Picking My Battles

I’ve had a cold for the last couple of days. Nothing major, just a low grade fever, coughing, congestion and headache. Cold stuff. It has been the most relaxing thing ever.

I rarely get sick for more than a day. I usually feel something coming on, get a good night’s sleep and wake up feeling fine. This one is different, it lasted a few days and even though my fever broke, I am wiped out. I love it.

I don’t usually give myself permission to not go to the gym and do all the things I feel I must do each day. I welcome my body telling me to lie down and close my eyes.

So here I am on the couch now that the kids have gone to school, not walking the dog, not racing to the gym. I’m writing, just like the good old days.

The cumulative effect of my various life stresses and a virus (natch) knocked me down. The good news is that I feel like the fog of indecision lifted and my path is finally clear.

It started with a long talk with an old friend.

I met Chris when I was 19 and although his life has taken him to Palo Alto to be a senior executive of an electronics superpower, he very generously devotes all his attention to my smaller problems; my words, not his.

He hears me, he acknowledges my deep distress, he focuses on my interests and together we clarify the situation until the solution is obvious.

He is a good friend. It’s incredible what a conversation with a stranger at the Trident can lead to 25 years later. I am overwhelmed with gratitude.

Our conversation led to a come to Jesus with Loony. His way of dealing with my problems the opposite of Chris’s. He poo-poos my anxieties. His answer to all the things that bother me is, Don’t worry about it. It’s not that big of a deal. I’m sure it will be fine. I think you are overreacting.

But I’m not. I pay the bills, I do the taxes. I know how much we need to make a year to afford our lifestyle of 15 year-old beat up cars, road trip vacations, clinic healthcare, thrift-store goods and home cooking. It’s not enough without my Short-Term Rental (STR) income.

Whether it be water coming through the roof to this business with the city, he brushes it off. He is a calm counterpoint to my tense reactivity. I value is mellow attitude towards life but right now I need him to do something different with me.

I am deep in the throws of anxiety and depression.

I saw a doctor for my annual exam. She was new to the clinic and was obviously trying to manage her caseload. The first thing she said to me was that I should see a different NP in the practice. I kept saying, “I’m depressed. This is circumstantial but I can’t do anything about it. I’ve felt this before. I am managing but I need help.” I don’t think she heard me. She told me to make an appointment the other NP. I left defeated.

But I won’t leave defeated with Loony. We stayed up late one night and and I made him listen. I asked him to please not interrupt me and minimize my worries. Just respond to me, his wife, with compassion. I needed him to sit with me and just get it.

Repeat after me: I’m sorry you are so upset. I can see why you would feel that way. This must be very hard for you. This is a large burden for you to bear. You must be tired. What can I do?

It helped. It also led to what Heather calls a Therapy Hangover. While we didn’t have a therapist in the room, I felt spent afterwards and a cold took hold. I welcomed it, I needed the permission to move slowly for a few days.

I came to a conclusion about this short-term rental stuff. Early on I allied myself with people who represent the interests of non-owner occupied rental models. I thought we could help each other even though it was a departure from my initial stance to only legalize owner-occupied rentals.

As much as I appreciated the help and the company, I feel that I took on dead weight. I built a website (Nina helped, thank you and happy birthday), I created the content, I made the hundreds of phone calls to get people on board (something that I hated doing with every ounce of my being, but I was good at it) I worked my ass off to advocate not only for myself, but for others. I thought I would get some help.

All I got was the additional troubles of a more complicated population and a load more work. No one else was willing to put their name or face on anything the way I do. I don’t blame them, it sucks. They know what would happen if they admitted to owning an investment property. Comment trolls would burn them at the stake.

But here’s the thing. Boulder will never legalize non-owner occupied STRs. Not with this City Council. Is that the right choice for Boulder? I’m not in the position to say.

Personally, I think the city is overstating the threat of investment STRs. This town is way too expensive to have entire neighborhoods overrun with houses purchased solely for the purpose of renting out on VRBO. I believe they are responding to the hysteria of a vocal minority.

