Toward the end of my previous post, I hinted at many other moments in my life after Bello that had the flavor of misfortune but that somehow I could sense that they spelled perfection. Oh, alright, even I have to admit that perfection is a bit of an overstatement, especially when I found myself immersed in less than desirable circumstances. I will, herein, rephrase that statement. They spelled opportunity.
In her book Hungry: The Truth About Being Full, Dr. Robin Smith reveals her realization that the hunger she was feeling was the starvation of her soul; that ingrained need to feed those aspects of life that she had left to the wayside in lieu of other parts of her being that rendered, at times, less than desirable outcomes. As I read her book while staying in a hotel room in 2013, I could see the correlation between her hunger and my homelessness.
My homelessness manifested itself as a deeply rooted sense of loss that made itself known to me in the form of despair and dissatisfaction with life as a whole. The seat of my soul seemed vacant. I could not find my way back from the place that I was inhabiting. I was bound to lose my physical home, as I could not grasp what was needed for me to feel healthy and whole financially and otherwise.
Events that are predestined require but little management. They manage themselves.
They slip into place while we sleep, and suddenly we are aware that the thing we fear to attempt is already accomplished.
~ Amelia Barr
Being the eldest of a brood of five children born to uneducated parents who seemed trapped in a loveless marriage, I learned early on that the best place to be was outside of my body. It is no coincidence that I would, later on, choose a career in trauma and crisis interventions.
As far as I can think back I have memories of fantastic voyages through space – among other places – that served to escape the reality of daily beatings and fights between my parents. I have always been that intergalactic traveler who is more comfortable in space than in my physical dwellings – body and house.
Ironically, I turned into a magnificent homemaker whose decorating style is admired by those who visit my home. I am, in Goddess mythology terms, a daughter of Hestia and Brigid, the goddesses of home and the hearth. Even so, I have never felt at home. I have never bought a house for myself. The one house that I could claim some ownership over was bought for me and the kids by my former husband after we divorced and it came with the price tag of having him knocking on my door every Friday night trying to come in and collect rent.
As I cradled Bello in my arms for the last time on that first day of August 2012, I knew in my heart that things were about to drastically change. I had been overextending myself in all areas of being. I had been working extremely long hours, commuting, had moved to a house where my rent was almost $500 more a month in order to ensure that my aging, ailing dog did not have to negotiate stairs. Ironically, since my room was on the second floor of the house I would hear him come up the stairs the moment I went to bed.
The familiar bump-bump sound of the way he had to drag his hinds became a source of added stress and pain for me. I ended up sleeping downstairs on the couch for almost two years in order to keep him company. Gee, I knew no boundaries or love for myself when it came to that dog. Despite the amount of money I was making, I was always broke. Veterinary care is extremely expensive.
By the time he was taking his last breath, I could sense that I was taking mine. I could no longer hold on to the lifestyle that I had crafted for myself. It was not sustainable. I had known that to be true for quite some time, but could not get myself to make a different choice. Now, I was left alone with Newton – a much younger dog in comparison – and I had a decision to make.
I had remained in California for two major reasons: my grandson and the fact that no airline would take my Bello at his age and with the many health concerns that he had. I gave myself until the fall of 2013 to leave that geographical region. I would accomplish that task almost to the day, but not before letting go of all that I had held dear for so long.
Bello had never abandoned or betrayed me. For the record, neither has Newton – you will read about that kind, loving soul later on. They had made the grueling trip from Puerto Rico to California to be with me. My youngest son finally moved in with me for a while in 2008, but his contract was not to stay with me, but to meet his wife-to-be, to marry, and to give me my first grandchild.
A couple of weeks after Bello died I traveled to Puerto Rico to surprise my niece on her daughter’s first birthday. My dog’s death was perfectly timed, as I know I would have not traveled knowing that he could have died while I was away.
My son took Newton in. I packed my bags and headed to Puerto Rico for a few days. I had traveled the year before to meet the newborn baby and this time around I had been planning the surprise for months ahead of time – funny, she would spot me in a shopping mall the moment I arrived in town. So much for that dramatic entrance, I wanted to make at the party.
By the time I went back to California I knew that I would have just a few days to find a new place. I had told my landlord that I was not renewing my contract, which, in true synchronicity, had come to an end, and knew that I needed to find a place to stay. At that point, I was so incredibly exhausted and dissatisfied with life that I did not want to continue to pay rent. I evicted myself from my home and the life that I had known thus far.
I could not find a place to move to immediately and had to pack my three-bedroom home into a storage facility for a month. Before doing so, I began to give things away. For the first time in a long time, I had no house. I had to move to my son’s and slept in his living room for three weeks before being able to move to the new place. That, however, would not be the last time that I would do so.
The new place proved to be a nightmare for us. I was further away from my office, and Newton hated the place. He had never been alone in his life. Bello had been a steady presence for him while I was away at work. Now he was suffering, and I could see it in his eyes. He lost 25 pounds in three months. His health was now in jeopardy, too.
The agreement with the owners was on a month-to-month basis, and I told them from the very beginning that I was to leave at any time. By December 31, 2012, I had given notice that I was leaving. I did not have a place to go to. I just wanted to leave.
Another trip to Puerto Rico took place in mid-January of 2013. My family, true to form, had decided that they were celebrating my 50th birthday on a cruise. For the record, my birthday is in February, but they all contributed some amount of money to ensure that this was their collective gift to me during a time that suited their schedules.
Forget that January is, traditionally, the time when I have to complete mid-year and quarterly reports at work, the time when some contracts need to be renewed, and proposals for funding for the following fiscal year submitted. I had to leave all of that done before going to my birthday celebration. Gotta love them. And I do.
I had already been feeling the pull to be with family, and that trip marked my soul. We all took turns behaving badly – read, fighting – and we all had a blast at the same time. By the time I went back to California I knew that I could not continue to hold on for much longer. That internal timer that was marking the time I had left in the area was making itself annoyingly known to me.
I had been giving things away for two years now. How did I raise so much shit that it took me two years to rid myself of it? The giving away of my belongings had started when my grandson turned one, and my son came to pick up my living room furniture to use at his newly found apartment, which I ended up never replacing. Kids have a way of helping you get rid of unnecessary (and sometimes, necessary) stuff.
During that time, I made weekly trips to Goodwill to leave donations and still had a place full of stuff and the shed in the back of the house full as well. My son ended up taking most of what I owned, and I still had loads of stuff to give away. Suffice it to say that the Santa Clara Library got a donation of more than 500 books. I also made some good people happy by means of giving them my very well-kept property.
On March 1, 2013, I took the last of the property I still had, put it all in one of those U-Haul boxes that they can drop for you anywhere in the world, and moved into a hotel with Newton. Before the end of this tale, you will find out that I ended up giving all of that away, too. Just a hint. I did not want to pay a cent more of rent and did not know where to go.
I moved from one hotel to the next within the next few weeks and placed Newton in doggy day camp. It was hilarious to take my four-legged kid to daycare in the morning and to pick him up on my way to the hotel in the evening. People at Pet Smart and work were crazy about him. He is gorgeous, too.
With all the discomfort that living in a hotel room can put on a person’s soul and with the realization that I was truly homeless for the first time in my life, despite my Ph.D. education – or perhaps because of it – I set out to find the blessing in the situation and to take an honest look at the life I had created thus far and the one that I wanted to craft for myself. Impermanence would remain the name of the game.
As much as I could have planned for some of these events, I knew that something bigger than me was orchestrating them. I had no option but to trust that events were managing themselves; therefore, I looked Life in the eye and said, “Bring it.” Oh, and the bitch did.