Tuesday, August 23, 2016

Profiles in Third Thirds: Mia

Mia’s house is on the market. She’s already bought a condo in Portland so forty years in Anchorage are about to come to an end. In our conversations, she uses the word “wrenching” a lot. But once we’ve moved past moving sales and real estate, finances and de-cluttering, archives and shipping – the to-do lists of moving – the words she uses become “novelty” and “footloose” and “unfettered.”

The word I use to describe Mia’s moving is “bereft,” as in how I feel. Mia goes back almost to the beginning of my arrival in Anchorage. No matter what direction my life took, somehow we always intersected. I can always count on her for thoughtful consideration, new ways for thoughts to turn, and the remarkable ability to follow ideas through to their twists and turns and implications. I’ve always hoped that maybe sharing the same birthday gave me a leg-up in aspiring to her wisdom. (sigh)
Mia was visiting friends in Portland, heard there was an opening in their building, and bought the condo right then and there. As she put it, “I’ve spent more time buying a pair of pants.” But really, she’d been talking about it for years and her son had moved there. But she still just thought of it as a “vacation home,” like a cabin. Home was still Anchorage.

Until Anchorage kitchen renovation and then the leak and then the renovation re-do. It’s amazing how many relocation decisions hinge on a major house headache. So Mia and Pamela have spent the summer de-cluttering, selling, packing, coming to terms with how much they’ll leave behind. And how much they’ll discover anew.

Mia can’t walk into a community event or gathering without running into her own history: friends from way back when, friends from past jobs, friends from past community efforts. She was one of the founders of Childcare Connection – her contributions to Anchorage are still part of the fabric of our community. Mia’s thread is woven throughout – Understanding Neighbors (a conversations dialog project), Anchorage Film Festival, a whole series of public initiatives to gain and keep protections for LGBT Alaskans. Severing these threads are … wrenching.

But practical matters intercede: “What to do with all that embroidery thread? I might have time to do embroidery again; it comes with us. What to do about the yarn? I might take up knitting again; it comes with us.”
“The hip waders, the XtraTufs, the tent? No, I’m looking for new adventures.”
And so all these decisions are really the practical side of the big question, the one Mia calls “How to be in the world?” (Oh, do you see why I’ll miss her!) Will she volunteer to be an usher so she can see performances and make new friends? Will she become a volunteer docent at the Japanese Garden?

Mia practices, teaches, coaches mediation. She’s brought her skills to warring couples, bickering organizations, struggling community efforts. “How can I use my skills in a different way? Which organizations are the ones to connect with? I’ll have to learn how things work, who’s doing what. It’ll be fun to figure this out,” she says, and now it’s clear we’ve moved past wrenching.
“I have some unrealized ideas to work on. I think we need to face more conflict in our everyday lives. We need to get comfortable with it, learn how to handle it well and productively, and we can’t do that if we keep shying away from it. Broach that subject, figure out how to disagree. I haven’t found an outlet yet for that kind of idea,” Mia says, but I can see her wheels turning.

She says all these moving sales and giving away, all this letting go, has opened up a desire in her to be footloose and less fettered. She doesn’t know what’s next, and suddenly I am jealous of how wide open she is, right now, at this moment. She’s launching into her Third Third.

“Maybe,” she says, “I’ll have a bigger life than I’ve imagined.”

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