Sunday, October 27, 2013

Another orbit round the sun

Today is my birthday. In past years on my birthday I've written a list of things I am grateful for, one for each year of my life. I am disinclined to do that this year, not because I am not grateful, but because my mind is less on my birthday than on the death of Lou Reed. If you don't know who Lou Reed was, look him up. He was a musician who helped me and untold others. He is one of the people I am grateful for.

I am also getting sick and can feel my synapses being occluded by a cold, so I don't want to be that thoughtful right now.

I don't want to abandon this birthday tradition entirely, so let me instead think a little bit about what it means to be a grown-up.

I marvel that I have lived this number of years. My image of grown-up is very much informed by the tv I saw as a child and by the things I observed in the adults around me. Grown-ups are self-assured. They always know what to do. They have the answers. Right?

I keep thinking I will be grown-up when I hit a given milestone and then I will know the answers, too. When I own the right things or have the right degree. If I had children. If I drink martinis or scotch. If I learn to wear makeup. I will find the right button to push, suddenly becoming a grown-up. I will know the answers. Because tv says that grown-ups know what to do.

I think we need a new model of what it is to be a grown-up, one with more flexibility. One where a grown-up can still splash in puddles. Where you can be a beginner at any age without it being something worth commenting on. A version of grown-up that allows for wonder and whimsy as well as responsibility and wisdom. A kind of grown-up who doesn't have the answers, but is willing to find out. Maybe the problem is with the phrase - grown-up implies that you stop growing. I never want to stop growing, exploring, learning.

Maybe being a grown-up, at it's most minimal, is being aware that you don't know everything and you are willing to move forward anyway. Maybe a grown-up is someone who takes responsibility for their actions, and the other milestones (owning stuff, degrees, etc) are all window dressing.

What do you think? At what point did you feel like a grown-up? What are your standards for being grown-up?

(c)2013 Laura S. Packer Creative Commons License

Wednesday, October 16, 2013


As you know, last January I moved from Boston to Kansas City. It has generally been a positive change, though parts of it continue to be challenging. This makes sense, any kind of big life change requires patience; I’m thinking of it as evolution, it takes time to adapt.

Over the last six weeks I have had a number of work engagements in Boston, leaving my new home and going back to the old. This gives me an enormous feeling of displacement. While it’s wonderful seeing people I’ve missed and visiting some of my old favorites, I have a great sense of not-belonging.

Let me explain. 

Kansas City is starting to feel like home. I have a few favorite haunts, I am making friends, I am well settled into our home. My life has some routine and regularity now. I have a favorite grocery store and movie theater. I am beginning to relax though I don’t yet feel rooted. 

All that being said, I still get lost. I don’t know how to get places. The traffic patterns are occasionally surprising. I’m still looking for suitable equivalents for various things I love. The weather is still new to me. I am still learning the social mores.  I am sometimes lonely. Every day I am reminded of my newness in this place. And every day I remind myself that this is now home. I know where my bed is. My beloved is here. I am learning.

Back in Boston, I know the roadways. I know the shortcuts. I have my old favorites, the things that most comfort me. I have a community. But I don’t have a home base here. My friends are very welcoming, making places for me in their homes as warm as the place I already hold in their hearts. 

And here is where the cognitive dissonance lies. I keep thinking I should either feel at home in Boston or feel homesick when I’m in Kansas City, but neither have happened. I don’t feel at home in Boston anymore, though I feel comfortable. And I don’t feel homesick for Boston when I’m in KC, because that is becoming home. But neither are home the way I have living for the last 20+ years. So I end up feeling displaced.

What I’m telling myself when I feel adrift, is that this is in fact an incredibly valuable time. By not being rooted I can see what remains of me when I don’t have a geographical center. And I find that mostly I am the same, but not entirely. 

I move a bit differently. My skin is my home now. My observations of the world, my home. The moment is my home in ways it never was. To a large degree, this displacement has given me a greater appreciation and awareness of presence than I’ve experienced as an adult. I have become my own center. And for that, I am grateful.

The task at hand becomes retaining that sense of presence wherever I am, regardless of whether I am rooted or adrift. 

This moment. 
This city.
This breath.

I find myself home.

(c)2013 Laura S. Packer Creative Commons License

Storyquote: Antidote against boredom

“If I had influence with the good fairy who is supposed to preside over the christening of all children I should ask that her gift to each child in the world be a sense of wonder so indestructible that it would last throughout life, as an unfailing antidote against the boredom and disenchantments of later years, the sterile preoccupation with things artificial, the alienation from the sources of our strength.”
― Rachel Carson, The Sense of Wonder

(c)2013 Laura S. Packer Creative Commons License

Wednesday, October 9, 2013

Storyquote: I told you so

“Nobody who says, ‘I told you so’ has ever been, or will ever be, a hero.”
― Ursula K. Le Guin

(c)2013 Laura S. Packer Creative Commons License

Wednesday, October 2, 2013

Storyquote: Words

“Words are like nets - we hope they'll cover what we mean, but we know they can't possibly hold that much joy, or grief, or wonder.”
― Jodi Picoult, Change of Heart

(c)2013 Laura S. Packer Creative Commons License
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