Once Upon A Trail

Last night in my dreams I was at some type of event with lots of different opportunities and hundreds of interesting people. In the dream, I met Roy Rogers and Dale Evans. They’ve both been gone for many years, but in the dream I told them their movies lightened my childhood, made it better. And when the morning sun shook me out of bed, I wondered why in the world that couple showed up in my dreams.

I have not thought about them for … I can’t remember the last time I thought about them. Possibly years ago when I visited the Singing Cowboy exhibit at the Autry Museum of the American West.

As any good geek would do, I launched a little online research. They both had multiple marriages, faced some great losses, and stayed together for decades. Dale wrote the song “Happy Trails” as somewhat of a reality check because a cowboy’s days may lean toward simple, but aren’t always easy. Still, the good cowboy does the right thing and works hard. One line stood out to me: It’s the way you ride the trail that counts[i].

Issues like homelessness don’t make it to the nightly news, but perhaps they should. I was one of the majority of people (around 50%) who rode that trail very briefly. I rarely talk about it because to “normal folks” it makes no sense (they feel certain it could never happen to them) (and I feel equally certain it could). My motivation to attain a more mainstream living situation was fueled by a need to stay connected with my children. My angels (in human skin) were longer-term homeless women who pushed me to take advantage of the personal resources available to me to help me get back on my feet.

Since then – for the last 20 years and until a few weeks ago – I worked in the social service industry trying to eliminate homelessness. And 20+ years after that personal experience with homelessness, I still see so much room for change. Homelessness is not just an inconvenience; for many, it’s a death sentence.

But for all the folks working for a paycheck and idolizing bureaucracy, I also know there are people who really care, there are great service models (we have data and we know what works!), and many opportunities to learn (so much free info is available).

I also see it’s how you ride the trail that counts. For me, part of self-care includes making the journey fruitful/joyful/peaceful (or whatever “full” we each long for) and finding our tribe/peeps.

This week I finish unpacking/organizing and go to the local YMCA to apply for a discounted membership based on my current (pathetically low) income. The goal: exploring opportunities to improve my physical health and build a local support system. Other potential resources include churches, clubs, civic groups, part-time work, school, and volunteering.

So, about Roy and Dale, I remember them reminding children to be honest and work hard. They didn’t let their personal experience with hard times slow their momentum or change their message. They continued to wish others happy trails.

It’s going to be a busy week, but it’s time to cowgirl up.

[i] Visit http://royrogersworld.com/happy-trails/ for more info

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