Tuesday, September 30, 2008


I couldn't bring myself to write "daze" in the title, but that's exactly where I am: in a daze. Dazed and Confused.

Sick child this morning. Scott has a low grade temperature. So I expect to be interrupted at any time.

A dance analogy comes to mind--that the partners in dance need a certain amount of tension, or resistance between them. The resistance gives them something to work off of, enables responsiveness.

In a way, influencing another's behavior with words is a sort of dance. Influencing children with words requires more skill than I have some days. ( I should probably say my children.) Part of it is the material I have to work with.

Connor's elasticity, responsiveness, alertness yesterday had the consistency of wet clay. Working with him with his homework was like trying to turn a screw with a screwdriver made of putty. It was like trying to drive a nail made of clay with a hammer. He merely compressed and flattened, and wailed, "I can't do it! I'm stupid!"

This is his first year of middle school. All three of his teachers assign regular nightly homework, but there are a number of science projects he is required to do between now and the end of school's first trimester November 21. What he was working on last night was the development of a plan for accomplishing these projects. The basic structure of organization was laid out for him on a piece of paper: "By ________date, I will have read the first third of my book and written a paragraph summary." It's a metric to keep track of his progress: when he proposes to start the project, the date he projects to finish, how many points he will get for each project (he needs a total of 50). Basically he is developing the skill for how to plan long-range, organize and pace himself to keep the demands on him manageable. He's learning to think strategically. And he's not going willingly. To plot out how many weeks he has til the end of the trimester and figure out how to spread the demands evenly out over that period of time flummoxed him. Even transferring the dates we'd painfully worked out from the organizer to his planner book was beyond him. It was agonizing.

Scott's elasticity, responsiveness, alertness fluctuates. Rather than becoming a blob of clay that is too soft to respond to direction, he becomes so porous that you pass right through him. Maybe 'scattered' is the more apt word. It's like trying to grasp a lever to move an object, but you can't because your hand passes right through it. It's like trying to corral and contain one of those little twisters you sometimes see when the days are hot, a swirl of air carrying bits of debris.

Yesterday his teacher Billy told me we needed to talk. He said that he's "out of options"; if Scott doesn't have direct supervision he is up out of his chair, or he's in conflict with another child; he cannot stay on task. Generally he permits free movement in his classroom, but Scott's movement tends to agitate the atmosphere. He said he's never had a child who is so distractible, who is so unable to govern himself. He said he doesn't think it's willful defiance; he can't seem to help it. He feels that special education needs to be involved to a far greater degree, and clearly felt that I should strongly consider medication. I trust Billy, and I know that it would take a lot before he'd lean toward the recommendation. This time I managed to not cry there; I was able to keep it for the ride home.

So I'm back to considering whether or not a classroom is the appropriate environment for him. He just doesn't seem to have the basic skills that are needed to be able to learn in that setting. He really doesn't seem to 'get' what's going on around him and is out of step in the dance of school.

The implications of this impact my plans for leaving this marriage. If I need to bring him home for schooling it seems incompatible with moving forward on those plans.

Friday, September 26, 2008

Sitting here in my pajamas

...a break in the morning routine.

Scott's school hosted an 'annual' K-1-2 "Space Out" sleepover. I would have been there too, waking up on the floor, trying to feed children


Gary's gone this week ( last week too with less than a 36 hour layover in the port of home between absences).

I had planned to endure a sleepover at the school, but Gary-in-Asia changed the dynamic. I'm not quite ready to leave Connor alone all night. And, it being a school night, it would be an imposition to ask one of his friends' parents if he could spend the night. (The devil on my shoulder whispering: "Do it! Find Connor a place for the night and don't chaperone the sleepover! Come on, you know you want to.")

Scott adamantly said if I wasn't staying he wasn't either. Then squirmed in the throes of dilemma: he could spend the night at the school, very cool and desirable, without me, or he could be home with me and miss the sleepover.

Those kind of choices really do suck, though, and I should have been more sympathetic to the emotional storms that accompanied his working it out. I do hate when two desirable options are on opposite sides of a choice, and each is accompanied by something not-desired.

It probably was actually a good learning experience and practice. He spent days trying to come up with ways that he could have both the sleepover, and me there.

He chose to stay. So for the price of a potluck dinner (lasagna) I assembled yesterday, the effort to pack, and a drive over to the school, I get to sit here in my pajamas this morning. Where I can be for another two hours if I so choose. When it's pick-up time for Scott. His school only goes for half-days on Fridays.

So I got a break from the usual morning routine of waking a reluctant boy (which is a focused effort, spread over 15-or 20 minutes of time while I accomplish the mini-goals that facilitate the getting out of the door), dressing myself with an eye on the clock, then herding him to the car and making the drive down the hill (the road under construction last week and this week) to park near the school, wade through the crush of children (why do they always congregate in doorways and narrow passage-ways?) to deliver him to class. Drive home, and get here about now.

I don't mind getting a free pass on all that today one little bit.

Thursday, September 18, 2008

Taking action

Around the time I was puzzling about the nature of defensiveness and the disagreement with my friend, Mercurious was posting about karma. He stated that while most people view karma in terms of lifetimes, and various lives, it is also referring to the ways we create our reality, moment by moment.

This was a real revelation for me.

He described that process by which we create our reality in terms of:

arising sensory impressions becoming

paired with associations and memories to become

a sensation of pleasant/unpleasant

which is immediately paired with either desire (for a pleasant sensation to continue) or repulsion (wanting to repel an unpleasant sensation) which becomes

volition and then


He then grouped this sequence into two types of psychology, or karmic stages. Up to where sensation becomes desire/hatred is called 'resultant karma'--meaning results of all that has come before--memories, thoughts, associations. This is beyond the realm of moral judgment, it simply is. It's the shaping of perception and interpretation through the prism of that person's individual life history.

From the place of desire/hatred up through volition and action is the place of 'causal karma'--where action creates new "karmic outcomes".

The very exciting part of this is the notion that the element of choice can be introduced into this model, particularly at the 'gap' in the stage between recognizing pleasure/not-pleasure and it becoming desire/hatred. And this is where freedom from our habitual thoughts and actions can arise. He suggests meditation as the means by which to gain the awareness of that stage before a pleasant/unpleasant sensation turns to desire/hate. And with awareness comes the ability to choose.

I hope I didn't mangle Mercurious's excellent post too much in my summary, and I highly recommend you go to the post yourself because he explains it so much better than I do. The reason I included a summary here was to show it as a template that I put my own experience with my friend into to see what it would look like:

Talking to my friend, I mention that I’m satisfied that her son has worked off a debt he owed me. I feel a change in our atmosphere and she says something; I feel something more intensely

That is a form of sensory input that comes through my ears and eyes, and it is now being compared to memories and concepts I have stored.

