Friday, August 28, 2015

The Joys of Guerrilla Knitting

Last fall, I took a fiber arts class. I’ll have more to say on that because it was part of my quest for a new life, but we had to do some research. I did mine on Guerrilla Knitting – knitters cover things in the urban environment by going out and Yarn Bombing them. The class loved the idea, said I should get one going.

Okay, I knew how to do that. I can do outreach. I can get the word out far and wide through all sorts of unorthodox channels. I can make something happen. It’s what I do.

So I arranged for us to Yarn Bomb the trees in front of the Museum, give them sweaters for the winter. The Urban Foresters gave their endorsement.

Then I had to learn how to knit. Only knit. I didn’t even progress to purl, but all this was a New Thing, just what I was looking for. We held Knit-Ins. I learned how to make stripes, how to knit with two balls of yarn at the same time, how to mix colors. With fat, bulky yarn and big fat needles, projects just zoom along; it’s very gratifying. While I was watching my never-ending DVDs, I could knit and knit. Before spiralizing, I was a Knitting Fool.

Knitters came out of the woodwork! Knitters were posting gorgeous photos on our Facebook page. They were knitting stars, flowers, words; they were well beyond stripes. Pioneer Home, Senior Center, Native Hospital – sweaters were coming in from all over. Balls and balls of yarn were donated. (Only later did I realize this was really thinly-disguised de-cluttering: knitters accumulate massive yarn stashes. They have to move some out before they can justify getting more. And if it’s going for a good cause, well hallelujah!)

Experienced knitters were teaching little knitters. TV stations were calling. Photographers were interested. Radio. We were going to be a First Friday happening: come and attach the sweaters to the trees. No experience necessary. Be part of public art.

Temperatures fell and fell. Uh, oh. Who would want to attach sweaters to trees and risk frostbite? But the day dawned and it was sunny … and windy and freezing. Out we went to the Museum with bags and bags of knitted pieces.
And people came! People who wanted to put theirs up. People who hadn’t knitted but who wanted to be part of it all. People on their lunch hour. People with kids. Kids hiding behind trees. People with cameras. People taking breaks to warm their hands and attach more. It was the happiest day of my whole year! It was everyone’s happy day! (Listen to me on TV
What was it? Was it the beauty in an unexpected place? (Look at the photos.) I think so much of our experience of art is as a spectator, and here we were all participants. We could all Do Art!
Jealous? Sorry you missed out on this? Now you have your chance: another big event is happening, and you can Yarn Bomb a whole street. Come out First Friday, September 4 to the big block party on D Street at the International Gallery of Contemporary Art, 5-10 pm. Be part of public art! (I won’t be there; I’m on a postponed vacation.)
Yes, there is a Third Third moral to this story, but for now, it was merely the highest high spot in a year of muddle. The highest high spot. So what did I do with that little bit of insight? Or what didn’t I do?

Thursday, August 27, 2015

De-cluttering in High Gear

I wrote an article for Alaska Magazine once about Alaska’s history going to garage sales, recycling centers, or the dump. People who were part of our history got old, maybe moved Outside, maybe died. Oblivious kids just trashed it.

We know how easily that happens. When we moved my mother out of the house we all lived in for fifty years, we started out with great plans: give the office supplies to elementary schools, give the tools to vocational education, give the original Ms. magazines to a women’s studies program. But after uncovering the 400th pencil, the 200th matchbook, and an attic full of packing sponge – packing sponge? – it just started … getting tossed.

And didn’t we all say: “I’m going to make sure my kids don’t have to deal with all my crap!”

This is the Difficulty Scale for De-cluttering, from easiest to hardest (a first draft):
  1. Other person’s stuff – Easiest!

  2. Broken stuff you finally believe you won’t get around to fixing

  3. Stuff you will never ever use again and don’t want to be reminded about, it’s in the way, AND you have identified the perfect recipient who thinks it’s treasure

  4. Stuff already in storage and you come across it and it’s been unacknowledged and undiscovered for so long it has retreated from your consciousness AND you have identified the perfect recipient who thinks it’s treasure

  5. #2 and #3 above with no perfect recipient but if you donate it to a nonprofit’s garage sale, maybe it can turn into treasure for them

  6. Stuff of sentimental value. This can be anything from your past and you think you might like to look over it and remember it fondly some day. You imagine sitting in a comfortable chair, maybe a cozy fire, and you’re sifting through a box of memorabilia and grandchildren are oohing and aahing about how interesting it all is.

