Old Habits Die Hard

Earlier this evening on Quora, somebody asked me if there were any particular habits left over from my homeless years that I was having a hard time shaking.  Being as I completely spaced out my Thursday blog on the homeless experience, I figured it was timely.  So I blasted out seven off the top of my head.   And believe me – it’s the tip of the iceberg.

(1) Until very recently, I had to imagine that I was still homeless every time I lay down to go to bed at night. Somehow, picturing one of the outdoor settings where I used to sleep, seeing the familiar sights in my mind, imaginging the sounds I would hear at that time, was soothing to me. (I’ve actually broken the habit, but it’s taken some work. For the past month or so, I’ve been able to get to sleep without having to imagine that I was still homeless.)

(2) Embarrassingly enough, I still haven’t bought a pair of undershorts, even though I’ve been living inside for almost two years ago. A lot of us men who were homeless discarded our underpants right off the bat, once we realized how impossible it was to keep buying them and/or keeping them clean.

(3) Equally embarrassing, I have a hard time changing into pajamas or anything “night-like” before I go to bed. Often I just sleep with my pants and socks on.

(4) Although I’d like to get back into the habit of showering daily like I used to, it just hasn’t happened. When I was homeless, weeks would go by without my hitting an actual shower. Now I have my own shower and tub, but I still only shower about once or twice a week. I still do a lot of rinse-offs in sinks like I used to have to do when I was homeless.

beanie(5) I almost never take my “security beanie” off of my head. In the summer, I have to wear a baseball cap. Even though I have a regular barber now who recently gave me a very decent haircut, I have a hard time taking off my beanie unless I’m in the shower. I even asked the pastor if it was okay to wear it in church.

(6) Having a hard time shaking the habit of cussing like a drunken sailor (at least at moments, when triggered by this-or-that). This is interesting, because I never used to cuss hardly at all before I put in twelve long years on the streets. And that bugger is not going away too easy.

(7) Suspicion of people in general, of their motives, was greatly increased when I was on the streets. Having a hard time shaking it, and regaining trust.

That’s enough for now.  As I said, there are many others.  And while some of these are pretty problematical, there has been a positive value to listing them like this. Maybe now I’ll see fit to do something about them!  I mean —  I do brush my teeth, you know, and shave, and wash my clothes, you know.  So I have gotten that far, but — what can I say?  Perhaps it’s time I raised the bar a little bit, don’t you think?

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Anything Helps – God Bless!

 

10 thoughts on “Old Habits Die Hard

  1. Have to say I agree with most of them. Some of them are helpful. Going to bed with a whole bunch of clothes on, means we don’t have to turn the heat up but daily showers still seem like an excessive use of water and I have to remind myself “it’s ok to be sweet to yourself”. I’ve finally dropped the habit of seeking out hidey holes or good places to “camp” … others are harder to leave behind.
    Probably a good idea to make a similar list myself and get to work on some of those, thank you :)

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    • It’s interesting, Melissa, because when they asked me that question, another lady also answered it. I didn’t see her answers till later, but a few of them were very much the same. Sleeping with clothes on is one of them. I get it on the hidey holes, I still do that sometimes. And other stuff – always sleeping with a window open, needing fresh air. I even slept on layers of cardboard on the floor for a while.

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      • The first year we lived here, ah, maybe first year and a half since it’s only recently gotten better, every time I had to take the dog out for a walk I’d have to fight off panic attacks and anxiety. Massive, out of place, anxiety. I had so internalized the feeling of “this is everyone else’s world and I’m trespassing” that even though we were paying our bills and doing what’s expected and all that, it took a long time to feel like I could feel worthy(?) or like I had a right to claim any space for enjoyment. It’s finally getting better, but that one sucked bad. Made it hard to do even simple things like go into a store. I guess the other one that hurts my heart still is how little trust I have for people. My whole life was directed, trained, educated with a drive to help people. And I always kinda thought it was the people who had nothing or lost their way that I’d be helping. But now that I know what I know… there is something terribly unnatural about humans walking by and seeing other humans who are in desperate circumstances, hungry, heartbroken, or simply unable to afford the basics due to a pretty logical set of economic conditions if anyone cares to look more closely… it seems to me ‘that’ is the ‘who’ that needs help and finding an answer to reinstall basic human decency and compassion is a much longer and larger project than getting someone a roof over their heads or a quick meal at sally’s. So, I have to thank you again for what you do, reaffirm how valuable and important it is. The solution to ignorance is knowledge. Many blessings!! <3

