October 11, 2020

Adjusting to life in the ‘house of commons’

Adjusting to life in the ‘house of commons’
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By Lila Sweeny

This September marks our one-year anniversary of living in an intentional cohousing community in Glendale, called Wasatch Commons. Moving across the country from Pennsylvania with our dogs, Chagall and Noonan, over four days was the easy part. Getting adjusted to a different lifestyle at the Commons was a much greater challenge.

Consensus is the glue that binds the residents here and something we never dealt with in our previous life. The oldest resident in our community is of indeterminate age, the youngest is several months old and the rest of us are somewhere in between. Bi-weekly communal meals and work projects bring us together as well as ACM’s (All Community Meetings) to address issues of concerns.

Okay, I am a naive and positive person, who creates my own reality, who believes everything is going to be fine and even better than fine. My imagination wove a dream-like existence that would be full of friendly neighbors creating a community of like-minded people. Is there such a thing as like-minded people? I am not sure even now, but that is what I had hoped for. Instead, the reality is that people are people even in what might be thought of as an ideal community.

I found out about cohousing on-line by chance, serendipitously, or as I prefer, providentially. Yes, I believe in signs, and since this cohousing info found me instead of me finding it, I believed it was meant for my husband and me. We had been looking for several years for a home out west for our retirement – one that would bring us physically closer to our oldest son, Kenyon and our six grandchildren, but not too close.

Wasatch Commons fit the bill. And then there was the way we finally bought the perfect (there I go again) condo. We visited the Commons for the first time and it was love at first sight. Two resident llamas, a flock of chickens and two ducks on campus instantly appealed to my inner farm girl. Twenty six cottage-like homes with only foot traffic permitted was another bonus, reminding me of the Chautauqua Institute in New York State.

Unfortunately, nothing was available for us to buy that day, so we came back a year later. It took three visits, but finally a unit came up for sale. Perfect. Two bedrooms upstairs, one bedroom downstairs with a bathroom on both floors, and most importantly, a fenced-in yard for our pups. One glitch, the seller changed his mind. That was November.

Fast forward to June of the following year. The seller sent me a message that he was putting the house on the market again and asked if we were still interested. Hell yes! So, we went into full gear. We had already made plans to go to Park City for the month of July to continue our search for our retirement home, but now we were making plans to purchase the condo at the Commons – at nearly the same time we had a buyer for our house in Erie, Pennsylvania.

Coincidence, maybe, but I prefer to think it was the hand of God. Without putting our home on the market, just through word of mouth, we had a buyer. Buying a house and selling another in the same month was especially stressful for my fastidious accountant husband.

Enough said, our marriage is still intact. In fact, we are celebrating our 52nd wedding anniversary. This move to Wasatch Commons was clearly an act of love on the part of my husband. Here was a man content with his life in Erie. An avid bridge player, working part time as a manager of a credit union, and a member of an early morning breakfast club, he was not at all eager to move 2,000 miles across the U.S. I take full responsibility for this major move.

Unlike my husband, I was not as content. Our son had died of an overdose several years ago and the memories evoked just by driving around Erie were overwhelming. I was hoping that by living in an entirely different community the pain of his loss would be lessened. Was it? Somewhat.

Our son, Merritt, had mental health issues and although he never had to face the indignities of living on the street, the pain of his illness permeated his life and ours. He suffered for 18 years before he gave up on finding a solution, let alone a cure, for his illness.

So where are we now? After spending several months painting the interior of our condo and other DIY projects, withstanding COVID, an earthquake, the blight of the local box elder bugs, the 90-plus degree heat, and a 100-mile-an-hour windstorm, we are still here and, God willing, we will remain until there is another more permanent change.

People in Utah have told us that there is an adjustment period for dealing with the summer heat and the altitude. We are waiting for just that, as well as adjusting to living in a new community.