Home is where the Heart is……..

Hello.

Long time no talk hey?

It feels strange but exciting to be back.  I have no idea if anyone is still listening after all these months but I think I’ll just chat myself into a corner if you don’t mind the noise.

So six months of silence, six long months of not having the (excuse the pun) heart to write.  Or rather write anything bloggish and you know what, I haven’t even tried. Not once. Not one itty bitty teensy weeny ounce of trying to get anything written about what had been happening to me.

So what did happen?

I’ve been homeless.  Even as I type the word I still can’t quite comprehend what has happened to me over the last six months from November til May.

I won’t go into all the detail, it was nobodies fault, it was just a set of extraordinary circumstances that happened at once and the end result was that I was left with nowhere to live.  Now being the resourceful person I am I didn’t think I would be homeless for long.  3 weeks tops I told myself and everyone else.  I’ll just need to kip here for a short time.  Bloody hell I bet my friends didn’t know what hit them.

There’s a housing crisis brewing in Bristol and it’s not funny.  I work part-time for an accountant, I have savings, I am also training to be a psychotherapist.  I would go to flat view after flat view.  I turned up on time, was friendly, looked professional, but when I said the words I work part-time – shutters would come down, faces glazed over and false pleasantries were exchanged.  Even when I turned up with a guarantor no one would take me on and ALL of them never bothered to enquire actually how much I earned.  For all they know I could earn quite a lot of money in my part-time job.  Funny how three words ‘Part. Time. Worker.’ gives rise to a massive judgement that you won’t be able to pay your way. in the end it was this judgement that would drive me crazy.

I changed tack, I looked for house shares privately rented.  I had such an understanding landlady in my last home, who never flinched when I said I was being made redundant and that I was starting to train in my chosen new career I’m sure I could find another.  I still paid rent on time, I kept up with bills and surprised myself how little I could actually live on.

So I found the place I live now. Even then after being chosen (they chose me!!) I found out that it was agency managed and the hoops I had to jump through to secure my place.  Even though I was bringing double of what the rent actually costs a month they still didn’t think I could afford the place as I was working part-time…. What discrimination is that?? What the fuck is going on there?? Where do we go? What if I was in real trouble, what if I didn’t have 3 amazing sentinels who opened their homes to me? I was one step away from sleeping in the car, one step away from losing everything. This, I now understand, is how easy it is to become homeless….

Never again will I judge a homeless person, it could really not be their ‘fault’ yes, that now makes me a soft touch to beggars on the street but I don’t care, I give my spare change to someone asking for money to get into a homeless shelter for the night, I know how easy it is to fall that far.

So there it was, if you work part-time, if you are trying to make something of yourself, if you find yourself wanting, don’t ever become homeless, the £180 agency fee for what I can see to send 3 emails equals to £60 an email, easy cash.

Now I’m in my new home.  I live with people I’m still trying to get to know.  The place is peaceful, the people kind, there is a healing feel to the space.  Its crafty and bakey and arty and I am beginning to relax.  Though the first 4 weeks I completely fell apart.  I couldn’t stop crying, I threw more stuff away, I had an allergic reaction to my ‘things’ that I hadn’t seen for so long.  I hated ALL the clothes I owned – whose clothes were in the closet? Not mine, mine are in the suitcase I’ve been living out of for the last 6 months. But slowly, slowly I’m beginning to feel more ‘me’. I’ve stopped saving boxes for packing though I still when anybody asks, say “at the moment I’m living in…… ” which has only just been pointed out to me.  I’m hoping that will cease soon.

Looking back over the last six months I’m staggered at how completely and utterly mad that situation was, and now the self-criticism is kicking in.  What the fuck was I thinking?  Why did I allow that to go on so long? Why didn’t I defer my course and go get a full-time job and save? Why didn’t I just give up the idea of my training to be a therapist and just get on with a nice office job? But in my defence I was too deeply in it to see the sense, it was always next week I’ll get that flat and so on.

There are three people who fed into my innate sense of keeping going, three people I will never ever be able to thank enough.  Three people who when I felt abandoned by others stood by me.  It is interesting that I started to feel taboo, Yep this is kinda my stuff, but I did feel a kind of social pariah when I was homeless. I felt I wasn’t able to talk about how it felt, because I’d brought it on myself. Ever tried to be invisible in somebody elses home? It’s not easy however welcome you are made to feel I always felt that I was outstaying my welcome. I felt I wasn’t suitable person to have around, I was now a flakey person and yes I became flakey, ( I was incredibly stressed trying to carry on with my course, ever tried writing your own psychobiography when you’re homeless – it’s a mammoth emotional task even when you have stability around you and when you are in a place of feeling real fear, fear that you’re going to piss off the person you are staying with that they kick you out, it’s down right nearly impossible…) and all that made me sad. I miss the contact.  But understand that everyone’s life is busy and full.

