Monday, July 13, 2009

The Discussion

I know some of you are wondering how last Thursday's talk went. As it turned out, I didn't have to release as many details as I thought I might. I didn't even cry. They both had some very good, meaningful insights for me. Particularly that this, as all things, is not black and white and there is no definitive answer for any part of it. Accepting that may not be easy, but will help.

They also advised against being a spiritual mentor for Monty. The simplest reason is that I can't do everything for him. Even if I have the expertise in this regard, I can't be expected to wear every hat. I was greatly struggling with this request he made of me, even for reasons that I didn't quite realize at the time. But, I know that is one of those things that I just can't do and I was able to tell him that yesterday. I know he didn't understand, and tried to press. I have more reasons beyond this one, but that was all I was willing to say. Eventually, he said "ok, I asked and you said no. That's cool." Having that burden no longer on me is a noticeable relief.

One of them mentioned that, with enough notice, she would be willing to come with me to the sentencing since I'm certain I'm going to need support. They both said they were open any time I needed to talk. Writing about it is one thing, but being able to actually bounce ideas off of someone and get some thoughts from people outside the situation is really helpful. I mentioned that it would have been perfectly ok if they heard my story and decided they couldn't help me. They mentioned something that my other friend who asked to be an ear had said, them taking the time to help me does not imply support or rejection of Monty. Other than the fact that he's brought this situation on me, and I've chosen to let him, it's not about him. They were there for me and, as the situation is not black and white, neither are my reasons for staying by him.

Sometimes, we need someone else to remind us of things that we already know.

Thursday, July 9, 2009

Gathering Thoughts

I'm speaking with the ministers this afternoon. Like with all meetings, I try to go over what I want to say beforehand. I'm surprisingly coming up short.

It's easy to type about it (relatively speaking), but not so easy to speak about it. I've told them that already. It also means that, for them to understand my position, I'll have to tell them things about me that they don't already know.

I'm not sure I even know where to begin, or even exactly what I want from them. It's always best to start at the beginning, but the beginning is so hard to pinpoint.

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

A Comment

Someone left a comment to yesterday's post! However, I have chosen not to publish it. It contained what appeared to be an opinion about Michael Jackson's anti-Christian-like dancing behavior. I chose not to publish it because this post, and this blog as a whole, is not about how one feels about touching parts of their body while dancing.

I respect that this anonymous commentator has an opinion (or has found an opinion) they feel is worth repeating, but the commentator clearly missed the intended point here. Therefore I will also choose to not go off on a tangent by starting a discussion about this irrelevant opinion.

This blog is about real people, who have real lives and make real choices. I am here to talk about real people who are suffering, and they are suffering in ways that the majority out there can only scarcely imagine. That post was not about Michael Jackson, it was not about a going away party that the host city could not afford, and it was not about spending a day surrounded by an immense crowd so some people could sign their names in a book that no one will ever read. Perhaps it will be noted that I made no mention of my opinion over his guilt or innocence in regards to his previous charges. That, too, is irrelevant. Therefore, I will not post an opinion that was brought here simply because I named Michael Jackson in my first sentence.

I came here yesterday because Margo Howard's words, that I quoted directly, struck something in me. It is a question that I often ask myself, and I felt compelled to try to answer it. So, the question in my terms: How is it that I can overlook the person and his actions just because Monty was always a good friend to me? As I hope it has been clear, the answer is "I do not know."

I did mention yesterday that some of it may be born of fear. I illustrated that as a fear that we could be the ones doing those bad things, if it weren't for the people we know doing them. The potential for bad choices is within all of us. There's another side to that fear. It could also be fear that we made a bad choice in failing to see the badness in others. How does such a misjudgment reflect on us? What would others think of us when they learned of the mistake we made? Humans are pack animals and acceptance in the pack has prominence in many of our thoughts and feelings. Still, I do not know.

But the valuable lesson that I learned is that this ability is not unique to me. I found that many people can ignore what they know, or think they know, to show love and support for someone who touched their lives in some way. From a scary movie buddy to a figure on stage to someone who violated a traffic law and caused direct injury, and everyone in between. Being in someone's life, even just for a moment or from a distance, will touch them. That is the place where we find compassion for people who do not seem to deserve it. Deserving is not the purpose of compassion.

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

The Larger Scale

If there is anyone in this country who does not know Michael Jackson, I would have to accuse them of living under a rock. Not that there's anything wrong with that.

