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Sunday, August 23, 2009

Insight into the Fragility of Life

The time I spent homeless gave me an insight into the fragility of life, the strength of the will to survive, the bright potential for human love and kindness and the cold, warped pain of human hatred. As a writer, it is almost inevitable that such experiences would color my words. Being homeless scarred my mind and body in ways that may never heal. Much of my writing inspired by my time as a homeless person deals with the after effects of my experiences.

Perhaps the hardest part about being homeless was being de-humanized. Before I lost my home, I was a cherished daughter, a fine student, a sister, a niece, a grandchild. I was "that shy neighbor girl" and "that smart kid" - but homelessness changed it all.

Sometimes, just for fun, teenage boys would harass me - shove me around and kick me. Just to pass some time. People would look away or cross the street to avoid me though I never begged. Cops would wake me with a toe to my ribs or the back of my head, never asking if I was OK, just poking me like a stray dog or a bag of garbage. Somehow, these small, everyday assaults on my person and dignity hurt more than the vicious attacks that left me hospitalized. Perhaps because they were always so casual, so frequent that they completely buried whoever I had been. I became a thing rather than a person.

So once bad then horrible things started happening to me, I justified the casual cruelties and brutal wrongs in my own head, too. I became detached, depressed, I viewed myself as a sub-human thing, a vile creature it was allowable to abuse. Things that if done to someone else would have filled me with righteous anger became OK, because it was just me they were happening to. People could do things to me that I wouldn't stand by and allow them to do to an animal. All because I had become, in my mind and theirs, nothing more than a monster, a beast that didn't even deserve life.

I still struggle with these feelings and you can see them clearly in my writing.

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