She is not smiling;

In this case, immediately on receiving the sensory form, a basic sense of unpleasantness arises

Memories of other similar situations arise; memories of disapproval, memories of being surprised by unexpected negative emotions. An unpleasant feeling arises.

The unpleasantness is immediately joined by revulsion to push away this unpleasant feeling

I dislike my unpleasant feeling, I identify it with being disapproved of, of being unexpectedly hurt. I want it to go away.

Hating leads to volition, an intent to take action to dispel the negative feeling.

I resolve to talk

I follow through on my intent

I send an e-mail seeking to see if the feeling I’m having is real; seeking to find out if there’s a misunderstanding.

This is a karmic cycle where each of these steps is predisposing the next step. The next set of sensory forms, associations, hating, volition, and action take place, and they’re determined by the previous. On goes the karmic cycle.

Mercurious suggests that at the moment between my recognition of 'unpleasant' and my 'hatred' of what was unpleasant, I can introduce some 'space' into that gap. I can accept the existence of the unpleasant feeling and see it as merely a result of things that have gone before. Perhaps this is not a sensation which demands action. So, theoretically it was possible that I could let the feeling of unpleasantness in that moment with M pass, understanding that it’s a result of prior conditions within us both.

There is a curious feeling of vulnerability in the prospect of accepting a sensation as what-is, without being compelled to respond.

I guess the point of Mercurious's post is not that it is never appropriate to respond, but introducing that element of choice can mix things up a little, let us choose a path that's not merely a continuation of our past conditioning.

Monday, September 15, 2008

Defensiveness is a strange animal

The babysitting incident below was a relatively small one in the great scheme of things. I dealt with it with my friend, but I've continued to work it below the surface. Like the climatologist who learned that he could save himself the trouble of tramping about on wet cloudy mountains* by setting up a weather system in miniature in a lab, I am using the experience as an opportunity to gain insights on a larger Pattern.

A recurring theme in my life has been that people important to me have often not fulfilled their responsibilities and then refuse to be held accountable. To question their actions (or inactions) is to 'accuse' them, no matter how gently or neutrally I try to frame my questions. And then I'm punished with their anger and resentment. Not being able to pursue the matter to closure with them, I turned my scrutiny inward to see if I was at fault. Maybe something was wrong with how I'd perceived them. I usually gave others the benefit of the doubt.

I hate the specter of victimhood a statement like that implies, but it is true. As it is true that the same pattern shows up in all kinds of different places. From the mundane (calling Gary on having taken the trash out but having not re-lined the can so that I have to set down the armload of trash--I'd gathered up in a hurry because the baby's crying-- to take the liner that he's left folded up inside the lidded can, unfold it, line the can, pick up the trash I'd had to set down and put it in the can while listening to the crying get more urgent--to tell him that this was a real stumbling block and had cost me generated his anger toward me and added to the general resentment) to the larger life-affecting stuff, this has recurred.

I had thought the babysitting incident with my friend below was another variation on that pattern and I could gain some insight by studying it. Then I had some more insights that shook that assumption and I'm still thinking about that.

But it did give me an opportunity to meditate on the curious nature of defensiveness. I realized that when people are conflict-avoidant it is generally because anticipating the defensiveness it will raise in another person is daunting. And then to have one's own defensiveness triggered and so have mutual defensiveness is excruciatingly uncomfortable. To me it has felt like an electrified fence, a kind of repelling force field. Or like a feedback loop. Only with a twist, or a sting.

And it's funny how exquisitely tuned humans' defensiveness can be. My father said something to me once that was both painful and inexplicable. I had to mull it over for several days before I could bring myself to approach him about it. From the moment he answered the phone it was as if he could sense something was coming from me that would seem critical of his behavior--I could feel the alarms beginning to sound in him and I could feel the defensiveness. The electrical field of defensiveness seems to force ANY exchange into the mold of accusation--even if the purpose of that exchange is to seek understanding and connection. And it seems to arise instantaneously.

I wonder if there's a correlation between a person's tendency to become anxious and how readily they become defensive.

There really does seem to be a lot of it about though. It's so common it's the stuff of comedy shows and dramas--person a does something; person b is hurt but won't approach person a because person a "might get angry".

So I'm just curious.


* from Bill Bryson's book, A Short History of Nearly Everything: on page 161 he recounts the story of a British scientist C.T.R. Wilson who studied cloud formations at the top of Scottish mountain Ben Nevis. Looking for an easier way he built an artificial cloud chamber.

Tuesday, September 9, 2008

Exerpts, a story of Scott and another microcosm

This event happened about 18 months ago during the last month of Scott's kindergarten year (May 2006). This is the story as I recounted it to my cousin:

I've been on the front line of a very uncomfortable dynamic at the boys' school. It started the week just before memorial w/e when Scott came home weepy and said he'd hit his best friend Jack. That surprised me a lot; he'd just been at the boy's birthday party the weekend before and they'd gotten along so well. They've been pretty good buddies since school started and it just seemed odd.

Scott's not been as easily assimilated into a school model as Connor was in kindergarten.

So I haven’t been able to completely relax about him in school the way I was when Connor was at this stage. He’s one of these children that you’re never entirely sure if he’s ‘getting’ you. It’s like a language barrier, really, as if he’s not a native English speaker. His indexing is very different from ours, so what we’re thinking we’re telling him may not be what he’s taking in. It’s disconcerting and can be irritating. It also can be dangerous for him because adults assume he’s getting what they’re telling him and expect him to behave accordingly. There’s a difference in someone who doesn’t do as expected because he doesn’t understand what’s expected (and the adult knows it), vs someone who doesn’t do as expected when he does understand what’s expected. I think that Scott may be mistakenly classified sometimes in the latter group. If it was clear that English was his second language I think he’d be treated with a little more understanding. If he was in a smaller classroom (28 kids, 21 of whom are boys) a teacher would have a little longer to consider the subtleties. Actually his teachers have been pretty kind, kinder consistently than I am, I’m afraid. He’s been receiving speech therapy since he was 3 (delay issues and now intelligibility issues) and I went in for his annual meeting. Got the report I was expecting: doing well in his speech progress, not quite settling down the way many of the other kindergartners have at this stage. Easily distractable, impulsive.

