Reading harold_maude's journal

Nov 11, 2005 15:18 # 40373

harold_maude *** posts about...

Life lessons 101 or getting to know myself

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It's Novemember 11 and on this morning I find myself thinking about something I read and posted
to about discontent.

Discontent. That's like disease only the state of contentment is sick.
In need of attention and in need of doing something that a person has been doing which led them to
this place.

The state of good contentment starts with where you live, so to speak. Not the town or city, but with
you.
That's the first and formost thing you have to face everyday, and if you are unhappy with you,
what ever the reason, the best place to make change that will change the world is with you.

A few years back I left everything I knew and threw caution to the wind and set out upon a very
long and still continuing journey of finding out what I was made of and who I was.
The first thing I discovered was this, that unless you have a financial safty net you will be
immeadtely homeless.
And unless your survival skills are really well tuned, you will come face to face with the reality
that what you know about survival in a real situation is probably very little.
Unless you were a boy scout and maybe a girl scout, but I don't think they teach girl scouts
how to make a camp with next to nothing.

If you do have any money it will go fast. You find that the idea of being out there is no so easy in
the real as it is in the obsession with it while your living in a house that has things like toilet paper and
a refigerator with food in it.
And the bed thing, well, alot of people take their beds for granted.
Try this one on, sleeping sitting up while to trying to keep from freezing to death. Literally.
Even if you have heavy blankets, unless you have any clue as to how to trap heat inside thoes blankets
so you can get some sleep, you are screwed.

Luckily I had someone with me that showed me how to do that. He lived in conditions very close
to being homeless for most of his life.
A drafty house and his room was little more than a frame with drywall and no heat, and a window.
The family source of heat was a wood stove located in one of the main rooms.
His room was a partially finished extra room that was added and then never got finished due to
lack of money on the part of his parents.

He had skills that he passed on to me. He taught me how to cover the heat vents in the car and then
trap as much heat as you can and then wrap thoes warm toasty blankets tight around you, kind of
like being a living mummy, and then it's ok for a while to sleep.
That is if you can sleep.
If you haven't eaten alot of food, because most of the money you have goes to buy gas money for your car,
I had at least that going for me,
the lack of food will keep you awake. At least at first.
Then as days wear on, you get to the point where you loose your appitie and just get really weird
in the head as your body is burning your stores of fat and muscle.
The muscle goes first here. The fat is stored for starvation mode.
The body won't let you use that first.
That's why most diets out there are designed to fail. They put you in this weird mode, your body
thinks it's starving because there is no common sense to what your doing, and will burn more muscle
than fat.
So it looks like your loosing weight, but your actually causing damage to the muscles in your body.

Anyway, everything goes basic. Very fast. And if you can't find a job due to the fact that if you leave
the town where you grew up the town you end up in you don't know anybody.
So being the good swift thinking person that I am, what do I do but go to the serivice help agencies
to get help.
There are shelters. But have you ever been in one of thoes places?
The men's shelter here in this town reminds me of a prision.
This is what you get when you go to one of thoes places: 2 meals. A space with a cot in a room full of
people you don't know, and you don't sleep because you have no clue if these are insane people who
have been out there so long that they would steal what little you do have because that's a survial
technique out on the street.
Or if they are people who still have a sense of honor about them.

There is a code of eithics among the street people that most people have no idea about.
Stealing other people's shit is a big no no. That kind of thing will most definitely be reason enough
to find yourself at the end of a really good ass kicking.

You find out who knows what, and the best place to go for more than just two meals.

Then if you are in a shelter, here are a couple of things to remember: you only get so many days there.
In some cities it's one week. In other's it's as much as up to a month.
But that isn't much time to get anything together.
The other thing to remember is this, at 7 am you are kicked out the door and can't get back inside
until just after 5, just in time to shower and get ready to eat.
Then you have a cerfew that says you have to be in your bed by a certian time.
They don't tolorate much in thoes places.
If you don't make it past the curfew, your outta luck for the night, and better find a shelter from
the weather.
The problem is that if you have any stuff on the inside, like clothes, they are just sitting there.
And they can and do disapear.

