In a few short days I will not have a place to live.
This has happened before. The first time it was after doing all that I could to help my father and his wife get sober and losing everything in the process, coupled with losing a job and an apartment within the same week. Add to that 9/11 and what it did to the tourism industry where I was living—not to mention my struggles with addiction and what can loosely be termed as “mental illness”—and I ended up on couches and sleeping in parks for a good chunk of time. It wasn’t fun and I was scared and it really did a number on my psyche. The second time was when I left my marriage a couple of years ago. I stayed for a bit with a woman I was dating at the time[but that ultimately doomed that relationship] and I also slept on the floor of the rehearsal space of the band I was in[which probably doomed those relationships as well]. The only difference from the first time was that I had a job and I was no longer drinking or using drugs. That lasted a few short weeks and then I ended up in the place I have been living for the last two years which has become home.
Taking care of oneself is a lot of work. It’s even more work when we don’t believe we deserve to take care of ourselves and we believe we deserve to suffer, because somehow, suffering is our lot in life. Every victorious moment has a price in that type of thinking. Each day that feels like a win can be turned right into a loss as quick as lightning striking, just by letting the faulty wiring in the emotional part of the brain do what it has always done, go dark and sideways. I beat myself more mercilessly than anyone ever could, and I have done so for my entire life. I obsess over the way others perceive me or interpret my actions and I do it so innately and so acutely that even being aware of it and doing my best to stop it changes nothing.
I’m so bad at taking care of myself that it took me over five years to go to the dentist and get a cancerous growth cut off of my gums. I let the fucking thing just sit there and keep me from smiling and keep me from laughing and keep me from being free. I pretended it wasn’t there. When friends would ask me about it I would say I was getting it taken care of, but I never did. I saw a dentist about it a couple of years ago and she told me to get it removed immediately and gave me the number for an oral surgeon. I met with the oral surgeon and he quoted me $3K to remove it. I walked the fuck on out of that office and never looked back. That’s more money than I can afford for anything, especially at that time. Even when I had dental insurance, I pushed off getting it taken care of.
I got it taken care of in the beginning of May. It’s gone now. I can smile again. I can laugh again. I don’t even give a fuck that it was cancerous because it’s fucking g o n e.
“Every day above ground is a good day.”
I have been saying this for so long, now. I say it whenever I interact with just about anyone, irrespective of familiarity and comfort. I just throw it out there and hope the other person ends the conversation right then and there. It’s a showstopper. It keeps the wall up and it keeps me from being open and vulnerable and it keeps the other person insulated from the shitshow of my life. I said it to the oral surgeon at Bellevue Hospital when he was cutting off the growth after they pulled an abscessed tooth that had gone septic and was poisoning my blood. I watched a tiny bit of arterial spray shoot from my mouth to his surgical goggles after I said it, and for a moment, I was seriously wondering if I was going to bleed to death and die in that chair. I really do not want to die.
I tried to hang myself back in January, a couple of days after I called the suicide hotline after contemplating walking into the East River. I failed. Well, really, the belt I used failed when the buckle broke. I’m fine, physically. I’m hard to kill apparently, even when I try to do it using my own body against itself. I’m writing it here because I don’t want to ever feel that low again, don’t want to take that kind of action. Supposedly men in my age demographic do this. I don’t know much about that. I just know that my neck/throat are strong enough to hold my weight long enough to survive myself.
I’m not trying to make light of this. It’s real and it’s serious and I am taking steps to get better. Forgiving myself is a good start, which I’m working on.
I am not dead.
I am genuinely terrified of being homeless for the third time in my life. I keep having these flashes in my head of me living in a shelter, guys straight out of the penitentiary trying to shake me down and harassing me, families thrown to the wolves by evil and greedy landlords. New York is not a forgiving city when it comes to these things. It’s expensive as all get-out to live here and most landlords want you to prove you make forty times the rent before they will even consider letting you rent from them. Up until last week, I have been mostly unemployed since December, other than working the odd job here and there or walking or watching dogs for friends. I have been, to put it lightly, super fucked. I’ve been able—with help and love from friends—to pay my rent and bills on time, but my roommates have decided that my financial instability is stressful enough for them to let my lease run out and I have to move on, which I get. It’s hard enough to survive in this city as it is when things go right, let alone when they are an unsolid and unknown thing.
My plan is to put my things in storage this week and then see what the world has in store for me. I am working hard to keep myself from traveling into the darker corners of where my mind wants to go, and so far I am doing pretty okay for a guy who’s greatest fear is to be without a home. Tiny victories. They add up. They still have that price, though.
It’s a different kind of anger than I’m used to that finds a way into my blood. Late night obsessions and fear-driven silence and hot meal dreams and guardrail collisions. All the metal in the world weighs less than the sad way I carry your name in my mouth.
When I was a little kid I remember seeing a homeless man when I was with my mother and I knew in my molecules that I would know that world in my lifetime. I felt it as loud as a grenade in the next room. It was this knowing thing, the kind of thing that always happened to me as a kid. I’d see something or witness a behavior and I just fucking knew what it was and what it meant to me and how it would show up in my life. I knew things as a teen and I knew things as an adult, but I let those things happen because I didn’t believe there was anything I could do to stop it. I knew when lovers would turn into dreams and I knew when both of my parents were going to die and I knew my ex-wife would never let me see my dog again and I just let it happen, over and over again, because I felt like if I knew about it, I deserved it.
That shit is fucked up and wrong and that kind of thinking—the belief that I should suffer—is on the way out. No room left for that kind of self-effacement through suffering in my world. No room left for believing I am a piece of shit and whatever happens is happening because of something I did. We’re all fucked up and we’re all waiting to die and I just want to live and live well.
Someone asked me the other night what I was hoping for out of life, what I ultimately want. I told them I wanted peace. I want to know peace and freedom from worry and to know serenity in the purest form. I want to not be hungry. I want to not be scared. I want to not obsess and I want to breathe slower and easier and pet dogs and watch the sun rise and set and know inside of this body that I am doing my best to be kinder and more tender and more real with myself and everyone around me.
Here’s hoping. Here’s dreaming. Here’s me, doing my best.