Archive for August, 2009

Something ought to be said about moving our program to the Washington State Reformatory. Sometimes I think this move, more than anything else I might have written in the last posting, is the main reason I haven’t written here in so long. I do not like to write about goodbyes. Well, that is not true—my collection of short stories in fact titled, Leaving—so maybe it’s more that I’m tired of writing about goodbyes. Or maybe it is that I find this particular goodbye particularly difficult.

The last meeting we had with our group at TRU was to tell them we were thinking about moving the program after our short summer break. Our reasons for moving the program are valid enough. We’ve done a year of the program with the same group of men. Attendance is dropping as we cycle back through the material, and when a new guy does show up it is difficult to bring him into the fold when all of the other men are so far ahead. As program leaders we are growing anxious for new faces, new voices, new men to teach.

But regardless of the validity of any of our reasons, the simple fact is this: the men at TRU do not want us to go. And they told us as much. Remember, these men are nothing if not honest.

Even more difficult for me is now that we have made this decision there is no final meeting with the group at TRU. When we go back to Monroe in the fall we will begin our program at WSR. There is no final meeting with our original group of guys. No final goodbye. They simply won’t see our program advertised on their bulletin boards and they will know we are not coming back. It seems cruel to me. For there to be no real closure for any us.

The guys are used to this. Volunteers coming and going. Programs coming and going. Forming relationships with people from the outside and then never seeing them again. They are used to this, but I still am not. Maybe the longer I do this work, the easier it will get, these endings and beginnings on the inside. But for so many reasons I doubt it.

I’ve been silent here on the blog for several weeks now. Not good for consistent readership, I know. Perhaps not even good for continuity, maintaining that “dream” that Gardner says is so essential to a well-told story. Yet, the pause I’ve taken here, reflects a pause I’ve taken in my life in general. In the language of the hero’s journey, I suppose I’m back again at the Threshold—between what was my ordinary world and what will become my new world. Ordinary being graduate school and all that came with it. New world being life after graduation. Ordinary being the work I’ve been doing with the guys in the Twin Rivers Unit at Monroe. New being the discussions about shifting our program over to the Washington State Reformatory (a different holding unit at Monroe) beginning in September. Ordinary being the guys I’ve gotten to know at TRU. New being the guys I will get to know at WSR. Ordinary being having the excuse of “homework” to bail out on dinner parties I didn’t want to attend, weekend activities I didn’t want to participate in, etc. New being how to hold onto the space I created for my writing time without the respected excuse of it being school work. Ordinary being always having a looming deadline to force me to my desk. New being having the responsibility of imposing my own deadlines.

Two weeks ago today, I graduated. I haven’t written much, telling myself it is okay to take a small vacation. But while I haven’t been writing, life has been quickly filling the hours I once spent at my desk and just like that I find myself having promised too much time to things other than writing, and now I’m struggling to take them back—those precious hours. I’m getting “twitchy”, as a writer friend of mine would say. That terrible state for a writer, when you want to write, but don’t write and then suddenly find yourself yelling at the checkout girl at the store, at your boyfriend, your mother or some random news anchor on the television for no reason other than you’re not writing and it’s driving you crazy.

Perhaps that’s the thing about being at the Threshold—where you are one foot in what was the ordinary world and one foot in what will be the new world—it’s a little maddening. The old rules don’t apply and the new rules haven’t been set yet. The old schedule that once worked, doesn’t fit with the new life, but the new schedule hasn’t been created. So, it’s limbo. A writer’s purgatory. Without being too overdramatic, I hope, I am the guy who has just been released from prison, trying to make it through his first day on the outside.

I told myself I’d take until my birthday in early September before I worried about getting back on a writing schedule. I’m not sure I can hold out that long. Not because I’m anal, or hard on myself, or incapable of resting, but because I’m incapable of not being a writer. Two intense years of school have not set me up to take a break from the writing, they’ve set me up to write. So I must. This is the first significant piece of writing I’ve done since graduating, and already I feel better reading over these words, watching the white space on the page fill.