Simon got sick at school yesterday. He started feeling not well, and went to the bathroom. There, he started feeling even worse, and so he called me on his watch-phone.
It appeared on my phone as a number not in my contacts, so I answered with my standard: "Engineering. Clayton here."
When I heard the sad, timid "...Hey Dad" I immediately knew it was Simon and that he was distressed. My black little heart leapt up into my throat with worry, especially when he paused to throw up.
I instinctively reassured him immediately. "Hang on kiddo! I'll be there as fast as I can!"
Except I had walked to work yesterday. And I still had a tonne of work to do. So I jammed my laptop into a bag, and sprinted up the hill to my apartment where Ghost was parked (making record time - should have Strava'd it).
As I hustled up the hill, I felt a further wash of appreciation for how much I like the fact that he reached out to me in his moment of need. It settled in a fundamentally certain place in my soul: I will always be there for Simon and Violet.
Three months ago I was still not ready to discuss my divorce on this medium. But it's been a long year of discussing all this stuff with people, so I suppose it's about time to open up my processing on this here too.
Watching the latest Ken Block installment of Hooniganism - Climbkhana 2 - and found myself feeling an extra edge of existential horror. Generally, Mr. Block does all sorts of driving that I find scary - but my lizard/driver brain wants to do it too. And he's done it in locations that are pretty extreme - but my driver/lizard brain imagines doing that too. Sure, I've given myself a mental "NOPE" to all the "high edge" class drifts, but there was lots of other twisty driving surface to fantasize about. This time, though, the road was a consectutive chain of NOPE NOPE NOPE NOPE corners. Particularly characterized by the giant crumbling Hot Wheels™ set of a road glimpsed here.
ME: "Hey, Dad. I know you're dead and everything, but I have some questions about Don Cherry."
DAD: "Hey Sport. It's kind of an inconvenient time. There's a hockey game coming on."
ME: "That excuse won't work any more, dad. Partly because of how we watch things now at our own convenience, but mostly because I doubt time works like that when you're dead."
DAD: [scowling] "When did you start questioning my hockey time?"
ME: "Well, honestly, since always. Just maybe not out loud. And that's kind of the point, maybe."
DAD: "Are you sure this is about Don Cherry?"
ME: "Um... yes? Because the thing is how much you and Don Cherry were similar. The idolization of what life was supposed to be about, mostly in terms of a very narrow cultural viewpoint."
DAD: "Sport, you come from the exact same cultural viewpoint that I do, so I'm not sure what it is that you think you're see so differently."
ME: "Yeah, Dad, I know. I'm a lot like you in a lot of ways, and we both belong in the mountains. But the cultural piece - that small-town BC dynamic had a lot of problems bundled up with it. There was a lot of good stuff - it was mostly good stuff. And maybe you couldn't see it, because of how well you fit in, but the problems really sucked when you are someone who doesn't fit in. I definitely came from the same cultural place as you, Dad, but I feel like I had to crawl out from under it. A bit."
DAD: [huge eyebrows ripple] "I know you mentioned that you didn't tell me about how you got bullied in High School. Is that what you mean? Because I can't help but wonder if you would have gotten bullied less if you just figured out how to fit in better."
ME: "Maybe." [I take a long breath] "But maybe that wouldn't have been a trade I'd want to make. I really like how I am, even though it's different and didn't fit in with the tribal standards."
DAD: [eyebrows softening into a steeple of worry]ll
ME: "And maybe that's why I had such a hard time believing that you liked me. I think I knew you did, but I couldn't understand it in a way that let me trust it. It was so easy to imagine you being disappointed in me."
DAD: "I've always loved you, Sport. And I've always been proud of you. I couldn't be prouder of how you've turned out."
ME: "I know that's the correct answer, and it's what you've always said. But it's hard not to remember your frustration with my aversion to team sports or anything social. And I can't help but recognize a certain similarity to the assumption that fitting in is required with Don Cherry's racist assumptions about who decides to wear poppies. There weren't a lot of opportunities for overt racism when I was growing up, simply because of how very un-diverse it was where I grew up. But even so, every time there was a rare instance where race was actually a factor, you generally managed to say something racist."
DAD: "So, you think I was racist to you?"
ME: "No, Dad. I mean that your drive for me to fit in has the same basic source as racism. And that the way you actually love and accept me is the way we should try to treat everyone."
DAD: [skeptical look] "I'm not sure if I'm up to loving and accepting everyone..."
ME: "No, me neither. I'm an asshole; probably a genetic condition. But I do really think that it's important to try, even though we might fail. Hell, [i]especially[/i] because we're probably going to fail. Because we need to keep trying to be better, and not just accept that how we're currently shitty is acceptable forever. Like Don Cherry - he was acceptable back when his humour / bullshit ratio was mostly funny. He's not sufficiently funny any more; maybe hasn't been for me for a long time."
