Life is full
Life is rich
My car died last week
Life’s a b….eautiful surprise if you let your expectations go.
Usually on Saturday mornings, I’d be walking with my brother, Don around Lake Hollywood. I wasn’t able to walk with him today because, a few weeks ago, while on my way home after a late rehearsal, my 2012 Honda Civic Hybrid started flashing every light on its panel, many of which I’d never seen before. Check IMA system, check charging, check brakes, etc. It was a little scary, but fortunately, I was only a block from home when it happened and had the car towed to Downtown Honda the next morning.
Ten days later, after taking the Dash bus to work and Ubers home, I asked for help. I asked my brother to help me pick up a painting I’d had reframed, an acrylic painting, our talented Aunt Irene had painted on the occasion of my marriage to James Greene in 1984. Its original homemade wooden frame had sagged and threatened to eject the painting like a wad of chewing gum into the living room. I finally got around to taking it to my favorite framing shop, Downtown Framing Outlet. They are amazing. (If I did yelp reviews, this would serve as a rave.) My brother picked me up and took me to the shop and one of the framers slid the beautifully framed acrylic easily into the back of my brother’s car. He drove me home and helped me rehang it on the wall over the couch. I’ve missed it and it looks really great with a new linen matte and blonde wood frame.
Then, he proceeded to help me by taking me to the Honda dealership where my car had been held hostage for over a week. It became clear that it was necessary for me to go stand in the middle of the service office to find out the patient’s status. I’d played phone tag all week with the technician without getting an update. I could see in his hunched shoulders, phone cradled between his left shoulder and ear, the reasons why he’d outplayed me in phone tag this week – sheer overwork. I waited patiently until another representative was free and came to help me. Long and the short of it, Honda paid for a rental car until mine can be repaired. The wise Honda technician: “If I were you, I wouldn’t drive the car this way.” My brother took me to the car rental shop, too, before heading off for the rest of his day. I’m very grateful for his help.
I’ve been reading an amazing book this week. Written by Albert C. Brooks, a social scientist professor from Harvard, “From Strength to Strength: Finding Success, Happiness, and Deep Purpose in the Second Half of Life.” It was suggested to me by Nan Reed Twiss, my friend, and coach.
I’m sure I’m not the only early 60’s aged person to find resonance in this quick but insightful read. As a result of discovering, ordering and reading the book this week, I purchased seven copies and distributed them to faculty colleagues, admittedly with some nerves that they’d think I was telling them to hang up their towels just at the moment when each of them has been named Chair of their division. Not so at all! Brooks premise is clearly stated above. I found the book a call to redefining our purpose, as well as an invitation to drop the perception of ourselves as exclusively defined by our work. It’s a manual about preparing for the second half of our lives, the period of crystallized intelligence. How to make space in our busy work lives for the things that really ultimately matter most: family, friends, faith and purpose. The irony didn’t escape me that this week, I’d eschewed an invitation from my daughter-in-law to spend time with my son’s family in central California because of a hectic week at work of two shows in tech and three staged readings. Next time.
One of the things Brooks warns his readers about is a lack of faith in their middle to late middle age. For many agnostic or atheists, our lack of faith becomes a self-concept difficult to shed. And yet, when we don’t have something spiritual guiding our attention, our tendency is to focus on ourselves, our accomplishments, our work. Our egos, our “IMA system.” Or not to be too cute, our “I’m a…” system. I’m a busy professional production manager, professor, yada yada yada. My car’s clear red, blinking message as I exited the 110 freeway the other night, brakes giving a little bit too much for my comfort, “check IMA system” was perhaps an invitation from the universe to figure out who I am outside my job definition and to seek purpose. Currently my faith doesn’t reside in a Christian, Muslim, Bahai, Buddhist faith, but Brooks reminds us that we might stay open to developing our spiritual lives. Brooks encourages us to “cultivate our Aspen grove.” Find ways to realize our interdependence with others, the roots that bind us.
It was lovely to have a day off, time to organize my life outside my work. I want to thank my big brother, Don, for spending time with me today and helping me tackle the world. It’s a lot more fun with your loved ones to figure out your new self-definition.