Thursday, November 15, 2012

Homelessness as a Thinking Pattern

Who doesn't love a chart that classifies the logic, the thinking and the writing patterns of large groups of people? You know you love them. You must. I know I do. I am always in search of something short, easy to remember and true. Life gives us so darn many variables that I find it's nice to have a few simple truths. I am not sure if these are them, but Dunlap (Patterns of Thinking, 2009) specifies differences in logic and thinking and writing to people from certain areas.

I am fascinated by charts and codes that print out easily grasped outlines of generalities. As compelled to these charts as I might be, I also see the shape of what they are not saying. In art class, we learned to make notans. We learned that what is not there is just as important as what is there, in forms of images.  

Signposts are helpful to avoid cliffs and to remind you which direction you're headed but honestly instead of these types of musings or academic debates about the history of social work policy all I can think about is my homeless clients at work and how what I am reading can impact them, does it impact them and in what way.

All I can think about is the lack of services for people who are the most vulnerable. My pattern of thinking isn't just English (or American as Dunlap would have specified, due to my origins). Like everyone, my pattern is not that simple. We do not fit into spreadsheets no matter how hard we might wish we did.

I am stuck on the absence of what is present. Both what is there and what is not there are equally important, as we learned from the notan. There is much to be learned and grown in the vacant spots where there is no shape yet built. 

I want to hand out answers to the questions life asks me and yet all I have are more questions on which I perseverate. Such as this one. How can I work with the homeless and not be acutely aware (read: tormented) of what I (we) cannot (do not) offer them?

When someone is homeless, it can be a personal source of shame. They sometimes also wear it as a badge of pride. People become so adjusted to living out that they feel like a caged animal even sometimes just thinking about the idea of living under a roof. Mental illness, drug addiction, domestic violence, scars from before their trip to homelessness and scars gathered on the road become huge barriers to shifting the focus. It's not as simple as just finding a place to live in most cases.

You don't have to be homeless to have this thinking pattern of lack, either. Any of us can manifest feelings of unworthiness, self-defeat and why bother. We must persevere, even when we're too tired.

So, like all the other thinking patterns described in Dunlaps's pretty charts, I think we need to take this with a grain of salt. Though the notan shows us two sides, it isn't this or that so much as this and that.

Also, if you did not already click on the "too tired" link above, I encourage you to do so. It is a poem called The Invitation by Oriah Mountain Dreamer and it's beautiful.


Friday, November 2, 2012

Not About Balance

The assignment was to make a list of right brain and left brain traits and think about balancing them. I did the assignment. I created a table and in the ledger plugged in the traits for each that I see myself having. Halfway through it was very clear I am much heavier in the right brain traits and though I crave and seek out opportunities and even surround myself with people who are heavier in the left brain traits.

This is funny because in my family, I am known as the one who organizes things. Maybe it's because I have had to teach myself to compensate for my heavily weighted non-linear skills. 

I think these types of processes are interesting to be aware of but my job as I see it, is not to try and be more of something I am not but to accept myself for who I am more and more in every way. With that, I also want to help encourage others to be and accept themselves in every way. 

There is no way I can be something I am not and maintain any level of sanity. This ideal of balance that is so popular these days seems to have been best used for pirates when they measured their gold

As much as I want to shoot for balance, I don't see that happening. After meditation and trying to eat right and pray right and practice practice practice I am still merely human. I vacillate from one side to the other, just like everyone. The best I can hope for when thinking of balance is to cut myself some slack for being exactly who I am and try to learn from the knees I skin as I jog through life.

Cheers to the humans who struggle!