Things I Learned From Living in a Homeless Shelter. No. 4


In 2007, I spent several months living in a homeless shelter. It was one of my greatest experiences. One that I wouldn’t trade for anything. It was a gift actually. I had so much to learn and the universe didn’t let me down. It gave me the gift of “rock bottom.” Some of the knowledge I now possess, could not have been learned in any other way. I wasn’t unhappy in the shelter, I turned it into an adventure, and kept a great sense of humor. That is why you’ll find that some of my examples are rather humorous. Others though, are very serious.

Homeless Shelter Learns, No. 4:

I learned to tolerate people who are different. I will easily admit, it had never been one of my strengths. I came from a tiny town, where everyone appeared the same on the outside. They acted the same, dressed the same, and seemed to have the same values. But being in the shelter, finally, I was exposed to a huge variety of differences. Hey, with over 200 people sleeping in the same room, well, I had no choice but to become more tolerant. But then I found I was amazed, NO dazzled by the amount of unique personalities, beliefs and habits that I encountered. I realized that I could learn something from anyone, absolutely anyone, no matter their backgrounds or circumstances. Now, I positively relish meeting people from all over the world. This experience served me well! I love different, and I am proud of that. Different, when you stop and think about it, is the same as same, because we are all human, so what’s the problem with external diversity, whether it be religion, sexual orientation or ethnic group? There isn’t one, we just make one up in our heads.

:-)

Things I Learned From Living in a Homeless Shelter. No. 3


Shrunken Donuts

In 2007, I spent several months living in a homeless shelter. It was one of my greatest experiences. One that I wouldn’t trade for anything. It was a gift actually. I had so much to learn and the universe didn’t let me down. It gave me the gift of “rock bottom.” Some of the knowledge I now possess, could not have been learned in any other way. I wasn’t unhappy in the shelter, I turned it into an adventure, and kept a great sense of humor. That is why you’ll find that some of my examples are rather humorous. Others though, are very serious.

Homeless Shelter Learns, No. 3:

I learned to have a better sense of humor – A person can, in fact, eat donuts that have shrunken to hockey pocks and survive. Not only that, a person can learn to like them because you don’t get them very often. I suppose I missed having some coffee to go with them, or at least soften them up a bit, but I enjoyed them nonetheless. It can be quite fun, also, to take part in an impromptu contest: who has the most brick-like donut?

:-)

Things I Learned From Living in a Homeless Shelter. No. 2


In 2007, I spent several months living in a homeless shelter. It was one of my greatest experiences. One that I wouldn’t trade for anything. It was a gift actually. I had so much to learn and the universe didn’t let me down. It gave me the gift of “rock bottom.” Some of the knowledge I now possess, could not have been learned in any other way. I wasn’t unhappy in the shelter, I turned it into an adventure, and kept a great sense of humor. That is why you’ll find that some of my examples are rather humorous. Others though, are very serious.

Homeless Shelter Learns, No. 2:

I learned to be more compassionate – by fifty-fold. Yes, I suppose it was that significant. Well, I saw some serious heartache. Could you ever guess that some people are so lonely and hurting so badly that they sleep with detergent bottles for comfort, holding them near and dear like a baby? Probably not.

Shock, right? Who would think of this until they have seen it?

I used to watch her, as she slept, and wonder what it was, EXACTLY that made her hurt so much. It puzzled me and it made me want to cry. She was such a pretty woman, and I could see that inside she was beautiful, too, and yes, I could also see the internal battles raging, though I had no idea what started the war. I wanted to reach out, to ask a million questions, to give her a hug, but I knew better. She just had that look, “Stay away!” I respected the look, but I tried anyway to at least make eye contact, to offer a smile. A couple of times she did smile at me, a quick jerky smile with another look that said, “You look like a nice person, but I’m sorry, I’ve just been through too much and I can’t bring myself to trust you.” I understood. Somehow, I did.

