The Locations Effect*

Here’s the thing. I don’t think it’s coincidence that it has been so humid in Seattle this month and I have gone downhill. I have been using the dehumidifier every day and I didn’t have to turn it on once in the last six months. This is something I am so reluctant to write about because it causes me such terror and grief. More for my husband than myself. If this climate, this city, this house is making me sick, I would move. I could make that decision today. When you lose your career and your social life, become housebound and fear death, there is nothing that seems too drastic or impossible. I’ve been too sick to go anywhere, see people, call family, read books, so what do I care if I have to leave the place I have called home for 19 years? Well, I do care, of course. I have been too immobilized by fear all this time to even consider it, let alone talk about it, let alone do it!

But, the most difficult part for me is that the hardship falls on my husband. He is the one that would have to sell things, pack things, clean things. He is the one with hard-won seasonal landscaping clients. He is the one that has poured his heart and soul into this home, tearing down walls and building bathrooms, replacing piping and electrical, building porches, patios, vegetable beds and fences, tearing out the furnace and installing under-floor heating, slugging through the crawlspace and sweating around the attic, replacing every shred of insulation that was infested by rats when we first moved in.

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He is the one that has spent 8 long years growing this garden oasis. Every single day that he doesn’t work — summer or winter — he has been in the garden doing whatever it is that people who love landscaping and plants do. The trees he has planted are glorious and you all know the fireworks show of flowers that I have documented here.

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He has done work-trade for plants and materials, used reclaimed stones and bricks to build paths and retaining walls… he has mulched and pruned and dug and mowed every day for 8 years and, until recently, I could never see the art that he knew would reveal itself. While I was confused by his choices, he could see the future colourful landscape and, one day, there it was… Ooohhh, that’s why you cut back that hedge so aggressively! Ooohh, all that green actually blooms eventually! That’s why you put that tree there! There was a reason for every brush stroke, only it took years to see the full painting. And we thought we’d have forever to enjoy it. My heart aches for him more than anything — that he might have to walk away from his slowly-created and lovingly-tended artwork.

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I know how lucky I am. I know I’m lucky to have a husband who takes care of me. I know I’m lucky to have had this home and to have had some savings. I know I’m lucky to have possessions in the first place to be able to sell. I could have started off from a much less stable position, without family support. But it doesn’t make it any easier. I don’t want to leave this house. My husband and I said our vows in the back garden. But, it is an inevitability because of loss of income. Leaving Seattle entirely is a different matter.

I have never taken Seattle for granted. Every year I am grateful that I don’t live with crushing heat and air conditioning… we don’t have freezing storms, frozen pipes, snow drifts, hurricanes or tornadoes…. don’t have to worry about mosquitoes, biting bugs, fire ants, huge spiders… I love all our doors and windows open 5 months a year and never having to think about insect repellent or ticks or West Nile virus…. I love the mountains and Puget Sound, the abundance of good food, farmers’ markets, clean water… I love the laidbackness and the passion of the people here… the music, art and theatre here… the politics, universities, the companies that make their homes here… I don’t want to live anywhere else in America…. But… what if?

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Recently, Jen Brea, who is making the film Canary in a Coalmine, had some remission of her symptoms in Utah. I looked up today’s temperature and humidity in Salt Lake City and it is 88 degrees and 24% humidity. Here in Seattle, it is 61 degrees and 63%. Dublin, Ireland is about the same. My whole life I have lived in this climate and I need to test something different. I want to not only test a different house, but different air. If I could, I would travel to the Carribean or Europe, but the reality is, if I can be healthier in, say, Winnemucca Nevada, shouldn’t I go there? Can I separate living from all the things I thought equaled living? If I have no friends, no dogs, no home, no job, no possessions, but I’m not (as) sick, is it worth it? If I’m healthier, but I have no access to community because I’m living so remotely, can I be happy?

I can’t even begin to describe the lives of extreme mold avoiders. I have delved into that world for about six months now — watching videos, reading blogs and articles, listening to discussions in Facebook groups — it is harrowing and heartbreaking. No one can comprehend the pared-down, nomadic lives that people lead, leaving everything and everyone behind to travel the country looking for a safe place to sleep, their few possessions in garbage bags. Putting down shallow roots until something goes wrong — water intrusion, insecticide spraying, air quality changes — and then having to move on again to the next motel, campsite or friend’s driveway. I don’t know how they find the strength. But, my first step has to be getting out of here and testing how I do somewhere else. Part of me is hopeful and excited that it might make a difference and part of me thinks our little family will never survive such upheaval and I’ll somehow have to go it alone. As it stands now, I have to figure out where to go, when to go and who will take care of me until I can take care of myself. Gratitude pours from every fiber of my being for those of you that have offered to travel with me and help this quest: friends, siblings, parents and dear husband, I wouldn’t have a chance without you.

