I lost my wallet.
And found a new freedom that only the loss of identity could possibly grant me.
The wallet fell somewhere from a back pocket in between a home for the elderly where I parked, and a Quaker Meeting Hall where I attended a class on “Difficult People.” I called the instructor of the nearly 3-hour meeting, a Reiki teacher visiting from her Brazilian homeland. “No,” she answered via a voice mail message,” No one has found any wallet,” she said into the recording device. (I preserved her response so that I can more easily re-discover her lessons by listening to her voice.)
I spoke with the Quaker secretary, a quiet, soft-spoken woman of the Society of Friends, who scoured the meeting room and found nothing there and nothing in the lost and found bin. Even the spokesperson for the Mt. Airy “Learning Tree,” where I registered for the Germantown (PA) spiritual session, uncovered nothing new in my quest to regain the sole means of my identity.
I began to feel like a “non-person,” a man without a home. A creature without a name, without a calling, without a past or proof of a “self” for the nearby future.
No ATM card, no driver’s license, no military ID, no attorney license.
Nothing. All lost.
And then a line from an old Janis Joplin song came to me: “Freedom’s just another word for nothing left to lose . . .” The soulful cry belted out for that fellow I always admired and envied, the wandering character, “Bobby McGee.”
I could not spend money beyond the slight cash I carried in my pockets. My choices were gone.
I had to convince the guard at the VA facility I sought treatment the following day that I really was a veteran; I showed him the typed list of medicines I took daily that were prescribed with the VA’s imprimatur stamped on it.
I even had to turn down a pro bono request to represent a woman in Family Court seeking to safeguard her rights in a custody suit. I had no license to practice law, I told her, advising her what to say to the Judge for a continuance to decide if she could retain free legal service for those in need of, but can’t afford to hire, a lawyer, to possibly represent her at her next court appearance.
Then it dawned on me: I felt free.
Free of responsibilities and desires that either called for or needed an identity card to fulfill or get. Free to stay at home and decipher what this new “loss of identity” meant to and for me.
I learned that I did not have to be “me” anymore.
I didn’t have to be the person tied to (perhaps shackled to) beliefs and ideas I had absorbed all of my life from outside sources, activities and a credo imposed by others. I could be someone else. Anybody else. Some anonymous person that I always secretly wanted to be, but was too afraid of becoming for fear of ridicule, humiliation by peers, or possibly the victim of a hate crime.
Contoveros arose inside of me. I embraced the idea that I could speak to the World, give my opinion about anything, share my self with whomever may be drawn to me, through the use of this name, this signature word, this Contoveros Blog.
“Singer of Truth” is the rough, Greek interpretation of Contoveros. It also was the name of my father and his father before him. I started using it to sign ceramic art works I had crafted as part of a therapy session I attended at a PTSD program for veterans. “Contoveros” was also the artist name I signed to paintings and drawings I later created during art and drawing classes I took for the first time in my life several months ago.
Now, Contoveros will be my pen name, my new identity for the person I want to use to spread and share with others my life realizations. I got something to say, and nobody will ever keep my voice silent again, I thought.
Of course, I was the main one that could censure this new persona. I found through dreams and daily (sometimes two and three times a day) meditation journeys, that I was changing, developing a more mellow view of reality and wanted to learn if I was simply raising questions of my mortality, or if I found some truths, some universal ideas that transcended time, class and religious upbringings.
Hell, why not put them out there; put my internal queries into writing for all of cyberspace to view, disregard or possibly comment upon.
It’s a great feeling.
* “Sometimes, you have to lose yourself to find yourself.”
[…] But not with the wallet again. (For another look at Lost and Found, please see: Identity Loss) […]
Oh crap, the least you could have done was “hum” the Bob Dylan song. I know I had heard that before. I just couldn’t put it together with Joplin.
