Letter Number Two from a Cohousing Newbie

What is it like to join a cohousing community? In the Spring of 2022, I jumped into that uncertainty in Sonoma County, California. Periodically I’ll try to share the experience and answer questions via a series of “Letters from FrogSong.”

Comfort Zone

The water is my happy place, so shortly after my arrival I learned how to use the county’s public pool. As I prepared to lower myself into the deep end last week, I startled at the sound of my name.

“Eve!” The enthusiastic shout came from a few lanes over. After a moment of cognitive dissonance, I recognized it was the friendly Froggie L!

This was my first experience seeing a FrogSong resident on the outside. I soon realized she was there with another Froggie: O, who was much closer to me in the pool. I introduced myself, even though O probably recognized me, or at least knew me as the “newbie.”

O and I treaded in the deep water and made small talk. I grumbled about the shape of my flotation belt. “You know,” O said after I demonstrated it, “yours might be ideal to have on the trip I’m about to make.”

And just like that, a swap was arranged. While O and her husband are in the Pacific Northwest, she will use my “more portable” belt. I will use her sturdy blue one. Smiles all around! This spontaneous swap represents a new, FS-specific experience that is well within my comfort zone.

Other examples include:

  • a spontaneous walk with S, who surprised me with a knock at my door after supper one evening
  • Invitations to share and participate in: meals, casual hangouts and political activism
  • daylight dips in the clothing-optional hot tub. Yeah, you heard me! Water is my happy place

Discomfort Zone

But what parts of living at FS have I discovered are not within my comfort zone?

“To live in cohousing you have to let go of a lot of control, there’s a surrendering. I’m drawn to the growth that comes out of this surrender, and still, sometimes I ask myself, ‘What am I getting into?’” (Silvine Farnell, Silver Sage senior cohousing, as quoted in With a Little Help From Our Friends: Creating Community as We grow Older, Baker, 2014)

  •   The inefficiency of a non-hierarchical gardening team
    • “I thought you watered the seedlings!”
  • The patience required to solve problems with a group of strangers
    • Why is the washing machine / heat / gate latch still broken?
  • Hanging my newly laundered underwear on the community clotheslines
    • {blushing}

Note: these are examples of things not currently in my comfort zone. But challenging and expanding one’s comfort zone is an element of the cohousing lifestyle.

Lesson: nobody other than me is pushing my boundary – that is, I chose this lifestyle. And I feel safe here to respond authentically. In due time and in supportive community, my comfort zone can expand.

On April 1, 2022 I became a tenant Froggie. I have sworn not to take this unique opportunity for granted! I plan to share what I learn. I hope to discover:

  • What do community members love about their lifestyle? What irritates them?
  • What is most surprising to me as a newcomer?
  • How does the community communicate? How does it resolve conflict?
  • What types of activities are shared? What tools and resources?
  • How does the surrounding community interact with the cohousing community?

And lots more. I will answer readers’ questions to the best of my ability! Watch this space for Letter Number Three!

Category: Living in Cohousing

Tags: comfort zone, community, Connecting, living in cohousing

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