DAD: "Genetically an asshole: funny boy."
So, I recently hurt S's feelings by saying a true thing that I thought was trivially true. It hurt her feelings because she did not know it to be so, and had even been thinking the opposite. Meanwhile, I had not been saying the obviously true thing purely for the sake of kindness, assuming that the obviousness of it was sufficient. Human perspective is funny like that.
The default preferred state for many people is to live in reality¹, even though it is difficult to know truths. We pile up required assumptions in order to make sense and try to make progress. But there are things that can be known that we can't guess well, but can easily know if they are shared. I strongly believe that all of us fare better when we cooperate in our experiences of this shared reality. Especially with the things that we can know, but others cannot².
¹ Despite, you know, many many many examples to the contrary.
² This is an allusion to feelings. Just to be clear here, in this shared reality.
That's spitting distance from 1 GB/s.
That's 10 times faster than Comcast at the Chestnut house - on a good day.
That's 100 times faster than Comcast on a typical game night (using Skype with Dave for AIF).
For 2/3 the price.
Now I just wish that fibre-optic connection was available at the Chestnut house.
In the midst of all the ongoing processing, the recent resurgence of a bitter pessimism about my fate with respect to intimate partners is the most pernicious problem. It has a barb of ego, in that I get to "be right" about how I will always ultimately be betrayed and abandoned. I suppose that makes it particularly hard to assuage with my general philosophical tactic of assuming that I will be brave - and offer up my heart to the pain - because living life to the fullest is worth it. Ego tends to reinforce ego.
It was different before, though. Because it wasn't that I was left, but instead recognized how they were never really with me to start with. Because they were with a projection of me, because I was difficult to actually know. But S knew me. More than that, I worked really hard and became eminently knowable. And she un-chose me.
Even as I metabolize the un-choosing, and I slowly assuage the childishness of my old pessimism, how do I deny the truth at the root of the pessimism? How do I let myself feel trust at being chosen ever again?
Maybe I just fucking don't. And I'll just have to live with it.
When it comes to feeling better, it's hard to beat building a giant LEGO™ Star Wars space ship set with your kids, then catching up on the feature-length Steven Universe goodness.
Back through most of my 20's, I did not celebrate my birthday outwardly. Nobody around me really knew when it was, or were sufficiently ill-equipped socially to remember it. It was a day of reflection for me; a private ceremony of selfish narcissism and a secret grudge against the world for my sense of otherness and not belonging.
That changed in my 30's with the advent of pernicious social media reminding everyone, friends who care about that shit, and starting a relationship with someone who is dedicated to making every occasion special. It was awkward and at odds with some of my fundamental drives, but loving and kind. And it helped me recognize my growing role in the world - no longer a selfish youth, but a sharing and supportive adult.
That's why today was so hard.
Being divorced against your will is hard enough. And reaching out in the world to try to grasp some new connections, only to have them reject you, is painful in a way I'm struggling to endure. Then the recent revelation that I will be losing my full-time access to my kids has been almost too much to stand; it feels like my footing in the world is lost. It all sucks so very much.
But then today... today...
Today was the world's way of making sure I felt all of that at the same time. Every fragment of pain had a renewed trigger; every aspect of loss was flaunted before me to not have; every insult was re-uttered by reality. So many of the fundamental ways in which I have belonged were burned before me today.
And it's not over yet. The parade of horrible feelings gets to continue for another couple days. Tomorrow is the wreckage of more hopeful plans and the gasping of fresh holes in my soul. Then the day after tomorrow is my 12th wedding anniversary, by which point I'm probably going to be contemplating seppuku with a rusty spoon.
Fuck this shit. How much more processing do I really need to do? I know the plan is to allow myself to feel all this, so that I can integrate it in a mindful way and move on while feeling complete. Which sounds super fucking enlightened. But in this moment, I definitely see the allure of temporary chemical oblivion and denial.
I've discovered a new well of pain to fall into.
Gosh, I'm special. 17 years to come full circle. 2002.11.26_Emotional_Meaning
I'm wrestling with whether my avatar of extreme friend-zone-ness is Jorah Mormont (noble and vulnerable) or Snape (dignified and accepting).
Either way, I'm a fucktard.
I must not fear.
Fear is the mind-killer.
Fear is the little death that brings total obliteration.
I will face my fear.
I will permit it to pass over and through me.
And when it has gone past I will turn the inner eye to see its path.
Where the fear has gone there will be nothing.
Only I will remain.
Frank Herbert - Dune
There are stories. OH so many stories.
