My old blog is at wanderingscribe.blogspot.com Please visit if you haven’t already.
I have decided to begin the new year with a new blog. This is it. I hope you like it.
Most of you will know the old blog. But if you are coming to this one new you won’t know that I began the original blog (www.wanderingscribe.blogger.com) at a time in my life when I’d hit rock bottom. I actually ended up living in my car. I did it for not much short of a year in the end. Seems insane writing that….A dreadful, dreadful time, when everything fell apart and I didn’t know who to turn to or where to turn. In the end I froze and did nothing. That whole time probably came within the definition of a breakdown.
That first night I did it wasn’t planned, I simply fell asleep in the car. My belongings were already stacked in the boot and backseats ready for me to drive off and find somewhere to stay for the night, a hotel or a room until I figured out what I was going to do. I couldn’t even do that in the end. I was in Brighton at the time and I parked up at the seafront. I was more frightened and exhausted than I could remember (I can’t say ‘ever’, because many of you will know by now that I was frightened for a lot of the time in an early stage of my life). But that night in Brighton I was extremely frightened: I had run out of money and luck and just about out of hope. I sat there watching filthy-white waves crashing on the empty shingle beach until everyone disappeared and there was nothing around me but stars and seagulls as the light quickly faded. Already exhausted and with a splitting headache, I took off the seat belt, bundled up a fleece and lay my head down on the passenger seat, closing my eyes for a few moments….
I had no intention of falling asleep there that night, but in the end I did. And I woke the next morning staring through the windscreen at seagulls flying above me in a bright blue sky (just like in the picture at the top of this header), confused and then shocked that I had slept there the whole night. I couldn’t believe it….But I didn’t die laying there, and I wasn’t attacked and I wasn’t raped…In fact nobody seemed to have noticed me there at all, which by that time was all I wanted — for no one to see how my life had been unravelling for months. For no one to judge me and no one to see what a failure I had made of my life, what stereotypes I had fallen into. Most importantly, I didn’t have to use the last of the credit on my credit card to pay for another room for the night. I could keep that for more petrol…I had slipped through the net.
If you have read my first book you will know what happens next. How I lived in my car like that for the best part of a year in the end; baking in the summer and almost dying, literally, several months later when parked up in the woods, it turned into one of the coldest winters we had had in years. To keep warm I would go to libraries during the day, to apply for jobs online in the hope that one day soon this nightmare would end. One day I heard about blogs. I was out of the loop so much that I hadn’t even heard of one before, or knew what they were. As I sat at the library computer that day, without thinking, I tapped the word into Google, and before I left that day I had started my own one up. (It was so simple to do…). Face-to-face I couldn’t tell anyone my life had fallen apart so thoroughly that I felt I had no one to go to and no where to go. But thawing out in the warmth of the public library, writing it in a blog, I could admit it anonymously. The relief doing that was enormous. Nobody knew who I was, so it didn’t matter what I revealed, how much of a failure I had made of my life…. It was like as a child kneeling in the confession box in church, that little purple velvet curtain pulled across, kneeling there in the dark talking to someone you couldn’t see and who couldn’t see you, the power of that anonymity allowing you to tell the truth about things you wouldn’t usually tell anyone. My blog was my confession box. I wrote what was happening to me, how my life had unravelled, and admitted that I was totally isolated, that I hadn’t spoken to anyone for weeks and then months on end as the nightmare stretched out. I wrote about the day-to-day survival, how I felt about it, and how, despite how desperately I was trying, I couldn’t find a way back in. Some days it was easier than others to do.
People kept coming across my blog, just randomly. People across the UK and USA and random people elsewhere ‘Sven from Sweden one day, Soldad from Chile another. My laneway was getting wider. Every time I went back to the library and checked my email or blog there was another message from a new stranger. Strangers who I would never meet and never speak to, but became the closest thing to friends I had at the time. Soon there were regulars….and somehow more and more people found me. I was on ‘Blogs of Note’ at one stage. Soon, my blog was ‘discovered’. It happened so swiftly. I had only been writing it for a few months. A journalist on the New York Times writing an article about homelessness and people living in their cars in the USA stumbled across it. He emailed and then arranged to call me at a telephone box. His article was on the front page of the New York Times one sunday and I was mentioned in it with a link to my blog.
