, from my perspective) grew rapidly, and I came to respect him for his knowledge, insight, and Life experience(s).

Joe was deathly ill.  Every day, the pain he suffered got worse.  He required more and more assistance in taking care of “simple” things, like getting off the bed, getting in to/out of his chair.  He felt he had no quality of Life, and even that was diminishing.

One evening, I was at Joe’s apartment, preparing to write his biography.  We’d agreed he had an amazing story to tell, and, being the “up-and-coming” wordsmith, he was happy to let me write it.  We had only just begun, and he -quite literally- out of the blue, asked me to help him end his suffering.  I was in shock, and “the world” blurred around us.  In my numbness at what he’d asked, I attempted to comply.

 

I paid the price for (what I consider(ed) to be an act of compassion) it.  6 years, 9 months, and 11 days of imprisonment.  It does not make sense to me (as a sentient, empathetic human-being) that we can show such mercy to a horse who broke its leg, or our dogs and cats, and other farm animals, for great deal less suffering on their behalf.  But when a fellow human-being is suffering unfathomably, and begs for mercy, the law says we must not only allow them to continue to suffer, but prolong their suffering as long as pharmaceutical and insurance companies and doctors stand to make a profit!!

That time was a living hell for me.  I have no doubt some will think it just.  I reserve my opinion on what it was for another blog…

Yet while for me personally it was hell, having next to nothing in common with those around me, little to add to their dialogue(s) of belittling and degrading women, I continued to be Blessed daily!

Every aspect of that time could have been worse, but wasn’t.  I was provided opportunities I would not have had on the streets, opportunities that in “real Life” had eluded me for one reason or another.  Such as learning HTML/CSS and JavaScript, in a program called Code.7370, a joint venture between PIA and TLM (Prison Industrial Authority and The Last Mile, respectively)!  It’s a fantastic program, that’s really starting to take off, and become available at more facilities, teaching inmates real and marketable career skills that can improve their odds of, if not guarantee, they do not remain caught up in the cyclic lifestyles that ushered them in to the prison industrial complex.

While at San Quentin I also participated in the Insight Garden Program, another wonderful program, designed to teach gardening as a metaphor, as a method of self-improvement as well as a “real world” skill set, which also has a high success rate of preventing recidivism!

Of the programs I attended, one of the best (they were all good, and I very much liked them all) was attending Patten University via P.U.P. (Prison University Project)!  What made (makes) this program -offered at present, solely at San Quentin- so great, was the learning environment.  98 percent of those attending (a guesstimate, so please don’t quote me) actually wanted to learn, and the instructors were all volunteers from surrounding/nearby Universities!  On top of this, there was a minimum of 2 instructors per course, so you had a classroom (capped at 25 students) of people who wanted to learn, teachers, who by the very nature of the fact they were volunteering were passionate about education/learning, and you have an environment unlike any other for the betterment and enrichment of your Life through higher education!  It was (is) phenomenal!

Then there was Yoga!  Offered through what’s called the Prison Yoga Project, this program offers inmates and inmates who are Vet’s a time and place to practice the Art of Yoga!  When I first arrived at S. Q., I was able to do both the Veterans Healing Veterans Yoga as well as the Hatha Yoga down in/on the H-unit yard, which was awesome (Once I got a job though I could only attend the latter, as the VHV Yoga was [is] in the mornings… so only for about the first 6 months)!  The primary instructor down on the H-Unit yard was Zain SYED, and with him we practiced the Iyengar style of Hatha Yoga, and it was (is), a fantastic practice!  I still prefer this style, though I’ve not yet found a local guru such as Zain with whom I may continue my own practice.  I’m still working on making the time also…

Last but certainly not least, was my Creative Writing class Finding Your Voice on the Page, by authors Keith and Kent Zimmerman.  Twins, and successful co-authors of more than 20 books (and counting), they brought to us an outlet that I was much in need of, a place where I could write, and express myself, even if only in short bursts of written text.  Shortly before I arrived at S.Q., they actually published a book titled H-Unit, a compilation of pieces written by the students of the class.

These programs (during the last 4 years [approximately] of my incarceration) helped me to maintain my sanity.  The “me” I couldn’t be when in the dorm, surrounded by upwards of 80 other guys, was able to come out and stretch for brief moments of those longest years, months, and days of my Life.

Posted by: Elron Mings | 25August2018

My Crazy Life… Or, the Last Decade Thereof [Part II]

Here is the second part of this essay.  It looks like it’ll be about 4 parts… or maybe the next will be a little longer, depending on how I summarize/explain certain items.  we will see.

I’ve found myself working a job in/with nature in a way I hadn’t previously anticipated, but I’m enjoying it nonetheless.  I’m working with (not for) CalTrans, cleaning up the roadways/highways/bi-ways in the surrounding areas of Yolo and Sacramento County(ies) and it feels good to be back in the work force.

But my “time” allocation/management is all messed up, so please forgive any great lags in my posting.  It is not for lack of content, but for lack of adjustment to this thing we call the “real world”, and the numerous pulls for my time/attention.  It really shouldn’t be this difficult, but, apparently, it is a common affliction of the formerly incarcerated.  So please bear with me!?  I’m still working on me, and eventually I’ll have something that resembles “acceptable”, I hope.  LOL

Keep the Faith, and know there’s yet more to come, should I (we) continue to be Blessed with additional days to our fragile and under-lived Lives!  😉

—-

I’d found a shelter to stay at in Woodland (formerly known as the Wayfarer), CA (I should say, I was Directed to…) the day I arrived, and there found hospitality, and a few new Friendships that remain to this day (Thank you Caleb, Steve, Rosie, Fritz)!  True Friendships.  Approximately 4 months later, after my allowed time at the Wayfarer had expired, I moved on to Davis, CA, and Davis Community Meals became my new place of residence.  More good people, more assistance getting me to where I thought I needed to be, to get my Life on the long overdue track I’d always wanted it to be on!

