Category Archives: Diary Post

I’m Done

By  Erin Branscome

FYI that I’m pretty much done with extended family and acquaintances who don’t believe that everyone should have access to healthcare.

To be clear, I’m not talking about people who disagree with aspects of the Affordable Care Act, or any other specific system. I’m not talking about people who agree that everyone should have access to healthcare, but who *disagree* with me on how best to accomplish that.

I’m talking about those people who believe that anyone who can’t afford health care should suffer and die. I’m talking about people who’s biggest complaint about “Obamacare” is that their premiums increased too much for them to be able to afford a new pool. I’m talking about people who believe as a matter of principle that you should be on your own when it comes to healthcare — if you can convince other people to help you out, great, but if you can’t do that, sorry; guess you’re gonna die a slow, painful, and utterly preventable death.

Because what every single one of you are saying, if you drill it down, is that if it were up to you, I would be DEAD.

This is not conjecture. This has been confirmed by multiple doctors. If I hadn’t been steps from an operating room when my intestines ruptured, I. Would. Be. DEAD. (I came very, *very* close to dying, regardless.) According to the ER doctor who admitted me that night, if I hadn’t had insurance — good insurance — I *wouldn’t* have been in the hospital, because at the time, they didn’t think I had anything that serious, and admitting me was a “better safe than sorry” thing. If I hadn’t had insurance, hadn’t had the ability to *afford* an optional night in the hospital, I would have pushed for discharge. The ONLY reason I didn’t go home that night, with what they thought was just an ulcer, is that I had insurance. I only had insurance because of the Affordable Care Act.

Without “Obamacare,” I WOULD HAVE DIED. Either alone and terrified in my bed, unable to cry out for help as the pain became excruciating and my lung collapsed — OR, were I able to crawl down the hall to my parents, I would’ve likely bled out in their arms while they tried to figure out what was going on, tried to get help, writhing in indescribable pain and suffocating to death on my own fluids, before mercifically losing consciousness and dying. Imagine the trauma to my parents and siblings.

And if you had your wish, that’s exactly what would’ve happened.

I’ve explained this, over and over. Again and again I strip naked for you, exposing my scars — flay my skin and rip it apart, letting you climb inside, *hoping* to find some scrap of compassion and always being disappointed. Humiliated, as you refuse to address the critical point and instead repeat talking points and lies, making it perfectly clear that nothing I said mattered. My pain — my *life* — doesn’t matter.

I’m done.

As so many people have said, I cannot teach you how to care about other people. I can’t explain to you *why* you should care; I can’t argue you into compassion. And I’m through trying.

But understand this: unless it’s preceded by a humble admission of guilt and a sincere apology, I NEVER want to hear “I love you” or “I’m praying for you,” or even “How are you doing?” ever again. I NEVER want to hear you offer your disingenuous concern or empty prayers to my parents, ever again. Your words are lies, designed to soothe your conscious and make yourself feel better, and I refuse to allow you that option, out of some misplaced sense of “civility.”

If it were up to you, I. WOULD. BE. DEAD. Period.

You’ve told me that you hate the ACA because of the non-essential items you were unable to purchase because of increased premiums. Even *assuming* that’s true — a big assumption — you’re *still* telling me that my LIFE means less to you than a new pool or a cross-country RV trip. And *I’m* the one lacking civility?

From now on, when you ask me how I’m doing, the answer will always be “none of your business.” When you tell me you love me, I’ll respond that I don’t believe you. And I sure as hell don’t want the meaningless, feel-good prayers you offer up to your false idols of American Nationalism, white supremacy, patriarchy, and capitalism. (And if I see or hear about similar comments to my parents, my response will be the same.)

I’m. Done.

Burn baby Burn

I always felt Los Angeles was a very cruel city with a Hollywood front of pleasantries and falsehoods. The “have a nice day” “I can’t help you when you’re upset” snide of disconnections and dismissals.

The cruelty of those who claim to fight for justice, the unwillingness of activists to reflect

Concrete Realities #2 Image of a concrete wall, with shadows cast on the wall, the texture of the cement and very narrow depth of field.

Photo by Emma Rosenthal

on their own behavior and ethics all the while demanding huge changes in the entire structure of society has been extremely impressive here. The expedience of power and the currency of opportunism knows no bounds, the criminalization of breath, of life, of survival, ordinances that outlaw sleeping in one’s car or provide snitch clauses and heavy fees for the decriminalization of grey market labor in a desperate economy.