    Dream on.

  7. Stuff that might come in handy some day. Ugh, my personal struggle.
Back when I wrote that article for Alaska Magazine, I urged people to make contact with the Museum or the Library to see if their stuff had value and to arrange in advance where it would end up. Let’s see, that was about 20 years ago.

These things take time….

So I called the Library and today Arlene from Archives came and took cartons of stuff from my house.
It started out easy enough: empty my Daily News columns from the file cabinet. But this is the thing about de-cluttering: once you get on a roll, it’s infectious! I gathered the files from the plays I wrote, the short stories, the essays, the book reviews. The CDs of interviews. The audio files from my radio show. And the stuff they didn’t want? Hey, I’d already said goodbye to it; it could go in recycling now.

Every now and then, I’d think, “But what if I want to look back on this?” or “What if I want to share it with Sophie?” or “What if someone asks me for some information about it?”

Philosophical Considerations: Do I think all I am is my past? How much of my present and future need to refer to that past?

Actual Considerations: Just get this shit out of my house!

Into the Light

If you guessed #3 yesterday, you win. It is easy to get depressed when you don’t know what you’re doing with your life.

So after moping a lot, finding a ton of faults in Tim, noticing every time I wasn’t included in a social event, and sagging deeper and deeper, I decided I was clinically depressed. I went to a therapist, Linda.

She had me artistically illustrate what gave me pleasure.

Drawing this gave me no pleasure. Only DVDs gave me pleasure. Lots of DVDs. A constant supply of DVDs from the library.

Let me tell you about Golden Moments. Golden Moments are when the universe lets you know that you are in the right place at the right time and all is good with you and the world. I can still close my eyes and picture the time I looked out my doorway and my friends were playing pick-up football on the green and one shouted, “Hey, B-squared, come out and play!” The sun was shining. All was good with the world.

Golden Moments happen when I’m in my living room, and my eyes survey the whole scene of what makes our home, and all is right with the world.

Intellectually, I could say, “There is always a period of restlessness and turmoil until it reaches critical mass and a creative period surfaces. Just wait for it.” Instead, I huddled with that restlessness and turmoil in my living room and couldn’t move with the paralysis of my unknown future. No Golden Moments there.

And Linda used that word, that elusive but oh-so-enthralling word:
Yes, that’s right! That’s it! That’s what I want. How could I bring joy back into my life? Not with me sitting here whining.

That’s when Linda told me about “If nothing changes, nothing changes.” (See this blog post.) In college, friends would call that a P.G.I.O – Penetrating Glimpse into the Obvious – but I took it to heart. I also visited my sister and we took a road trip to Burlington, Vermont. Burlington appears on every list of “good places to retire” so if you’re thinking relocation might solve your problems, it was a reconnaissance trip, too.

Burlington failed, but the trip succeeded. By crossing relocation-to-Burlington off my list, I had taken action. (Yes, it worked that way.)

Then I started this blog, happily sitting in my nice new room. Writing but using my hands to paint. And one day I sat in the living room, surveyed the scene, and felt comfort wash over me. And I thought maybe this is my Third Third. Maybe this is not a detour on where I’m supposed to be; maybe it is where I’m supposed to be, detour or not.

I have spent a lifetime whirling through the turbulence of my emotions, the bedlam of choices to be made, the ups and downs of events and tides. Arrhythmia was the rhythm of my life. I’ve collided with life.

This new thing, is this the wisdom of the Third Third?


Wednesday, August 26, 2015

Is this unemployment?

Groups of friends meet every week – during the day because they’re not working – and they call themselves “retired.” I’m not working, but I call myself unemployed. And even that’s not accurate because I have contract “gigs,” but mostly it means I don’t go to the same place on a regular basis, get a regular paycheck from there, and have a boss. But if you’re a certain age, people assume you’re retired.

But I think I’ll eventually get A Job so by my definition, that means I’m unemployed.

I don’t do unemployment so well. Which is odd because I unemploy myself regularly. About every five years or so, after pouring myself into the venture of the moment, I start feeling restless. I’ve taken whatever I’ve done to new heights (yeah, I think so), but when it turns into “oh, it’s April, in April we do this” and “time to gear up for October,” I start fading.