We opted for staying in the car. It was less scary.
With that choice came this set of problems. Keeping gas in the car was one, and the other was finding
a place where the cops wouldn't harrass you.
A safe place to be so that you won't get arrested for vagerancy.

Durring the day it isn't so bad. People park their cars in public places and go to work. It's easy
to find some place to park and at least try to figure things out.

Another crucial point to remember is this, carry your social security card with you.
Do not put it in storage.
This is vital. Because no one will talk to you about work without it, unless you are able to do
alot of odd jobs or have something to sell and go door to door.
I had my portfolio and sold peices extreemly cheap so we could stay warm and eat.

Then there are the agencies designed to help the homeless. They are run mostly by people who
have no clue as to what it's actually like to try to survive day to day.
They start out with a notion that it's important to give back so they go to work in places
designed to help people.
And the sheer numbers of people in need are staggering.
And after a while they get burned out and get very cynical about the homeless.
You find yourself becomming a case number.
Your humanity, and dignity are lost in the bowls of the social service agency and all it's
different features.

Two months after leaving the town I grew up in I had to have emergancy surgery. It was life threatening.
I had to either go to the hospital or die.
That was my two choices. There was no inbetween, like crashing your back where you can
just stop for a while and let it heal, or even a broken leg, which you can set yourself, but
that's a bitch because if you don't have the knowledge or the tools you are basicly in a position
of not moving.
Anyway, I drove me to the hospital. I was in seering pain, it was Christmas night. I kid you not.
The first christmas I experienced after starting this journey was spent in agony.
So there I am with my companion who is helping me survive and I'm trying to think clear enough
to give them my information, I have no money, and because what was going on I had already
had surgery to fix the problem once and the doctor who did the surgery didn't do what he needed to
to make sure the problem didn't come back.
Sort of a revolving money spiket that every so many moneys you go back into surgery for the same
thing or loose your life.

Without going into explicit details that would make some loose their lunch, it's enough to say that
what was going on was indeed life threatening.
The first time it happened I spent a week puking every three hours and having to try to stay warm.
My body temp was dropping over the week and went below 98.6 to where it had become dangerous
for me not to go to the hospital.
The same thing sent me to the hospital two months after I had begun my journey.

I went to a catholic hospital. They have to take you. It's part of their rules.
They will not turn anyone away.
I met the man who was my surgon for the first time at about 11 pm Christmas night.
It was a wensday, which all the evidence shows is the worst day of the week to have surgery.
More accidents happen in surgeries on that day than any other.
I looked at this man with kind eyes and asked him how long he had been doing this.
He told me. It was more than just a couple of year.
Good.
Had he had any sleep at all before he got called in.
Yes. Good. I don't want to go under the knife with a person on holding the blade who is over worked
and exausted.
Good.
I was terrified at that moment because the realization that I could die on that table and no one
I had left behind would know that I had died.
It was my first taste of the reality of how inconsequencial a person really is.
And how they can just disapear and vanish and no one who they have known their entire life has any
idea of how to find them.
That's what I was looking at.
My children are grown, and I had called them regularily with phone cards that people had given me,
Bless them much for their kindness.

I talked with the chaplin and asked if anything happened to call them so they would know where to
find me.
You think about strange things as you go under. All I could think about was I might never
see day light again.
I was pissed too because the surgon who did the first surgery didn't do all of what he was suppose to do
and there was a bill for it as though it was there.

Which brings up something important. If you ever have to go to the hospital whether you have insurance
or not, when the bill comes go over that thing with a fine toothed comb.
I don't know how many states allow double billing for the same thing, but I do know of at least two.
That is gettting charged by the hospital for the doctor using the opperating room and all his services there
and the doctor charging you for the same thing.
And all the tools and gauzes and pain medication and everything else.

