Rewind: March 2013

Deciding to move was not something I had anticipated. Certainly not this year, and not likely in the next ten, either. I love the Northwest. I live across the street from a lake where ospreys and bald eagles fish. I’m in easy distance of Seattle, where I spent the better part of sixteen years. Within just a few hours, I can be at the coast, in the Cascades, in Vancouver BC, or in Portland, Oregon. I love the forests and the mountains and the water here. I thought I would spend the rest of my life here.

Sometimes, life has other plans.

Around the beginning of the year, I started having dizzy spells. They occurred only occasionally and never lasted very long, a few minutes at most. I had a couple of them, a bit longer lasting, in February on my way down to California and back, for a conference that I present at every year. As long as they didn’t happen when I was driving, I wasn’t worried about it.

On March 14th, that changed.

I was driving down to the VA hospital for a weekly appointment when it hit, and it hit hard. I was in the middle of the downtown Seattle I-5 traffic mess, so I wasn’t far from my destination, but I was white-knuckled on the steering wheel, hoping I wasn’t going to get into an accident. There really wasn’t anywhere I could safely pull off the road, so I continued to the VA, hoping the dizziness would abate by the time my one-hour appointment was over.

An hour later I was still dizzy so when I was done with my appointment I went to the emergency room to get checked out. They couldn’t find anything superficially wrong with me, but I was instructed not to drive until the dizziness resolved, and to get checked out by my regular physician. Here I am, nine months later, still dizzy and still unable to drive.

I feel like I’m drunk all the time. I’ve been through a wide variety of tests at the VA, without any concrete result. What this means is, it’s not a tumor, not my inner ears or my eyes, not Meniere’s disease. At the moment, their best guesses are menopause (I am living in a female body of a certain age) or a shift in the pattern of my migraines. In either case, there’s nothing that can currently be done about it and yes, I’ve tried everything that has been suggested.

Initially, I was told that sudden, unexplained dizziness sometimes happens, but it most often resolves within three to six months of onset. Obviously, this hasn’t happened for me. I’m using hiking poles to get around. A cane puts too much pressure on one arm, and doesn’t help with the fact that I can feel like I’m listing in either direction even when I’m entirely upright. A walker would be very much over the top for my situation. I’m not that old! I get around very well, but not being able to drive means that I’m entirely dependent upon friends and public transportation for everything. I live in a place where the nearest useful bus stop is a twenty minute walk away and, though my friends love me, they have their own lives and it’s hard for them to get me everywhere I need to go. I’ve gone from having an active social life to being nearly a shut-in, and have felt that it was hard to ask them to help with anything but medical appointments and the grocery shopping.

You may be wondering what all this has to do with deciding to move to Italy. We’re getting there.

In May, I realized that I was likely not going to be able to drive again for a long time, and knew that I couldn’t continue living here in Everett. My apartment is in a fairly suburban place. There are a couple of stores and restaurants I can walk to, but most of my life is ten or more miles from my door, and difficult to get to without a car.

In July I sold my car. Of all the things I’ve done so far, that has been the hardest. It wasn’t because I’m particularly a fan of cars, but because it represented my independence, and my ability to do things for and by myself. I cancelled a summer road trip I’d been planning from Everett out to Cape Cod and back, visiting friends, teaching at a Druid retreat in upstate New York, and seeing parts of the country that I had never visited before.

I started seriously researching the possibility of moving to Italy in June. As I’ve noted in previous posts, my brother lives over there and was eager to help me when I told him that I was considering the move. Looking at the necessary paperwork and requirements, I was fairly certain my residence visa application would be turned down but, as the adage goes, “nothing ventured, nothing gained.” I decided to go through with the attempt, while planning to move back to Seattle. There are a couple of neighborhoods where I could both walk to everything and would need to take only one bus up to my medical appointments at the VA, and I thought it would make a better and much more independent life for me.

Venice had attracted me on many levels when I visited and I thought, there’s a city where everyone walks, and where public transit is really good. I love boats, and ferries are part of the public transit system around Puget Sound, so the vaporetto system really appealed to me. My brother is less sanguine about Venice, due to the huge number of tourists, but I don’t mind crowds as long as I can get out of them into quiet places when I need to. He said that most of the cities in Italy had walkable city cores where you could actually get to nearly everything you might need, and that public transit was pretty good over there. Compared to what we have in most places in the US, public transit in Italy is excellent. If I had to be stuck walking for the rest of my life, I figured, why not walk in beauty?

In August I started working on my residence visa application in earnest, not expecting anything to come of it. That, though, is a topic for another post.

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