Conversations with strangers: Adam

You know when you have an experience and it feels somehow like the universe conspired to put you in that specific place at that specific time? That’s happened to me often in life. Maybe it’s just because I like the idea that somehow and for some reason the universe is attempting to show me some sort of direction. Maybe it’s because there have been times where I’ve felt so lost that the second anything aligns in any sort of interesting way I’m ready to pounce like a starving cat about to sink its teeth into its prey. Or I’m just a bit of a hippy. Who knows.

I often find myself having some very interesting conversations with strangers. Sometimes inspiring, sometimes a little strange, sometimes funny. Last week I had one of the more impactful of these conversations.

I was out and about on my bike in the downtown core, casually pedalling my way through the usual hustle and bustle of Toronto: the impatient cars attempting to run me off the road, the incessant construction, the death-defying pigeons. I arrived at my destination just in time to witness the fpotd, or freakout-person-of-the-day. I may have just made that up. But I usually see at least one person having a bit of a freak out on the daily around here. I mean there are a lot of us crammed into Toronto’s downtown core so it’s only natural that at least one of us is going to snap…

This time he was a man in his late 30s, yelling brusquely about how much everyone sucks and challenging every man walking by him to a fight. Quite aggressively, too. He was getting right up in their faces demanding a punch. The hobble in his step gave away his drunkenness if the slurred yelling hadn’t already. He was quite close to me as I was locking up my bike and it was then that our eyes met for the first time. I knew in that moment that he and I were going to have an interaction. I could feel it. I stood there with some mild nerves, trivially attempting to avert my gaze from all the ruckus he was causing. I watched him try once more to provoke a fight from a passerby, and when that failed he staggered his way over to me, looking me in the eyes, and yelling:

What’s the point? What’s the point?” 

I just stood dumbly at my bike as he came closer to me…

Why am I waking up every morning?

I could have wrapped my arms around him our proximity was so uncomfortably close. With our eyes locked intimately he admitted, almost at a whisper,

“I don’t want to wake up anymore.”

My heart pounded in my chest as we stood there together with that knowledge. It was just raw, honest, and painful. The way he said it was so matter-of-fact it broke my heart. And this from stranger whose name I didn’t even know.

What do I do? How can I help? I’m not qualified to deal with this raving man on the street and my own life is out-of-sorts at the best of times. I don’t have anything to offer him. 

Such were my thoughts as I stood there. But for some odd reason I felt like I had been given this great responsibility from the universe to offer something to this man, however small or feeble or unhelpful it may appear to be. So instead of shying away from him, I started talking to him. I asked him for his name.

Adam.

Adam and I ended up spending the afternoon together in the park. We talked about life, people, ambitions, and the “point”. Here are a few things I learned about Adam in our afternoon together.

He’s homeless.
He’s spent most of the last 7 years living as a hermit trying to deal with a kind of PTSD I never found out about.
He loves dogs.
He has a mother nearby who he loves, but doesn’t see much. And he credits her for his plugging along this far in life.
He hates materialism, but he has a thing for motorcycles.
He’s very articulate.
He finds the park very peaceful and likes to spend his afternoons under the trees.
He’s given up on people and tends to dwell on the bad nature of others.
He’s possibly dealing with some mental health issues.
He’s a bit of an alcoholic.
He has very beautiful eyes and wild curly hair.
Most importantly, he has the capacity to be very kind, generous, and outgoing.

He’s a real person with a complicated backstory. Along for this ride with the rest of us.

As we walked around together we got quite a few dubious looks from strangers. Adam was pretty drunk if you recall and so good at drawing attention to us, but it didn’t bother me. I tried to get to the bottom of why he was picking fights with people on the street. Apparently dealing with physical pain is a good distraction from dealing with mental pain, hence the provocations. He wanted bruises. He invited physical pain. I guess I can understand the immediate logic in that. It’s somehow simpler, isn’t it? Our minds are a difficult thing to master or even understand minutely. But even acknowledging that I still had to argue how unfair it was to the poor random people he was challenging. Nobody wants to be provoked into a fight on a sunny afternoon, or even a rainy afternoon for that matter. I just told him what he already knew, that it wouldn’t solve anything going on inside him, and that he’d have to make up his mind to deal with it another way.

But mostly, I just listened. I listened to whatever he wanted to tell me and offered whatever I could. I opened up to him about some of my own struggles which I thought he might relate to. It was a very mutual exchange. We were just two humans in a park talking about life.