And there are thoughts. Wallowy have-to-extrude-them thoughts that should not be left to foul up my mind.
Plus there are plans. Yes, plans for how the thoughts and the stories should all be rolled out and expelled and dealt with and celebrated for the healing power of sharing and remembering.
Except I'm not ready yet.
I'm not exactly sure what I'm waiting for, but there's something in the mix about letting them marinate a bit more. Plus unresolved issues of privacy that I have yet to give up on.
So, yeah. Disregard this whole entry. It's just me venting by virtue of the action of writing more than by the substance.
The localized distillation of pure imagination and concentrated joy that is my daughter had her birthday today. To mark the occasion, she had her first sleepover with one of her oldest friends, Ruth. An uninterrupted stream of dragons and faeries and warrior princesses and other magical beings have delighted our home (and a local restaurant) in giggling playful forms.
The simple truth is that there is too much going on, and to do my usual processing here in the open is inappropriate. So, instead, I hide.
I hide my thoughts. The details of which should not be shared.
I hide my feelings. They are complicated and improbable, but even worse than their humiliating privacy are their grisly impossibility.
I hide my dreams. Every night, after too little real sleep, I succumb to as many nightmares as I can stand. They impress with their simplicity and their subtle reach.
I hide my hopes. They are too fragile for daylight of any kind.
I hide my fears. Like any proper shadow government.
I hide my self. Because I can't bear to witness what's left.
The philosophy is my hopeful path.
The album speaks to my lived experience.
It was a thick day. Burdened by heavy draping obligations and smothered by impossibility.
It was a funny day. Paradoxical in the dance of struggling with what is wanted versus what comes easily. Ironic in seeming to fail at my strengths, but gifted with success at my weaknesses.
It's a long day. Objectively starting way too fucking early, and dragging on way too long. But more than that, the individual moments stretching out ponderously. And probably memorably lingering for a great deal longer.
It was a day to be alive. Life is good, complications and all.
S made a related comment about what happened as 'a lot of water under the bridge'. That feels like it applies pretty broadly. Facets of that might follow...
Quintessential Simon birthday: bike ride on a well-equipped mountain bike, plus a couple big LEGO sets. Topped off with ice cream cake, and a pending D&D party with his crew.
[link to a Google drive full of images]
This year was a father-son bonding odyssey, and gave us grand adventuring spectacle as a background for having lots of time and space to contemplate existence. Laughing and joking for hours and miles really does help build souls, even while the cold and smoke and pests and injuries build character. Simon had an OK time too.
Nobody managed to quite capture decent images of the horses we came across running free through the woods of Ochoco Forest, but they felt very emblematic. Were they wild? Were they just pretending to be wild for a little while? Something like that.
More Amygdala talk? Maybe sort of. Except cryptic in a different way.
- Gasping Joy - From the soul nourishing magic carpet rides down Johnny Royale.
- Warm Completeness - From the Father's Day time spent with family at the Pride Parade.
- Tickling Exhilaration - From pending adventures and planned work project attempts.
- Shivering Inadequacy - From facing the family changes that cannot be undone.
Violet has demonstrated a precocious ability for representational artwork, drawing things realistically. But even her symbolic artwork shows a clarity that can be striking. This recent one really is great.
I hear you Violet. By the way, I stole this, and I'm keeping it forever.
Being a human is often surprisingly difficult for no other reason than we experience the world largely through a filter of emotional response.
Senses do their level best to report what's going on. Similarly, our rational minds make the best of what they can manage to lift with their few dedicated neurons. But it's all really a bit much, so evolution made the pragmatic venture into applied heuristics by not needing us to have either a clear sensing of things nor a complete understanding of anything for us to get some sort of directional suggestion. These suggested interpretations of reality, let's call them "feelings", are legitimate members of reality themselves by virtue of a Descartesian flourish - I think I feel, therefore I'm sad.
One of the lessons I've learned reasonably well is to not to try to deny feelings. That just makes them angry, and cruelly manipulative. But even as we acknowledge our feelings, that doesn't mean that we need to let them control us. Having a thought or a feeling is not what we're responsible for, those are just things that happen. What we are responsible for is our actions, so what we do with those thoughts and feelings is what really matters.
Today my feelings conspired to make it a multiply-difficult day for me. Vaguely negative feelings about my career started early on, which set the stage for my vulnerable and hurt feelings about the confusion that is my marriage-like relationship with S. Finally this was capped off with feelings summoned by a sad song on my commute home that reminded me that I still miss my dad.
Sometimes the only thing we can do with our sad feelings is to have a good cry.
Disclaimer: not everything posted on this Main Page is kept in the Rants section. But continuing to scroll won't bring them back. Sorry.