For the last 2 ½ years, I’d been steadily looking for full time employment, often putting in 40 hrs. plus in the search thereof.  As previously mentioned, the “bad economy” had become my shadow.  During those latter months of my time in Illinois, it had the highest unemployment rate in the U.S.  Then, while in New Mexico, it had the highest unemployment rate in the states.  Now (circa February/March, 2011), California had the highest unemployment rate.  All I wanted was a full time job, with -acceptable, not even necessarily good– benefits, so I didn’t have to worry about my health, and to get some much needed dental insurance, something that low income/poverty level finances cannot afford without.

And I finally found it!  Where I least expected it, and in a field of work I’d not been in before, I found myself now as a full time employee of the Davis Food Co-Op!  Perhaps the best job I’ve ever had, not because of the pay, but because of the people, the environment, the message(s) which it represents, and good benefits!  All things I believe(d) in, all things I’d supported in spirit, if not literally, I was now an active part of!  With insurance!!

As they say (though I don’t wholly believe), all good things come to an end.  I had been working for the Co-Op a little more than 4 months, and had literally just got my medical/dental insurance cards in the mail.  I’d received them on Thursday or Friday, and was working, and then Saturday when I showed up for work, they told me they didn’t need me to work that day, but asked me to come in on Monday (one of my days off) to talk to management.

No explanation, just, “…come in Monday afternoon and we’ll explain it to you then.”  I had the entire weekend to fret, to wonder, not knowing what was going on or why.

They were laying me off.  I found out shortly after my “meeting” with HR, from a fellow co-worker (I hadn’t even got out of the parking lot) that I wasn’t the only one; they’d laid her off as well, about ten of us in all.  Each of us working full-time hours, and replaced us with several “college kids” as part-time employees.

And here is where my “Life” started to unravel.  {Timeline note: it was now towards the end of July, beginning of August, 2011.}

I didn’t “go crazy”, or “lose it”, I had come too far along the path of a Positive perspective on Life.  I knew (and know still) that all things happen for a Reason, and though my “situation” seemed precarious, I remained optimistic, if not disappointed.

However, my “case manager” didn’t share my optimism.  I still don’t know for sure what his reasoning/thinking was about my having been laid-off… if he thought I was covering up a termination or something, I just don’t know.  But that Wednesday, when I met with him for our weekly “check-in”, he dismissed me from the house.  He too provided no explanation (quite similarly to the way I’d been laid-off from the Co-Op), said only that it wasn’t any one thing, but “…a bunch of little things”, but that I’d be welcome to try and come back to DCM, to try for residency again in a month.

I was crushed.  Not only had I lost the first full-time job I’d had in 2 ½ years, for the fact that I was working full-time, but the only stable residence in town I could afford (free), where I’d planned to launch my career as a writer.

Jobless again, -literally- homeless again, I took what few possessions I could and with a roommate (who also “got the boot” from DCM that same morning) lugged it all down the road a bit, to a spot beside the railroad tracks where we would make a “camp” for ourselves.  All was not lost, I still had my laptop (the very one I am now writing/typing upon), a Positive outlook on Life, and a strong desire, a will to succeed!  I had been on the “down-side of Life” (as a perspective) for far too much of my Life already, and I was tired of failure(s) being the end result.

To be continued…

Posted by: Elron Mings | 17August2018

My Crazy Life… Or, the Last Decade Thereof [Part I]

person wearing blue jeans sitting on bench

Photo by Bas Masseus on Pexels.com

 

There is something to losing all your worldly possessions… it brings (or can bring) a level of humility unique, in that it causes an awareness of just how temporary material possessions are, and if you reflect on it a bit, Life, similarly.

My “ex” and I separated in September of 2008, and the only possession of “value” that I got was the car.  She kept the dog, the house (note: I didn’t say home), all but 8 books of our Library of 100s, and a few clothes I was able to swap/change/wash on the weekends, supervised (more or less).  Immediately following my departure from where she lived, two or our “mutual” Friends moved in with her, and the very night I left, there was another man sleeping in “my” bed.

I was vainly attempting to be a salesman, and failing miserably.  I was selling (what I believe to be, and with good reason) the best product in the world, and am Blessed that my Life didn’t depend upon it, or I’d not be here today.  My monetary status did depend on it however, and regardless of 12-16 hour days in the attempt thereof, I couldn’t sell “them” at all.  If memory serves, over the course of the next 7 months, I sold a total of eight, and the profit I gained from that was not enough to survive on.

Through the kindness and generosity of my Boss, the owner of the franchise, I was able to get gas money usually by being a driver for a crew, and a few odd-ends jobs.  I lived on a dollar a day diet, usually Taco Bell’s dollar menu.  Occasionally I’d splurge and get a “Blue” Mt. Dew on refill, but it was usually too late for that, the dining room was closed (…the other reason it was usually Taco Bell, they were the only ones in proximity to where I worked and the location of where I parked the car and slept, and still open).  Those long hours were 6 days a week sometimes, 7 days a week mostly, and despite my passion about/for the product, it wasn’t selling.  At least not for me.

