The Only Constant Is Change

I finished my third semester of grad school on December 4th, closed my computer, and only opened it twice before last Friday. As a GenXer, I generally feel lost without interacting with Penelope on the rare occasion that I miss more than one day. However, the stress of taking two writing classes created an unhealthy mental state, and I just had to take a break.

Don’t get me wrong here. I wasn’t completely disconnected from the world. My iPhone is wonderful for checking email, spamming Facebook, texting friends, wordling, watching knitting youtube videos, and taking photos. However, the peace I gained from not immersing myself in technology is priceless.

However, all has not been stress-free this holiday break.

I moved from Maine to New Mexico in 2017 to be with my parents. I had recently been diagnosed with bipolar and, at the time, was cycling between depression and mania four or more times a year and had been for many years. I needed to be with people who would emotionally support me. Since they were in their mid-70s at the time, they needed me too. It was a terrible time for me. I lost my house and independence. Plus, change is not my favorite thing.

My parents don’t live in New Mexico all year round–only in the summer and fall. The rest of the year, they live in Arizona, where it is about 12° higher. During the six months, they are away, I struggle mentally and physically. There is no one there to help me stick to a routine or eat well. When they are in New Mexico, my mother cooks dinner and frequently asks how my blood sugar is–I am diabetic. She especially does this when she sees me grab an unhealthy snack. She also verbally pokes me when she sees the beginning of depression or manic symptoms. Without those things and more, I fall apart.

Now that Dad is in his 80s and Mom will be soon, they more and more frequently need medical care. The medical care in Arizona is much better than where we live in New Mexico. So they want to live in Arizona year-round. At first, they wanted me to live in the New Mexico house alone, but I explained that would be a bad idea.

So, then they considered buying a second unit in their closed community so I could live near them but independently. Really, my dad didn’t want to have to move out of two houses. Plus, the extra high HOA fees cover cable and maintenance of the landscaping and outside the unit. Anyway, the HOA covenants and regulations state that it is a 55 and older community, and I am only 51 and three-quarters. The regulations state that at least one resident has to be 55, and the other person has to be a partner. Dad then began a fight with the HOA, claiming that since I am disabled, they should make accommodations for me. It went back and forth with the HOA Board and their lawyers. Finally, just over a week ago, they agreed as long as I had a “doctor’s note” stating that I am disabled.

Meanwhile, my mother and I were wistfully looking at beautiful houses in another 55-and-over closed community–they are now called active adult communities, apparently. However, this community’s regulations state that only 80% of the residents must be 55, and the other 20% must be over 45. There is also some allowance for residents living with 55 and older homeowners to be 18 and older. I’m not clear on the exact wording.

Anyway, these houses were spacious enough for the three of us. My dad could have his own office away from everyone. My mom would have space for her sewing in the sitting part of her master bedroom. I would have two rooms separate from theirs where I could have a bedroom and an office/craft room. Some had three-car garages. There were mountant and wildlife views everywhere–something my mother really wants because she is giving up her dream home with views all around in New Mexico. Many already had a fenced-in backyard for my puggle. Most were just lovely.

The community is indeed comprised of active adults. There are clubs for everything, and Mom already meets with a sewing group there–I go when I’m in town, and they don’t mind if I knit or crochet. For example, there are at least four bridge clubs, many walking and hiking clubs, bicycling groups, political groups, knitting groups, and classes in everything.

Mom and I think living there would be good for both of us. She’d still be able to touch base with me, but I’d have my own space to disappear to when I need it. I can work on facing my social anxiety by joining some crafty groups and maybe a walking group. I wouldn’t have to go every time. The area is beautiful and well-kept, and it would be safer and more pleasant to walk the puggle.

Some problems–for Dad–are that the HOA fees–which are half of what he’s paying now–do not cover landscaping, maintenance, or cable. (The cable costs for the New Mexico house are unnecessarily outrageous and another post entirely.) We would have to pay for those things separately, and Dad really doesn’t want to be bothered by all that. Never mind that Mom and I have said we would manage it. Plus, we’d pay less overall than the current HOA fees (~$500/mo), which would be double if we bought a second unit.

But Dad was focused on fighting the HOA and fighting the idea of moving.

He surprised us. Once he won his HOA fight, he decided to go see some open houses in the other community. He was impressed enough to agree to meet with the realtor and go see more homes.

Last Monday, Mom and I visited a house owned by a friend of a friend. It is beautiful. From the front windows and fenced front patio, you can see mountains–the ones my Dad loves. From the fenced backyard and patio, you can see a small ridge full of greenery and wildlife, which my mom and I would love.

There is an office with built-ins in the front of the house for my dad. Plus, there is a den and a family room. The den is also in the front of the house, while the family room is open to the kitchen in the back of the house. A frequent argument in our household is my mom making too much noise in the kitchen while he is trying to watch TV. This occurs in both houses. He has headphones he could use, but he won’t. Having him watch his news and shows in the den would resolve that.

The master suite is huge–two walk-in closets, a soaking tub, a shower, and double vanity. She would have a sitting area for her sewing–the materials could be stored in one of those closets. The kitchen has a gas stovetop which is a requirement for my mother.

While the upstairs bathroom is smallish and the closets in the two rooms are about the size of the ones I have now, there are two decent-sized rooms, one of which comes with a sizeable desk perfect for studying and crafting without having to put materials from either away. There is also a huge closet with shelves to store all my craft supplies. I’d have to use both closets in the rooms for clothes since I will not bring my current chest of drawers, but the other closet makes up for it.

The realtor took us there, and after overthinking it, he agreed that was the perfect place. Next week, they’ll put in an offer, and the negotiations will begin.

Meanwhile, we already have a buyer for the New Mexico house. I suspect the Arizona house will go quickly as this community is popular.

So, as excited as I am about the chance to “start over” again, change is never my favorite thing, and my methods of packing and my mother’s methods are quite different. Stress is definitely on the menu for the future.

in the beginning

Beginnings are hard.

Am I supposed to introduce myself here? I’m not even sure yet what I’m going to be writing about in this space.

I want to explore my struggles with being bipolar and living with family for support. How it makes going back to grad school after 50 so much harder. How the medicine dulls my creativity, and the illness makes it difficult to focus on anything. I’m constantly going down rabbit holes.

Reading takes ten times longer than it used to. When I was young, I could read a book every day or two. Now I’m lucky if I can finish twenty pages in a day. Textbooks are hard to slug through because I have to take notes, or I won’t remember what I read. Sometimes writing feels like trying to squeeze water from a stone.

But I’m determinedly working on my MFA in Interdisciplinary Studies focusing on Writing and Psychology. I still have dreams of recreating myself, working in publishing as some sort of editor, and becoming a published writer. I want to write both nonfiction and fiction.

I want to be inspired and inspiring.