“I could make that.”
“I should learn to play the ukulele!”
(This will be a recurring feature, I have a feeling.)
“I could make that.”
“I should learn to play the ukulele!”
(This will be a recurring feature, I have a feeling.)
I had been chatting with a a sales rep friend a while back, muttering about our equally long careers in this business. We’ve been through the ups & downs – employed, unemployed, good employers, less-than-good… In that conversation, I said, “Glen? You know what we are? We’re resilient. No matter how many times we get knocked down, challenged by what life throws our way, we just get back up and keep on walkin’.” And that’s really what it’s all about in the end, isn’t it? How we choose to act in the face of adversity, and the graciousness with which we accept the bounty that is earned and given to us.
I started my new job last week. You always have your first set of challenges – how do I dial the phone? Will I remember anyone’s name tomorrow? And then the real work begins, and yes, I’m in the early glow of New Job! New Challenges!, life is good, I love the work I’ve been given to do, and am going to be working with a great group of people – at my job, my clients, and my vendor partners. On that first day, I also got a curve ball: my uncle -I haven’t seen or spoken with in ten years- called to ask if my mother was with me, because she was missing. Had been missing since the previous Wednesday.
Long story short, her drinking had escalated. Now, mind you, the parents I grew up with? Rarely over-indulged in alcohol. Everything in moderation. I could count on one hand the number of times I’d seen my mom even tipsy. I knew that her drinking had increased as their marriage declined, and there had been a rather dire incident after the divorce, where her consumption of 750ml of vodka left her hospitalized with a 0.48 Blood Alcohol level, and at that time – 10 years ago – I got her enrolled in Hazelden, working with her hospital social worker, but in the end, she wriggled out of it. I threw my hands in the air. We’re stubborn, both of us, but I’m smart enough to know when the effort is wasted. If there’s one thing I learned from my own childhood, it’s that you cannot change another person, no matter how hard you try.
This – this was something new. My uncle was worried, and I quickly became worried as well. She was reported as a missing person. Endangered to herself. Somewhere out there with her car, and a cell phone that had been turned off. No bank account activity. No word from a single friend back home.
The days went by. Conversations with a Chief Deputy, confirming the national APB that was now out. Paperwork was filed to begin accessing her credit cards, hoping for some sort of indication – anything – that would tell us she was at least alive. I’ve never been through something like that before. I hope I never have to go through it again. Staring at pages online of other faces, people who vanished and gone for years, wondering if this was the future for me. Fearing a terrible accident, so devastating her car had left the road and was hidden in a thicket somewhere, somehow invisible, was she hurt, was she dead. Was she dead. Would we ever know.
Thankfully, last Sunday, a sharp-eyed cop in a nearby city spotted the make and model of my mother’s car, in the parking lot of a motel. Ran the plates, got a hit. Found.
Eleven days, ten nights. Sounds like my dream of a vacation, preferably in Tahiti. She spent it in a blackout, ordering food and pouring alcohol into her body. I feel strangely detached, just writing and sharing that. It’s in sharp contrast to the high anxiety from last week, that’s for sure. I don’t know who that person is, the one with a car full of beer cans and wine bottles, driving drunk and risking her life as well as others’. It’s not really detachment, I suppose. It’s the fortress I built long ago, appearing out of the mist. Reminding me that I put up these walls to protect myself from a different dynamic. And even from that distance, I do love her. I wish things could be different, of course, but right now, her journey needs to focus on herself. She was hospitalized, agreed to enter rehab, and yesterday, she entered a facility where I hope she can start her life anew in different direction. I feel old. Older than her. Older than everyone involved in this. Perhaps because I see my utter powerlessness. There are only so many times you can try to do the work for someone else before you see you’re carrying water in a sieve. I quit clocking in next to Sisyphus a long time ago.
That said. If anyone can do it, it’s her. After all, she was the one with the indomitable spirit my whole childhood, digging in her heels, getting back on the horse that threw her, no job nor mountain too big to be tackled. I hope she can find that resiliency and optimism she so carefully cultivated in me.
Me? It’s been a rough couple of weeks.
But I’m good. It’s good.
Many thanks to be given.
Much terrain to survey.
Miles to go before I sleep.
Have you ever seen that episode of Seinfeld, the one where Elaine goes to get her nails done, and she’s convinced the employees there are talking about her in their native tongue? I always think of it when I get my own nails done – though at this point, I’ve been going to the same salon for 7 years or so, I don’t really think much of it. I did go recently, and there was a new woman working there, and she was grinning and talking away, and I imagined she was saying something to the effect of, “Whoa, girl, you got yourself a big girl there!”