So three people who watched out for me, who believed in me, that has not happened for a long time, having people believe in ME. That has been such an amazing thing when my own self belief was thrashing around in a sea of fear, these three people said, “we will help you, come and live in our spare rooms, because we believe that what you are doing is important.” For that I am eternally grateful, thankful and yes, ashamed, ashamed and grateful that I had to rely on those people.  I’m usually the self-sufficient one, the one who can provide its been a massive learning curve.

So now hopefully I can be a little less flakey, a bit more organised and though the next year is going to be financially tougher (the belt is being pulled tighter still) I’ll get to have some fun times again.

That’s where I’ve been and what’s all this to do with CHD?  Nothing, nothing at all.  I’ve always said I’m more than my heart condition, but I think this was a  bloody stupid way of proving that…. 😉

Goodbyes

How do you feel about goodbyes? Relieved, sad, couldn’t give a toss. It’s something that I’ve never really thought about but I do know I have been totally shit at them. I probably still am. Is there such a thing as a ‘good’ goodbye??

The past week I’ve done quite a few goodbyes, good-bye Therapy Foundation Course, goodbye play, goodbye way of life for just under a year, goodbye fellow travellers on the journey of the foundation course.

When I think about it, my last few real goodbyes have left me feeling pretty shit about myself, as I if there was something wrong me, like I was some kind of unlovable monster with two heads that was really undeserving of any kind of care at all.

Last week, I said goodbye to my fellow students on the foundation course all I can say was that the tutors prepared us extremely well. How? We talked about it! We talked about the fact that today was the day we were going to say goodbye. There was lots of visualisation, lots of letting go, almost ceremonial actions. The writing of notes to each member of the group passing them to each other in silence, reading what each one of us had written about the other and expressing an instant reaction to that. Nothing was hidden or swept under the carpet. Only a few of us will be moving on to the next stage of the course, so for a lot of us, it was a final goodbye as we all came from different parts of the southwest!

I left not feeling like shit, I left not feeling like I had shut down and become cold to the fact that this was the last time I would be seeing some of these people, of going through the motions devoid of allowing myself to feel anything except a the burden of responsibility that its my fault they don’t like me enough to keep in contact….

I felt, celebrated, loved, emotional, so bloody emotional and we were allowed to feel those things until the natural time came to say goodbye – (for some of us it was midnight in a grimy club after beer had been consumed…. hardcore til the end…. 😉 )

It got me thinking about the first time I encountered the finality of goodbye….

I don’t remember it of course I was one and half years old, when the porters came to take me down to theatre for my first open heart surgery I was bouncing around the bed laughing my head off. The nurse couldnt’ believe that I had already had my pre-med and it became very clear that it was going to take them more than the average dose to knock me out…. So they gave me a bigger dose and that’s when I went limp. As I say I don’t remember this story, this is my mother’s story and I cannot, cannot, imagine how horrific it was for her, at what happened next.

They had to peel me off her as she held it together. They had to uncurl my arms from around her neck, and unclasp my fingers from her hair and put me on the trolley to take me to surgery. No goodbye. As I say mentally I do not remember that goodbye, but I think the conscious collective and even my own body may think otherwise….

So for me, the first time I came across the whole meaning of goodbye, the whole finality of goodbye was when I was 6years old at my second operation. I was still trying to get to grips with what was happening to me as I found myself being wheeled down to theatre, watching the ceiling of the corridor slide over my view, if I titled my head back and rolled my eyes upwards I could see the upside down faces of my mum and dad as they followed the trolley down. I did not realise that they would not be coming in with me to the theatre itself……the goodbye was rushed, I had cottoned on pretty quickly that this were I was meant to be brave and that what happened here, how I was coping with this goodbye was crucial for them getting through the next 4 hours.

Hindsight is a funny thing isn’t it? I came back from that goodbye sore, groggy, thirsty and wired up to machines. I had lost four and half hours of my life and I didn’t know where… but I had come back. I wonder now if unconsciously we had all slammed into that goodbye as if I always was coming back, that what was going on in those 4 1/2 hours of unconsciousness was just not important. I was back and that was main thing. Goodbye shmuwdbye, I’ll always come back. Maybe if we’d talked it through, I wouldn’t be so shit at goodbyes now. John Bowlby would call it an abandonment issue… I’ll leave that up to you to research and make your mind up.

Anyhoo…. I also worked on a show last week, I staged managed a show calling the cues to lights, sounds and visual effects. The play was called Pornography, it was about the week leading up to the 7/7 bombings in London, the week of Live8, winning the Olympic bid… it was a very powerful, emotive production. To me the play was about grief, I watched the play nearly every night in my job as SM, each night a different character spoke to me about their grief, the whole play spoke about the power of the not goodbye, I cried every night at the end of the play.

So yes, goodbye course and fellow students, goodbye production and wonderful hardworking talented cast, goodbye words of an amazing play, goodbye vision of the director and production team, I have been allowed to sit with all these goodbyes and feel what I feel and I feel ok. I’m not a crap person, I’m not shit at goodbye at all. You’re great, I’m great but our time is at an end, time to go and good go with you.

Until next the next blog update of course…. 😉