This is probably a classic case where having a depressed mother directly impacts a child. Optimally I’d have kept him home another year to let some more maturity come into play. [I don’t know if I could have done it though, and stayed sane.] Optimally I’d have been a frequent and regular volunteer so I could keep my finger more surely on the pulse of his well being. [I don’t know if I could have done that and stayed sane. My need for this solitary time that they’ve been in school has been voracious and nearly insatiable. The thought of any obligations caused some real anxiety. It was a conscious choice I made to not volunteer this year.] I haven’t had to give what he probably needed most—some really focused attention during this first year of his academic life.

ANYway, he came home and told me he’d hit his best friend. This is the first time he’s done this. He was genuinely tearful. I e-mailed the teacher and cc’d the principal because I’d not heard from them. I wanted to be sure that I wasn’t hearing from them because this had been resolved satisfactorily between the kids in the classroom. The note I got back from Mr. S., the teacher, assured me that was the case. It had not risen to a level of seriousness requiring a principal’s intervention, or a need to contact me. So I was blindsided when I got a call from Jack’s father later that week saying that his son was saying that Scott had ‘punched him in the nose’ and the damage had been serious enough that he was ‘still bleeding’. Several days later. His father said they wanted to have a meeting at the school with the teacher and wanted to know if I could come. It may have been more imperative than that. I agreed to it and was there Tuesday morning. What was odd was that I thought we were just going to meet with the teacher, but Jack’s mother headed up the stairs to the principal’s office. The principal hadn’t known we were meeting and so it was an unexpected meeting for him, too. Jack and Scott were with us. The story was that Karol had picked up Jack after school and he had blood on his nose. I don’t know if it was dried blood or what. She said no one told her that something had happened. There must have been a hand-off between one adult and another; it seems odd that she feels she couldn’t get any information. I don’t know when it started bleeding profusely; it could have been that night, or maybe not even until over the holiday when they went to visit some friends. The point was, the principal expressed surprise; he said that ordinarily any incident that involves punching and a bloody nose would be dealt with immediately, in his office. He asked the school secretary if she’d dealt with a bloody nose that day, and she said she had not. There had been no crying, no upset that seems reasonable to expect if someone gets hurt to that extent. The teacher hadn’t known anything about it either. So apparently something happened that caused this boy’s nose to bleed—later, well after the incident—that no adult witnessed, and no one witnessed a kid being distraught, which you’d think would have been the case. Karol said tho that she’d talked with the pediatric nurse, and that the bleeding could only be accounted for by some trauma. She then proceeded to say that she has witnessed Scott on several occasions be aggressive with other children where it was unprovoked. Her case in point was when the kids were lining up to leave and Scott ran across the room and plowed into Jack, knocking him to the ground. She said, ‘if it looks like a duck’, in other words it was a slam dunk that Scott had done it, especially since Jack said he had. Then, there in the meeting, Scott said he had hit Jack in the nose.

Now I remember being a kid, and how ambiguous words are. “Hitting him in the nose” can mean anything from a vicious beating on down the continuum to having bumped him in the course of physical play. I think the word ‘hitting’ might mean different things to each of the adults in the room. Fortunately we have a principal who is aware of this ambiguity, and is also aware that children are not the most reliable of historians. Scott’s saying he did it was case-closed to Jack’s parents, but I can remember being a child and saying I’d done something because when people asked me, it seemed like they wanted me to say it, or because I thought it would be brave, or because I was confused and thought maybe I HAD done it, everyone else seemed so sure. And I think the principal is aware of this dynamic complicating the narratives of children, especially when adults start asking lots of questions.

So the way the principal handled it was to make clear that we can’t have hitting of any kind at school, and that both boys need to keep their hands to themselves.

I came in to the meeting with the guiding principal that Scott should not be hitting anybody. There was nothing to be defensive about. Furthermore I felt there was as much danger to Scott in the situation, (the danger of being or being labeled as a hitter) as there was to Jack. I saw it as a problem that was between ALL of us adults and that we were there to problem solve so both boys come out safe and successful. I was weepy a few times, this was really difficult. But it seemed the meeting ended with a sense of being conciliatory. The principal made a point that while Scott should by no means hit Jack, he felt it unlikely that he’d caused Jack’s nose to be so injured.

Except Jack has continued to come home and tell Karol that Scott’s been hitting him. I got a message from Karol about 2 weeks ago saying Jack said Scott had hit him in the forehead and chest. Then another message that Jack said Scott had shoved his finger up Jack’s nose and that he had a bloody nose. Each time I got a message from her I called the school to see if they could tell me what happened (that seemed prudent before speaking to her). Each time they said the boys had had great days, had played wonderfully well, and really like each other. They’ve been really watching these kids and were surprised when I told them Karol called me saying that Jack had said that Scott had abused him. I also spoke with the music teacher who said in her opinion these were boys who really liked and were drawn to each other, but didn’t necessarily bring out the best in each other. She said they had had an altercation over some crayons and Scott did hit him, but they were able to deal with it in class. She said that it’s by no means unilateral, that it’s a feature of their relationship and that Jack gives as much as he gets.

The school staff has continued to give me the feedback that they see no evidence that Scott is targeting Jack; that he is impulsive and a physical boy and so sometimes when he’s with other impulsive and physical boys that physical things happen. But they see no malicious intent. In the case of this latest bloody nose Scott had been no where near Jack when it broke out. His mother says (again) that Jack says that they had been underneath the table when Scott pushed a finger up his nose and that it didn’t start bleeding at first.

So, either the school staff is incredibly negligent and stupid in letting these incidents go by unobserved, or Scott is very cleverly planning these assaults to insure that he not get caught, or, maybe Jack's mother is giving too much credence to the narrative of a 6 year old. I’m not saying the boy is lying, because I think kids have such a confused view of the truth that the term doesn’t really apply to them. Who knows what may be influencing his story. I have no idea what kinds of questions mom’s asking him. Perhaps he’s perseverating on some event where Scott did hit him. Perhaps he’s seen just how excited adults get. Perhaps he and Scott bumped into each other during their play at school, maybe it even hurt, and in his mind that becomes “Scott hit me”. From what the school staff has observed, they’ve continued to play very happily together.

