Archive for the ‘Uncategorized’ Category

Hangers

Friday, June 21st, 2019

Today I passed a milestone.  I finished the last lecture I had hoped to do before I leave for the Baltic in three day’s time.  I am already packed and with all major must-dos accomplished.  That gives me three whole days in which I don’t have to head straight from morning coffee into the study to work, or check a bunch of items off a to-do list.  Pure, free time!

So i thought I would spend a little of it catching up with myself via writing a blog post.  I’ve written in the past about feeling a little disoriented and disengaged from San Diego, and that continues.  I am still hovering outside myself measuring just how I am reacting, and discovering my most honest, basic thoughts.

About a week ago the renters in my condo moved out, leaving it vacant.  That was pretty great, because it enabled me to move my clothes that had been crammed in Dan’s closet and taking up space on his shelves.  I could get ready for my next trip by letting the sprawl get as big as it needed to be and last as long as was convenient for me.  As I started hanging clothes up in the empty closet, I thought, “wow, this is really nice,” and felt the first glimmers of reconnection with my condo.

Before, as I have written, whenever I saw the inside of my condo or even passed by the door, I felt nothing at all, as if it had no connection to me. Now here I was, happily moving about 5% of the way back in, however briefly.  And I liked it.  I even took a shower in “my” shower, something I haven’t done for fifteen months.

But it all seemed rather transactional, not personal.  When I was done, I left.  I still haven’t sat on the couch, for example, or made a cup of coffee there.

I realized that the feeling of grounding I got from hanging up the clothes was pretty much  the way it feels when I unpack on the ship.  it’s good to get things in order, to survey what I have. So I ended up thinking that the excitement of having space wasn’t really tied to it being my condo at all.  If it had been someone else’s I think I would have felt about the same.

Then, a second change. My son called to tell me he was moving back to California and when I learned he needed a place to stay, I decided to cancel looking for a new tenant and let him live in my place while I am in the Baltic this summer.  That meant bringing bedding and towels back from storage to get ready for him.

When I finished making the bed and saw my own bedspread as opposed to a bare mattress pad, it started to feel a little more like my place.  But as I write this I just realized that even though it looks so pristine and clean, and just as I like it, I didn’t even lie down on the bed when I was done.  I just noticed how nice it looked, and turned around and left.   No imprinting, no bonding.

I love metaphors and I wish there were a better one with the hangers.  I’m not hanging, I’m not hanging in, I’m not hanging on.  It’s more like I am hovering in midair, not needing a hanger at all. And not particularly wanting one.  Maybe the metaphor isn’t quite as lame as i thought. I am still floating very pleasantly in the present.  Maybe a time will come when I hang my clothes up with a sense of relief that I do have a place to nest for a while.  All I know is it hasn’t happened yet.

 

 

 

 

 

The Month Mark

Saturday, June 15th, 2019

A little over a month ago I returned to San Diego after five months away on a series of cruise assignments. I haven’t written any entries here since I left the ship in Athens, and I’m not sure why.  Maybe it’s because I have been puzzling over what to make of this extended time away from what has become my “real life” on ships.

Fifteen months now of Living Travelly and one month on land provides a good vantage point to examine life in the city I have called home for over half a century. It’s been a chance to step outside myself and ask what about life here in San Diego is genuine connection and what is habit, what the relationship is between familiarity and a true sense of  comfort, and the big question: what do I need to do to be what feels most authentically like the person I am now, and supports the growth I want to continue to have?

About five or six years ago, I felt a staleness in my life that I worked through by asking myself, “what about your life makes you feel as if you are growing by doing it, and what doesn’t?”  The upshot was that I quit both the boards I was serving on, because I saw no place that service was going.  More important, even though I still loved my work as a professor, I was ready to move on.  I used to think I would retire when they carried me out on a stretcher, but I understood at that point that to continue to grow as a teacher, I would have to reinvent how I taught, which wasn’t a goal I wanted to take on in my sixties. I could still do the all-in job of teaching that I always had, but now with an understanding that I wasn’t going anywhere with it beyond the value it had in and of itself.

I see life in San Diego now from the vantage point of this odd kind of half-return, one in which I can’t just fall into my old routines, because I vacated my condo to rent it out, and my car is on the other side of the country with my son.  But I can also see my life on ships at a bit more remove because I have been away longer than I ever have since I started this adventure.

So I ask the same question.  “What about your life on ships makes you feel as if you are growing by doing it.” The answer is still quite a lot.  Seeing things for myself is important to me, and I am seeing so much more of the world, however fleetingly, than I could ever hope to do with my own resources.  My brain is working ashore in ways I enjoy, making connections between things, evaluating what I think, turning book learning into tangible sights and sounds.  There is a constant parade of people onboard who provide stimulating conversation and opportunities to learn. I get to use my skills and knowledge in my lectures, and keep improving them as I see and learn more.

