First impressions are lasting. I always dreamed of living in an intentional community. I had only heard of communes though the word Eco Village did float around but I never looked into them – I guess I figured they were more environment and educationally oriented (now I know more). So when I finally had the chance to visit a commune my first impression told me it wasn’t for me. It wasn’t the right time. Parts of it looked like a dorm and a college cafeteria and I felt like that would have been more appropriate for me as I left college years before. Now I had two children, at the time, and had just connected to the homeschooling community and wanted to keep exploring that. This commune you had to ask permission and set up a time to use a car and I was loving the freedom of driving all over (I gave up international travel when I had kids but my cars have all been run down by national road trips). I got the feeling that I missed my chance – I didn’t want to lose all that agency over my life for a commune.
Then I heard about cohousing and it sounded so different. Your own house. Your own car. No asking permission. But I was wrong. There are lots of parts of cohousing where you have to make sure everyone okays first. You have long days and months working on consensus. Decisions move slowly or not at all.
It dawned on me that the idea of others having some sort of control over my life is very scary. I didn’t feel it completely living there – just more annoyed that in my community there wasn’t much spontaneity for activities. However, now that I’ve left, I feel like I can’t escape some of their control. Since I’ve been iced out and it’s hard to get any reaction/communication to some of my questions about the budget, or grounds, or anything that can influence the sale of my house, It feels like I have less control. I can’t just plant flowers if it looks like somewhere that is a common area but no one will tell me if it is common or not. They want to know who I am renting or selling too but luckily I found out that is ultimately illegal to weed out who gets your place, all you can do is give them all the information about cohousing but home dwellers have legal protections. Of course I prefer people who are interested in cohousing and/or would benefit the community. But trust is totally broken going both ways.
And don’t get me started on liability. I brought it up while living there like around the pool – I think there still isn’t a sign about no diving or “swim at your own risk” or whatever those CYA things are to do around a pool. The whole HOA is responsible when things go wrong. I was worried about safety then, and still am, but now I could be financially responsible for their negligence and silence when I bring things up.
The good thing is that I learned the ultimate lesson – you can’t control others. You can control yourself. You can control how you react. It has gotten easier. Letting go. They will hold hours of meetings and figure it all our. It takes time to form a community and find the boundaries. I have the freedom of not being listened to, not going to the meetings, not being part of the group. So, I have the freedom to give a flying F and just live my life far away and drive whenever I want. If it hurts me financially, I can pass that money along and just patiently wait until someone else loves the idea of shared control over a property.
I’ll be like Janet Jackson and take control. Or better yet, Glee – they always have clear versions of the same song.