I have lived and worked in this city since the early 80s, but the only time I felt at home here was when I moved to Douglas Street about 10 years ago, even before home sharing.
In home sharing, I fell in love with this city, welcoming in guests from all over the world.
Those opposed to home sharing, with all the corruption in this city, have no heart for their neighbors struggling to get by, because it’s easier to blame everything on airbnb than really fight for housing justice. It’s a feel good response: we can do something about this, without really upsetting those with any real power.
By the time I leave L.A. watching it (metaphorically) burn, through the rear view mirror, I will be ready to leave.
View of the L.A. Basin at Sunset: Day End #1 Image description: the view of the L.A. Basin and downtown Los Angeles, just before sunset, seen From Griffith Observatory. Image is distinguished by saturated colors, cloud patterns.

Photo by Emma Rosenthal

All I own is the equity in this house, which I cannot access except by selling to the highest bidder. The most gentrifying thing I could do is sell, but if I cannot afford to live here, to pay this mortgage, live with whom I chose, do the work I can, from the home I live in. I will have no choice. The “anti-gentrifiers”, those trendy, hip, slick, cool, young, pretty activists and the hobnobbers whose names open doors,  who disregard the hosts, many of whom are undesired: elders, chronically ill, DISabled, outside of the mainstream workforce. This elite has been told. They have been warned. We have tried to share the struggle with them and our stories.

They seem to think the radicals of a former age just disintegrated and that old people were always old. What city will they be leaving for their older selves? When they can no longer just couch surf, crash at their parents’ homes or sleep in a tent?
Activism for the strong, beautiful  and powerful is just supremacy and when that ordinance is passed and I’ve reduced my 30 years of life in L.A. to what can fit into a moving van, I will be ready to leave it all behind, for a life I can afford, in comfort, somewhere else, where I may have to take up lawn bowling, and Andy can go play golf, hold protests over green jello and demand local community gardens, with raised beds that those in wheelchairs can reach.  And the L.A. radicals will outgrow their false idealism and start selling condos and make lots of money and live in those high rises that displaced so many, and justify it…
Because their parents had it so rough.

Going Viral (sort of)

Travels of a Tweet

I pretty much NEVER go viral, so I’m a bit thrilled to see this tweet of mine, get some press. We crripl girls go far, traveling in our magic beds. So much we have to say. Are you listening?

Diary of a Staycation: Packing to go home

Diary of a Staycation: Packing to go home: With links to my adventures & accomplishments

I go home today. It’s been an amazing few days, with long periods of necessary solitude  pleasantly interrupted with tea and cake with my airbnb host, Vanessa. Last night localWatts Towers, Watts, Los Angeles, California airbnb host, Leslie also joined us, and we  went out to dinner at Locol a new burger joint in Watts and then we stopped by the Watts Towers.  We are the face of airbnb hosts: elder women on fixed incomes with varying health issues, using home sharing to keep our homes. We are among the many hosts who do this work out of necessity and who also love this work.  We are not reluctant. We are all activists fighting to keep our homes, jobs and community. We have all three been activists all our lives on many fronts. You may recognize Vanessa from the airbnb ad. Her home is gracious and elegant.

The Airbnb I run has 3 active listings, all in my own home. One of the contradictions of this economy is that I was able to qualify for a home loan and very little else, and the home I found that I qualified for, was a very rundown 1014 Craftsman home that needed years of work. So I do have a big house, and I can’t afford a big house. But I qualified for the loan on this very big house. It’s expensive, it’s a lot of work and if I can’t make ends meet my options are to sell and leave. And this is the situation many hosts are in.

Andy, my partner, didn’t join me for my staycation. We thought he might be able to get away at least one night, but he stayed home and took care of guests. People, when they are traveling, when they are away from home in unfamiliar environments  can get very needy. There is a lot of emotional labor in this work.

The purpose of this vacation was to refocus, meditate, write, work on my photography and my photography web page. Living and working in a 24/7/365 business means we never really get a break. I needed to get away and reflect on my life, my work. I am incidentally a business woman. I am essentially an artist and writer.  The craft of writing and art requires solitude, meditation, lots of time where nothing seems to be happening, but there is a deeper process at work. I needed to go and wander the corridors of my own mind and my own heart.