No, I don’t think you’re on the ‘Net all the time; neither am I, but I feel I had a little extra time on my hands. Speaking of hands. I had an arm massage done yesterday and my carple tunnel (I spelled it right, didn’t I?) has receded to the point where I can type without pain again.
Yes, I meditate and am able to reach that LaLa land that I think Buddhist monks call “Nirvana.” But it does not last long. It does, however, provide for a sweet carry-over and I feel compassion for most people.
I’ll let you off with a warning on the Dylan this time. Just don’t let it happen again…Sheesh.
“When you ain’t got nothin’, you got nothin’ to lose…you’re invisible now–you got no secrets to conceal”?
— all of these years and I never knew what she was saying in those other lines. Gee, I guess my head was somewhere else and if you can remember those things about the 60s, you really didn’t live the 60s.
Or something like that.
I’m still perturbed that this post never made it out of home base. I liked it. It was one of those bits that arose a week ago when I was inspired with mutiple ideas to write about.
I got a couple more, but may have to put them on hold until I get my act together for this meditation meeting I’ll be attending. 4 and 1/2 days in the Hudson Valley of New York State.
Any Black people there? I wonder. Can they put up with a city boy who can talk the talk and also walk the walk?
I attended an AA meeting while in the PTSD program. I also took part in a Muslim Prayer meeting. I found I learned from both (I swiped the book, “The 12 Steps.” I was reading it, and forgot to turn it in.)
I hope things improve for you and your child. It sounds tough right now, but your Spirit is bright and glowing and I think your journey will be well lit if nothing else. (That was a joke, by the way!)
See you later.
SHE?!! That’s Bob Dylan! (“Positively 4th Street”). Sheesh–what kind of a 60’s throwback are you? I was just 8 in 1969, so most of my memories of that time are intact. Now, if you want to talk about the late ’70’s and most of the ’80’s, that’s another story entirely!
I think there may be three black people in the Hudson Valley at this point, unless someone has moved. When I was a kid I lived in Westchester County, fairly close. Now that you mention it, I honestly don’t recall seeing any African Americans there! I hope the neighborhood’s improved since then…All that whiteness can kind of blind a person! But congratulations. It’s beautiful up there.
Are you a good meditator? I suck at it. And yet I know that it would be really helpful to me these days. I’m very peaceful, but my mind is cluttered and “noisy”–sometimes it blurs all the really good stuff :).
Thanks for your kind wish, but it’s oddly not tough at all. I’m not kidding when I say I’m stupid-happy, peaceful, and often blissed-out most of the time these days. I’ve never been this way in my life, and it just lasts and lasts and just keep getting better. I hope I don’t sound like I’m bragging. It just occurs to me fairly often that you don’t run into too many people who can say that. And my son (who’s 11) is the most perfect creature ever. Seriously. He’s wonderful. That certainly doesn’t hurt. (My ex and I also get along really well, now that we don’t have to live with each other.)
You must think I spend all day at the computer! Well, I definitely have had a relapse in that. It’s one of my last remaining addictions, I guess. (I’m sure that someone will come up with a plan for Internet Anonymous meetings in the near future.)
Have a great night, and a good sleep.
Wait–you wrote all that, quoted Janis, and didn’t mention, “When you ain’t got nothin’, you got nothin’ to lose…you’re invisible now–you got no secrets to conceal”?!!!!
Yes, Singer of Truth (I LOVE that!)–it is a beautiful feeling, but scary at first! Amazing things start to happen when you start to let go of all the stuff you’ve always believed that you needed so badly. I myself am a relatively newly single mother, with zero income at the moment, living completely hand-to-mouth…and (aside from the occasional anxiety, which I’ve learned is always completely unfounded, because I always end up having what I need and often what I want as well) loving it. It’s a matter of faith–you close your eyes, step off into the deep end, and know that the water will just carry you like a feather. (Forgive me–I used to be a poet. But it is what it feels like to me!).
Here’s hoping you never find your wallet!