On facebook today I saw a post on a story called Kafka and the doll. The story goes that Kafka, when he moves to Berlin, meets a young girl who is desolate over the loss of a beloved doll. Kafka helps the girl look for the doll and when he can’t find it, he tells her the doll has gone on a journey. Over a period of weeks, he writes letters to the girl detailing the doll’s travels. At the end, Kafka sends the girl a doll – of course it is different from the original one, but tells the girl that the travel has changed her. That love always returns but in different forms.
This resonated very deeply within me and I tried to figure out why. I think folks have a visceral reaction to the idea of loss and grief but we don’t spend a lot of time exploring why it is, what is it about this story in particular that hits us at that far back place in our brains and our hearts. I thought and thought and I think it simply is because it is true. All that we do, each day, each minute of each day changes us and if it does not then there is a real problem we must address.
Here is my secret – I am not the same person I was last year. I am not the same as I was yesterday although my basic belief system has not been terribly altered in these twenty-four hours. A series of 24 hour events though can lead to a crack in the earth, it can lead to water rushing in and lands leveling out. If I let it. So much of the time we have labeled ourselves as who we are and have determined that we shall not behave in X manner because it would not be in line with who we perceive ourselves to be. You notice I did not say WHO WE REALLY ARE, but with our perception of ourselves. I envy those people who have perceptions of themselves and who seem keen on who they are “Don’t you know me?” they ask as if I should expect that their human nature is what they show me and to expect it to change because of life events or realizations they may have along the way is just absurd.
When I sit with a client who needs to make a decision about a plea or going to trial, I stand with them on the brink of a phenomenal cliff. (One that I get to step back from after a time) The only thing that will truly keep the status quo with none of the dirt of the ‘justice’ system touching them is an outright acquittal – not guilty, dismissed, go away, expunge, you are back to who you were before the state tried to turn you into someone else. This, however, is not a realistic proposition for a lot of people in the path of the system. They must decide how much of themselves they are going to change whether it means they will be convicted felons or sex offenders or folks who spent five days in jail on a minor misdemeanor. The idea is that these are actual THINGS that happen that change the course of your life as opposed to ephemera and ideals that can pass through without any real consequences. As if the loss of love, or of peace or of the notion of safety won’t change you to the same extent that a felony conviction will. And, please please please don’t get me wrong. I am not saying that this thing that happens to our clients isn’t life altering. It is – but we who don’t yet have criminal convictions – we should take our journeys as seriously as those of our clients. We are almost always standing on the edge of a phenomenal cliff. Choose. Choose. Choose. Figure out which thing won’t have the effect of changing who you are. But maybe changing who you think you are.
This shit changes you. It changes your idea of who you are as a human being, it changes what you view as worthwhile endeavors and what the things are that can get your insides jostled. You aren’t going to jail? Well, then I think you are having a pretty good day. Yeah, that’s how I view the troubles of the rest of the world. Your water-cooler talk and the fact that your boss is a meanine is insignificant when my clients face such intense consequences that will alter everything they do for all of the days of their lives. But yet, but yet what I hope in the center of my being is that it leads them to come back in a different form. That the travel changes them.
I am horribly naive still. I believe in redemption, I believe that people deserve a second, third, thirtieth chance.
My kid asked me about whether I help bad guys get out of jail and I said not bad guys, good people who do bad things. He said “mama, when they go to jail they make a promise they won’t do it again and that’s when they come out, right?” I said right because it is a difficult concept to explain to a six year old, this idea of rehabilitation and recidivism, this idea that the goal is to give everyone another chance to make it right, that this isn’t a story about good versus evil and that my clients are not like the Joker – just bad people all around. That all of us are on just a trip, that’s all and nothing else.
I started with Kafka and a doll and took a few turns that I didn’t even know were coming. My mind wanders in all sorts of paths. I make connections where others might not, but I am certain that you, my friend, do the same you are just more cautious in the editing process that you don’t show me the flaws in your logic and reason. But see, this is my journey. And things are changing. And I want you to see it and I want you to share it with me and I will share it with you.
Here is the thing that has not changed for me, my desire to be this ridiculous champion for the cause. What cause? Oh, this one. This one where we acknowledge that none of us are truly walk between the raindrops types and that at some point the shit hits the fan for each of us. If you believe you will remain untouched by the things that touch my clients, you know “those people” well, I hope you are right. I hope no one ever comes knocking at your door saying you or your child or your brother has done this thing that you never imagined them doing. I hope that you never experience loss and that your journey brings nothing but good tidings. But those things change you too. Let it change you. When you let it you will see that me and you aren’t that different. That you and those guys who promise not to do bad things again aren’t that different either. Scary, huh?