As I prepare to move from Northern California to Southern California, I am reminded of the importance of location for living with chronic pain. Here in the Bay Area, I live in a vibrant suburb, on a quiet, tree-lined street, where my home office is surrounded by trees and flowering ivy growing on the windows.
There are California poppies, a flowering blackberry bush, and other wildflowers right off my front steps, not to mention a lemon tree, two plum trees, a rosemary bush, and another flowering blackberry bush in the backyard.
I have windows everywhere; my home is full of light; and I have views of trees and hills on the east side and lots and lots of trees on the west side, not to mention a view of the horizon just above the San Francisco Bay — which translates into gorgeous sunsets. So even when my pain levels are jacked up, and it’s hard to get out, I am surrounded by nature.
I live on the second story, so I feel safe enough to leave my windows open at night (which is a must, given a certain medical condition), without having too many stairs involved in my daily routine — stairs being the enemy of my ankles and knees.
And I’m just half a mile from downtown — where both my gym and BART (the subway system connecting the entire Bay Area) are located. Add to that the fact that the farmers’ market and health food supermarkets are all within biking distance, and I rarely have to get in my car — which I try to drive as little as possible.
Did I mention that this place has a jacuzzi tub? Filled with scalding hot water, a soak in the tub melts away my pain before I go to bed at night, making it possible for me to sleep.
I also had a great setup when I lived in North Tel Aviv from 2003-2005, meaning I was able to lead a full, vibrant life within the comfort zone of my limitations — even though I was in bad shape back then. I was in a gorgeous apartment on the second floor — again, high enough to feel safe and low enough to make it up and down the stairs without excessive pain. I set up my office on the balcony, which was enclosed by sliding glass doors 3/4 of the way around the room.
Not only did my balcony face a neighborhood park (a total find in a country where you’re generally looking right into someone else’s living room, across a narrow street), but there was a palm tree and some other frilly tree right in front of my balcony, with the leaves reaching inside when the glass doors were open.
Despite the fact that I was glued to my computer 12 hours a day, I always felt as if I were outdoors. And if I didn’t get enough fresh air, I could bike to the beach, which was just seven or eight blocks away.
I was making a living as a journalist, writing for top periodicals like Rolling Stone, Self, The Washington Post, Seventeen, and BBC News. I conducted most of my interviews on the phone or by e-mail, enabling me to travel the world from the comfort of my ergonomic office chair. So although I could barely walk two or three blocks before being stopped by excruciating pain, I still felt connected to the global pulse.
As if that setup wasn’t cushy enough for someone with chronic pain, I was half a block away from Bazel Square — a four-block radius with a…
- health food store
- kosher butcher
- produce market
- juice bar
- two medical centers
- video store
- general foods market
- homeware store
- ambulance center
- three 24-hour convenience stores
- two flower shops
- stationery store
- several boutiques
- too many cafés to count — including one of the only two smoke-free joints throughout the city
What’s more, while my apartment was on a relatively quiet (there is no such thing as quiet in Tel Aviv) side street, it was about three blocks from each of the two main drags – Dizengoff and Ibn Gvirol. If I couldn’t find what I needed just outside my door, I certainly could find it a short bike ride or, on the days that my knees and ankles were strong, walk away. Not to mention that all the markets and supermarkets in Israel deliver packages, so I never had to carry anything heavy into my apartment.
I’m feeling some anxiety about relocating, even though it’s a short-term move for work that I love. Given my special needs, and the cushy setup I’ve got going on here, I’m finding it hard to leave this place.