I may have been my own worst enemy, but a part of myself too did care for myself and for life. I was unable to acknowledge this and value it in the moment, but this part of me, I can see now, was still there. Perhaps it was doing more than helping me, and was in fact silently guiding me. A week before homelessness happened I read Viktor Frankl’s: The Meaning of Life. My own words cannot remotely state the power of this book. Poignant, solemn, and so very very powerful. He produced out of the very worst, and most disgusting environment of life a work that was inspiring. The sagacity of his perspectives he illustrates about life, opened my eyes and gave me a lot to ponder.
To read this book as I did, I can see now clearly, what I tried to deny then, that, yes, within myself I did care about life. Our head may convince us of something through the strident officiousness of all it’s doubts and negative self serving thoughts, but there are, actual, concrete actions of ours that we perform, which if only we were sufficiently aware of, would refute in an instant the worst excesses of our critical head. In reading this book as I did then this action proved that I did care about improving and helping myself in life. If there was one thing I took from the book it is that our faith is ours, no one, absolutely no one, can ever rob us of this. Our why, our purpose in life is ours to know and to always uphold. The book, perhaps, opened in my mind that magical, remote, door which gave me a connection to that priceless slither of light that I would now need, as I began to walk out into the city where I had lived, where I still lived, just now without a home.
At some point I had to face up to what I was going to do. I had to have a plan of action. I had to take charge of something. I had to find and create my own’ why’ . A part of me couldn’t – didn’t want to. ‘It is all pointless’ . ‘Your worthless’ . ‘You are nothing, you have wasted your life: You pathetic idiot’ . An insidious on running negative narrative within my mind gave credence to the belief that homelessness was the end of the world. Such negative beliefs were not new, they in themselves had dragged me down to this place – bad habits do not just suddenly stop. Their consequence was a shattered self worth that needed rebuilding. I could not forever destructively label myself as pitiful and weak. I had determination inside, that I always had prided myself on. I needed this now more than ever. I had to reconnect with it. What to do?
I had this fight within, I could not intellectually pin point down, exactly, what it was or how it felt, but it was a knowledge imbued within my fibre from experience. I carried this sense within. The clearest example of what I mean is whenever I had used to play sports: I never stopped running, I never knew I was beaten. To achieve a great, improbable, comeback when two sets to love down boiled my blood with sweet swelling fired up pride. To never give in, to have the determination to win was me, the child, when I did sports. Endurance activities, in particular, were something I had loved. Marathons, extreme long distance hikes were things I had once done in the past. I could really push myself, I could go on and on, I had to….it was life. It trod a fine line between masochism – as I sometimes pummelled myself as I unleashed pain and frustration – and a yearning, a quest, for the deepest depths of my spirit and the God given universal power within, that I wanted to know and to feel because it gave me a connection to something great. It took me beyond the limits of my small world and it’s constrained nature of my own life limiting problems. This is about perspective, as it is a way of grasping that I am more than my problems – when previously depressed I had lost all sense of this.
But a fear of losing this inner determination had taken hold of me, in those recent and particularly dark times. How I tormented myself with this fear – it become a sickening, self perpetuating, belief in life. This was worsened further, by the depressive state I had been in, which led onto me feeling very lost in life. I could not see anything of long term consequence to go for. I lacked goals and I lacked any excitement for the future. Having hopes and having dreams had become a poison to me. Since I had little before me in life that engaged my mind, I felt flat, there was nothing to channel myself into, and since this way of being seemed to have forever inescapably set in, I was convinced that that fight within had withered away. I feared now that it was dead. The negative, dark, critical narratives that consumed my head force fed me the conviction that this was so. And, if I did not have fight nor determination then I was hollowed out, broken; this was too despairing for me, without this drive I was not me…..I was a dead in the water non entity. Like this – with this sense of self – I struggled to live with myself. My life had run out of road.
Not having dreams. Lacking a project to put my ambition into, that could allow me to live, had created perilously slippery ground. This is what had ushered in my plummeting freefall. Constructive action was the way to connect with myself. I had to channel what lay within into something of consequence. I needed a why. But now that structured life had just freshly vanished before me, as I found myself permanently out on the streets, with security scant, no sense of direction, and with no plans of how to make anything of my life, the effort to now find such a why risked coming across as hopelessly now too late. The most important question was: what, right now, would help myself and give focus to my mind. How could I connect with my innermost being?
