Do I Deserve A Home?
I wake up every morning feeling hung-over. Sometimes I can remember names. Frequently, I find that the names of good friends, who are standing right next to me, elude me when I need to make an introduction. I have woken up refreshed from sleep exactly once in my life. I have determined the world is a safer place without me behind the steering wheel.
Do I deserve a home?
I ask because I have lived in the Bay Area for nearly 18 years, and for about half of that time, I have not enjoyed a stable home or stable employment. That’s often true of people with my background: violent family of origin (or FOO, as I like to call them), high adverse childhood experiences (ACE) score. Though I am a quarter century sober from drugs and alcohol, I still experience chronic depression, PTSD symptoms, and lately, have been seeking to confirm or deny an multiple sclerosis diagnosis. I want to believe MS will be the answer to why I haven’t been able to keep a job, and therefore, a home. Certainly, I experience mental liabilities that might be answered by an MS diagnosis. And I’ve started following the Wahl’s Protocol to see if it will have an affect on my brain fog.
I tell myself that if I do have MS—and at this point, I would love to know that there is a name for what ails me, other than Lifelong Fuckup—then I would be able to have a stable, fun life. And then I am struck that I believe my life will improve because I have a debilitating autoimmune disease.
I am smart! I’m copy editor of textbooks and heady non-fiction. I am a copywriter, a songwriter, a comedy writer, and improviser. I facilitated a violence intervention and prevention program for San Francisco Adult Probation’s Domestic Violence unit. I consulted with then-city attorney Dennis Herrera’s office during ethics-commission hearings for the reinstatement of convicted batterer and SF sheriff Ross Mirkarimi. I’m on the board of a triple bottom-line sustainability community, where for the last three years I have also served on the event-design team. I am self-taught at everything from editing to singing to writing to almost everything I’ve learned to do on a computer.
January 13, 2020
This weekend has been challenging for me. I invited my church choir to have our half-day retreat in my home. I don’t like people being here unless they are my friends, have come to see me, and I am determining to a great extent our activities. Control is an illusion and, why yes, I do have control issues.
I’ve done my research. Control issues come from the false belief that if I perfectly fulfill prescribed, culturally supported and familially trained gender roles, that I can manipulate people to meet my needs. Incorrect. If I am my authentic self and aim to be empathetic with those around me, then I will find real connection, and real solutions to my problems. However, with all of that work I’ve done to fade my destructive, controlling gender roles, I am still on the brink of homelessness. Because of course there’s a lot more to it than that.
I have been living in a friend’s house for the last three years, a situation I'd always considered ideal. The house is in one of Oakland's beautiful and wealthy neighborhoods, surrounded by greenery, and so very quiet. Landlord Friend lives overseas, inherited the house from his father, and wanted someone he knew to lease the house, as it still holds some of the family's possessions. I let him know what I had been through in the past, that I had gotten into debt to nearly everyone I had lived with or to the landlord directly. I told him I was doing well at the time, and I certainly was, but as always that changed. Work is challenging for me. I have this outrageous belief that people should be treated as equals—yes, even in the structures of huge, iconic corporations or local clothing manufacturers. When I am not treated as an equal, I am stressed and don’t want to go to work. I am also likely responding to memories of past harms.
The thing about not sleeping, though? That’s a reality I have always underestimated. Perhaps my never getting restful sleep has been a long-standing symptom that I needed to address before now. But I also know that because of a foundation of abuse and PTSD from my family, I am prone to harsh self-judgment. All this time when I wasn’t sleeping, or waking up feeling exhausted and unrested, I thought it was because I was wrong or bad: It was the food I was eating or not eating, it was the stress I wouldn’t allow myself to dispel because I was so accustomed to feeling crappy. With crappy as a baseline, how would I know that I could feel a different way?
