What I’ve learned from being ‘homeless’

Sometimes the easiest way to handle things is to turn our emotions off, so that we’re only dealing with the situation at hand. I treated my impending homelessness like an event. It was going to happen anyway, there was nothing I could do to stop it, so I just planned for my eventual homelessness. I donated everything, only keeping my text books and clothes in a storage unit I rented. Damn was that storage unit a drain on my monthly welfare cheque! Now I know why people would actually consider living in their storage unit….because I sure did!

Because I rented a storage unit I’ve been asked why I didn’t just keep everything. I gave my stuff away because it felt like this was a learning lesson. Being homeless is a big fear. Losing our possessions is a big fear. I’d use this situation to confront both. And you know what? It’s not as scary as you think! It’s quite freeing actually. (Luckily I live in a socialist country that provides homeless shelters.)

After I became certified as a Life Coach in 2012 or 2013 I started paying attention to people and their behaviours, as well as my own. I wanted to have a better understanding of people and why we do what we do. This understanding included my shelter-mates. In them I was able to see behaviours that led to their living in such an environment. It doesn’t matter whether we have a roof over our head or not, many of us create our own problems. We do not take a lot of responsibility for our own actions, reactions, or decisions. If someone is raised or always around people who behave this way then they also learn to behave this way. Our society also has a lot of self-centeredness. This grows mainly out of fear. Fear of not having enough and fear of losing what we do have. We are also taught this fear. We get this from our caregivers who worry for us and who only want what’s best for us. They think instilling this fear in us will protect us from the big bad world. We also get this fear from all forms of media because it sells goods and services. Fear is a great motivator so the advertising and marketing industry milk it for all it’s worth.

Since my life has been pretty nomadic I wasn’t falling far by becoming homeless and possession-less (that was the 4th time I’d had to give up by belongings). But I did get to see things through new eyes; I got to see things through the eyes of others. I lost friends due to being homeless. Why? I imagine the fear it instilled in them was just too much, it made them too uncomfortable. Fear, even when it doesn’t directly impact someone, will still affect them and drive their actions. This thing, which only exists in our mind, becomes as real as anything we can touch.

FearAll BarkNo Bite

I was fed, clothed, given a roof over my head, a bed to sleep in, daily access to a shower, and provided with personal hygiene products. Yet all around me I saw people acting out of fear of lack. They did NOT lack anything essential yet the fear was all around me. The need for more, more, more. That tells you why so many people are so far in debt. They spend money they Do Not have on things they Do Not need. Will Farrell’s movie Everything Must Go is a serious look at a man who is forced to let go of his possessions. http://www.imdb.com/title/tt1531663/?ref_=nm_flmg_act_31

What I learned:

  • We CAN get by on less and with less.
  • When you really need things: money, clothes, food, shelter they will become available. There are programs to help, though you may only find out about them when you need them. But trust me, they are there.
  • Possessions are just things. The world is full of things. THERE ARE MORE THINGS. Don’t live your life afraid of losing your things. Don’t make decisions solely to keep things in your life. The world has more houses, the world has more cars. On your deathbed you won’t be surrounded by your things, with them telling you what a great person you were and how they’ll miss you. Think about it.
  • What, and who, truly matter will never be impacted by where you live or anything else material. Aim for living a life that matters.
  • People will not usually take the first step to being kind, caring or thoughtful. YOU must take that first step. People are more willing to reciprocate than to initiate.
  • The world you live in is what you make it. This is not affected by material possessions or titles or anything fleeting. It is the way you see the world, your behaviour, your actions, your character. It is YOU. The world you live in is what YOU make it. It is all about you and only about you. Most people had no idea I lived in a shelter for that year. I didn’t tell people, act like it or look like it. Each day that I walked out those doors it ceased to be my reality.
  • We are too impressed by titles. The lowest segment of society is VERY impressed by titles. They actually see them as better than the rest of us, like a whole other breed of human. I have gotten to know people with titles, people with higher education. And you know what? They are just like the rest of us! They are just as fallible. They cheat, having drinking problems, have poor social skills, suffer depression, etc. They are no different from you or I and ARE NO BETTER. Please stop being impressed by titles. Please. There are so many amazing people we meet every day who get underestimated. People who Have done and Are doing amazing things.
Life path's tend to be more bumpy than smooth.

Life paths tend to be more bumpy than smooth.

I get underestimated by everyone, all the time. This pisses me off but doesn’t deter me. I answer only to me and I’m Very happy with who I am and what I’ve become. It’s been a rough ride but I’ve come out better and stronger than ever. Without every twist and turn and detour in my life I wouldn’t have become the person I am today. Don’t ever regret a single thing that has happened in your life. Years later you’ll be able to look back and see how each event helped you to become a better, stronger person. You’ll see how your own hardships gave you the strength to help others along the way.