But, I am always curious about what they’re saying, and this time was no different – I listened to the subdued conversation/back-and-forth among the staff and realized that so many of the words are short, staccato bursts that have strikingly similar sounds, but the emphasis and cadence are what seem to vary the words as well. Nearly all the words seemed to start with the letter “D”, but it could have been my own American filter trying to make sense of a language I’ve never even studied. There came a point, though, when knowing the actual words took a back seat, quite rapidly, to the overall communication.
It started with one of the nail techs standing up from her pedicure station, and speaking loudly and clearly, quite strongly, at someone else (we couldn’t tell quite yet, but it became clear within a minute.) She was PISSED OFF. Immediately, several of the other women began softly speaking, obviously trying to diffuse whatever this situation was. (I could actually tell two women said the same thing within 30 seconds of each other, presumably “calm down!”) The music had stopped and the silence became palpable. And then? The tech completely lost her shit. She was moving her customer over to her nail station, and apparently, she was really pissed at the guy who sat behind her, and she was shouting at him at the top of her lungs, while he quietly tried to interject what appeared to be his defense. Another worker got up, went in the back, and put the music on – full blast. So now we have Mariah Carey warbling her head off, and Angry Tech is now shrieking at the guy, and she’s holding up the light boxes for curing the shellac nails, and basically having an explosive episode in this dude’s direction. With another bewildered customer in-between them.
Allllllll the customers start looking at each other. Because THE HELL, we can’t understand a goddamn word, but as I muttered to the lady on my left, we didn’t really need to know what she was saying because every single one of us knew she was LIT UP and pissed off. Someone down to my right said, “I think it involves that box.” We’re trying not to laugh, because it would not only be rude, but none of us really wanted the focus of her anger to find a new home! Angry Tech marches back and turns off the music. Returns, continues to fume. The customer of Angry Tech is looking at all of us in the pedi-chairs with wide eyes and a face of confusion while she’s stomped off – so of course I have to say, “What the hell did you do?” which makes us all chuckle a little, but not too much, because AT is back, holding up the light box (which is plugged in and glowing), she is yelling, and frankly, I didn’t want to have a toaster-in-the-bathtub incident.
My tech, who is at the top of the hierarchy (there is always a hierarchy at these salons), goes back and turns the music back on, but at a lower volume. Right as she returns, AT picks up the light box again and continues to scream at the dude, who is working away on another woman’s nails, and murmuring every so often. At this point, my lady goes over and turns AT around (because she was like a Jack-in-the-box at this point, up/down, up/down, SCREAM SCREAM BRANDISH), and physically thwaps her on the shoulders and basically tells her to sit the hell down and calm down in the process. (All in Vietnamese, mind you.) I whispered when I was paying, “What’s the deal?” She whispered back that apparently the male tech had taken AT’s light boxes for his client. I asked if they had to buy their own boxes. Nope, they always share. Nope, the ones he took weren’t any different than the ones he had.
We concluded something else was probably going on in her life. I walked out, marveling at how I had specifically been thinking about the language when I got there, and how I never really know what they’re saying – but in this case, there really was no translator needed. I’m sure there are statistics on communication and all the pieces that go into it – words are just one component. Brandishing a light box? That speaks volumes as well.
We had tickets to the Buzz Under the Stars concert last Friday down at City Market – Cake was playing, we’ve seen them twice already and love ’em – plus I like Mumford & Sons. My rep had told me that parking was going to be a nightmare, and looking on the web site for the Market, the lots were going to cost at least $10 and no guarantee there would be enough spots. So I decided we should take the bus! James has taken the Max a couple times (jury duty, Rockfest) and always had good stories, so we headed up to the Park & Ride in Waldo, and jumped on the Max. I should point out I’m not a stranger to public transportation, as I took the bus the whole time I lived in Minneapolis, and I’ve ridden buses, subways and trains in NYC, Seattle, San Francisco, Chicago, etc. I think what distinguishes this experience from those is how…interactive people are willing to get with each other.
