A Call to Action
Every heroine experiences that moment where she closes one door and waits for another to open to an adventure. When I gave up my Sehome apartment for the unknown, I knew that significant life challenges awaited me, but at the same time the Universe responded with signposts while giving me courage to face uncertainty. I ventured boldly where I had never gone before, kind of like a Star Trek character, but on an emotional level.
Towards the end of August 2014, after I gave notice to move out of a secure apartment, I volunteered to work at the children’s art station with the Community Food Coop’s annual party in the park. Oddly, one of the activities involved children building homes out of cardboard boxes. While the children and their adult helpers built fabulous architecture out of cardboard, mainly tiny houses and forts, I heard a nagging voice in my head say, “Hmmm, isn’t that symbolic? Watch and learn because you might just end up living in a cardboard box.”
In fact, my repressed fear at that time caused me to dream about walking the streets of Bellingham or even an unknown city as a homeless person. I feared for my safety, but I also feared humiliation of running into people I knew as I dragged around blankets in garbage bags or pushed a grocery cart with my meager belongings through the alleyways.
I recall a time in Seattle, when I was virtually tossed out on the street, hopping from couch to couch and sleeping on floors. One time, when a boyfriend kicked me out of his apartment so that he could be with his new girlfriend, a purple-haired “goddess,” I slept underneath a kitchen table at an apartment belonging to an acquaintance.
While this was happening a friend who had once lived in a car shook her head at me.
“See, you shouldn’t have sold your car because if you still had your car then you would have somewhere to sleep.”
Needless to say that this friend bought my car so I could finance a trip to England the previous summer. True enough, she had lived in a large car from the 1970’s after she gave up an adorable apartment in West Seattle near Alki Beach in the late 1980’s. Among my Bohemian and artists friends others had slept in cars too. In fact, it seemed to be a thing Pisces did well. My friend didn’t want to bother her friends by asking for a spare anything and living in the car was only temporary until she moved into an apartment tower near the Paramount Theater.
However, I wasn’t thinking of this friend when I slept on couches and queen size hotel beds in Bellingham the fall of 2014. My thoughts revolved around Law of Attraction and manifesting a new home through effortlessness, even though the other half of me busted her butt looking at houses that I had no intention of ever living inside. At the time, I had a sense that I would attract the right situation at the right time and not through sheer effort, but I had also been taught that nothing comes to us without effort–therein lied the conflict.
I knew from following the Law of Attraction that I had to focus on my bliss and follow my passion. However, the guilt that accompanied me when I set out to look for a bee painting in various businesses around town as part of the Sustainable Connections treasure hunt, or walk through parks with my camera in-tow, or even attended an outdoor salsa concert at the Village Green, caused me to spiral into the abyss. Yet, the housing search seemed fruitless as I phoned one disappointing lead after another.
I actually began my effortless search for a new apartment at the beginning of August thinking that if I practiced Creative Visualization and sent out e-mails to my local contacts, not to mention honk my horn on social media, I would manifest the perfect home for me in the right neighborhood. When a friend mentioned that a housing search would take all my time, energy and focus, I chuckled. What arrogance!
Then later in the month, especially around the time I watched children building homes out of cardboard, I panicked. I dreamed about renting a room in a philanthropist’s home in the South Hill neighborhood and thought I had my solution. Only, I didn’t know any wealthy philanthropists with a room for rent in a South Hill mansion so I contacted my friends and colleagues who also didn’t know anyone that fit that description. So this led to me contacting the philanthropy non-profits only to get directed to the Opportunity Council–not exactly what I had in mind. The signs I hung around town also didn’t attract any philanthropists.
Finally, I hit Craig’s List, even though I said I would avoid this site. I had gone that route before which caused me to dodge one flaky situation after another. The other problem the landlords posting on Craig’s List is that they wanted first, last and a deposit while covering less of the utilities, if at all. I phoned some of the house shares but I’m allergic to cats and not 420-friendly (slang for pot-smokers). Other situations such as the attic room in a house with the only bathroom under renovation just seemed dubious to me.
“We have permission to use the neighbor’s toilet and shower.”
“Well, how long will the renovation on the bathroom take?”
“We don’t know, but we also live in the house and would also experience the inconvenience.”
“How much are you asking for rent?”
Not that I would have considered such a rental, but desperation sunk in.
I experienced one glimmer of hope when I responded to an ad for a room in the “Lotus House” which was a household of yoga instructors and a massage therapist in the Roosevelt Neighborhood (but a better section of the “bad” neighborhood). The home owners asked interested renters to e-mail a short essay about why we thought we would fit into this type of household. I e-mailed three essays and never received an invite to see the house.
