Wednesday, July 2, 2008

Ridiculous Things That Defeat Me

{Disclaimer: As I read over this I see that I may seem to be asking for help and advice with my questions. I'm not, though...I'm mainly trying to observe and write my process, which includes the way I question myself, because it gives me some relief to do so.}

We can start with shaping the inarticulate mass inside of me into words. Something is stirring in the deeps, longing to take shape, but falls back into semi-formlessness before I can assign the refinements of words. I'm defeated at finding one word, let alone a series of them, let alone arranging them just so, let alone having them actually channel what it is inside of me. Sigh.

Living in expectation of interruption certainly doesn't help this process of attempting to resurrect coherent thoughts from the Void. They tend to fall apart of their own weight, with the slightest distraction.

A similar dynamic occurs when I try to shape the mass of summer time into a structure that makes sense. If it was just me there would be no problem. I have plenty to keep me satisfied in books I have yet to read, thoughts to think, blogs to post.

My boys are cursed with a mother who is introverted (I used to be a borderline extrovert, but I think having kids has thrust me deep into introversion) and a failure at Activity Directing. I'm not a font of ideas when the inevitable "I'm bored"s come up, and I'm afraid the lifestyle that's comfortable right now for me lends itself to "I'm bored" for them.

It's not that I don't have ideas. It's that when it comes to the present moment, it seems like too much effort to pursue them. This includes calling kids' parents and setting up playdates. So that's another defeat. When the kids aren't bored, I don't have the energy to call for the playdates. When I *need* the playdates, they're not available.

I called an at-home dad who used to live across the street from us to set up a playdate. The route to Scott's swim lessons take us past our old house and thus past several former neighbors' homes and a host of kids my kids' age. Jon has 3 boys; Sal and Matt have 2 girls and a boy, Bob and Nan have 2 girls.

I had a bit of a crush on Jon, the at-home dad, when we first moved back from St. Louis. He and his family had moved in during our 5 years away. Our neighbors on each side of us had put up with a series of renters until we moved back into the house I'd bought in 1986.

I'll never know whether any of the crush was reciprocated. It would be the worst of manners to ask, not to mention incredibly awkward. It's moot anyway, since married (happily) men (or even unhappily for that matter) with children (or without, for that matter) are firmly in the off-limits category (except for the loophole that they have a mutual--with their wives-- agreement of 'openness' in their marriage--not that this circumstance has ever presented itself. The loophole only exists to placate a stern conscience which guards my conduct even in my fantasies. So even in fantasy their wives either have to be dead or have given their blessing.). Let's just say I warmed myself over the sparkle that may or may not have been present in our dealings (which may or may not have been completely one-sided). I was sad when we sold the house and moved to our present home, in the school neighborhood the boys were attending (and we know how that turned out). For a time I'd drop by and visit since Scott's preschool was on the route past Jon's house, but I felt a little self-conscious about my car conspicuously parked outside. Most of the parents in the neighborhood worked at jobs outside the home, but for those who did work from home I wondered if it seemed odd that I visited Jon and not them. Eventually the crush wore itself out and the visits got further between.

I really did, and do, enjoy the conversations with Jon, by the way. Some of our discussions about science, quantum mechanics, chaos theory, and politics set my thinking on a path that's influencing me to this day.

So that's the backstory to calling him to see if I can drop by with the boys after Scott's swim lesson tomorrow. What's 'defeating' me is a series of details that make me a little uncomfortable. Scott's class finishes a little after 11 and we're usually leaving the pool around 11:30. That's lunch time. We're low on cash til payday and I took the boys to a movie last night, so I don't really want to buy them lunch. They'll refuse to eat anything I pack. With gas as expensive as it is it doesn't make sense to return home, and then drive back down to visit. After talking with Jon I realized I'd rather rudely invited us over right at lunch time. So I called back to ask if I could bring some stuff to contribute to lunch for the kids. He said they were out of bread and I agreed to bring some. Now I realize that tomorrow's the last day for swim classes on account of the July 4 holiday, and I'd promised Scott he'd be rewarded with a treat from the ice cream machine if he could manage his behavior in class (as in, listen to his teacher, keep his head out of the water when the teacher is talking, keep himself separated from Dylan). So we'll be lingering at the pool for a little while so Scott can feast on his treat (it seems a safe assumption he'll attain it). More likely than not this will put my boys out of sync with whatever time his boys will be eating.

I think most people's nervous system would barely register these little distractions. For me they loom large, and each seem insurmountable. I feel like I've been reduced in scale to the size of an ant walking over a shag carpet. The strands I stepped over unthinkingly become chasms to negotiate again and again.

