The Longest Night (This post is all over the place)

Last night I went to my church's "Longest Night" service. Yesterday was the shortest day of the year, so last night was the longest night. I wasn't really sure what it was about, except that it was going to be dark, and something about being for people who are sad, during a time where everything is screaming "Joy!"




You guys... I hate Christmas.  And I try not to talk about hating Christmas too much, because it's clearly a time of year that makes a lot of people really happy, and I don't want to stomp all over everyone's happy.  But I can't stand it, for about a million and one reasons. Some have to do with consumerism, most have to do with really bad memories, some have to do with the agony of yet another year of trying to fake smile my way through (what is for me) an awful, awful holiday.

Before I met my husband, I would rent a hotel room in Chicago for Christmas. I would spend the time by myself, writing, walking, being lazy. I didn't even acknowledge Christmas, I was at peace and I really loved it.

My husband comes from a big Greek family, and Christmas is a big thing. So for the last 10+ years, I've gone through the motions of celebrating Christmas. Because it's what people do, right?  And every year I would hate Christmas and my husband would make fun of me for being a grinch, and I would just. get. through. it.

This year, I asked James to please respect that as much as I absolutely LOVE spending time with his family, I just don't want to do Christmas. Not this year. This year has been so hard, and I can't fake my way through this. He understood (because he's amazing) and I was all, "Holy Shit!! I don't have to do Christmas!!"

I was so happy. It's the happiest I've been about Christmas in years.

And then I heard about this "Longest Night" service at church, and ...well, now this holiday season has become a bit of a gift. I don't have to celebrate Christmas, and I have a space to just grieve for a bit and be sad, with other people who are sad. We don't have to wear Christmas sweaters and wrap things in bows and make sure our hair looks great for pictures...we can just cry for a while.

In the saddest way possible, it was really nice.  Even with the weight of everyone else's grief, it felt really good to just sit there in the dark and have permission to just be sad.

It was also a  moment of stillness, and in those quiet moments, I learned what I am grieving.  What I am afraid of.

The thing is...I'm holding on to hope with everything I've got, but sometimes hope feels like razor blades and I just want to let go.

I lost myself this year, and my brain has been re-wired, and every day I'm scared I'm going crazy, and that I will lose this battle with myself.

I'm so tired.

And as people spoke of their loss and others gathered round to offer comfort, I bowed my head and prayed that no one would come near me. I didn't expect that to be my prayer, and I was surprised by it, but I prayed really hard just to keep everyone away from me.

And it came to me what's really hurting me the most right now.

I'm trying really hard to love people again...but I don't believe that anyone loves me.

I hear people say they love me ...but I don't really believe it. I didn't want anyone to come near me, because I knew I wouldn't believe in any comfort that they were offering.

When I was younger, I learned that my father didn't love me. My mother didn't love me. My grandparents didn't love me. My church didn't love me. Kids in school didn't love me.

No one loved me.

I learned that no matter how much I loved, that I wasn't loved in return, and I built up some armor.

And through the years, the armor has weakened a little bit. These past few years, I loved fully, and I believed that I was loved.

And then I learned that I was foolish. And unloved. And hated.

I believe my husband loves me. But not really anyone else. That was my thought in church tonight. Like a giant punch in the chest.

You are unloved. Any comfort offered here tonight will be false, it will not last, your hope is razor blades...
...let go.

And then my friend Chris was beside me and asked if I wanted him to walk with me to light a candle. He held my hand, and as we walked towards the front of the church, his wife Trudy walked on my other side, held my other hand. And even bearing their own grief, they walked with me in mine.

I feel so selfish these days. My problems seem so small in the face of others, and all I do these days is try to figure my own shit out, when everyone around me suffers just as much, if not more...

...but I can't really be any good to anyone else if I don't have my own shit worked out, so I keep untangling and stitching the unraveled bits back where they're supposed to be and just trying to be ok. Some days it works. Other days, not so much.  (I try to write about all of the days, because I'm not hiding anything anymore.)