For a man who had admittedly “given up on people”, he was certainly very kind to me. Which, to my mind, just shows he needs a helping hand to remind him that he can still become the best version of himself. Maybe with a little encouragement from a stranger. A little acknowledgement. A smile. Eye contact. An ear or two to hear what he has to say and take it seriously. Did I really help him? I don’t know. But I think he was grateful for the interaction just as I was.

I can’t imagine what it’s like to be homeless, it makes me sad to see so many people struggling without a roof over their head on the daily. It’s a bit hard to admit, but when I was younger I used to walk by homeless people and pretend not to see them. You always hear how giving money doesn’t help them/increases the problem/whatever. But whatever the truth is to that doesn’t excuse the purposeful act of looking away from another person who is reaching out for help. A smile, or a brief glance, or a hello… these things can go a long way. People feel invisible because others treat them so.

Let’s always treat each other kindly, please.

Just rambling… thanks for reading.

xo

 

Clouds are magic

Today is an absolutely beautiful day in Toronto, which is a real treat and turnaround from the dreary, bleak, grey skies we’ve been experiencing for what feels like weeks on end. It’s amazing what a difference a crystal clear sky makes in everyone’s attitude; everywhere I go I see smiling faces and people out making the most of the day.

Since I posted that ridiculously long post about New Zealand yesterday I find myself feeling very nostalgic and scrolling through the 1000+ photos I took while I was there. One thing I got really into doing was photographing clouds. I wanted to share a few of them with you guys, cause, you know… 🙂

20161128_16075220161201_12445620161202_08582520161205_09051120161205_09172920161118_155037

Happy Saturday friends xoxo

April blizzards

Winter has been showing Toronto how tenacious it can be by giving us a couple blizzards so far this spring. Or maybe Spring is just being lazy and Winter is being a great friend and covering for it.

April blizzards,
the most bashful
of snowflakes
finally work up 
the courage
to fall.

Screen Shot 2016-04-13 at 11.51.04 AM

I don’t mind, really. I love snow.

Happy hump day 😉

Even the small things

A few days ago I received a phone call from my best friend back home. She told me that one of her dearest friends had taken his own life.  My heart clenched and the tears began falling from my eyes. I knew what he meant to her, what good friends they were… it made my heart ache to imagine her having to adjust to life without him. We just cried together over the phone.

She and I have been friends for a good long time, our entire lives in fact. And there’s no exaggeration here, we shared a crib when we were babies. We learned every lesson in friendship through one another. Despite this life long friendship, I had never met the man who ended his life. My only experience of him was through the photos and stories that she shared with me. So I know what a kind, caring, and generous person he was. My tears are a degree of separation, because I’m not crying for myself, but for my friend who is mourning someone very dear to her.

It’s awful to think of how many people are feeling so desperately lonely and hopeless right now. And how can we help them? Collectively what can we do to help alleviate some of this sadness? Why are we creatures who can be brought so far into despair that we might take our own lives just to be relieved from the pain of living?

And I’m no exception to this. I’m sure none of us are. Most of us, at some point I’m sure, have felt so down that it seemed exhausting to keep going.

Late last night my boyfriend and I were driving home from slack lining. We were stopped at a red light and a homeless man was walking up between the cars asking for change. Homelessness is a very apparent problem in downtown Toronto. It’s everywhere here. I pass so many people asking for change every day on my way to work, on my way to the grocery store, on my way to the dog park. Sometimes I give and sometimes I don’t. My boyfriend asked me to give this man change and I said no.

Why did I say no this particular time? I have no idea. Why do I say yes other times? I also have no idea.

Our light hearted night quickly plummeted into a heated debate about our individual responsibility to help others. Did I say no because I’m becoming increasingly desensitized to homelessness because of living here? Did I just not feel like it?  By the time I got back to my apartment I felt so sick and awful. Like I was the worst of humanity because, on this occasion, I said no.

I sat in silence on my couch for the better part of half an hour wrestling with my conscience when I decided that it wasn’t too late to make the other decision. I got back in the car and drove back to where I had seen the man asking for change. Though it wasn’t going to make me feel better, and though really it wasn’t going to solve anything,  I so badly wanted to change this one decision I had made. But the man wasn’t there. In the time it had taken me to drive home, and then drive back, the man was gone. And my opportunity to offer some little bit of help to him had passed me by forever.