The Max is supposed to be very timely, and all the stops have digital updates letting you know where the bus is in transit. It runs from 75th and Waldo all the way up to 3rd & Grand, north of the City Market, and back again. For a $1.50, we were pretty happy with the alternative to driving and finding parking. Our bus driver was talking to his kids on the phone and might have been a minute or two late for departure, but with all the stops that started happening, he began to fall behind schedule. The trip started to take on shades of Mr. Toad’s Wild Ride when we hit the Plaza, and instead of getting into the turn lane (which had a red arrow), he got into the center lane and made a left turn around the line of cars. I couldn’t stop laughing at that point, because we were hanging on to stay in our seats as we surged forward and took hard turns. If he’d had a cow-catcher on the front of the bus, we would have left a trail of wreckage as he plowed through slow cars in the bus lane.
Now, James had told me that there’s a whole section of the route that just turns into crazy pants, with the wildest mix of people you’d ever see. He wasn’t kidding. It starts near the Plaza and continues all the way through mid-town and into downtown. This experience was heightened by the fact it was also First Friday in the Crossroads, and as we sped through the area, we saw a huge wave of…zombies. Yes, zombies. It was totally awesome, apparently there was a hunger/food drive walk and these folks were in full regalia and makeup. (I have a penchant for zombies, I’ll admit.) The crazy-highlight of the trip, though, was the older woman sitting across from me (I was on the sideways seats, James was facing forward) and she started talking to me about my purple Tom Bihn bag, and that her favorite color is purple. (Despite the heat, she was wearing a jean jacket and purple sweatpants, her face divided by oversized, octagonal glasses.) She proceeded to tell me about buying some bag she just had to have and didn’t care about the stuff that came inside it, she could have thrown that stuff away, but she had to have that bag because her favorite color is purple. I amicably nodded along for a little bit, then turned my head to look around and watch our progress as we surged down Main Street. After a pause, she started talking to me again, but I had already transformed into the blowfish, and my sunglasses helped me avoid further eye contact. Naively, I thought that would be sufficient to discourage her. Oh. No. She leaned across the aisle, pawed at my bag and said loudly, “I LIKE YOUR BAG! My favorite color is purple!”
Oh Lord. “Yes, I know, you told me.” And she proceeded to run through her purple spiel again, while I nodded and avoided eye contact with my husband.
Blessedly, she got off shortly thereafter. After she exited, James reached over and grabbed my bag and informed me purple was his favorite color, too, while we both clutched the seats as we sped off again, trying to make up lost time.
But the big adventure was on the return trip home. We missed our bus by a minute, which was discouraging, as the route runs every half-hour and it was hot, it was just before 10p, and we were ready to head home. We waited it out, got on the bus, this time moving all the way towards the back where the seats are elevated and, I was assured by James, the people-watching was MUCH better. This time, we were getting an even more interesting assortment of people. A middle-aged black man got on the bus, wearing glasses that had a set of yellow lenses clipped on over them. They were also missing one sidepiece, so they precariously perched on his nose, held in place by only one side wrapping around his ear. I’m not sure what the yellow lenses did for him, I tend to associate that shade with sharpshooters. An angry goth girl with a Jimmy John’s shirt got on as well. Subs so angry you’ll freak? A trio of French girls boarded, and sat behind us, iPods firmly in place. One man got on with a paper plate of pizza, then he got off on the next stop. (Interesting. Dining al fresco and el bus-o?) The bus started to fill up; an older, skinny black man wearing a wife beater got on, went all the way to the back, followed by another wife-beater-wearing man, head shaved and gauged ears. It took a while to determine they were actually traveling together. For several minutes, the black man boomed “WHO DAT BE? WHO DAT BE? I CAN’T SEE!” as his pal was standing up in front of him. I just kept facing forward, and noticed I could use the thick piece of plexiglass that was in front of me (between me and the back door) as a sort of mirror, since the florescent lights of the bus brightly illuminated the other side of the bus, while the ones by me were off.
I could see Shaved Head dude swiveling his head around like a parrot, looking out both windows and observing people in the bus. Then he leaned forward and pushed on the shoulder of the French girl who was sitting by herself. “What are you listening to?” he demanded. She pulled out an earbud and said “What?” He repeated the question. In heavily accented English, she answered, “Muzeek” and put her headphones back in. This seemed to anger our unstable fellow, unfortunately. He then spent the next couple of stops sneering and repeating the conversation in an increasingly louder and temper-filled solo monologue. When he and his (WHODAT?!) friend, who at least had stopped his own shouting finally exited, he expelled some extra rage by jumping up and pounding on the bus windows by the girls behind me. Ugh. A guy behind me who’d been at the concert turned and apologized to her, and when someone said he didn’t do anything, he responded with the fact he was from our country and that’s why he was extending the apology. Someone was definitely off their meds, or in desperate need of some new ones.