Anyway, the point is...I think...is that right when I was feeling selfish and was so sure that I was unloved and could not authentically and honestly receive love, Chris and Trudy walked beside me and showed me that I was wrong. I mean...they didn't just walk beside me...they came and got me...

My brain is a tricky thing. It lies to me quite a bit these days. But it also reveals some truths that I need to work on.

I have been faking receiving affection. I feel that people do not love me. I believe their friendship is false, their words of comfort are not true, that they will disappear as quickly as they have shown up. They will disappoint me, they will hurt me, they will leave me on the ground, gasping for breath, with no idea what just happened...

But I know that that isn't true. The actions of a few don't define everyone. The world is gigantic. There are billions of people out there. In the grand scheme of things, it's just a handful who've hurt me. There are also a handful who have shown me great love. I have a choice what I can believe. I just have to recognize these feelings and talk myself through them. I have to remember that my brain got re-wired this year, and I'm going to have to keep messing with it to get it back in order.

I think I have another point...

I write pretty honestly here, and in return, people have shared some pretty personal things with me. So this is for you guys...

(I volunteer for an animal shelter, so stay with me ...)

...some people are scared chihuahuas. They are in the shelter, confused and scared and shaking and some of us just want to get in there and love them and show them that it's going to be ok. And in return, the chihuahuas are almost always going to snarl and try to bite you. Because they're freaked out. And they don't know you, and they don't believe that you just want to love them, and they're just trying to protect themselves. So you give the chihuahuas some space, and you go hang out with the other dogs for a while and you love them and they love you back, no questions asked.

So....First - just because a chihuahua bites you, doesn't mean the other dogs will. Go love the other dogs for a while and see what happens.

Second - Scared chihuahuas aren't bad dogs.  They don't mean to hurt you. They're just scared. Forgive them. Be patient with them. Maybe stay away from them for a little while, so that everyone can have some space to be ok.

Third - Don't let life turn you into a mean chihuahua. If you stay in that cage, backed into the corner, snarling at everyone who comes near, you're never going to get the opportunity for a new life. But if you just trust a little bit, there's probably going to be bacon and tennis balls in your future, along with a shit load of cuddles, kisses and love.


This is the only dog in the shelter who ever drew blood from me (he was holding on very tightly to his tennis ball). He's lived with us for 4 years now, and we love the crap out of each other.



Do you know what I mean? People are super fucked up, and they do mean and terrible things and we do mean and terrible things but most of us are just hurting and scared and sometimes....we just have to love and we have to believe that people love us. It comes with some risk, but don't all great things come with risk?

We deserve to be loved. We deserve to believe we are loved, and we deserve to allow ourselves to be loved. That's it. That's the point. We take the risk and just love and just receive love.

And in a few days, if I'm mired in feeling unloved, remind me that I wrote this. And if you're having a bad day, let me know, and I'll remind you that you can love, and that you are loved.

Happy Holidays and a whole lot of love,

Jessica

A Letter to my Enemies

This weekend I had to factory reset my phone. When I used it to log back into my facebook account, I accidentally logged into my old facebook account. The one that I deactivated when this year went horribly wrong. On my new account, I have a lot of people blocked (it's easier to ignore what people are saying about you when you can't actually see what they're saying about you), but on the old one...well...there they all are. And one of them "liked" my Hey Lola page.

I don't know why. 

I don't know if it's a way of reaching out or just another form of passive aggressive bullying. 

But...you know...since you're here, old friend...


Dear Enemy,

I'm not sure if you've heard, but this year was really hard. A lot of untruths were spoken about me, a lot of rumors, gossip, unkind things. Some of those things were said by you.  Some of those rumors were started by you. All of those rumors built into one of the ugliest things that I've ever experienced. And it ripped scabs off of some old ugly things. I fell into a deep depression. I wanted to kill myself. My business suffered horribly. I now deal with some pretty hardcore social anxiety. I cry a lot. You know...just a hard year.

But I want you to know this - I'm ok. And what was the ugliest year has turned into a year of a lot of growth.  A really nice year, actually.

