There’s a homeless man that lives in an alcove of my building. His name is Mike. He doesn’t fit the image of most homeless men in my neighborhood. He appears very clean, takes care with his appearance, and wears a gold wedding band. He sleeps in the alcove. By 7am, he’s rolled up his items, cleaned up the space and left no trace of his presence. He reads books at night and he holds court with young kids, perhaps sharing his experience with them.
I hadn’t seen Mike for weeks. I had no idea what happened to him but I hoped things were going better; he’d gotten back on track and maybe reunited with his wife.
As I left my building today, I noticed someone was in the alcove again. First I noticed piles of garbage – wrappers & plastic bottles. Then I saw a blue sleeping bag. A woman was in the sleeping bag. She was sitting up, eyes barely open, and she was smoking. She looked unkempt and wasted. Next to her, barely able to sit up, was Mike.
I was gutted. We saw each other and I kept walking trying to determine if what I was seeing was real. Was Mike not just homeless but an addict to? I was devastated. I wanted to go back and really make sure. Was that Mike? Maybe he just looked like Mike? If it was Mike, what happened? He seemed different than the rest of the homeless people in my neighborhood. He seemed like a guy just down on his luck but he’d be back on track in no time.
I don’t know what it’s like to have an addiction that derails your entire life. What I do know is that life can be hard and choosing to check-out sometimes sounds so much easier than dealing with what is in front of you.
There are so many ways to check-out. It’s not just drugs and alcohol. We watch too much TV, over exercise, or eat until we’re sick.
I’ve checked out for periods of my life. There was a period in my life where I didn’t want to face my sadness of my father’s illness or my stressful-loveless life. So I checked out. It was easier…at the time.
In the end, you have to deal with all of those things. You have to do the work and address your feelings, your emptiness, and your stress.
To work through all of those things isn’t easy but it the results are so rewarding. I’ve spent the last six years working with a woman that I call my healer/coach/mentor/ and friend. She’s helped me hurdle so many emotions and challenges and I’ve learned that it doesn’t stop – the work of learning and growing and evolving. But that’s okay because the rewards are worth the work.
Today, when I saw Mike, I was reminded of how hard life can get.
My life is amazing. I’m constantly thankful for the life I have and all the beauty that’s in it. I’m thankful to Mike for showing me how good I have it and to appreciate every ounce that I get to experience.
Seeing Mike reinforced for me that I choose to live. I choose to be present. I choose to feel every emotion that I have the privilege to feel. I get to make plans for the future. I get to love. I get to cry. I choose to feel all the down and dirty feelings and all the light and fluffy feelings.
I choose to check-in.