In San Francisco, running the street and subway operation of the Muni was a 24/7 job before we even had the expression 24/7. When that wore thin, I had this big dream of working internationally and was hired to run the Melbourne transit system. So I quit my S.F. job. But the visa process was so long, I was unemployed for longer than I would have liked. Ultimately, I abandoned Plan A and came to Alaska to People Mover.

In San Francisco, when you don’t have a job, you feel like you have to say to people
I felt like one day I’d look in the mirror and there’d be no reflection. Even though I took classes and got a certificate in Graphic Design, even though I was heavy into major political matters, I felt valueless.

So I wasn’t going to let a job define me again.

This is how my employment cycle works: I have a great 5-7 years. I try new things, make things happen. There are glory years of accomplishment and satisfaction, meaningful work and workplace camaraderie. Then I fade and quit. Then something else emerges.

Yeah, emerges. I look around, something captures my interest, I explore it. Eventually, I’ll talk to someone, tell them how I can fix something or make something happen for them or their organization, and a job emerges that I fill. This is a very happy process that has taken me from buses to theater companies to newspapers to leadership to early childhood.

But something went awry this time. As I looked around, I’d find a potential interest and … nah. What about this? Nah, same old, same old. Ho-hum. Ugh, no way. My whole self winced at the thought of most jobs in my field. I don’t want to sit at a computer. I want to use my hands! I taught workshops for contractors: maybe I’d like to be a tile guy. I thought I’d like to be a check-out person at the library, talking to people about their books. Maybe I would prune trees and fix all the poorly pruned trees I see around town.
I didn’t want to do what I’m very good at; I wanted to try something I’d never done before.

There are several ways to interpret this:
  1. Oh, you’re so eager to explore and try new things. How exciting!

  2. If you don’t figure out what you want to do soon, you will be part of the “long-term unemployed” and you’re 60 now and you’ve read all those articles about how no one wants to hire old people.

  3. You sound really depressed. Nothing interests you. What’s wrong with your whole life?
You get two guesses.

Tuesday, August 25, 2015

Sunday, August 23, 2015

A Room of My Own

For all the time we’ve lived in this house – 25+ years – my office has been a small room downstairs, off the laundry room. That’s where my drafting table, desk, and table sat. There’s a big window onto the back yard.

That’s where I wrote my newspaper columns, filed my papers, and scheduled radio recordings. That’s where I did calligraphy, kept my bookshelves, and stored my office and art supplies.

And every time I went down to it, I felt like I was walking down, down, down into a dungeon. Tim would turn the heat on early; didn’t help. It could be toasty down there, but it was still a dungeon. It was light and I had beautiful art on the walls, but it was still a dungeon.

When Sophie was five, we moved her to the neighboring guest room downstairs: a double-sized room with space for her “stations”: dress-up area, reading area, monkey bars across the ceiling. That made my downstairs dungeon a more pleasant place; I had company. I even set up the table in my room as her craft table to finish a project.

But it was still a dungeon. Eventually, a junk room. I’d just throw stuff in there because all I needed really was a little hole to get to the computer.
Five months ago, I decided Sophie-the-adult was no longer thinking of this place as home. So I moved in. I took over her desk, moved out her bed. Moved in my desk and drafting table – with no junk on them so they could actually be used for drawing and painting!

I even took Sophie’s tiny tea set collection in the display case and moved it piece by piece to my old room. I had to take photos of each shelf to make sure I placed them just so.
What I have now: three windows that look in three different directions; the computer, the printer, and the scanner all in the same room; a place to write and then casually walk over to the tables where I can paint.
I come down here when it’s dark, when the sun is shining, when it’s early, when it’s late. I come down here at three in the morning. I come down here because simply walking in the room stimulates my creative juices. I come down here when I have too many ideas upstairs and I have to start working on them … downstairs.

I am a conscientious shopper: I check Consumer Reports, I get references, I research and research. Except when buying a house: for that, the clincher is walking in the door and if it feels right and comfortable and welcoming, I know it’s right. Our house home is all that and more for me … except for that little room that was my office (but now which makes a perfectly pleasant guest room).

I love my new room! I love how it makes me feel. I can’t really empirically describe why, but it feels right and comfortable and welcoming. If in my Third Third I want to feel at home in my life and skin, then it’s only reasonable to feel at home in my room.

Best advice I ever got:
A hum is when your decision feels just right, when the choice you’re making matches with the whole universe. It’s a hum through your whole being.
A snag, on the other hand, is a kink. A stumble. A rough spot in the smoothness. You can try to ignore snags, try to pretend you didn’t notice them, but really, you KNOW. You know it’s not right. Period. A wise person taught me to listen to my hums and snags when making choices. They don’t lie.