Meanwhile, people are still getting on and getting off, and at the Plaza, a woman with her arm in a sling boarded, and started talking to the driver, apparently trying to determine if we were the right bus for her. Sadly, her inability to use her left arm also left her unable to pull up her pants, as I did a triple-take trying to ascertain if I had, indeed, just seen a judicious helping of the crack of her ass as her sweatpants drooped badly on her hips. Oh, I had.
Really, I think riding the Max about once a month (or more, if one wanted to write a book) is something everyone should do. It reminds you that the faceless, nameless people who clean your hotel rooms and make your sandwiches and pick up their kids from daycare because they don’t have a car are working behind the scenes to keep your comfortable life comfortable. That there are a lot of colorful, crazy folks who buy bus cards and go to the library or go out for a slice of pizza and then tuck themselves back to their low-income apartment or halfway house that we don’t see because we’re driving behind our tinted windows, listening to NPR, spending the cost of a bus pass on dinner. That there are people in this city for whom English isn’t their first language, and that chivalry isn’t dead, and people are unabashedly ready to tell you their favorite color is purple. The reminder that 30 years ago, you didn’t see a tattooed and pierced man affectionately touching his equally tattooed and pierced partner on the back, just like a man might pat his wife’s back, while they waited for the door to open. That today you think nothing of it, the new normal has progressed, nobody says anything or looks around with scandal.
That no matter how far away we move to live, in homogenized suburban neighborhoods, surrounded by the sterile blandness and sameness of strip malls and chain restaurants, none of that can hold a candle to the energy of the melting pot that is Midtown Kansas City.
Ironically, I was thinking this morning about how, at a former place of employment, typos weren’t really regarded as the heinous transgressions that they are, and it was quite minimized whenever I raised the issue. But, that’s their cross to bear now, as it’s my experience that most clients really, really appreciate it when you spell their stuff correctly. Or put together plans and recommendations that don’t have proper grammar, punctuation and other high school English mistakes. This photo isn’t their work, by the way. It just felt fitting to have run across it on the same day. Enjoy! School sure isn’t what it used to be, eh?
I heard a bit on NPR the other evening about how this huge number of Los Angeles elementary school teacher names are going to published, with data about their students’ improvements (or not) on standardized test scores.
All I could think in response was, “Yet another way to remove responsibility from the parents.”
Yeah, I’m married to a teacher. He works hard at his job, he makes a difference in his students’ lives. And yes. There are teachers who suck, don’t care, do the minimum to get by.
What gets me, though, is all these new initiatives that are designed to impact student test scores, arguably to improve them – most of them involve punitive measures against the teachers. I’m sure there are people out there who hear about them and react, “Yeah! Make teachers accountable!” and I’m not saying they shouldn’t be – but even with all the hours a child spends in school, the school is not a vacuum, and the teachers can only effect so much change. They certainly can’t beat the children anymore, like they could when I was in school. Much of the fear that accompanied my childhood education is gone – I was terrified of my principal, most of my teachers, and the faintest notion that any of them would call home to my father. God, not that. Discipline in school can be sparse or completely absent, probably out of fear the angry parent will sue the school for violating their child’s rights. I’m not saying getting thwacked was the right solution, certainly, but discipline can exist – and it takes a lot of work and effort on every person in the school, from the administration to aides, all working in a consistent manner.
My opinion is that there is an inherently flawed premise: All students want to excel on the test. The assumption in all of the standardization, and resulting measurement of teachers, is that the kids want to do their best on these tests. They’ll study each question, spend all the time they need or are given, striving to do their very very best. This isn’t a correct assumption. For you, for me, for most people who read my blog, sure – we were motivated to do well on our tests, because it was probably rewarded (or expected!) at home. If that isn’t fostered at home, you are expecting a hell of a lot of initiative from a ten-year old to find the drive and desire and energy, no matter how hard it may encouraged in the classroom.
Look around this city and its suburbs. Look at where you see the “good” schools. It doesn’t matter which side of the state line it is, but I can bet you this: the strongest schools are where the parents are more involved in the education of their child. When that child leaves school, they go home to an environment that continues to encourage good study habits and achievement. Long-term goals involving education to get there. Accountability and responsibility. Proper diet, nutrition, strict bedtimes and limitations on tv/internet/video games. We see the breakdown in family structures, the absence of good parental modeling, yet we can’t do anything about it because the “rights” of being a parent in this country are beyond reproach. You can buy a car and drive it, but you better have passed a driver’s test, and carry the proper insurance on it or you face consequences. There are no licenses or permissions -or even training- given to parents.
