Yesterday was awesome with a side of awesome-sauce. When the only down part of the day is me bawlling out the kids for “pruning” (aka HACKING ALMOST TO DEATH) most of the food plants in the front yard. Shanna decided that it would be awesome to clean up the house to make it up to me. I’m not sure some of the asparagus can recover. Luckily it is a spreading plant and even if those bits are dead, more will grow eventually. It’s going to take a good three years to get back to where the blueberry bushes were. My tomatoes are not going to be robust this year. (I’m ok with that. I didn’t want to grow any.) She pruned the apple tree that was just starting to do well. This is my sad face.
And that was my only bad. If that is the only bad in my day, well, I can get ten minutes of yelling out of it and then a little pout and move on. Ok, I’m done now. I really like problems that will fix themselves with time.
Otherwise the kids and I had a really nice day. We spent some time walking around Los Gatos. I talked to them about stuff I did as a kid. They were really interested in all the stories. I find myself perpetually in a state of confusion that they actually give a shit about me. They really do. They want to know about me. They want to know more than anyone other than Noah. It’s crazy. If anyone other than my kids followed me around asking for stories about my life it would probably be a little creepy. But my kids hunger for them.
I feel seen and valued. I tell them all the time that I am so glad that now I get to walk these places with them. Every memory that involves them is sweeter than what came before. I’m glad I get to show them things I like and places I have existed. I’m glad that they are happy I am with them.
It feels like it goes beyond the whole “If my mom hadn’t been alive I wouldn’t be alive.” They like me. They want to know me. I don’t feel I deserve it.
I’m probably going to apologize for yelling when they get home. I lost my temper. It’s ok to tell them why what they did was a bad idea. I probably didn’t need to shout it though. That wasn’t very nice of me. Sometimes, I’m not very nice. Which is a mixed thing.
My kids believe that it is ok for them to fuck up. They take it in stride, apologize, and then move on full stream ahead. “Oh shit. Mom is really mad at me because I did something I shouldn’t have. Hey! I’ll clean up all my stuff! Mom likes that!”
Repair attempts. I hear that acknowledgment of repair attempts are the strongest indicators of healthy and happy relationships. (Ok, mostly I’ve seen this with reference to marriage. If your spouse is TRYING to repair a fuck up, ALWAYS at least acknowledge that you see that they are trying–even if you kind of don’t want to let them make the repair yet. “I can see that you are trying really hard to help me stop feeling mad right now. I’m going to need to be mad for a few minutes. I appreciate that you are trying. I will be back to reciprocate in a few minutes when I calm down.”)
My kids try to repair. I try to repair. None of our fuck ups are that big. And our forgiveness is brobdingnagian. (That’s one of my FAVORITE WORDS EVER.)
Last year, when the awesome dad from the home school group was working in my yard, their teenage son came with him. At one point I told the boy to do something for his mom so she would get really excited. I did my kind of squeak and bounce thing. He his eyes got kind of wide and his head leaned back and he said, “Uhhh. My mom doesn’t get excited like that.”
I told him he obviously isn’t trying hard enough. He seemed skeptical. But I think about exchanges like that when I have my ALL CAPS LOCK ALL THE TIME days. I am that excitable in person. I understand why my kids are loud.
(Jenny–the town is so different. Next time you come to California we need to take Little Djinn there. It’s wacky how different it feels now. The Safeway has been totally remodeled. Now there is underground parking and the store is like twice the size. The Walgreens moved. That was kind of weird for me. Auntie shopped there a lot so the idea that it moved… No! Stop ignoring my sentimentality when you make business decisions!)
This year is fifteen years since I graduated from high school. Twenty years for Noah. Whoa. Time flies. Not that he graduated. And I graduated despite not going to high school. Life is confusing.
Clearly a high school education is not the make-it-or-break-it part of education. The pair of us argue with that idea pretty firmly. “Oh really? People can’t be successful or functional unless they can adapt to a toxic high school environment. Who was it that said it is no measure of health to be adjusted to a profoundly sick society?” (For the record it was: Jiddu Krishnamurti. I LOVE the internet. I never have to say I don’t know something again.)
Success is such a funny thing. The goal posts just move.
Recently Noah and I were discussing my lust for order. I wish I were someone who could be regimented and predictable. He commented that someone highly regimented can’t be successful in his profession. The point of his job is to imagine things. You can’t do that if you are predictable–not really. You can go down a checklist of possibilities, but you can’t imagine something different.
I suppose this is like the Imagineer vs. the Engineer. Ha.
These days when I set goal posts for the future I understand that they are mutable. My original goals of “save $250,000 and own my own house” were supposed to take me till I was sixty or so. Sometimes it is hard holding in the impulse to just cash out stock and pay the house off tomorrow. I could. And I’d still meet that minimum barrier for safety.
But my goals changed. Yes, I want the house paid off. But holy crap I’ve learned what investing money can do to your overall security. Shanna’s college tuition is almost 1/3 there. She just turned six. I didn’t actually contribute that much. It grows. Like fucking magic.
