Miscellaneous notes about accepting bad feelings.
[Second in a series.]
One afternoon some years back, I hooked up with my bud Brian Williard at the Light Street McDonald’s. We were there for maybe half an hour, and then set out eastbound on Baltimore Street towards the shelters where we stayed. I stay at one, and he stayed at another about 100 yards farther east.
We walked and talked, and he talked, and he talked, and a lot of what he talked about wasn’t necessarily of much interest to me. It came to me: “I’m doing ministry; he needs this.” Finally, he said, “It’s such a relief to talk to somebody sane.”
In recent weeks I’ve come to accept that the world of the homeless, the world of the poor, is fundamentally a world of crazy people. Whether or not actual mental illness is present, they do crazy things, foolish things, untoward things, small and great; abnormal things, unexpected things, things no reasonable person would ever do.
We get people sometimes in the shelter where I stay who are highly disordered. Not enough to get put out or barred out, but enough that, if we get three or four of them at the same time, the atmosphere does indeed become like an insane asylum. And much as the staff of an insane asylum need to get on with their jobs, their lives, without getting caught up in the patients’ foolishness and turmoil; so also, anyone who would escape poverty or homelessness needs to stay focused on one’s own life, without getting caught up in the contextual chaos.
I’ve long supposed this might be so, but now it has become a current learning.
If I want to get well, I’ve long been effectively hamstrung by the desire that everyone around me get well also. It’s not likely to happen.
Often, the upwardly mobile person must accept having to go it alone.
What I’ve never understood, and need to accept that I may never understand, is why the chaos often seems never to be enough in itself, but rather needy people feel compelled to combine it with so much negativity: the obscenities, the verbal threats of physical violence, the actual physical violence; the crime.
That is more intense in some places than in others, which fact raises its own questions.
So regardless of what is going on around me, I need to focus my attention on — choose — my own goals in life (now that I have sufficient focus, self-love and courage to actually have goals) — visions and scenarios that will please me if they come to pass; scenarios I can want, and feel good about. This will give me enough energy to not be drained by, and to dismiss, disorder and negativity that may happen around me:
- This guy was with us for about six weeks. Nasty attitude. Every day he got a new toothbrush, used it once, and left it on the shower room floor.
- This guy plugged up his phone in an outlet in the shower room, to charge it. We’re not allowed to do that. They have other, specific means for us to charge our phones.
- We were lined up near the doors, double doors, from the day room into the smoke pit, waiting for permission to go out and smoke. This guy was standing with his back next to the door that has a sign on it, “Do not use this door.” I told him not to use that door. Another guy told him not to use that door. He used it anyway.
- We were exiting chapel, and the seats were nearly empty but for this one guy who had a pile of candy wrappers and snack food wrappers underneath his chair. He meant to leave it that way. He had earlier left a similar mess in the day room.
- I stepped out of the supper line to put my napkin and tablewear at the place where I intended to sit. When I returned with my food, another man was sitting there. He had simply pushed my things aside and sat down. (1) He’s done this before, to other guys. (2) A few weeks ago, out of nowhere, he opined to me that they should not build high-rises or skyscrapers because those buildings pose an inconvenience to delivery people, e.g. FedEx or UPS workers, who have to carry packages up those floors.
- I came out of the shower stall, and my clothes were nowhere to be seen. This other man had put his clothes on top of mine.
Yes, I’ll be offended. I have my choice as to how long I’ll stay offended. I can accept the revulsion and re-direct my attention, each time, to what I want in life.
This appears to be essential for anyone who would move up in life.
Related: For us
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