Wednesday, June 29, 2011

One Story

Louise at "Recover Your Joy" talks about being emotionally hungover this morning.  I read her post carefully ... partially because I care for her and am always inspired by her, partially because I have one of her stories in my family.  Knowing one of these stories makes me wonder anew how she does the work she does.  The stories are at once heart-breaking and maddeningly frustrating.

The story I've watched unfold began with a beautiful little girl ...shiny bright, sensitive, funny and determined to get her own way.  Caught on the playing field of a broken home she marched through high school the All-American poster child ... show choir, church, good grades, too busy for boys and then off to college, confident, creative and caring.  We thought she had survived the teenage mine field.  We thought the world was her oyster.   Enter a boy, alcohol, drugs and a slow, downward spiral.

Twenty-years later she is a bag lady.  She hasn't quite reached the permanent state of pushing a shopping cart around the streets of Santa Barbara but she is panhandling for change and sleeping in a box at night.  She is moving from one abusive guy to the next.  Recently her sister tried to rescue her and brought her into her own home for a week, took her to AA meetings, let her play with her nieces, tried to show her what "normal" life is like.  The funny thing is "S," the subject of the story, saw no connection to her own life other than to say that her sister was "lucky."  She can talk about how to live life as if she were actually living it.

She says she is "too tired."  Too tired to get sober, too tired to get a job, too tired to get on a bus and go to her sister's for help when a ticket is offered.  Yet, every day she has to scramble for the money she needs for food, cigarettes and beer.  Every day she has to wonder if her current guy will beat her up, throw her out, or, possibly, be nice to her.  Every day she has to wonder where she'll sleep, who she can scam for money, how to hold herself together.  

It makes me tired to even think or write about her life.  All of us in the family have been drained of money, energy, emotion, ideas.  We don't know what to do and it makes us crazy to admit that there is nothing we can do.  That sentence generally ends with ... "except love her."  But how do you love someone who doesn't love herself and looks upon everyone around her as a "mark" who might be able to supply her need for money?  Maybe that's the ultimate frustration ... my own inability to feel loving toward her and the feeling of guilt I have about that and about not being able to help her.

And, once again, I come back to Louise and the work she does.  All I can do is pray that somehow there is a Louise in my family's story and let go of that image that keeps coming back to me of that bright, shiny girl turning cartwheels on the beach, long red-gold hair flying.


  1. You are holding a beautiful image in your heart, Joyce. That's where your love resides, always.

    "S" will be in my prayers. May she, as John O'Donohue wrote in one of his blessings, " be blessed with a wise and compassionate guide/ Who can accompany [her] through the fear and grief / Until [her] heart has wept its way to [her] true self."

  2. Maureen ... thanks ... and may your words go straight to her heart as they went to mine.

  3. You just made me cry my friend. And I thank you. Tears are the words the heart cannot express.

    I was once asked by a police officer - -what do I do? I keep putting my hand out but they [the homeless] just don't reach back. I'm ready to quit.

    It is when we quit reaching out that all is lost, I told him. For in our quitting we confirm the 'false negative' they believe to be true -- I am worthless.

    when we quit reaching out, all is lost.

    For 'S', there is a sheltering place. There is someone reaching out to her -- that is what we do - those of us who work in this sector. We don't do it because we must, we do it because we can, because we know -- for the families of the people we serve, they need to protect themselves, save themselves, take care of themselves.

    Please don't feel guilty Joyce. Don't anyone in your family feel guilty. for all that 'S' cannot see she your outstretched hand, she knows it is there.

    And sometimes, all we can do is stand beside someone as they fall -- we cannot stop their fall -- we can only stand beside them and be there when they reach out for help to stand up again.

    And sometimes, they never do -- and that is the hardest thing to accept. that they never do. and yet, in accepting they have made that choice -- our hearts rest easy in the knowing, we stood by.

    Much love to you my friend. May your heart know you are love, may your tears free her tears to flow freely. May your laughter lift the veil that shields her heart from knowing -- she is loved.

    Much love my friend.

  4. Thank you so much, Louise. Maybe we need a book (there probably already is one or a 100) called: What to do if your child is lost on the streets. Or some such. It is amazing how many people's lives one homeless/addicted person affects.