About a fortnight ago, I set out to document the fall from grace that led to my homelessness. I’d kept tabs on it in real-time recording the sundry moments here in this journal, but while that’s a valuable record, it’s flawed. It takes time to see the whole picture, and to see the patterns unfurling – and perhaps it takes some post-event wisdom too, looking over your shoulder at what happened and knowing well the hard lessons learnt.
So I wrote, for myself, but also in the back of my mind, to share. I’ve been telling bits and pieces of this tale over the last month, and those select few, earlier than that. There’s no-one in the world I’ve told the whole story to from start to finish. It’s a big story and a long story, and it doesn’t make for idle conversation. I even had thought that perhaps I might put my story up on Medium.
So anyway I began writing, and re-writing and the experience soured me sometimes, and sometimes it was illuminating. I had to think hard to place things in their proper sequence, and many times I would close my eyes to re-capture the feelings I had then. Throughout, I was determined to make it as honest as my memory would allow. That meant plumbing the emotional depths I fell too, as well as – most importantly – taking responsibility for the many missteps along the way, born from pride mainly, and hubris. This was the point of the thing, not just a true rendering of the tale, but an accounting of it.
I’ve not yet finished writing it, but have reached the moment when finally I got the job that meant I might find a home again.
I’ve got many people fascinated by my story, and others intrigued by the bits of pieces they know of it and wanting to know more. As this is a process of opening up, I shared it with someone yesterday.
She called me up last night to discuss it with me. She was shocked by what she had read. In a way, I was surprised. I don’t really know where to place my travails and privations in the scheme of things. I know it was tough, but I know that people experience tough times daily, and many much tougher than me. I don’t want to glorify my misery. I want it to be true, but I can’t be objective about that truth because I am at the centre of it.
I think what she was shocked at – and which was hardest for me – was how there seemed no end to it, how one thing seemed to come hard on the heels of another. But still, some of that was my fault, and here I am, free of it – there was an end. And there I go qualifying things again.
In any case, the crux of the conversation last night is that she wants to help me. She’s a wealthy woman with nothing to spend her money on, and she sees me as a wasted talent in my present predicament. Those are her words. She thinks I have much to offer but need to get from under things.
I don’t disagree much, but of course, was reluctant to accept her help. She anticipated that and said, quite sensibly, that there was no shame in accepting the support of friends. I have in fact done this along the way by necessity, but it eats at me today like acid. I know intellectually that she is right, that I should be big enough and humble enough to accept the help I need when it is proffered. As always it is my spirit that rebels, the pride that has done me so wrong, and the fear of being indebted, obliged, of having a part of my independence bought and paid for. I know it seems like nonsense, but it feels true, even right.
I admitted that things remain tough, but they had been a lot tougher, and this was like a cakewalk compared to before. We have different scales, though. I still have upwards of $20,000 in debt I cannot pay, excluding the ATO. I have a car I can’t drive because I can’t afford to register, insure or service it. And, as I revealed to her, I limit myself to one lunch a week. All of that makes her aghast. For me, I shrug my shoulders and look upon it as a necessary challenge. It would feel like cheating if, at this stage, I accepted her help. I’m almost fearful of having it easier when I haven’t worked for it. I’ve strained so hard throughout and wrested myself from the utter pits by force of will and self-belief. To accept an easy out seems to me cheapening it.
I know that’s ridiculous. That’s the man I’m trying to overcome. He was the man I had to be, honed for battle, but in relative peace, he doesn’t work. He’s grim and defiant and mightily proud and closed off to good things as well as bad. He’s cold and ruthless, mathematical, but that’s not who I am at heart and who I can’t afford to be if I mean to be happy, and he’s the man I’m trying to overcome by exposing my sins, my struggles, my pain.
She’s offering me enough to cover my debts, repay down the track. Other than pride, there’s no real reason to refuse. In fact, it’s very similar to a plan I tried to hatch about 12 months ago: with money in my hands I could negotiate my debts downwards and free up my cash flow, as well as a good part of my peace of mind. It was a good plan, but the key element was missing: dollars. Now I’m offered the missing dollars with which I could extinguish the debt once and for all, the angry daily calls, and the stunted repayments robbing me of lunch money. I could repay the friends I feel so guilty about, and maybe even I could get the car back on the road.
It’s tempting. Cut the Gordian knot. Yet almost certainly, I will refuse her offer.