In search of…

The Holy Grail? No.

Aliens? No, again.

True love? If you got it, hold on to it. If not, good luck in the best possible way.

I’m currently reading the book Shantaram by Gregory David Roberts. The protagonist states in the beginning, “It took me a long time and most of the world to learn what I know about love and fate and the choices we make…”

And the choices in his search that he makes are unforgettable. Just as are the choices we make. It’s a search that, in one form or another, takes a lifetime. In Jacob Will, 11.0: A Coward’s Guide to Living, this protagonist learns that in a hard, funny, and hopefully poignant way with lasting effects.

What are the choices you’ve made in your search? Are you happy with them?

Shakespeare on Cowardice:

“A coward dies a thousand times before his death, but the valiant taste of death but once. It seems to me most strange that men should fear, seeing that death, a necessary end, will come when it will come.” – William Shakespeare

And make no mistake, Jacob Will was a coward… in love, truth, and most importantly, himself. He lived no truths, without love, and he would have to learn to know and trust himself before he could do anything about it. He would have to die at least eleven times before he could live.

He was fearful… and he was a coward.

Jacob Will was both, not the best combination for someone looking to destroy his former self in order to live a new and better life. Could he do it? Could he take that plunge (not a knife, but just as deadly in its own way) and come out on the other side?

Shakespeare may have put in best, “Cowards die many times before their deaths; The valiant never taste of death but once.”

#acowardsguidetoliving

A future with love, not fear: D – Part 4. A Thistle and Bee story.

Since getting in to “The Hive”, D feels like a whole new, completely different person. For the first time, in her adult life, she had access to health care, regular meals, her own bed, and clean clothes. It has shown her how she could live without cigarettes, drugs, or alcohol.

It is not without responsibility. She goes to meetings to learn how to deal with her plaguing issues. However, a couple of instances stands out in her mind. D was recently going to a GED class and there, in plain sight, was a guy selling dope. The school knew the guy was selling but didn’t do anything about it. She knew she couldn’t stay there. Temptation is everywhere, even where it would be considered “safe.”

Looking for a safe place, she then took herself to a church and right outside there, people were smoking dope. Everywhere she turned, there were drugs to be had. Fortunately, her ride was waiting, and she was able to avoid temptation.

This underscores a greater problem: the easy availability of drugs. When one can score at a public school, a church, it’s not difficult to understand why the problem is so rampant. “Addiction don’t discriminate, child, adult, no difference.” Age doesn’t factor into it either. D is right, she witnessed a 13-year-old shooting right into their hand and foot. How could that not bring up terrible memories?

Thistle and Bee is helping D to learn to love and respect herself. Before coming to The Hive, she didn’t care when she was high and wasn’t ashamed to be out on the streets. But her family did care and was ashamed for her. They knew she was using, their mother was a junkie, a crackhead. But now her future is in front of her and she feels like a new baby, being birthed.

D is experiencing freedom and feels like a child in a candy store with so much to see and now something to live for. She’s doing “The Twelve Traditions.” She along with the other women at The Hive are learning how to live, on their own and together. They’re learning how to share and to help. D calls this “love help.’

Most of all, D wants other people to her story. “If they need help, ask for it.” It was hard for her to ask for help; she didn’t want to admit she was an addict who needed a helping heart. D knows how hard it is but knows it’s not as hard as the life she’s leaving behind.

#bmeisterman.com

A future with love, not fear: D – Part 4. A Thistle and Bee story.

Since getting in to “The Hive”, D feels like a whole new, completely different person. For the first time, in her adult life, she had access to health care, regular meals, her own bed, and clean clothes. It has shown her how she could live without cigarettes, drugs, or alcohol.

It is not without responsibility. She goes to meetings to learn how to deal with her plaguing issues. However, a couple of instances stands out in her mind. D was recently going to a GED class and there, in plain sight, was a guy selling dope. The school knew the guy was selling but didn’t do anything about it. She knew she couldn’t stay there. Temptation is everywhere, even where it would be considered “safe.”

