The Zoey Blog: What I've Learned...The Zoey Blog Edition FINAL - COVER UNIVERSE EXPLORERS ORDER

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

What I've Learned...The Zoey Blog Edition

Here’s how What I’ve learned… works. Someone randomly writes the start of a sentence, sometimes it can be leading and sometimes it can just be the start of any old damn sentence…three or four words but that’s it. Then you hand it off and the other person finishes the sentence in a way that let’s you inside of them a little. You know, it allows you access to who they are as a person. Whether you finish the sentence as a belief statement or as a story it doesn’t matter. You just have to open the door and let us in.

I make my own What I’ve learned… lists when I’m struggling to understand things. It’s fun (yeah, my version of fun and yours might be a little different, but I hate Sudoku and I really don’t drink as much as I used to) and it really helps me to understand myself a little better. I mean, we’re all pretty busy fooling ourselves on a regular basis. It’s good to be honest with yourself once in awhile but its maybe better to be honest with others whenever you get the chance. I’ll admit that I enjoy making random lists anyway, but there is something about What I’ve learned.. that I love.

Anyway…for Zoey…and anyone else who wants in on the fun…Leave your own list in the comments, or don’t. This is the first of many that I’ll do here.

Whenever I… try explaining to people what it is that I do and what it is that I believe it always feels like I shouldn’t have to be explaining any of it to anyone. It’s surprising how we’ve gotten to this place in our lives where thinking liberally is something that you need to apologize for, or something that some people see as weak. If you just peek over your shoulder at our collective past the liberal view point has almost always been right. People used to think that women were inferior and they’re so obviously not, or that blacks didn’t share the same rights as whites and that’s ridiculous. People used to burn witches at the stake and we realize now how absolutely insane that was. The liberal view was that, sure, women can vote and there’s nothing that says that a woman can’t work just as hard as a man and we were right. We didn’t think that it was all that bad of an idea for blacks to sit at the same lunch counter as we did and the world didn’t implode. We were right on that one too. The next thing is gay rights and gay marriage. What’s the argument again? It destroys the fabric of the family unit? Huh? Something like 50 % of all marriages end in divorce and we’re talking about the sanctity of the family? In fact, we’re denying people their civil liberties and human rights because of that weak-ass argument? You gotta be kidding me. Find a tree and take a nap Rumplestiltskin, when you wake up gays will be married and no one will have infringed upon your rights or liberties in the process. Almost every injustice has been rooted out with the help of liberal perspectives. How do you even pose an argument against that kind of thinking? That’s not to say that conservative or right wing folks are bad people, not at all, it’s just that at some point some of them are going to look like those guys that turned fire hoses on black women and children in Selma, Alabama and feel like idiots in retrospect. Someday I’m going to have to explain those people to my daughter and it makes me shake my head with frustration.

Just when you think… that you’ve got it all figured out you grow up and realize that you never did, never will and never possibly could.

The trick is… to pay attention to the things that don’t work in your life. Those are the lessons that you’ll learn from. You won’t pick up half as much from your successes as you will your failures. I used to think that my Dad was just terrible at being a father. He just wasn’t any good at it. No one really showed him how to do it and, of course, he perpetuated a lot of the same shortcomings that he experienced but it was important for me to look past all that stuff and realize that he was never a bad person. No one witnesses their child’s birth and thinks, ”Man, I can’t wait to screw this up,” that just doesn’t happen. He didn’t want to flub this, shit just happens. It took a long time but I realized that I’d better be paying attention to all of this so that I get it right when it’s my turn. Now do you know what I think of whenever I think of my father? I look past what it felt like to be disappointed and focus on what it must have felt like to disappoint. Ever since Zoey arrived I understand that the emotions that fill the experience of disappointing someone are waaay more painful than being disappointed. Once I understood that it was easy to fix things between us. I didn’t need that clarity to love him but I did need it to understand him.

People ask me… what my secret is, how I stay so optimistic every day and I always tell them the same thing. My first inclination, as anyone’s might be, is to barricade myself off from all of the hurt and pain and confusion that every one of my days is full of. The kids I work with don’t always have much hope but here’s the thing, they embrace what hope they do have, even if it’s just a fragment, they clutch it pretty tightly. That’s inspiring to me. It helps me knock down the barricades I’m inclined to build and makes me feel a little more comfortable going to the places I don’t really understand or that I don’t feel very safe in. You always hope that you’re capable of this or of that but you never really know until you’re confronted with it. Once you stare at the scary stuff it’s never quite so scary. It’s kind of like looking under your bed when you were a child. Once you roll over and look you realize that there are no monsters under there.

If you only had… one leg then all of your throws to first would be off balance and probably in the dirt.

Never… try to tell people what they should be doing. You’re just pissing them off and wasting your own time. They’re gonna do exactly what they want to do. The difference is whether or not they’ll feel comfortable coming to you after they’ve screwed up or hating you beforehand.

I used to… be a lot more bold in my youth but a few extra years has made me re-evaluate what I stand up for and what I’m willing to sit down and watch pass. It’s not that I had any more convictions or courage when I was younger, not at all, in fact I had a good deal less, it’s just that I was ignorant and didn’t know the value and consequence of all that energy. I learned to wait and see what happens before you start pushing buttons and starting wars. Some things are worth fighting for and some things just cause fights, there’s a huge difference.

Don’t ever… pretend to know something when you don’t.

I feel… incredibly lucky to have the ability to make the choices that I do. Questioning things as a regular part of normal life, that didn't exist for my grandfather's generation, now I do it every single day.

It’s tricky… understanding other people’s beliefs. Devotion always clouds the details.

There's a point… when you have to separate yourself from your friends and family; that's when you become your own man. Later you can come back again.

I once… heard Angela Davis tell a story about how her mother used to talk to her about the racial inequity she was experiencing as a small child in the south during the 1950’s. Her mother used to say, “This may be how it is now but this is not how it’s supposed to be.” I never forgot that story.

If things aren’t going well… then go to bed early and get up earlier. You think I’m kidding but I’m not.

Wherever… I see people doing something the way it's always been done, the way it's "supposed" to be done, I get the urge to do the opposite. Ever since I was small I knew that I didn’t want to do things the same way everyone else did things. Somehow I just inherently knew that it wouldn’t take you where you needed or wanted to go. If you’re looking for answers in the same spot that everyone else is looking for answers then you’re looking in the wrong spot.

If I had to choose… between loving someone or being loved I’d take loving someone every time. It’s hard to screw up loving someone.

Becoming a Dad... made me realize that from this point forward I don't get a day off...I don't ever get to take the easy way out...I don't ever get to shove things under the rug. From now on everything has to be done the right way...with all of the tools I would want her to have and use...with humility and respect and selflessness, confidence and courage and compassion. From this point on someone is watching.


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