To be fair, the economy had tanked, and at that time Illinois had the worst unemployment rate in the nation (this is a key note…), so it wasn’t just me, though it felt like it at times.  Bottom line, I’m no salesman.  LOL

So, towards the end of those first 7 months, I was having a conversation with my brother, and my living situation came up.  He, at the time, was still in the Air Force, stationed in Albuquerque, and I, if not sleeping in my car, was “living” (existing, really) out of it, staying on a temporary basis with various Friends.  To them (they know who they are), I again wish to express my gratitude!  If not for them, my situation would have/could have been much worse.  They tolerated my presence (in most cases) more than many would, and I consider every night of their grace a Blessing!

He (Walter, “Walt” for short) was at some point in the conversation Inspired to invite me to come stay with him (and at the time, his wife, and our Mom) rent free, and even offered to wire me some money for the trip.  I considered my options (few), and my situation (bleak, at best), and humbly accepted the offer.  A few days later, I made the 18 hour drive, stopping only once for a couple hours -literally- of rest.

And so marked a major turning point in my Life.  I was out of the state where my “ex” lived, freed from the pull of what had become (for me) a “black hole”.  I said adieu to the Friends I still had (and would like to think I still do have… I remain in touch with most of them), and drove off into the proverbial sunset.

Here is where my Life would take a drastic turn, and set me upon a path I continue today.  A journey of a thousand miles was but the first step…  The growth, primarily Spiritual in nature (but not solely) has been monumental, but costly.  And, if I’m honest about it, worth it.  In spite of the challenges, the losses, the Spiritual and mental growths have magnified exponentially!  I’ve always considered myself to be a “man” of Faith, but the Faith which I gained during that Journey made it seem as though I’d had none before!  So great were the Blessings during that 75 day trek, and the quantity and richness of the Blessings received have only increased since then!

And yes, I include the last 7 years (minus a couple months and change) of incarceration in that statement as well!  But I’m getting ahead of myself…

Here is where (when) I walked from Albuquerque, New Mexico to Woodland, California.  Here is where I suffered the greatest lost I’ve ever known.  Before the walk actually began, a year before in fact, I had attempted (only briefly) the Journey of a thousand miles, and knew within hours my effort(s) at that time would be futile, and quite likely fatal.  I was ill prepared, and lacked the fortitude (mentally as well as physically, though it would be a few more months before I was aware of the mental “issues” from which I still suffered…) necessary to survive the journey, and the mental strength to fully “be me” in the desired/expected relationship(s).

I had a lot of baggage still, left over from the separation, shadows of me I didn’t yet know needed to be excised.  Bad habits and ideas that I knew didn’t belong in my repertoire, but hung around after 13 + years of not great marriage.  And thusly, upon my first “attempt” at my journey (for context, JUL2009), though I got there, it was not under the pretext it should have been (completing the Journey of a Thousand Miles), and though I had the three best months of my Life, it was just that… short lived, and it did not at all become what was (had been) intended to be.  After the miscarriage of our twins, what threads had bound us together seemed now to be frayed and withered away.

The following year, in the same month, I began the Journey in earnest!  It was, and remains to be a major highlight in my Life, one of the most significant events, and stories I have to tell!  At that moment in my Life, I had nearly nothing.  Most of what I considered “my” possessions, remained in Illinois.  The anticipated divorce was finalized 3 days after my Journey began (the “beginning” of the journey was 20JUL2010, I received notification of the finalized divorce 23JUL2010), and what I had in my 80 litre pack was the majority of what was now “legally” mine.  Many many pairs of socks, a small variety of shirts/cargo-shorts, 4 three-litre CamelBak®’s for my water supply, which (if rationed properly) would (and did) give me 4 days worth of water (the greatest distance between locations where I could refill them), about 60% of my food supply(ies) (Clif Bars®), a tent, a sleeping bag, and the will to succeed.

Though it began as a journey for Love, it ended up becoming a journey of Love!  I had just about given up on people, on Life (not in a suicidal manner), on relationships.  The drive to be, to remain a “man of my word” however pushed me forward, and over the course of those 75 days, Miraculously, if I had spoken with anyone, they were the kindest, most sincere people one could ever Hope/Pray to meet, and I met them randomly, spread across 3 states and 1200+ miles.

And so I changed.  I grew.  Spiritually above all else, mentally through experience, and now I found I had a more clear vision of Life, of Love, of who I was, and wanted to be.  Of where I saw my Life going, and I began to enjoy more fully the freedom my homelessness now presented.  My heart still ached.  It still does.  But it no longer consumed(s) me.  My loneliness is more a point of reference, rather than an all-consuming tragedy.  Life, when Lived, provides a myriad of countless, beautiful points of Light, from within, from without, under hill and over dale, it bursts from and through every point of reference!  Expression becomes difficult, if not impossible, for there is so much to be shared!  I was seeing it now, every day, around every corner, through amazing people, and amazing circumstances.  Materiality was fading away, and Spirituality and the Love of and for Life was growing immeasurably!

To be continued…

Posted by: Elron Mings | 12August2018

Precious Moments: Share A Long Hug!

I seem to be posting a lot on this subject lately, but it’s something that continues to be on my mind, and thus the only way I know of to get it out, is to write about it…

There are so many moments in each and every second, and those moments are what matter most in the make up of our being.  They not only define us, but they are what we remember, what triggers our emotions, what drives us to action.  And it’s the “small” things, those fractions of measured time that have the greatest impact on our lives, that inevitably mean the most to us, for Good or ill.

Yet we’ve become so caught up in the day-to-day routine, the digital connection, that we’re missing what’s most important, the “RL” connection(s).  Real Life.  Where those precious moments are not just experienced, but shared!

