Act Three

Because her mother has moved to the area, that baby (my Brother’s Granddaughter) from a previous post (here/) visited my home last weekend.  She’s nine months old already, and she says “BAP-fff!” with specific emphasis.

The legends about the members of my tribe have something in common.  If you look at the life stories of those in my extended family as if they were plays, there’s a similar arc of development.  We all have chaotic first acts. In the second act, we go through some sort of difficult transition or transformation that elevates us as we adapt, survive and learn what’s important in life.  In the third act, we finally get it together.

Overall, my family members are a bunch of high-potential low-achievers.  We are highly verbal, so at first we get by on charm and don’t develop much self-discipline.  None of us have a great deal of money, but usually enough to live simply and pay the bills.  In three generations now living who are of majority age most of us, by a wide margin, have endured a divorce.  We tend to marry young, and choose first partners unwisely.  But we do better with practice.  Our later relationships are more successful and lasting.

Early success can be hard to handle.  Look at all the child stars that have difficult lives as they grow up.  I’m very fond of the work of Orson Welles, but I wouldn’t want a life like his.  He grew up believing he could do anything he imagined, and that his talents were unlimited.  He became an international star on stage and a published authority on Shakespeare while still in his teens.  He was a Broadway actor-director and radio writer-star at 20.  He was given more artistic freedom and control in directing his first feature film, Citizen Kane, than was ever granted by a studio before or since.  Though no 25 year-olds have equaled this cinematic achievement up to now, it was also the peak of his career.  He was never again given that level of autonomy, and he died 45 years later, still trying to earn money for grand, unrealized projects by performing cameos and narrating TV commercials.

My dear wife had great success during her second act.  She won many awards as a television news writer.  She had a robust income, and earned a company pension from a TV network.  Not many people outside of government have those.  But she has had difficulty slowing down since injury hastened her retirement.  She was addicted to the adrenaline.  I know the ending of her play will be great, but it’s her third act that is the transitional one.  Now she’s learning to define herself more by who she is than by what she did for a living.

I’ve had the luckiest kind of character arc.  Things began terribly, like in Oliver Twist or David Copperfield.  Gradually all the rewards of life have been given to me.  I got to overcome obstacles slowly, and grow from a supporting character into the hero of my own play.  I have learned to finish what I start.  More importantly, I know how to make better choices of what to start.  Taking the lead in the third act has given me a perspective I wouldn’t otherwise have, and a trust that my life will finish with some kind of standing ovation.

So now it’s all about doing less while doing it better.  I’m writing, just to practice.  I’m thinking, just to practice.  I contemplate my actions, trying to simplify, to use less, live on less, and produce less waste.  I have been taking great pleasure in going to the county recycling center, only three miles away.  For 1/10th the cost I used to pay for trash pickup I can deposit an entire month’s worth of household garbage.  I sort the recyclables in the shed behind the carport, and those are accepted free.  And I found a solution to my distress over the mass destruction of the trees next door.  I got 10 little ones, the right kind for this soil and climate, from the Arbor Day Foundation.  I planted them all along the border of our property, facing the McMansion under construction.  I might be providing a snack for the deer.  Or I might become FATHER to the FOREST!  I’m not always sure if this play is ultimately a comedy or a drama.  Maybe I’ll find out in the next scene.


Filed under Cinema, Communications, Ethics and Morality, photos, Self-Esteem, symbolism, Thinking about thinking

24 responses to “Act Three

  1. They’re cutting down all the pine trees by my house and I’m hoping against hope it’s not for some freakin’ subdivision. It looks like a wasteland. Coincidentally, I’m reading Ecology of a Cracker Childhood about this very thing which takes place in Georgia, where I currently live. It’s odd I’ve seen so much about this issue in the last few days. I guess it’s kind of like when you buy a new car and suddenly start seeing them everywhere.
    Good luck to you and your wife on the Third Act.

    • Gosh, thanks. The exterior construction of that house is nearly finished, so I’m hoping to soon be able to sleep past 7:30AM instead of being awakened by power tools and banging.

      It might seem odd because your awareness has been raised recently, but people living in an insensitive, destructive fashion is an old story. It’s so hard to live more harmoniously and ecologically except by doing it on your own purchased land in this country. Continued attempts to decimate public parks for their fuel resources sadden me, but I’ve learned to expect it. There are so many in power and out of touch. All I can do is model better behavior, and find more ways to take actions in opposition to the thoughtlessness.

  2. My 1st act was pretty good. Then I died – literally – but was brought back to life.

    My 2nd act had its ups and downs – awesome and horrifying in turns, both personally and professionally. Then I almost died again

    And came back for my current, 3rd act, which is pretty damn cool so far.