I know that I've probably spent a lot more time thinking about you than you have about me. There have been times that I've sat with my therapist (because I'm in therapy now) and just cried because I was trying so hard not to hate you.  Trying so hard to not to want to get even. Not to wish for you to fail at everything you try. I've spent months trying to figure out how to keep loving my neighbors, when my neighbors have hurt me so deeply. And in the process of healing from all of the hurt that the beginning of the year brought...

I found the truest of my friends.

I found out that talking about how hard everything can be, was healing to other people who are having a hard time.

I discovered that I don't have to try so hard or work all of the time. Sometimes I can just be.

I discovered hiking and bird watching with my husband!


I see these in real life! With my husband! (photo by James Mcghee)


I discovered the peace and healing of water.





I found my church.

I started painting again.



Painting by Jessica Mcghee




I let go of a lot of fear.

I found out that helping people is still ok, I just do it a little differently now.

I found people who really love me, and who let me love them.



I'm still struggling. This week I'm tackling resentment...I don't want to be resentful, but there it is, so I'm fighting it. I still get sad. I still freak out in public.  But these little battles are ok, because overall, I'm pretty content with how everything turned out this year.  That list up there...those are a lot of gifts that I wouldn't have if it weren't for the part of the year that sucked.

And I'm not mad at you. Like - I wish you were sorry, because I thought we were friends. I thought you knew the person that I was. I thought you wouldn't believe that I would do something like that to you. And I feel like, with so much time passing, that you have to know now. I feel like surely you must know that those were lies, and how much damage those lies did.

But maybe you don't. Or maybe you do, and you're just not sorry. But I'm not mad. I think people do things out of fear and in the interest of protecting what's theirs and sometimes when things go south, people need an enemy. And for some reason, this year I made a good enemy for a lot of people. 

It's not like I've never done the same thing. I definitely get fear. I definitely get fear based actions. And maybe your actions weren't born of fear. I guess I'll never really know.

But I want you to know this. I don't hate you. I'm not mad at you. I think that you were really careless with your words and I hope that you don't do that to anyone else, because your actions were devastating, but ...you know...I guess we all do what we think we need to do to get by.  Maybe I did something to you that was hurtful that I'm not even aware of.  If I did, I'm truly sorry. I only ever wanted to be your friend....and I have enough self awareness to know that sometimes I fall drastically short of being a good friend.

Anyway, I thought I'd throw this all out there, since you showed up. I could give this a Hallmark ending and be all, "Because of you, life is gumdrops!" and  "I love you!" and all of the sappy crap that happens in Hallmark movies that pretty much never happens in real life...

Life isn't gumdrops. But I'm a better person for making it through the worst parts of this year.  And if loving my neighbor means I don't hate you, I don't wish bad things for you, I hope you and your family are ok but I'm going to go ahead and keep you at a safe distance...then I guess I love you, neighbor. I guess I'm thankful for your actions, because at the end of the day, I like this version of me better than the version from the beginning of the year. 

Happy holidays and all the best,

Jessica


It looks like rain...

What does anxiety look like? What does depression look like? Supposedly they're "invisible illnesses."

I guess that's true.

I am in the middle of a full blown spiral downward. You probably can't tell. I'm sitting in this coffee shop, people all around me, typing...working, headphones on, just like everyone else...

We're all ok, right?

I come here to practice for work. When I get to work, I'll have to actually talk to people. Smile. Laugh. Certainly not cry. So I come here to practice just being around people for a little bit, so that when I get to work, I can be normal. Or at least look normal.

We're all ok...

It's 2:59 pm.

I am trying not to cry. I keep having to remember to sit up straight. My body tries to fold into itself and my back will hurt for days if I don't catch it.

Sit up straight.

Fix your face. You're wearing this look of devastation. It's weird. Half smile or something.

Stop biting your nails. They're bleeding.

Are you mad? Stop being mad. Stop freaking out. The past is over. No one is going to hurt you.

Who cares what they think?

Why can't I stop caring?

You hate her, don't you? This is why we never had children...

Don't hate. Hate is bad.

What does forgiveness look like?

Why are you thinking about this again?

Think about something else. Think about anything else.

I can't breathe.

Stop obsessing over that e-mail. No one cares.

