Posted by: mariabro | September 13, 2012

Living Life on the edge, now metaphorically versus literally.

I just noticed that I have not posted anything new since June. It’s been a crazy, busy few months and the reflective moments for writing were few and far between. I did manage to publish a few essays for the Japan Times, which I include in this post, as they will give you an idea of what I’ve been up to for the past few months, without me having to rehash it.

I usually feel the words of a story percolating in my head while I am lying in bed. The words come to me like the scent of coffee in the morning rising up the stairs from the kitchen. The thoughts flow in a warming and comforting way and I am eager to get to my computer or bedside journal and get them down. This story began in much the same way.

I recently went through the process of moving, one of the great stressors of life. Add in death and divorce and you have a triple play. That happened once many years ago. I was happy to see the end of that year. Getting back to the move – yes, we were moving and not just down the road, but across continents. It was going to be a big change in our lives; moving from the core of the most urban of all cities to the suburbs of America. But we love change. It shakes things up and keeps you growing and moving forward.

Living abroad allows you to develop an appreciation of many different cultures and countries. It gives you a subjective point of reference about everything from the funny English signs, to the food, to the beauty that may get overlooked by the locals. As a Canadian, moving to the United States was not going to be the culture shock of moving to Asia. But it was still a big change. I worried I may not even find anything to write about. But it’s been a week and I’m already sipping on the brew of new discoveries.

After completely relying on my GPS while driving in Japan for 7 years, I was worried that my brain-mapping skills may have become non-existent. I was pleased to find that they sputtered back to life when urged by necessity. I found I could navigate using my memory and occasionally, a map. Except for one day when I decided to take a leisurely drive around and challenge myself. However, after two hours of leisurely driving, I stopped at a coffee shop to get some caffeine and ask a police officer for directions.

This is how the exchange went. “Excuse me, could you tell me how to get to Hingham? I live in Hingham but can’t remember how to get there.”
To which the police officer smiled and politely gave me directions while secretly making a note to send out a bulletin to all the local memory-loss clinics to ask if they had lost any patients recently. I thanked him and happily explained that I had been driving for nearly two hours to find my way home. I then proceeded to drive away and missed the first right turn he had instructed me to take. I imagined him looking after me from his cruiser and thinking to himself, “No wonder you’ve been driving for two hours lady, you just missed the first turn!” I thought he may come after me in the cruiser with his lights flashing. He didn’t and eventually, I found my way home. Next week I may venture even further, but I’ll bring a coffee and a better map.

Biting the Big Apple – I just spent last weekend in New York, Tokyo’s jagged twin. After spending seven years in the concrete jungle of Tokyo I recently moved to small-town America. I was enjoying my suburban sprawl; that is sprawling on my chaise lounge in the comfort of my backyard.

But with my daughter a few hours away in the urban mecca of New York I decided to spend a weekend back in the jungle – and what a weekend it was. Luckily I am writing this on the train back to Boston, so you know I made the conscious decision to go home. But, it was a hard decision.

Waking up in the morning with a view of Times square, the Bloomberg stock ticker and two large neon Corona bottles was as comforting to me as the smell of cinnamon buns being baked in oven, or more likely, the smell of cinnamon from the Cinnabon store in the mall.

I realized I am an urban person. It is great when you get a clue as to who you really are, because, at 50, I am still figuring this out. Figuring out who you really are is a luxury. Many people, including myself, spend most of their time just trying to survive, pay the bills and have a little fun in between. I admire people who are lucky enough to know who they are at a young age. For me it’s been a longer process, or what could be called being a late bloomer. But we all evolve as the waves of time and experience erode us into softer-edged beings. I am still trying to decide between the social urbanite and the laid-back suburban dweller. But this weekend pushed me closer to the urbanite side of things.

I felt comforted by the closeness of humanity, of knowing that there were about one million people outside my door, maybe ready to mug me but at least they were there. I realized I felt more nervous in the suburbs where I look into the blackness of my sprawling backyard. I remember one night in Tokyo lying on my son’s bed reading to him and looking out to a bunch of tall, well-lit buildings. I felt so safe. My weekend in New York also confirmed my belief that people like to be near other people. Or at least most people like to be near most other people. Tokyo and New York are global twins for a reason. They unite souls who want to feel the grit of concrete and the energy of humanity at their door. They are global twins but just like any siblings they have differences. We will look at those differences next time.

And so it goes. With my move I was worried that my blog would no longer be appropriate. But I realized that living on the edge can also be a metaphor. I may no longer actually be perched above the intersection of three volatile tectonic plates. I am on the other side of the world, but I still want to live life on the edge. Whether it means re-energizing with jaunts to New York or documenting the career of my fashionista daughter. I will keep trying to provide my perspective on things and continue to try to live fully and, as Thoreau would say, to live deep and suck all the marrow out of life.



  1. Hi Maria,
    Emily Steed just passed along your blog as we met Craig on Saturday night and he spent much of the evening raving about you. We moved to Hingham from NYC two years ago (where I’m actually writing from now) and we’re very happy to add new city blood to the suburban sprawl.

    I hope our paths cross soon!

    • Hi Shauna, so nice to hear from you! I look forward to meeting you soon. I hear my husband did quite a bit of talking while I was away. I told him to be on his best behavior, but he can’t resist a good political debate. Thanks for reaching out and reading my blog, which will tell you more than you need to know about me. see you soon, Maria

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