So, back to those teachers in L.A. who will have to see their efforts reduced to a statistic on a page. What if your job hung in the balance, dependent on all these other factors you can’t control?
Update, 8/29/10: Apparently The Onion had a similar idea, but with its usual delicious dark humor twist. NSFW for language, enjoy!
In The Know: Are Tests Biased Against Students Who Don’t Give A Shit?
I have a fascination with Lady Gaga, I’ll admit it. I have always loved dance music, and she churns it out like salt-water taffy. But her videos – lord – they are something else. She makes mini-movies with bizarre storylines, insane costumes, and all with a healthy dose of sexuality bordering on soft-core porn. Take a look (fair warning for those watching at work – there’s swearing and a nearly-nekkid GaGa):
I love it. I think her latest video is exceptional because it unabashedly works product integration into the show – who’d a thunk Lady Gaga could elevate making a sandwich with Wonder Bread and Miracle Whip to such heights? She flashes her Virgin Mobile phone at us several times, and the old-school Polaroid gets props as well, and the prison guards use the PlentyOfFish dating site. Even Diet Coke (I do miss you, friend) has a supporting role – in the form of giant hair rollers. A fast-food joint also gets a nod, and Quentin Tarantino’s infamous “Pussy Wagon” is resurrected. I’m sure there are more brands there – this is just my takeaway from watching it once. Also got a chuckle out of the guard’s line, “I told you she didn’t have a dick”… a little GaGa fuck-you to the internet speculation that she’s a hermaphrodite or really a man. At this point, who cares?!
Just as OK GO had to secure a sponsor for their equally brilliant (though wildly different) Rube Goldberg video, in order to allow embedding, I expect we’ll see more product integration in videos like this – and it won’t feel bothersome because we’re being highly entertained. Embedding videos means the record company isn’t making money off the views, but if they can get their nickels another way, through sponsorships and product placement, it allows videos to be more viral, gaining more exposure for the artist. OK GO left their label EMI at least in some part because of the control they were exacting over their video distribution – and OK GO is actually one of the most viral-video-creating bands, ever. (Think of how many times someone sent you a link to that treadmill video!)
So, because I can, here’s that video from OK GO:
21-paintball-gun salute to our indie boys, and if I had a crazy rotary telephone hat to tip in your direction, Ms. Ga, I would.
So, my strongest memories of Psych 101 was the day we got of frickin’ lab rats, and our escaped. I had the most ineffectual lab partner, so it was up to me to catch the damned thing, and nary a pair of gloves was to be found. I did name him in honor of my math professor, who gave me some of the best advice and counsel all through school. (Notably, “Five hundred years from now, Jennifer, none of this is going to matter.”)
Anyway, when you put a rat in a Skinner box, your lever is hooked up to a computer and you have to read the data and adjust the settings and basically, everyone ends up proving his theory, which is that behavior that is rewarded is repeated, and behavior that is rewarded RANDOMLY has the highest degree of repetition. If you push the lever and always get a pellet? You only push the lever when you need a pellet. (Interestingly, this also applies if the reward is distributed on a regular interval – three times gets you nothing, but four is the magic number? You know to push that sucker four times when you need a pellet. And then you wander off to watch Law & Order re-runs until you need another pellet, rinse & repeat.) If you push the lever and never get a pellet? You learn pretty damned quickly to regard the lever as a very boring shelf in your Skinner box.
If you never KNOW when you’re going to get a pellet, that without any lever-hitting pattern, one appears randomly, then you, little rattie, will punch that lever ’til your paw pads are raw, or you turn into a crispy-fried over-tanned smoker hammering “Play 3 Credits” on a slot machine. (Vegas may be artificial, but they ain’t stupid. Or poor.)
And today, I saw and felt the parallels, that job searching is like being inside a giant Skinner box. I have watched myself rise and fall emotionally, feeling elation, hope, depression, excitement, despair, enthusiasm, pessimism, optimism, fatality and confidence, and today, when the little “plook” noise alerted me to a new email, and I saw it was for another interview, I felt my heart soar once again with enthusiasm and excitement. Because no matter how many ways I circle (or circumvent) the various HR departments, or network myself, or talk to people, or put myself out there, or send in resumes, there is no guaranteed pattern of response or consequences. Of course I keep doing it, not for the soaring arc of hope the random positive brings, but because I want to work, be useful, get off unemployment, be around people, talk about ideas, work with clients, DO STUFF.
