Just as with the blowing of the wind, the rising of the sun, the falling of the rain... doubt is a persistent force that comes like waves and passes like clouds. For me, doubt is important. It is something I've talked about at length to a number of users here. Doubt is the great balancer. It keeps you from developing too big an ego, from turning your beliefs into dogma, from developing tunnel vision...
I have an incredible amount of faith in some things that many people would consider quite completely insane. Were it not for the fact that I constantly keep my faith in these things balanced with doubt, I'd turn into a mad and wild preacher who shouts from the hillsides wearing only a hot pink loincloth, shaking a hockey stick and not listening to anything other than the sounds of my own ranting. This is why I embrace doubt. After all, doubt was the cornerstone of my youth, and at that time my doubt was powerful and strong and in no way tempered by faith of any kind. I had no faith in anything of a higher power nature, but I also had no real faith in myself. My actions and deeds were what made me, and when those actions and deeds went awry, I was extremely self-critical and demanding of myself. This led to an ongoing depression for many years that ended in suicide... and yet another thing I often discuss, which is that a belief system based entirely on actual tangible events, actions and deeds is a prescription for depression.
Faith without doubt and doubt without faith are two very dangerous things. The dynamic of one without the other leads, generally, either to disappointment and depression or dogmatic thinking where you become so cranky and annoyed by people who don't think like you do that no one wants to be around you... except other cranky and annoyed people.
This past Friday night was my last night working at the shelter for troubled teen girls. It was a bit of a rocky ride, as there were reasons I needed to leave, both reasons relating to the job and the place itself and my own personal reasons. After two years it was rather an emotional evening and I spent much of it working on little farewell notes for the girls who were residents of the shelter. An attempt at positive thoughts, inspiration, and support grounded in the information I knew about them and their mixed up lives balanced out with some of the "totally whack" (as one girl once called it) humor my little cartoon drawing messages have usually contained. I figured it would only take me a little while, a half hour or so, to write up little notes for the fifteen girls currently in residence. It ended up taking me three hours. I had to go back and read their files, their histories before and after they came to the shelter, and to get a general sense of who they were before I could write these things.
No one asked me to do this. No one expected me to do this. Most people figured I would just kick back and take my last night on the job easy and do as little as possible, but the thing is, the actual work I'm required to do there is pretty mundane. It involves a lot of paperwork, filing, keeping inventories of the girls' possessions, and making sure things remain safe, quiet and secure over the course of the night. Basically, paid to watch girls sleep and do whatever it is no one has time to do while the girls are awake. Over the course of my time there, I turned it into something else. I came to take my job as having an important aspect that isn't on the job description. It became my personal duty to make sure that every once and a while the girls woke up with something to smile and laugh about... absurd responses to their requests for things they would leave for the overnight staff, little cartoon characters telling a girl they were sad because the girl had been exhibiting poor behavior, or my crude cartoon drawings cheering them on when they achieved something or when something went really well in their lives. A year ago there was this ongoing story about a girl who wanted to go live with her family in Iowa and I kept leaving her ridiculous notes about how there was this field in Iowa where ghostly baseball players hung out... until one night I came in to find she had left me a note telling me "Ghosts can't play baseball 'cuz the ball would go right through the bat."
I've told some people over the past month or so that my problems at the job had to do with accusations of inappropriate conduct. This had nothing to do with what most people interpreted from that, as one would think (quite naturally) that a man working in a position where he watches teenage girls sleep acting improperly meant... well, fill in the blanks. It had to do with someone new on staff misunderstanding me and making accusations that were then backed up by actual situations being blown out of proportion. My actual job involved making sure everyone stayed quiet and in bed all night, but due to my absurd little cartoon notes, often when someone would wake up and know I was there they would want to come out and talk to me. And at times I learned things about them other staff never could get them to talk about, and I would relay this information to the appropriate parties. There developed a particular problem in this area with girls who lacked decent father figures being drawn to me to fill that void, at least temporarily. And in the end it turned into a long month where I refused to talk to anyone and shuffled them quickly off to bed, simply telling them the rules were that they had to remain in bed and quiet and they would have to talk to someone during "normal business hours." And I hated it.
After over a month of laying low and being as invisible as possible to avoid further accusations and troubles, on my last night I threw everything I had into the fire... not to create troubled, but because the primary focus of my work was the girls we were supposed to be helping, and in the end I spent those three hours creating farewell cartoon messages for each individual girl in the hopes they would get a smile, a laugh, and perhaps a little faith in themselves. I was leaving, so what were they going to do, fire me?
I woke up this morning after taking my first opportunity to sleep at night again, and found an email from one of my co-workers (actually, the Fourth Queen) giving me details of what had happened as a result of my notes. They held an entire meeting during the day to reflect and react to the notes, and I was sent excerpts of some of what the girls had said during their reflection...
He said, "Go onto better things, this is a rest area on the road of life and a chance to put it together for the future." To me this means that this is only temporary, it's a place to relax and get myself together so life will be easier later on. Maybe the road I was riding on isnt the road for me. Drugs are my demon and for a long time I was letting them win, but not anymore. I'm too good for that, life sober isnt so horrible and I kind of like feeling again. I'm looking forward to going home and making people proud of me again."
He wrote that "you're going to be somebody someday, but did you know you're already someone right now." When I read this statement it made me cry because someone who doesnt even know me has more faith in me than people who have known me my whole life. That may not mean much to some people but for people who have no faith in themselves, like me, it's good to know a complete stranger has faith in other strangers. He asked me what I'll be doing 10 years from now. Personally I don't know but I wish there were more people out there like Keith.
And they go on... but I thought maybe it was important to share this, and like a babbling idiot I've been sitting here all morning reading these and I can't see straight now because for some reason there is some kind of water in my eyes.