“In the book of life, the answers are not in the back.” — Charlie Brown

For activists, retirement is a novel concept. There are no set rules, no schedules, no five-year strategic plans. And the answers are not in the back of the book.

I see it as an exciting adventure; one with a bucket list of dreams, activities and projects that I can finally dive into with my freed up time. I had accumulated such a huge list that I was forced to construct a diagram so I could make sense of it. After several tries, I opted for a circular diagram with me in the middle circle, and various projects and activities spiraling out.

But it became unwieldy, so I created strategic linkages among those that had some correlation. It took a long time, and ended up looking like an intricate, slightly chaotic mysterious spider web. Trying to figure all of this out made me tired, so I took a break. That was two years ago.

One immediate dream was to be able to read The L.A. Times from cover to cover with a cup of French pressed dark roast coffee each morning after my 6:30 a.m. walk. An unheard of luxury.

Earlier this year, I joined a women’s writers group led by poet Amy Uyematsu. One week we were asked to experiment with lists and repetitions; for example, objects in a room. I began writing from the perspective of my antique Japanese kitchen tansu, which overlooked the dining room. Looking thru the eyes of the tansu I came to a stunning realization, which I titled “Kingdom of Kitsch.”

A fiery red-orange Navajo dreamcatcher. A wall-hanging of Indian elephants and dromedaries, clothed in royal purple and gold headdresses cascading down a window. A shower of brightly colored origami balls, beads and bells flowing from a hanging rainbow parasol. Softly tinkling glass and gemstone wind chimes streaming from a cherrywood setting. A Japanese maiden, long black hair flowing over a late summer satin kimono in her glass case. You get the picture. And this was just one side of the room!

Looking around, I saw that every room had unique ethnic pieces, beautiful Japanese artwork, books, mementos, you name it. Fun and wonderful, but yikes! Was I still a hippie? It was like my bucket list spider web, intricate and slightly chaotic.

This was the STUFF that iconic comedian George Carlin had us laughing tears over when he satirized Americans and their possessions…his best routine.

Decluttering moved to the top of the bucket list. I decided to read “The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up: The Japanese Art of Decluttering and Organizing” by Marie Kondo. A #1 New York Times best-seller with over 2 million copies sold. I had seen her quotes: “When you put your house in order, you put your affairs and past in order, too.”

And I was intrigued by her client testimonials, such as:

“Your course taught me to see what I really need and what I don’t. So I got a divorce. Now I am much happier.”

“I’m amazed to find that just throwing things away has changed me so much.”

“I finally succeeded in losing ten pounds.”

Originally written in Japan in 2011, and translated into English in 2014, the book is still popular. I decided to check it out at the Pasadena Library and then decide whether to purchase a copy. I was put on a waiting list, so I took home some other books: Claudine Rankine’s cutting-edge poetry and a couple of Tony Hillerman books featuring Navajo Tribal Police Lt. Joe Leaphorn and Sgt. Jim Chee. Eclectic, that’s me.

My tastes are totally eclectic — music, food, art, theater, movies, people — jobs… That’s why becoming director of diversity programs for L.A. County Health Administration was a good fit. It empowered me to share a very strong interest in and fascination for peoples and cultures. And to impart the absolutely critical importance of understanding and respecting the health traditions, beliefs and practices in order to provide quality healthcare to L.A.’s diverse patient population. But that’s another column.

Three weeks later, I returned my library books and checked on Marie Kondo’s book. Still not available? Wha-a-a? Turns out that although the library had 48 copies of her book, I had only advanced to #17 on the waiting list!

Guess I’m not the only one trying to figure out what to do with all of my “stuff.”

Just received a notice from the library that my book was available. Let’s see if it will change my life.

* * *

Watched the third Republican debate, this time on MSNBC. I am enjoying it – a little too much. I feel like Ernst Blofeld, head of Spectre, the best James Bond villain, sitting comfortably in front of his aquarium watching his Siamese fighting fish fighting each other and devouring the weak. Heh, heh.

* * *

Finally — a shout-out to Frank Omatsu, who at 91 years old is the last surviving founding member of Keiro, and who clearly remembers the intent and mission of the institution, and is standing up for the continued integrity of that purpose.

* * *

Nov. 5 breaking news. The following members of Congress have written to Attorney General Kamala Harris urging her to postpone sale of Keiro until a public hearing is held: Judy Chu, Pete Aguilar, Karen Bass, Xavier Becerra, Tony Cardenas, Janice Hahn, Michael M. Honda, Ted Lieu, Alan Lowenthal, Doris Matsui, Grace Napolitano, Lucille Roybal-Allard, Brad Sherman, Mark Takano, Norma Torres, Maxine Waters.

As Yogi Berra eloquently put it, “It ain’t over ’til it’s over.”


Miya Iwataki has been an advocate for communities of color for many years, from the JACS Asian Involvement Office in Little Tokyo in the ’70s, through the JA redress/reparations struggle with NCRR while working for Congressman Mervyn Dymally, to statewide health rights advocacy. She also worked in public media at KCET-TV, then KPFK Pacifica Radio as host for a weekly radio program, “East Wind.” She can be reached at miya.eastwind@mail.com. Opinions expressed are not necessarily those of The Rafu Shimpo.

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