Eleven

by

For eleven.

I got my eleventh star this eveningIMG_8287

I think she’s pretty.

IMG_8293

Courtesy of Danny Boy Smith @ Let it Bleed.

Deep in the heart of the Tenderloin.

Wow.

Not much has changed and so much has changed.

I am beyond grateful that the reason I was in the Tenderloin was to score a new tattoo.

Not to score.

I haven’t been over to Polk Street in quite sometime.

I used to live up at Washington and Taylor and would frequently ride my bicycle up Polk and then up further, up, up, up California Street, then onto Washington, ending at Taylor.

High.

Up above the crack smoke filled streets and the dirty self-medicating junkies and the cross dressing prostitutes.

I was surprised to see a couple of girls working the streets.

I mean.

I should not have been.

It is the Tenderloin.

Maybe it was just that I haven’t seen a working girl where I live in some time.

Not much action going on in the Outer Sunset.

Although I’m sure things are shaking and moving in and out of the 7-11 parking lot just down the street from my house.

I was glad to walk the streets and not be a street walker, to be coming from my last hour of classes at my first weekend back to my second semester of my graduate school program, to be heading to get a tattoo to celebrate my eleventh anniversary without picking up.

Rather than picking through the garbage strewn gutters or standing under an awning smoking a cigarette and wondering how the hell it all went wrong.

Instead.

I find myself wondering how the hell it all went so wonderfully right.

Graduate school reinforces that premise every time I walk the halls of the university.

Every time I sit in class and raise my hand.

Every time I have a positive interaction with a professor, a student, a fellow in my cohort.

I am full, constantly, of wonder and awe.

Not withstanding I am also a little tired, it was a big weekend, but I did it, I’m through, and I don’t know if it’s an actual lighter reading load then last semester or that I am used to doing the work, but it feels easier.

Perhaps I am just easing into it.

Gratefully so with much surrender.

And.

Really.

Just a stunning amount of perpetual incredulousness that I have made it this far.

I really should not be here.

If life were fair.

I would be dead.

I also have been recognizing, noticing, and in great awareness around the myriad of strikes that have just been against me for so long.

Poverty.

Drug abuse.

Alcohol abuse.

Sexual abuse.

Neglect.

Trauma, trauma, trauma.

I don’t think about it often, I don’t need to ponder the mysterious ways of the Universe, it was just brought home today in my first class of the morning.

I shared about not having real health insurance.

I have Healthy SF, in case you were wondering, but though it provides a lot of the things that having health insurance covers, it’s not the real deal.

And as I explained to my class over a discussion about what it is like to live with the constant, chronic, high level of poverty and what it was like to grow up–though I did not see it at the time–in that dire place of not enough, I realized it was a miracle, a fucking huge ass miracle, that I got out.

The cycle got broken.

I emerged.

A phoenix from the ashes of a crack pipe.

I mean.

Let me not put to fine a point on it.

But the affects still linger and I don’t always realize them.

The shame that comes from being poor, the hot lunch program at school, the American cheese in a box, being the scholarship kid, the kid in need, or the homeless teenager, who despite having a full ride to her first year at university, couldn’t keep it together to keep food in her dorm fridge.

The constant stress of not having the money to afford health insurance, with a few exceptions here and there, worrying about if I would get sick or hurt.

I related how when I did get hurt, my ankle injury, and how I was out of work for six weeks I was blessed with amazing friends who came out of the woodwork to help me.

The GoFund me that someone started so I could pay my rent that month.

The anonymous twenty dollar bill I found in my messenger bag one night.

The rides to and from places.

The gift card for the grocery store.

I have a community of love and friendship that I leaned into really hard.

But the affects of being raised with the absence of so much, I never really contemplated until, irony, no?

I got into graduate school.

Which is a privileged place to be.

Granted.

I am.

Again.

A scholarship kid.

No shame in that.

Although, yes, I admit,  I am loathe to share it with my cohort, I somehow, still think that I don’t quite deserve it and somebody will take it away from me.

In class today the lecture covered what happens to people who live under that kind of stress, who live with PTSD, poverty, drug abuse, alcoholism, for those that self-medicate in the streets, for the homelessness and the racism that we inflict on each other.

And I just felt like gasping for air.

My palms got hot, I got hot, my flight or fight or freeze got activated.

I was alive and charged up and saddened to hear what was being said and then reacting too, to some pretty naive comments made by some well meaning, but hyper privileged classmates.

So.

I shared.

I shared what it was like, what it is still like–do you know that I will get penalized by the government when I go to file my taxes for not having “real” health insurance–to be a person without.

The thing is.

I don’t believe I am a person without anymore.

I have so much.

Love.

Abundance.

Joy.

Stars–like eleven!

I have a good job, I am in graduate school, I live in San Francisco (still, haven’t gotten priced out yet!), I eat organic food and drink expensive coffee.

What I found fascinating, though, in class, from a very astute and experienced PhD professor, is that the affects of poverty don’t dissipate for about three generations.

A lot of the stress that I carry with me, even when I am flush, may well continue to be with me, to be in my body, to just be there.

I have felt it.

I have put name to it.

I have done inventory.

I remember once writing the fear a letter, saying, “dear fear, I hear you, you may be right, but I promise, I will take care of paying rent, you wont’ be homeless this month.”

I had it taped up to my wall by my writing desk for months.

It was when I was living up in Nob Hill.

I don’t know if those affects will always be there, as so much as been lifted, so much space has been made in my heart, in my body, so much psychic change has happened for me, that I believe these intergenerational traumas will end with me.

That is my belief.

And not only that.

The experiences, the wealth of knowledge, the how I got through, the how it works, the passing it on, they are the true measure of my abundance and ability.

These things mark me, but they are not me.

I am more than the sum of my parts.

I am the light that shines around the edges of those black stars.

I go forth.

Into this furthering light.

Into this ever expanding place of being held.

Always.

Further.

Into.

This deepening love.

 

 

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