The long travail


There’s a reason I’m starting to clamour for solitude–for the surrounding terra firma–for the veritable Narnian escapade come April 25. The first of which is, it will be exactly seven days after I turn the very age my dad was when my mom looked at him and said, “I think I’m pregnant:” 48.

So aside from getting my mind off of that milestone–one that tells me I’ve only got another score of years before I start wetting the bed, I’ve also got the picture above me.

This is where I’ve been employed for the last ten years. The building to the right is the antiquated, vacant and  potentially HAUNTED Juvenile hall.  The building to left the the new and improved and exceedingly prison-channeling facility into which we moved.  I’ve seen a lot of trauma in those places. A lot of haunted, traumatized, vacant souls, vacant eyes, and lost children blowing in the wind.

I’ve listened to the pyrotechnic screams of addicts.  I’ve breathed more pepper-spray in the course of rioting and chaos than some will ever know.  I’ve had urine thrown in my eyes.  I’ve been punched, kicked, and threatened by people who just finished stabbing someone in the face and neck.  I’ve halted more than one suicide in my life. I’ve routinely shot baskets with young people who’ve killed their parents.

I’ve also seen some of the most cleverly-precient people I’ve ever met.  Occasionally, I meet  a kid that forever marks a moment in my life.  And a few have told me, I have been a hallmark for them as well.  Sometimes, that is one of the few rewards of a job like this.

But on the whole, it’s hard not to have the culture in a fever-swamp like that start leeching into your mind.  The language, the coarseness, the attitudes, the constant need for hypervigilance and awareness–the time-accrued ability to simply “feel” when a fight is about to break out.

“fight or flight” is not a skill.  It’s a compounded interest rate that taxes your soul.

Sometimes, it just gets to be too much.  I don’t care how jaded you think you are.  I don’t care how many first-person shooter games you play, how many episodes of The Walking Dead you’ve seen–nothing compares to the traumas of real life brokers of the awful and bad–brokering awful and bad things at you all day long.

So–I simply dream of doing something else.  The world inside those walls can be extremely vexing, and rob a person of ANY goodwill they might want to give their family.  At first, it seems an easy tightrope to walk.  Ten years later, I’m having my doubts.

I could blog every day about the “inside baseball” nature of that job, without ever violating any laws whatsoever.  I’m sure I could actually gain a signifiant following if I did.  But why–would a guy who is everyday less and less impressed with thugs and punks,and guys who hear a hip-hop soundtrack in their own heads when they enter a room–want to simply take my private time and go for a helping of traumatic seconds?

Look a that picture again.  This time, notice the periphery.  That’s the Lower Sacramento River running literally hundreds of feet out the windows of the 900 Pod.  There are trout in that river that will convince you you’ve hooked the back of a jet ski. Even though a harsh drought condition manages to sour the tree lines in this picture, I still hear the lyrics to a song–ringing in my ears, begging me to simply find a way to get out there:

When I lose–my smile
and my thoughts get jumbled
when the air and BS–get too thick
can’t take a breath without getting sick
I’ve had enough of this concrete jungle

Of course I’m extrapolating “concrete jungle” from the urban references in the song, but believe me–THAT PLACE is made of concrete.  And “jungle” is an understatement.

I simply write this here, because it’s easy to assume from my blog’s general bedrock narrative, that I’m living in a a world of recreation and mental latitude.  In reality, I’m not. I Have to force it.  I have to actively seek out the solitude not afforded me by current gainful employment.

But one day, it will be the rule, and not the exception.  One day, I will be furloughed from the Pod,never to return again–I will one day, get in my four-wheel drive, kick it into drive, and go until I run out of road.

Until I hear banjos . . . .

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8 Responses to The long travail

  1. Steve says:

    I’m just coming off slightly over two years as a crisis clinician in a community mental health clinic. Coincidently that is just about the average time a crisis clinician lasts in the position. Long days and nights in the ER, and everything in-between. Some days I just wanted to come home and stick my head in a washing machine and hope my brain would clean out. I had (still have) all kinds of escapist fantasies, most of which revolve around a Westfalia, liquidating everything, and traveling across the county (which was something I did in 1982 sans the Westfalia). An alternate escapist fantasy involves disappearing on the Pacific Crest Trail where no one can find me or get a hold of me. Solitude… Peace, Bro. I get it.

  2. Steve says:

    I’d like to. I even have a name for my blog. I just think about the time element, which I know I shouldn’t – at least according to some blog advice I read. I’ll never have the time if I wait for the time. I just went from having one day off a week to having none. I work two jobs to support my large family. I just took a fulltime position in a primary care medical practice committing to integrated health. I am their “Wellness Consultant” which sounds less threatening than “mental health counselor,” or “psychologist.” Since I also work with health-related behavioral change and managing chronic health conditions, the “wellness” title works better, anyway. Bottom line: I look forward to evenings off, not days off anymore. I’ve been burning my candle at both ends for so long I don’t even know if I have a middle. Still, blogging would scratch my writing itch and that narcissistic part of me that believes “everyone” wants to read what I write! I had a thought, a number of years ago, that writers must be inherently narcissistic to some degree to think that people would actually want to read what they write. I’m sure there are also more noble motives in there, as well. I think I could help some people if I wrote.

  3. Pingback: Gainful Unemployment | Master Of None


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