Life is fragile, and quick, and we don’t have the time to waste forgoing the meaningful, quality time that leads to deeply personal, intimate relationships.  Whether forming Friendships, connecting with Family, or creating a bond with a potential partner for Life, these things take time.  They take effort.  And social media sights are not about building those relationships, they’re about the instant gratification.  Their results are short term, and shallow in comparison.  Yet we’re turning to them more and more for that very reason!  “We don’t have the time to invest!”, “It’s safer, and we’re less likely to suffer heartbreak.”  These excuses sound good, but they are the root of the problem, and in the end, just an excuse, one that will leave us feeling hollow, and terribly alone.

If we don’t take the time to form the bonds of Friendship, that lead to the more meaningful “levels” of True Love (if you’ve read my blog, you know I’m referring to Charity), which can be shared with Friends, Family, and Loved Ones, then we miss out on those bonds that are most likely to keep us alive!  It takes time.  Any thing of value does.  Any thing worth our time, is worth the effort that must be included.  Otherwise we are short changing ourselves, and denying ourselves the opportunity(ies) to experience the greatest moments of our Lives!

There is NO replacement for “face-to-face” time, and NO comparison to the quality of relationship that stems from a serious investment of that time!  Sure, the “instant gratification” method produces those “free” endorphins of stimulation, but they also create a dependency that detracts from our ability to experience that same “rush” in RL situations.  And too, a trend has taken shape towards the digital because we’re less vulnerable…  Perhaps, but at what cost?  We are none of us “safe” in this world, and we are not promised -at least not us typical mortals- the next day, or even the next moment!  We have but a Hope…  we have but this one moment to live, this one Life’s worth of memories to build upon (again, typically), and if we don’t maximize our efforts for building relationships, we are denying ourselves many (if not most) of the greatest of successes in Life!  To hear, and to be heard, to feel, and to be felt, to see, and to be seen.

There is a bonding hormone and neurotransmitter (oxytocin) that is released after a twenty second hug, and it’s a natural antidepressant (…among other things)!  I’ve been a “huggy” kind of guy most of my Life, and I don’t often invest that much time in a hug… what are missing out on???  And why???  I can think of nothing more valuable, nor worthwhile, than Family and Friends!  Don’t we owe it to each other to be “present” enough in our relationships to give more 20 second hugs????  I know I plan on giving more of them, and maybe I’ll get a few in return (…be sure the person is willing, of course)!

Life is too short.  It is fragile, and fleeting.  We do ourselves no favors by shortchanging the time we spend with those we care about, or are interested in spending time with, perhaps leading to a deeper more caring relationship with them.  We are in fact doing ourselves a great disservice.  We are denying ourselves, and others, the opportunity(ies) to develop fundamental and core relationships, that can not only improve our quality of Life, but the length thereof as well!  And who doesn’t want that?

The rest of the “civilized” (…okay, the 1%) world seems to be on the fast-track to destroying the only home planet we have, and all of the Life thereon as quickly as they’re able.  Let us not give in by shortening our own lives for them, they’re trying hard enough.

Posted by: Elron Mings | 5August2018

A Writer’s Frustration(s)…

Hello world! It may seem to you (the reader) as though it’s been a long time (several days) since last I posted, but in reality (at least in my reality), I actually DID make a post 3 nights ago…mornings. Anyway, as it was about to complete, two things occurred… My battery died, and I lost the internet connection! Nearly simultaneously, and to the effect that, though the site “completed” the post enough to remove all drafts, it didn’t ever make it to the “posted” realm! Grrrr!
So here we are, I more frustrated than if I hadn’t written at all (Yes, many of us writers/wordsmiths actually get anxious if we haven’t written in awhile… or go a little insane… or a lot, depending), and you poor reader(s) haven’t had anything from me in nearly a week. The battery is my fault, the ether problem… well, anyway.
Sadly, I’ve had a lot going on this week, and I only recall vaguely what it was about… I recall that I’d made reference to Sherry TURKLE, and her book Alone Together.
Which means I was saying something about how vital our ability to relate is, and how we are becoming entirely too consumed by our gadgets/devices.
You cannot get from an emoji the level of detail the brain processes while physically, personally communicating with someone, to include facial expressions, body language, tonal qualities and inflection(s), all the little nuances that make up our day-to-day, face-to-face interactions, and make them so rich, so animated, and so meaningful!!
I was referencing (among other things) the time spent with “J” and “C”, and how much that “physical”, personal time meant, and how much more that time means/meant than a thousand “likes” on a social media platform!
There is nothing more important, no gift more precious, than Life! And how Beautiful the gesture, of being invited to share even brief moments of “time”, making them allthemore purposeful, special, and memorable in the process!
A Life shared is one full of Joy, and a Life in seclusion one full of misery. All of the worlds most miserable people are alone, and the ones filled with Joy, surrounded by Friends, Family, and precious moments shared with them and Loved Ones.
It’s not hard, it’s not meant to be. But we continue to complicate our lives, fill the “time” with meaningless “fluff”, gadgetry and greed, and we’re missing the point of it all together! There are people half starving in much of the worlds ‘3rd world’ nations, and most of them are HAPPY compared to the majority of the “civilized” world, for the simple fact that they have each other!! They don’t expend their energy(ies) worrying about keeping up with the Jones’, or making the most of a “9 to 5”, They simply Live Life to the fullest, and spend more of it amongst Friends/Family/Loved Ones, while “we” spend most of our time worrying about paying bills, getting/having more, and maximizing the 2 out of 7 days a week we get off in order to remain “productive”.
Then you have those such as myself, who are working diligently (or trying to) at what we’re passionate about, hoping “…One day…” it’ll pay off, while in the meantime doing whatever we can to make ends meet, usually doing something we enjoy much less. Why must there be a trade off?? Isn’t the “American Dream” doing what one enjoys to the fullest, and being able to make a “living wage” while doing so? And if not, why not???
The quick, and most accurate answer is simple: greed. Capitalism. We’ve sacrificed the “American Dream” for comfort, for ease and laziness and glut. There’s more to it of course, but that’s a fair, short assessment, if we’re honest about it.
And we’re losing the very “cure” that we are all so desperately in need of… each other! Through our devices, and their apps, and the instant gratification that comes from a “like” or a “heart” or a “tweet”, feeding off the adrenaline rush of a quick response of approval, while forsaking the immeasurable benefits of the long term investments that produce relationships that last a lifetime.
And now I’ve got to go… I’ve much to do, and not a lot of “time” to accomplish it all in before an early bedtime so I can get up and begin my own “9 to 5” tomorrow.
Blesséd be all! Take the time to spend some time away from your devices and gadgets and games on the go, and enjoy the building of a foundation of a long-term relationship with Loved Ones, Family, and Friends! You’ll be stronger for it, more connected for it, and happier for it… in the long run.

