These Songs of Freedom

Photos shamelessly copied from Dave’s website

Won’t you help to sing these songs of freedom?
‘Cause all I ever had, redemption songs

    –Bob Marley and the Wailers, Redemption Song

“How about legal stuff? Have you broken any laws?”

“You mean besides all the substance abuse we just talked about a minute ago?”

From my intake interview at the psychologist office, an hour and forty minutes. Objective laundry-list questions: “What year did your mother die? How old is your son?” Open-ended probing questions: “What brings you in today? Tell me about your anxiety attacks.” It wrung me out. I felt violated.

What brought me in? I want to learn to accept my Tourette tics. Tourette Syndrome—I’ve had it forever and it isn’t going away. The tics embarrass me, impact my self-esteem. If I live to be ninety like my dad, I’ll still scrunch up my eyes. I’ll still make grunting noises. Imagine Abe Simpson standing next to me, balancing, but shaky with his walker, asking questions in his high-pitched voice: “Why do you make that sound?” I blush, but my skin is so mottled with age spots Abe can’t tell. The word I repeat in my head all day long: Loser, loser, loser… I’ve got to get past this.

What brought me in? I want to break my obsession with blogging. It’s a great hobby. I get to be creative. I work though my problems as I write. I make friends all over the world. BUT… I stress and obsess. I’m never satisfied with my statistical performance, page views, likes, conversations. I enjoy writing. I enjoy what I write. But I don’t enjoy what comes next. Clicking the refresh button, repeatedly, for days, always disgusted with the result. Blogging is like sticking my finger in a mouse trap, over and over. I always know it’s going to hurt.

This morning I read a blog post my friend Nancy wrote for her company’s website. She works at the social justice nonprofit where I used to manage finances. She wrote about Dave’s Killer Bread. If you haven’t tried it, please do. It’s way better than the competing loaves on the adjoining shelves. Dave, once incarcerated (strike that, many times incarcerated) hires people who have, as my therapist said to me, broken laws. Lots of laws, lots of felonies. They call it ‘second chance employment.’ It’s hard for people with a prior felony to get a job.

In my state, if you want to work at a nonprofit, you need to apply for background checks. Three of them. They cost over fifty dollars. Some companies reimburse employees for these, others don’t. Then your would-be employer gets to read your ‘rap sheet.’ If you broke the law and got caught, the employer will know. And in most cases, you won’t get the job.

Dave’s Killer Bread interviews felons, known felons. They won’t hire you just because you’re a felon, but being a felon doesn’t block your ability to get a job—it’s not a deal-breaker. Besides an appropriate skill set, they look for a life plan and remorse. If they think you’re done with the behaviors that got you arrested, they won’t hold it against you. The world needs more of this—forgiveness, a second chance, an opportunity for redemption.

On Dave’s website, they profile fourteen employees. Each has written a first-person account of their life. These men and women have rap sheets pages-long. All of their stories begin with messed up childhoods, usually growing up around a lot of drug abuse. Their entry into the illegal activities that landed them in jail happened long before they became adults. For a raging liberal like me, it’s hard to hold a child responsible for adult crimes. It’s also hard to withhold empathy from an adult who never learned basic skills as a child. These employees have all worked their way into supervisory positions. And they are all, in the eyes of most other employers, unemployable.

At lunch today, I read some of these stories. Really, it seemed quite similar to reading blog posts on WordPress, except you can’t hit like or leave a comment. But like so many great blog stories, these are all about redemption. I love stories of redemption. With my history of substance abuse, I often feel like I need to be redeemed. As I read these stories, Bob Marley’s Redemption Song pushed its way into my consciousness. These songs of freedom…

My favorite lyric from a Bob Marley song is emancipate yourself from mental slavery.* It’s quite popular. Walk into any head shop or hippie clothing store that also sells bumper stickers and you’ll find this phrase printed on one. I used to have it on the tailgate of my old sticker-covered beater pickup truck. This lyric is from Redemption Song, and it’s been in my head all night.

I’m sure this earworm is a leftover from my lunchtime reading binge, but mental slavery is the perfect description for what I’m trying to correct in therapy. These thoughts, these obsessions control me. They trap me and tie me down. They agitate me and monopolize the voices shouting in my head. If I can’t break away from these omnipresent thoughts, I’ll never be free.

