Would you trust me if I stood on a footpath rattling a tin asking for your spare change in the hope of being able to pay for a warm shower, maybe a roof over my head for one night, hot water for a cup of coffee? Or would you assume I was just going to spend the money on alcohol, cigarettes, or gambling?
Would you put more trust in a man with a badge, a man with a clerical collar, a man who has a daughter, a teacher in charge of youth, a politician...?
What is a homeless person?
I remember my first flat in Waterview, Auckland well. I enjoyed the company of both Kim and Andrew. I remember the songs I wrote in that room of mine during 1998, the books and authors I was discovering and reading, losing my job, time spent on social welfare, loss of friends, and my eventual decline into paranoid delusions à la Philip K. Dick. (No coincidence that I was getting heavily into the work of Philip K. Dick at the time!)
But flats since then have mostly been alienating, even when I've had very wonderful and welcoming people to live with. At 41 years of age, it now seems like everyone else has their lives set in place: the job, the friends, the family, the children, the house, the home...
And here I am alone, jobless, friendless, houseless, partnerless, childrenless...
But what does any of it mean?
My second to last session with a counsellor made me realise that the only reason I was in those sessions was to have a conversation with another human being. The problem was that I had once again put myself into what I termed as a one-way relationship - there was little that the counsellor could give back about herself for professional reasons. When I related this to her in our final session, I pointed out that the most therapeutic moments I was having was when she was talking and relating ideas back to me, so then I had thoughts from someone else I could bounce my own ideas off. I love conversing and sharing ideas with people, but I've often struggled to find people of the same persuasion and desires.
So I began the retreat. For good.
December brought the final realisation that after 20 odd years of working, that I simply can't keep a job. I just don't have the temperament for being employed by other people. The last job this year I lost - all the fault of my own - felt like the final nail in the coffin of trying to be employed. And if that's the case, then living in my car is the best solution. If I need some work to top up for food, I can find temporary work and be happy without suffering the illusion of being in permanent employment and trying to become a settled citizen that single women might look to as some kind of stable a partner.
The home that for twenty years I have searched for is even less foreseeable than ever.
I make my home in a car; a campfire on the river amongst stones, boulders, washed down silt and scavenged materials to contain the flames; I scavenge for dry firewood and pine cones on a 6km walk; drive into town to keep warm when it starts raining and miserable cold is worse than the bite of morning frosts; fill water bottles to wash myself when the river is too high and disturbed to dive into.
The outdoors have welcomed my spirit, have given me gracious calm where there was none before, have demanded that I make this work if I desire to keep the happiness that has found me.
She called for her husband to come and have a cup of tea with the man she had met down by the river who lives in his car. The husband wouldn't come out from his workshop.
"Sorry, when he gets focused on his work, you can barely talk to him."
I wondered if he was aspergers.
She later confided to me as we sat in her own personal workshop, me drinking my coffee, she drinking her tea, us chatting about our teaching experiences. "He doesn't trust homeless people".
"Oh, okay." I nodded politely.
Seemed irrational. I still wondered if he was aspergers.
I wondered later:
What is a homeless person?
I have been homeless for almost 20 years of my life. Homeless? Is the home I left at 18, and returned to occasionally over the following years the same thing as having a house and calling that a "home"? I have lived in houses, I have lived with flatmates, I lived with home addresses, but 'home' was where I left my parents. Home has never been my own place.
Six weeks ago, after the last flat I lived in didn't work out, I decided to forego moving into another house that I would struggle to afford rent for, in exchange for living in my car. This way I would save on overheads, such as rent and power. I knew that if I did move into another house, the cost of living would simply force me into finding more work just to pay for those expenses and drain motivation to work on writing, and potentially compromise the work I had one day a week - it's rare to find an employer who is happy to let you go to another job one day a week!
Why, I asked myself, did I always move into houses when they rarely felt comfortable and left me feeling like I didn't belong?
Because they weren't homes.
For 20 odd years, houses were just rent factories asking for my money.
Home is where the heart is,
My heart is in my chest;
A chest is filled with treasures,
Treasures are keepsakes for the self.
Self is where I dwell.
My home is me.
Some updates to keep me updated.