Don't cry. DO NOT CRY.

I miss my husband.

DO NOT CRY.

I want to go home. I want to go to sleep. I want to go to sleep and never get up...
But no...we don't give up that easily...

I should take more vitamin D. My therapist mentioned the change in seasons...

But I love winter...I just hate me.

I don't hate me. I hate my brain.

Why is this happening? Why won't it stop? Why won't it just shut up?

I can't.

I can't be here anymore.

I want to scream. Screaming is weird. Do not scream.

My chest. My chest hurts.

Don't cry. Keep typing.

Fix your face. Look around. Smile at strangers.

Someone walked in that I know. Head down. Don't look up. Pretend that you don't see them. They might want to talk to you. Head down, keep typing.

Don't cry.

3:08 pm.

This goes on forever.

It never turns off.

In my head, it looks like rain. It feels like drowning.

But it's invisible.

3:08 pm in a coffeeshop, typing, headphones on, and we're all ok...


...it looks like we're all ok.

If you say "Anxiety" three times in a mirror...

...then anxiety will show up and kill you. Or something.

Although I've apparently always had anxiety, this year I developed a really lovely case of social anxiety. From hell. It makes me weird, and then I feel like I have to explain why I'm weird, which makes me want to cry, which makes me just abruptly end sentences and run away.

This is so far away from the person I have been all of my life. Anxiety, yes. I am a lifelong nail biter, worrier, over-thinking over-explainer. But I've also always been pretty good with people.

I mean...I used to be a stripper (that's a story for another day). Standing naked in a room full of strangers doesn't really go with social anxiety. And now I own a bar, so being social is a requirement of my life.

But...

Oh my god. This week has been so hard. And it's kind of funny, because I'm pretty sure that a lot of people think that I really have my shit together.

For the record...I definitely do NOT have my shit together. Just in case you also don't have your shit together... we're in this boat together, trying our hardest to keep it afloat.


I think we're taking in a little bit of water...?


My anxiety is raging and I feel exposed and naked and weird and I wish people would stop looking at me and even if they're not looking at me it feels like they're looking at me and I just want to crawl inside of myself and hide from everything. And because I can't hide from anything because life requires that you be present, I feel weighed down and freaked out and sad, and here comes depression...

And here's what's really triggering everything - my writing about Eugene and the decision to sell our bar.

I write about Eugene because I think it's really important to share these stories, and to share them from the viewpoint of someone that you know. It hits a little closer to home when it's not something you saw on the news or a facebook post that's been shared a gazillion times. Most people who read my blog know me, so through me, you can know Eugene, and see what he's up against. And maybe it will change your way of thinking a little bit because now it's real...because you know me, and you know that I care about Eugene. That's my hope. BUT - as a result of trying to write honestly about myself and my struggles and hopes and friendships, now you see me.

You can see Eugene, which is good.

You can see me, which is bad.

I also wrote about selling my bar and some of our customers are kind of freaking out. I get it. I'm kind of freaking out, too. I know - I KNOW - that this is the right decision. But I also know that my husband and I built Blue together. We saw friendships and marriages start here. We started a community movement. There are gardens and murals and volunteer days and a community association solely dedicated to this neighborhood and all of that was born in our bar.

I will cry for days when we let it go. For sure. Building Blue is one of the coolest things that I have ever been a part of. But it's time to let it go.

But people are sad and they want to talk about it and so we talk about it and then there are all of these feelings and I'm a person who cries, so I want to cry, but I'm working and I can't cry because absolutely NO ONE wants to be waited on by the over-emotional bartender who is just crying all over the place so I try to control my emotions but I can't so I go hide for a minute and now I'm weird and...

anxiety. anxiety. anxiety.

There she is. My old friend.

Such a bitch.

And she usually doesn't travel alone...depression and anxiety are pretty much BFFs - where one goes, the other one can't be far behind.




And so, anxiety has me completely twisted up in knots, feeling exposed and feeling like a weirdo. And since my writing about Eugene has triggered some of it, I start thinking about the relationship that I have with Eugene and some of our similarities...