Margo Howard wrote an article today about the frenzy that his death has caused, among the media, among his family, among millions of fans of his music. She referenced a YouTube video from Congressman Peter King (R, NY) expressing confusion that so many people are expressing such sadness over the death of this individual when his morals have previously been called into question in a serious way. She says, "How is it that people are overlooking the person and his actions just because he was a great singer and dancer?" The answer is not a simple one.

If the accusations against Jackson, the person, were proven true (and it should be noted that many people do not believe his acquittal was deserved), it would be undeniable that he was a horrible person. I know the doubt of his innocence is in the minds of many. That's not the point.

The point is that his music and his ability to perform touched many people. Even if he were a deplorable human being, he was still a part of the lives of thousands of strangers. I think that is the part of him that all of those people in LA, around the country, and around the world are honoring.

It strikes me as odd how horrific actions of others can be so easily overlooked. Sure, nothing was proven in this case, but enough was to put the idea of doubt out there. At this point, it is irrelevant.

I know this is what I'm doing. I'm ignoring what I know (and I don't just have doubt to go on, I have knowledge of guilt), and supporting Monty for the part of him that he presented to me. That part of him that I knew, that I know. The other part is there, of course, he cannot be separated from it. I must say I don't know why the other parts are so easily overlooked. What I learned today, however, is that this tendency seems to be natural. Maybe it is born from fear. We don't want to admit that people we care about in one way or another can do wrong, because it means we can all do wrong, so we disregard that part. Maybe someone can be so important that actions that don't directly affect us are immaterial to us. This does not make us without compassion for those that are affected, but rather makes it easier to support the criminals as well as the victims. I think this denial is part of the human condition.

On similar lines and to a lesser extent, a friend of mine was recently in a car accident. She asked us for some good thoughts and prayers for the person who ran into her, the people who stayed to help her, and that the process with insurance companies goes smoothly. The first item on her list was the person who ran into her. He did a bad thing, he made an illegal U-turn and hit her in the process, but she wanted her friends to pray for him. She had difficulty explaining that when we pointed it out to her.

What makes people empathize with the worst among us (not to say that someone making a bad choice in a car is the worst among us, but I hope you get my point)? I think some of it may be that we're all people. Any one of us can be in their place, any one of them can be in our place. Maybe that is where we find compassion, even a kind of affinity for those people.

Monday, July 6, 2009

Imagine That

A friend of mine pulled me aside during the course of yesterday. Apparently he and/or his wife found this blog this past weekend. He used to read my main blog daily and would have known about it already, but life just gets in the way of computer time sometimes. That is not the point.

The point is my friend pulled me aside and said he would be willing to listen if I needed an ear. I am so thankful for the offer and I will take him up on it at another time (yesterday just wasn't the day for such talk). It has done something else as well.

This friend is not the only friend who knows of this situation (though I'm not sure I've ever mentioned it directly, so he may have not even a gist). My roommates know it, for example, and some friends at work as well as others. This friend is the only one who offered to be an ear. It's not something I can put upon someone else, I've talked about that already, but he's willing to take it on. It sets him distinctly apart from the others.

I'm not making judgments on them. I would not be here if the situation was not genuinely difficult, and I understand that there are many people who would not want to deal with it. Maybe Monty's position would disgust them so that they could not support me supporting him. That still may happen even to my friend who has offered, and it is fine if it does. But the fact that he's willing to try in support of me is momentous. The meaningfulness of it is not unnoticed.

I'm going to talk with the pastors as well, as I had asked them, because I think they will be able to help in other ways. I'm also trying to prepare for them to turn away as well. I will not press this on anyone who does not wish it. If I explain it and they say they just can't help, that's ok. I don't think it would be a turning away of me, but a turning away of Monty by association. If it happens. It may. It may prove to be too much for the people who said they would try to help me. It is already too much for those who did not. But, the fact that someone wants to try is wonderful.

Friday, July 3, 2009

Breaking Point

I've reached my breaking point. I've found the point where I don't think I can handle my part of this on my own.

I decided to ask the pastors at the ministry I work with for help. We have not yet scheduled a meeting, and I don't think they come here, I don't think they know what's coming. I was crying just asking for help.

Nothing new has happened, except Monty has asked me to help guide him spiritually when he is in prison, starting with now. He's asked me to help him follow some of the ways of my faith, and needs instructions on how to do that when he will not be allowed tools or sacred objects. I wonder if he still has the mala I made for him some months ago.

I don't know if I can do it. I have my own opinions about the beautiful faith I follow, and I don't know if he fits in it. I think that makes me just like the pastor at his church who didn't want him around, though she didn't (perhaps couldn't) bar him from weekly service. I want to try. I just don't know if I can. I don't know if I can be objective enough to instruct without judging.