My new room is a hum. My old room was a snag I should have listened to years ago.

The Third Third is a time to act on old, lingering snags and find the hum.

Saturday, August 22, 2015

Wearing Purple

“When I am an old woman I shall wear purple

With a red hat which doesn’t go, and doesn’t suit me.”
This is what happens when you take the Jenny Joseph poem too literally, which I have done for most of my life, previous thirds included:
In Yiddish, this is called a schtunk. It is my normal attire. It consists of a slogan T-shirt and an odd pair of Bermuda shorts that are made of some fabric that stretches out a lot. At least now I wear a belt. I used to put my hands in the pockets and the pants would slide down. I roll up the legs under the illusion that makes them seem more fashionable, and this whole get-up is what I wear when I need to be more “formal” than regular shorts. My daughter tells me I can’t wear socks-that-show with shorts, but sometimes I disregard that fashion advice.

When I was in college and wore only overalls for a long period, I used to think I was a pleasant surprise for a boyfriend: schtunk transforms into beautiful naked woman.

And recently I looked at myself and thought,

Who am I kidding?

Even the slogan T-shirts have gotten boring: 50% of them are Mayor’s Midnight Sun Half-Marathon T-shirts. I have drawers full of T-shirts. Some of them are actually the right size with an appealing cut, but I wear them even when they’re too big or shapeless. After all, how many can I relegate to the sleeping shirt drawer? I once described them in archaeological layers based on the era of acquisition.
So I marched myself off to J.C. Penney (armed with my $10 off for a purchase of $10 or more coupon – free money!). Miraculously, I actually found, tried on, and bought three shirts. Practically a Ralph Lauren makeover! Now I am vowing not to appear in public in a slogan T-shirt again (except if I’m camping, orienteering, being athletic, or doing messy, dirty work). I am going into my Third Third … attractive!
I am going right to those drawers and toss the ugly shapeless ones. Will I really need 15 of them in case I’m painting? Would I really paint for 15 days without doing laundry?


Watch this space to see if I actually do it. (I mean, why do I need to dress up to take garden pots in for recycling?)

RIP: Floppy Disks, VHS Tapes, and Slide Photographs

Glenn Kurtz came to speak in Anchorage. He’s the author of Three Minutes in Poland.  While moving his grandparents out of their apartment, he came across old family 16-mm movies. By now, they were so old they’d melted into hockey pucks in the can.

But Glenn knew the movies were of his grandparents’ European tour in 1938. What he didn’t know – but later uncovered – was that they visited their tiny homeland village in Poland one month before the Jews in it were liquidated.

So Glenn had the film restored, and the book chronicles how he found a few survivors with great memories and was able to re-create a view of now-extinguished village life. It’s a fascinating book, described in this video clip.

I had a question for Glenn:
 Okay, I knew this was a futile question….

But what Glenn also included in his book was a discussion of how long things last. Think about it: How many of you still have VCRs to play your VHS tapes? Cassette players to play your music? How many of you have a new version of Microsoft Word that can’t read your old documents? And how on earth would you read a floppy disk? (What’s a floppy disk?!?) Seen a slide projector lately? Even CDs and flash drives erode over time.
I found this liberating. Why save all this stuff that will prove un-readable and un-viewable? Get rid of it!

Except that I did transfer the 8-mm movies to VHS years back and just recently showed them to my 89-year-old mother, and she was thrilled to watch them and see her parents, her sisters, herself so young. But when will I transfer them to DVD?

And just imagine being a filmmaker like my friend Mary and how you have to keep updating all the creations of your professional life.

Unfortunately, this still leaves me where I started … with lots and lots of things on paper.

Thursday, August 20, 2015

Profiles in Third Thirds: Rick

Rick was an IT guy. Upon retirement, he became a sailor. No, a Sailor with a capital S. Rick took three different sailing classes. He bought a boat and a slip in the Seward marina.

Rick has a big list of things to do to fix up the boat. He has made selected panels on his boat gorgeous by varnishing the teak. To do this, he has to apply twelve thin coats of varnish. He only does this on small sections that he can bring home and work on in his garage in the winter.

Rick wants to install some shelves and take out others the former owner had installed. Turns out, there are two versions of the glue that attaches them to the walls: 5200 is permanent, you need a crowbar to remove it. That’s what he’s removing. But he’s using 4200 which is strong but not a killer.

