There are always choices. Some of those choices may not seem too good, but they are always there.
This going to be a super difficult read. The subject is harsh and painful. If you are not up for it, don’t read any further.
A close relative of mine has chosen to live on the streets. I wont even pretend to understand her decision. She left her marriage because she felt the need for freedom. She needed to be set free from a husband and a child. Janis Joplin said, “Freedom is just another word for nothing left to lose.” Well, there it is.
It’s extremely difficult not to pass judgement on her. I do not understand what is going on in her mindset to choose that sort of living situation. I’m not a counselor, doctor or mental health specialist. That kind of lifestyle decision seems out of place. She has told our family it is how she chooses to live.
The Results Of Behavior
This is not critique on homelessness. The point I’m driving at is that our decisions have repercussions. Some for the good and some for bad. In the big scheme of life, even seemingly benign decisions can have major consequences.
I live in a fairly large city. Working downtown, encountering homeless people is an everyday occurrence. Every street person I have encountered is physically and mentally tough. These attributes are probably what helps them to survive.
Some of these people I recognize; for years I have seen them on the street. Their main strength is in their tenacious resilience. One can only guess how they survive.
Winter time is toughest. The shelters are open to most people who want to abide by a few rules. Then there are those who don’t want to follow any regulations. People who sleep on concrete with a piece of cardboard as a mattress, in 30 degree weather, man, that is a strong individual.
What’s the adage, “What doesn’t kill you makes you stronger,” or something like that. These street folks are strong. If I slept on concrete night after night I would surely die.
I met a woman named Debbie; she lived in a wheelchair. Debbie spent her nights in a parking garage. At times I would give her money; it broke my heart to see her live in that situation. I often wondered what circumstances and decisions in her life led her to this situation.
There is an alley that I have to walk through to get to my job. The stuff I have seen…
Early on a Sunday morning, heading to work, I passed one of the doorways of a building. There, on the step was a guy shooting up, rig hanging out his arm. It wasn’t even 8 am and this was what he was doing. What brought this person to this place in his life? Addiction yes, but there has to be more.
I could create my own story about him, but I really don’t have any idea what has driven him to this sort of life.
I passed a lady laying face down in a bus stop, she had her pants down urinating on to the side walk. What is her story?
I walked upon a young woman, lying in a door way of an alley, legs spread. There was some guy pumping away on her. I made eye contact with the woman; there was only vacuousness. Prostitution is dirty anywhere. On the street, it seems dirtier and grimier. What drives someone to it?
Just Another Night…
Late Sunday night, waiting for the bus, the zoo was fully open. One guy must have been a Tweeker. He was pacing in circles, arms flailing, animated. He would only sit down for a few seconds then continue his pacing. Sometimes he was an airplane, sometimes an air-guitarist. Crossing the street, he would beat his chest like King Kong and then run and jump on the flower beds of the office tower. I watched his behavior for twenty minutes.
Another guy had a big white plastic garbage bag. His self-appointed task was to pick up all the litter he could find; and that he did. His major challenge was the hole in the bottom of his plastic sack. After stuffing trash into the bag, a piece would fall out the hole. This forced him to turn back and put the piece of garbage in the bag. I watched him trundle down the street, turning circles every few steps, replacing each piece as it fell out of the hole. He never once stopped to consider why this was happening.
Last night a woman approached me at the bus stop. She got right in my private space, staring at me. I had had a long night at work and wasn’t in the mood. Without thinking, I fumbled a twenty out of my wallet. She squealed and ran off to whatever place her dealer must have been. Thinking about it later, I wish I hadn’t done that. Her tactic worked.
There are many more examples. I have no solution for these problems, I can only tell you what I have seen.
What’s Holding You back?
Comparing myself to these folks I have encountered, their challenges run deeper than mine. For that, I am so grateful. My problems pale to those who live on the street.
We can assume all we want about who they are and from where they have come. These are stories we make up to come to some sort of understanding of this screwed up world.
Let’s be honest, if you are reading this blog, you have alternatives to your life’s direction. I can safely assume that you aren’t living hand to mouth. Encountering these street situations is mind boggling.
It still comes down to stories. What are the stories you are telling yourself?
Each decision made is a prediction of what the future will bring. The decisions we make usually break down to what is going to make us the most happy. My problem is that I am terrible at forecasting the future. If I were good at it my life would be incredibly different.
The biggest problem is when consequences haven’t been considered before making a decision. Most resolutions require action; once the rubber meets the road I have waned in my commitment. The action required became too inconvenient to work out. There wasn’t enough passion and desire to continue down the path I had marked for myself.
Free will is the foundation of our individuality. We choose our relationships, where we work, how to spend free time, who we want to be and how we want to behave.
What we want and what we need often are not the same.
Some of us may not like our job. There are a thousand other things to do, stuff which would lead to a happier existence. The challenge – we need to eat and have a roof over our heads. That requires a source of income. Most people are not business owners, so they must be employed.
How many times have I seen people take up an art form? They believe they are an artist and embrace expression. The problem is that failure was not considered. In order to sustain art, perseverance is required. In perseverance there is going to be lack of success. Most people can’t deal with the loss of self-esteem that continued failure creates. Their dream of being an artist isn’t big enough to carry them through the disappointments.
Count The cost
He was really excited, at first. As time went on and he began to apply himself, life happened. I guarantee to you, life happens.
At one point he may have had the passion to learn. A person can’t depend on passion to sustain them. The desire to follow through has to come from a deeper place. The Les Paul and Marshall are a nice accessory to his living room, right next to the fireplace. I’m sure his wife is thrilled.
I have experienced this with many of my co-workers. Many people live a settled for life. Good enough becomes good enough. As long as a little entertainment is part of the mix, folks are willing to give the most productive years of their lives to a job. That’s okay, if that’s what they are looking for.
At many places in my past, I had adopted this attitude. This has lead to complacency.
Me? I have always wanted more. What I have lacked was follow through. I wanted to be more but never made enough commitment to work for it.
What Am I going To do?
I am discontent. I am not satisfied with where my life is going, especially if good enough is not good enough. There is an entire world of possibility. I want to grab a hold of it, explore my passions, walk the path of adventure and go the places I dream of.
I can’t do this if life remains static.
The decision has been made to play a new game. The rules are this, whatever time I have available to me is spent moving away from parts of my life which are choking me. Believe me, the status quo is choking me.
I win every time I play this game. If I have 15 minutes, I play. Guess what, I win a prize. The reward is for the time spent increasing the distance to where I am going from whence I have come. The present circumstances in my life are not acceptable. In order to change there must be change.
A definition of insanity is expecting a different result from the same, repeated behavior.
Is that from the Big Book? Could be.
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