My husband often says that one of my biggest weaknesses is that I think everyone is my friend, and that's why I get my heart broken so much. That I see friendship in everyone, I love everyone and I think they all love me back. But people don't see me the way that I see them, and when I realize that, my heart breaks a little bit. Sometimes a lotta bit.

Eugene also thinks that everyone is his friend and there is pretty much nothing you could ever say that would make him think any differently. So this week, as we work through the system and try to get him back on medication to organize his thinking a little bit, I have been struck with the horrible thought that by working to make Eugene "well"...will we break his heart over and over again?

Will he realize that people he called friends are taking advantage of him, or are people that he doesn't even know, or are people that just want him to go away?

Will he feel this heavy weight of un-reciprocated love? Will this steal some of his joy? All of his joy?

I think that I'm helping, but am I actually doing something terrible?

And I am suffocating. I feel crushed. I can never do enough. I don't know what I am doing. I'm really screwing this up. There is too much suffering. People are cruel and the world is dark and I am sinking, sinking, sinking...

Anxiety. Depression. The meanest girls in school.

But I'm a fighter, you know? I don't like to be scared of things. I don't want to be a person who doesn't do things because I'm scared. When I write, I am exposed and you see me and I hatehatehate that. But people like me, who also struggle with anxiety and depression, read my blog and feel not so alone and that means the world. That is more important than my fear. You see me, but you also see Eugene and the millions of others who are like him, and that is more important than my fear. More important than my discomfort.

I cried the whole time I wrote this. I am slumped into the tiniest version of myself that I can possibly make. My fingernails are shredded. But I am not dead. This will not kill me. Anxiety and depression are the meanest girls in school, but if you stand up to bullies, eventually they go away.

Or at least to the opposite side of the cafeteria.










Why Don't You Just Get a Job?

A few weeks ago I wrote about my friend Eugene.  Eugene is homeless and mentally ill and we've become friends over the past few months. It feels a little bit weird prefacing every story about Eugene with "he's homeless and mentally ill," as though that somehow defines him. Those things do not define Eugene. But they do make life difficult for him and those difficulties are relevant in sharing the story of my friendship with Eugene.

I always ask Eugene for permission to write about him. I don't write what he doesn't want me to write. I don't share these stories or pictures without his consent, which I ask for before I write each post. I believe his mental capacity is enough that he understands what I'm asking.




About a month ago, Eugene told me that he had to go to court. I asked if I could go with him, and he said yes. I knew that Eugene had no real home, and I could tell from our conversations that he was living with some sort of mental disability. I thought that maybe if I went to court with him, I could see exactly where he was in the system, and maybe I could somehow help him have a life that was maybe...a little...easier?

I don't know.

I get these ideas and I don't know what I'm doing and I don't know what I hope the outcome will be, but I live with this constant voice in my head that's telling me that I can help. I've had to quiet it down occasionally because sometimes, the truth is - I can't help. And if I try to help, I'm going to screw everything up. OR, people don't want my help and my trying to help just pisses them off. OR, I try to help people so much that I forget my own needs and I end up completely screwed. It's a little bit like an illness that I've had to learn to manage - this "chronic helping."

So, with all of the hope and ignorance and desire to help that I could gather, I went to court with Eugene for the first time. My friend Dannette owns a bar across the street from me. She also considers Eugene a friend, so we all went to court together. Strength in numbers, or something.

The thing is, even though I went  with Eugene to try and help...court freaks me out. I'm pretty much the least qualified person to go help someone out in a court date. I had to go once regarding a car that I had let sit in my driveway for two years. I was in school for biology and somehow, I thought that the judge had decided that I was an environmental terrorist. I just sat there hysterically sobbing the whole time, while everyone in the courtroom looked at me as though I were completely insane.

Another time I had to testify against someone who had brought a gun into a club I worked at. I basically just quivered and mumbled and pointed and tried not to cry.

I don't know what to do in court. If I'm not in trouble, I feel like I'm in trouble. If I am in trouble, I make the trouble a thousand times bigger than it actually is. Judges are super intimidating.