About the therapist: He came highly recommended. He seems organized and directed. He wants me to set an agenda for every meeting. So far, I like his approach. It seems like he has a plan. As an added bonus, he’s only two blocks from my work. I’m certain, more to follow.

* This lyric was not written by Bob Marley. It’s a quote from Marcus Garvey, a Jamaican activist. In the 1920s Garvey organized the black nationalist movement in America. In one year, he gained almost one million followers.

Why can’t I do that?

35 thoughts on “These Songs of Freedom

  1. Sorry to hear it’s like a mouse trap. I could go there myself and I’m glad I don’t feel inclined to. So I do hope you can get to a better place with it! The stats and the engagement and all that, it’s really about expectations for me. I’m grateful for the awesome tribe I’ve got and that you’re a part of it, and so on. No real cheese here in this trap.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Good for you! Banging your head against the wall, or poking the mousetrap is no way to live. I hope this guy can help you.
    Redemption Songs is a song that doesn’t bother me at all as an earworm.

    I’m noticing several of my “people” are saying Enough Already and making changes. Maybe all these little personal changes will snowball into the big changes our country and planet needs.
    🎶You may say I’m a dreamer…🎶😉

    Liked by 1 person

    • Redemption song is probably one of my most recurrent earworms. Mr. Negative here… ‘your people’ are probably the best of the best. Will these changes filter down as far as the worst of the best? Or the best of the worst? We’ll see.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. hoping your new therapist is a good fit for you! and, you can always make your blog private. it’s amazing, at least to me, how having a private blog can help quiet the “demons”. maybe try it? … you can always jump around and comment on other’s posts. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Good luck with the therapist. Remember who they work for if it’s not working out.

    Dave’s Killer Bread is a great model. I visit there about once a week as they donate so much bread to our programs. Dave is quite the character. The staff there are inspirational. They have all done so much for our programs.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Oh wow, that’s really cool. I stopped buying Dave’s bagels (in our small town, store bought is the only option) because it was marginally more expensive than Thomas’s. I’m switching back. I love the idea of second chances, and it’s great to hear how they are donating to your programs.

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      • Well I may write something it’s strangely a more private part of my life than I initially thought it would be. I am in charge of two residential programs for youth three sober houses for women reunifying with their children and several outpatient programs. Hence the free bread and connection to DKB. Dave’s not in charge anymore since they sold the company but the ethos is the same and many of the staff have been very good to our programs. It’s a great model.

        Liked by 2 people

  5. I wish you the best with your new therapist, Jeff.

    and I have had Dave’s bread, and was vageuly familiar with the story, but now I want to read those stories of redemption. and I agree, children shoudn’t be held reposnsible for adult crimes.

    I was not famiiar with that Bob Marley song, but it was wonderful, and I love the video that accompanies it.

    have a great weekend.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. You motivate me to get around to stuff that crosses my mind but I don’t act on it, like therapy. Youare fixing a problem, or at least exploring it. I complain and stay stuck. I’ve seen Dave’s bread at the grocery store, I’ll give it a try. I’m big into second chances and even third, very soft cause life can be hard.

    Liked by 1 person

    • It’s nice to to hear I’m motivating someone. Getting into therapy now is a timely. I’ve got so much S#!t rolling around in my brain right now. Above in his comment, Neil talks about how he works with Dave’s on a weekly basis because they support his nonprofit. Hopefully, he’ll write a blog post about it.

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  7. WordPress is set up to be addictive, as is most of social media. The data’s there to check moment to moment. Who doesn’t want to be liked or followed? Who doesn’t get dispirited seeing other bloggers who have huge audiences by comparison? WP might not be as bad as Facebook or Twitter, but its entire goal is to keep us coming back (and paying for more).

    Liked by 2 people

    • I probably give wordpress too much slack because by and large it’s a space for intellectual discourse missing in other social media programs. But you’re right, it’s a business and what ever it can do to hang onto users, it’s gonna do. Even playing on obsessive behavior.

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  8. I know exactly what you mean by your site being a mousetrap. Mine feels like one too at times. I’ve tried reducing how much I post per week, and and stepped away completely for a few months. But I missed the community aspect to WordPress, so here I am again. I wonder if I could benefit from therapy sometimes. It’s too far outside my comfort zone for now, so I’m settling for podcast episodes of the Happiness Lab.

    Liked by 1 person

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