Posted by: Elron Mings | 28July2018

A Room of One’s Own: Part II

Greetings world! Over the course of the last two days/nights, I have had the opportunity to enjoy a room of my own… kinda.
Once a month, the transitional house I am staying at allows us (its residents/clients) to take two nights out, in which we have total “freedom” from obligation, minus the expectant cup we must fill upon our return. A small (haha) price to pay for two nights out and about, and worth every moment!
My day(s) out began with me rushing around the “house” like a chicken with my head cut off, checking, re-checking, re-re-checking, and re-re-re-checking to make sure I had all I would want/need with me before I left. I then got on the bus, came to the motel where I’d be staying to check in (they were nice enough to let me check in early so I wouldn’t have to cart my “baggage” with me all over the place ’til later in the day!), and then getting back on the bus (same route, one hour later) to Sac.
There I met up with a wonderful young woman (whom we’ll call “J”) who my Friend Caleb had introduced me to about a week ago, to spend some time together in the city. She met me at the bus stop, and we walked back to her place of residence, where we spent the next hour deciding what we were going to do.
We started by going to one of J’s favorite thrift shops, where she gleefully showed me some of the more interesting pieces of glass-ware she so enjoys, when she got a call from a another Friend (whom we’ll call “C”) who was coming by to visit as well. So we walked back to her place, and met up with C.
From there, it didn’t take us long to decide to go to the river. It was getting hot, and it sounded like a “cool” place to go, and we even took J’s dog Buddy with us.
The three of us connected better and faster than a 5G network! It was amazing! To have so much in common philosophically is a rare, and tanfastic Blessing, one for which I am immensely Grateful! (Of course, Caleb and I have a very Spiritual connection as well, and so it didn’t surprise me that J and I found a similar connection, as Caleb is typically a great judge of character… he’s a natural at it!)
For me, the day was incredible! Such connections, and the ability/opportunity to do so is something I had been severely lacking during the 6 years, 9 months, and 11 days of my incarceration. A treasure for which no monetary amount could ever replace! In today’s fast pace world (as I am learning, and had suspected was becoming the case in my “absence”), we are so caught up in the digital stream that there seems to be less and less time for the quality of relationship building that can ONLY come from face-to-face interaction, being so readily replaced with the tweet, the “share”, the f-book update and like, ad nauseum.
And though I cannot say there wasn’t at least one moment when we all three had our devices out, they were limited, and we spent most of the time together sharing our thoughts/feelings on the minutiae of Life, and our reflections thereupon. It was truly wonderful!!
It is so refreshing, to meet young(er) minds, who though removed by a decade or so, have, hold, and share so many of the same values that are so uncommon in a society that is degradating the very core of relation(ship)s at every turn.
The day together came to a close with some card games back at J’s place, and then my time ran out, and I had to catch the last bus back to Davis and my hotel room.
“My” room. A room of one’s own. Sort of. Though I am in possession of it, it is not “mine”. I’m simply renting it for a couple of nights. But it is private, and quiet. I have not once so much as picked up the TV remote. It has remained off, its blaring advertisements locked safely behind a black screen that will not emit one nano-watt of energy while I reside herein (yes, I am saying light is energy…)! It has been very peaceful, and quite nice enjoying the sound of my own thoughts as opposed to the din of others constantly present. (No offense to those with whom I live/coexist, they are each of them good people!)
I did have a class I had to attend this morning, but the rest of the day has been mine. I even took a nap, something I haven’t done (in private) for a very long time. It has not yet ceased to amaze me, how such simple things can bring such delight! Given my experience(s) of the last “7 years” (it’s just easier to go with the upward “estimate”, for if I get specific, I’ll have to constantly say “the 2444 days in which I was incarcerated”… The estimation is just quicker), I’ve found such joy in so many “simplistic” things! Having/Making time to spend engaged with Friends, the color of the leaves on the tree as the morning sun shines through them,, the sound of “om” as it resonates in the back yard of the “house” as I chant it four times at the start of each new day.
I’m still working on re-developing those “common” habits of old… feeding myself, making time to read, scheduling my time… all things I once took for granted. And even during my incarceration, I did not imagine I would one day have trouble doing them again. Apparently, “7 years” of being told when to eat, sleep, when and what I could do and for how long, and only as long as a C.O. was present and/or nearby, was enough to break the ones I’d developed over a short 36 year lifespan.
Such pleasure(s) to be found in being able to touch/hug people, freely and openly, and of the opposite sex! LOL So many small details, that once made up the whole of me, left at a gate of stone, chain-link fences and concertina wire, and nobody told me I wouldn’t be getting them back as soon as I was released. Are they now still mine to have?? And what of the pieces I’ll never get back?
I used to be able to trace linearly the “me” that I was, to the me that I am… now there is this gap that has no connection point to either end. Though I remember where I was, and know where I am, and even how I got here, too many of those missing “pieces” bear unrecognizable shadows that, though they should have context, just don’t fit, and I don’t know how, or if, they will and can again.
In some regards, I understand (conceptually) that it is the mere passage of time, that elusive substance which none of us own, and are yet irrevocably bound to. It changes us, whether we like it or not, and in the process of reinventing ourselves some things must be relearned. But why, though I remember being able to do so before, are so many things almost foreign now? If I’d simply moved away, I’d still be in the habit of feeding myself. My routine(s) would still be second-nature, instead of a constant struggle.
To be fair, I suppose it is a good thing that I am learning again to be me. I am certainly more dedicated now than I ever thought possible to making every moment count, alone or in the company of others. I don’t believe one can ever value what time we are granted too much.
Before I saw myself as simply unique. Now I am distinctly different! A label has been given me that has no place in the TRUTH of who I am, and yet it is -already- causing judgment against me, a bane to the progress I have always sought, though perhaps not so fervently (I speak presently about “gainful” employment). More than once, construction and its relevant sub-categories of jobs have not only been suggested to me, but implied that that may be -for me- the only thing going! I have no issue with that(those) trade(s), and I do enjoy manual labor, but if it is not what I want to do, why should I have to do it? Because someone else gave me a label I don’t deserve?? What about the fact that I’m willing and wanting to work, to even simply wash dishes, makes me unqualified for the job because of the title “convicted felon”? That is not who I am, but the result of an single act that was done out of compassion, NOT malice. It does not define me, it is merely a subtext of the events that lead to the shaping of who I am.
It is a stone I must carry though, and one that gains more weight with each denial of employment I receive, for a label, not a definition.
Can I honestly say I am “free”, while I continue to be judged and oppressed by a system designed to keep me in thrall to it, so that it will continue to flourish? What sense does that make, and what part of such a system have the words “correction” and “rehabilitation”, if that is not TRULY their goal, nor the result thereof???
And here I sit… alone, in a “room of my own”, in many ways more free than I’ve been in years. And in many others, more imprisoned than I’ve ever been.