He’s created repositionable curtains for the windows. He coils up his lines just so. He got a terrific deal on a $500 bumper which he is incredibly proud of, and he is involved with the local yacht club.

Are you getting the drift here? Rick is passionate about this boat and sailing. He has taken a new direction in his Third Third. He’s not ho-hum about it at all. I am so jealous of his finding this Thing. He is doing the Third Third so right!

We went out on his boat. The first day was sunny and gorgeous, and it was just Rick and me, and he said, “Hey, let’s take her out.” We motored slowly out of the harbor. This is how Rick looks when he is at the wheel. See the confidence, the smile, the beaming happiness. He is in the place he has picked in all the universe.

Then Rick said, “Take the wheel” because he had to mess around with the sails. No, Rick’s boat does not have this many sails. That is how many sails it felt like the boat had because I was at the wheel and the wind was blowing and sails were flapping and the boat was tipping.
I learned how to watch whether the sails were luffing and steer so the wind came in the right direction, how to watch my speed. But this is how I looked when I was at the wheel and too many things were happening at once. “Rick,” I said, “I am millimeters from hysteria.”
Once I went on a roller coaster (by mistake). At the end of the ride, the attendant had to pry open my hand on the iron bar to get the ticket out. That’s how my hands felt on the steering wheel of Rick’s boat.

Ultimately, we came back in, and the wind was behind us, and things got calm, and I fell asleep on the deck in the harbor and this is a pretty cool way to go into your Third Third if sailing is your thing. And this was a New Thing for me so I felt brave and … enriched.

The next day, Tim and Patti, Rick’s wife, arrived, and we went out again for a longer trip. Now we could spread the labor around so it was a lot more relaxing. Patti or Rick was at the wheel or they were both flailing and flaking with the sails or tying things down or readjusting things. Periodically, Rick would beam and happily say, “Patti and I are a real team” (and they are). A few times, Patti would say, “This really isn’t one of my favorite things.”

Uh, oh. What if your Third Third requires a buddy but your buddy isn’t really into your Third Third? What if that buddy is essential but that buddy doesn’t want that life? What if your buddy wants to volunteer in Africa and you want to take cooking classes in Paris? What if buddies arrive at their Third Thirds at different times? What if you don’t have a buddy at all?

What if your sailboat requires a crew?

Tuesday, August 18, 2015

The Quest for New-ness

When I think about the downsides of living in Alaska, it has nothing to do with cold or even dark. It has to do with what I call the “one-road-north-one-road-south” problem. By the time you’ve lived here 30 years, you have traveled every square inch of what you can do in a 3-day weekend. So then exploration and discovery are more involved and cost more.

But when Sophie went off to college, I resolved to try something new every week. This lead to adventures like joining a curling team, a bowling team, a magic class. And it doesn’t even have to be something with such a big commitment.

Recently, for instance, I discovered
You’re supposed to be able to turn zucchini into long strips of spaghetti. Think of the healthiness! The calorie savings! So I got a Spiralizer. It looks like this with a potato in it.
The potato is supposed to stick to the grips on the top so that when you press down and turn the crank, it rotates through the blades. The hard part was keeping the potato up there. It kept falling down and thumping around in the bowl. But when I sliced a bit off the top so it was flat, it stuck right in the little grips.

I became a spiralizing fool.
This is called keeping your brain active and your curiosity alive.

Tuesday, August 11, 2015

I am not a tech dinosaur!

One of the things I dislike about being in this Third Third is the popular perception that we don’t know our way around technology. I have created my own podcasts, mixed my own music on Garage Band, and created lots of iMovies. I use computer short cuts, know how to Skype, and update websites with HTML. But…

The Apple TV Remote Example

This is my Apple TV remote. A skinny silver thing with three buttons.

This is a test: Can you figure out how to watch Netflix with this? What buttons would you press to make it go?

The instruction booklet that came in the box lists six things you can do with your remote. I know about menu, pause, and play. That only went so far. Frustrated, I’d start pressing buttons and every now and then, a good thing would happen on the TV. But I was so busy pressing buttons, I couldn’t remember what did what.

Finally fed up, I Googled “Apple TV Remote,” and all sorts of advice popped up: how to rewind, fast forward, go into slow motion. Things like, “hold this button for 3 seconds while you do that to the other button” and other things happen. Who are these people, these good Samaritans who figure odd stuff out and then tell the rest of us on Google? Are they holding buttons on everything for 3 seconds, testing things?

