Friday, February 14, 2014

Considering Life

January 23, 2013

I’m feel like I’m naked in front of the crowd cause these words are my diary screaming out loud and I know that you’ll use them however you want to
But you can’t jump the track, we’re like cars on a cable and life’s like an hourglass glued to the table.  No one can find the rewind button now. Sing it if you understand. And breathe, just breathe.
       -- Anna Nalick, Breathe (2am)

      I’ve spent the last several days savoring the sweetness of the realization that my life is fragile and fleeting, so tiny in the grand scheme of things. There is such freedom in the knowledge. It makes the day-to-day things less significant, less pressing. And yet the pendulum swings back, always, and today I am in a state of melancholy and frustration. I know I am living a sweet life, rich and full and lovely, but my heart gets tangled up in the details. I feel anxious. I feel like there are things I should be doing that I’m not doing. Who puts this pressure on me? Me. Mostly just me. So I should be able to talk myself around, right?
      I get so worked up, feeling like I am failing my children by neglecting their education, not socializing them enough, not adequately preparing them for adulthood. The amount of schoolwork we do in a week is pathetic. The amount of academic work I require of them is so light yet I always feel behind. I can’t imagine what it would take to give them the education I’d like for them to have. I feel like a hypocrite. I promote homeschooling yet I can’t cut it myself.
      But I still think that the experience I give them at home exceeds the value of the public school experience. I don’t like most public school kids that I meet. I adore my kids. Other people adore my kids. They are remarkable human beings. They are thoughtful, kind, interesting, witty, clever, capable. They are skilled, hard workers. They love to read and learn and they often take the initiative. Yesterday Atira and Seth were in the kitchen performing science experiments on their own because they found them in a library book and thought they looked fun. There’s still a glass on the kitchen counter with an egg in it, suspended between salt water and freshwater because "salt water is more dense than the egg, while fresh water is less dense.” They want to see how long it will stay that way and are tracking it on the kitchen calendar.
       Farra, Atira and Seth are all excellent, if somewhat reluctant writers. They all have amazing imaginations. I assume their grasp of the language comes from their extensive reading. This is what I like to see. The desire and ability to learn, to communicate. They will forget the math formulas they are learning, forget a few grammar rules and how to spell certain words. They will forget how to convert U.S. measurements to metric, what is a hypotenuse, and how many light years across is our solar system. But they will know how to find these things out when and if they need to. I hope that they will foster desires and skills that will help them make their way in this world. I think they have a good start. I cannot teach them everything. More than anything I just keep thinking, they are amazing people. And everyone who knows them has wonderful things to say about them. In spite of my numerous failings as a mother I am doing something right. If I do nothing more than what I have been doing for 14 years, it will be okay. This is me consoling myself.
       I don’t know what tomorrow will bring. Our world is going to hell in a hand basket. A significant portion of the human race, though capable of such greatness, is foolishly, selfishly, acting as though what they are doing has no effect on the planet, as though there is no tomorrow. Day in and day out I consider my family’s part of this. How do Denny and I guide our family into a more sustainable lifestyle? We rail against the factories polluting the environment, then haul our monthly carload of trash and recyclables to town to dump it off, counting on someone else to put it safely and conveniently out of our sight. We consume so little, yet the majority of the things we consume are still not things we produce ourselves. We have such excess in our country.
       Our government grows increasingly rich and disgusting. Every day it feels less and less like we common people have any say in what’s going on in our country. We are so busy scraping by it’s difficult to know how and when to fight. The thought nags at me that this is the way “they” want it. But who are “they”?
       Do we prepare the children to find their place in this system where they can be somewhat comfortable; well fed, warm in the winter and cool in the summer, or do we prepare them for economic disaster, the downfall of civilization as we know it? How do you do either? Both? And what’s the point of it all, anyway?
       Being a responsible and concerned citizen is exhausting. Too much pressure makes life unbearable. Yes, the little things that I do day in and day out make a difference in the world, but ultimately none of it matters. Whether we take care of our planet or not, it will eventually fry before an ever-expanding sun or be blasted apart by an asteroid. Our solar system will dissolve into star dust, from whence it came.
