A Lost Soul

Last week, I lost someone very close to me.

As far as I’m concerned, the streets took her, though she hadn’t been homeless in a while. Some people don’t realize how easily one can end up homeless. it can happen in the blink of an eye. It really doesn’t take much; a bad decision, a natural disaster, fleeing a bad situation, losing a primary caregiver, mental illness, anything. For Val, it was fleeing a bad situation, an abusive relationship. She was married to a guy who was perfect on the outside. Perfect job, perfect father, blah blah blah, her parents loved him, the perfect son-in-law. But stop me if you’ve heard this one before. Behind closed doors, he was a real ass, bullying Val and the kids. You know the type 0 he cannot deal with the world, so he takes it out on his family. Her own family did not believe what was happening, despite the obvious bruises.

Finally, after a really bad night, Val packed up the kids and just left. She didn’t have a lot of places to go. She couldn’t go to her family,since they would have talked her into going home to her husband. For the first two days, she and her kids slept in her car. Knowing they couldn’t live like this, she dropped the kids off at her sister’s house, a sister she thought she could trust. She began to make the rounds of homeless shelters. Back then, there wasn’t a lot of help for homeless women, and at the time, domestic violence wasn’t seen as a cause of homelessness. Not that a lot has changed. She couldn’t believe how she had gotten there. She had done all the right things and gone to all the right schools, married whom she thought was the right guy. So what happened?

A lot of us try quick fixes, a job here, a job there, a get-rich-quick scheme. Val had a habit of getting into relationships to fix her problems. She would pick seemly perfect guys who always promised her the world. Of course, those promises never came true. The thing is, when she finally met someone who actually cared about her, she ran the other way, making claims that her family would never accept it.

Speaking of her family, her sister tried to get custody of her children. So did her husband, who would search the streets of Boston and Cambridge looking for her, even though there was a restraining order against him. She didn’t know which way to turn. She listened to so-called advocates, who told her she needed to fix herself. So she went to doctors, who gave her pills to make her feel better. When those didn’t work, she began hanging out with people who self-medicated, and oh my, she picked up a drug habit. Things got really bad for a while.

She finally was forced by medical staff to go to a detox facility, where she met a drug counselor who treated her like a person and got her into a halfway house. Slowly, things got better. She finally got divorced and stayed clean. Her kids came back into her life, and then she met a guy. Her family never accepted him; they thought that the guy who nearly choked her to death was perfect. But then her new guy turned into a jerk as well. No, he didn’t beat her, but sometimes people who are in self-help groups tend to act holier than thou and are judgemental. She eventually left him, and in an effort to win the approval of her family, went back to her ex-husband, who had suddenly become a new man.

Within a year, things went back to the way they had been. Val had a home now, thanks to her second husband, so she was never homeless again. But after the failure with her first husband, she went into a downward spiral. Over the years, things just got worse. She had problems with drugs, alcohol, and bad relationships. Her family, including her children, had pretty much abandoned her.

The end came in her sleep. She got something she needed all along: peace. What Val really needed, though, was to be loved for how she was; childlike, ditzy, silly, non-perfect Val. She was only a lost soul, and everyone tried to fix her to make her perfect. I loved her just the way she was. Rest easy Val, I’ll think of you always.

James Shearer

James Shearer is a writer and co-founder of Spare Change News.

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