Thursday, June 30, 2016

The Miracle of Failure

There's Always One (Click for more info)

For almost ten years now, I have failed at something I wanted a lot.

Actually, I don’t like the word failed. Let’s say that through the process of not achieving the goal I had set for myself, I learned a lot.

The thing I learned that is most relevant to this post is: I want my life to be about something other than searching for someone to live my life with. Most of this searching process has been done through OKCupid.

This morning I deleted my account.

The problem wasn’t with OKCupid. I love OKC and it’s basically free.

The problem wasn’t with the guys I met. There are amazing people in the online dating world and I never met anyone who wasn’t who he said he was in his profile. I made some great friends and learned more about the world and the challenges of relationships in this stage of being a “modern elder” (a term I just learned).

The problem is time. And vision. And statistics. I don’t know how much time I have left on this journey, but I know it’s less than I had ten years ago. The question I’ve chewed on for the past ten years is, “What do I want to do with the rest of my one wild and precious life.” (Thank you, Mary Oliver, and please forgive the adaptation.)

One of the best gifts of OKCupid was reading the profiles of people who are living very different lives and being able to ask myself if I would want to live that life. Would I want to expat to Panama? Would I want to live on a houseboat in southern France? Would I want to be an activist in the intellectual milieu of the Bay area?

This morning, and a long time coming, clarity arrived. Bless her soul.
I now know what I want. And, I also know that the chances of finding someone whose life dovetails with what I want are somewhat like the odds of winning the lottery, the mega-million kind.

I believe in an abundant, miraculous universe, though, so I’m not ruling out the possibility of finding a life partner whose path is compatible with mine. However, I am giving up the search and the time consumed by it. If there is a match in the cards, the Universe will have to make it happen.

The miracle in all of this is that I’m pretty sure that, had a “match” happened before now, it would have been before I was clear about what I truly want for my future. Therefore, it probably would have been doomed.

In case you’re wondering: I want to spend the rest of my days writing stories about issues that I’m passionate about. This means spending a lot of time researching, thinking, writing. It’s time to minimize draining distractions in order to focus.

Boulder: 2016 Winner - US Earth Hour Capital

Boulder's multi-generational approach to action
While politicians at the national and state level bicker over the existence of climate change, cities are quietly working to implement real change. World Wildlife Federation (WWF) calls cities "the frontlines of climate change hazards and sources of climate leadership."

To highlight and support local action on climate, WWF has created the Earth Hour City Challenge,
The central goal of the City Challenge is to highlight and reward city governments that are making substantial long-term efforts to combat climate change such as transitioning to 100 percent renewable energy, preparing for the impacts of extreme weather, and working with residents to create programs adapted to their specific needs.
 This year’s U.S. winner in the World Wildlife Federation sponsored initiative is Boulder, Colorado. (Runners up: Evanston, Illinois and Boulder has set a goal of powering the entire community with 100% renewable electricity by 2030, one of the most ambitious targets of any city in the country. To get there, Boulder is addressing both how electricity is produced, with, among other programs, a community solar strategy process, and reducing demand for electricity through new energy efficiency standards for commercial and industrial buildings.

“The wellbeing of our community and of future generations depends on our willingness to take action now" said Boulder Mayor Suzanne Jones. "We have not just a responsibility but a great opportunity to rise to the climate challenge and power a vibrant future, and we hope what we do here in Boulder inspires other cities to do the same." Details here.

Earth Hour Participating Cities
Boulder is one of more than 120 cities that joined the challenge this year. For more information about Boulder's approach to climate change, click here.

Sunday, June 26, 2016

I Crave Stories

Update: After ranting that I couldn't find a book, today I picked up one that satisfied my story-tooth. The Pull of the Moon by Elizabeth Berg is a brilliantly conceived, beautifully written story about a woman's journey, from what happens to us at 12 to the transformation that comes with our 50s. Nan is none of us, yet my guess is that each of us will find something to identify with as she goes walkabout from her marriage. She doesn't leave her husband as much as she goes looking for her lost self.

Talking about being part of the "bridge" generation, she says, "We flowered in the sixties, but the spirit of the fifties was deep in us." As Nan travels about, she connects with strangers who help her find pieces of herself that got lost along the way.

One of the heart-breaking stories she hears comes from an 86-year-old farm woman who shows her poems her husband wrote to her. After he died, she found them buried in a drawer, apparently not thinking they were actually good enough to give to her.

I take back my rant ... apparently I haven't been looking in the right places.

PS ... if you look at the reviews, they are pretty split. Some people think Nan was a spoiled, self-involved whiner others think she was a courageous explorer into her own self. Which side you come down on might be related to age and generation.

My morning rant: (which, thankfully, has nothing to do with politics): I can’t find a book!

Of course, that’s a galloping overstatement. I can find a book, millions of books, millions of books coming out every year. 
What I’m having a really hard time finding is a well-written, intelligently researched, fresh and interesting story relevant to my life.

There is a rumor going around that the baby boomers are a significant segment of our population, and they are now in the process of retiring. Unless I’m mistaken, somewhere close to half of that group is women.

My rant seems to be related to the common wisdom in the book world:
- women buy most books
- women under sixty buy most of the books sold to women
- women readers don’t want heroines who are over 50, therefore, publishable books need to focus on issues common to readers under 50, or better still 40 … or 30 … or, hey, young adult fiction is HOT!

My problem:
- I am a reader, a life-long, books-were-my-best-friends-and-taught-me-most-of-what-I-know reader.
- I am a mid-spectrum reader, to the right of romance novels and fluffy mysteries; to the left of literary explorations of the rarefied machinations of the universe in story-less prose.
- I am 70-years-old … and, believe it or not, I’m still engaged with life, interested in new adventures, and would love to read stories about what other people my age are doing with their lives.
- I am no longer interested in the sex-drugs-and-rock-and-roll lives of infantile souls; or the tribulations of the young-way-too-tired married, the bored-into-cheating married, or the vengeful divorced; or thriller stories of macho, know-it-all heroes of any gender; or disaster stories focused on the fifty ways to destroy the planet; or fantasies about the superpowers of vampires, werewolves or a teenage spider.
Question: Do women over 60 stop buying books because we suddenly aren’t interested in reading anymore … or because there are so few books that offer us anything relevant to our lives? Movies seem to be able to successfully tell interesting stories about older people. Why can’t books?
What I crave: Stories. Stories of triumph over the conditions that are part of life … death, disease, disappointment, delusion. "Coming of age” stories where the “age" is the incredible approach of the end of life, what I now think is far more interesting and challenging than merely “growing up."

I want to read stories about women over 50 living interesting lives that include service, adventure, romance, humor, both success and failure, grace under pressure, wisdom, learning and contribution to the world.

I want to read stories about women having conversations with each other about something other than their "boyfriends" (or "girlfriends") … and, if at all possible, featuring women who would never even use either term.

I want to read stories about women who are wrong, misguided, misinformed, maybe even temporarily stupid but not irredeemably fucked up or mean and bitter because they're old.

I want to read a story about my friend Maggi who died recently. I couldn’t be there at the end, but I would bet money she had a bright scarf wrapped round her head, four giant rings on her fingers, and cracked a joke on her way out. 

I want stories that help me know how to dance the end of my life like Maggi did. If you know of such a book, please let me know.

End of rant: I’m now going to go write a book I would want to read.