Well, I called her to suggest we keep talking, only maybe move our venue to e-mail where it’s a little less loaded. I just wanted her e-mail address, and it turns out she didn’t want to continue the conversation. She wanted an outlet for her anger, and she dumped it all over me. To her it’s a done deal that ‘your child is hurting my child and it’s because you’re lousy parents who don’t know how to discipline your kid’. It was as if I was personally responsible, as if I had hit Jack. She’s already sure that Scott will be attacking him next year, and she hopes we come up with a ‘discipline plan’ over the summer to keep that from happening. She told me I was ‘in denial’ about Scott. The whole exchange was a shock, because I’m not used to adults speaking to me this way. I took (I think) the higher road and did not make personal remarks about her, her parenting, or her child. This was precisely why I’d wanted to move the venue to e-mail, to avoid exchanges like this. This was not a conversation, she interrupted whenever I’d speak, and when I did have an insertion point and pointed out that none of what she’s been saying Jack is saying is consistent with what the school has been telling me, she just couldn’t hear that. It’s odd. If Scott came home telling me things like Jack’s telling her, I would be in contact with the school. If the school was telling me things that were at odds with what Scott was telling me, that would signal to me that I needed to be careful with how I questioned him, and sift the story very carefully to see what could be accounting for it.

It is so interesting the connections people make in their minds. I think this sort of unconscious ‘logic of the unreasoning’ is a common theme in humans and probably is at the root of many of the world’s conflicts. This thing with Karol is a case in point. It is not reasonable for her to be angry with me personally, but it seems logical to her. I have not hit her son. My son has not hit her son when they’ve been under my watch. If I were a day care operator and this was happening while the kids were in my care, it may be reasonable for her to be angry with me. If I had criticized or impugned her kid it would be reasonable for her to be angry with me. If the school were validating that Scott is a behavior problem who is hurtful to other children and I were refusing to acknowledge that, that would be ‘denial’. Children in conflict does not mean that adults have to be adversarial: I was and remain a good friend to a woman in St. Louis whose son did target Connor (and unlike this case with Jack, it was clearly obvious to everyone concerned—preschool teacher and director and his mother herself)--because of the simple fact that SHE wasn’t hurting Connor, and she was not directly responsible each time her child hit mine. Yet it appears to seem reasonable to Karol that I’m a legitimate recipient for her anger. Perhaps she understood the conciliatory tone at the meeting as a ‘promise’ that ‘it wouldn’t happen again’, and feels I’ve failed to honor the terms. I’m often surprised though at the leaps in associations people make, and then the strength of the emotions that result.

It’s sort of sad, because Jack’s one of the few people Scott wants to have for his birthday party, and it doesn’t sound too likely they’ll let him come. He wasn’t in school for the last 3 days (after the latest bloody nose), and I wouldn’t be surprised if the same logic of illogic applies: We’re to blame for Jack’s not getting to have his last 3 days of school. I have a feeling this may not be over, and there may be reverberations depending on whatever and however she talks about this to her friends. This school is a very small community, and since it’s a k-8 we’re going to know each other for a very long time.

Hopefully time will show her (and me) that Scott’s not mass murderer material.

Monday, September 8, 2008

A situation, a microcosm?

Sometimes it's useful to construct a small-scale model to observe its workings and gain some insights about a larger system.

I may have been presented an opportunity to do just this, in the guise of what may be a disagreement between me and my dear longtime friend M. I'm not certain yet if this is a serious disagreement or not...it depends on whatever happens next. Will she respond to me? Or not? And if she does, how will she? If it's a serious disagreement, it will be our first.

Her son, D has babysat for me for the past couple years. He is 16, and recently got his driver's license.

Earlier this summer when he was watching the boys he used Connor's mountain board (kind of an off-road skateboard) and broke it. He told Connor he would replace it.

I knew from what M had told me at one of our regular breakfasts that he had no cash and was behind in a few situations money-wise.

I figured D. and I could handle this between the two of us. I didn't want to upset M by saying he'd broken something and so was beholden to yet another person.

I resigned myself to a process that I really don't like: tracking down the warranty , making calls, getting information. Turns out Connor's board has a weight limit of 100#. So the warranty did not cover this break. I opted to buy a replacement deck from the company. It cost $60. I suggested to D that he reimburse me for half that amount, and do the labor to transfer the hardware from the broken deck onto the new one. Since I knew he didn't have cash I suggested he work it off in babysitting and figured 5-6 hours at $5/hr would take care of it. He agreed to this. I didn't ask for a full reimbursement since there wasn't anything obvious on the mountain board that warned that there was a weight maximum.

The process of all this was slow, because of my own foot-dragging to make the calls I needed to make, times where I needed to wait for return calls, and some problems with D's cell phone. At one point I wondered if maybe I should let his mom know what was going on. So I did, and she said that D had told her about it. She was fine with him working it off.

We scheduled a weekend day when Gary was going on a ski trip. However, that was the w/e that Connor got injured skateboarding and so I canceled. (Regretfully; I'd really looked forward to having that day. But some things you just can't hand off to a teenager.)

In late August Connor started football which has practice on the evenings that I see my counselor. I leave before Gary gets home from work. Connor's been able to babysit Scott for the duration of the gap before Gary arrives but with him gone, I need someone to watch Scott. I asked D if he'd want to do this regularly on Wednesdays until the end of the football season. He said he would.

So, two Wednesdays ago he came to work. I told him it might be an evening when Gary got off work early, so it could be a short night. I told him we'd just keep track of his hours and when he got to 5-6 I'd call us even and start paying him again.

So that first Wed was only an hour's work for him. After this Wed Gary said he thought D had expected to be paid. I was surprised, because I thought we'd had it understood and agreed that he not be paid til he'd put in 5 or so hours. Something made me a little uneasy about this, and so this Saturday when M & I had breakfast I told her I'd start paying him again this Wednesday. She said something that gave me a strange feeling, something about it being hard for him to have 'driven over there for just an hour.' I meant to follow it up with her there, but we got talking about other things and I forgot. So once home I sent her this message:

Hi. I'm looking around for some good links to send you.

But I also wanted to be sure that we're square about D's unpaid work. I'd just hate to think you might think we're taking advantage of him. (You probably don't, but I'd still feel better if I knew we're both on the same page about it.)

The replacement deck cost $60. I figured that it didn't make sense to make D pay for all of that because he didn't know, and anyone might have thought it was ok to use. So I figured half would settle it, and to transfer the hardware to the new deck.

I figured that would be roughly 6 hours of babysitting at $5/hr.

Then the first week Gary came home after D had only been here an hour. I was expecting this and told D we'd keep track of his hours and after 5-6 start paying him again.

D was here 3 and a half hours this last time, so he's worked 4.5 hours. I figure since he has been driving over that I'd factor that in and call us good. So I'll start paying him again this week.

I hope there weren't any misunderstandings, or D didn't feel badly about not being paid this last week.

So I'll look around for some links that I think are good places to start in looking into narcissism and get back to you on that.


