I have mentioned Kendal several times, but never said much about it.
I started having a really hard time after Bella died in September 2013. Lynelle warned me that it would trigger abandonment issues and it certainly did. I started working with Erica in June of 2014. She specialized in working with “trauma and attachment issues.” Her methods were totally different from anybody I had ever worked with, and I could tell that we were really getting to what happened to me at last.
Trying to support myself, I even got a little stuffed dog to be a “transitional object.” I think it was about that same time Lynelle mentioned that I might want to look into Kendal. Someone she knew had moved to Kendal and loved it. I talked to her on the phone. I remember that I was actually terrified to make the call. It turned out that what she really liked was the excellence of the healthcare, and the number of activities she could participate in as a volunteer. Things like reshelving books in the library. Those things didn’t interest me at all, nor did I really warm to the woman. When I first mentioned Kendal to my friend Eve, she was horrified. “It’s full of rich Republicans.”
I got serious about looking for a retirement community after I went to Kindred Spirits for the first time and found out what it was like to feel like I am really OK just as I am. By that time I had learned that having people around, and regular meals that I didn’t have to prepare, helped me to at least be functional. What I hadn’t yet had was the experience of being with people who are willing to tell the truth and to hear the truth even when it’s painful. I was amazed to find that when I’m with people who are committed to truth, I actually feel that both my “bad” parts (i.e. depression) and my “good” parts (enthusiasm) are completely acceptable.
The importance of not being alone and having food available reminded me of my experience at Caron Institute. They are in Reading PA, and were the first alcoholism treatment center in the USA. They run a week-long program for co-dependent people, “people whose lives have been impacted by the disease of addiction.” I went because two of my brothers went and said it was really good. When I was signing in, they took my car keys (so I couldn’t leave without talking to someone) and my medication (so there would be no temptation to overdose.) They said I couldn’t walk around outside without someone else. Finally they told me that there would be someone available all night if I needed to talk. That was the most reassuring, since being sleepless and alone has always been very hard for me. I was surprised that instead of feeling restricted, I felt safe. I felt safer than I ever had in my life. I didn’t have the concept of “container” back then, but that’s what made me feel safe.
Seeing that it made sense to join a retirement community I checked out the Westview in Montpelier and Riverglen in Littleton. They are both small, about thirty people, and I realized that I probably would have a hard time finding enough “Kindred Spirits” to feel comfortable. The Kendal community is about 400 people, so even if I can only feel really comfortable with 1 out of 10 people, there would be about 40 people that I could find deeper relationships with. I also investigated “Eco-communities” as I knew they would be people who shared my values. But all that was available were small houses or apartments. There was no setup for regular community meals. I also considered co-housing, but again it would be too easy for me to be isolated. I know I need to be more involved with people, and at least at first I need to have already established ways of getting together around common interests. I need to be part of a writing group that already exists, not trying to start a writing group on my own. I need to have classes in things like yoga and dancing nearby, so they will be easy to get to. Kendal is big enough that things like fitness classes are in the buildings where we live.
The first question I asked all of them was “Can I bring my dog?”