However, City Council’s position is solid. They are unanimously in favor of legalizing owner-occupied STRs and are considering limiting the number of days they may be rented out. Right now the number is terribly low (30-60 days) but I hope it is negotiable.

They are unanimously against investment STRs.

In short, why expend my energy fighting for investors when I should be spending it on my own interests?

City Council claims to be concerned about long-time residents and making Boulder affordable for them. STRs are a solution. There are a thousand of us in Boulder who rent rooms to make ends meet. Not because we are rich and wanting to get richer, not because we have multiple homes, but because we need the money to stay in our homes. 

Renting out a room in your house doesn’t remove housing stock from the market. My guest room will never be a long-term housing solution for a family of four. It’s my house and I don’t want a full-time housemate. Many people feel the same way. But opening our homes to short-term guests helps us and it makes room for Boulder’s many visitors.

It is a solution.

I must admit, I felt uneasy about extolling the virtues of STRs as a way for the middle-class to make it in this town and then trying to make the same justification for investment owners. They are different animals. I’m not saying that other animal doesn’t deserve to exist, but I need to tend mine first.

In other words, I don’t have anything against investors, many are my friends, but I cannot fight for them anymore, not when it weakens my chances of protecting my livelihood.

I cannot spare the resources; I must put myself and my family first. If someone has a problem with that, then I ask would they fight for someone else’s family before fighting for their own? Of course not.

At first I thought I would just walk away from it all. Give away the website, give away the contacts, give it all away because that’s easier than saying, “This is mine. I made my it by myself and I don’t have to give it away.”

But you know what? It is mine. I made it. I’m keeping it.

This new clarity – this simplified path – might not change anything. I still don’t know what my future will be but I feel lighter because if I succeed, I succeed on my own. If I fail, I disappoint only myself. I can’t live with it any other way.

After a full day of rain the sun is finally out. Maybe I’ll wash my face and take Blue for a walk.

Thank you for reading.

11 thoughts on “Picking My Battles

  1. I’m so glad your process has lead to your feeling lighter, and clearer. I was concerned. I hope you and B have a wonderful walk on a beautiful day! Looking forward to seeing you very soon!


  2. You’re doing the right thing for your family, and for yourself. We all have limited bandwidth and resources, and it is so clear that your family is your number one priority, not staging a large scale battle with city council. They should have helped you… I hope you feel better soon (and fire that doctor!).

  3. I took a look at the website you built — wow, you put a lot of work into this. I think you may be right, about your interests in your owner-occupied STR vs those of investment properties. I hope you feel better soon.

  4. I’m so proud of you! I know how difficult it can be to say “I need this” or the opposite–NOT wanting to handle anymore what’s been put in front of you. I admire you SO much!!!

  5. To my imaginary friend 🙂
    I love that you put out there that you depressed. I think that is so brave. My whole family is full of mental illness and no one talks about it. I struggle with depression at times. I feel bad about feeling bad, since I am so lucky with so many things. I know that depression isn’t about just situations, but still… Seeing that you (funny, smarty, witty, wife, mother and impressively fit) also struggle makes me feel less bad about feeling bad. 🙂 Thanks.

    • Imaginary friends are the best. It’s easier to tell the whole truth when I know I won’t have to face the person on the playground. That said, I know a lot of my readers personally and I have made a concerted effort to never censor myself.

      Depression is a bitch. I had a nasty bout of PPD with my second child, Prozac saved my life. There is no shame in it. The smallest aspects of life were simply crushing, doing laundry defeated my soul. With all that, that last thing one needs to do is pile on more guilt for feeling depressed.

      I have so many more things in my life to be embarrassed about (and I’ve written about all of them) that depression seems like not such a big deal, but maybe it’s just me. I have a high tolerance for self-revealing that came from experiencing what it’s like to be outed for various transgressions. I never want to lose control of my own narrative.

      Thanks for reading April. If you ever need me, I’ve got your back.

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