To date the longest I’ve ever spent anywhere was six years in California (though in three different cities). I lived five and a half years in New Delhi. Four years each in Islamabad and Prague. If I break my California time down by city, my four years of college in Eagle Rock ties with Pakistan and the Czech Republic.
The bar for my version of long term is not set very high.
As the fates would have it, it appears that Southeast Florida is my home for the foreseeable future.
At first I was surprisingly elated at the prospect of staying on in Lighthouse Point in spite of how horrible it is here. Y’all remember the superficial, racist people living in their little consumer bubble I’ve bitched about ad nauseum?
Yet, the thought of settling into our cute apartment, finding a proper desk and office chair, recycling old moving boxes, outfitting the place with various creature comforts like new showerheads, grown-up kitchen glasses, furniture… all these banal bits of domesticity were a welcome change to the transiency my husband and I felt while convinced we’d be moving somewhere else in a year.
Our visits to St Augustine, Savannah, and New York City brought home that we’re not going to be happy anywhere in this country. There is no better in America. Only more of the same. And colder weather. Fewer job opportunities. More expenses.
At least here we have good jobs, job security, year-round heat, organic food, a spacious and cheap flat, low cost of living and a swimming pool is a cherry on top. From a distance this is a cushy setup indeed; solid jobs are hard to risk these days in the United States of Discontent.
And while I’d happily never move again — the moving process is incredibly stressful for me both emotionally and physically — the thought that I’ve just settled into an area where old people come to die is horrifying.
In the year I’ve lived here I’ve seen obituary announcements for ten or so residents in our apartment complex.
How does one begin to put roots in sand, the false bedrock of a place in which the floor could literally open up and suck you in like the ending of a Sam Raimi horror movie?
Just this month a sinkhole opened underneath a resort north of here and took an entire block of apartments with it.
How do you settle into a place when you’ve never felt so foreign in your life?
Provincial mentalities, conservative politics, racism, and a majority of populace who haven’t a clue about anything outside their bubble of American consumerism… I am lost in translation here on so many levels.
How do you call a place a home when it limits your movements and half the streets don’t even have sidewalks?
There’s a bus but nowhere to go but strip malls and supermarkets. I’ve taken to walking laps around my apartment complex like a rat in a cage. The only time I get to leave a half-mile radius are my husband’s days off.
My initial burst of excitement has given way to a depressed resignation in the weeks since our decision.
My body responded by putting on an extra ten pounds I can feel around my face and neck.
My lower back keeps going out, relating to the Root Chakra which is the center of feeling grounded and supported.
How can I feel stable when the very ground beneath my feet is hourglass sand, shifting all the time?
And how could it be that global nomad me will now be relegated to a half-mile of not much?
Yes, I’ll have the luxuries of good food, a library, warm climes, art supplies, cable television, Internet access and a regular salary, which is much more than the majority of Americans can say.
I’m privileged. And I am ever so grateful for all that I have. Every time I eat my organic meals I send up thanks. Each commercial-free movie I watch on television comes with a thanksgiving for my blessings.
Yet I can’t help but wonder: what’s the bigger price I’m paying for all these creature comforts?
My physical health?
A sedentary life is all this place has to offer me. I have no idea how I’ll lose the sixty pounds (!!!) I’ve packed on in the last five years of stress, thirty of which are courtesy one year in Lighthouse Point.
My mental health?
The only social interaction I have on a regular basis other than my husband is online. And online is getting old. And frustrating. And adds to my sense of surreality.
Being an introvert I love my alone time.
But this is more like solitary confinement.
The one and only thing that’s not suffering is my creative energy. I’m spewing paintings, collages, multimedia pieces, drawings, art, ideas, words all over the apartment and at such high volumes we’re running out of wall space.
I suppose if a caged Zuzu can’t fly, at least she can sing.
(Which I occasionally do in my wacky YouTube channel.)
©2013 Sezin Koehler, photos by Zuzu Arbus