Sunday, October 21, 2012

the big announcement

the other day, i watched a wonderful documentary entitled "happy", and it proceeded to examine several different people and groups of people in different areas of the world to determine what makes people happy.  sounds like a pretty vague concept, no?  well, it wasn't.  check out the trailer:

i was glad to see that much of the information presented was not only observational, but also information backed by scientific study.  one of the most interesting studies they brought up was one in which it was determined that 50% of our happiness level is determined by genetics, and only 10% is determined by our circumstances; i.e. our job, our health, how much money we have, and where we live.  only 10%!  this leaves 40% that is determined by what they call intentional behavior, in other words, actions that we take in our lives to cause something to happen.  this can include exercise, social activities, etc.

wow!  here i have been spending the last few years thinking that a move to another city would have a major impact on my level of happiness, when the research shows that our choice of where we live is only a portion of a 10% impact!

well, this took me by surprise, indeed!  but here is the thing, and i promise that this is leading up to the BIG ANNOUNCEMENT.  the thing is that i watched this documentary after making the decision behind the BIG ANNOUNCEMENT.  so while this information did not have a direct impact on my decision, it certainly did help to support it.  so here is the BIG ANNOUNCEMENT:

i am not moving to san francisco.  

that's right.  i am not moving out of los angeles.  i am not, as the saying goes, leaving caLi(forniA).  here is how it came to pass...

i was riding my bike to the counseling center to see clients on a saturday morning, when all of a sudden i had a sensation in my body.  this sensation "told" me, in no uncertain terms, that i was not going to be moving.  and when i felt it, i was immediately aware that it was a certainty, and that i would not, indeed, be moving.  the next sensation i remember feeling was relief.  and then, out of the blue, while riding my bike to the center to see clients, i did the most unusual thing--i started laughing.  and later that day, when i got back to my apartment, i looked around and i actually said to the walls, "i am not leaving!", and i meant it.  i would not be dismantling and leaving this apartment that i love so much--this place that has been my home for the last ten years.  you can take a look for yourself at these photos from my airbnb profile:

the main room looking toward the dining area
the dining area and my childhood piano
my office and beloved bookshelf
my sunny kitchen

the sanctuary
can you see what i mean?  and can you see why it is hard to get excited about leaving this rent-free two bedroom apartment in order to move into the highest rising cost rental market in the united states?  i think that i have been down this year because i have been failing in my attempts to get excited about living in the bay area.  i have been able to get excited about leaving los angeles, just not living in the bay area, if that makes sense.  i feel that there has been a developing suspicion that all would not be that much different up there, i would just be in such a worse place financially, at least for a couple of years.  and maybe that was fine when i was in my 30's, but in my 50's, after working my whole life to build a bit of a comfortable life, i just can't see the reward in throwing that away for the chance that i may rebuild it again in the future.

here is the bottom line:  i knew i could never stay in los angeles out of fear of moving.  i knew that the only way i could stay is if i came to the decision that it was what i preferred to do.  and the truth is that i do prefer to stay--at this time.  it will be SO much easier to study for my MFT licensing exam, take the exam, and build a practice while remaining in my apartment and being in the same city as my support system.  i already have clients who i can move into my practice, i already have friends, and i already have a setup that makes it easy to slowly build a new practice without the worry of financial hardship or pressure.  it just took me five years of processing to come to that decision!

of course, you know what i am doing here...i am building up evidence to support my change of mind.  but i'm not doing that, really, because the change of mind came about as a result of evidence, not the other way around.  i feel that i really thought it through.  there is a wonderful book (of COURSE there is a book involved!) that i read last year called "stumbling on happiness" that i may have mentioned in my posts before.  one main point of this book is to illustrate how poorly we generally predict our own happiness in the future.  we think about all the goodies that we will get by doing something or moving somewhere, and ignore all the unpleasant details.  then we do the thing or we move to the place and discover that it is not all we had thought it would be.  well, that is something that i cannot afford to have happen.  so my though process involved as much bad as good, and at the end of the day, the good that i came up with did not outweigh the advantages that i have in staying here.  and it all came to me while riding on my bicycle.  pretty perfect, i would say!

so now what?  well, i have some work to do on my relationship with los angeles.  i will tell you this--i AM excited about exploring possibilities for increased community here, it will just take more effort than i have been investing.  but one benefit that has already manifested is that i have been able to break the news to my friends here, who have surprised me with their expressions of relief that i am not moving.  i am very moved by this.  and the blog?  well, just because i am not leaving california now doesn't mean that i won't eventually might just say that i have delayed the process for a while.

so stay tuned, folks...