What bothered me the most was to see her ridiculed. Yes, it’s hard to believe, but many shunned her, picked away at her mind, laughed behind her back, instead of trying to understand that she must have been in terrible pain. That made me want to scream. Oh yes, it did. I wanted to yell at those people and tell them to have some compassion, but I didn’t. I knew better than to do that, too. If you dared to raise your voice, you’d find yourself in some SERIOUS trouble. In fact, you could get kicked out of the shelter for acting out in any way. So, I just held it in, and I suppose the holding in was one of the main reasons why I had such a hard time dealing with anger when I finally left the shelter. I had no frustration tolerance. Well, I can’t blame me, really. It was hard to watch the pain.

Stay tuned for No. 3…

Things I Learned From Living in a Homeless Shelter. No. 1


In 2007, I spent several months living in a homeless shelter. It was one of my greatest experiences. One that I wouldn’t trade for anything. It was a gift actually. I had so much to learn and the universe didn’t let me down. It gave me the gift of “rock bottom.” Some of the knowledge I now possess, could not have been learned in any other way. I wasn’t unhappy in the shelter, I turned it into an adventure, and kept a great sense of humor. That is why you’ll find that some of my examples are rather humorous. Others though, are very serious.

Image found at homelesssigns.blogspot.com

Homeless Shelter Learns, No. 1:

I learned to be more patient. Three times a day, I stood in line for two hours for my meals. That gave me a wonderful and new appreciation for food. I determined to enjoy it, no matter what it was that I was served, even if they were things that I could not identify, which believe me happened quite a bit. I also felt empathy for the people who were sweating profusely behind the pass-through, in hyper-heat, to make our meals. Keeping empathy and appreciation in mind, I became less impatient. Five years later, I feel lucky to be able to grow my own food. I await the fruits patiently and am mindful of the miracle that is watching food grow.

One. Act. Play.


One. Act. Play.

One, you are one with all. Each person belongs to the next who belongs to the next.

Act, any other notion is an act. A denial of compassion, an untruth not worthy of your thoughts.

Play, enjoy your life. Give it all you’ve got, it’s the one that you’ve been given.

One. Act. Play.

How Keeping a Gratitude Journal Helps Me Beat Depression


Shortly after I was diagnosed with BPD, I came across the idea of keeping a Gratitude Journal. I’d been researching different types of therapies that I could do by myself at home and discovered Journal Therapy. Though truthfully, it was more of a re-discovery. I’d kept a journal religiously as a child and at a few points during adulthood, so I already knew it was quite therapeutic, I just hadn’t known it was an organized style of therapy.

The suggestion to keep a Gratitude Journal kept popping up in several locations that touted the healing effects of Journal Therapy. I’ll admit, though I read about it several times, I kept dismissing the idea. And the reason why seems rather silly to me now. In a nutshell, it sounded too simple. I thought: how can keeping a list of things for which I am grateful make that much of a difference in my life? It just didn’t seem possible. Well, of course not. When you’re stuck in a negative thought pattern, virtually nothing sounds promising – basically, you can’t see the forest for the trees. It makes sense. How do you make yourself feel grateful when you’re not? Sometimes you’re just too depressed to feel any gratitude at all.

At a time when I was more depressed than I’d ever been, I thought the answers to my problems somehow couldn’t be as simple as keeping a list. I didn’t feel simple. I felt very complicated, uncertain, perplexed and convinced, of course, that nothing could make me feel better. How to get away from those negative feelings then just had to be elaborate! Ah, the ironic joy of hopelessness!

Staying stuck in the same old rut had its rewards. If I thought the answers had to be terrifically complex, then I could avoid helping myself and stay a victim forever. And the fun in that? Well, you get to keep throwing yourself one pity party after another.

But one day I decided to try it. I figured even if it did absolutely nothing for me, it couldn’t cause any harm.

