“Are you happy,” printed across the page again.
“No, I’m not happy. Matter a fact, I’m very unhappy, lost, frustrated, uncertain, scared, hungry, cold, tired.., do you want more?” he honestly replied. His response did not come out with anger, instead pure exhaustion flowed through his every word. Coated with shame, like a the nugget of a chocolate bar. Embarrassment clinging to every inhale and exhale.
“It is nice to feel such raw truth. How do all of those feelings serve you,” inquired the newly printed ink.
“What do you mean, serve me,” he genuinely asked.
“The list of feelings you shared, do they make you feel better as you let them grow and expand or do they make you feel worse? Do they help you to create the change you want or cripple you in the process of trying to move forward,” the page gently inquired.
“Well, I guess they hinder me. I know that when I allow them to build it just gets worse, I feel like I am going to explode, hit something, or fall apart. Every day it gets harder to look in the mirror, to see the reflection of who I am now. I grow to hate myself and sometimes wonder why I continue to exist,” the thoughts flew out unchecked, like a release valve finally got opened after being stuck on close. Doug felt strange pouring his deepest truth out into the air, supposedly directed at a magazine.
He closed his eyes, shook his head and giggled inside. This was stupid, was he really engaging with a piece of paper? Seriously! This couldn’t be really happening. Maybe too many nights in the car with not enough food had him hallucinating,” his thoughts ran wild.
“We are here with you, we are communicating together, it is okay, you are not going crazy. Your raw truth is powerful. Look around, do you think anyone else in this room may feel some of the same things you feel,” asked the words.
Doug felt awkward and vulnerable as he realized that the magazine heard and felt everything that went through him. It was disconcerting and unsettling, while at the same time he derived comfort from it. He was not alone, someone or something, really saw him and still seemed to care.
Looking up as the words had guided him to do, he slowly observed the other people in the room. There was a couple of other men, sitting at computers like he was, one was older and looked quite haggard, as though life had been really rough for him. The other guy had to be around his age, he was not sure if he was homeless or at the library using it as a “normal” person. Continuing to scan the room, his eyes landed on a young woman who was holding a child on her lap. The child looked to be around two, he guessed. A cute little girl with scattered curls encircling her cheery face. Looking back up at the mother, he gazed with quiet curiosity. Her eyes looked tired and sad. She was staring intently at the computer screen, holding her daughter with one arm, while scrolling with her other hand.
As he continued to observe her, he remembered seeing her outside one of the homeless shelters when he had briefly thought about staying at one. “Wow,” he thought, “I can’t imagine how it would feel to be homeless with a child to care for.” Suddenly he felt his self pity slide off, like drops of rain falling from an umbrella. His life was simple compared to hers. He watched her mannerism and expressions as she tried to juggle searching on the computer while caring for her child. She had pose, when she spoke to her daughter her tone was gentle, kind, comforting. “What was her real story,” he wondered.
All of a sudden she looked over at him, like a deer caught in the headlights of a car, he froze, unable to look away, yet, flushing with embarrassment for staring. She smiled at him, he smiled back and quickly looked down at the magazine, pretending to flip the page.
He reread the words the magazine had last asked, “Look around, do you think anyone else in this room may feel some of the same things you feel.”
“You are right, there are others here that likely feel many of the same things I do. I guess I was so caught in my own self loathing, shame and embarrassment, that I could not see anyone else. I just never imagined that I would ever be homeless, that I would not know where or when my next meal was coming, none of this,” he poured out in response.
“Do you think anyone sets out to be homeless, to not have food, to not be warm, safe, and surrounded by others who care,” typed the letters.
“No, I am sure, no one would choose this life. It is so hard, scary, degrading…,” trailed his reply to the page. As he shared he felt something in him open, his body relaxed, his heart expanded, his mind stopped racing. Looking over again at the young woman, he marveled at her ability to stay focused while her daughter wiggled to get down.
“Just a few more minutes Abby, then we will go outside and you can run around for awhile,” she cooed to her daughter. The daughters little hands reached up to touch her mom’s face, as a gentle kiss landed on her swirls of black curls.
Doug’s whole being expanded as he watched this example of love, grace, acceptance and pure presence. It was truly humbling to sit where he did, with only himself to care for and he knew that if he reached out he had family who would help. His pride is what kept him sleeping in his car. He wondered, “does she have enough food, a phone, clothes, what about family, friends, what put her in this situation?”
Looking back at the page, he read the next words that stroked the plain white background, “Everyone has their story, their journey, you have been so self absorbed that you have walled off the opportunity to see, learn and grow, this is not the end, perhaps it is the beginning of something even more,” invited the words.
To be continued… 29