Hope Street: How I navigated my way through homelessness (Part III)
In this five-part editorial series on Storia, one writer presents an honest, hard-hitting, enlightening look at living on the street. Sometimes, without an address, all you have is hope.
PART III: Keeping sane while homeless
My family, including my mother, didn't talk with me much while I was homeless. At times, I felt she was pulling away. In retrospect, I now see that talking with me often was more than she could bear. Her heart was aching just as deeply as my own.
Loving someone who is homeless is indeed the ultimate exercise in detaching with love, especially when he or she refuses to receive help or make changes, or you're not in a position to assist in a tangible way. However, I've found that often life does a clever turnaround. It takes time. Years, months, or even just days later, you'll find yourself 180 degrees - in the exact opposite position from where you viewed life not so long before. A lesson in humility.
After thankfully having a home again for about three years now, today, I'm in the position my Mom was back in 2013. A person I love deeply is homeless, living outdoors. I give him as much encouragement as I can. On one of our recent phone calls, I asked him to reflect on how he stays sane. Here's what he wrote to me from a library computer last week, including appropriately a sailing analogy, having once been in the U.S. Coast Guard:
"One of the topics seldom touched on in a discussion on homelessness are the options available should one find oneself hopelessly adrift on a sea of madness with no shoreline in sight. Having stood at this impasse on several occasions and therefore having a couple of tried and proven solutions, I offer what has worked for me...
What passes for insanity, in the context of homelessness, is often little more than the inability to find a familiar correlation to the position one finds oneself in. The best antidote to this fuzzy thinking is to simply accept that you have never been in this situation before and it is quite understandable that you not know exactly how to proceed. My advice in this situation is not to proceed at all. Find something simple and non earth-shattering to do: wash dishes, read, gather firewood, change clothes - and then observe your feelings for a clue as to how this is different from what has come before.
Find someone to talk with; it really doesn't matter if they are the richest or poorest individual on the planet, or are intelligent or rather dull. Just find someone who can listen attentively. If they can give meaningful feedback that is certainly a bonus, but it isn't necessary. Simply laying out your feelings and listening to what you are saying can go a long way toward defining the problem, from which point a solution will usually present itself.
In looking back over what I've written, it occurs to me that it's not much different than what could be said for any situation in life, albeit those insanity gremlins do seem to pop up more often when one finds oneself "on the street." The only thing germaine I have to offer here is to watch your playmates. I lack the research to say conclusively that hopelessness or negativity is more prevalent among the homeless though that has long been my impression. What I do know, without a doubt, is that insanity is contagious and that putting distance between myself and the source usually makes it a quick and simple matter to recover."
Thank you, my dear friend, and many blessings.
April 23 Update: Found out today that James died April 13. Someone found him in his camp in the woods in Tallahassee. RIP. My sweet friend. I will miss you so very much. 😳
Photo Credit: visulogix