Posted by: Elron Mings | 21July2018

A Room of One’s Own

As I am not about to try to plagiarize the wonderful essay by Virginia Woolf, but wish to speak somewhat on a (somewhat) related topic, I thought an ode to the great writer would be apt. She was a fantastic author, who died too young… And though her essay was more specific to women, the center theme is one that I feel is universally important.
As I am personally aware of not only the importance, but the limitations of not having “A Room of One’s Own”, I thought it relevant to borrow her wonderful title, and use it to simultaneously honor her and put forth my own thoughts on the topic to which I so completely concur, and so deeply desire.
Virginia’s essay was not so much about the physical space, but more importantly, of the oppression(s) she and every woman suffered (or was suffering) at the early part of the 20th century. It is something too many women today are still afflicted by, and were it only one woman it would still be too many! I Pray I am alive to see a serious and meaningful change in -if not the end of- the way women are treated in this world! They deserve better, and are better than their more hairy and “masculine” counterparts, and their continued oppression and mistreatment by a misogynistic “majority” (of men) must STOP!!
But I digress… that will be an essay I write in much greater detail at another time. This particular post is more about SPACE. That all too precious commodity that is becoming increasingly difficult for [us] to find, make, or invent for ourselves, in which we may be without concern more (or most) truly ourselves, without fear of repercussion, or observation, or interruption, or any one of a dozen and more disturbances of our most precious form of expression; self-expression.
I refer not just to privacy (though that is indeed a major “bullet point” for this writing), but to the freedom to act! Without feeling the need to be concerned about what any other might say/do/think/feel about it, without having to censor ones self in any manner, to simply be, in the moment, in that space, YOU in the truest sense! It is a luxury, that instead should be a given, but our society has not made that easy, and in too many cases, even possible!
So sacred a habitat (dwelling, if you prefer) is not so far removed from the memory(ies) of the older generation(s). It was, in fact, a way of Life. Beyond the threshold was a place one could find solitude, rest, freedom from intrusion, and a modicum of control over the environment therein. Though such realms do still exist, they are not the bastions of freedom they once were, as society (via technology) has found 100s (working towards 1000s) of ways in which to intrude, and worse yet, for you to invite the intrusion! Our phones, desktops, and laptops are being watched, as well as watching us, as are our T.V.s, our temperature control(s), our audio devices… the more “tech” the dwelling, the less likely you are to have any “real” freedom from observation, and the more likely it is you are being observed, in one form another, or many!
And this is but a single example. The ability to obtain these spaces is becoming increasingly elitist, as prices for housing, even rental and apartments, continues to rise, while the living wage remains woefully stagnant, and homelessness is on the rise around the globe in lieu thereof!! This trend is not new, nor the situation(s) putting us there, but we are becoming increasingly numb to the evidences, and blind/deaf to the signals that they’re only getting worse!
As a resident in a “transitional housing” facility, I am afforded a bed, in a room I share with a maximum of three other people. Currently it’s two. This house holds (a maximum) of 8 men, and 4 women. We are allowed to be at the house (with access to our rooms) between 1800 (6 p.m.) and 0800 (8 a.m.), in which time we have chores to do, meals to eat, clothes to wash, showers to take, and lights out at 2300 (11 p.m.). It means our living is structured (not necessarily a bad thing), and we must be adaptable to the personality(ies) of all those in residence, as well as the staff who facilitate our Living circumstances.
It is a wonderful program! The people involved (on both sides) are Good people, the staff are genuine, caring, and more than willing to go the extra mile (or a dozen) to help you succeed in getting back on your feet, to the extent that we are capable of subsistence on our own. It is an 18 month program, and their are “rules” that must be followed (such as doing our chores before “lights out”, not cooking after 2030 [so the person who has the “main” kitchen to clean can get it done), but, for basically rent free living (one might consider our “chores” “rent”), it’s a sweet deal!
But there is no such thing as “privacy”. Though I am MUCH more free here than where I came from, and 12 people (at max, not including staff) is NOTHING compared to 100+ (again, not including staff), this (for me) takes its toll. I have been nearly non-stop in the presence of other people (…people not “Family” or “Friends” or “Loved Ones”) for more than 8 years. I Love people, but I also value privacy. The chance to “get away”. The circumstances of my Life have not allowed this for some time, and won’t for some time yet. I’m okay with that, I accept it, and, again, I am quite Blessed to be where I am! It is amazing to me that I have been (and continue to be) so very Blessed with my present living conditions. But they run contrary to the ideal that we “all” pursue. That personal space to call “your own”. To do “as you please”. To work when you want, goof off as you please (or not), come and go as you wish, have company (or not)…
(Hour long tangent deleted… LOL)
Space is precious. It is a commodity. And to co-exist in today’s “modern” society, we must be willing to pay for it, ’cause we can’t get it -legally- for free. And there are a myriad of associated costs (that also continue to rise) which we must also pay for. Where does it end? To what length are we willing to go to secure this illusive “freedom”? And how much -space- do we truly need?
This post is leaving with more questions than answers, but it is important we consider them. For we, as a societal whole, determine the answers to many of them. So long as we are residing in these United States, we have the RIGHT to choose our elected officials, who determine the outcome of many of the variables that structure our livelihood(s), and so should be concerned with WHO we want representing us, and what regulations/allowances are to be made to govern us. If we want to have the option to obtain “A Room of One’s Own”, we should be willing to ensure we are “led” by those whose interests align with our own. If not, we will very quickly find ourselves without the option(s) we once found and took “for granted”, and have no one but ourselves to blame.

