Stay or Leave?

The only thing more unthinkable than leaving was staying; the only thing more impossible than staying was leaving.

Elizabeth Gilbert, Eat, Pray, Love

tree and fogYesterday morning’s fog (shown in the photo), which burned off by midday, was almost uplifting if compared to a day last week when low-lying gray clouds, like that day’s mood of moroseness mixed with guilt, refused to leave. At one point that day I put another layer of clothing on and ducked back under the comforter to drink my tea to ward off the penetrating chill.

Morosity is my Moriarty. Cold hands are a great discomfort, but cold feet cause me the greatest regrets. The guilt came from feeling like I’ve abandoned mis nietos (my grandchildren) in the Bay Area – that guilt stacks upon many others, including that of having left my spouse and child many years earlier. As Tom Paxton wrote, “there are reasons a-plenty for leaving”, but that doesn’t negate the guilt of having left. The grandkids’ other grandparents live half a continent and a continent away from them, so I am geographically still the closest, but I am not THERE.

So I got on craigslist and looked at apartment shares – which is what I can afford – in the San Francisco Bay area. I saw many familiar ads from previous searches during the past two years, so I knew not to examine those in any detail: it seems certain people periodically need to replace their house/apartment/flat mates. Some rooms just seem … less than desirable. For example,

You get your own room but there is no living room, see pics. …You must walk thru the room to get to the kitchen but I’m very respectful and my last roommate had only good things to say when she left.

Then there are individuals who have extremely long lists of criteria for a potential flat mate:  some seek to live with vegetarians or with vegans, there are those who don’t allow meat in the apartment, and there are those who do not allow meat to touch their utensils or cooking equipment; some have allergies to scents or furry critters; some want proof of employment + three references + a credit report and a background check, etc. On the other hand, my landlord here in San Miguel rented the room to me with no money in advance, from a distance, knowing very little about me. I worried as I traveled that I would not get here in time to view the apartment and when I emailed from Querétaro, he basically told me “whenever you get here.”

Then, too, there is the whole aspect that in Berkeley – if not in all of America – someone of my age should not be looking at shared housing as that is for the young, for students, for those just starting their independent adult lives, not for someone at the other end of the age spectrum. Those who place ads most often seek those in the 20s or 30s as flat mates. I’ve spoken to any number of people in my age bracket who say “but there are a lot of people in a situation similar to yours who must be seeking someone similar.” There are a few, but not in the numbers my friends believe exist.

When I looked at the remaining apartments online, they all looked so … terribly boring. Each room with its four white walls. Buildings that are nothing but cubes, whether viewed from within or without, and with nothing but rectangular floor plans.

What’s wrong with that? Well, my current apartment is just so interesting to live in, with it’s arched bedroom ceiling, each room at a different level (one step up to the bathroom from the bedroom, two steps down to the patio roof, two steps down to the living area, three steps down to the kitchen). It has a spiral metal staircase as the front entrance. A juliet balcony that looks onto the city. The living room is trapezoidal in shape and the kitchen is a spacious triangle. There are no built-in kitchen closets but I do have a generous armoire-like pantry. The space between my bedroom and the patio roof is a walk-in closet the size of a small room.

Living in my own space here in San Miguel, a space full of color and sun, stimulated by the sights and sounds of children playing next door, passing Mexicans on the street who smile and say “hola” and “buenos dias” when you greet them (instead of ignoring your gaze), having a view of the city below, going to the market and struggling to make myself understood, being able to ignore the issues that dominate the U.S.A. news, finding new ingredients from a culinaria that’s a wonderful mezcla (mixture) of Mesoamerica and Europe, not visiting my therapist … it’s all so much more interesting than was my life NoB.

The cable channels on television that are available to me relate news from South Florida and Pittsburgh, PA (three of the dozen or so channels are Fox opinion and propaganda), and the news from Florida is not anything of significance, simply a televised version of the police blotter. In many parts of the U.S. there is a sports section of the news hour, but in south Florida it creeps into the “news” segment. As does the weather. All delivered with a smile because research shows that Americans don’t like serious newscasters.

So I concluded that I am here to stay, at least for the near future. I have refrained from buying very much that would make this space “mine” (I already have so much of that in storage NoB). I found myself last week thinking about buying a press pot for coffee (very overpriced in San Miguel) and something to hold tealights (I have two of those stored NoB). So the nesting instinct began to emerge. I thought about joining a volunteer organization and of becoming more involved with the fellowship I attend. I found myself out and about more than I had been, attending a lecture and a concert, visiting a friend while she babysat an art gallery and suddenly with a discipline to study my new language on a systematic basis rather than the haphazard approach I had been using. So the urge to make this my home, however I might be able to do that, asserted itself.

That is, until I reconsidered the issue of health insurance. At my age I have to consider health insurance. I’m covered NoB, but how do I do so here without spending the proverbial fortune? As I’ve written previously, under the new residency requirements I do not have enough income to qualify for long-term residency here, and that residency is a requirement for obtaining private or public health insurance.

So, I still feel adrift. I will live with my guilt as I’ve learned to do in a state of uncertainty.


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