One Coin. Two Sides.

Posted: March 22, 2007 in Health, Homelessness, Self Esteem

The bad news is that I’m still homeless. The good news is that I’m alive and kicking. I have air in my lungs and my thinking processes still work most of the time. That’s always a plus.

My body… well, that’s another story. I’m simply not as physically fit as I was at 18 or 19. I’m roughly 20 pounds under weight. And, that comes from having "…to suffer the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune…" associated with being homeless.  

Don’t get me wrong – I’m not a wreck, but in the 5 decades of my life, my body has taken its share of bumps and bruises. And being homeless now, doesn’t exactly lend itself to healthy living. Still, I’m grateful that the gray matter between my ears is pretty much intact because, although I’ve never been overly fond of Shakespeare, it allows me to quote him when it suits my fancy.

And speaking of quotes…

When I was about 14, some elderly gentleman said to me:

"Just remember – nothing is so bad that it can’t get worse."

I recall that he was trying to give me some words of comfort and encouragement over something or other that I was going through at the time. I must admit that the idea that things could get worse didn’t give me whole lot of encouragement or comfort back then. Come to think of it, it still doesn’t.

On the bright side – being homeless is about as low as one can go. The only direction you can go from the absolute bottom is up. Unless of course, for some peculiar reason, you go sideways.

These past few weeks, things have been moving quite rapidly, and at a hectic pace. A lot of things I wasn’t entirely prepared for seemed to pop up out of nowhere. Also, I ended up meeting quite a number of wonderfully kind, compassionate and interesting people. Subsequently, I had the opportunity to socialize with people from outside the circle of acquaintances I’ve made within the homeless community.

That’s been a good thing because it’s allowed me to "broaden my horizons," as the saying goes. It has given my life a slight semblance of normalcy – whatever that may be. Still, it has also left me feeling a bit awkward because my social interaction skills have weakened a bit in the past 17 months.

But all of the socialization has had a restorative effect. It’s helped to rebuild my self-esteem. And let me tell you, homelessness really beats up one’s self-esteem.

Meeting and greeting people is a wonderful thing, to be sure, but I’m out of practice. And being out of practice exacts its toll. I’ve been hard pressed to keep up, so in the evenings I find myself exhausted. But that can be a good thing too. It makes me appreciate being able to lie down and relax – even if my humble abode is nothing more than a tent.

On the other hand, despite how tired I’ve been these past few weeks, I find myself waking up at 3 or 4 in the morning. Not good – especially since I like to sleep in late – usually to around 5:30 or 6:00 AM. Can’t everything I guess.

And since I’ve mentioned waking up early: this past Tuesday I woke up around 3:30 AM. As my mind began focusing on the sounds around me, I realized it was drizzling. I could hear the light tapping of the drops on the tent.

I love rain – providing I’m not in it. It’s rhythmic sound has a soothing effect on me. I knew that it would lull me back to sleep. And it did – for about ten seconds. Then my eyes popped wide open when I realized that it was probably going to rain most of the day and I was going to have to be moving around in it.

Fortunately I have a rain poncho. I knew that I wouldn’t get completely drenched. And that’s a good thing. Unfortunately, when I arrived back at my tent that evening, although I wasn’t wet through and through, my jeans were soaked to just above the knee. And of course, my shoes and socks squished with each step. Not good.

The good thing is that I had a pair of socks that were both dry and clean in my tent. When you’re homeless, clean, dry socks are pure gold! After drying my feet and putting on my nice dry socks, I stuffed my shoes full of paper towels to soak up as much of the wetness as possible. And all was right with the world again. Until the following morning, that is.

Imelda Marcos reportedly had some 5000 pairs of shoes.

Me? I have only one pair. And on Wednesday morning they were still slightly wet. About ten minutes after I put my shoes on, my nice dry socks were wet. So were my feet. On the up side – I know that they’ll dry out eventually. So that gives me something to look forward to – unless it rains again before that.

I know that everyone has their ups and downs, their little everyday struggles. Before I was homeless I certainly had my share of peaks and valleys. Somehow, though, the valleys I’ve gone through, since becoming homeless, seem as deep as the Grand Canyon.

Perhaps it’s just my current perceptions – the perceptions of a homeless man. After all, didn’t someone once say that nothing is really as bad as it seems?

But then again…

  1. tbearly says:


    For someone who is not a Shakespeare lover, you can sure muster a command of some of his words. I am, unashamedly, a lover of the Bard – the greatest writer the English language has ever produced, period (you know, IMHO).

    Perhaps this is what turned me to where I am today (shall I blame ol’ Will for that?). It is my favorite quote from my favorite of his many works:

    Once more unto the breach, dear friends, once more;
    Or close the wall up with our English dead!
    In peace there’s nothing so becomes a man
    As modest stillness and humility:
    But when the blast of war blows in our ears,
    Then imitate the action of the tiger;
    Stiffen the sinews, summon up the blood,
    Disguise fair nature with hard-favoured rage;
    Then lend the eye a terrible aspect
    — Henry V

    This calls people not just to war, but to action, in many a fight.

    Peace to you, though – always a finer thing than any fight.


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