Looking for a safe place, she then took herself to a church and right outside there, people were smoking dope. Everywhere she turned, there were drugs to be had. Fortunately, her ride was waiting, and she was able to avoid temptation.

This underscores a greater problem: the easy availability of drugs. When one can score at a public school, a church, it’s not difficult to understand why the problem is so rampant. “Addiction don’t discriminate, child, adult, no difference.” Age doesn’t factor into it either. D is right, she witnessed a 13-year-old shooting right into their hand and foot. How could that not bring up terrible memories?

Thistle and Bee is helping D to learn to love and respect herself. Before coming to The Hive, she didn’t care when she was high and wasn’t ashamed to be out on the streets. But her family did care and was ashamed for her. They knew she was using, their mother was a junkie, a crackhead. But now her future is in front of her and she feels like a new baby, being birthed.

D is experiencing freedom and feels like a child in a candy store with so much to see and now something to live for. She’s doing “The Twelve Traditions.” She along with the other women at The Hive are learning how to live, on their own and together. They’re learning how to share and to help. D calls this “love help.’

Most of all, D wants other people to her story. “If they need help, ask for it.” It was hard for her to ask for help; she didn’t want to admit she was an addict who needed a helping heart. D knows how hard it is but knows it’s not as hard as the life she’s leaving behind.

#bmeisterman.com

The law catches up: D – Part 3. A Thistle and Bee story.

Sidebar: Each year, it is estimated that more than ten million people experience domestic violence with women more likely to be the victim. In 2010, Tennessee ranked as one of ten states with the highest rates of female murder. 93% of these women were killed by a male they knew; 63% of them in the context of an intimate relationship.*

But those streets were her family, for better or worse – the drug man, the johns, whoever could pay her, either in money or drugs.  Her children did not feel like family to her. “They couldn’t give me what I wanted.” They were remanded to their father for custody. At that time, D “lived to get high and got high to live.” And high was fun. All her “friends” were junkies, but only when she had dope.

Looking back on her earlier life, D remembers being a “good little girl.” She was a curious child and wanted to know what was going on. She was allowed to drink out of her mother’s cup, alcohol most often, and sampled cigarettes, getting hooked on both. Addictions know no boundaries for age or substance.

At age 14, her mother died and that’s when it completely went to hell. Her father was not around, actually never around. D doesn’t care for him and why would she, having never seen him in 35 years. She and her brother indulged in sex with each other. That dynamic carried over to D’s daughter when he tried to have sex with her. That’s unacceptable under any condition.

It’s no surprise the law finally caught up with her. Upon one of her arrests, the police allowed her to smoke the last bit of dope she had before tossing her pipe away. They then hand-cuffed her, put into the police car, and then drove away to the station. All told, she’s been in jail 7-9 times for drugs (selling and possession) and prostitution.

After years of this, D claims she heard from God about bringing her back to life, a second chance. She was tired of getting high only to see life fade away. During a visit to a mission where women such as herself went, she was directed to Thistle and Bee. But she would have to pass a drug test in order to get in. And she did.

#bmeisterman.com

Violence was never far away: D- Part 2. A Thistle and Bee story.

The content in this story is true, portraying violence against women, drug use, and prostitution. The woman’s identity is protected.

Previously: She wasn’t there for the babies she’d had back-to-back. D was too busy selling things and stealing. D describes it as “illegal things.” No one was spared, she even stole from her drug man.

Part 2 of D’s story from Thistle and Bee.

While she had no pimp, she was “ho-ing around.” Her drug man would come around with a guy he expected D to service. When that would happen, she “would jump up and take a shower.” Somewhere deep in side of her, there was a spark of pride.

Looking back, it was who patronized her that stands out. They were police, probation officers, cab drivers, and pushers; they were young, old, retired, bus drivers even. She alludes that some of them were people one could read about in the news.

