Tuesday, January 13, 2015

Unmasked

I began attending a free grant writing workshop in mid-March of 2014.  The leader of the workshop offers a certificate upon completion of all six classes. The classes stand on their own and my first class was class six in the series of six; The Zen of Schmoozing.  During the class break, I overheard the co-facilitator tell another attendee that she was going to offer an internship to a few women who had completed the workshop series.  

After the co-facilitator was finished speaking with the student, I asked about the internship and how I could get involved.  She told me that the internship was only going to be offered to students that had already completed the six classes.  I gave her my email anyway.

The workshop was held at a community shelter in El Cajon.  A chef popped his head in, during the class, and asked how many folks were staying for lunch.  I raised my hand.  I had to commute via bus back to downtown San Diego and I knew I was going to be hungry.  The co-facilitator also stayed for lunch.  And so did the women who were cherry picked to intern.  We all sat at the same table. Each woman began telling me how they came across the free grant writing workshop and the variety of reasons they had decided to attend. 

One woman was a creative writing professor at UCSD extension.  Another founded a successful nonprofit and she is looking to begin another one soon.  One woman was a freelance writer.  The co-facilitator, a nonprofit program development consultant. 

Then, the eyes were on me.

“Umm, I love to write and want to help my community”.  Keeping my cards close to my chest; I opt for the generic.  The conversation continued.  

Although I was sitting at the same table, because I refused to open up, I blocked myself off from the company that surrounded me; I felt like a ghost.  After a few minutes of chit-chat, that I could not hear (because of the voices in my head), I spoke up.

"Well, part of the reason I'm here..", a hush came over the table. 

It was a moment out of a movie.  You know, like the scene in Steele Magnolias: Daryl Hanna's character, the mysterious, new, single girl in town is renting a room, from Dolly Parton (the town's stylist), and all the women are getting their hair done in the salon and Daryl Hanna begins to speak and tell the girls why she is alone, without a man, in a strange town renting a single room.  The whole salon stops, silence falls, and necks crane.  It felt like that.     

“Well, part of the reason I'm here is because I live in a homeless shelter and I want to learn how to write grants so that I can give back to a community that has resurrected my hope in myself.”

Choking back my emotions, I went on.:

“A lifetime of addiction landed me in a homeless shelter.  Rock Bottom. Strike three. Lights out. But what a gift. I have been uplifted by the community I am involved in.  I have a passion for writing and a gratitude in my heart for all the community services that have helped me along the way.  Yoga and meditation have revolutionized my life and I want to further my journey by bringing these practices to county shelters and recovery homes.  Introduce others to the truth, that through yoga,meditation, and community, we can heal ourselves."  

It is possible to be at peace with who we are.

I threw my cards on the table and the response was kind.  Don't quote me on this, but, I think it was Carl Jung who said something like,’ when we share our faults with others it thrusts us into the welcoming arms of humanity.’ 

I unmasked and my dignity and integrity remained intact; a week later, I was invited to become a grant writing intern.