Finally, I reached the end of the month with no permanent home in sight. Had I not gleaned the Law of Attraction? Was I entertaining too many negative thoughts? How could I stop my monkey mind from spinning toxic thoughts? Two days before I vacated the apartment and closed the door of 2-D for the final time, I came across a greeting card at the post office with the message, “You’re stronger than you think.” Then I knew that life was about to challenge me on a mammoth level. And it did.
Sure, I could blame my uncomfortable situation on a midlife crisis or my upcoming menopause since I had recently turned fifty. I had heard of strange occurrences surrounding women who surpassed fifty that involved leaps of faith, leaving stable careers or home situations, or taking up skydiving. After three years of paying high rent for the misery, I gave notice to vacate Hades. Only in Bellingham, do slumlords resemble sunny family men and this leads to confusion, especially when demanding rights. How do you ask for more respectful treatment when the landlord is smiling at you?
“Victorian charm” often means “It’s a ghetto with built in cabinets, drawers and rusty turn-of-the-nineteenth-century sinks.”
Some friends applauded my courageous move causing me to think that I had turned into a domestic version of Erin Brockovich. Other friends and my parents thought I had lost my mind. My opinions of myself landed somewhere in the middle, seesawing between extremes. At first, I thought if I e-mailed everyone I knew in Bellingham (and beyond) and hit social media with a request for an eco-friendly apartment or house-share, then by the end of August I would move into my dream home. The average time for finding a decent rental in Bellingham is two to three months, more when housing is at a premium (when the university is in session). Also 55% of the housing market revolved around rentals and owning a house starts at $300,000.
In August, each day as I woke up realizing I was nowhere closer to achieving that dream, I panicked which caused me to spiral downward and entertain nightmarish thoughts. Since we attract more of what we focus upon, I kept encountering homeless people on the bus, on the streets, and in my dreams–the stench of poverty lodging in my nose. Then on the final day of my stay in my apartment (after a sleepless night), I phoned a storage rental place, contacted friends to help me move and I booked a room in a hotel. Sleeping in the doorway of the Federal Building didn’t appeal to me.
To give you a brief idea of the challenges I faced I’ll let you know that I suffer from allergies and sensitivities which makes finding healthy housing a priority. I live in a city where housing costs have skyrocketed and finding affordable healthy housing draws comparison to winning the lottery. Since we get more of what we focus upon (deficits in my case), I kept seeing posts on Craig’s List for other desperate middle age women with sensitivities begging for a mother-in-law apartment.
In Bellingham, the correct name for this type of apartment is ADU or Access Dwelling Unit. And if a tenant moves into an illegal ADU, the city code officer can ask her to vacate the apartment. The legal ADUs cost more because the landlords had to pay hefty fees for registration and permits. The other rental option is to move into a mega apartment building and pay numerous fees, first, last, and deposit to a rental management company. Often these companies don’t refund the deposit when the tenant vacates. And it’s like jumping through fire hoops to rent a mega apartment (my term).
On the morning of my move, I woke up around five a.m. and meditated among packed boxes. I grabbed a yogurt and a packet of Vega protein powder for breakfast. Then I packed the remainder of my belongings. This turned into frenzy after I noticed the time since Anna would arrive shortly to move the first load to the storage facility, which I hadn’t even rented yet.
Meanwhile, I wasn’t able to get in contact with a man who offered his SUV to help me move and when I remembered the size of Anna’s car, I realized I would have to give my furniture away. So between packing, I hopped on Craig’s List and posted my furniture under free stuff. My e-mail filled with requests immediately which led to chaos.
Anna arrived as a God-send and she never complained about moving boxes down three flights of stairs and half a block where she miraculously squeezed large quantities of boxes and bags into her eco-car.
“I’m sorry I’m busy answering these e-mails and still packing, otherwise I would help you get those boxes downstairs.” I kept glancing at my watch hoping I could bring time to a standstill.
Apparently, Anna enjoyed the exercise. “I have the Kapha Dosha (Ayurvedic Medicine of India) so I’m like a camel who can go without water, food or rest for a long time.”
As it turned out, the yogurt with Vega protein powder would be the only food I ate that day until around six p.m. when I landed at the hotel. While Anna had the camel thing going for her, my energy flagged throughout that afternoon. I battled with intense thirst, hunger and my limbs trembled every time I even looked at a box of books, much less lift it and carry it down three flights of stairs to dump it on the sidewalk next to Anna’s car. Our schedule was too tight even for a bathroom break, plus I had already cleaned the toilet.
