Sunday, February 19, 2012

Back again....and trying to catch my breath

I love to write and share my life with you, dear reader friends. It has been a very trying couple of weeks, and now I wish to do what I'm always admonishing my clients to do...reach out.

This desk is covered with things waiting for me, each with its own silent reproach...Valarie, what about your writing? Valarie, finish that professional development course you started, already...

Borrowing from one of Marion Woodman's titles, it's time to "come home to myself."

Or, I could also use Kurt Andersen's title, "Reset." I recently finished this slim (72 pages) commentary on how our generation got where we are now, and it might as well as been written with "Valarie" inserted into the text. Like the book on which I previously posted, Andersen's work is both encouragement and admonition. Among other messages, Andersen says that we've had our fun, and now our growing-up is long overdue.

I like what Andersen proposes, including the rethinking of the concept of "community" (see page 58). Beyond the literal interpretation of zoning and building single-family structures and public works, is the sense of warmth and personal contact we've lost since the 1960's. Okay, maybe not lost, but certainly treated as somewhat quaint and irrelevant. The occasional "block parties" are a kind of superficial nod, where a lot of folks will mill around, saying "Yeah, we should do more of this," and then go back to craziness-as-usual. With(sub)urban sprawl and our compulsive wearing of the "crazy-busy" badges of honor, we no longer see the people we say we serve with our professions and businesses. How ironic, since community- and business-building is supposed to be about relationships. When was the last time any of us said hello and smiled to a "stranger" in the produce aisle? Or acknowledged someone strolling past our house? "Reaching out" isn't just a recipe for warm-fuzziness; done on a large scale, it can help push us out of this ditch we're in, which is emotional as well as economic.

This "reset" concept runs the spectrum from the personal to the collective. When each of us (yes, including me) consciously decides to stop for a moment, we can let go of the panic and truly be creative with our lives. When I read Andersen's proposal to "retrofit" existing neighborhoods, it made sense to me. I live in a 1923 stucco house. Someday, when finances permit, I plan to restore its vintage glory. Recently, I overheard a neighbor's nephew say, "That place next to you is just a remodel or a tear-down." I fiercely wanted to go over and smack him! This is my family home of nearly fifty years, dammit. Yes, it does need some work, but it is neat and well-maintained, and I'm proud of it.

So, with our current "housing crisis," why not safeguard our local history by investing in preserving the gorgeous reflections of our architectural past? Each "old house" has its history, a soul if you will, like a museum. What a shame to lay any of that to waste just to serve some current design trends. Pride in one's older house, times x-number of thousands, is a return a sense of stability and continuity.

Also, what about cash-strapped homeowners opening up unused space to trusted tenants? Our generation briefly flirted with the communal living concept in the 1960's. Perhaps it's time to reconsider it. If baby-boomers become impoverished with future entitlement cuts, we might see a terrible spike in the homeless elderly. The silver linings in taking in boarders would be: (1) helping those in need of affordable housing, (2) holding onto one's home, and (3) building an old-fashioned sense of community.

One thing I'm going to do--today--is renew my membership in the National Trust for Historic Preservation.

So, enough of this rambling, if it made any sense to anyone. Time to hit my own "reset" button. The last few days have been irritating and scary for me, but bravely going forward in my work, and noticing my fellow humans will be the best antidote I can think of.

I promise to not be away so long.

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