When we separated, my husband refused to move out of the house, so I rented a small, 2-bedroom apartment about 5 minutes away. It was a huge relief to have my own place. We had initially decided on a 6-month separation, but as the months passed and neither of us reached out to the other to make amends it became clear that we would not be repairing our marriage. My six-month lease was coming to an end and I received a note from my landlord, notifying me that if I wanted to stay in the apartment, my rent was being increased from $1995/month to $2695/month if I signed a year-lease, or $2995/month if I went month to month (I live in Palo Alto, CA, where landlords can apparently get away with insane increases in rent like that).
I couldn’t stay in that 900 square foot apartment any longer…not so much because of the size, but because my son and daughter had to share a room, and the walls were so thin we could hear the television of our next-door neighbor. I was convinced that the people living directly over us were sprightly 300-pound college students; they often woke me up when stomping around at 2am.
It was time to move. I had anticipated the rent increase, (although not 50%…holy cow) and had been looking for our next home for a month or so. My needs were pretty simple; the “Must-have” criteria were 3 BR, 1BA, in Palo Alto, a year lease for ~$3500/month or less. I had a longer list of “preferred” criteria: in the North part of Palo Alto (where my children’s school is located), within walking distance to downtown, hardwood floors, garage, 2BA, modern kitchen (in my price range, many of the houses I saw were older and not all had “modern” amenities like dishwashers).
I sent emails to friends, letting them know I was searching for a place to rent. I wrote out my list of must-have and preferred criteria and offered it up to the universe. Every day, I searched Craigslist, sometimes several times a day, looking for candidates that fit my basic criteria. I viewed a lot of properties. Sometimes, in a moment of hopelessness, I would consider a 2BR if the rooms were really big, figuring I could share a room with my daughter and have it for myself during the weeks she wasn’t with me. After about 3 months of looking (and 2 months of paying $2995/month for my apartment) I was starting to worry, but I reminded myself to be calm and to trust that things would work out. I believed that the universe had my back.
Finally, the Craigslist listing I had been waiting for arrived, but I was on the other side of the planet and unable to attend the open house. It was a 3BR, 2BA house near downtown! The rent was a little higher than I had hoped ($3800) but it was close enough. I had started seeing other property lease rates inch up and I realized I had to reset my expectations of what my dollar could buy, or, er, rent. I called the landlord to explain to her that I was very interested in the house but that I could not attend the open house that weekend because I was in the UK. She very kindly let me know that I could view the house on Monday when I returned…if it was still available. Ugh. I knew my chances were slim that it would not be gone by the time I returned, but again, I said a little prayer and then let it go, avoiding obsessing over whether or not it would still be available. There really wasn’t anything else I could do at that point, so why stress out over it?
I was delighted that by the time I returned home on Monday, I had not received a phone call from her, telling me the house had been rented. I called her to confirm that she could still show me the house and she met me that evening.
The frontage of the house was not impressive; it looked like behind the door one would find a 200 square foot studio, plus it was a block away from the train tracks. I sighed, assuming this would be another over-priced dud of a house. May, the landlord pulled up in her Lexus, sized me up as she got out of her car and showed me to the door. I was on my best behavior…I really wanted to get out of the apartment. I was pleasantly surprised when we walked in to hardwood floors and a long hallway that extended to the master bedroom in the back of the house. There was a sunlight-filled playroom on the right, with a door that led to the back yard. The kitchen was small but had a large refrigerator and a dishwasher, plus a gas stovetop (I hate electric). There was a one-car garage with rafters for storage. I walked toward the back of the house and found two bedrooms and a bathroom for the kids, and a huge master bedroom in the back, with a large closet and a two-sink bathroom. I was relieved. Then I was on a mission to get the house.
We walked into the back yard onto the patio. Behind the house was the driveway for a pediatrician’s office, so I noted that those neighbors would be fairly quiet during the hours I was home. There were lemon and apple trees in the yard, and May encouraged me to pick a few to bring to my kids. The train had come by while we were in the house and the double-pane windows had done a decent job of keeping out most (but definitely not all) of the noise. I tried to negotiate the price down to $3500 but May held firm. I felt the universe had provided an adequate house that had surpassed my list, so I wrote out a check for the deposit and filled out an application form. I must have charmed May, because she called me the next day to let me know the house was mine.
The process of finding this house turned into a life lesson for me, mostly about the power of patience and mindfulness. When I knew my apartment situation was not working, I did all I could to find something new and I remained hopeful when my initial efforts did not result in finding what I needed, but I didn’t needlessly worry about a future (not finding a “good enough” home) that hadn’t happened. I stayed present and had faith that the universe would deliver, and it did.