Is it so hard for a manufacturer to include all this in the instruction booklet?

The Blog Bog

When I started this blog, I started it on Tumblr. I did the first two posts, and then friends tried to “follow” me. Uh, oh. They all wanted a post to go right into their inboxes, but with Tumblr, you have to “join” Tumblr. Then you have to create a screen name. If Tumblr already has someone with your name, they suggest rather bizarre new ones. That’s why I have a follower named pleasanttrashtyphoon and yourwhomeuniverse. She’s named both those things because the whole business was a little confusing. And nothing goes into your inbox; you have to go visit Tumblr and have things “fed” to you. Kind of like going to Facebook and having your friends’ posts in your feed.

But do any of us really need another thing to check? (See future post on wasting time…)

So I switched to Blogger and re-entered my first two posts. Picked out the template with the fonts and design and colors I wanted. But when I previewed it, it wasn’t what I’d picked. So I called Steve, whose What Do I Know? blog has been around for years with all sorts of interesting posts and features. Steve came over and we spent about 4 hours of Steve showing me around, teaching me new doodads. I’d forgotten that cutting-and-pasting usually messes up the HTML by adding all sorts of unwanted things to the template so I had a lot of clean-up. Hooray! My blog mostly looks the way it’s supposed to.

But there are still things I don’t understand. Like,
  • why is the title of my post the nice blue I picked but older posts lose the color?
  • And how do I exit a bulleted list to go back to my initial format?
  • And why now, a few hours later, is the nice blue color now navy blue?

My daughter once showed me a game on her phone. No instructions. “What’s the objective of the game? How do we play? What are the rules?” “No need,” she said. Then she’d click on something, triggering something else happening, and we’d go to a new level. Miraculously! Finally after a couple of hours of this, I said,
 She said, “I was secretly Googling it whenever you were concentrating on the phone.”

Wednesday, August 5, 2015

If nothing changes, nothing changes

So there I was, running aground a while, sort of paralyzed about what to do or be next, and someone told me this:

Is this brilliant or what? This is the keystone of my life. A relationship once ended because I said life was a river and he said his life was a lake. But when a river spreads out too much and makes too many braids, you can run aground. And then you sit, which is worse than being a lake. Being a lake requires contentment. This is being a swamp or a bog. So I re-committed myself to moving forward.

Moving forward takes several forms. Sometimes, it’s just “Stop reading the cereal box! Get dressed!” Other times, it’s find something new, make a plan, sign up, schedule it. Make the phone call. Or just put one foot in front of the other.

They say you can hold onto your cognitive abilities by doing something mentally hard. Not crossword puzzles, something that’s frustrating. Like learning a second language.

Look at that graphic I just made. I figured out how to copy it, overlay it, give it all those textures. I don’t have fancy software, just my paints and a scanner. How did I get those versions to overlap without cutting each other off? How did I move them around and layer them? Finally, I got my art to look like what my mind’s eye imagined it to be!

This is today’s little victory.

Tuesday, August 4, 2015

De-cluttering 101: Why is this even part of a Third Third discussion?

  1. You have to toss some of your old life to make room for a new life.

  2. If you’re going to relocate, do you want to pay to move it? Or, as one friend said, If you won’t move it, why have it?

  3. If you’re going to downsize, it won’t fit. We’re assuming that in this Third Third, kids aren’t living with us. Do you really want to hang onto a place that has rooms that aren’t used, that you have to heat and vacuum? Smaller = less room.

  4. Maybe your stuff is more valuable donated than sitting in the attic. My mother's 50 years of mint-condition Broadway Playbills could do more for the theater she donated them to than they did gathering dust. That made my mother feel better, too. Goal: doing good, feeling better.

    I once heard a quilter speak about her fabric stash, how she lived in terror of her kids putting it all out on the lawn – “Fill a bag for 25¢” – without realizing that some pieces were truly valuable. Ditto for coin, stamp, and rock collections….

  5. Okay, think about your Third Third: do you want to spend it browsing through old Playbills, gazing at shelves of books you read a long time ago, marveling over greeting cards from relatives long since dead? Do you want to re-read and re-read … or find the latest bestseller?

  6. Advanced Third Third: maybe you won’t remember any of the people who sent the greeting cards so what are greeting cards from perfect strangers worth? And who are those people in those high school yearbooks?!?

