Since I was released from The Men‘s Country Jail earlier this month I have noticed changes, changes in myself, changes in others. Even though I have been occasionally combative and resolute when writing here…this may not be the whole story.
The story is revealing itself, the narrative unfolding in ways I did not expect.
There was an occasion in the jail when, after I heard that the immigration lawyers I hired previous to the wonderful Esperanza Immigrants Rights Project had fucked up. I felt really desperate and powerless. Carlton, the 24-year-old House Mouse. sat on my bunk and, seeing that I was beginning to flounder, took me in hand and firmly reminded me that The Country Jail was no place for desperation. He reminded me that if I gave into weakness I would either go mad or die.
He said, “There are too many personalities in here.” I knew what he meant. I had lived in Los Angeles for a long, long time.
The other inmates understood that I had a greater purpose for being there and yesterday that purpose became apparent.
Crawling back into life has been challenging. I feel tender, as if my whole body is bruised. I feel my age. I am quieter, less prone to irritation, grateful for everything, trying to be kinder. Becoming vulnerable for all to see, not just those who are the closest to me…everyone.
I had lunch at SH the day before yesterday, saw friends from London who are here for Oscar week. I saw local friends who knew what had happened but were either too polite or worried to ask details. If they asked where I had been I blurted out, “I’ve been in jail for three months.” Then I tell them to read the piece in The Independent.
I sat down with those who needed to know and explained the whole story.
I am not spending every day on the mountain, I am making the effort to live. I am not making the same mistakes.
Last night we went to a charitable art event in Beverly Hills. I bumped into Paul Haggis, explained where I had been, the experience of jail. I told him about Carlton and the men I’d met there. I’ve no idea why, perhaps because he is a director, I told him things I had not previously mentioned. I painted a more complete picture.
Paul said, “There must have been a reason.”
My jail friend Steve reminded me daily that I was in jail for a purpose, he knew that someone like me doesn’t end up in a place like that without a reason. That reason is being made clear both on a micro and macro level.
Steve told me, “You can help these people.” So, it looks like I may very well be able to help.
That purpose will be made clear to you soon.
When I have my ducks in a row.
What is it to be vulnerable, kinder? What will I lose? What will I gain?
The boys are here, living here. Three of them, taking their responsibilities seriously. Occasionally they clear up without being asked. Yet, their mess that would have previously pissed me off, scarcely affects me. Who cares if there are socks all over the place, piles of towels in the bathroom?
What does that matter when I am so grateful they are here.
The life I lived before I was arrested seems like another time, like another place, like a different me. I am wondering who he was, what interested him, what in hells name I was doing?
I was wondering how he could have got himself into such a mess? Then I remembered that I left that Duncan back in the jail, the Duncan who was scared of being seen, the Duncan that made unhealthy choices, the Duncan who knew Jake.
When I write about death and suicide, I am really trying to articulate what it is to cast off something already dead. I am not interested in dying. I have things, suddenly and without warning, that need to be achieved. Things that before I was arrested never occurred to me.
Am I killing that part of myself that has bedeviled me for so many years? Can you understand that? Can you see what I’m talking about now?
Don’t fret my darling friends. I am emerging from this experience with a different set of principals, new standards of living and unusual priorities.
What was previously important is now worthless. Clothes, possessions, jewelry, power and prestige.
In jail I learned to get used to the idea of nothing and in nothing I found something I never guessed existed: that very thing after which I had been hankering a whole lifetime.
In nothing I found a peace of mind.