At first, I wasn’t that motivated, so I didn’t keep a “real” list - a legitimate journal. I’d just scratch out one or two things on a sticky note, the backs of envelopes and receipts, or even next to an inspiring paragraph I read in a novel. But at some point, I realized it was helping. I felt better, more positive, less depressed, when I concentrated on feeling grateful. With that awakening, I moved to whole sheets of paper. Oooo! Ok, so the migration didn’t improve my organization, not right away. I’d often write something down at odd angles and just circle what I’d wrote, so the result was a bunch of text-filled bubbles on a plain piece of paper. One day, though, I noticed that these sheets were adding up. Instead of writing one thing on Tuesday, six things on Friday, and perhaps two on Sunday, I was adding several items each day. Whoa! That’s when I sat down and really thought about the difference it was making. It had become a habit and a good one at that. I did feel better, no longer quite so hopeless, hapless and helpless. I took a leap then and went out and bought myself a pretty bound journal. Since then, I look forward to filling one up and starting another. They help me stay positive now, but even better – maybe someday they will inspire my great-grandchildren.

Following is a sampler, a partial list of benefits I’ve uncovered so far. A year ago, I never could have imagined so many. I am actually grateful for gratitude. If you think about it, that’s pretty powerful.

  • Keeping a Gratitude Journal helps me stay focused on the present. Zen mind. It keeps me from spending too much time thinking about the warts of the past and the bunions of the future. What’s in front of me or within me, right this minute, that I can appreciate?
  • Over time, the journals have increased my overall awareness, period.
  • They have helped me slowly establish positive thought patterns instead of negative ones. Oh sure, I still get downright pessimistic sometimes, but instead of despair-dwelling for ten hours at a time, or even several days, I will feel contrary for a few moments – maybe an hour. This is obviously a major improvement. Looking for the negative in anything and everything used to be the norm for me, but now I find that more frequently I’m automatically looking for something more optimistic.
  • I say “thank you” more. The more I say “thank you” the more my family appreciates me and says “thank you” back. It has helped improve my relationships.
  • Finding things to be grateful for has reduced my feelings of anger considerably. I don’t even think I could measure the difference. It’s hard to be mad when you’re feeling grateful for something!
  • The more grateful I am, the more grateful I want to be. A wonderful ripple effect in place!
  • Gradually I’ve learned that I don’t need STUFF to make me happy. I can be grateful for things like air, sunshine, water, clouds, my own breathing and even the spotting of a lizard scampering happily (I’m assuming) in my garden. I am happy now with things that don’t come in shrink-wrapped packages. I don’t need a shopping fix in order to feel better.
  • Quite naturally, I take less for granted. I think about the gift of electricity, as an example. I can curl up on the couch at 9 pm, with a hot cup of peppermint tea, and write in my Gratitude Journal – electricity makes this possible. It’s so much easier to form letters sitting next to light bulbs. Yes, I’ve tried it by candle light, just to get a glimpse of what it might have been like to write at night a few hundred years ago. The ambiance is lovely, but penning in my journal is a bit on the difficult side.
  • Establishing this one good habit motivated me to create more of them. From the simple act of being grateful, I’ve been able to trash many of my maladaptive coping strategies and replace them with adaptive coping strategies.
  • Keeping track of what I am grateful for has allowed me to reduce the intense sting I’ll feel when I think I’m being rejected. Of course, being Borderline means I can be quite sensitive to rejection, but whenever I feel that way I can pull out a Gratitude Journal and remind myself of positive events – times when I was accepted in some way. After reading a few pages, I am back to coping in a healthy way.

Obviously keeping a Gratitude Journal is not a magic pill. There is no happy fairy dust. But it helps, tremendously. I am far less depressed. As more proof of its power, I offer this: I don’t take any psychiatric medications. I used to, but I don’t need them anymore. Of course, keeping a Gratitude Journal isn’t the only way I have learned to manage my moods (more posts coming soon) and it’s not the only way that I was eventually able to table the pills, but I encourage all to take that leap of faith and give it a shot, it really helps that much.

What Gift Have You Been Given That Seems Like a Curse?


It’s funny how life has a way of throwing at you just what you need to learn a valuable lesson. Or, gulp…MANY lessons.

The Universe took things away from me that I’d been taking for granted - and it hurt. I felt cursed. But, in doing so, it humbled me and graced me with gratitude. It gave me perspective and provided me (finally) with much-needed direction. Direction that is consistent with my true nature.

Oh, the learns I’ve learned. Thank you, Universe!

What gift have you been given that only SEEMS like a curse?

Most human beings have an almost infinite capacity for taking things for granted.~ Aldous Huxley

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