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Because That’s What You Do in Life

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Because That’s What You Do in Life

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John Michael’s newest Life Is a Sweet, Tender Bruise column, “Because That’s What You Do in Life,” shares about Sarah and her life, someone he helps drive around when she needs it. 

I met Sarah a couple of years back when one of the homeless kids I drive around asked me to pick up his sister. She’s not his biological sister, but that’s how homeless people and low-income people talk about someone they like.

The first year I knew her, I didn’t really enjoy her personality all that much. She is very pretty: long red hair, pale skin, fairly curvy, and in her early 20s. She is affectionate and kind to her “brothers and sisters, moms and dads.” But she is loud, always right about everything, burps and farts; self-righteousness as hell, always expressing some displeasure in her life. That first year, she was also doing meth at a rapid pace, full of “nothing fazes me” bravado. She had two kids and wasn’t seeing them all that much. They were being raised by her biological mom and she seemed fine with it.

However, there was a part of her that was hoping and wanting to change her life some, despite the drugs. She would acquire a job that I would drive her to once in a while. The next time I’d see her, she would either be between jobs or working another one.

Then she got pregnant again with a guy she liked who didn’t do drugs and was kind to her. This was enough to get her off meth for real.

Once she was off the drugs, she wanted her life functioning properly, yesterday. Despite being sober, she was still burning through jobs and had several different vehicles that never worked for more than a month. She and her fiancé and now baby daughter have moved several times and are currently living in a fairly large motel room. All done with that nothing-fazes-me bravado. The only advice I ever give her is “slow down.” Nobody listens when I tell them that.

She and her fiancé and now baby daughter have moved several times and are currently living in a fairly large motel room. All done with that nothing-fazes-me bravado. The only advice I ever give her is “slow down.” Nobody listens when I tell them that.

At some point, I really started to like her as a human. I was driving her either home from court or a doctor’s appointment. She was rattling on about something she really didn’t know a lot about but was pretending she did.

I said, “You are full of shit, you know that, right?” And, to her credit, she realized she was and started laughing, as did I.

I really like her fiancé too. He is good with their daughter and good at helping Sarah seeing things differently when she is feeling persecuted. She fights a lot with her mom about how much she gets to see her other two kids. Even going to court on occasion. But is also glad her mom is there to help with the load. She hates that she wasn’t there all that much for the kids when she was using. Once, she admitted her mom was right about something and I said, “That must sting a little.” “It burns.” she replied.

Sarah doesn’t get a lot of compliments from her mom or maybe anyone else except her fiancé. She is proud of kicking meth and wants someone to tell her she is doing alright. So, that is kind of my role in her life at this point, to provide some reassurance and calm presence.

Her current job is a good fit in my opinion. She doesn’t ask me for money anymore and rarely ever did. But, you know, kids need diapers and babies need formula, and the rent, etc., so, she will drop some hints.

She was making all the decisions for the family because it gave her some control. I slipped her some diaper money the other night when I was driving her to work, since yet another car had bitten the dust, and she broke down crying.

“I feel like I can’t do anything right,” she said, which I was touched to hear her say because her pride rarely leaves room for self-recriminations.

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She said she was going to let her boyfriend help more in dealing with her mom and with other things.

“I can’t handle it anymore,” were her words. The bravado is breaking down a little further. She isn’t getting a lot of sleep these days, what with the baby and working the night shift.

One night, she said, “I don’t want to work,” as I was pulling away. I drove her back to their hotel room the next morning. Normally, she walks the couple of miles, but we have had a ton of rain lately, so, she has been calling me for rides. It’s funny some people have no trouble asking for help and others, like Sarah, hate it.

When we got to the room, all three kids were inside with the fiancé. She blurted out, “I don’t want to go in there,” followed quickly by, “yes, I do.” (I imagine my momma said that a few times coming home from work after a long day.) I gave Sarah a hug and told her it was okay not to want to.

Then, she went inside, because that’s what you do in life.


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John Michael

Hello, good people. I am rarely sure how to describe myself. If I say I am a Christian, many things may arise in your mind that ain't necessarily so. I was homeless for seven years and learned more about myself in that stretch of time than in any other segment of my life. I read the Bible a lot out there and came across a passage in Proverbs that has shaped my approach to life: "A man's pursuit is his kindness." I am well educated with a Master of Social Work degree and have worked a wide variety of jobs in my 52 years. None have lasted too long however. When I was homeless, the beauty of Texas wildflowers made me decide to want to live again. Along with kindness, beauty, play, and self-expression are life-guiding ideas. My shadow contains things like feeling sorry for myself, a truckload of defiance, a desperate need to please women, and no small amount of cruelty. A quote from Luke also has had a lasting effect on me: "For God is kind to the ungrateful and the evil." When I read that I thought, "Hell, I have got a fighting chance." I am here to tell you, you have a fighting chance as well. Besides Christianity, practicing Buddhist and Shamanic techniques inform my relationship to God and the world.