    But one of the worst parts of the 2nd act was when we ran out of money (no, this isn’t the bad part; money’s really no big deal) and sold our ranch in Malibu but rented it back for a couple of months before we could move to our new, bigger but much less expensive ranch.

    The buyer, an ex-wife of a H’wood luminary who paid with his cash, was a landscape architect. And while we still were living in our version of faery, in she came with her crew, CUTTING DOWN EVERY SINGLE PINE TREE on the grounds. All at least 30 years old. All at least 30 feet high. All personal friends I’d spent a lot of time talking to.

    You’re doing a great thing by planting those trees. Even if the deer get them, it’s still a great thing. Trees are like buffalo; they live to give.

    Hey, we were in your neighborhood today, swung by after looking at some horse property on Hastings. Chickened out of ringing your doorbell. Maybe next time?

  3. Wow, Powerful post that touched me Mikey…
    …in fact I think I’m writing a reply that will take a whole blog post and link back here… thoughts race, I’m off to put some of them into draft, will post soonest.

  4. Deborah

    I read this several times, Mikey. It is such a thought-provoking post and I do like the way you write. In keeping with your play theme, I was reminded of the playwright Beckett’s remark: “Try again. Fail again. Fail better.”

    A number of your posts, I think, (including this one) express the same liberating ideas: permission to fail; the encouragement to try again; and that it’s OK to accept that nothing is ever going to be perfect.

    Keep writing!

    • I’m truly gratified you enjoyed it, Deborah. It’s true I reuse many of the same themes. I haven’t run quite out of ways to restate them, and to me they are worth many attempts. You’ve understood my intent perfectly! Peace be unto you.

  5. I think maybe I am in Act III too. My first Act was also a bit chaotic, not sure what Act II was at all. I like the analogy very much.

  6. So… I feel like I’m related to you now.
    The way you describe your family members in the 3rd paragraph. I mean, it sounds exactly like how people point out the problems I have. In regards to being a high-potential low-achiever, especially.
    The rest of it sounds awfully familiar to my mother’s side of the family, but it relates to my entire family.
    I don’t know which act I’m in right now. Sometimes I feel like I’ve been in limbo for a while though.

    • If you are indeed closely identified with a similar pattern, then (considering your age) I would guess you are moving from act I (childhood, under the rule of others) into act II (early period of self-rule) and the key to advancing your causes will be to learn more follow-through. Start practicing the completion of what you begin. Do what is needed to make your dreams real. Good luck!

  7. Gosh, I don’t even know what act I’m in. I’ve lost count. In my early 20s a fortune teller told me that I would have many lifetimes in this incarnation. I would cylce through karma lessons repeatedly in this lifetime rather than working out karma over many incarnations.

    I don’t know that I even believe in reincarnation, but interestingly, my life has fallen into distinct 4 year cylces. I have no idea what that means, but sometimes it feels like too many acts for one play!

    Looking at the big picture, however, I would say for sure that my life has gotten better with age. I will be 60 in January and there is no age I would go back to. I don’t yearn for my youth or the good ol’ days. I like these days just fine.

    Thank you for sharing some of yourself and inspiring others to refect as well. Great post.

  8. You’re welcome, Galen. Perhaps your life structure parallels a Citizen Kane type of story; multiple narrators and unsolvable mysteries. Mine has followed a very conventional structure in which miraculous events occur

  9. Pingback: “Acts One Two Three”… The Essence of Life, Fermented for a Lifetime. « Local Heart, Global Soul

  10. Came over here via Kiwidutch and so glad I did. You see, I’m currently undergoing a transition after deciding to close my photography studio due to lack of business. Not really sure what act I am in now but I can’t help but feel like a total failure. I know I simply need time and distance for the sting to subside and reading this has given me a different perspective. Is it a failure or merely a transition, a learning experience to get me to where I need to be? I hope so.

    • You aren’t a failure, milkay. It just wasn’t the right business for you, or for where it was, or for when, or some combination of those. Deborah’s quote from Samuel Beckett is applicable too. You can fail better next time 🙂 Thanks for reading and reacting!

  11. What a beautiful baby. I love her red hair, so darling.

    I hope my next act is a stunner. I envy your wife was able to write for a living. Right now, I’m satisfied in blogging. Wonderful post!

    • Because Mary wrote so profitably for so long, I’m able to work less and blog more. As character arcs go, I think yours and mine are similar, Lisa. I think you’re just starting act III, and you will be the hero at last. Glad you liked the article.

  12. jgavinallan

    It is a representation of such a different life than I am use to, past and present.
    Living in the busy city, or previously in the “boonies” as an American put it–I think you go through 3 acts on a daily basis.
    I feel little jealous. I think with all the mild complaining, you enjoy your life and loved ones.

    good post—very warm and

  13. jgavinallan

    excuse the abrupt end. I hit the wrong icon.

    good post–very warm and also welcomed by me


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