Last night I got her response:

Yes, the babysitting situation is kind of delicate. I think that board is a very bad design and is extremely vulnerable to breaking. I couldn't believe it when D brought home the broken board and I saw the design of the axel positioning. It's a horrible design and is so prone to breaking. I guess I feel like D has definitely done his pennance.
It was especially hard to see him having to go over for just one hour. I wondered if the entire sentence would be served out that way.

Looking at the bigger picture...D has felt uncomfortable about his rate for a while and we've done some research on the internet. Considering that he is providing his own transportation he wants to change his rate to $7 an hour, or $6 if you pick him up. I think this is fair.

I respect your wishes in whatever your choice is. And I know you respect D's need too.

My heart sank. There was something in her tone that gave me a message that she thought I'd been unreasonable. I felt a hole at the pit of my stomach, and thought some more about it.

I responded:


Did you think it was unreasonable for me to have D reimburse me for
the board?

The board has a weight limit; I'm not sure if you knew that. Its
maximum is 100#. So I think the design is probably ok within that
limit. It didn't state the limit on the board, and that's why I wasn't
going to make D pay for full price for replacing it. It never
occurred to me that he might use it, and that's why I didn't warn him
about it beforehand.

I guess I feel like D has definitely done his pennance.

I wasn't trying to punish D. He broke something, and it seemed fair
to ask him to pay for it. At the time he'd told Conrad he'd replace
it. And since he didn't have the cash it seemed having him babysit was
a good solution. In a way it was as if I'd advanced him some money and
he was working to earn that advance.

It was especially hard to see him having to go over for just one hour. I wondered if the entire sentence would be served out that way.

That particular night Gary got off early. Some nights Gary might only be
an hour before he gets home. Does D not want to babysit for just an
hour? Other nights might be longer. But D and I had agreed on 5-6
hours before we'd call the broken board good and then I'd resume paying
him. Did it really make any difference if he did it all at once, or
over a couple times? Did you think that was excessive and punitive in
some way? To me 5 hours is 5 hours whether it's all at once or broken

Anyway, I had been thinking it was probably time to give D a raise,
especially, like you say, when he's driving himself over. And I also
think that $7/hr is fair, so we'll do that from now on, if he still
wants to babysit for me. Sometimes it might just be an hour, though,
and I don't know if that's a problem. This particular gig is just
while Conrad's in football, so it goes to the end of Oct.

More than anything else, I want you and I to be ok about this. Your
friendship means very much to me and I don't want any shadows on it.

And I still owe you some links.


I was still perplexed over why it was so "hard" to see him come over for just an hour. If Connor had not had the injury and D had worked it off back in July so I was paying him, he'd still have only been here an hour. It doesn't add up that somehow this is an 'insult to injury', and that it was making him suffer unnecessarily. I told her this in another message and suggested that if they wanted I could pay him for these past 2 Wednesdays and then have him babysit free some other time in a lump of 5 hours.

I've not heard back from her and I'm apprehensive.

I'll write more later about how this little vignette between my friend and me is a sort of microcosm of a pattern that's manifested throughout my life.

Sunday, September 7, 2008

Ethical Dilemma

The boys want a dog, I want a divorce.

I'm fine with them having a dog but the uncertainties of executing my desire impacts the fulfilling of theirs.

For example, I'm very clear about not wanting a puppy. And, having had such a great experience with golden retrievers (other than one we'd given our hearts to up and dying on us after 8 months) we're partial to that breed. It seems some sort of rehoming or rescue service is our best bet.

The golden rescue organizations are very careful about their dog placements. The Gold Bond rescue service has a 6 page adoption application form. And they ask questions like, "Will someone be home with the dog?"

And that's where I get stuck and quit filling in the form. Wellllllllll. I suppose the technical answer is " 'yes (for now)' ".

There's a very literal, concrete part of me that feels like 'yes' is a lie by omission. Yes, it's true for now, but it may not always be true, but I don't know when its trueness might cease.

I've never been good at 'yes or no' questions.

Friday, September 5, 2008


Disclaimer: long and unedited. Proceed at your own risk.

Hey! I'm my own guest blogger.


“The parent who is overwhelming the relationship”

I’m listening to an online interview with Diane Rehm; the topic is a book of essays about in-laws that the interviewee has compiled.

The phrase above is one that I gleaned from the interview. Very interesting…it seems a fertile subject to write about today—or at least use as a jumping point.

I listened with some apprehension at first because I wondered if something in it would renew the self-accusation that my dislike of Darlene is indicative of a personality flaw in me. Or there’s an element of an improper agenda about it. Or the idea that I need to correct something in myself to try to build a warmer relationship with her.

I suppose it’s a positive thing that I do approach my behavior and motives with skepticism: do I approach it with enough?

Interesting that Diane asked if there were incidents where the MIL asserts her primacy with the son, and the answer was only in phone interviews; no one is willing to put it on paper.

I just had one of those flashes of insight that kind of summarizes the particular dynamic that underscores our relationships within the families. It has to do with this sense of bedrock fact that underlies the dynamic: there are people in the families that have their own agenda, that is unacknowledged, but skews everyone within the relationships. And there’s a prohibition on talking about that agenda, or referencing it, and certainly on denying it. The underlying demand is for the family members to meet that person’s unspoken and unacknowledged agenda.

And the presence of that agenda sucks the oxygen out of a room—it’s the elephant in the room. The fact of the peculiarities of my parents’ marriage makes the environment uncomfortable after being within it very long. It’s nothing specific that can be pointed at, it’s just insidiously in the air you breathe. Nobody seems to notice, though, and that adds to the weirdness. Or, people around them get weirder, as in Gary’s behavior often deteriorating when my parents are guest—where he gets even more passive about offering help, more likely to accept being served—willing to let me do all the extra work myself.

I guess that’s something else I had a thought about: about an issue of loyalty that was an example of one of the stories in the book—in this case the husband objected to the pleasant relationship his wife had with his father, because this father had scarred him so growing up. Diane framed it as a latent struggle about loyalty, and who is more important—is the relationship with the husband primary, or the one with the FIL? What I thought of was about how the relationship with the HUSBAND remains primary, but not the relationship with something that he needs to deal with inside of himself. There’s an agenda at work: the husband is imposing the undealt-with fact of a horrible relationship with his father on his wife—despite the fact that his father is a super grand-father and amicable with her. His agenda is that he will have nothing to do with his father to punish him, and he wants his wife to present a united front with him.

Do I have an agenda? Something I’m trying to advance at others’ expense?

