“Never allow someone to be your priority while allowing yourself to be their option.”
My analogies are often a stretch. This is probably one of those posts that use scenarios and situations to connect dots for me. It always makes perfect sense to me until I read it over again - then I just chuckle at myself. Instead of taking your time attempting to explain my complex way of thinking, I’ll deliver today’s message and hope it connects dots for you.
I have a dear friend who will sometimes introduce me this way: “This is xxxx. Have you all met before? Well, just so you know, he once made a homeless woman cry.” This particular friend loves to never let you forget awkward, uncomfortable, and regretful situations. It is funny though and the intent dumbs down any heavy guilt you might have, even though it does stir up the silt again.
That story is true. I live in a city that has a real problem with homelessness. Especially considering the size, it’s really bad. My family has a real heart for the homeless, the addicted, prostitutes - that whole culture of individuals who are victims of abuse, neglect, mental illness, or whatever else has led to their horrible circumstance. I understand the entangled mess and really do see that their is a need to help this demographic. I don’t quite have the heart for many of them that my family does though. It is not the chronically homeless, the addicts, or the mentally ill who rub me the wrong way. It’s the capable and the unwilling to do anything about it who irritate me. I’m getting better about it though and understand that I truly don’t know any of their stories. In fact, after a couple of years of entertaining the idea of completely giving up, I suppose I can see how any life footing gone bad could possibly lead to such a desperate situation.
Here’s the story: My friend and I were walking downtown where a great deal of urban renewal has taken place over the past decade. What once was a vacant downtown, with boarded up windows and no foot-traffic, is now a bustling city full of restaurants, shops, bars, bowling, theaters, condos, hotels, etc. It has become a destination city. One particular homeless individual was walking straight toward us. I have trained myself to avoid eye contact because this ensures interaction. This particular lady approached me daily with the same story. She was also a person who had stolen money from someone in front of me and I chased her down to retrieve it. I was a bit exhausted by her but had never really been cruel to her. As she approached us, and I had inadvertently made the undoable eye contact with her, she started to say, “Excuse me, could I ask you a question?” This was how she always started before launching in to her story about needing a bus ticket to get medication, etc…but this time she only got to, “Excuse…”. I cut her off immediately by bluntly saying, “NO!” She immediately started to cry and said, “You don’t have to be so mean.”
She was right. I should not have been so mean. I immediately felt bad on one hand but on the other, I was frustrated because I had had multiple encounters with her that week and I was in the thick of the emotional crap that this blog is about…plus work, etc. Still, there was no excuse for what I said to her or the way I delivered it.
This has made me wonder if this was how my former wife felt over the past two and a half years whenever she’d see me coming. I don’t think I’d be wrong to assume that she saw me as this pathetic individual who was in the situation they were in by choice and who refused to pick themselves up to make any real change. She had multiple encounters with me every week that started with me addressing her not unlike the homeless woman - “Can I ask you a question?” It would be followed by, “Why not?” Or “Please!” It was a desperate person in a desperate situation. At this stage, it was by choice. She gave me the typical “I don’t carry cash on me” answers for a long time until she finally interrupted me with a loud and forceful, “NO!”
I think part of my issue with the homeless is that there are so many resources for them in this town. They don’t ever have to go without food, shelter, dental or medical care. I would guess that there isn’t a person in town, homeless or not, who doesn’t know this. I could say the same for me. I’ve had plenty of resources that I could tap in to that might help me pick myself up and walk away. Perhaps the beloved should not have been quite so harsh with me? Maybe it’s good that she was. She actually left me no choice but to figure out how to make an attempt at happiness without her - revealing that I was only an option to her if nothing else ended up working out for her (...obvious from the start though).
But I drift in the eyes of the ghost - down on my knees with my hands in the air. I often fight the devil futility - feeling him gnaw away at my heart, knowing I’ll never completely lose this pain. An unfortunate and vicious cycle. (God…why do I still love her?)