On Golden Pond

IMG_5704I am wrapping up a month-long sabbatical of self-reflection fitted in with two quick nature-filled trips to Tahoe and Point Reyes. At this point, I must first reference a New York Times article, “The Meaningfulness of Lives,” I alluded to six years ago. I want to do the things I used to love so passionately, like tennis, dancing and even writing (well, maybe not all at the same time) that seemed so superfluous when preoccupied with other stuff. I literally felt I couldn’t afford to invest in them because of self-preservation until I realize I couldn’t justify it anymore. My self-worth and a worthwhile life hang in the balance.

I’ve come to know that it’s not a matter of being morally superior or even over-the-moon happy. Rather, it is whether I am thoroughly engaging in something, and it may not always be so pleasant as I spent some of the month healing the wounds of past unfairness and indiscretions and confronting such basic impulses as the inability to relax and unplug. My sojourns to Tahoe, which I hadn’t visited in 17 years, and Point Reyes, where I had never been, put me in touch with some emotions I had ignored and wasn’t aware of–this was the time to push those to the surface and tackle them for as much as I could tolerate it, fully understanding they may crop up again. I am human after all.

As my friend Angela had eloquently chimed in when rain and later hail descended on the lake, “Sometimes rain is best because people scatter, and you can enjoy a moment of solitude in beautiful nature.” Driving in a canopy of firs, cruising on a riverboat from Zephyr Cove to Emerald Bay, hiking street level toward the edge of Lake Tahoe, my mind was empty in a Zen-like state I may have never known existed. It was that deep.

On the eve of a new job and chapter and the cusp of Autumn, my favorite season of the year when things come into fine focus, I am of this mindset: There will be parts of my journey that remind me it’s so much bigger than me; but I have an active role to carve out space and bring meaning to bear on my life that I promised will be one well lived.

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At Last

Michael and Hope Steadman: Bend but never break.

There’s a scene in the series finale of “thirtysomething,” one of my touchstone TV shows growing up, with tortured yuppie family man Michael Steadman, upon quitting his stressful corporate job, flinging the windows of his unfinished breakfast nook wide open to let the air in and an evening breeze brush up against his relieved face. It spells a burden being lifted from his shoulders and most of all freedom.

Liberation is a strange yet wonderful thing, especially when feeling chained by circumstances that can no longer be sustained. It eluded me until now with some unexpected yet welcomed time off. I was thinking “transactionally” for so long, and now I’m returning to being human again. Living in this society, I try to balance both. But my true nature wins out. To paraphrase a biblical verse, what good is a person who gains the world but loses her soul?

Hometown Revisited

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Pittsburgh, PA from East Ohio Street

Every time I go back to my hometown whether physically there or in my mind’s eye, I increasingly see what it is, maybe a little more graceful and forgiving and focusing less about the humdrum routine of family life. It’s a feeling of home, a history that is a part of me because I made it my own. Wherever I land, it is right here with me. I think of my parents and what had become of them–older, even crotchety with some glimpses of youth. Then I think of me and how I’ve grown and the space I now inhabit. I don’t have many questions anymore.

The cul de sac where my siblings and I used to play is so much smaller, and it is now more the street where I would pull into or out of when driving to another destination. I only dreamed of a life beyond this comfortable bubble, one not exactly what I expected but nevertheless it is on my own terms.

It turns out June is ending rather bumpy with unanticipated changes, and I have to pivot toward another position. But that is part of my journey. To be alive is not to be static and stuck but to move with the flow the train will take me.

 

The Richness of Weekends

If there’s anything these last two years have taught me, it is this return to me and being comfortable with the things I love and a weekly routine inculcated when I was small. It brings me to this notion of how precious weekends are, especially when a birthday lands on them. This long holiday weekend, I’m discovering the music between the notes of an open road and a small-town charm with which I was first acquainted five years ago with a dear friend. While city-dwellers have now altogether swarmed Pescadero in California, at least for this weekend, I am still quite determined to hear those musical strains in the present in a newer context, with a little more bravado.

Personal Effects

I wasn’t sure if I could travel by myself, since I often go with a friend or family, especially if it’s for vacation. Last month, I went to Santa Barbara, and more than a long weekend getaway, a time of the year I don’t even typically go for a break, it was a reset of the relationship with me.  No sooner was I back in San Francisco, and it was as though my arrival cued in a kind of Spring awakening, one I wouldn’t have imagined as this.

I am effectively getting off that proverbial circular wheel most people I know are on and looking toward the next 20 years with more genuine optimism. A friend told me as long as I am facing the right direction–assuming it is toward the sun–while being introspective and letting the external circumstances take care of themselves, then I am on the right track. I am in the midst of its throes. After all, Spring has only just begun.

A World of Imagination

IMG_4818I wonder sometimes if this is all to life, whether there’s more.  And I realize there is, but there isn’t a “there, there” because that is even transformed into something else, typically unexpected.IMG_4819

Whatever the case may be, that is my mindset when I finally visited the new SFMOMA this month.  There always exist opportunities that present themselves if I keep turning the corner.

After a particularly frustrating work week, I made a beeline for the SFMOMA one Friday, which had opened after a two-year remodel.  Museums can be confining, as I often found this one to be.  Its expansion, however, does offer more breathing space. Minutes from closing time, I explored the free areas at lobby-level.

IMG_4822In the outset, Richard Serra’s “Sequence” at the rear looks like some big coil of teak Indonesian salad bowls that landed in its show space. However, as I navigated through them, they both are their own kind of maze and enigma of sorts.  It felt like a warren of canyons that I imagine coming upon in the Grand Canyon or the lost city of Petra in the deserts of Jordan, moving deliberately between narrow walls and incisions and anticipating what might be around the bend.

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It was oddly liberating that while my job is becoming predictable, life is far from it. There’s no way of knowing, reminding me once again the level of uncertainly we all live.  I had to get out of my head, and, like some pieces of art, “Sequence” released what was pent up: the urge to get away.

The Spy Who Loved Me

With these two on screen, sparks and intrigue undeniably fly. (Credit: the Everett Collection)

One of my favorite movies is Alfred Hitchcock’s “Notorious” about a woman who is recruited by the U.S. government to infiltrate a ring of Nazi sympathizers in South America after the war. But it is also a twisty love story between the broken yet alluring Alicia Huberman (Ingrid Bergman) and her dark, cool handler Devlin (Cary Grant). It’s the chemistry between the two leads that ignites the sparks that fly with the suspense exponentially. Without it, there would be no incident in the wine cellar or the impetus to dispose of another victim of a fringe remnant of the Third Reich.
Interestingly enough, I waxed poetic about another movie here.  “The Lake House” alluded to “Notorious” in its own narrative—a movie within a movie—to draw a comparison of two people who come together not only due to physical attraction, but also the gravitational pull toward one another as equals. It’s this force that drives romances and jumpstarts relationships. But it’s not the only thing to hang their hats.
I’ve said before, I’ve learned love has to insinuate itself into a relationship, or else it is a nonstarter. I’m probably not the poster girl for such a sentiment or truism, but I am moving toward it. For any relationship to exist, as a famous Beatle is quoted many times, love is the answer.