Tick, tock.

Time really blows my mind. These days I feel like time is playing a game with me, daring me to question its honesty. On one side of the coin, it feels impossible this much time has passed. On the other, it seems time is speeding up in order to bring me to the fate I have been looking forward to for two decades.

"You are sunshine on a rainy day, but you are also rain on a sunny day."

She was so young, born not long before my death, and yet she saw things in me so clearly it seemed as if she'd been walking here in samsara much longer than her years betrayed.

"The darkness is drawn to you. The light runs from you."

"I've never understood what you want from me. I can say with ninety-something percent certainty it isn't the sex."

"Someday you'll figure it out."

Tick, tock.

Fear is a terrible motivator. Shame is not far behind on the list, and yet so many people operate with this awful duo as their primary motivators in life. Such things are tragic. I spend a good amount of time dreaming of a world where fear and shame are laughed at and put in their place. There has to be something more. Alas, sad samsara, you have your limitations.

Talk to anyone who has had a complete near-death experience and they will all tell you it caused them to see the world differently, to see life differently, and to live their life in a completely different way. Many of them are lost and confused, hinging their vision on existing theology and the framework of pre-written myth. Creating your own mythology takes more work, more focus and more dedication, but being dead isn't about "easy." Some people who have known me believe I walk through life with a certain lightness, a carefree attitude that isn't moved by the goings-on of everyday life. Actually, everyday life bores the crap out of me. I'd much rather have to escape from a car that went off a bridge and sunk to the bottom of a river than pay another god-forsaken electric bill.

Which is probably why I so often find myself having to escape from cars that went off a bridge and sunk to the bottom of a river.

I invest myself in the broken and lost. I shun those who believe they are well-adjusted and happy. I know how to bring the sunshine on a rainy day, but I can't help making it rain when the sun begins to shine.

Certain things haunt me.

"You're too late."

That one still bites my ass regularly.

Tick, tock.

Too much time, too many people let down. I count my defeats more regularly than I count my successes, although some of the sunshine days stay with me.

They always begin in darkness and rain.

In the fall of 2008 I was working just outside Orlando, Florida, when I was assigned to work with a girl who had pushed every person on staff that worked with her, from her psychiatrist to her therapist on down the line, to the breaking point. I was "promoted" to this position, not in person but by memo, of working with her because of my patience and experience in working with difficult girls. It took her four months to break me. I spent a year in recovery, three months in therapy and nine months healing myself. When I came back to working with kids again I swore I would never again work with girls.

And then the Third Queen, part of my personal mythology, convinced me otherwise. I've been back to working with girls ever since, convincing all of my supervisors and managers that they would be wasting their resources if they didn't put me on the girls' ward.

And then this shithead got his groove back.

Now, understand, I have to call myself things like "shithead" because I have a huge ego and if I don't attack myself on a regular basis it gets out of control. I used to have a sociopath ex-girlfriend I called The Muse who took care of breaking down my ego for me, but I excommunicated her in 2007 so now I have to do it myself. Anyway...

I find it necessary to believe in the absurd. I never would have started working with teenage girls in the first place if it hadn't been for a stolen ham. As soon as you, sitting there in your chair drinking your beer and smoking your cigarette, start having this moment of clarity where you think the world makes some kind of sense, think about how I never would have spent the last eight years working with kids if it hadn't been for a woman stealing a ham.

I wake people up for a living, and I watch them sleep. When I talk to the people I work with I spend a lot of time convincing them what we do isn't stupid.

In May of 2005 the third shift supervisor at the girls' facility where The Muse worked was caught stealing a ham. She had been stealing food for quite some time, but they had set up a little sting operation to catch her red handed. They caught her putting a ham from the facility kitchen into the trunk of her car. This led to me being called and asked to fill in as "emergency relief staff." Two months later I was regular part-time. Two months after that I was regular full time. Three months after that I was the back-up shift supervisor.

Steal a ham, change a life. That would be a good bumper sticker. In the story of my life it goes along with "I died and came back from the dead to go to Chili's" as good things to write with a Sharpie on my tombstone.