I woke up the next morning about 3 am. I was indeed alive. And then my very brief and mostly
alone stay began.
I was there two days. I got a visit from a county social worker who was as nice as pie but was
all business.
I don't know about you but when your pumped full of morphine or something similar it's really
hard to think very clear.
It's all kind of a weird blur, and you do your best to pay attention.

Dispite the doctor's advise I drove myself to the place we were staying over some icy roads.
I was careful as I could be in that condition.
It was a place that had opened up due to meeting one of the workers at the one shelter we did stay
at.
He decited to have us come stay with him.
It wasn't something he had discussed with his roommate who he owed money to, he just decited
that we should come home with him.
So that's where we were when this all happened.
The guy's name on the lease was a youth pastor who spent three weeks in indecision wether or not
to kick us out.
He was pissed at his roommate for all the money he owed, back rent and food left out on counters, and
basicly being a lousy roommate.
So we get there after the drive and then there are 4 flights of stairs to walk up, no elevator in this place.
And when we get to the room we've been occuping this guy is there and he won't leave,
and I'm beyond exausted.

A few days later I'm sitting in the county health department filling out some forms and I end up
on this side of a desk facing a burned out person who is so tired of seeing people like me all day
long.
He gives me half information. Tells me that I don't have to file an appeal right away, which
in this state you have to in order to make sure that there is a possiblity of getting any help
at all.
So after all was said and done I was given the title of indegnt by design.
A very humlitating title. I hadn't been able to find work, and yes I was out there every day looking
and putting in apps, and even going to the day labor, who would not even give me the time
of day because my social security card was in storage 6 states away.

I had to have it sent to me. Just so I could do more than go door to door trying to sell my art to
survive.

It was an education. I discovered that I am a very strong and resilliant person. That I am capable
of doing things and learning how to make do with next to nothing.
Oh one other fine point. Insurance for your vechiel.
Very nessiary to have.
We had gotten on food stamps and were fulfilling the requirements of going to the career center to
make our weekly appointment of turning in a page of places we had applied to for work,
when we got rear ended by a guy who could barely speak english.
It was his fault, but I ended up in court listening to a Judge tell everyone there that they were
facing jail time of either one year or five years depending on what they were there for.
I was sure I was in the wrong place.
But no, in this state if you end up in court for having no insurance you go to jail. Period.
This judge listened to me and gave me two weeks to come up with insurance.
I managed to sell enough art to pay for 3 months.
Yea! no jail time.

That was in the first year I went out there.
Here it is 3 years later, I have a roof over my head. But that is dependant on 4 other people helping
make the rent.
I get to eat more than once a day.
And I have a bed to sleep in.
I've learned that anything is possible. And the word bordom has long since vanished from my vocabluary.
I went out there with no plan, and threw myself to the wind to find out what I was made of.
I'm still finding out.
I know some of what I like, and more of what I don't.
I'm learning to pick and choose how I spend my life. What I spend my energy on, and what is a true
waste of time.
It's very basic. And getting more so all the time.
And my view of how things really are out there have been shaped by my experiences.
I don't believe 95% of what the goverment says.
It's too big to keep tabs on all of what goes on inside it's frame work.

And I see well dressed people who have never been out there really to know what is really needed
to make things different and better for thoes of us who have.
It's my belief that everyone who wants to go into politics should spend at least two years
homeless and see what they learn before they go into goverment.
They should have first hand knowledge about who they are working for.

They are in fact our employees. If you pay taxes, they are working for you. But unlike
a normal job, where if your paying a bad employee's salery, you can just fire them.
No, we get stuck with clueless and sometimes well meaning individuals who get tangled up
in the system, just from the other end of things.

It's my hope that soon I will be living off my art. Only this time doing it in a way that doesn't
end me back out on the streets.
I'm hoping for sucess. Maybe this time it will be the right time to do it.
I can only try and believe that it's possible.


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