As I walked out into the city, familiar streets felt different, with the consciousness that I was a person who was homeless. Things seemed closed off to me in ways they had not been before. I had become in a new and more pertinent way an outsider – I had always in a sense felt like this, and now my actions had made it more starkly felt than possibly ever before. Without the security of a home and a position in the world of work I had no basic identity. I was isolated from society, I could sink into destitution, alone, and disregarded for I no longer officially fitted any structure. This was a hapless place. To lose the most basic security of shelter, and to suddenly be consciously aware of this for real felt strange and unnatural. There was guilt and shame, this position felt like a sordid little secret I had to live with, and which was so awkwardly uncomfortable because I could not, then, grasp why I had done this to myself. The notion of being a homeless person, and the disgust at myself at what I had been pitifully powerless to prevent, created niggling resentments against myself. Accordingly, I felt ostracised from the world, like a criminal who deserved to be punished. I projected outwards my imagined place in the world based upon my own inner feelings of worthlessness. I was scared. Real dark negativity was not far away. It was fighting for prominence. If it took root now, I could have been finished. I had no margin for error in such a real and perilous position. One part of me felt like giving into it, because if I did this then I could fall down, give in on life, and be free from the uncertainty of all the struggle that lay ahead.
When the unimaginable becomes real the implications suddenly carry an edge. Ex priori logic may put in place one or two integral perspectives, but it can never prepare one for the icy cold plunge that comes in the unimaginable moment itself. No it cannot be prepared for beforehand, it’s too unpredictable because the uncertainty, the doubts, the worries, the anxiety, the shame, the helplessness, and all the frustrations, the agonies, and the self recriminating sense of pity, contained within it when it is real cannot possibly be measured out in the mind prior to its happening. The shock, the adjustment was being felt here and there in little fits and starts. I had entered a completely new realm, the most integral security in life had now suddenly vanished -life without shelter is another world. Until one is in, and exposed first hand to this place, then in the psychological and emotional sense one is never going to feel all the terrible horror and pain of this place. I began to sense how complacent I had been in my self ruinous games.
For an individual becoming homeless is like on the societal level civilisation breaking down. Civic life gone, no cushioning secure structure to live by, lawlessness – every person for themselves – doubts, fear, mistrust awful insecurity, hopes of, expectations for proper justice gone. On the street was one not written off in life? How often beforehand in my life had I seen people on the street and lumped them together under the stereotyped notions of degraded, unhinged, washed out drunkards? Did I not at least judge them with some disgust and contempt? And now I was such a person. I was this, and would the world, therefore, not write me off in this same way? Had I already begun to project all this onto myself as I too readily wrote myself off? Was this, anyway, within it all not what I had wanted all along – the excuse to, finally, irrevocably write myself off? To be vermin, to not be human; to have severed my connection with life meant there was nothing to hold onto. This in the arrogant, aloof, intellectual sense was worthlessness. If I could feel it fully then I had the excuse to not struggle on. Could the last vestiges of doubt now, not just, fall away? A part of me wanted this and was willing it on. The dark side within wanted self destruction. In obliterating away the most integral of all material necessities I had nothing in the world that could redeem me from here. In breaking off from life itself and going into the underworld of chaos, the light of life itself was surely repudiated. I had nothing in life. Nothing. There was, therefore, nothing to fight for. That determination I had always prided myself on now meant nothing. I would no longer have to live with the fear of losing it, which came from the fearful uncertainty that it might not, quite, be extinguished, because now in this situation it was surely all over. All these embittered expectations I wanted to forcefully impose on this situation came from my critical, dark destructive self within.
Without something constructive to put my energy, my fight, my ambition into in these very first formulative moments of this life then this destructive self may have won out. I needed a why, a goal, something constructive to put my energy and focus into. For my embatterted self esteem I needed a challenge I could rise to. Trying merely to survive would have been too humiliating for my stubborn pride. I had to find something to do as a way of proving to myself that I still had something within. I had to do this before it was too late. My first steps in this world could define everything. A new stopwatch had begun, and this was not a ticking clock but a detonated timer counting down in fast forward. Urgency would now have to focus my mind. Maybe this was what I needed, maybe it was what I wanted all along? Maybe it was my way and what I had to do? The opportunity to go within and confront my worst fears, to find out who I was by seeing what I had within. Maybe this could be my initiation rite for living life.