We are all superheroes in the making, helping countless people along the way.

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How to Smile No Matter WHAT Life Throws at You! 😃

Update: I wrote this over a year ago. I’ve been out of the shelter system since March 2015. The 3 places I’ve lived since have actually been worse than living in the shelter. I was more upbeat, productive and treated better while living in the shelter. I never had to deal with being ignored (like I’d become Casper type of ignored), flooding, mold, my room smelling of drugs 24/7, blasting music, screaming matches….. We tend to see things from only one perspective, such as nothing could be as bad as living in a shelter, until we’ve arrived at that point. I honestly fear very little now. I’m actually living in a pretty negative environment right now (since July actually). It’s my fault I’m here and it’s my responsibility to get myself out. Freedom….. is within sight 😄

If you read my post https://taishka.com/2014/12/01/jesus-take-the-wheel/ you know that I’m currently living in a shelter and have been for almost a year. This is about to come to an end but in that year no one has had a clue that I live in a shelter. I don’t dress like it, I don’t act like it and I’m a pretty happy, grateful person despite my circumstances.

I have learned a LOT during this past year and I’m going to share it with you. Some good advice is courtesy of Sonia Ricotti http://www.leadoutloud.ca/index-1.html. In the shelter system I have learned, unequivocally, that we are responsible for MOST of our problems. No one is immune from this responsibility. I’ve been watching, listening and learning from the people around me, and in the past year my learning and self-growth has been speed up exponentially. I couldn’t put a price tag on the benefits of this experience. I also plan on never repeating it again 😉

We are indeed responsible for most of what happens to us. Not all, but most. In how we react, how we make decisions and live based on fear, how we communicate, how we don’t listen, how we assume, how we just don’t try hard enough or give up too quickly, etc. Almost everyone does these things to some degree. Feel bad? Don’t. Welcome to the human race.

I wake up every day in a shelter bed. How would you feel? What would you think if this were you? My days have many pros and very few cons.

Pros

  • I woke up
  • I was warm
  • Someone in another room was noisy and woke me up early. Was I angry? No, it was almost time to wake up anyway so I had a head start on my morning.
  • I was able to have breakfast and catch the morning news playing on the TV, even if it’s donuts. I have not gone hungry while living in the shelter. I’ve put on weight but have not gone hungry.
  • I had access to a shower. I’m able to bathe every day.
  • Meals can come with entertainment; the other residents usually do or say something that makes me LOL.

Cons

Cons are really just of my making. Things are only hard to deal with if I decide so. I don’t have to interact with my environment if I don’t like that environment, including people. As long as it’s not after curfew I can leave the shelter at any time for a break, go for a walk or hop on the subway. I also have library books I can escape into. I can listen to music. I can do things on my laptop. As Sonia says we have no worries “in this moment”. Right now, right this exact moment, we have Nothing to worry about. Getting myself out of the shelter is not a worry, it is just something to do, like a goal. Being in a shelter is not a problem, it’s merely my current situation. We live where we live. If we don’t like it we should work on finding better housing, but in the meantime we live where we live.

A place is only as good or as bad as we make it out to be. It’s all about perception.

I am currently housed, fed, and kept warm. I have access to donated clothing and government services. I live with some kooky characters who both frustrate me and make me laugh (that sounds a bit like family, doesn’t it?). I felt the need to give up almost everything I owned last March yet in the meantime I have been given…enough. When we have absolutely no money new money will come our way. When we have no possessions new possessions will come our way. Maybe not a lot but enough.

When I walk out of the shelter every day I hear beautiful birdsong, I appreciate the tea in my travel mug, and I’m happy for being able to afford a bus pass so that I can get to where I need to for the day. My mindset is of gratitude and it truly colours how I see the world and my situation at any given time. I have what I need, I have enough.

Our situation is just our situation.

Jesus, Take the Wheel

Here is the Carrie Underwood video for this song if you haven’t heard the song before http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lydBPm2KRaU

I’d say this song of hers ‘So Small’ is the motto of my life recently. This great video can only be viewed on YouTube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nEQj6RrQbgA so here’s a working video:

I’ve been holding off on mentioning this current aspect of my life, and unless I tell people they have no idea.

I originally wrote this with more information but for now I won’t include many details.

In the past few years I’ve spent some of that time sleeping on a friend’s couch (though I never considered that as being homeless, there Was a roof over my head, even if not my own).

Since last March, aside from 1 month again at my friend’s place, I’ve been living in a shelter.

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It’s definitely not an easy thing to go through but I’ve managed, and have taken this time to figure things out in my life.