The streets were not safe. She usually carried a knife for protection, even a gun once, but found that to be too much trouble. It was only recently she put the knife down, six of them to be exact.

There was no safe place anywhere for D. Violence was common in her life. One time, she shot one of her kids’ daddy and stabbed the other. Another time, when she was high, she stabbed a man who’d pushed her down stairs. Yet another man dragged her kicking and screaming through her yard. D recognized that the violence came from either being under the influence or attempting to get something in order to get high again.

Sidebar: Each year, it is estimated that more than ten million people experience domestic violence with women more likely to be the victim. In 2010, Tennessee ranked as one of ten states with the highest rates of female murder. 93% of these women were killed by a male they knew; 63% of them in the context of an intimate relationship.

#bmeisterman.com

“Lived to get high and got high to live.” D – Part 1. A Thistle and Bee story.

T_B Logo with Bee_Pink

Thistle and Bee’s mission is to help women who have survived prostitution and trafficking thrive. I am honored to write their stories. This is the first excerpt from a forthcoming book about the women of Thistle and Bee.

Being a mother isn’t for the faint of heart in the best of times. But what happens when that sacred responsibility can’t be fulfilled? And why? And if it can’t be, what or who does one turn to for support or help? All good questions and ones that couldn’t easily be answered for D.

Now 52 years old and a mother of six children (ages 30 – 39), with two different fathers, and at least twenty-five grandchildren, D looks back and is grateful for where she is now. Grateful because where she was just a few months ago would not have ensured a survival of any kind. It doesn’t take much to slide that far down. It takes a lot to claw back up.

When you’re 15, it’s not unusual for kids to try things out – cigarettes, drinking, and weed. Where it led to was where it got scary. Her daddy’s sister turned her on to drugs. At 22, she was introduced to crack and remembers it was “so soothing to get high.” D believed it helped her control and be a better “mama” on crack. That was her daily routine. Not surprisingly, after time, it got progressively worse. Every day, getting high and falling off, not coming home, no money for food or food stamps, she was “owed out” and “living to get high.” It was not unusual for her to be up for days at a time, 8, even 9, because of her crack addiction. She couldn’t sleep and she couldn’t do much for her family.

She wasn’t there for the babies she’d had back-to-back. D was too busy selling things and stealing. D describes it as “illegal things.” No one was spared, she even stole from her drug man.

“We are each our own devil, and we make this world our hell.” ― Oscar Wilde

Has any quote been more appropriate for now than this one by Oscar Wilde? Say what you may about him, Wilde sought to transpose the beauty he saw in art into daily life.

Wilde believed that the artist should hold forth higher ideals, and that pleasure and beauty would replace utilitarian ethics. His pursuit of such led him into situations that would see him incarcerated for “gross indecency” and “homosexual” behavior. Thankfully, laws such as those that imprisoned him have been overturned in most places. But prisons don’t need to have walls to remove people from society. There are other ways of separating those “undesirables” from the larger group. And unfortunately, we’ve become quite adept at doing so.

It is the quote at the top of this post that resonates the most with me today. We find ourselves in a terrible place – one where we’re isolating ourselves from a world that has become dangerously contagious; one that has become horribly divided; one that is economically insecure; and finally, one that ignores or worse, pits brother against brother.

This is a world we have created, perhaps not intentionally, but through neglect and inconsideration of others. We have looked out for ourselves to the detriment of others in an Ayn Rand wet dream, focusing on the individual over each other. Indeed, “We are each our own devil, and we make this world our hell.”

Wilde had it right. This is our world and we have made it a hell, but we can also change that. Do we have the fortitude and the intention to do that? It would mean some seismic shifts from the top to the bottom of this country. No one will be left unaffected by it; some will be pleased and others will be furious. Change isn’t easy.

Again, “We are each our own devil, and we make this world our hell.” What are we going to do about it?

#bmeisterman.com