Not just punch a lever.
I met with a freelancer today & got a project she doesn’t have time to do.
While I was meeting with her, I got an email from a former co-worker, with a freelancing project that may come to fruition down the road.
While I was answering the email on the second project, I got a message on Facebook that my friend sent my email and name to his old boss who’d just posted they needed media freelance help.
My mind is whirring. And whirling. And wondering.
Is it a sign?
Wowza. Spend one week flat-out sick, spend the next week flailing and catching up. And discovering that I am still not as jaded as I’d like to believe. What’s up with that? I want to take everything life gives me like Kathleen Turner would, with almond eyes half-shut, gazing unflinching at the bullshit and nodding to myself, “Yep. Saw that coming.” Then I’d toss back a shot of whiskey and laugh.
My husband is an amazing judge of character. He has met people and told me later to watch out, or that he got a bad vibe from them, or that he doesn’t trust them. Inevitably, he’s right. I just realized how self-serving this could sound – since he decided to marry me, that would mean he’s STUPENDOUS at character assessment, eh? 😉 But I envy his unfiltered eye. I find I tend to give people some benefit of the doubt, or I see their association with other people I like and trust and transfer that to them, or I just go off the face value of things, and I don’t make instant determinations or decisions about people. And sometimes that can really bite you in the ass, because not only is the bad behavior unexpected, but the trust you invested up to that point has been betrayed.
Not going to bother elaborating, it’s not bloggable anyway, I just know that I can’t trust everyone, and I have to temper my expectations of people. I would prefer to not become cynical in the process! I had lunch yesterday with an old friend of mine, and I was telling her about some of the crazy things that have been going on, and there’s one situation where five of the six people involved are all confused and spending time worrying about it, and me? I’m the freaking poster child for the Tao of Pooh. I shrug. I narrow my eyes. I smile, and toss back a shot of scotch. And laugh. Because I can’t control it or influence it or even predict it, and therefore, I should spend my time minding my knitting, instead!
It is SO FREEING. To just stop caring about every single thing. Including the potential things. (Believe you me, I haven’t mastered this, but I’m going to trumpet when I do to remind myself it’s possible!) I have spent a better part of my life in the role of Piglet (if you have read the Tao of Pooh this will make sense… Pooh is the model of Buddhism), racing and worrying and fleeing and running with the balloon and being so frantic he eventually pops the balloon. And I sure as hell don’t want to be Eeyore, god love him, but that dude’s a goddamned downer.
Long ago, I toyed with the idea of volunteering at a hospital that was near my apartment. I met with the volunteer co-ordinator, a man, probably 20 years my senior. I’ve never forgotten one observation he made, because it was so wildly inconsistent with my view of myself. He said could see me in the emergency department, because he felt there was a calmness about me, that would be reassuring to families coming in under crisis. I still don’t know if I fully believe him, or if he was just looking for someone to fit a need. But I liked it. My thing is that if I have room to panic, I do. I ruminate, I dwell, I worry. But if someone else is doing it, I tend not to. I fear we’ll all lose our way if someone isn’t minding reality.
So, discovering someone’s true colors, and the resulting anger and sense of betrayal, well, it’s normal. But today I feel confident and centered. Ten years ago I would have been frothing at the mouth for weeks. Don’t get me wrong. I love to be agitated, I love sensory input and drama and zombies and things to move at a brisk clip. But I also enjoy – now more than ever – the ability to not be drowned by that wave.
In some ways, I think, the peace and perspective are results of my father’s death, and the ebbing away of some of my grief. I will cry, be immobilized by my sadness, for moments as short as a minute. Yesterday, for example, I was listening to a story on Morning Edition about Darwin, and how he and his wife were so different philosophically, yet when their daughter Anne died, it brought them even closer together. The author of the biography believes that much of his grief influenced his writings. I’m going to quote the part that really resonated – it’s the author’s viewpoint of Darwin, and it was so beautifully put:
Darwin is stating what “we now call the existential dilemma,” says Gopnik in his biography. He is saying there are two things that are true: One is that everything dies, and things die for no reason and to no apparent end. And their death is painful. And, that process of living and dying produces something amazing and beautiful and astonishing.
The process. Amazing and beautiful and astonishing. I love when things so profoundly move me, like a sharp twisting of muscle, when they resonate in my core like the vibration from a bass cello. My own evolution from inexperience and naivete.