When we think about the world, we sometimes wonder about the nature of the universe. In that wonderment we have to keep in mind that it is, after all, still a puzzle.
It's a puzzle; they're not hard. Puzzles are only hard if you put rules on them. Take away the rules and the puzzle becomes clear.
On the night of December 21, 22, I was thinking about a number of things and coming to a conclusion on one of them. I needed room so that I could gather and sort my thoughts. I needed a place I could call home for the night.
I went to a motel with a $100 bill and an assortment of other bills; I asked for the price of a room for 3 nights and the price for one night. I didn't have enough for both the room and the deposit. I held out the money, all I had, and asked if we could do it.
She took a chance on me and I checked in with just my driver’s license. She knew I was only a few blocks from home and needed a place to lay my head for the night. Instead of a $100 deposit she laid aside only $60.
It wasn’t money that got me a room for the night, it was the kindness in her eyes that gave me a temporary home. I really needed room so that I could sort out my thoughts. I was trying to figure something out and needed to be alone to do it.
When I’m thinking about something, I like to pace. That’s what I did. Good thing I had my Crocs. During this time, I put the finishing touches on part of my website. I met some wonderful people and had a couple of cups of Sanka.
To my dismay, I had run out of cigarettes and the motel didn’t have any. I had an appointment with Dr. Mahfoudi at 10:00 am and I had promised myself and my family that I would be there. Nevermind that there was a storm.
I would have stayed at the motel but, alas, I was out of smokes. I went to Scholten’s and they were closed. I spied a Leo’s taxi and went to ask for a lift. The driver said the cabs weren’t running but I sat with him and we reminisced over our past encounters. While I sat, he did give me a couple of smokes. I left him with his last cigarette and headed to the Irving.
It was closed as well, so onward to the hospital where I knew that some one would have a smoke.
The appointment was secondary at this point. I needed a smoke! Period, full stop!
As I ventured into the worst blizzard I had seen in 35 years, I remembered another on Saint Patrick’s day that Kevin Barry and I had played in as a child. It was during that storm that I saw Herbie Whalen’s aunt climb over a four foot snow bank to get to the church. She was about 60 or 70 and made the statement that she would “ never miss church on Saint Paddy’s day.”
It was this image that gave me comfort as I walked through the storm. I crossed the Morrissy Bridge on foot and made it to the hospital with one minute to spare. There, I was greeted with both welcome and concern.
Needless to say, I was covered with snow and there was frost in my beard. One person after another gave me everything I needed after a cold foray into a blizzard. Somebody looked after my clothes and another looked after me.
Each one contributed in their own special way to my mind, body and spirit. I was toasty warm inside and out within minutes. My socks went into the dryer and a new found friend put a hot towel over my head and gave me some flavoured hot tea to sip.
The Dr. wasn’t at the hospital. I didn’t think he would be. If the cabs weren’t running, he wouldn’t be either. The Dr. was informed that I had come through the storm for the appointment.
Being in that blizzard was a picnic compared to some of the nights I had endured in the relative warmth and comfort of a heated room.
The Dr. was concerned and wanted me to stay until after the storm. That had been my plan all along but “wanting me to stay” was code for involuntary admission. I almost blew my stack.
Instead of a welcome guest, I was now a prisoner. I decided then and there that no one would any longer control me. My thoughts would be mine and mine alone; I drew a line in the sand.
I decided to make a stand, not only for myself but for others that didn’t posses some of the gifts of communication that my parents and my childhood had given me.
Everybody has their own special gift. Mine happens to be the gift of communication. My gift is no better than anyone else’s, it’s just different. It is these differences that makes the world such a special place.
After a number of antics over a cigarette, I was put down with a needle and thrown into isolation. When I woke up, I found two cups of water beside the bed. After the first sip, I decided to make the best of my stay.
This was a place to stay and sort out my thoughts and although I couldn't smoke, it did have the attraction of being free.
I created a home for myself in that small space. I had a shower and waited for food. When the food came, I rationed it, recalling a tv show and conversations with inmates at the Renous maximum security institution that taught me how to live in a cell.
I kept it neat and tidy. I had a place for food, a clothes rack for my towels, a place for refuse and an exercise space. I settled in nicely. I was content and prepared to outlast anything that came my way.
I kept track of time with the clock outside the room and had the calendar changed to reflect the correct date. I was in it for the long haul. I looked up during my stay and was startled to find someone looking back at me.
I could see, just past the curtain, into the other isolation cell. He could see me and I could see him. We didn't let on that we could see each other so over the period of the next number of hours we hashed out some form of a basic language that only we could understand.
I looked at the camera inside the cell and realized that they couldn't see me in the shower portion of my new home; it was there that I communicated with basic sign language and while pacing around the cell communicated with song and verse.
The next day, my new found friend and I were placed in the general population. We had found each other in our most vulnerable of times. We were the only people in the world that spoke the language that we had created. We shared something special. We shared a past, present and a future. His name was Joshua.
When we were in the general population, we still used this rudimentary form of communication that we had created to solidify that special bond we had founded. In that isolation chamber, I found what I needed the most, a friend.
I left the psych ward on December 29, 2008 with the knowledge that each and every person on that floor was feeling the same thing. It was hope and the fulfillment of something that had been lacking in each and everyone of us.
We had over the past number of days been experimenting with a new mental health delivery system that I have dubbed the "Miramichi Model." It is loosely based on the Tidal Model, pioneered by Phil Baker and Poppy Buchanan and incorporates some cutting edge science from Australia and New Zealand.
The Miramichi Model is based on the premise that each person is endowed with a number of particular talents. No talent is better than the other, it is merely different. We are created with the same beautiful way of thinking.
Each person when they close their eyes sees things in swirls and pictures. This is our common denominator and we have only ourselves and our interaction with others to unlock the power of our own perspective.
We cannot, as people who reside on this planet, work in isolation.
On the ward our common denominator came down to one basic tenet. What would happen if each and every one of us made choices from a common base? This base was creating a better world for our children.
Each choice would be governed by this and this alone; therefore we had a common goal.
This seemed to unleash talents in each of us that had lain dormant. We were a team and unlocking the potential of our God given talents.
Our talents were different but each, in our own way, were bent on creating something of value for "the kids". We were no longer alone in that purpose. We started the rebuilding process with ourselves.
Today, December 29, 2008 I saw the birth of a functioning mental health model that the staff and patients of Region 7 hospital had created through a spirit of cooperation. It was a wonderful experience and I feel grateful to those who shared in it.
I walked out of the psych ward at Region 7 with a new found hope and purpose that will guide my life. I hope that same guide will help the others that remained and give them the peace that they so richly deserve.
God Bless us everyone.