Category Archives: Change

Adult Problems

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Less than two weeks ago, I went back to New York City for my 30th college reunion. I was more interested in reconnecting with my girlfriends than with my college and university, but I was pleasantly surprised by the wave of nostalgia that came over me as I revisited campus and some of my favorite off-campus haunts. This milestone reunion also gave me a chance to look back at a carefree and idealistic version of myself.

One morning as two friends and I were walking the short block from our hotel to the nearest subway station, I glanced to my right and saw a man under a blanket sleeping on the sidewalk up against the side of a building. It was around 11 a.m., the day was well underway, and a food vendor stood at his cart less than twenty feet away from the sleeping man. “How horrible and how nice that no one has checked on this man or shooed him away,” I thought to myself.

On my last subway ride back to my hotel the night before I was scheduled to fly home, a man boarded the train pushing a stroller. He announced that he was visually impaired and was struggling to provide for himself and his son. The toddler in the stroller stared at me, his big round eyes pools of weariness. His little face was dirty, as were his clothes. A tourist sitting across from me handed the man some change and told him, in his Australian accent, to get his son to bed because it was late. The man feebly replied that he was trying to do that.

I’m sure I saw the same types of things when I went to college in New York City back in the 1980’s. Maybe seeing such things made me feel badly for a moment. Now these images won’t leave me. Back then I could hide behind the excuse that I was still a kid and these were adult problems for the adults to worry about. My job was about classes, homework, papers, and exams. It never occurred to me that I would inherit the task of dealing with homelessness, because the grownups would handle it. Thirty-four years after I started college, the issue of homelessness looms over many-most-all big cities in our country; adults have not handled it. There is no shortage of intelligence to harness for solutions, only a shortage of willingness to prioritize solutions and to work together to implement them.

It’s true, school days are to be relished because the grownup world is hard. Adult problems like homelessness, poverty, bigotry, racism, and war seem impossible to fix. I don’t think we’ll fix them until we fix the root of all these problems – adults.

 

©Living off Island, Writing Wahine, 2017.

Take Time to Smell the Roses

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Copyright Living off Island, Writing Wahine, 2016.

Today, Thursday September 22, 2016, is the first day of fall. The photo above is a split screen of a garden statue at a winery in Napa, California. The left side is a picture I took in May. The right side is a picture I took four days ago.

The pop of red in the garden was a welcome change to my eyes. Fall, with its cool weather and palette of warm vibrant colors, is my favorite season. The brown leaves that had already started to decay on the garden floor, however, made me feel a twinge of melancholy. It was yet another reminder of how quickly time – life – flies by. Another summer of precious memories has come to a close.

So, as this sweet statue reminds me every time I visit her, I take time to smell the roses. Unlike the bronze rose that the little girl in the statue holds, the roses in our lives don’t last forever. Life is beautiful, change is part of life, time is priceless, and every season brings its own gifts. Don’t wait to do the small but vital things, especially with the people you love most. Don’t agonize over letting things go and ending happy chapters of your life; new chapters and better versions of yourself are waiting to be discovered.

 

©Living off Island, Writing Wahine, 2016.

The Work of Winter

Seasons

Copyright Living off Island, Writing Wahine, 2016.

My back yard got pretty ugly this past winter. Fallen and partially decaying leaves created a mess on my patio and pool deck, making me think twice about going outside. The pool, sprinkled with leaves and pine tree needles, went from a sparkling shade of blue to a pale shade of pond green. With the lack of sunshine added to this sad picture, I constantly found excuses to stay indoors to avoid yard work.

An easier and happier activity was a visit to one of my favorite wineries in Napa Valley, California, on the cusp of winter and spring. This winery has a charming terraced garden that overlooks a meadow and offers views of the valley below, but I was struck by how bare and brown the garden appeared. Trees and plants had been cut back, leaving gapes in the lush screens between the garden’s levels. New growth was just starting to peek out from the earth, leaving dirt and woodchips fully exposed.

The lack of groundcover allowed me to study a particular garden statue from top to bottom. This statue of a little girl wearing a dress and a hat captures the simple pleasure that comes from smelling the fragrance of a flower. The girl is smiling sweetly, and her eyes are closed. She is oblivious to anything and anyone else in the garden for that moment that she is enjoying the scent of the flower in her hand. This little girl is living in the moment, taking time to smell the roses.

When I went back to this winery a few weeks later, spring was in full bloom. The garden was no longer sparse; green leaves and colorful flowers hid the dirt and woodchips. The little girl was now an island in a sea of green, visible only from the waist up.

Recently it occurred to me that my life has been cut back and pared down. While my kids were in college, I could still parent them by exercising some supervision over their lives and by taking care of them financially. Now that both of my kids have graduated, they don’t need or want my supervision anymore, and they are financially independent. I’m entering a winter season of my life, and I am an island in a sea of brown dirt and woodchips.

People think of winter as a time of inactivity and rest, but it’s really a time for work and growth that happens deep down, away from the view of others. Raising successful, independent adults sounds like something to celebrate, and I do, but if raising my kids is my greatest accomplishment to date, will everything that follows pale in comparison? I hope not.

It’s time to cultivate the next version of myself, time to study the foundations of my life and to choose what things I want the next season to yield. Like cleaning up my back yard in winter, this project probably will get messy at times, not to mention a little scary, but I’m motivated. With visions of lush greenery, fragrant flowers, and a girl who takes time to smell the roses, I begin the work of winter.

 

©Living off Island, Writing Wahine, 2016.

The Quiet Blast

Dreams

Dreams are the unconscious mind’s way of expressing thoughts and emotions that are unprocessed or suppressed by the conscious mind. Because of this, dreams are believed to reveal the secret fears and yearnings of the heart.

A few weeks ago, I had a dream of a perfect moment in time. My dream was the antithesis of a nightmare; it was serene. It has haunted me since the moment I woke up.

I was in the middle of a trial. (I’m a lawyer – a real-life one, not just in my dream). Everything was going my way: I was drawing no objections, and the judge was quiet and attentive (not on his laptop or napping). I was working and thinking at a comfortable pace, unhurried and unflappable. I laid foundations for testimony and exhibits in textbook fashion and with the poise of a seasoned attorney. Anticipating objections and arguments from opposing counsel, I made preemptive moves as if a “Law and Order” writer had scripted them. Witnesses answered only questions asked; I knew all their answers in advance; and all the audio-visual equipment worked perfectly so my visual aids appeared in their full cinematic glory.

As I watched myself in the courtroom, I was aware of thinking to myself. I was cognizant of this question running through my mind: On this perfect day of practicing law, when everything is going your way, and you’re impressing everyone who sees you, are you happy? Like the answers of the witnesses in my dream, my answer was no surprise. “No,” I thought. I saw my face register no reaction to my answer; the Me in my dream was not privy to the dialogue in her own head.

The next morning, I felt doomed. If I couldn’t be happy as a lawyer in the perfect moment captured in my dream… My reasons for continuing to practice law, though valid and practical, had morphed into excuses against moving forward. I had lodged a boulder in my own path. I couldn’t see around it or over it, and it pinned me in place, but it also protected me from the unknown.

Sometimes a boulder can’t be moved, so it has to be blasted out of the way. My heart spoke a dream to blast the boulder out of my path, but will I move?

 

© Living off Island, Writing Wahine, 2016.