A couple of years ago it dawned on me that I was living in an “abundance bubble.” Actually, a series of bubbles. I was going from my apartment bubble to my car bubble, to my office bubble, back to the car and the apartment… ad infinitum. Sometimes I’d go meet friends or head to a restaurant, but those are abundance bubbles too. I’m surrounded by a certain way of living that involves a lot of unconscious and unacknowledged privileges.
Part of me feels entitled to this. After all, I’ve done the work…
from grade school on, to set my life up to be comfortable. I think I realized early on that I was going to have no one to depend on in life and so I’d better get cracking. My parents were/are always near or in emotional and financial turmoil. All my lovers seem to need me more than I them, and perhaps I like it that way. I think it gives me a (false) sense of control. At any rate, now at nearly 60, I have squirreled way my little pile of comforts and I’m hoping to ride the train into the last station intact.
On the other hand, I realize I’m extraordinarily lucky and blessed to have been born into a time and place that mostly accepts me for my weird and unique ways. If I’d have been born a few years earlier, I might have gotten hidden away in a loveless heterosexual marriage. A couple of years later, and I’d probably have died alongside my peers.
Once I saw the bubbles, I looked for a way to do some good outside of them. Just then, I saw a call to do volunteer work at a prison north of Fresno with some graduate school peers. I put my name in and worked my way up the wait-list until one winter they called me to join 90 other volunteers to facilitate a basic spiritual principles workshop to 200 male, hardcore inmates. I was scared but also excited to do the work.
Part of being at a prison was as I had expected: guards in towers looking down on us with guns, barbed wire, tattooed men in prison uniforms… Here’s what I didn’t expect, though: the men were all freshly turned out with clean haircuts, shaved faces, pressed uniforms. They were so grateful to see us, to shake our hands, and to work with us on “how you handle the issue is the issue,” they wanted to impress in appearance and fact in any way they could.
Every man I worked with had two things in common: 1) they had murdered at least one person and 2) they were all taking college courses to become certified alcohol and drug rehabilitation counselors with the intention of serving their fellow inmates. A good deal of the conversation was about making amends with family and finishing school (time having a different dimension there). The past was unchangeable but there was going to be a future, and in the NOW, they were preparing.
I walked away both impressed and ashamed. Impressed because these men, who had every reason to give up on life, had not and ashamed at how easily I gave up on things I wanted…but with a far easier path to success than they had. I’ve gone back two other times and each time I walk away promising myself to appreciate what I’ve built, acknowledge my talents and gifts, and to make a sincere effort to let myself out of the prison of lack, blame, and resentment I oft times put myself in. Tomorrow is never promised, so abundance must be built and paid for each day. I’m lucky to wake up alive, well, and in command of my future.