As I head towards my 60th birthday in a few months, I am embracing what Jane Fonda calls “Act 3”. Right now, I am in the wings, backstage, changing out of one costume, re-applying makeup, checking out the props to see if they are all ready. I am freshening up.
My Dad was a psychologist and I was introduced to Viktor Frankl (Man’s Search for Meaning) at an early age. The biggest takeaway that was regularly reinforced in the home was that the freedom to choose how you will respond to a situation, was the only freedom no one could ever take away from you. Choosing how to appear in Act 3 requires time for reflection on what is still useful from Acts 1 and 2, what can I put down, what do I need to pick up and of course re-wiring …. making sense of what has been and making choices about the meanings of choices made past and how they will serve me into Act 3. This is not the work of nostalgia, it is the work of querencia.
Querencia is that place where we feel ‘at home’. The place where we draw our strength and inspiration. In bullfighting it is the place where the bull goes to that part of the ring, where he takes a big breath and gathers his energy, deliberately and with focus, before he goes in for another charge. Hemingway described querencia as the place where the bull “is inestimably more dangerous and almost impossible to kill” (Death in the Afternoon). In my early childhood one of my favourite books was The Story of Ferdinand, the bull who preferred to smell flowers that fight the provocative matador, such a great metaphor for nonviolence (did you know Hitler banned this book and Gandhi loved it?). The bull ring is perhaps the location for the opening scene for Act 3 and their are many choices in the centre and circumference, including smelling flowers and making a charge. I have an inkling bullshit fighting will feature. Regardless of what is on offer, at this time, I am gathering myself up to prepare and being at home with myself.
I am finding parts of myself that have been dormant or hidden for a long time and hardly made an appearance in Act 2. There is Chekov’s principle operating too:
“If in the first act you have hung a pistol on the wall, then in the following one it should be fired. Otherwise don’t put it there.” From Gurlyand’s Reminiscences of A. P. Chekhov, in Teatr i iskusstvo 1904, No. 28, 11 July, p. 521
There are shots in the locker yet to be fired and Act 3 is beckoning. Working out what was there in the beginning and has potential to re-appear or be revealed is intoxicating. Music and drama certainly feature as unfinished business. So far, I have taken my electronic keyboard (which I bought in the middle of Act 2 and has hardly been used) to be repaired. I have enrolled in Seth Godin’s altMBA program will preoccupy me in October to unleash new ideas and bring discipline, diversity and collegiality from around the world. I am reverting to my family name and doing all the paperwork to accompany that decision. I have signed up to sing in the Jenolan Caves in 2019. I have downsized my dwelling space and my wardrobe. I am beginning to get back to the gym a few times a week. And to my astonishment, I am getting recognition and reward for my movement building in the gender investment gap. All of this is just to remind myself that the re-wiring is happening and Act 3 is beckoning and brimming with potential.
The agony of grief and tsunami of challenges, the final scene of Act 2 has offered, are Shakespearean and invisible to many given the choices I have made about what is visible and what is invisible. I am gaining energy from knowing the practice of reflection brings wisdom, integration and wholeness. The practice is also a way of leaving things on the cutting room floor and picking out a new costume or remodelling an old one, sewing a patch on to bring new life to something that was past it’s use by date that can be freshened up with a bit of colour.
I am in the wings, at home, gathering energy for Act 3. Querencia