I hope I can bring some of this stillness back to DragonflyHill. I think it would be good for everyone I live and work with. I have a lot of unfinished projects, but I went into this staycation with two clear objectives: Get my photography web page back up. (A change in smugmug formatting had left it in disarray), and finish an article that Xeres Villanueva and I are coauthoring. I did accomplish both these tasks, though some last minute suggestions from Sylvia Posadas, my ever present, online bestie, who lives in Australia and whom I’ve never met, gives us the opportunity to go over it one more time before sharing it with the world. We’ll have it out probably by the end of the weekend.

The photography web page is ready for the world, though I will be adding to it in the coming days, weeks, months and years. Most immediately I will be adding a feature where viewers can purchase my photographs through the web page, and I will be adding images to the “This is Home” series.  Currently the photos of DragonflyHill are listed under commercial photography, and I will also be listing them under fine art photography as well. And as I attach links to this post, I notice a few remaining glitches I need to address, but most importantly, this page is up, and I’m more familiar with the format and will be able to make changes easily. It took me the better part of a day, complete with frustration and just short of meltdowns, to get to this point. I needed the isolation to do this work.

So Andy should be here soon. I’ll brew some tea now, take a shower, get dressed and packed up, and head back into the fray.

Diary of a Staycation: Waking up alone

I woke today alone.  It is cooler at Vanessa’s house in South Central, than in Echo Park. The breeze comes through the windows. It’s a bit warm for me, but not too warm. I will cool myself with wet scarves and iced tea which is brewing. My hair is a mess. I am wearing pajamas and a tank top.  I am slow to deal with breakfast or tea. There is no rush, no one else to consider right now. I can focus on craft and growth.

Vanessa had wanted to have coffee (tea) in the morning, but I messaged her to wait a day. I am also in a lot of pain, which is common with the fibromyalgia, especially after packing and moving yesterday. I usually give myself the first day on a trip, just to rest, as well as the first day back.  This systemic pain can be very limiting.

These days, I rarely wake up alone. Aside from my partner Andy, waking up next to me, there are all the guests, my team members, neighbors and the cat in my home, and morning is the most sociable time at our bnb at DragonflyHill Urban Farm. Once the workday has begun, my bedroom turns into a hallway for team members going to and from the laundry room. Since I need to work from bed, we have many bedside meetings. The bathrooms are all shared in our home, shared between guests and team members. I do not have a private bathroom, so just going to the bathroom in the middle of the night, I’m at work. I check my hair, wear sweats to bed, not pajamas and check myself before leaving the room.  Breakfast is wonderful, as everyone gathers in our dining room, but it is also a daily obligation. It is home, it is family, it is community and it is work.

Image of a crafstman house dining room, with a huge breakfast spread: tea, coffee, eggs, bagels, sausage, fruit, condiments

Breakfast at DragonflyHill Urban Farm

Before DragonflyHill, before Andy, I was dangerously lonely. Loneliness is a huge health issue. It is rampant with so many people suffering from isolation, unable to maintain or find human relationships. Most workplaces are dehumanizing and impersonal and one is expected to be “professional”.  It is safer not to reveal much.  Outside of primary relationships, there is little emotional intimacy, and there are many people who are not in a relationship who are desperately alone. It is especially hard with a significant illness and for single parents, who are not alone, but struggle alone to take care of themselves and their children.  I am not so desperate now. I love my life and the amazing people in it. This for me is a huge miracle. Time alone allows me to reflect on that when I am not caught up in the bubble of “getting it all done”.

Today is wide open. I want to work on an essay that has been in penultimate draft for over a year, and get it out. I also want to update my photography web page. That should be enough for one day.  If I have anything else, I’ll report it later.