Never give control of your fate to a sociopath. This is a lesson I keep learning. The Second Queen of my personal mythology, the one known as The Muse, made every effort to destroy me, using my unconditional love and sworn devotion as her tools. When the tragedy of our relationship reached its destructive conclusion, I survived her. My ego was severely damaged and I was wearing the armor of post-traumatic stress disorder. It took a long time to recover, but in the end my ego got stronger because I survived. You don't survive death and an attempt by the great love of your life to destroy you, not only physically but metaphysically, without your ego growing beyond all reason. I will plead that when my case comes up before the ultimate grand jury.

I've been on my current job, at a psychiatric hospital for adolescents, for three and a half years. I've been asked a number of times to consider a promotion from my place in the trenches. I've declined every time. The last time I was asked why I wasn't interested.

"You don't want to do that to my ego. Whatever you do, never promote me, because you won't be able to stand me. I have serious self-control issues that I can manage when I am doing what I am doing, working directly with the kids and not having to deal with the administrative bullshit. The ability to manage that goes away if you promote me. It isn't that I think I'm better than other people, it is that I'm quite convinced I can survive anything."

"So, you're happy where you are?"

"I'm reasonably content, except for the fact that I'd rather be in Florida. Move this facility to Orlando and I'll be happy."

Tick, tock.

When it comes to working with kids who have been through the shit, the basic rule to follow is to never give up on them no matter how they act or react. When it comes to sociopaths, you have to reverse the polarity. I have experience dealing with both. It took me two years of living off and on with a sociopath I considered the great love of my life to realize the only way to help her was to throw her in the road and kick dirt in her face while laughing.

A sociopath has no empathy. They feed off others, probing constantly for what they consider to be weaknesses, which would be the things you love, care about or are moved by. Then they play chords off that shit. It is all about getting what they can from others to fulfill their needs without giving anything of themselves, which they aren't capable of doing anyway. They have no real selves, they are what they get from feeding off others.

We had a thirteen year old sociopath at our facility and she was there for over a year. You can't diagnose sociopathy in a thirteen year old, but it was fairly well established that this girl was a prodigy. She'd been tortured by her parents throughout her childhood and had been passed about in foster care for years. She had burned down the homes of her foster parents twice, both times taking her own possessions out of the house first. At another time she had broken everything in the home of foster parents then went to her room where nothing had been destroyed. That isn't rage. Someone in a rage destroys everything indiscriminately. Her destruction was well planned, followed by statements of, "Why would I destroy my things?" She'd also become famous for telling therapists she didn't have to worry about her future life because, "I have blonde hair and blue eyes. I can make people do whatever I want them to."

I'm known at my job for having a caring heart and a soft touch. With this girl I used to shrug a lot and tell her I didn't care. I would refuse to talk to her for days. When she would start acting up and get herself in all kinds of trouble, I'd tell her she was a big disappointment to me. She used to tell me, "I have to be mean to people before they're mean to me first, that's how the game works."

This was how I developed my, "I'm a mean man" act. I would give her consequences for everything she did, to the extreme of what our program allowed. She ate breakfast in her room most days instead of going to the cafeteria with the other girls. I had her write papers to explain why she did the things she did. I took away her crayons and markers for the smallest offense.

"Mr. Keith, you're my favorite staff. How come you haven't signed my good-bye card?"

"Because I don't feel like it."

"Mean man!"

"That's me. Okay, where's this card."

She had two hours to go until she discharged to another facility. She was going to spend her life in locked psychiatric facilities. Many staff found her charming. I told them she was the most dangerous resident we'd ever had. In addition to burning down houses, she'd killed three cats, two dogs and quite a few woodland animals. She wanted to become a veterinarian. She once convinced another resident to hog-tie her and strangle her, part of a plan that got her a week's worth of extreme sympathy and a lot of play with management. Everyone thought she was the victim. I knew she was the perpetrator.

After I signed her card she started running around, jumping on the furniture and laughing. I stood in front of her, put on my mean man face and told her quite simply, "You aren't going to do this. You are going to leave convincing all the halfwits that work here that you really are charming and cute. You want them to miss you, not be glad you're gone. Right?"

She was disturbingly well behaved for the rest of those two hours before her discharge.

Tick, tock.

What is to be done with the people of this world, of samsara? Don't ask me, my ego is too large. I might be tempted to give you an answer.

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