Then the miracle happened. There was a morning in 2014 when I woke up refreshed. I cannot fully express the revelation this was. IS THIS HOW MOST PEOPLE FEEL IN THE MORNING?? No wonder they have amazing follow-through and attention, and aren’t always scared or depressed! Though I did recreate that previous night’s sleep arrangement to the best of my ability (I moved to a housesit the next day, and thought the new mattress topper I’d slept on was the magic ingredient), ‘twas for naught. At the housesit, I woke up feeling just as crappy as always.
January 15, 2020
I am feeling especially shitty and shut down today. Looking at my options today on Craigslist, nothing looks good. I don’t want to live anywhere but here. And I want to die. When will I feel better? When will I have enough money to live as I need and want to live? Why do I keep having so much trouble? I have fallen through all the cracks and social safety nets. Why? I’m nice, kind, considerate, intolerant of others in my space, and I don’t want to live anywhere else.
How can I keep living? How can I go on like this? I don’t want to be a tortured spirit, doomed to wander the earth for eternity. That’s mostly why I don’t kill myself. But my despair is so intense, complete, and devastating.
Fifteen days to find a house is all I have left. Maybe there is someone I could share space with. But I would rather die than go through another 8 years of uncertainty. What am I to do? A friend is coming for dinner tonight. I know it would be a good idea to see her, to have someone here with me. But I would rather drift away in the tub. Then what will poor Love do? I’d give her to the Menters.
Yesterday was all about fantasy. My main one is this: I write an op-ed for the NY Times asking Jeff Bezos to give me $100k (from his personal account so he can’t write it off as a business expense). He sends me the money and then I move into the high rise because it is the most immediately available of the all of my housing options. I want to live in a small house, or a flat. And I still might get to do that temporarily.
And then I spend a relaxing year taking excellent care of myself. I might even go on a vacation! I can buy nice, aesthetically pleasing furniture, have friends over for dinner, and concentrate on lifting the fog from my brain.
Today I am having a better day. I don’t know if it’s the hormones or whatever pleasure chemicals are released in my body when I eat chocolate, or the fact that I exercised more today. Oh! I know what it was! I woke up today and remembered that I have the capacity to earn my own money! Yes, I do! When I feel I have so few options, it’s easy for me to forget (also because: low-functioning brain) that I have options.
Earlier this week, my options all felt disastrous, now they feel workable. Need to re-up my Wahl’s Protocol journal entries, get a sense of how my emotional and physical health interact.
What a full and beautiful day! Cherri Murphy’s sermon on Moms4Housing yielded some wonderful ideas. I especially liked her noticing that when the oppressed face their oppressors, it is the oppressed that are put under a microscope to determine their worthiness. It’s as if they have to earn compassion, and only if they are “qualified.” They can’t be loud, can’t have mental-health issues, hygiene issues, or other chronic concerns. Now I understand what respectability politics are.
Poor Magazine’s “How Not To Call The Cops Ever” workshop today was beautiful and helped me feel connected. They shared theatre pieces reenacting harmful police intervention, as well as successful community intervention. What was my take-away? Validation. Validating one person’s experience, being willing to stay with them through their trauma responses, and asking them to be accountable for their behavior, became the best way to interact with a person who was hurting.
Afterward, I talked with SP, one of the members of the collective. She was drawn to my dog, Love, and then we shared this sweet conversation, and kept hugging each other. SP was kind and compassionate as she listened to my story of homelessness. I straddle these two worlds, I said, of privilege and poverty. Tiny from Poor Magazine talked about Complexion Protection. I definitely have it. As I walk Love through my neighborhood streets lined with huge homes, my neighbors happily greet me. One woman, just a couple of days ago, launched into a story of a friend whose newly adopted dog’s hair had been dyed. It was not the breed they thought it was! And it was a terrible story of a puppy mill, where the animals were mistreated and poorly cared for. I was happy to listen. She needed someone to tell, and I understand that need. I wonder about the isolation of her privilege, if her she has family who will still talk with her, if she eats well and adequately cares for herself. Or maybe she “has people who do that” for her.
Today is also the day I decided to make this blog public, and attach it to this, my consulting website; more on that later.