A Favorite Proverb

“When spider webs unite, they can tie up a lion.” – Ethiopian Proverb

Walk Down A Different Street

Yesterday we posted Portia Nelson’s wonderful “There’s a Hole in my Sidewalk” story. That story reminds me of so very many times that I was honored to be witness to someone learning not only that they wanted to walk down a different street, but that they could.

And it reminds me of a time when I learned this for myself.

In 1984, in a locked psychiatric ward at UCLA, a resident psychiatrist asked me, during a therapy session, what I wanted my life to look like in five years.  This wasn’t the first time he’d asked this. He asked me nearly every therapy session, at the end, just before I left. I remember mulling his words over quietly, not responding, just wondering (as I always did) why in the world he would ask me this.

It just made me feel sad.

My life, as I’d pictured it, was crumbling and much of what I had always planned was now impossible. His question, that he asked gently and hopefully, just made me sad.

I remember finally asking him, what difference does it make anyway? I’d recently been diagnosed as one hundred percent mentally and physically disabled for life, so it wasn’t like it could ever look that way.

He gently said, “Just tell me, Kathleen.”

I said that I would like to leave my marriage that was miserably failing and hurting everyone involved, and I would like to move to my own apartment with my two beautiful young daughters, and focus on raising two healthy, happy daughters ….. and I would like to write.

I remember Dr. Jones, the resident psychiatrist, leaned back in his chair and smiled, he was quiet for a long time. I figured he was just satisfied that I finally acknowledged his question, but after awhile he said “So, Kathleen, that is all entirely possible.”

And I was honestly stunned.

I felt like I’d just said to him, I want to win the lottery, fly to the moon and become president of the universe.

When I read this now, I see how relatively modest my 5 year plan was, but honestly on that day it felt quite impossible.

That day I learned that not only did I want to walk down another street but that someone else really believed that I actually could.

We can do this for others. We can see their potential, and help them dream a new dream.

Until next time…

Kathleen

“There’s a Hole in my Sidewalk”

Autobiography in Five Short Chapters
by Portia Nelson

Chapter One
I walk down the street.
There is a deep hole in the sidewalk. I fall in.
I am lost . . . I am helpless.
It isn’t my fault . . .
It takes forever to find a way out.


Chapter Two
I walk down the same street.
There is a deep hole in the sidewalk.
I pretend I don’t see it.
I fall in again.
I can’t believe I am in this same place. But it isn’t my fault.
It still takes a long time to get out.


Chapter Three
I walk down the same street.
There is a deep hole in the sidewalk. I see it there.
I still fall . . . it’s a habit . . . but,
My eyes are open.
I know where I am.
It is my fault.
I get out immediately.


Chapter Four
I walk down the same street.
There is a deep hole in the sidewalk. I walk around it.


Chapter Five
I walk down another street. 



© Copyright 1993 Portia Nelson from the book “There’s a Hole in my Sidewalk”, Beyond Words Publishing, Hillsboro, Oregon. Used with permission.

A Life In The Community For Everyone – Part One

At Procovery Insitute, we are so happy to be hearing increased discussion, and see long overdue focus, on Community Reintegration. This is so important for individuals, our communities and society as a whole. However, it is also imperative to realize that Community Reintegration is not always possible. It is sometimes entirely impossible – you cannot reintegrate if you have never been integrated in the first place. Many individuals have no vision of living in the community and do not even consider this a possibility, as they’ve never known it.

Many years ago I was facilitating a Procovery Circle as part of a cultural efficacy test of Procovery, in partnership with LACDMH and USC. That winter my mother knit hats for everyone in the Procovery Circle – knit beanies made with soft, colorful yarn that were handmade especially for this Circle. Most of the participants selected a hat at the end of the Circle and put it on right away, but one participant quietly folded his up very neatly, and put it in his pocket without ever putting it on. One of the other participants asked him why he wasn’t wearing his hat, which I was also wondering, and he replied “This hat would be a really good hat for a homeless person, so I’m saving it for when I’m homeless again.”  I asked him why he assumed he would be homeless again, and he replied that he was 41 years old and had only been homeless or institutionalized since he turned 18 years old. It was the only pattern of life that he knew and he couldn’t envision a future for himself where he was not homeless upon discharge.


​Merely living outside of an institution is NOT Community Integration or Reintegration. In order to be integrated in to the community, a community has to be available or one has to be created. It is devastating to learn how many individuals never learned HOW to live in a community or never had a community available to them. ​
It is important to add that what constitutes community is highly individual, we feel that community is about connection, not proximity. Simply being in the midst of others does not constitute community. It is sometimes easier to feel lonely and isolated when surrounded by people, than it is to feel this way when home alone.​


This subject always reminds us of the beautiful Starhawk quote below. What a beautiful way to imagine a community.

“We are all longing to go home to some place we have never been – a place half-remembered and half-envisioned we can only catch glimpses of from time to time. Community. Somewhere, there are people to whom we can speak with passion without having the words catch in our throats. Somewhere a circle of hands will open to receive us, eyes will light up as we enter, voices will celebrate with us whenever we come into our own power. Community means strength that joins our strength to do the work that needs to be done. Arms to hold us when we falter. A circle of healing. A circle of friends. Someplace where we can be free.” – Starhawk

Spring

“The older I grow, the more do I love spring and spring flowers. Is it so with you?” – Emily Dickinson

Happy Spring!

“It is spring again. The earth is like a child that knows poems by heart.” – Rainer Maria Rilke

Happy Spring from Procovery Institute!