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Archive for August, 2012

Symmetry

Thursday, August 30th, 2012

IEP, nine months old

My baby hit double digits recently.  He’s now ten months old.  A strange milestone, perhaps (past nine months, but not yet a year), but one that resonates with me.

When IEP turned 10 months it was right after my birthday, and just before my sister’s one year anniversary.  I spent that day filled with memories of what my life had been like one year prior – 7 months pregnant, having a low-key Chinese dinner with GAP to celebrate my birthday, and being the sole bridesmaid in my sister’s beautiful wedding.  I was struck by how vastly different my life had become in the course of a year.

Now SSP has crossed that threshold and again I am haunted by a certain nostalgia, although of a slightly different nature.

Yes, I have paused to reflect on how much things have changed in a year – we just returned from the same Colorado vacation that we took last year and this time I carried SSP in a backpack for the exact same hike on which last summer I carried him inside me.  But more than that I am struck by how I am walking back through the tracks I created three years ago.  Two boys.  Both autumn babies.  Hitting the same milestones at the same times of year.

SSP, nine months old

SSP wears the same pajamas that his brother wore.  He sleeps in the same position.  He plays the same games and does the same baby tricks.  His birthday is three weeks earlier in the year than his brother’s, so his milestones sometime sneak up on me.  I catch myself thinking, “You’re not supposed to do that until next month.”  But he does them in his own time, just like IEP did.  I shouldn’t be surprised, though, because I’ve learned by now that all these things repeat themselves.

Still, sometimes the symmetry of it all is just too much to bear.

Youth Is Wasted on 35-Year-Olds

Tuesday, August 28th, 2012

I was carrying two balls of dough and a salad out of our neighborhood pizza joint.  The boys and I were planning to have a Friday night pizza party at home so that IEP could sprinkle his own cheese, which is a favorite culinary activity of his.  As I walked out an older couple walked in.  He had grey hair and sunken eyes and walked with a cane.  Her whole body drooped to one side, giving the distinct impression of a mild stroke.  She wore the kind of sunglasses that are highly protective and not at all fashionable.  They walked slowly, but with slight smiles on their faces.  It’s hard to walk into our pizza place and not smile – it is filled with happy people and delicious food.  Nevertheless, they made me worry.

I walked to my car at a brisk pace, wanting to get home to the boys.  As I did I thought about that old saying, “Youth is wasted on the young.”  I’ve thought about it often since I had kids.  Children, of course, don’t realize how easy they have it.  They don’t understand how nice it is not to have to pay bills, or get cars serviced, or remember to give the dogs their flea medications each month.  They go through each day blissfully unaware of how unburdened they are.  I wondered if – even amongst the bridling responsibilities of adulthood – the same weren’t still true of me.

When you get right down to it, I too am blissfully unaware of how unburdened I am.  I can drive in heavy traffic without worrying about the acuity of my reflexes.  I can carry groceries in from the car.  I can open pickle jars with my non-arthritic hands.  I don’t have to worry about keeping medications straight or remembering to take them.  And I have the energy to work a full-time job and keep up with my two young sons. 

And I almost never stop to appreciate those facts.

“Youth is wasted on the young” is a relative statement.  To me kids, teenagers, and college students have no idea how easy they have it.  To someone whose knees are giving out or who can’t type anymore, I have no idea how good I have it.  The only difference between me and my kids is that I’ve lived long enough to have some perspective.  I know that wide, grassy path of the college years narrows and steepens with adulthood.  And I know that this path will continue to climb as I age. 

I suppose it could be depressing to think that life only gets harder, but I know that isn’t entirely true.  Perhaps I’ll never be as young and energetic as I am today.  But nor will I have to cut food into tiny pieces or travel with two car seats and a Pack N Play.  Some things will get harder, but others will get easier.  In the meantime, though, I want to do a better job of appreciating where I am today. 

My 35th birthday is on the horizon and I’m not especially excited about it.  It sounds old to me.  It sounds so “mom jeans and sensible shoes.”  And that’s not at all how I see myself.  I see myself as young, and while I may not be compared to a college sophomore, in the grand scheme of things I still am.  I should enjoy it.  I’m sure there are lots of people who would love to have the strength and energy of a 35-year-old.  I don’t want my own youth to be wasted on me.

R-E-S-P-E-C-T

Thursday, August 23rd, 2012

Yes, the world is bigger today than it used to be.  Than it was when I was a kid.  Than it was before televisions, or telephones, or airplanes.  Than it was before industrialization.  It is much, much bigger.  But bigger itself isn’t a problem.*  They are the byproducts of bigger that have significantly changed the way we experience life.**

With “bigger” have come the suburbs.  With “bigger” have come fewer community ties and relationships.  With “bigger” has come the internet.  And with “bigger” has come a life that affords us more anonymity within our daily lives than any culture has ever had.  And again, anonymity itself isn’t bad.  It’s what we do with it that can be.

Anonymity is a tricky thing.  For some people, it is immensely freeing.  For others it is an incredible yoke.  And for all of us, to some extent and at some time, it creates opportunities to behave badly.

I can cut you off in traffic because you have no idea who I am.

I can leave a snotty comment on your blog post because I will never see you face-to-face.