Then the BBC in the UK did an article, then Readers Digest wrote an article about me living in my car at Christmas, which was syndicated to many of their magazines around the world. They all included my blog address in their articles, and after each was published I opened my email and literally hundreds of emails spilled out from people, not only all across the USA and UK but people across Asia (from Readers Digest Asia), from Sweden and Chile… I even got people from China coming across the articles or my blog and wishing me well. It was like stumbling into a dream during a nightmare. People said they would pray for me. I’d never heard of prayer circles on the Internet but apparently I was added to prayer circles and prayer groups all over the world. And very soon I came under absolutely amazing grace as things started to change; some things started to go right, as if the dice were rolling in my favour again. I could barely believe it at first, but soon I had to…
To cut a long story short (for this blog post), my blog was ‘discovered’; I got a literary agent and a publisher and my story was made into a book. All those prayers and my hope must have worked because not only did my book get published. ‘Abandoned: the true story of a little girl who didn’t belong’ – published by HarperCollins became a bestseller. ‘Abandoned‘ got to number 2 in The Sunday Times bestseller list. Something which still seems surreal.
The book that was published was ‘Abandoned: The true story of a little girl who didn’t belong.‘ (the only thing I didn’t write was the title – that was chosen by the publisher!)
It ended up being the story of my childhood — publishers were more interested in that story: the reason I had no family to go back to, and how something like that could happen to somebody like me. Because, despite the childhood I had, I had a law degree and a good education, and most people wouldn’t have guessed any of this about me. With a childhood like mine, some may say it was inevitable that I wasn’t going to be the greatest at fending for myself in the world, and ended up somewhere like this? I don’t know if I believe that…and besides my childhood was unusual in that I had many advantages too….and many people who at times made me feel special. What I am coming to believe though, after all the emails I have had about me living in my car is how many other people have felt close to that slippery slope, to the abyss of homelessness, or know somebody who has. People like me who were, or are, too proud or embarrassed to admit it until it is too late….
With the economy the way it is, and the curveballs life sometimes throws up, what happened to me could probably happen to any of us. We would all respond differently….and what I did was not want anyone to know until I had got back on my feet again. Only I never did get back on my feet. I spiralled down further and further.
I was lucky though, I found a way to tell people anonymously what was happening to me, by writing a blog, and in the end it became my way out. There were moments I didn’t think I would come out of it alive. Nights, huddled in my sleeping bag across the front seats, when I had almost resigned myself to the fact that one of these days I might not wake up; that I would die in my sleep out there in the woods. But then I found out about blogs…
I didn’t write for a particular person or reason, I just wrote. I had no idea what it might lead to, as I said I literally had not heard of blogs before, and certainly didn’t know any books had come from them! If I had I might have written it differently…I didn’t know if a single person would read mine. But there must have been a bit of hope in me all the time – this was a public journal online that anyone anywhere could read — it was like someone throwing me down a piece of rope, however frayed and short it was… Mostly, I didn’t know why I wrote though. As winter closed around me I wrote because I was cold and the libraries were warm, I wrote because I was ashamed of what had happened to me and writing on the blog was anonymous, I wrote because I had no money and blogs were free, I wrote because I didn’t understand what was happening to me and writing it down was a way of making sense of it. I wrote because I was falling apart and writing was keeping me sane. I wrote because that part of me, wherever it was, must have been saying you never know who might read this and what might happen…keep the faith. But mostly I wrote because I could. I was living in my car, so couldn’t do much else, and writing was something I could still do. The first thing I ever wrote on my blog was ‘I can’t sing, I can’t dance, all I can do is write…’ So I wrote, and I wrote and I wrote, and eventually it led to me getting out of my car. People always want the big miracles, the Proof, but small ones happen every day. This was mine…
I now have an eBook of my blog and that whole time of living in my car. It includes an introduction and new material in the form of the draft blogs that didn’t go up at the time, and an epilogue I’ve added to explain a few things (and a spell and grammar check of course!). I cut a few of the posts because they were overlong but otherwise it is the experience I was going through day-to-day, trying to stay alive and sane and safe out there, and find a way back in from the cold.
You can download my eBook: ‘The Year I lived in my Car’ from Amazon, through the image below.