And in San Diego?  I keep occupied in San Diego mostly by working on lectures for upcoming assignments.  Beyond playing a little tennis and spending time with Dan and friends, I haven’t reconnected with my old life. I am not here long enough even to consider taking on any new activities. I am marking time as productively as I can, but little more.

I basically do two things with my life now: cruise, and prepare for cruises.

But I hear a drone in the background. I won’t continue to Live Travelly forever.  I have my bookings already through the end of 2020, and there will be significant enough breaks between them ( by choice) that I will need to resume living in my condo and get a car. That will probably help me feel a little more grounded here, but is that what I want?  I don’t think I upheaved my comfortable life just to go back to it. It won’t be enough for me. And I am not the same me.

I won’t be able to hide behind work on lectures when I have fewer assignments and most itineraries already prepared.  I will be smack up against the need to find and embrace what’s next.  I know, I know—there are lots of things to do.  The old saws—take up a new hobby, volunteer. But absent any belief that something new represents a direction for growth of a sort I want, they are more like should than wants, and I have promised myself I won’t be ruled by should any more.

I don’t have to decide anything now, and for that I am grateful. Tennis this morning, then work on a lecture.  My life at the moment. That, plus what still feels like limitless opportunities to keep growing.  All I have to do is rise up to meet them.

Midair Musings

Saturday, May 11th, 2019

 

I am a few hours in to my flight back to San Diego from Athens and am writing somewhere over the Atlantic Ocean.  I disembarked this morning and the ship already feels very far away.

It’s been an overwhelming five-plus months, since I flew to Singapore back on December 3. Last year— now it’s the middle of May already! One day has come and gone, replaced by the next one, and on and on. It doesn’t seem as if any time has passed at all, but yet, when I review everywhere I have visited my astonishment grows.

I visited in the last half year alone, 55 places in 21 countries, spread over 4 continents (6 if you count India and the Middle East separately). And that isn’t even counting the first eight months of my Years of Living Travelly, which started in South America, and took me to Europe, Africa, the Baltic, Alaska, Canada  and the Eastern Seaboard  of the US.

I don’t even know how many different lectures I have given since December, but my guess is over 40, the vast majority prepared from scratch in the year or so I spent getting ready for this.

I suspect people back home  are going to ask me to rattle off various sorts of things—highlights, favorites, surprises, and the like, and I must admit I am dreading dealing with that, probably multiple times, when I am home. It’s rather like seeing someone you haven’t laid eyes on for twenty years and asking, “so, what have you been up to?”  I  hardly know what to say, but in the interest of practicing, here are a few standouts.

I was really surprised by how much I liked Asian cities. I fell in love with Hong Kong, and really enjoyed being in Singapore, Ho ChinMinh City, Yogyakarta, and Bangkok.  Mumbai as well.  I loved the bustle, and the foreignness of people selling strange street food, seeing  pagodas instead of churches, and just experiencing how people go about their lives.

Another surprise was the beautiful Philippine Islands, and on the other side, discovering that I came to the Maldives too late to see the paradise I had pictured. And though I wasn’t bowled over by Bali, I think I can conclude with certainty that any country that grows rice (and I saw quite a few) is going to have loads of beautiful scenery.

I was saddened by the poverty I saw so many places, and sobered to learn that much of the hope for development is coming from Chinese investments. When the dust settles, China will effectively own many Asian countries, it seems, and the saddest part is that they are building for themselves and their convenience, not to improve the lives of the locals—resorts for Chinese tourists, roads and bridges to modernize these countries to make them more attractive to the Chinese.  Built, in many cases, with imported Chinese workers, leaving the impoverished people of places like Sihanoukville, Cambodia (one place I observed this Chinafication) no better off.

Okay, I have my first  batch of talking points taken care of, except to add that, as with any travel, I come back with more of a sense of human commonality,  and with my heart—how can I put this?— a little closer to the surface.  When a community suffers, I care a little more, both for places I have been, like Christchurch, and places I have not. I picture children playing, old people with wisdom written on their faces and troubles written in their bones, young people hanging out with their friends or playing their courtship games, people riding on rickety bicycles or motorbikes with impossible piles of just about everything (including extra people) heaped on board, women with their beautiful little ones in slings on their backs, and i wish health, safety, and happiness for them, along with everyone else making their way in this demanding, difficult, often terrifying and sometimes transcendently beautiful world.

What up next for me is six weeks of heavy lifting, as I prepare talks for Scandinavia and the Baltic this summer, plus a gig that will take me from Lisbon to London to New York in the fall. Further out, I am booked to return to Dubai in November to cross the Indian Ocean to Singapore and then spend about two months in Australia and New Zealand over the holidays, returning home in February 2020.  No five- month stints, though. The longest is about three.  My excitement for doing this is undimmed, and I can hardly wait for the next adventure. But for now, a few weeks in San Diego will be adventure enough!