But I went to court with Eugene...even though I don't even know if I'm allowed to be in court with Eugene. We were lucky enough to run into a friend who gave us some advice, and when Eugene was called to the bench, I went with him. The judge asked who I was and I stammered my name and said that I was a friend and an advocate for Eugene. My face turned bright red. I was shaking. I almost cried. What the hell is an advocate, anyway? I just threw that out there because I felt like it made me sound like I was legitimately supposed to be there.

I do not know what I am doing, and I am totally freaked out.

This was apparently a second appearance for Eugene. At his first appearance he had asked for time to hire an attorney. Eugene doesn't have a real understanding of what an attorney costs. He believes the state's attorney is his best friend, and that he can represent Eugene in court. Before we went in front of the judge, Eugene and I talked about the importance of asking for a public defender. Eugene cannot afford a lawyer. He has no real income.

The judge looked at me, rolled his eyes and said something about Eugene being here with "his assistant." He then asked Eugene if he had a lawyer. Eugene did not. Eugene started saying something about the state's attorney being his lawyer. He pointed at another lawyer and said, "that's my lawyer," at which point the lawyer stated that Eugene hadn't hired him. Eugene wasn't making a lot of sense and the judge leaned back in his chair, said that he had asked a yes or no question, and that he was now starting to get mad.

Look...I get it. Eugene is really well known in the courts. They're all probably sick of seeing him. But the thing is...his mental disability is obvious, even if you talk to him for just a couple of minutes. It's clear he's homeless. How does this process, where we pretend that Eugene completely understands what's going on, benefit anyone? The judge? The court? The city? The people? Eugene? Who benefits from this? What problem are we solving?

At the end of the day, Eugene denied a public defender and got an extension to come back to court on another date, with a private lawyer - a private lawyer that he still won't have the money to pay for, and so he'll show up without an attorney - again.

I wonder how much that experience cost the courts? What was the point?

Dannette and I went back to court with Eugene the next day, and I again went before the judge with him. A different judge. A remarkable difference in how we were treated. This judge also obviously knew Eugene, was compassionate and caring, and we were assigned a public defender.

There were two charges of  "pedestrian soliciting contributions on a highway" and one charge of "improper pedestrian crossing of road." The state's attorney offered 150 days in jail, with one day credited for each one day served - so 75 days.

To clarify some points I made in a previous blog post - Eugene is homeless. He does not have access to a shower. He has a mental disability. He does not smell very good, he does not make a lot of sense. His chances of getting hired by anyone for a legitimate job are pretty much zero. His options are to basically go away and quietly die, so that society doesn't have to deal with him anymore, or to do what he needs to do to survive. So he does what he needs to do to survive. As he should.

Since 2010, Eugene has been ticketed and/or arrested 106 times.This is what it's like to be a homeless person who can't access resources and can't get a job. These are the things he has been ticketed/arrested for: Obstructing a driver on the highway. Soliciting a ride on the roadway. Soliciting employment on a highway. Walking on the highway. Trespassing. Improper crossing of the road. Panhandling. Yelling in the street. Using the wrong crosswalk.

There are other charges. Disorderly conduct. Public Intoxication. A paraphernalia charge. But most of them...I believe over 90 of them...are for the initial reasons listed above.

(Some people might say, "oh, but look - a paraphernalia charge! Drugs, so, he's a bad guy." Well, first, drugs don't make somebody a bad guy, and second, Eugene picked a pipe up off of the ground, got arrested for trespassing, got in trouble for the pipe. I believe that Eugene doesn't lie to me, and I've never seen him high. I also believe that if you've already been arrested 100 times, no one in the world is going to believe that you "just found" a pipe on the ground. Except for me. Because I know Eugene and I know he picks up everything he sees on the ground.)

I also want to point out that I am well aware that Eugene has a police record that spans 30+ years. I'm only able to access records starting when he was 17. I know some of Eugene's history. My own family history mirrors some of his. I know when all of the odds are against you, and your support system is non-existent, how very easy it is to veer the wrong way at a young age, and never be able to find your way back on track.