It’s easier to peg Darlene’s: “Do what I want so you don’t’ hurt my feelings”. I suppose mine is that I want people around me to behave reasonably. Reasonably as defined as keeping within appropriate boundaries, keeping your agreements, not imposing your own agenda on others and then expecting them to not acknowledge that they’re acceding to one’s agenda. I want people around me to JUST BEHAVE, and behave well, and I think my conception of what behaving well means is fairly universal. It’s just what I wrote above: keeping agreements and boundaries, not imposing something at someone else’s expense without direct and clear acknowledgement of that. And being able to take clear steps to repair any damages that might happen along the way.

Part of my father’s agenda is that he’s unable to apologize, or just be wrong. So his agenda is, “don’t do anything to imply I’m wrong about anything.” The trouble is, that then gets in the way of being able to be truthful with him, and having to bend myself into contortions around any fact that might IMPLY some sort of wrongness. So that’s uncomfortable for me to have to do all that to avoid offending his desire to not be wrong. My mom’s agenda is for people to take care of her without acknowledgment that it’s unusual for an adult to need this kind of care: she simply doesn’t have the resources to be capable of doing something on her own, like driving the van down to the store to get something. The illusion we’re supposed to maintain is that she’s fully functioning and very helpful. (In fairness to her, when we went down at Christmas the hospitality she showed me and her willingness to be the executor of Christmas was VERY helpful to me.) As well as to act as if the amount of alcohol she drinks is a normal, moderate amount.

Behaving reasonably in such a situation, from my perspective on MY behavior, is to be polite and courteous: one does NOT point out to a guest that they’re not doing their fair share to assist, one does not underscore a guest’s bad habits, but merely tolerates them for the duration of the visit. What results though, is feeling unengaged in the visitor because of all the stuff that cannot be acknowledged—because the VISITOR is NOT BEHAVING WELL: which in this case would be making an effort to help and make the visit be as un-burdensome to the host as possible.

That negative tone I’ve had in the company of my parents, that I’ve tried to describe—it feels so thick as to be palpable to me, even though they don’t acknowledge it—I’d thought it was a general air of familial disappointment and resignation; I suppose it’s possible it could be from ME. After all, I DO feel disappointed that conversation doesn’t flow freely from us, and we don’t engage ourselves with each other except in the most superficial of ways. Are they REALLY happy to be in the position of not having much to say to the people you’re supposed to love the most? How can that possibly satisfy them?

Back to the dilemma of if what I’m “asking” for is something reasonable and fairly universal, or if I’m merely imposing my OWN way onto others.

It’s just that it seems reasonable to me that there is lots of opportunity for conflict, and if we as a family have an underlying agreement that NOTHING is going to separate us and make us quit talking to each other forever—and if we have as a sort of first aid kit for any tears or abrasions in the relationship the skills to address it honestly and make things right with each other—isn’t that optimal? Isn’t that optimal for keeping relationships alive, and fresh? I guess I have an agenda of wanting to share more of myself with others; is that a self-centered-at-the-expense-of-others agenda? I don’t think that’s a trying-to-bend-others-to-my-will sort of thing; although the consequence of it is a deep sense of sadness and alienation that is oppressive to me when I’m around them for very long. (Is that just imposing my moods on them?)

Interesting where that thought leads to: that in light of the fact that they’re not ever going to relate to me in that way, the only other option is to OVERLOOK IT. Overlook the fact that things are interpersonally so weird in our families to prevent feeling a genuine desire to be around them instead of general dread. Overlook it and act as if we’re the kind of family that wants to be present, and very often in each others’ lives. And that’s an interesting parallel with my relationship with Gary, is the onus is on me to overlook the things that he does that are unreasonable. The implication is that I’m the cause of the friction in the relationship because I don’t overlook his trespasses, or irrationalities.

Perhaps that ‘s the agenda of MOST people: “Overlook my mistakes and flaws and we’ll overlook yours.” (And being frank about trying to heal something that was a result of someone’s behavior is NOT overlooking something. It breaks the pact.) (“Let me do my weird things without calling attention to them—even if it’s at your expense.”)

My family’s interpersonal dynamics are not lively and interesting and fun. Generative instead of regressional.

If we have understanding of why someone did something weird, it makes the bad feeling about the weird thing they did go away; or lessens it at least. When we can’t say anything about the bad feeling that results from the weird thing they did, it puts up a block against being able to be oneself with that other person.

And therefore sits the dilemma I’ve had my whole life: the only way to work in that system of relating, is to be able to suppress your feelings. Make it a moral issue—there are BAD feelings and a GOOD person will use willpower to banish them. So when feelings differ from what you are SUPPOSED to feel and do, you banish the feelings and do what you’re SUPPOSED to do—like “love God”, or “wear a coat outside”, or “children need meat”, or “respect your elders”.

The truth is, I love my parents, but it’s a complicated and difficult love, because it’s not based on really knowing who they are, because their own agendas keep themselves from being able to reveal themselves beyond the most strictured of ways. And similarly, it can’t be reciprocal because I can’t let them know who I really am, because some of it includes facts and feelings their agenda would find very offensive and threatening.]

Is all this to imply that I think I have NO FLAWS WHATSOEVER? I can imagine that it would seem to some people who would read this or know me…I think I do speak sometimes with a kind of certitude that might imply that—it’s just that in those instances I’m referring to a sense inside of me of having lived within something and have experienced its truth. A sense of knowledge born out of experience—and there are some, many instances of having learned something that I feel I came by honestly, through experiencing it honestly.

Gary said recently that he thinks I’m controlling. Darlene said it once, too. I suppose that’s a hard one for me to respond to with any objectivity—of course it’s very negative to be controlling, and so it would be hard for me to see my behavior as controlling, since our behavior often appears to us through the filter of its best light. However, the way it appears to me is that I’m objecting to behavior that doesn’t seem reasonable. Or I’m challenging ideas that seem irrational. I think Gary would use my insisting that he use a wet cloth to clean up a spill as trying to control his behavior; to me it’s rejecting the fact of his cutting corners to save himself trouble and it’s going to be at my expense later when sticky residue is left that then gets tracked through the house. It’s tinged with a feeling of irritation that he doesn’t “do it right”. But it seems reasonable to me that dabbing at a sticky spill with a paper towel is NOT an adequate solution, because it doesn’t prevent complications later—although like as not it won’t be HIM that has to deal with those consequences. It seems to me that he cuts corners sometimes in ways that are at my expense later, and I object to those instances. I suppose those are the kinds of instances he’s thinking of when he says I’m controlling. (It occurs to me that there is something we’ve touched on: the idea that he has a subconscious notion that since I’m the stay-at-home mom that EVERYTHING relating to the house and cleaning falls to me. So there is no imposing on my time and efforts—I’m SUPPOSED to do it. That’s why it makes a difference when HE doesn’t feel like something, but doesn’t make a difference when I don’t feel like something.)