I can be rude or aggressive to you over the phone because you’re some faceless person in a call center somewhere.

I can deny you the respect you deserve as a fellow human being because our relationship isn’t a relationship at all, but rather one fleeting, momentary interaction in an endless series of similarly fleeting interactions.  But would I do these things if I thought you knew me?  Would I behave differently if someone I know were watching?  Do I temper my actions when my children are watching?  Would I be ashamed to tell a friend or colleague or pastor of my actions?

We can all answer yes to these questions some of the time.  But I fear that there is a growing trend in our society today that would have us answering yes to these questions more of the time than is right or good.  I’m not saying I don’t slip up.  I do.  You do too.  But I’ve also been on the other end of other people’s slip-ups.  So have you.  We know how bad it feels to be disrespected.  And we know bad it feels to disrespect someone else.  Both are pretty miserable.

I like myself better when I am kind.  When I am patient.  When I am gracious.  When I am thoughtful.  When I am tolerant.  When I am courteous.  When I am the kind of person I’d want to be seen being, even when no one sees me.  I do not want to be a doormat or  a pushover or a victim.  But I want to behave in a way that comports with those values.  And I can’t help but believe that we’d all be happier if the people around us did too.

A big world makes certain actions easier.  But it doesn’t make them right.

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*Well, it can be, of course, when it comes to matters of disease, food supply, and other matters of the human condition, but that’s not really my point today.

**And when I say “we” I mean first-world, industrialized-nation people.

Ask Me No Questions

Thursday, August 16th, 2012

There are plenty of reasons I often wish I were British.  The accent is certainly foremost among them.  The ability to travel throughout Europe without having to pose as Canadian is a close second.  But working its way up the rankings is a trait that I’d long been aware of, but only recently really come to appreciate: tact.

I’m currently about halfway through The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society (yes, I realize I’m a bit late to this party) and as I’ve read it, I’ve been struck by the tact and restraint of the characters.  The book is filled with people getting to know each other in post-WWII Guernsey and, as you would expect immediately following a war, their lives are mired in fresh and painful memories.  One must not run roughshod amongst the thoughts and experiences of the recently occupied.  And so, as they tiptoe into new friendships they are admirably respectful of each other’s boundaries.

Making my way through the pages I’ve thought back on previous British novels I’ve read and realized that this courtesy seems to hold true.  The earlier reads that sprang to mind were also of a WWII era, so I’m unsure if this trait is a function of the time or the culture, but either way I find it refreshing.

As Americans we tend to believe that everything is best discussed in full.  We tend to believe that our curiosities should always be explored.  We tend to believe that any question is within our rights to pose.  The British play it closer to the vest.  Of course, at times they are mocked for this – for lack of emotion, for lack of intimacy, for lack of candor.  But I suspect that just as most Americans are not as brash as our international reputation would purport, neither are most Brits as repressed.  So, assuming that the reality of it is more moderate than the stereotype, I’m inspired.

I was inspired by the character who admonished her lifelong best friend for asking straight out whether she were in love with a suitor.  In her admonition the same character recalled posing a series of more benign (but still telling) questions when said friend was being courted by her future husband.  She wants to know what is in the tattered box carried everywhere by a little orphan girl, but confesses to a friend, “But I couldn’t possibly ask.”  She wonders about the stoic nature of her strong, silent male friend.  But she dares not ask a string of probing questions to further her understanding of him.  She lets him come around in his own time.

Americans would never be so reserved or so patient.  We are a cut-to-the-chase people.  I suppose this has its benefits as well.  Perhaps we are quicker to confess our own needs in times of crisis.  Or perhaps our relationships are more easily deepened when we are fully transparent to other people.  I can’t know for certain.

What I can do is take this admiration to heart and emulate it in my own life.  I cannot speak with a British accent.  I cannot sign my e-mails “Cheers.”  I cannot drink a cup of hot tea and actually like it.  But I can meter my own curiosities instead of satisfying them.  I can respect people’s privacy and boundaries.  I can let my relationships evolve over time, rather than rushing to kindred spirithood on first meetings.  I can shepherd my inner Brit in a way that is ultimately far more meaningful than accents or salutations or national beverages.

And with that, I will try.

Not Impressed with WordPress

Tuesday, August 14th, 2012

At a quarter to 10:00 last night I was putting the finishing touches on today’s post.  As I went back to add a Category tag I noticed that my Categories box wasn’t there.  I clicked out of my post so that I could click back in, thinking the window hadn’t loaded properly.  When I went to re-enter my post it was gone.

WordPress ate my post.

I couldn’t believe it.  I had no intentions of starting over at that hour, and so here I am with nothing to offer but this “the dog at my homework” explanation.  This is not at all how I’d planned to return from my two-week blogging break.  The only silver lining is that I now have an excuse to participate in the McKayla Maroney is Not Impressed meme, which I’ve been thoroughly enjoying for the past several days.

At any rate, I’m sorry about this.  I will rewrite the post for Thursday, this time in Word since WordPress hasn’t earned my trust back yet.  I hope you had a wonderful time watching the Olympics.  I know I did.  It’s nice to be back, although not as nice as I’d hoped.  See you Thursday!