He has some things down. One of the main principals is that of personal responsibility. He's showing this by not running from what he has done. Maybe I can start building on that. I don't know.

I know I need help. I'm worried that even the pastors, my friends whom I love and respect, will take the same stand as my roommate, who has admitted to not being able to do what I am trying to do. I don't know where I'll turn then.

Thursday, July 2, 2009


After reading the press release, I had a moment to speak with my roommates. I think they could tell I was bothered and that's how it came up. I gave them no details, I'm not sure I could ever repeat it, and all they knew of the crime was the gist; they had even less of the details than I previously had.

I spoke with them about it in much the same way I wrote it here; it started with the church issue and that's when I learned there was a press release at all. I told them I read it and regretted it, just because things were easier in the ignorance of it.

One of my roommates told me that he could not do what I do. He could not support his friend, if he had a friend in this situation, and he didn't understand how I could. I told him I didn't either.

Then I explained that it mostly comes from duty as the spiritual guide I am to help the life that needs it. Even a little of it was defending Monty and his choices to take responsibility for his actions. Still, my roommate maintained, he would not be able to find the compassion that I am barely clinging to.

It wasn't a comment on merits in me. It almost felt like an accusation, though I'm sure that's not what he intended. His unwavering intolerance (and I mean no disdain by saying it that way, I completely understand my roommate's point of view) was filled with disbelief: disbelief that anyone could find any kind of compassion to offer in this case.

My only answer is that I still don't know why I can. I know now where it comes from, but I don't know why.

Wednesday, July 1, 2009


If you follow either of my other blogs, you noticed that I've been on vacation. My two weeks off of work started with visiting Monty. It was nice, because I was off and we could do something during the day. His work schedule put him home around noon, and the plan was for me to come over on Tuesday afternoon, and he'd take Wednesday off so we'd have the morning.

He called late that Monday morning while I was driving home, so I did not pick up the phone. The message he left was full of despair. "I've been fired," he said, "so you can come over whenever tomorrow. I'm going to talk to my therapist, be back around 1, call if you can."

I learned that the losing of his job was a direct result of the aforementioned press release. His immediate boss was apologetic, saying he did not want to do it, but it was over his head. That's a small comfort, if it's comfort at all. Still, the result is the same: no job. No getting out of the house during the day. He might have some way to fight that decision, a guilty plea is not a conviction, but is it worth it? How is he supposed to look for another job? He needs the income, needs to build his savings for when he gets out. The depression in his voice was clear as bells.

He asked me why. He knows he did wrong, he's trying to do right, to pay for his crime, to change, to heal. He wanted to know why it was coming at him from all directions, why punishment is coming from unexpected corners when he's working so hard to take responsibility for what he did. I told him that his actions, all actions, have repercussions, and since this is unknown territory, he's finding those repercussions in places he didn't expect. It's all part of the same fee he must pay. "I guess you're right," he said, resignedly.

So, we changed our plans a little. Instead of waiting until the afternoon, I went over in the late morning after most of the traffic had gotten out of my way. And, instead of staying the night, I continued to my parents' home in the wee hours of Wednesday morning. I have to admit to lying here. I needed to get my car fixed and had an appointment at 2:00 in the afternoon Wednesday. It would have allowed me to stay the night at Monty's and make it in plenty of time for my appointment. I told him that the appointment was 8 and I couldn't stay the night. I feel only a little bad about it. Knowing what I know now, the thought of having to sleep there makes me uncomfortable. I was happy to find a way out of it that didn't involve the painful truth.

A teacher in my faith once showed me a passage that was a code of belief and conduct. I don't remember enough of it to site, and I'm not among my books and notes at the moment. The line I remember is that we must always speak the truth, except when the truth causes harm. We strive above all else to not cause harm to others. That is why I was only a little sorry for the lie. It protected him and spared me.

We had a good visit. We watched silly cartoons and movies that we knew line for line. A few times, he would bring up his situation, and then apologize for doing so. He said he felt bad because it always seems to come up when I visit and when we talk on the phone. He's right, it does. But it's a part of his life, it's something he and everyone who knows him must face. And, if he needs the outlet, that's one way I can support him. I can't relieve the guilt he feels for it, though.

He called last week, but in the midst of my hectic vacation, I did not return his call. He called a couple days ago, but I haven't checked the message yet. Things are still not settled down from my being away. Maybe I'll get a chance to catch up later. This is where things are since I saw him last.