        Liked by 2 people

  2. That was very well-put, Melissa. Only someone who has lived through that experience could possibly have expressed it that way. Who is it,after all, who needs the help in that particular human dynamic? The one who casually steps over other human beings (asleep or awake), certainly needs more help on the spiritual level than the one who might need a couple bucks or a sandwich. So our task, simply put, is to enlighten others as to the reality of the homeless situation, as fellow human beings on this planet.

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    • The spiritual answer is both incredibly simple and slightly complex. Just like life, incredibly simple with a side of complexity you can take or leave. Mother Nature seems inclined to uphold certain standards of balance. A wise being uses this to their advantage, because gentleness can’t be assumed in the balancing of that equation. WE are the gentleness that eases what will be, from my perspective. It is both an honor and a responsibility. And we can either treat the role with nobility and Grace or like pessimistic children who have to test boundaries.
      I was thinking about what it was like when I was younger because I see so many people pointing fingers at the uber wealthy. It’s not as if those uber wealthy weren’t there when we were young, the attitude was different though, we didn’t let their carelessness affect how we treated each other. We grew gardens and shared our food, we saw nobility in simple jobs that kept the machine of society working, helping a neighbor was an obvious because it made you FEEL good. And we didn’t lack simple common sense which is surprisingly missing from so many. Anyways, it gets better, hearts are still beating and that’s something.
      Peace <3

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      • That’s all very interesting. I think I sometimes am guilty of pointing fingers at the uber-rich, though I try not to be judgmental. I think part of this is because the Class Gap really has widened pretty drastically, especially in very recent years. But what I try to do, from a biblical standpoint, is to illuminate that the *warnings* in Scripture are not directed in general toward the impoverished, but toward the wealthy. In my opinion (and, I think, scripturally speaking), the risk of running afoul spiritually becomes greater the more money one has or is attached to, simply because “the love of money is the root of all kinds of evil.” (NIV translation). If one can remain detached from money, in the sense of not developing an affection for it, then one begins to see money simply as energy. And that’s a healthier and wiser relationship toward the stuff, than attachment. Peace to you as well, my sister.

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      • Well, that’s the second time I’ve heard that quote “for the love of money…” in a short enough period of time, it bears investigating. If I had to take an off the cuff metaphysical stab at it, the love of money would cause one to hold onto it and any time you try to restrict energy, you come face to face with a closed system which has different rules in terms of physics than a not closed system which eternal consciousness actually is. It becomes like swimming in a sewer eventually or creates a black hole type situation from whence there is no escape I would guess. One would reject all other forms of life sustaining energy… ugh, how horrific. I think that’s why all the traditions and common sense as well, warn against attachment. We don’t know what we don’t know and we certainly can’t find out if we’re attached to what we know, bar all else. I am fairly certain the class gap grew so rapidly because we got a new tool and those who could took advantage and now we know what not to do. That’s the cool thing about humans, I suppose, we CAN learn from each other’s mistakes, no need to make them ourselves. I’m glad you’re here. :)

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      • This makes sense, Melissa, what you say. When I am attached to something I have “inordinate affection” for that thing, whether it be money, a substance, a project, or anything else. Though I tend not to see things in metaphysical terms (in fact, I’m not even sure I said that right), there is a “restriction of energy” that correlates with attachment. The release that I felt when I found myself letting go of all attachments on August 8, 2006 was accompanied by a sense that energy was no longer being restricted; therefore I was free to receive everything the Universe had to offer me at that moment. I wrote down what I felt on that day and included it in my speech “A Parallel and Opposing Culture” which is on the Talks 2013 page on this site. I also drew from that to form the “I Am Buddha Monologue” (Scene One, Eden in Babylon) which you have read. The original speech is however more authentic.

        I also tend to pursue themes that come up more than once in a single day (or short enough period of time). I suspect they are signs; and even if not, they still bear investigation. Glad you’re here as well.

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