I also resembled a train wreck, with my sweaty T-Shirt clinging to me and the dust from my former apartment clinging to my jeans. Later that day when Anna and I stood in the hotel parking lot surrounded by Russian bride’s maids wearing spiky heels, we look around and chuckled.
“Suddenly, I feel rather short.”
“I know, right?” Anna eyed the Russian women and chuckled.
I’m not the kind of person who enjoys making executive decisions, but events of that day required me to think quickly on my feet and bark out commands. I also learned a lesson in time management since time seemed to move more quickly than the average day, as we loaded the car on one end, sped across the city to the storage unit where we crammed my belongings without much thought about placement. We saved the futon and frame for the last load which unfortunately, ended up in another friend, Ted’s Jeep until the following Tuesday since the storage facility closed at two p.m. sharp and it was Labor Day weekend.
By late afternoon, after the storage unit closed, we arrived at the hotel with my 1960’s Japanese china and clothing. The plan was to dump this stuff off at the hotel room I reserved and then I would return to the apartment for a last bit of cleaning.
However, when I arrived at the hotel in full swing of a Russian wedding party, I learned that my room wasn’t ready and that it would be another hour.
I chastised the concierge, “You told me that I could check into the room at three p.m. What do you expect me to do with my stuff?”
“You can leave your belongings in our office until your room is available. We’re sorry but we’re behind schedule.” I tried not to breathe in the chlorine permeated air.
I gathered later that some of the hotel staff took the long weekend off and so they were short-handed.
Later I realized that I should have dumped off my computer too since I would have to carry two backpacks on a bus filled with my computer, my phone, my modem and food for my final trip to the hotel. Since it was Sunday, I’d have to wait forty-five minutes for the bus to show up. A camel physique would have come in handy, but unfortunately, I measure at five-feet-four-inches with a slightly frame and nerve problems with my upper body.
By the time I got to my hotel room, I hopped into the shower and allowed the hot water to massage my body. I stayed under the shower washing away not just the stress from that day, but also a sense of hopelessness I carried for three years.
I took my mind off my housing crisis and focused on the Turkish salad which consisted of garbanzo beans, dates, black olives, onions and garlic drenched in balsamic vinegar. I wished that I had ordered a bigger portion since hunger weakened me. I ate the vanilla yogurt as dessert.
Since I was used to eating my meals in my old apartment and not a hotel room with strange beds and a kitchenette, I couldn’t help but to contemplate my fate and my financial situation. At one-hundred and forty dollars a night, I realized that the hotel would eat my rent money in a matter of days, and then with nowhere else to go, I would land on the street. So that’s how it happens, I thought. That’s when I realized that every moment counted and that I would beat the system at its own game. I could always phone my parents.
However, when I plugged in my computer I couldn’t get the screen to work. Moments later when I tried to connect to the hotel’s Wi-Fi, I ran into other problems.
Fortunately, the hotel’s IT person was staying at the hotel that night. An hour later, I was online but my problems weren’t over yet. I still had no housing prospects. Since sleeping on the street terrified me, I tossed my rent money at hotel and watched my funds evaporate. Meanwhile, I hopped on my e-mail account and appealed to everyone I knew for a spare room–temporary or otherwise.
In the meantime, I received an e-mail from a literary agent in New York who wanted me to phone her about my non-fiction book, Whole Music. While this was great news, I wasn’t able to make a long-distance phone call from the hotel and I still suffered from survival mode short-term thinking. Later, I bought a phone card, but the opportunity had already passed. As it turned out, that wasn’t the only disappointment I would suffer on my housing quest causing me to beat myself up emotionally. Still part of me knew that a greater plan was at work. At least this is what my spiritual mentors had taught me to think. But where were they during my crisis?
It’s true as I sit on the other side of my experience and write about the beginnings of my housing quest, I don’t even recognize the Patricia of the autumn of 2014. Many times, I floated outside of myself and watched events from an emotional distance like watching a movie of someone else’ life. Then by the time my ordeal had ended and I moved the last of my belongings into a studio cottage, I started giving away clothing and items that no longer defined me. I had become the proverbial snake shedding skin or perhaps the proverbial butterfly pushing her way out of a cocoon. I even switched loyalties and grew tired of seeing the same people.
Even though I didn’t know what was really happening on August 31, 2014, I was busting out of an old life to embrace a more expansive worldview that eventually sent new rockets of desire into my Vortex. At the age of fifty, I had finally arrived at the cosmic party and unwilling to put up with anymore nonsense. And sadly for the next three months I would put up with more nonsense than anyone.
Copyright owned by Patricia Herlevi, All Rights Reserved