Another sticking point is that I'd also dropped by my former next door neighbor Sal's last week. Her dad was coming out of the house and said she wasn't home...she was having a small lump removed from her throat. So I called her later to make sure she was ok (she said she is) and to mention that we drive by frequently and could we stop by for a visit. She said sure, they're around.

So, is it weird that it is Jon I called? Should I call Sal and tell her we're going to be at his house implying that I'm inviting them all over? She's going to see that we're there anyway. Will it seem weird that I called to tell her we'll drop by sometime over this week and then go to his house? It's a pretty casual neighborhood with people dropping over all the time. Maybe instead it would seem weird for me to call her rather than just let the fact of our car there speak for itself and they can come over if they wish. Why am I even thinking about these things.

I'm also defeated by Scott's birthday party. He wants a bowling party. One of the local alleys does birthday parties, but there's a charge per child and a minimum of 5. Since I removed him from one school and put him in another there's some dislocation with his friends. He has a few friends from the new school, and some children he remembers from the old. What are the dynamics like between two separate groups of kids who know each other within their groups, but no one outside the group? He wants to invite an older couple who lives up the street. He also wants to invite two four year old neighbors. These are younger friends that he runs hot and cold with. In some ways he's attracted to children who are quite a bit younger than him, but then he becomes impatient with their lesser maturity--and he himself doesn't possess the maturity and perspective to help him deal with these discrepancies gracefully. For these children to come they'd probably need the presence of their parents, which is fine, except they also have older siblings that it's a little awkward to not invite. If I don't invite them, what if some of the other children don't show (damn parents who won't RSVP) and then we don't have 5 kids? Will he feel badly if there aren't a lot of kids at his party?

These details feel like splinters sticking out of an otherwise smooth piece of wood that I'm sliding a silk stocking across. On one hand they're so silly; on another I find myself getting snagged repeatedly. I feel like Homer Simpson, having dropped off a cliff, striking each and every protrusion from the wall ("doh!!") as he falls.

I feel pathetic.


Douglas W said...

Not asking for help and advice? OK... no help or advice forthcoming then. Observing your process? OK... what is it that you observe? The concluding line is not the answer. I know what I can observe... but it's not that.

excavator said...
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excavator said...

(after posting I reread this and realized I wanted to make a refinement. I made an extensive quote from my April 27 quote, and wanted to distinguish what I wrote then from what I'm writing now)

It's funny; there's a certain release and relief in naming my process; or maybe it's just in *admitting* it. Even when it makes me feel a little silly.

I've found release and relief when someone else writes their process in a way where I recognize myself. I suppose that's what encouraged me, ultimately, to join the blogging world.

Back in late April, when I was asking myself why I blog, my question was answered by an interview between NPR's Andrea Seabrook and poet Edward Hirsch. This exchange came after the reading of his poem "Self Portrait"(here I quote from my post):

"Seabrook: 'It's so personal, and sooooo universal, oh my God, who hasn't had the experience of being completely split in two.'

Hirsch: 'Well thank you for saying so...I mean I thought of it--you know it's a self portrait--I thought of it as a completely personal poem but I've had a wonderful experience with different readers who have identified it when it turns out that everyone seems to have this experience of being completely riven between your, your heart or your passions and your mind and your reason.'

Seabrook: 'Isn't that right there the basic guts of human experience, I think.'

Hirsch: 'That's what you're trying to get at, to get down as far as you can get viscerally to where your own obsessions are and hope that they're also the obsessions of other people and really get at what is most essential using your own experience... but what is most essential about human experience.'

Then I remembered why I do it. There is something liberating about being able strip an "obsession" down to its essence, and a deep relief and joy in finding that other humans share that experience. Sometimes other people's observations enlighten me...and sometimes I've had the pleasure of hearing that mine express their truths too. It's a gift that keeps on giving: there is release for me in being able to describe to myself the essence of an experience--and it's indescribable when someone else resonates with it.

It's funny as hell is what it is.

And I love a good laugh. " (end quote from the post)

So here's what I observe in this current post: someone whose perspective has temporarily shrunk a bit so that minor things loom large. I see someone who feels a little foolish about it, but decides to admit to it anyway because there's release in truth-telling, and in hopes that maybe someone out there who stumbles across it someday may recognize themselves and have a bit of a knowing smile.

I appreciate your last comment, Doug. I don't *think* that I'm pathetic, really, though sometimes I feel it.

July 4, 2008 1:16 PM

Douglas W said...
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Douglas W said...

Does it help if I smile in response to your second last paragraph?

excavator said...

Doug: it made *me* smile, so I guess it does! :)