It seemed thus in the broad sense that everything in my life had been stripped away. The advantage of a completely new environment is that one has to act. In a completely new place and state, whatever move that is made next will be different. This provided an opportunity for a long lost sense of freshness to things. Here the next action I took mattered. It mattered much more than in the familiar, well run motion of life, since the subsequent course of where I would go would be determined by these first formulative actions I took in this unimaginable place. The intentions which underpin our actions are at the heart of where we come to find ourselves in life. For too long in my life prior to being homeless I had been ruled by my inner dark virulent critic, his voice, his intentions were abusing and harmful. Alas, I had arrived at where I now was. It was now more important than ever that my next action came from good intentions within. I had to want to help myself. I had to learn to do this action after action, the next action mattered most. I was not worthless I had to believe this, and my actions would be the best felt means of refuting this.
What to do? Back to basics. To know, to reconnect, with one’s inner bliss one needs to return to a place where one is completely content within. In this place one is connected to life; life is even enjoyable precisely because one is at one with the world. One is not one’s problems when one is pursuing one’s bliss. How to get back there and reconnect with this again? Life can quickly make us forget it, but when we were children we knew how to be happy. Children dream, and children are frequently bubbling over with excitement. The child’s innocence allows them to play freely. Each individual child has their own unique interests and their own particular dreams. In getting back to these we can reconnect with ourself and remind ourselves of who we are. What matters and what are our passions? Remembering this is to do those core activities again that as a child we used to love. If I wanted to help myself I had to do this now. Build my sense of self from the bliss upwards with an adults awareness as I learned who I was and what those qualities were that mattered to me. My own originality was mine to discover by going back to my origins. Here was my opportunity. Everything materially in my life had been blitzed away, all I had was myself. I could be my best friend, or I could be my worst enemy. It was now more than ever, one or the other, life was simple. The implications were clear. I had to engage myself in the right way. I had to find my bliss. I had to do this to get out of my head. If I could engage that inner child within, I would be engaged and in that there would be a semblance of oneness with the world. The love of life could shine forth of itself once again. Being overly within my head had led me to homelessness since my problems defined everything, I could not get past them and so they turned life crooked; I did not live life, and so they disconnected me from myself, and in that I was not in touch with all that I had to value within. There used never to be any point in doing anything because the negativity I felt in the now was always projecting itself into the future. Why do anything if tomorrow is certain to be despairing, since those bloody problems will still be there and will never go away?
Now that I was really here, things were different. Since everything had fallen away, the future was in one core sense refreshingly uncertain. This uncertainty was positive because it could not get at me in the same way in the here and the now. I didn’t know where I would be, how I would be, or what I would be doing, I had no environment or place to project the future into. It was frightful, but also this new life I was in left everything open, the future and it’s worries melted way because I had to get through what I was confronted with in this very moment. To stop all this uncertainty becoming overwhelming (which it so easily and very quickly could) and being my ruin I needed to do something that could give me a short term focus. One condensed challenge before me, that engaged my mind. Something to relish, so that this uncertain place I was in could be defined upon solid structures.
The key was not to be overwhelmed. I had to connect with myself. The best way to do this was by having a why upon which I could put my whole hearted focus into. Back to the child within. How to find the bliss? I always had loved sports. As a child his was when I was most happy. I loved the competitive challenge that was brimming within it. It was the means to prove myself, and that mattered to me an awful lot. It was combat, free expression and unrivalled discovery as I embraced going to my limits, of knowing those limits, and then of going beyond them and taking them further. Yes, yes , it mattered so much for when I was doing sports I was blissfully in my element.
A couple of weeks before an idea had loosely formed in my mind about what I would do. It became a silent resolution. And now it had happened and I was homeless it was certain that it was what I would do. I was going to go for a physical challenge. I would do a long, intense hike. I wanted to clear my mind, get out of the city and be in nature. I needed a structure in what I was doing so my intention was to follow the coastal path from Barcelona to the tip of France, before walking back in land to Barcelona. This would be around 500 kms long. A undertaking with a focused challenge. This was a way to connect with some of my most innate qualities, a chance to let my determination and my fight, which I valued shine forth…..I wanted to see what I had left within. Could I do justice to myself and my qualities? I had to….this was all I had.