I feel… less fanaticism about paying the house off Right Now. I’ll get it paid off soon enough. It’ll be fine.
For someone who doesn’t believe in God I spend a lot of time praying. Every month when I pay my bills I sit still and I close my eyes and thank whatever is listening that I can pay every bill without robbing Peter to pay Paul.
My mom got to have that feeling once a year. When she got her income tax return. It was spent the day it arrived catching up on things that had to be paid. Every year of my childhood. The eleven months in between were anxiety filled cry fests. What was she going to do wrong this month. She started out every month short. And she didn’t really have a way to get more money.
Today I went out to a lovely breakfast with Noah. I couldn’t eat very much of it because my stomach hurt. We put it in a to-go container for me to eat after I medicate. It’ll be awesome then.
I see every thread of privilege that runs through my life. I feel like the threads are interwoven with gratitude and sorrow and shame. I’m grateful I get to have the things I have. I appreciate them. I’ve seen the lack. I understand how good I have it. I feel really sad that most people never get to feel this easing of worry. When they say that money can’t buy happiness… it can buy you ways to not worry. I feel ashamed that I have all this and other people have so little. That feels disgusting and inappropriate and wrong.
I feel good that my kids know that when you walk buy a homeless person begging, you find something to give them. Food, money, some conversation if you really have nothing to give. You treat them like a person. We have so much extra. If we don’t share then we are shitty people.
I don’t think I will get my grocery bill under control. But I have relationships with a fair number of homeless people and I don’t feel bad about handing them bags of food. My kids see that a lot. That’s just part of their experience of the world.
We are very lucky. We have extra. If you have extra and you don’t share, then you are an asshole.
Yes, we need to have conversations about systemic solutions. But I am not a hive creature. I am an individual. I can’t solve whole systemic problems. Often, I don’t know what the answer is. But I can help the person standing in front of me.
Are they currently suffering as the “result of bad decisions”? Maybe. But I’ve seen an awful lot of people make the best god damn decisions they had available and they still didn’t work out so well. I’m not in a position to judge. If Noah didn’t like fucking me so much… I wouldn’t have so much extra.
I don’t really feel I have a lot of moral high ground. And I feel a great deal of dismay that I am supposed to feel superior to people who earn their living the same way I do only they don’t also have to do all the fucking laundry. Sex work really doesn’t seem that different to me.
“Great minds discuss ideas, average minds discuss events, small minds discuss people.” Sometimes attributed to Eleanor Roosevelt though no one knows for sure.
I have a small mind. Sometimes I think I glory in that. I like to discuss people. I try to do it as more than just gossip–I like looking for patterns and figuring out how people work and why they do the things they do.
I have a strong natural dislike of population studies. I like individual case studies, one after another. I think that in the generalizations you lose the truth. This comes of being an outlier on most scales. Not as many any more… I’m trending towards average as I age. At least on some metrics.
But if you can never undo what you have done, then there are scales on which I will be an outlier until I die. I’m not sure I will ever get over distrusting population studies. But I want to go do a study on a population. I want to do it one person at a time.
Noah just asked me, “Have you ever considered what a system would look like if it was set up to manage people like you?” (Meaning contrary and difficult people who are prone to do the opposite of what you tell them to do even when they are shooting themselves in the foot.) (We’ve been talking about systematic solutions Like You Do On A Sunday Morning.)
More choices. More money. I consider every child born to be an investment in the future of this country. Each individual person has the potential to do Great Things if they are encouraged appropriately. Maybe their Great Things will be in their neighborhood. Maybe in their state capitol. Maybe on tv. I don’t care. Whatever. Do what makes you feel like you are doing the thing that you are good at doing. It is different for different people.
Getting training in your life path is hard and costs money. I really believe in the basic income. I think that children as young as four and five should be allowed to petition the courts to be adopted by a guardian of their choice. Even if the court is a little worried. Kids who are adopted out should retain a child advocate who will work with them throughout their lifetime. Kids who need to leave their nuclear family will probably need a wide net of different kinds of support people.
Kids should be born with the ability to pay for their own day care and food, should such assistance be necessary. These kids will pay my social security. I need them to be as healthy and functional as possible.
Instead our system tries to tell people that they have as few choices as possible. We constrain learning and say that if you don’t learn well by listening to lectures and doing worksheets obviously you are pretty stupid.
Not everyone has that experience of the school system. Some people experience a bewildering array of options and learning possibilities. Guess how much money the parents of those kids usually have?
Maybe money does buy happiness. Or at least it can buy the ease of worry to the point where you are able to feel happy.
But people can learn with almost no money spent. Money isn’t the point. Having a truly engaged teacher is one of the main building blocks of education. The people who help you discover things on your own are the people who increase your options for the future. People who give you a checklist of what to do and what not to do are limiting you.
I think this is beyond me today. And I’m getting stabbing pain in my elbow. I’m going to stop now.