  7. Post Third Third: If you don’t get rid of it, someone else may read it. Aiieee! Your kids going through your diaries? Spouses looking at photos of old (very old, maybe dead) boyfriends?

  8. Fact: Children left to clean out your shit curse the amount of crap you’ve accumulated and left for them. And it is all crap to them. They will throw the fabric stash on the lawn with signs saying “Fill a bag for 25¢.” Or worse yet, it all goes in the dumpster. Even kids who would prefer to reuse and recycle just don’t have the time or patience, and they’re pissed at adding to the landfill (admission by kid like that).

"So much energy is released when you no longer carry all those bricks on your head."

    -- borrowed from somebody, then changed a bit



Sunday, August 2, 2015

Identity Crisis #314

So what's the Third Third anyway? My mother is 90. So at 62, I'm looking at things in thirds. First 30 years, second 30, and now: the Third Third. Looking at my life, I see a timeline of decisions debated and decisions made. They're like the points in my life where a life can branch off and generate a whole new parallel universe. The kind where I married that other person or took that other job or moved to that other country. I have crowded the world with parallel universes, but I like where I am so even the bumps got me here.

My thirds fall into groups, with themes. I call my first third Preparing for Adulthood. My second third, that's Parenting, and that includes both the preparation and the adaptation to no longer needing to be hands-on. (She's launched.) It's also, as my sister added, Professional Life.

So what now? What's the Third Third?

You can see my timeline, but first some history....

Back when I was in college, back when I was agonizing over what major to select, I was consumed with identity issues: "Was I a philosopher?" or "Was I a physicist?" "Was I an artist?" or "Was I a writer?" Life loomed in front of me, and it all hinged on that MAJOR DECISION.

The thing is, I'd thought I'd figured out this future bit. (I was a teenager.) I had decided (excruciatingly) where to go to college, where I would be a student. I had become THIS student in that place. I thought I was finished with deciding who I was, where I was, and how I would become. I had walked through those doors to my future, couldn't it just be lived now?

Yes, they were doors to the future, but also doors that slammed shut on alternative futures. My friend Helen pointed out that this was only Identity Crisis #14 (but who remembers the actual number). They kept cropping up!
In between, there were other decisions, other doors, too. They kept appearing, relentlessly. Some repeated. Some were more dramatic than others, but the philosopher in me won out and all of them were EXAMINED.

All those doors, all those parallel universes, this is my life:

Why is this Third Third such a big deal? 

  1.  It's colored by mortality. It's the Last Third. This one leads to decline. No matter how positive I might be, eventually my times in a half-marathon will get longer.

  2.  This one involves accepting that some options can't be picked any more. I can't be a farmer. Okay, I can, but it would take A LOT to make that happen. (Raising the big question: would I want that enough to make it happen?)

  3.  I'm really, really good at some things now, but I'm also sort of tired of them. Do I follow my expertise or my curiosity?

  4. How far do I go to follow curiosity? How much uprooting do I want to insert in my life? Do I want to move? Do I want to "start over" in something?

  5. What legacy do I leave behind? Do I want to cement that, alter it, or branch out?

  6. I don't have a passion. I'm not so in love with gardening that I deliriously welcome the idea of having the time to garden. I haven't waited my whole life to ... write a cookbook or visit all 50 states. I already crossed the country by visiting 25 waterparks....

  7. I need a theme, an over-arching meaning to this part of my life. I don't want to just add up the days, and I don't want to relax or play or travel without something larger illuminating those days.

  8. I am consumed with de-cluttering, but how much of my shit do I discard? I RECYCLED my journals! More on that, but de-cluttering involves deciding what part of your past you keep.

  9. How do I re-insert creativity into my life? For years now, I haven't been doing creative writing or art, both of which were necessary parts of my life. What gives?

  10. How much money do I need to make? Of course no one knows how much money they'll need, but there's also the bit about salary being life's report card, the measure of our worth. Women do seem to suffer from Bag Lady Fantasies, but this valuation thing still plays out with me.

  11. So how am I doing with this Third Third business?

    Maybe not floundering, exactly.

    When public radio in Alaska used to announce my commentaries, they identified me as "Barbara Brown, whose daily collisions with life leave her with great stories and a grateful heart." So I'm still colliding, I still have great stories, and maybe I can gain some clarity here (and force a little for #9).

Sharing Button