Posted by: Elron Mings | 19July2018

Getting Back To Being Me…

I’ve been back in the “real world” now for 37 days, and the effects of my incarceration have yet to abate themselves from my psyche. After 6 years, 9 months, 11 days (2444 days total… yes, I counted them all), I find that regardless of how hard I tried to prevent becoming “institutionalized”, I accomplished just the opposite. I am more institutionalized than I imagined possible.
I avoided some of the more common related “issues”, because I didn’t allow myself to be roped in to the “games” being played and the petty violence that was rampant. I refused to “politic”, and though there were many who did not appreciate this, I was not seriously beaten for my refusal, in part because of my age, in part because I simply avoided most “social” settings, in part because I professed and stuck to/with my religious beliefs about such senseless and destructive behavior(s).
There is MUCH that could be told about the situation(s) which I witnessed, and tried to avoid. But others have popularized them, even glorified them plenty, and that’s not the topic at hand… Ironically, because of the very reason of my avoidance(s), I created a little bubble in my head, and denied my surroundings to get in. It worked! Except that now, I’m having trouble getting “me” back out.
The mental, or inner “connection” is still there, I am still “me”, and in some regards, more so… but inwardly, much more than outwardly. Not in some seriously debilitating way, per se, but in so many little ways!
To explain, let me first relate some of the “mental” goings-on I’ve experienced as of late.
The first two days “out”, were about the worst. I was in a state of shell shock, in lieu of some very extreme sensory overload!! It’s amazing to me (still) how fast the “free” (U.S.) world moves, and things literally happened and went by in a blur, as I stood still (or so it seemed). Not only had I been left behind technologically, but I’d left myself behind emotionally. Not that I didn’t feel on the “inside”, indeed, I became almost hyper sensitive. But INTERNALLY. Externally, I did my best to keep my emotional self tucked away, and displayed them only within the confines of my “rack” or “bunk”, where, if I cried, those who walked by either didn’t notice, or pretended not to. Both, to be sure, and I’d say more of the former than the latter, but simply because I avoided the recognition of most. I can count on a single hand the number of people I “socialized” with during that -nearly- 7 year period.
Those of you who know me personally, know how much of a deviation that is from my “norm”. I remained “Friendly”, on a purely superficial level, but COULD NOT risk, or afford, to be “me” in a very real sense, except in small and controlled amounts, being ever mindful of those by whom I was surrounded.
There were a few instances where I came close to “cracking”, but I sheltered my self well enough that by the time those occasions took place I was already considered by most to be “weird” at best, and who knows what other thoughts of me “they” may have had. I didn’t, and couldn’t care. I avoided their “world”, and they avoided “mine” for the most part.
The problem with this approach of mine (I am now discovering), though it kept me (for the most part) physically safe, and preserved my mental “self”, is that I developed a habit of almost 7 years of non-interaction, and non-expression, and guardedness, that is spilling over into THIS reality.
I remember how to “act” in this reality, but my body is at times slow to act. Things that should readily be at the forefront of my mind, are swimming in a whirlwind of mush that isn’t sure how to, or even if it should, congeal. I know that I have to abide by the “curfew” I have at the transitional housing I’m residing in, but instead of getting that internal alarm saying “Hey, aren’t you supposed to be somewhere soon?”, it doesn’t dawn on me until I’m walking through the door…
My vocabulary is another (and, for me) disturbing example. I had, before quitting my incarceration, developed a vocabulary I was nearly comfortable with (…again, those that know me know that I’ve been working on increasing/improving my vocabulary since my departure from the mid-west. Uuggghhhh), after so many years of struggling to build upon it! Simple pronouns escape me now!! LOL It’s ridiculous how much “simple” conversation is baffling me, though the situation is (and has been) improving!
Routine… Who’d have thought, that coming from such a FORCED and structured environment, not to mention {… I SO dislike that phraseology… because you’re always using it as a preface to what’s “not” being mentioned…} the fact that I’m a foul creature of habit, that having one of my “own” design would prove so difficult!!! LOL It’s as if I’m moving in “slow motion”, and even though I’m aware of the passage of time, I simply am not accomplishing what I set out to do! There are exceptions, and things I AM getting done in a “timely” manner, but I feel lost if I don’t have my newly purchased day planner inches from me and easily accessible. (An extreme example that doesn’t quite fit the reality, but… see “lack of vocabulary” above.)
Things are not aligning as they should, or at least not as I think they should. Memory and reality are NOT mixing together well. I hold no illusion(s) that ANYthing should, or would be as it was. Too much time has past. But it seems to be taking more effort on my part to make simple connections, like grabbing the water bottle that was VISIBLY on the outside seat -closest to the isle- of the bus I was on (I of course was sitting on the “inside” seat), but no. I got up and left it there like it was its own passenger, and I simply had to get around it to get off the bus. It didn’t occur to me that I’d left it behind until I was already back at the “house”, and went to grab it from the holder on my bicycle.
These snippets sound (perhaps) more extreme than what the reality is. Not that I’m embellishing, but they are only parts of a whole. Again, I am functioning, and am (I believe) completely capable of being IN the “real” world, or I wouldn’t be sitting here writing this post. But I can see, in so many minute details, my own incompleteness. I guess the best analogy is looking at a puzzle, and seeing a “complete” picture, even KNOWING that there are pieces missing. And I don’t know where some of those pieces went.
Make no mistake, I am in NO WAY claiming to be any less Blessed than I KNOW I am! In fact, that I am where I am, and have had the people I have as my contacts, my base, is a testament to that!! I couldn’t be, and truly wouldn’t be doing as well as I am without the Blessing(s) of so many Good people being in my Life right now, that are NOTHING but supportive, and (to the best of their ability) understanding of my situation, willing to do whatever they’re able to assist!
But I am no longer whole. And I don’t know which neurons aren’t firing, or why. I’m in no danger of acting out, or doing something I KNOW I shouldn’t, yet I’m no longer the me I was, and the me I “am” hasn’t yet found the me I left behind. Or where I hid him.
In some regards that’s a good thing! I’ve certainly grown through my period of incarceration. My Spirituality is stronger and more than it’s ever been! I’ve taken several (college) classes in English, and coding, I read almost 370 books while “down”, I neglected my “physical” health though… I’ve got about 20 pounds to shed. But I was keeping my mind strong, where -most- others were keeping their bodies strong. I steadfastly avoided doing anything “they” considered normal. I didn’t get into trouble, or bad-mouth the C.O.’s, or discuss women as though they were property or slabs of meat (which nearly drove me NUTS, for my inability to escape such demeaning and WRONG dialogue(s)).
And now I’m finding it difficult to be the me I KNOW I am, the one that’s hiding somewhere in my head. It’s not that he (I) doesn’t (don’t) want to be the me I KNOW I should be and am, I’m just not sure how.

