Since my last post was in early July I feel a bit sheepish crawling out from under my rock. Apparently it takes a cold to get me writing here again. I’m happy to have returned, even if just briefly between naps and tissues. I hope fall finds you well, possibly wrapped in a blanket with a warm cup of tea and a good book while rain falls softly. Hopefully there aren’t tissues scattered around you.
Last spring, the week after I began the colossal project of shoveling a mountain of wood chips from driveway to yard, our landlord changed our lease so that we could receive 90-days notice at any time. He informed us he was likely going to remodel and rent for more. Over the course of the next few weeks we saw him outside showing people the property. They scoped it out and took notes. I didn’t like it.
In many parts of this country finding suitable, affordable housing in 90-days isn’t a big deal. Fun? No. But, manageable? Yes. In many areas of Seattle, it’s harder to find a decent, affordable rental than a corner without a coffee shop. People are moving into the city faster than ever. Prices are skyrocketing. Many have already been displaced, many more will be. Renters who can afford it are competing by offering more than asking price and writing gushing letters to their potential landlords. Houses, already priced steeply, sometimes sell for 10-20% over asking price in bidding wars.
Our landlord changed our lease and I became obsessed. I worried we were going to be priced out of the city or have to make enormous sacrifices that may better warrant moving away instead. I read a million articles about the Seattle housing market. I combed over craigslist ads for rentals ad nauseum, getting a feel for rental prices so we’d be ready if we needed to jump. I set up Redfin searches to familiarize myself with housing prices, doubtful we could afford to buy but wanting to understand it nonetheless.
From May until September I often felt disoriented. Saddened by what was happening to our housing situation, while realizing that we were among the very lucky, my eyes opened a little wider to reality. I no longer recognized the Seattle I had fallen in love with. It wasn’t just renters who were tense. It seemed most people were either increasingly stressed by ridiculous work hours, anxious about being able to afford the city any longer, or feeling stuck (both literally, in traffic, and figuratively.)
Even the damn weather didn’t cooperate. June’s dry, scorching heat made me ache for the chill, wet and gloom that usually presides until July. I wanted normal and routine. I wanted comfort and stability. I counted on those June rains to get my garden established. Instead, I had scorched seedlings.
We spent hours contemplating how we could stay in the city or if we even should. (A very privileged choice, for which I am deeply grateful and sometimes a little embarrassed about. I am fuming about our unjust housing opportunities.) We knew we were straddling a growing divide, needing to choose which side to land on. Should we choose a different job for my husband if it means we get to remain in the heart of all we love? Even if we don’t see him during the week? What if he’s miserable and then we’re stuck? Should I work for someone else and give up my business idea? Heck, should I work full-time and just have our family deal with the consequences of such a busy life when we all thrive on on a slow pace? Should we move to suburbia, essentially starting over with community or commuting hours each day? If we do that, why not a bigger move to somewhere far more affordable? Our wheels, they were a spinnin’!
There were weeks I’d declare I didn’t want to stay here any longer, shaking my finger at the crazy rat race. Yet, typically within minutes of truly contemplating all that a move would entail, I couldn’t bear the thought of leaving. In the same day I’d research living in Amsterdam, I’d gush with excitement over the boys’ new school or be warmed by gratitude for friends. Countless moments like this happened before I finally realized what I was doing. I was grieving the pending loss of our current residence while feeling terrified that we couldn’t remain nearby. Our housing uncertainty made me feel like I was backed into a corner, so I was looking for where to run.
This realization led me on a journey of recommitting to my home and community. I became willing to ask for help and open to putting a lot more on the line to stay here. For the friends we treasure, to those we’re getting to know. For the school I anticipate my boys thriving in, to the pub where everybody knows our name. For the opportunity my husband has, to the excitement of my new business. For the sparkling mossy forests and dark gray waters, to the blossoming cherry trees and hidden mushrooms. For the orcas, my goodness!
Next month we are leaving our home of nearly five years to begin a new chapter a few miles away. I am hit by waves of grief over leaving this property (yes, pretty much the yard) and all the neighbors who have become friends. Often, on the same day, the next waves bring tear-swelling gratitude that we get to stay so close to the center of our community. I am eager to plant more roots, ones that hopefully will get to dig deeper for decades. The dropping of autumn’s leaves and the planting of spring’s seeds. Four seasons of emotions tumble within me.
(Stay tuned, there will be plenty of projects at our next place and we’re planning on taking you along for the ride.)