Knowing the rats and mice and voles and every other breeding vermin would be, well, breeding, I cleaned out all the boxes in my storage, washed and laundered everything, repacked everything into new boxes, and moved it all into my new house! I can't wait till I install the wood fireplace, the door, and the kitchen appliances! Once that's all done, I'm HOME!
I realized the other day that I didn't actually believe that warmer weather was coming. I almost thought This is it. Winter has come and that's it. The heat of summer feels so far away, and almost forgettable. Living in negative temps has been exhausting, and it's amazing how much energy it takes just to stay warm, and how much more sleep I need just to recharge. I can't even imagine how people who live on the streets feel, with perhaps no end in sight, and hope a distant shadow. I thought I understood before, understanding hunger, fatigue, sickness, hopelessness. But I have a new understanding now--of cold, darkness, and the endlessness. I get the vacancy and the distractedness, the layers, the avoidance. Not to say I understand it all, or have experienced true homelessness, but I have a new openness and understanding.
I was at a live music gig last night, which in itself separates me from being truly homeless, but I felt the irony, the separation, and some ignorance. I was jealous, a lot sad, and a little bit angry. You get to leave this building at the end of the night to go to a warm bed, a warm home, complete with all the appliances, amenities, and comforts, I thought. You with your obligatory drink-in-hand, clothes just so, probably not even cognizant of the honour and privilege of being able to go from one warm building to another--the amazing expectation that the majority of our population is warm, sheltered, and fed.
It threw me back a decade, being told I may not walk again, and may be confined to a wheelchair for the rest of my life. As I fought to walk, fought for the privilege of independence and mobility, I gained an intense appreciation for that privilege. I gained empathy for the elderly, walkers and canes defiantly in hand, challenging ice and crosswalks and bad drivers. I suddenly understood that they could easily stay at home and submit to what was inevitably coming--what eventually comes for all of us--but they didn't. They spent however long it took to put on their coats, boots, gloves, and hats, get out the door, and make it to their desired destination. I got it--no weakness in sight, besides the slowing agility of the body and perhaps acuity of mind.
In the same way, I've gained a consciousness around homelessness and displacement. There is a defiance in the sole act of existence, in continuing to strive for more, and for better, regardless of the realities of that existence. There is a courage in being able to hold one's head high, marching the streets knowing the right to the same air as everyone else. There is definitely a courage in facing visible judgment and discrimination, something I have experienced on the fringes, but never to its depths.
It has become my experience that any existence in itself is a courage, a defiance of the inevitable. An acceptance of what is and how life has presented itself, and yet continuing in the face of these realities, is resilient, commendable, brave, and it is what makes us human. I am immensely grateful for what my experience has taught me, and even when my house is fully sealed, there's a lock on the door, and a fire in the hearth, I will continue to work with local community groups and organizations to address homelessness and hunger.