“Oh no, I’m not ready yet” is what she said to me when I called her.
Shirley (not her real name) is ninety-two and a member of my extended community. She lives in a two-floor condo, but because she uses a walker lives only on the first floor. The second floor is unused. She has expressed an interest in having someone live on the second floor. Opening up to a home-mate can solve a lot of problem for seniors.
As happens I knew of someone who was a possible home-mate so I called to propose that they meet. Her response was that she wasn’t ready yet. She said she might be in the future. Since she’s ninety-two, I wonder when that might be. It’s important to know your needs and limits, but you shouldn’t be afraid of changing your life.
I’ve seen this a lot in the years that I’ve worked on sharing housing. The idea is attractive in the abstract, but when there’s an actual potential home-mate, people get cold feet. What does it take to take the risk and make the leap? What would it take for you to do it?
No one jumps out of an airplane the first time all on their own. Before getting into the airplane there is an eight-to-ten-hour class on all the mechanics and safety procedures necessary for doing the dive. And then there are guides who jump alongside you to correct body position and offer feedback. Learning how to skydive might be a little like learning how to find a good housemate.
Like skydiving, selecting an appropriate home-mate has steps, a process that can be followed. These are described in the book, Sharing Housing: A Guidebook for Finding and Keeping Good Housemates and can be applied using the worksheets. More about them here.
Safety is built in to the selection process. At each step it is possible for the people considering sharing housing to realize a potential pairing won’t work and to stop the selection process. There are five decision points where a person chooses whether to continue or to stop. These are spelled out in the book.
Another way to have safety is to talk. So many times it has happened to me that just hearing myself describe a problem or issue helps me realize the solution for me. Sometimes getting another’s perspective offers an understanding or option that I hadn’t seen before.
This is one reason I created the closed Facebook group “Hello Home-Mate.” (Ask to join. Only members of the group can see each other’s posts.) It’s a place where you can get guidance and feedback as you explore both having a home-mate and living in shared housing.
Choosing to Be Ready
But first you have to decide you want to live with another person (or people.) If the idea causes you to shudder with vertigo, then maybe it really isn’t for you. (You won’t catch me jumping from an airplane.)
However, if you are still reading this, it is likely that you are one of the many who have a general feeling that it would be nice to live with others. You know what the benefits are, but somehow there’s “no one suitable.” If an actual candidate or the possibility of an actual candidate shows up, then it’s “I’m not ready.” These are excuses for not making change.
It is so much easier to stick with what is familiar and known. It easy to push away opportunities for change with justifications and excuses.
It’s easy, really easy, to not even realize that you’ve rejected or ignored an opportunity for change. Let me say that again. Our conditioning for sticking to what is known is so powerful we can fail to observe ourselves saying “no.”
Erik Klein, in his free download “50 Ways to Leave Your Karma,” describes the difference between “Conditioning” and “Calling”. And though it’s about learning how to meditate I think the description of the problem of being stuck is relevant here. (It no longer seems to be available on line.) He describes how when we get to a crossroads and have to choose between conditioning and calling, our conditioning is often much stronger than the little voice that says “Life could be better. Life should be better.”
What are the gradual steps towards getting unstuck and finding a good shared living situation? You have to choose to step out of your comfort zone and take some social risks.
Here are some suggestions at different levels of risk-taking.
- Smile at people you don’t know in stores and on streets.
- Engage in conversation on checkout lines and other places you are waiting with others.
- Invite someone into your home. Make it easy – tea, a beer, or coffee. Get to know them.
- Have an overnight guest.
- Travel with a friend.
Taking on your own resistance to change is not easy. It gets easier as you experience the exhilaration of freedom from your conditioning and enjoy your feeling of accomplishment. It becomes it’s own reward. You will feel freer and more yourself.
There are millions of boomers who are retiring. There are millions of people feeling stressed out by their current reality. Surely one or two of them would be a good home-mate for you.