       I get worked up over the knowledge that my species is destroying our planet, ushering the next major mass extinction. Here’s a species capable of such greatness; look at our many amazing inventions, our artwork, our music. Look at what the human body and mind are capable of! We have imagined and experimented until we can view and catalog the tiniest molecular cells and the farthest galaxies. We’ve taken pictures of our universe moments after its birth (look up WMAP). We can cure formerly fatal illnesses with a shot in the arm or a course of tablets. There is no end to the things we have invented to make our lives easier, simpler, more enjoyable, longer-lasting. We are driven by creativity (albeit some more than others), replicating and creating beauty for no reason except… beauty. We communicate ideas through written word, spoken word, body language, music, images photographed and drawn and painted and scratched in the sand. We are master storytellers. We revel in our most base instincts—eating, sex--and regularly transcend our mental limitations. So, why can’t we, as a species, find the balance we need to survive? How did we get to the place where we are slowly cooking all of earth’s inhabitants? 
      Climate scientists say we’re past the point where we can stop it. It's too late.  We could delay it by half a century or so if we pulled the plug now and stopped our mad consumption. It won’t happen. Sadly, it’s such a small portion of humanity, us 1st-worlders, Americans in particular, who are responsible. I don’t even know how to do it myself, how to stop it. It feels like I’m on my grade-school playground, trying to run up the tall metal slide in stockinged feet.
       It’s been interesting for me, considering evolution. One of the arguments I heard as a creationist was, “Where is your evidence? Where are the species currently evolving?” The Missing Link argument. The way I see it now... I look in the mirror. I’m evolving. My species is evolving, as are most species around us. The faulty thinking of the creationist prevents him from grasping just how slooooowly it’s all happening. When I consider my species as a whole, even with my limited view I see patterns, I see giant leaps of progress, I see pitfalls large and small. We are learning. Unfortunately, it seems we haven’t yet learned this lesson of sustainability. I repeat, I don’t know what tomorrow will bring. I like to think that some of us will survive, will have learned, will carefully rebuild parts of our civilization in a better, more sustainable way. I hope there will be chameleons. I like chameleons. And giraffes. And good story-telling. I hope my descendants will tell wise, honest stories of “the way things were” and that their children will heed them and have a better go of things the next time around.
       Ultimately, our time is limited. Our time as individuals and as a species. Our planet’s time is limited. When I study the night sky and consider the universe, I can’t help but come away with a sense of humble insignificance. It blends with the thoughts about the way humanity is living and our inevitable end. I don’t know if it can be called balance, but the resulting feeling is peace. I shrug. It is what it is. I might overuse that phrase, but it’s so perfectly fitting. We’re just complex combinations of stardust on earth, existing for no reason, and everything will play out eventually, no matter what I do.
       I think the mere thought sends chills up the spines of some folks. "You mean there’s no purpose?!" I don’t know why I find the idea comforting, but I do. It’s freeing. It’s something I can plug into when my days get clogged with details and feelings of failure. All I have is this life, right here, right now. I don’t want to waste a moment stressing about stuff that isn’t going to matter. And since none of it is ultimately going to matter, it leaves me pretty open to relax and enjoy my life. A handful of things have worked together to help me relax about life; no longer having to answer to God, gaining a cosmic perspective, escaping a hopeless marriage, forming a delicious romantic partnership.
       Interestingly, relaxing is something I have always struggled with. I can read back through my journals, letters and blog entries from the past 15 years and see a common thread of struggling to find peace in the here and now. Even as a Christian I never seemed to find peace in the idea of an afterlife; only when I could let go of my concerns and enjoy life in the moment was I content. I’m finding that with the changes in my life over the last year and a half the peace is easier to tap into. Broader perspective, happier days, more hope for a fulfilling life. I feel like I have a new lease on life. A second chance. You just don’t know how desperately hopeless I was before. I’m not sure I even knew how bad it was. The further removed from it I am, the more clearly I see it. I daren’t take my new life and happiness for granted. All I have to do is remember my former despair and I weep tears of joy and gratitude, I laugh and dance and embrace my loved ones. Life is too damned short now, the time so precious. I hate to waste a moment on anything that isn’t wholesome and satisfying.

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