Posted by: Elron Mings | 19July2018

Ever More

I wrote this Poem for an assignment in the Creative Writing class I was taking while at San Quentin. We’d been locked down for more than a month, and my Hope was, that by writing this preemptively, I’d spark the Universe into action. We were still locked down that week, but the following week it was lifted. 🙂
It’s the first of its type that I’ve written in a number of years. Enjoy! Critique! Let me know your thoughts…

Ever More

Time moves on
tick tock tick tock
So much gained
so much lost
Life goes on
tick tock tick tock
Bitter and sweet
sweat and frost
Wheel turns ’round
tick tock tick tock
the good the bad
the pass the fail
Arms circle ’round
tick tock tick tock
Grapes to wine
Apples to ale
Cycles they spin
tick tock tick tock
Pride & Joy
sorrow & loss
Watch hands spin
tick tock tick tock
The Star the Hand
the Crescent the Cross
Worlds without end
tick tock tick tock
Rain that falls
wind that blows
What starts must end
tick tock tick tock
What’s it really mean
who of us really knows
So the sands flow
tick tock tick tock
One man’s trash
one man’s treasure
As the waters flow
tick tock tick tock
Life without Love
pain without measure
Time moves on
tick tock tick tock

Posted by: Elron Mings | 11July2018

Thoughts for the day (yesterday, 11JUL2018)

Moving forward is never easy. That’s the Joy of Living! That we must toil to progress. There is no reward without having put forth the effort to succeed. Even failures can be a success, if we’ve learned, and do not stagnate in the pool(s) of disappointment and despair.
There is no growth if we’re wallowing in self pity, no point in surviving if we take on the role of ‘victim’ instead of gaining strength from having been victimized.
Words alone will rarely make it easier, but through experience can be found knowledge, understanding, wisdom. If we but seek them out, and accept that in all of Life there are lessons from which we may learn, they are ours for the taking.
Letting go of suffering does not mean we cease to fail, or feel pain, but that we revel in it/them as much as we do pleasure. Which (again), does not make the experience easy, but opens our inner selves to the possibility that we can gain as much from one as the other, and be better for it. It then becomes not a roadblock or obstacle, but a door, a gateway to new and better experiences, to a higher, more aware state of being! More in tune with the Universe, and less disconnected from it, and from all that truly matters.

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