Sunday, October 7, 2012

the "new neighborhood" of 50

the following post includes photos i took of the "Levitated Mass" at LACMA.  this huge rock made a news splash earlier in the year as it traveled for two weeks from a riverside quarry to its new permanent home on wilshire.  it is the centerpiece of a project by reclusive artist michael heizer.  this is the first time that i went to see the finished exhibit.  the rock is supported over a concrete trench, and from underneath the rock, there is the impression that the mass is being "levitated".

a boulder out of its "place"
i have now been 50 years old for over a month, and i have experienced some interesting "settling" into my new decade of living.  as i have written before, the build up to turning 50 was not really something that i, um, enjoyed.  it felt as though i were being forced to move from a home that i had grown comfortable in, to a new and unfamiliar neighborhood.  but about a week or so ago i began to realize that moving is exactly what i did when i turned 50.  and now that i have been in my new "house" for a bit, i thought it would be fun to report how things are in the new hood.

you can walk right under the boulder
you know the old saying "wherever you go, there you are"?  of course you do.  well, i really kinda HATE that saying!  it's such a downer when you think about it. what it says, basically, is that you can run from yourself, but you can't hide!  not exactly what someone wants to hear when attempting to distance oneself from undesirable behaviors or unwanted personality quirks.  i had a bit of a panic about this saying in the early summer of 2011 when i was visiting san francisco, and i suddenly wondered if i would eventually make the move to the city only to have nothing change for me.  if you want to refresh your memory, you can read about it here.

everyone wanted a picture like this guy on the right, pretending to "hold up" the rock.  hysterical!
well, if i am to compare turning 50 with the experience of moving to a new neighborhood, then i suppose i can report at this time that the ol' saying is only half true.  amended for accuracy, it should be "wherever you go, you will recognize a part of yourself that has come along".  or "wherever you go, you will find parts of your old self".  or "wherever you go, you will drag along some of the old crap, but there will be new crap too, so it wasn't a total loss".  so maybe i never was a good "saying" writer, but you get the idea!  here is the thing:  of COURSE we take ourselves wherever we go, but as i have written before, we are a product of a three-way interaction between our brains, our bodies, and our environments.  so if one of those things change, well, then we change.   somewhat.

i wonder if, after these few months, the rock feels "at home" in its new environment
in turning 50, you might be asking yourself which of those three things has changed for me, and believe me when i tell you that i am asking myself the same thing.  in my previous post i made it abundantly clear that my body has not changed that much, and as you know, i have not moved to a new environment yet.  so what does that leave?  you guessed it!  my brain!  in a nutshell, i have noticed that my brain seems to have moved into a new neighborhood, symbolically speaking.  an unfamiliar neighborhood, but a likable one nonetheless.

from underneath, i felt as though i was looking at a view that nature did not intend me to see--like looking up the rock's "skirt"!
the new neighborhood that my brain seems to be inhabiting is the brain of a man who is growing older, and who is also preparing for the day when the body "moves" as well.  the experience for me is one of confusion and also wonder.  imagine that you have moved into a new neighborhood.  it takes a while to know the neighbors, if you get to know them at all, and for probably the first month you feel out of sorts even in your new place, at least until you begin to unpack your things and "personalize" the place.  as you arrange the house with your familiar things, you begin to recognize yourself a bit more every day when you come home, even though it is not exactly the same.  it may take long time to find out who your neighbors are; it may take a while to decide who is nice and who is not nice.  but along the way you will be subject to the reflection of yourself that new people project back to you, and it may not exactly match how you were previously reflected!

oh my god. even i can't read the previous paragraph!  let's put it this way.  more than a month into being 50, i feel as if i have unpacked about half of my boxes--enough to "recognize" myself in this new place.  but i still feel as if i know none of my neighbors, so there is the rub.  in other words, i am not so sure about how others are experiencing me as a 50 year old.  make sense??
this thing is 340 TONS!  and yet i felt very secure walking underneath it.
i didn't have this problem when i was going through my 40's.  i did not feel, during my 40's, that there was much that needed to change.  for some reason, 50 has been a sticking point.  but there is some movement.  for instance, i notice that there are certain things that i just don't do anymore.  like going out dancing, or even going to bars, or hooking up, or trying to dress "edgy".  it is not as if i suddenly stopped doing any of those things, it is more like i slowly just "let go" of them, and then one day realized that i was not doing them anymore.  let me just state that there is nothing wrong with doing any of those things at the age of 50, but i think that in my head, i feel as though at SOME point, i have to stop them (believe me, nobody is telling me i have to stop these things!).  i would rather, as they say in the biz, "get out while i am on top".

from afar, it looks smaller, and somewhat lonely.  as if it really does not belong there.
but what has been interesting to notice is that as i arrange more and more of my "familiar" things around my new 50 year old "home", i find myself coming into contact with familiar parts of myself that i had "packed up".  the artist part, for instance.  that one is showing up all over the place.  (for those of you who don't know, i was a dancer/actor/singer for many years.)  not that i am going to start dancing professionally again, but i may go dancing.  i may start practicing my guitar again.  i may write more.  i may seek out other artists, particularly "older" ones.  i may do that.  but since i don't know the neighbors yet in my new older home, i am taking baby steps with that.  without a doubt, i am inspired by artists like madonna, who just never fucking stop.  i don't think she gave turning 50 a second thought!

they say that the exhibit is "permanent" and that this is where the rock will be for hundreds of years.  in time, people may start to think that it has always been there, and that they dug the trench around it.
so with that in mind, this is where i am.  i am still unpacking, if you will.  but i have a few things around the house that i love and recognize, and the place does not feel so unfamiliar anymore.  but there is still much more to do...

and i have GOT to start meeting my "new neighbors".

this poor rock has no "neighbors", just lots of visitors.  is it possible to feel at home where we don't belong?