By Elsiewhere. WARM ZONE WEDNESDAY. HAIRCUTS BY LINDA K.
COLLEEN was first in line. And “Sure! Put me on the facebook!”
The thing that stands out first about Colleen is her high cheekbones. “That’s my Indian part,” she says, when complimented. “Cree.”
“Gorgeous,” you say.
“Aren’t they amazing?” says Linda.
“You’re blushing,” says Maria, who’s watching. And Colleen is!
Linda’s been cutting Colleen’s hair for four years, and their verbal sparring – so companiable – is contagious; the room quickly fills with laughter and Colleen’s chatter, which leads to her sharing a letter she wrote recently in a quest to access specialized dental care.
Colleen granted permission to print the letter here. She describes herself so: “I am a recovering addict and am repairing my life piece by piece…I share my message of hope each day with other people who may be struggling or just want to hear my story….
I grew up in a broken home where I did not receive attention and love: I was shown addiction by family members at an early age. My mother came in and out of my life and I spent most of my younger years in foster homes…. One of the only things that I felt good about during my school years was sports. It was a way for me to excel at something. [She was an award-winning tennis player]. I’ve been in and out of jails, bad relationships and bad decisions and I never felt like there was an out till now.
“I am proud to say I’m clean today, I hold myself accountable for my life and all the decisions I have made. …I have spent 35 years of my life in addiction; I hope to spend the rest of my life in recovery. What I hope…is to teach others of my knowledge and wisdom I have experienced….”
“So, what do you think?” she asks. She means of her letter.
“It’s great. May I reprint it on my Facebook page?”
After her haircut, Colleen sits across from you, and tells you more of her story. And, unwittingly, steps into the dream she has “to teach others.”
She’s four month’s clean, and spends a lot of time at the Warm Zone, a place she is very grateful for as she’s found support there since it began seven years ago.
She is sassy, witty, has a razor-sharp mind, and has survived a lifestyle that ain’t for the weak or faint-hearted.
Her wish is to give back, to influence others to get clean. She believes that telling the story is the best way to educate others. And she is a riveting story-teller, who talks with her entire body, and with a great sense of humor. She’s only 5′ 1″, but oh, my, she’s at least seven feet tall.
What’s most astonishing about Colleen is that she has decided to do something equivalent to moving to another planet. She’s chosen “to live through my heart, not my head”, which means “learning to feel my emotions.” It’s not easy, “it’s second by second, minute by minute…”
Colleen’s story, even the little you heard of it today, is not only the “biggest” story you’ve heard (and though she talked at length, she barely started), it’s also, in some ways, the meanest. Toughest. Scariest. Edgiest. Most raw.
“It’s not a life I’d wish on anyone,” she says. She snaps her fingers. “And I could go back just like that.”
“But I’m choosing not to. I’m choosing to try out this other life now. …and I sit here, watching these creatures…” she points at the space, at the women in the room. “…and at home I find myself watching birds. Birds!” She compares her now-looking to all that she used to have to watch; it was, literally, a matter of life or death. She shakes her head. “Who am I now? Who is this Colleen?” She pats her chest, as if to test if it’s real.
Unbidden, you say, “You are human.”
In the letter she wrote, Colleen concludes like so: “When I’m given a smile, the best thing in life is to give one back, because that’s what makes people’s day, a smile.”
Wednesday at the Warm Zone. Haircuts by Linda K. Stories by Colleen. What riches there are in bearing witness. THANK YOU, LINDA, and COLLEEN.
Elsiewhere, In Abbotsford can be found everyday on her on Facebook page.
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