Monday, September 3, 2012

A House Grows In Brooklyn

I think of the decision to prioritize the environment in which we live as similar to creating a sculpture that celebrates our own life. Living in an “intentional space” reinforces the message that we are in charge, that we are powerful. If we are particularly thoughtful and we “design” our personal space keeping our other values and goals in mind, then this space can become an extension of our entire value system, helping us to more effectively live our dreams and reach our goals.

Earlier in the year, I set a fairly large goal for myself: to purchase a home. After some consideration, we settled on Bedford-Stuyvesant in Brooklyn. “BedStuy” is a transitional neighborhood that, at least since 1936, when a subway-line connecting Harlem and “Bedford” was established, has been predominantly African-American. At some point, due to racism, marginalization and poverty, the neighborhood fell on hard times and many of the once glorious, turn-of-the-century brownstone homes fell into disrepair. Over the past few years the trend has started to reverse and “new blood” is now moving into the neighborhood; folks that are looking to put down roots in NYC but can’t or won’t afford “The City.”

That’s where we come in.

We spent about 3 months looking at (and learning how to think about) real estate. We talked to everyone about everything. We pried. We asked intensely personal questions of friends and strangers alike. And I am sure that we dominated more then our fair share of conversations at dinner parties, explaining to anyone who would listen, what our goals were and how we hoped to achieve them.

We also had some epic fights. House hunting is not for the feint of heart. There seemed no limit to the type and depth of feelings that each of us experienced: angry, pressured, trapped, resentful, jealous, greedy, juvenile, unthought-about, guilty, hopeful, excited, and, of course, deeply in love. In fact, the project was so all consuming, and often times so completely overwhelming, that many of my other projects came to a screeching halt. I even stopped writing during the duration of the project and did not start up again until the day we closed.

But close we did. On Tuesday, August 21, 2012 we became the proud new owners of a very old (125 years) 3-story, 2-family, Brick-and-Brownstone house...  a home, really... a Home.

From the Zone…


An Inspirational Love Letter (circa 2036)…

Reporting back... from 2036

Dearest Ian,

Its been a quarter of a century since you began this project. I suppose I should start with a thank you. Thanks for sticking in there. Thanks for the thoughtful diligence and loving care. For the commitment and the tenacity. It (You!) was absolutely worth it. And you made possible everything that came afterward. You have, as you and E. used to joke, made a huge dent in my universe.

The world has changed… dramatically. In almost every imaginable way!

Technology has helped us to ensure that we can feed the population of the entire world – we have these massive vertical farms; crops with exposed roots systems. Food is pesticide free and mostly organic (if you ignore the artificial light sources, spray-on nutrients, and complete lack of soil.) Yes, there is an “Earth Grown” movement that insists on traditional methods for agriculture and livestock. I tend to agree with them on the issue of livestock, “grown meat” not really being my thing, but the vegetables we order online are as good as anything that has come out of the ground – better, since they have been engineered for taste and texture and not resistance to adverse environmental conditions.
Doctors now routinely use nano-technology and organ-cloning to replace failing organs (which because they are grown from the patient’s own stem cells are genetically identical to the host and are not rejected.) We think folks are going to be able to live for hundreds of years.  

We are reversing global climate change; adopting a perspective of ourselves as stewards of a healthier earth; and replacing industrial-revolution-era factories and methods with new, clean tech and renewable energy. Resources are plentiful. Capitalism has evolved, softened. Individuals are encouraged to contribute based on their skills, education, creativity and are compensated accordingly (if not always equally.) It’s rare to see folks starving or dying in the streets.

You’ll be pleased to know that racism and sexism are mostly things of the past. People are encouraged to feel their feelings but act on their thinking and greater numbers of children are raised free from abuse and neglect. Gay oppression is non-existent.

Speaking of which, your wedding... Well, what can I say? You guys were something. And of course, what’s a wedding without a family. Two awesome children. W., now 20, loving college and teaching his professors almost more than he is being taught. Thank God he is as charming as he is funny. Anyway, he hasn't gotten himself expelled yet. S. is a senior in high school. She is brilliant and gracious and beautiful and has me completely wrapped around her finger. And really, I wouldn’t change a thing. I am not sure how I am going to cope with her going off to college next year. I guess I’ll just have to focus on my knitting and periodically sob into E.’s shoulder. By the way, E. is doing great. You have nothing to worry about. Just keep loving him and encouraging him to have big goals and to stay at it.  

Let me also share, because I know that it is important to you, you have had a career. A good one. In fact, it is likely time to start thinking about what is next. (Not retirement in the traditional sense but rather a new set of projects; a new plan.)  You have gotten to work in a way that has required you to use all of your skills and has pushed you to increase your abilities in ways that you have not yet even begun to dream.

For example, you can speak several languages without even using automatic translation software. This allows you not only to communicate but to have broader perspectives brought about by the way language changes the way we think and process information.

You have managed huge projects based on your ability to form relationships with others. People at all levels seek you out for counsel. Every year you get more requests then you can grant from people who want to work with you and from stakeholders who want you involved on their projects. You have put together a fantastic team of creative, thoughtful, intelligent folks who have moved beyond co-workers and have become part of your extended family. You sit on boards of organizations and companies that are interesting to you and you are known for your ability to ask challenging questions and provide thoughtful input. You have mastered the process of thinking strategically and then implementing that strategy through effective tactical and operational methodologies.

You are regularly asked to speak, teach and lead workshops and you get to travel to interesting and exotic locations as part of the package. You are widely sought out for your ability to help people and groups understand how to access their intelligence, define their values, and set and achieve goals.

You have written and published both non-fiction and fiction. Your periodic readings and annual story-performances are a joy to watch. Of course, it’s just as fun to hang out with you when you pull out your guitar or sit at the piano and everyone starts to sing (25 years turns out to be enough time to become a competent musician.)

Similarly to the gains made in the world, resources are not an issue in your life. We have enough money, time, energy to do what we want. In part this stems from the fact that what we want is based on thoughtful and intelligent decisions that allow us to live within our means but, given that our lives are larger than we ever could have imagined that they would be 25 years ago, we have no complaints.

We live in a space that we are happy with and comfortable in, which reflects and celebrates our successes. You guys have created this awesome living environment. It is comfortable and simultaneously spacious and intimate (no, not like the TARDIS – we have not yet upended the laws of the physical universe.) Beauty and order comes easily and naturally into our physical lives. We have friends and neighbors whom we love, respect and are close to.

At 68 you continue to be healthy and fit. I would be lying if I told you that you did not still have a soft-spot for sweets, but you are surprisingly moderate in your diet and maintain an impressive schedule of biking, swimming and core strengthening activities.

Things are immensely hopeful.  

So… what can I tell you? What single point of wisdom can I depart to help fortify you? What hand can I offer? How about… You’re absolutely doing it right. Keep coming. And bring as many people along with you as you can. Everyone of them. Open your heart full-out and bring them all along.

We’ll be waiting for you when you get here.