But it seems like the very act of not overlooking someone’s behavior, (even if the behavior is at your expense) and illuminating it is considered to be controlling.

I think I can concede to some controlling impulses, when I want to influence the framings of a situation that I fear will be unpleasant if the frame goes one way and to me it seems desirable that it go another way. An example would be this summer going to Jeannie’s wedding. The scenario I fear the most is that we’ll all have to fly together, go in on renting a car, and rent a hotel room. The way I hope it goes is that our getting there and method of transportation and place where we stay is independent of her. But I have a sick feeling inside that it’s going to be the first way. And not only that, that we’re going to have to include her in any side expeditions as a family we go on. Because in the world of happy families that we’re trying to emulate, that’s what we would do—it would be fine, even desirable, welcomed for her to be included as a part of our plans, especially since we have the same destination. My only hope is that either our method of travel (if we decide to drive and take the ferry, say), or particular schedule doesn’t fit with hers, so we just all end up there at the wedding, but don’t feel obligated to do stuff with her. The demand here is to act like a happy family, and not betray that it really isn’t. Same demand as with my family.

Agendas, I think, are always at somebody else’s expense. It’s a demand that someone do what you want, but not let on that it’s jumping through their hoops.

But I think I’m on to something when I identify the notion that a widely shared agenda is to overlook when someone disappoints you. And that to most it feels like a huge betrayal of trust to acknowledge when something they’ve done HAS disappointed you. What’s not entirely spelled out, though, is what’s overlook-able, and what isn’t—the boundaries of that are unclear.

Part of my problem with Gary and his mother is that though the agreed-upon story is that I am number one in Gary’s life, when it comes down to a real-life situation where she’s demanding that her agenda be fulfilled and it’s in conflict with what I want, he will probably accede to her; without even considering it.

For me that’s a problem, although I’m letting go of it, I think, as I get more emotionally distant with him. It’s like I don’t care as much. We’ve been in a bit of a truce, lately, of trying to be pleasant with each other, and operate from more of a spirit of good will, that is, offering to help each other more. So the atmosphere has been much lighter. I don’t know if it’ll go any farther than that—but even if it stops there at least then we’ll be able to coexist in the same house together while not disrupting the boys. I may still consider my earlier resolve to look outside of this relationship for getting needs met that aren’t being met in the relationship with him.

Another basic truth I think I’ve stumbled on is that people want different things—and what determines whose wishes prevail? I think another unspoken agreement that we grew up with is that our parents’ do, even when we’re grown, because when we’re grown they’re getting weaker and so we give them what they want out of indulgence: that is, we let what they want be the prevailing desire. I happen to not agree with that unspoken agreement—I think that in order for someone to get what they want, in the first place their want has to be reasonable and not unnecessarily impose on other people’s boundaries. And, I also have a wish, though I know that this one is not realistic to hope for (because it asks from people something they’re unable to do)—that that want is articulated honestly. So that there can be understanding and therefore the one being wanted of can maybe permit some imposition on boundaries—because understanding takes away the feeling of trespass.

A thought just now: that I suppose it can be said that I have an agenda in how badly I want to NOT travel with Darlene to Alaska. However, I’m going to do my best to control myself and not try to steer the direction this goes in any but the mildest of ways. It’s a short-term prospect, and once it’s over it’ll be done; I suppose I can put up with anything for a week or two.

Thursday, September 4, 2008


Scott, holding his tooth.

I lost it today with Scott. Publicly and embarrassingly.

He's not in school yet though Connor started yesterday. The charter school starts Monday. Have I said that this last 2 weeks since returning from Colorado/Utah has seemed longer than the whole of the other 10 weeks of summer vacation?

I called Felix's dad to see about getting the boys together in these final days before school. We agreed to meet at a park downtown. Since we're slow starters 1:30 seemed ideal.

We live out of reach of public transportation. Our road is too narrow and the road up the ridge too steep and windy to permit one of the city buses. Downtown is congested and the parking prohibitive. So I parked a distance away where parking is easy near the streetcar line.

I'm unpracticed and inept at public transportation. I'm easily bewildered by fare zones and ticket machines. I fumble for dollars, I stare blankly and get really rattled when there's someone waiting for me. We always walk longer than necessary because I don't see the stop that's close and walk to the further one; we get off prematurely when there's a stop right on top of where we need to be. Riding public transportation with Scott adds another layer of anxiety because his sense of space and self preservation is undeveloped. I need to watch him because he's just not reliable around streets and crowds of moving people. Having my attention divided sets my teeth on edge.

We walk to a stop (having passed the closer one) and sit down to wait. This stop happens to be right outside of a large hospital (where I worked once upon a time. Connor was born there.) Scott became enamored of all things medical and was certain that everyone around us was a doctor. We were in harmony; he asked questions and I answered respectfully.

Then down came hubris. I got self-conscious. I dared to think that I was parenting impeccably and that people were noticing. The second the awareness of that thought crossed my mind alarms began to go off. I've had thoughts like that before, and it never turns out well. Life is preparing to humble me, and pride is my first warning. Shit. I tried frantically to drown out the thought, the pride in my parenting, but it was like trying to not think of a white elephant. I was doomed.

We made it to the park, me nervously watching the stops and wondering if I needed to press the 'stop' button, or if the streetcar would stop automatically. We got off at the north end of the park and had to walk past at least 2 other stops on our way to the play structure. Walking with Scott downtown is not relaxing due to the number of streets we need to cross. On the sidewalk he lags behind so I need to stop frequently and look for him. If he's not lagging his path is cutting across the front of mine and then he stops. This really irritates me.

Felix and his dad were there when we arrived.

So we passed the next 2 hours or so pleasantly. I knew that Connor would be getting on his schoolbus at 3 and thought that would be a good time for us to leave too. It would take about an hour to get home when taking the train ride into account and I didn't want to leave him alone at home too long. Felix's dad & I walked over to the play structure to collect them. They were enjoying a second wind of playing. Not 10 minutes before they'd been both in a lag and ready to go. I should have taken the hint.

Felix came to his dad right away. Scott remained at the top. "Come on, Scott" I said, and I saw The Look cross his face. Something contrarian behind the eyes. "No." he said.

