Things I Learned From Living in a Homeless Shelter. No. 6


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. 6:

I learned not to run off with guys that I barely know – even if it seems harmless to go have a little fun on the town, harm can most definitely come.

Jaen Wirefly and I have been having a very interesting conversation this morning and I thank her for it. It has reminded me of some of the dangerous situations I encountered (read that as me being impulsive) but survived living in a shelter.

There was this guy I knew who was occasionally allowed to stay at the shelter (being a single man, they rarely let him). I felt sorry for him because he had cancer. He’d survived it before. He’d been in prison for years (not saying why and please don’t ask) and it had been treated successfully there. But it came back. And this time, he decided he was done living. He wasn’t going to fight it a second time, he said, because it was just too awful the first time around.

Anyway, I felt bad for the guy. He’d been through hell, quite frankly, so I took pity on him. Pity turns out to be a bad thing. Not only does it enable people, but it puts the person giving pity in a bad situation.

One day, we decided to have some fun in town. We got on the bus together and rode around the city, hopping off here and there to get coffee, have pizza, and go to the zoo. After we’d had our fun, we were on our way to the bus stop, to catch the bus back to the shelter, when he just lost it. He attacked me in broad daylight, yes, cars going by, no one stopping to help. He ripped the very precious and expensive necklace that my grandfather had given me off of my neck. He told me that he should “probably take me in the woods and kill me.”

Why? Well keep reading.

He’d spent the day telling me that I was his only friend, his one true friend, and that I was the only person he could count on. I fell for that (by the way, when someone says that, run like hell). He’d also been telling me that if I were really his friend, I’d sell that necklace to help him out. I’d not responded to those statements, I had no idea what to say!

I can only guess that he was so angry at not having help, at being in prison for years, at the thought of dying, that he had no self-control left. He was probably furious that someone could have something so valuable and pretty while he had nothing, and probably envy, jealousy and rage took over. Obviously he was not very healthy mentally. I am sure having cancer did not help his mental state.

If you’re wondering what I did, I ran like hell! I ran to the nearest place, a motel, and got myself inside to safety and called the shelter to have their van come pick me up. No, I did not call the cops. Don’t ask me why. Maybe it was fear, that he’d come after me. I don’t know. But I didn’t.

Before I understood that I had BPD, I did MANY THINGS that I cannot explain. And sometimes people start asking me questions: why, how, when, where, who – that make me very uncomfortable because I CAN’T necessarily explain these things. Borderlines are usually extremely impulsive, so there’s the only explanation that matters. Thank goodness I have that under control now!

Well, back to the story, he did not attempt to stay at the shelter that night, thankfully. A day or two later he stopped by to tell me that he didn’t want to be friends with me anymore. Well heck, that did not upset me. And no, I did not freak out and yell at him or say a word. Again, don’t ask. I can’t explain. I just let him say what he wanted, it was a two-minute conversation.

Well, he is dead now, he died not long after this incident.

The truth: I have empathy for the circumstances that lead to his behavior. THIS DOES NOT MEAN IT WAS OKAY. It’s just that I understand he was very lost and hurting.

Many times I think we forget that when someone is violent there is a reason behind it. Years of neglect, abuse, maybe prison or cancer or some other illness. There is a moral in here. Try to understand why people do the things they do. Just try not to put yourself in danger in the process!

I took away very valuable lessons. Don’t go running off with men (or anyone) you don’t know very well. Don’t pity people. Try your best not to enable people, but also try your hardest to have empathy. And the other thing I learned: it’s not smart to wear expensive necklaces while living in a homeless shelter. That necklace meant a lot to me. I would never have sold it at the time, not even to get out of the shelter. I would now though. I value myself more and would have the realization that the necklace, while beautiful and sentimental, is not worth more than ME. It is now gone. I am sure someone found the necklace, maybe they had it repaired. If so, I hope they are enjoying it and that they are more mindful about wearing it than I was.

Love to all. Life goes on after rough stuff. I bear no anger toward this man. I am glad he is resting in peace now. 

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.

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