Diary of a Staycation #1: New Meditations

Diary of a Staycation #1: New Meditations

My life has changed so much since I started this blog. I’m older, my body is not at cooperative as it used to be, added a few more diagnosis to the mix of my DISabled life. I was terribly lonely when I started this blog. Isolated in suburbia, a single mother on a very limited fixed income, I was dangerously alone. Today I live in community, with very little privacy. A life of abuse, the resulting lack of boundaries, and so many years of isolation and I accept my lack of privacy as a choice and a blessing. We need each other more than we need time alone.  My partner, Andy and I along with an amazing team, including Glenda, Xeres and Carlos, run a modest and wonderful bnb out of our home, as well as provide a variety of community services. (Read more at dragonflyhill.wordpress.com, a web page and blog I also manage.) I handle most of the social media, from our airbnb listing pages, to our blog, twitter, facebook, yelp and google.  I did most of the photography for our advertising and our blog and most of our writing. Guests come from all over to stay with us, and we start every day with a huge community breakfast. We rarely know who will be joining us, including local activists, community members and guests.  Xeres and Andy and I comprise the board of the newly form The WE Empowerment Center (theweempowermentcenter.wordpress.com)

There’s a lot of physical, cognitive and emotional labor that goes into this space and maintaining community.  I haven’t had much time to court my muse, to write creatively or to do fine art photography.  And on the way, I’ve lost pieces of myself.

So today I’m starting. Today I’m taking myself back. Leaving the home business to my capable team, I’m taking a few days off and staying in the bnb of a local airbnb host and dear friend, for a few days of meditation and creativity.

Here are some samples of food for thought and where my mind is wandering, a map of sorts. If you’ve been following me, (and if I don’t know you, please reach out), watch out. I’m going to be posting a lot of new material, much of which has been 90% finished for some time, and has just waited for the time to focus on it, and craft it to perfection.

Music for meditation

Black and white image of a samuri in a forest. The image is very soft and slightly out of focus. Text: A student said to his master: "You teach me fighting, but you talk about peace. How do ou reconcile the two?" The master replies: "It is better to be a warrior in a garden than to be a gardener in a war."

H/T Xeres Villanueva who posted this to her facebook feed.

Inaccessibility Fatigue Rag

7/16/17

I am tired of negotiating my humanity to strangers.

Or trusting friends who just don’t understand.

Of trying to fit my body into spaces that do not accommodate me.

Only to be told how difficult I am to those who fit in, just right.

I am tired of accommodations to fads and fashions, to power and privilege but that DISability access is too demanding, or we did that the last time, we can’t do that EVERY time.
I am tired of loving  a world that doesn’t love me back.

I am tired of patience and desire.

I am tired of betrayal when an apology would be enough—mine or theirs.

I am tired of excuses and abuses.
I am tired of pity and scorn, and entitlement and hatred.

I am tired of the modern versions of the ugly laws and the look of disgust and contempt upon seeing me, by strangers who have no idea who I am.

I am tired of ableist jokes and insults
I am tired of abuse substituted for love, because there are good quiet crrpls and demanding shrews who need to be tamed.
I am tired of character assassinations when their arguments are no match for mine or because they will not be held accountable for their lack of real solidarity.
I am tired of infantilization and being treated like a child.

I am tired of excuses and favors because DISfolx aren’t seen as resources in our own experience.
I am tired of offense taken to be out argued or out spoken by a person like me, uppity, articulate crrpl that I am.

I am tired of having to ask for accommodations only to be treated with hostility for even posing the question.

I am tired of assumptions and accusations of  people who know nothing but think they know everything, like why if I can walk up stairs one day, in one location, why I can’t another day in another location.

I am tired of entitlement of others to define for me the parameters of my reality.

I am tired of people deciding for me what I need, what I should be happy with, what I should like and how I should behave.

I am tired of people who never read a single book on DISability access, schooling me and ‘splaining to me how it’s going to work.

I am tired of people who seem to be allies, only to find out that they were keeping score all along, and anything they did to create access was weighed against my next request. I didn’t know you were keeping a running tab and that I was now in debt to you.
I am tired of pity and stares and stairs.
I am tired of “well no one else complained” or “there were other DISabled people there so it must be accessible.

I am tired of the assumption that if I’m the only one complaining that others must be comfortable when really it means that others may be silent because they don’t feel comfortable speaking up, and some people will harm themselves trying to fit in, and others won’t show up at all because they know the risk in asking.

I am tired of blaming the victim, of disparaging a complaint, of killing the messenger, of the cult of positivity, of silencing dissent.

I am tired of those who don’t need accommodations deciding without even a dialogue what access means.

I am tired of the expectation of gratitude for half a ramp, or one day’s effort or half measures in general.
I am tired of trying to fit into public spaces at all.