The Struggles and Costs of Relying on Others

By: Loolwa Khazzoom, Founder, Dancing with Pain

July 29th, 2016 • Travel Dance HealPrint Print

I am now staying at a tiny studio apartment. The owners are traveling in California and left a sweet neighbor in charge of their kids. That neighbor and one of the kids were warm in their welcome – greeting me in the most friendly possible way and offering me a glass of ice water, as well as insisting on taking my suitcases for me and emphasizing that I should ask for anything I need. The bed is firm yet soft, which is perfect. There is a coffee maker and a blender, as well as ample cups, plate, and utensils. In addition, the unit is, with one exception, squeaky clean, which is a relief from the last place, which was outright dirty.

Still, there are issues: While I’m delighted this place is clean, it appears to have been cleaned with bleach, in particular in the refrigerator, which reeked of bleach odor – making me anxious about putting my food and supplements in there. I ended up leaving the fridge and freezer open for over an hour, which I didn’t like doing for energy reasons, just to air it out. In addition, I discovered what appears to be a blood stain on the blanket, which made me uncomfortable. There was just a tiny amount of toilet paper left, and no additional rolls in site. And there are no curtains anywhere in the unit, including in the bathroom, making me feel a complete lack of privacy (though the trees are helpful) and providing no blockage of morning light, when I’m sleeping.

I tried texting the owner about the blanket, asking for a replacement. But, given the million micro details of health issues, that’s not as easy as it might sound. There is a dog in the main house. If I get a replacement blanket from the kids or neighbor, will they give me a clean one? Will they give me one that may have gotten dog dander on or near it? Will that in turn set off an allergy attack? I don’t want to micromanage people, and people don’t want to be micromanaged, but I do need to pay attention to details, to protect myself.

I ended up deciding to throw the blanket into the wash, in hot water, and drying it for over an hour, knowing that would kill any germs and give me a dog-hair-free blanket. I let the owner know, as she had not yet responded to my initial request. I wish she nonetheless would have offered to provide another blanket, in response, which in turn would have made it easier for me to ask for her help ensuring it was clean and free of dog hair. She did not, however, make such an offer. Meanwhile, there is an ick factor in sleeping with a blanket that has someone else’s blood stain, which did not wash out, even though the blood surely does not pose a health threat anymore.

After taking care of the blanket issue, I texted the neighbor and owner, neither of whom I could reach, asking for a couple of rolls of toilet paper. I also let them both know I could not access the internet, despite using the login information I’d been given. Without internet, I don’t have access to music, in turn compromising my ability to dance.

Only about six hours later, sometime after 11:00 pm, the owner responded (the neighbor never replied to my request, despite encouraging me to ask him for anything I need), and let me know the neighbor would bring over one roll the next day. Just one roll? That’s irritating. While I may or may not need another roll, it would be nice to have that option. This morning, the neighbor ended up leaving the roll on top of a plank on the wooden gate that leads to the studio. While I appreciate his not disturbing me while sleeping, that plank is dirty, and the roll was not put in a plastic bag. Here in Hawaii, there’s always the possibility that the black particles of dirt are not just dirt but are mold. Either way, with the roll touching that dirt/mold, it’s not really something I want to be sticking on my nether regions.

It’s easier to just buy my own damn toilet paper (especially because I can then make sure it is free of chemicals), but the whole point of going to VRBO and AirBnB is that I’m not supposed to have to buy shit constantly – I’m supposed to be able to rely on the host. Buying things adds up – not only to my expenses but also to the load in my suitcase, which in turn compromises my ability to be independent, because it gets harder to lift the damn thing.

I end up feeling almost as if I cannot breathe, given the number of micro-considerations, which many or most people don’t think about. Yesterday I had so much anxiety about the blanket/blood issue, that it more or less took over my experience for a couple of hours. In addition, because I had to stick around to do the laundry, the whole afternoon became about moving into this space, instead of getting out and enjoying nature.

Do I push myself to get perfectly comfortable asking for what I need, under any circumstance, without being affected by what people might think? Do I insist on certain standards and take on the energy of the entitled one who is put off by other people’s failure to live up to those standards, instead of being affected by other people’s irritation by and judgement of my need for those standards? When is the price of asking for what I need not worth the money I save – costing me time on the beach and comfort in my skin? Over the years, I have always, always chosen ease and comfort over saving money. It does, however, all add up.

I do not know the answers to these questions. I’m finding, however, that it can be exhausting living in other people’s spaces and being beholden to their levels of consciousness, thoughtfulness, foresight, and care. There are not only the basic considerations to nail down (for example, the owner of this property sent me an address that doesn’t exist, and it took me half an hour to figure out the numbers were transposed), but also a whole host of matters that lie beyond the realm of obvious for most people, in particular those who seem oblivious to health and ability/disability considerations.



Joss July 29th, 2016

It’s all a huge learning process isn’t it?  And a constant weighing of the level of stress everything imposes and how much you can manage of that level of stress.  I wonder, too, how much of this will turn out to be about other people’s willingness to learn and to be aware.

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