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*The Locations Effect is the name of an online forum and Facebook group started by Lisa Petrison to report “on places where people have experienced improvement in chronic neuroimmune health conditions.” She is also executive director of Paradigm Change, a “not-for-profit organization with a primary goal of encouraging the exploration of the hypothesis that certain diseases involving the neurological and immune systems may be ones of toxicity.”

 

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The Finale! Liebster Award Part 3 ~ Answering Questions

I think I will finally have the energy to finish fulfilling the criteria for the Liebster Award by answering Reva’s questions:

What are you proudest of?

This is a hard one. Being proud is so personal. It’s all about you and something you’ve accomplished.  I guess I could be proud of my children ~ if I had any. Or proud of my garden if I had created one. Or proud of how I’ve given back to the community or something, but I haven’t. I am proud that I get up every day and don’t give up. I am proud that I am self-aware and honest in my relationships. I am proud that I have dropped insecurities, achieved forgiveness and notice gratitude each day.

What is your favourite colour?

Red. No, green! Ahhhhh… (that’s me being thrown off the bridge)

What inspires you to blog?

The constant, incessant, noisy, obsessive, clamouring, chattering, clattering thoughts in my brain. I have hundreds of unfinished posts, essays, poems, articles and novels bouncing around up there with not enough energy to tame them, groom them, edit them and write them. Also, I really want to keep my family and friends informed about how I’m doing since I’m not usually up for emails and phone calls.

What three things would you grab if your house was burning down?

Well, my two dogs and my husband, of course.

Can you resist chocolate?

No, it’s actually quite bad. My doctor wanted me to stop eating sugar for my elimination diet and, once she saw my yeast levels, reiterated how important this was. But I didn’t do it. I did give up ice cream (except for Almond Bites) and Cadbury’s and Toberlone and Junior Mints… But I still have chocolate every single day, only now it is the Theo bars with 70% cocao. It’s actually quite amazing how quickly your body can change its cravings.

Where did you spend your favourite holiday?

This is a really hard question. There were so many lovely holidays when I was younger and so many in recent years with my whole family together, but I always think back to a trip to Lanzarote with my husband in 2000. We’d left freezing Ireland in January, had a lovely visit with his family in freezing England, been tourists in freezing Scotland and, the day before flying back to America, we walked past one of those discount package-holiday places and they had some cheap two-week all-inclusive deal to the Canary Islands leaving the next day. What made it so wonderful was, we decided there and then, standing on the street, to go to the sun. We sent messages to our jobs, changed our flights (we were flying stand-by, so no charge) and the next day we were in this completely foreign, beautiful volcanic landscape off the coast of Africa with nothing but winter clothes. The food was crappy and neither of us particularly likes sand, so we spent our days reading books in the sun on the balcony. Relaxing and reading book after book. Playing hilarious bingo each night in the hotel bar. No mobile phones, no responsibilities, no illnesses, no allergies, no pills, no fear.

Finish this sentence: One day I will…

…walk on the beach with my dogs again.
…have the energy to cook.
…sleep well.
…eat bread and cheese again.
…be in one place with all my siblings.
…have the energy to get dressed, put on make up, talk, laugh and socialise.
…not be in pain.

If you could be anyone for a day, who would you be?

A dancer. I’d love to be able to twirl and leap and bend and shimmy with abandon ~ and with no repercussions.

Tea or coffee?

Tea. Lyons with milk and sugar. Or, these days, with soy creamer and stevia.

What is one of your oldest memories?

Putting on Kiss concerts with my brothers when we lived in Illinois in… 1978?

What is your favourite movie?

Oh, I can’t answer that! There are so many!! I love Ridley Scott, David Lynch, Mike Leigh, Scorsese, Tarantino, Coen Brothers, Cameron Crowe, Danny Boyle, Coppola, Kubrik, Almodovar, Hitchcock, Fincher, Wilder, Rob Reiner, John Hughes. I could go on… Because it is almost Christmas, I will give a special shout-out to It’s a Wonderful Life, which I watch every single year, no matter what.