I don’t know why this one occasion became so significant when I’m faced with similar ones every single day. But it was. Maybe because I’m hyper sensitive in the wake of learning of my friend’s friend’s suicide. Or maybe because my boyfriend confronted me so much about it when it’s usually just my decision alone. It’s so easy to feel like my small actions are insignificant and won’t make a difference, because no matter what I give or what I donate, there is always another person in need who I’m not helping. It feels like a never ending cycle. It feels like damage control for a much larger problem. But that’s not the way to think. Because to the person I’m offering my very small helping hand, it makes a difference. And that’s enough. A good enough reason to give.

There’s no right or wrong. We’re all struggling so much within ourselves and it’s unfair to carry the weight of the world’s problems on just our shoulders. But because we understand what it is to struggle, it’s important to find more empathy and compassion for others. Maybe I can’t give every time, and there’s no way I can help everyone on the verge of suicide, but I can pass peace, empathy, and kindness. I have that within myself, I know.

Smile, make eye contact, offer a listening ear, a shoulder to cry on…

Even the small things make a difference.

 

Arriving in Toronto

IMG_20150630_104104

I flew into Toronto on the 30th of June. I was exhausted and slept through most of it. I’d spent the entirety of the day before not only packing a shell of my life into the suitcase that I’d be living out of for the next two months, but also moving everything I still own out of the house that I own with my ex.

It’s a good thing I was already somewhat interested in minimalism before this all happened. I managed to sell most of my furniture on Kijiji which made the hassle of moving heavy, obnoxious objects someone else’s problem. And I just got to watch and collect a little sum of money. Not a bad trade at all. Only had one issue with Kijiji when a girl showed up to take away two large dresser drawers with a tiny little sedan. I asked her how she proposed to take the dressers in her tiny car, but she assured me she measured and knew it would fit.  Anyone with even a modest level of common sense and logic could tell that this was physically impossible, but nonetheless I got to marvel as she and her equally dimwitted (sorry) boyfriend attempted to fit these dressers into her car, and (of course) fail.

“That’s so weird,” she exclaimed, baffled at her defeat. “I totally thought it would fit!”

That’s because you’re an idiot…

After this experience I sadly began to mention in my ads that everyone had to have adequate transport for the items they wanted prior to coming… I mean you’d think it would be obvious, but apparently it isn’t.

Anyways.

Packing for a trip is pretty stressful on its own, and moving is pretty stressful on its own. Combine the two and, well, you can imagine… I spent half the time lying on my empty living room floor like this… because when I have too much to do I end up overwhelmed and then I do nothing.

Screenshot_2015-07-05-12-28-49_1

Rupert was there to help me out, fortunately. By licking my face and lying around with me. Support from loved ones is essential. To my detriment I’m pretty stubborn and thought I’d move everything out on my own. It took only a few hours for me to crack and finally call my brother to bring an SUV to help me with everything. I managed to move most of the things I wanted to, and left the rest for the ex.

Now normally when I travel I pack extremely light, I’m talking one pair of jeans, one pair of shorts, and maybe 5 tee-shirts. This was a bit different. I needed to pack enough that I could survive a month’s dance intensive, 2-3 months of regular clothes, and anything else I needed on a regular basis. I ended up having to haul all of this on a bus, and through the subway to the distaste of those around me.

Screenshot_2015-06-30-17-24-26_1

And I say distaste because the bus driver was a maniac and would take turns like Mad Max would. Every time a corner came around the suitcases would roll (damn the wheels!) into whoever was around me and I kept laughing to myself over how absurd it was and apologising to the people who were understandably irritated by me. But in fairness, that’s a lot of luggage and I didn’t have a choice, or any help. When I arrived at my subway stop I managed to choose the exit without an elevator or escalator so I had to he-man all of this up four flights of stairs. Again, could I have walked to the other side of the subway station to find an elevator? Maybe. But as I mentioned previously I am stubborn and felt committed to suffering to the end.

So that’s the story of my arrival in Toronto. The first night here was a little rough because of all the residual stress, but the days since have been pretty great. I’m really enjoying the energy of this city so far. I think it’ll be very conducive to writing and creating a new life for myself. Also there’s so much going on. The Fringe Festival has just started and I’ve been to see one show already and am looking forward to seeing more. Headquarters are conveniently located just down the street from my sublet. Tomorrow I start my dance intensive, and at some point I need to start the hunt for dog-friendly downtown apartments.

It’s all happening pretty fast!

How did everyone enjoy the weekend?