It’s been a great growth experience, I’ll say that. Giving up practically everything I own (Once again – I have done that too many times in my life) and learning to be ok with it; we’re very much attached to our possessions. Giving up my books was the most painful thing but I did it. I did it.

Living with people who are on the lowest rung of society’s ladder I am learning more about the ‘human condition’. I can identify behaviours more clearly, understand psychology more easily.

Every single day my motivation and happiness gets tested. And every day I get better at becoming immune to outside forces. Happiness is an internal state, an internal choice. There is indeed humour to be found Anywhere, even in the shelter system (believe me I chuckle, or even LOL, regularly at the stuff I see. Silly humans 8-D). I’m in my 2nd shelter, this one being a ‘last stop’ type shelter; it’s the last option before the street for people who get kicked out of other shelters. The people I ‘live’ with are some of the hardest I’ll ever have to deal with in my life. But this experience is coming to an end. I now have figured out and learned what I needed to for myself.

But know this: if I can handle this massive upheaval then so can you!

I am no better than anyone. I am no stronger than anyone. I am just as infallible as anyone. I’ve just decided to not give in. Ever. That’s all it is. A choice. A simple choice.

I have my dark days too, but they do pass. Yours will as well. It’s not by accident that you’ve made it this far in life!

Anyone who walked out of the concentration camps survived, not necessarily because they went in being strong willed but because they Decided to become strong willed. They decided to endure whatever they had to, if it meant survival, so that one day they could walk out. POW’s had to use much more than they were taught in basic military training. They had to reach deep down to find the courage and strength that they needed. But whatever they needed was there. It was right there when they needed it, deep down. We ALL have what we need, deep down, to get through. We just have to reach for it.  

You don’t need a gym to get in shape, you don’t need college or university to get an education, and you don’t need to be a superhero to do super things. You just have to make the choice.

“God doesn’t give you more than you can handle.” I wish he didn’t believe in me so much. But he does, so I will too.

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Don’t Judge: Yourself or Others

OTHERS

There is much more to people than what we first see…

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Second Cup was created when Frank O’Dea knew that remaining homeless would kill him. That’s right, one of Canada’s biggest coffee houses was started by a homeless person.

No one is better than anyone else. No one. The only difference is our circumstances. We are all, or have been, close to being homeless. Be grateful that you have resources/family/friends that have kept that from happening.

Easy steps to stop being a ‘homeless snob’:

If you took offence to that title, lighten up! :-D
Acknowledge the person as you pass by. That’s it. Make eye contact and smile, or say “hi” as you pass by. Wish them a pleasant day. That’s it. Easy peasy.

YOURSELF

We are all very hard on ourselves. We all judge ourselves. We also tend to compare our beginning to someone else’s middle or end.

Lindsey Stirling is an amazing violin player. https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCyC_4jvPzLiSkJkLIkA7B8g. Someone may start taking violin lessons and after a few months give up because they don’t sound like her. Lindsey has been playing the violin for over 20 years, no one is going to sound like her after a few months! But we think like this.

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We also lack patience, we want things to happen Right Now. We don’t plan on success taking years so we get down on ourselves and our abilities very quickly. At her passing it’s said that Joan Rivers was more popular, more successful, more ‘hot’ then ever before. She was 81.

Everything will come to us if we are patient, if we take our time, if we believe. We have to believe in our success, in ourselves. Just because Right Now you don’t have the job, the career, the house, the car, the best seller, the company, the customers, the fans, the significant other, the children, the body that you want doesn’t mean you Won’t get them. It just means Keep Trying! Keep working hard! Keep believing in yourself! Because if you don’t believe in yourself no one else will.

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Flowers come in all different types, sizes and colours. We are all flowers. We All come in different types, sizes and colours. Yet we compare ourselves to other flowers. Even though they came from different pollen we still insist on comparing ourselves to them. Our DNA is not the same as ANYONE else’s. This DNA shapes who we are and how we look. Yet we find our DNA lacking compared to someone else’s DNA. We compare our apples to someone else’s oranges. That just does not compute!

My favourite flower is the sunflower. It’s not the prettiest but I like it more than any other. I like the colour contrast, its strength, and that it gives us snack food :) Many other people don’t like sunflowers. Likewise there will be people who don’t like something about us yet other people will find that exact same attribute the most charming thing ever.

When you realize what a beautiful flower you are, that no other flower quite compares to you (because you can’t compare flowers) you will start treating yourself the way you need to be treated. You will support yourself instead of putting yourself down. You will believe in yourself in stead of doubting. No matter what anyone else says you will Know that you can do Anything you put your mind to. Anything.

And with that I wish YOU all a pleasant day :-D (See, I told you. Easy peasy.)