So, I don't really care about anyone else's version of Eugene or about the mistakes he made in his past. I care about the person I know.

And the person I know is basically being repeatedly arrested for being homeless and mentally disabled. He is repeatedly being pushed through the courts, and this is what he will do for eternity until someone addresses the root of these problems.

The courts don't seem to have any interest in doing this. I don't believe that Eugene has ever gone to court with an advocate. Together, Eugene and I rejected the States Attorney's offer of 150 days. Eugene had an appointment at the Human Services Center, we were going to do an assessment, we were going to see if we could get new medication, explore job programs, housing programs, anything we could find. And for the first time, Eugene had a support system willing to navigate this process with him.

The State's Attorney came back with an offer of 60 days. We reiterated that we were making attempts to travel a different path, and declined the offer. After all, 2 months in jail isn't going to teach Eugene how NOT to be disadvantaged. So we're going back to court.

Yesterday another solicitation for employment charge came through, so we now have 3 court dates in January.

Today we had our assessment with Human Services. I was going to meet Eugene at 9 am this morning, so we could go together. Last night, at 1:30 am, as I was driving home from work, I saw Eugene walking down the sidewalk. It was snowing. Kind of raining. Mostly cold. I pulled over and asked him where he was going. He said he wanted to make sure that he was going to make his appointment in the morning, so he was just going to sleep under the stairs behind my bar.

Again - snowy, rainy, mostly cold. Everything is wet. The stairs behind my bar sit on top of mud. Eugene has no hat, no gloves, no winter coat.

So that's not going to work. But I don't know what I'm doing and also, boundaries. Boundaries are really important. Eugene can't come home with me.

As luck would have it...or God...or whatever...my patrons at the bar had been extraordinarily generous with me that evening. Like, not just a little bit generous. Really generous. Like - generous to the point that I was like, "this is too much. I have to give this back or something."

And here comes Eugene. I thought about using the money to get him a hotel room for the night, but Eugene will need help for more than one night. So we went to Walmart and bought a coat, some gloves, a hat, a yellow safety vest and a cold weather sleeping bag. We went to McDonald's and bought some food. Then we drove around for a while trying to find a place where he could sleep - where he might find some dry shelter, and hopefully not get arrested.

You might be thinking, "Why not go to a shelter?"

Because apparently it's just not that simple.  But the shelter system discussion is for another day...

I picked Eugene up this morning and we went to the assessment. I think it went well, but we won't really know anything until next week. We also have to be on a weird schedule because Eugene doesn't have a phone or a home, so the only way that I have of being sure to get information to him is our weekly meeting on Wednesdays. So everything always has to wait a week.

After the assessment, we called Social Security to try and find out what was going on with his disability. After nearly an hour on hold, we gave up. We're going to try going in person to the local office next week. I'm going to call some local agencies and see what options are available. And in the meantime, the weather will get colder, and I don't know where Eugene will sleep.

I have a car and a phone and I can drive and I'm usually able to speak coherently. I can do all of these things and I am already exhausted with this process. I already have a running mantra in my head of "This is fucked. This is SO fucked."

In the meantime, Eugene keeps telling me how blessed he is.  And he wanted me to make sure I shared another picture of  him working, in his safety vest, which he has turned into his "work uniform."




The Church Mouse gave Eugene that suitcase in the background. The owners at Tasty's got him some new clothes and wrote on his vest to create his"uniform." Dannette from the Basket Case provided those socks on his feet. My customers made it possible for him to have that hat and that vest. This neighborhood has embraced Eugene.

That is a look of pride on Eugene's face, because he is working, which is all he wants to do...

These connections and these experiences are humbling, you guys. Overwhelming. Beautiful. Heartbreaking. Life changing.

And I still don't know what I'm doing. Eugene kind of knows what he's doing. We're figuring this shit out. I just wanted to share this journey with you...to let you to know that this is really hard, and "why don't you just get a job?" sounds so easy...but sometimes life just doesn't work like that.

I didn't know it was like this. I've been homeless, but I didn't know ...really know...it was like this.

Sometimes life is so much harder than it looks.

And still, Eugene will tell you that he is blessed.