Friday, May 26, 2017

Beyond YOUR Prison Walls: A Tribute To Ken Windes

I have a dear neighbor who gives me her cast off copies of the New York Review of Books. The other day, after not having received this bounty from her for quite some time, she bequeathed me with a good six months plus supply. Leaving me a note explaining her absense with her gift, I discovered she had just faced the illness and passing of her father.

How honored and precious it was to me that when she began to see Light in her tunnel of loss and grief, she thought of me, once again. So there they were, a whole stack of NYRBs for my personal indulgence.
To my friend and guide
in truth telling,
Ken Windes

I can’t tell you how very grateful and happy I was!

Immediately I organized these journals in chronological order, deciding to carefully peruse each and every one of them, from cover to cover, in luxuriant leisure, beginning with the most recent. 

That one happened to be dated for March 23, 2017. As the contents of the NYRB are almost timeless, it was no surprise that what was written and published, more than two months ago, would then be discussing Donald Trump and his near ceaseless, chaos creating. This is now our daily fare much to the dismay of many, including myself.

The article I dove into voraciously, I admit, was titled “What He Could Do” by Mark Danner.

Well, of course, this same topic abounds ad nauseam these days. However, as the piece filled a good number of HUGE pages in the NYRB, it did have the added attraction of getting into a bit more substance than one can usually find in the print or online dailies, even in typical weekly columns.  I liked that.

Right away, when Mr. Danner spoke of how our national citizenship is now being held as Trump’s prisoners, he aroused a kinship feeling in me. Certainly that perspective is not far from my own daily distresses of which I go in and out these days. 

I thought this a well-substantiated piece, “What He Could Do.” Yet it evoked an uprising of resistance in me, bringing to mind my old and dear friend and mentor, Ken Windes, now deceased. I don’t want to write much of Ken here other than to state a few things in brief.

Ken was a former convict – and – protégé of my former mentor, Martin G. Groder, M.D.. This was during the time that Groder was the prison psychiatrist at the federal corrections facility at Marion, Illinois, built to replace Alcatraz. 

During that period of incarceration, Ken thought, wrote and practiced principles that were, in part, to become a portion of his personal signature as well as his legacy. He wrote of these in his piece "Walking Through The Walls." 

His main point, as I heard it many times over from him in the days I trained with him, developing skill at running what became New Horizons Truth or Dare Game, was –
We can walk through the prisons of our minds and not let them hold us hostage. Ken Windes
What I am getting at here is to state my own principle --
Donald J. Trump need not control your mind, your heart or your spirit!
Make up your mind to make this notion your reality, as Ken taught me and countless others to do similarly in his lifetime. Be determined to make this way of thinking a top priority for your healthy living under sway of Trump and his adminstration, at least for the next four years. Even though it might be a daily challenge to walk through those prison walls Trump is trying to instill in our minds, hearts and spirits.

Your survival depends on it. This is the way of the Compassionate Warrior, choose it!

(Compassionate Warriors carry within themselves a gentle strength combined with a determination to fight for peace and social justice. This gentle strength is based on a love of self along with a love for life and humanity in all its frailities. Compassionate Warriors, thus, fight on the side of right ahead of brute might/the Dark Side. i.e. on the side of the Force.)

This is some of what I have been practicing in recent days and weeks while I have been having trouble actually writing. I must do this and so must you.

I am back again now, I think, with more to come.

Thursday, May 18, 2017

I Signed A Mental Health Group Petition Declaring Donald Trump Unfit For Office

Today I am remembering some of the days of my life following my mother’s mental breakdown, after my little sister died. I was almost eight and had never known adversity at that age. I was very fortunate I realize now. I had had an almost idyllic childhood, embraced as an adored little princess in a huge extended family of loving grown-ups, nested, too, in the midst of a tight-knit Jewish community. My father, a young businessman was recognized as an up and coming leader of that community and the greater, civic community as well. 

Then all was dark and threatening; my mother’s mental illness looming over everything in my young life. The almost daily threats replaced what once had been, after she had thrown my father out of our luxurious home he had so prided himself on purchasing. 

From that time on, my mother’s beatings and ceaseless ravings that I should have died instead of my sister because…….; the reasons being numerous, became my daily bill of fare. My main fault being that I was alive and baby Sharon Iris was not, second that I was somehow “Just like your father.”

I have, long ago, with the help of psychotherapy, the sheer grit of determination and a devoted father who stayed as close to me as he could, overcome most of the debilitation these years of my childhood brought me.

But this morning I woke up feeling myself in the pit of despair like those years had held me in. Gone was my mentally ill mother. Gone were the years during which I had fought off almost daily bouts of feeling as if I wanted to die though my days might have been filled with almost undreamt of successes. So from where had this bout of fear come?

Trying to reach my mind beyond the darkness, seeking its promptings, my consciousness landed on a single source; Donald Trump as president of the United States of America!

Waking up to another day with Donald Trump in the White House sometimes feels like my mentally ill mother in charge of my little girl life; ceaseless chaos, lies and distortions of reality, fear for those less powerful (mainly me back in the days under rule of my mother.) Finding a way through the darkness to the Light sometimes feels daunting and exhausting these days. 

The single thing that makes it a whole lot easier, however, is that I know this time I am not alone in the craziness, as I was as an only child during my mother’s siege, holding me captive in her war with my father. 

There are almost endless checks and balances in our great country and the Constitution of our Founding Fathers. There were none of these for me when my mother held the reigns over my young life.

Last night I signed a petition asserting that “Donald Trump is mentally ill and must be removed.” The petition, originated with a psychologist, John Gartner Phd., who has been willing to break the Goldwater Rule and ask other professionals to join him. The rule states that mental health professionals cannot offer open assessments of the mental health of public figures. 

These professionals, of which I am now one, are willing to be rule breakers in the service of protecting our country. I totally agree! We, as mental health professionals, must take action and speak out that Donald Trump is dangerous, by virtue of being mentally unhinged; our collective professional opinion.

I am so grateful to not be alone in coping with craziness. And, so grateful to be a mental health professional, myself, with all the training and skills I have accrued, also applied to myself, and to know that I have a wonderful grounding in truth and reality that can help me through dark times such as these.  

How I wish such a petition could have protected my young life. But better late than never to make this world a better place.  Like Anne Frank said – 
How wonderful it is that nobody need wait a single moment before starting to improve the world.