I really don't like to be challenged and I don't like what happens to me when I am. It's an age-old trap. Al-Qaida used it on the United States; Hezbollah used it on Israel: provoke a Greater Power into an excessive response, lock it into a Power Struggle for the world to see. I immediately placed myself into a position that would be hard to back down from: "You will be really sorry if I have to come up there to get you." Splat goes my fist into the tar baby. And yet there was still room to get out of there without further struggle. He did come down and I didn't have to go after him. He wanted to show me something he could do before we left and so I waited while he did it. Then I said let's go and he started climbing again as if I'd said nothing. I took him by the arm and pulled and in his attempt to pull away I scratched him.

Now he's furious. And of course it's completely lost on him in his fury that had he not ignored me I'd have not needed to take his arm and it was his jerking his arm away that hurt him. So he's righteously indignant and I'm feeling under a microscope when he took a swing at me. So now my ears are filled with the roar of all the ghosts of authoritarian parents past who whisper, "if that was MY kid..." and "what a horrible child", and "gee, she's ineffective".

He didn't humble me. Life didn't humble me. In the same way that he'd hurt himself when he struggled when I took his arm, I hurt myself by sliding down the slippery slope of a Power Struggle. I'm a parent. I'm supposed to be Better Than This.

I grabbed his arm, gripped him too tightly and pulled him down the street hissing menacingly and making little shakes for emphasis. We found the stop and to take vengeance on me he laid down on the cigarette butt-laden sidewalk. Pawed around in the dirt at the base of the decorative shrub planted there. This is Old Town, once the primary abode of indigent and homeless. The street people now have to share the streets with the upscale people who've moved into the high-density lofts-turned-into-condominium developments. Old Town has gentrified, but I really didn't want him rolling around on the sidewalk or scrabbling around in the dirt. So I made him get up, he looked for a moment at his dirty hands and then wiped them on my pants.

I grabbed him by the arm and marched him away from the stop. I told him that I couldn't have him behaving this way on the streetcar and so we were just going to have to walk all the way to our car. After going a few blocks he was complaining of how tired he was. With uncharacteristic foresight I'd kept our route on the train's line and up ahead was another stop. The train was right behind us and I feared for a moment we'd missed it, but it was paused just long enough we could get on. If his behavior seemed to be building up to a scene I told him we'd get off and walk at the next stop.

By the time we reached our (one stop short) destination the storm had blown over. He was back to good humor and I was regretting my misstep. If negotiating a difference of opinion with a child is like running a race, I didn't even make it to the first hurdle before I fell. If avoiding a Power Struggle is like a high wire act I fell on the first step. Shoot, I fell before I even got to that.

Damn my inability to see Options and think on my feet.

Tuesday, September 2, 2008


Got serious, no, obsessive, yesterday about figuring out backing up my data onto my external hard drive. For about a year now I thought I was doing just that, only to discover I'd had a false sense of security. My only "back-ups" were stored on my internal hard drive because the external drive was formatted in a system that my system could only read, and not write to. Not to mention it was taking up tons of room on my hard drive. Discovering that fact was a major piece of effort, and that was before I began to dig for the solution. 6 hours later I was feeling utterly defeated, in bad need of a geek. Then I stumbled accidentally on the solution.

I don't know whether to be glad, or exasperated.

It's amazing how time can just ooze by for me when trying to navigate my way through technology. Gary had taken the boys to the beach, and that's not really my desired way to spend the gift of alone time. But I'm trying to see it as an "investment" that makes my "sacrifice" worthwhile.

I've been thinking about my last post and feeling a little uneasy about it. I love my father, and didn't mean to trash him in public. Nor was I trying to exploit him as a relic. The conversation I reported was emblematic of many with him which leave me feeling disturbed at the underlying conflict that we stop just short of.

And it makes me wonder if it's emblematic of deeper themes than political differences. Underneath the differences lies a deeper split--about how to orient oneself in the world. From what posture do I choose live? I sense that for him the debate becomes personal--it's about more than politics, it's about a way of life.

It seems odd that a posture of deference to authority should so naturally include nationalism.

But then I look at a framework that Ken Wilbur writes about, which in turn he has borrowed from other sources , the theory of Spiral Dynamics. It is a sort of hierarchy of consciousness, and the development of humanity along that hierarchy over time. It was pioneered by Clare Graves, then refined by Don Beck and Christopher Cowan who coined the term. He calls the levels of consciousness "memes". Each level has its own internal system of perspective and social structure. Eight are identified. Level 4 is described:
"Life has meaning, direction, and purpose, with outcomes determined by an all-powerful Other or Order. This righteous Order enforces a code of conduct based on absolutist and unvarying principles of "right" and "wrong". Violating the code or rules has sever, perhaps everlasting repercussions. Following the code yields rewards for the faithful." (pg 9, 10, A Theory of Everything, Ken Wilbur)

Sounds like the meme of nationalism, and religious fundamentalism. Such a meme would be inherently authoritarian, with the goal of maintaining order. A guiding principle would be an ultimate Authority, God, and one's worth determined by how closely aligned they are with this authority. Authority would be delegated hierarchically, from God, to the church, to the leaders of the church (and/or government), to parents. (And in the old days, to man, to wife, to child).

What's interesting is that each of these memes cannot appreciate the existence of others: Each of the first-tier memes thinks that its worldview is the correct or best perspective. It reacts negatively if challenged; it lashes out, using its own tools, whenever it is threatened." (pg 12)


"This is why many arguments are not really a matter of the better objective evidence, but of the subjective level of those arguing. A person who operates from one meme will never be convinced by the arguments at the disposal of a different meme.

Wilbur writes that each level, or wave is "crucially important for the health of the overall Spiral", and development's goal is humanity's "transcending and including" each preceding wave. The 'higher' order includes the lower, the way that molecules contain atoms. It takes a leap into higher order thinking though, to permit this process. He calls the squabbling among the levels as an "autoimmune disease", and until humans can move into higher order thinking we are destined to more violent struggles for supremacy.

This is a context that helps me to understand the underlying heat beneath my father's and my differences. When Bill O'Reilly champions "traditional American values" in his book Culture Warrior he is defending the meme he lives in with my father. He claims these values are under attack by "Secular Progressives". To answer to the claims and accusations of this meme I find I must enter it, and in entering it I'm stripped of my perspective and vocabulary. I'm forced to speak on their terms. I suppose this can account for the sense of helplessness I feel when I do try to engage, the feeling of gasping for air.

George W. Bush appealed directly to people's sense of loyalty to an outer authority. Somehow this authority is aligned with obedience to God and parents, and to the sense that one's own goodness depends on that loyalty and faithfulness.

This was the stuff I breathed growing up. Is there anything comparable to this in England, Canada, Australia, any other nationals reading this (because it would be interesting to go beyond nations that began as England's colonies)? I'm curious what others' bedrock core group identity is based on.