I just read the term pathetic fallacy
and swooned. That's right, I said swooned, because that's how it felt when I tripped over those two words. How much of my life aside from my wife and daughter feels like that? Happy accidents, timely opportunities, unexpected results...serendipity even. It's true. I've rarely set out to do something and accomplished it. $#!% just kinda happens. I'm an awfully flexible guy for never having tortured myself with even a day of yoga. I get by. I roll with punches. I pick myself up and carry on. I tell myself whatever I need to tell myself to manage what I need to manage, and what's worse, I believe my own bull$#!% sometimes.
My life is full of pathetic fallacy
. I'm tragically opportunistic. I don't actually aspire to things as much as I latch onto them. I don't want to teach Zoey that, well, perhaps some of it, but not all of that. I'm being hard on myself, I know, and I'm leaping and bounding over the best qualities that I'm sure I'm a proper host for, but those things all sit alright with me. It's the sturdy take what comes
stance that bothers me. You don't sweat the good stuff, just the bad. I need to remind myself of the good stuff that all that ambidextrous living has allowed.
I had a grandmother call yesterday to say thanks. She's taken custody of her fifteen year old grandson and it's been rough. He's had a few setbacks, great big, giant, setbacks, and was lifeless, truly, he didn't want to live anymore. We met. We talked. We laughed a bunch. We got some things set straight, and then we planned to meet again. I'm going to get him a job. I'm going to pay some attention to the things that other more familiar and vested men should have paid attention to...like the shaky sound of his voice, and the vibrant hope laying just beneath all of the brooding hopelessness...like the laugh that needs to be coaxed out but that still comes if you ask for it...like the obvious size of the hurt and the much less obvious inability to patch it all up. He left my office type cave thing with the kind of promise that he should have been getting from others. I will pay attention to you, and I will listen to you, and I will try to understand you...I will invest in you with part of me, even though I typically don't have a lot to give, even if I'm spread pretty thin, even if it's not enough, it's something, and I will give it...not because anyone is asking but because you deserve it. We all deserve it, yes, but I've met you, and I've talked to you, and I like you. You deserve it doubly because you're pretty cool, even if you don't have a mirror that tells you that...even if you wouldn't believe it if it did. I'll remind you.
Grandma said he's been feeling pretty good ever since. He looks different. He talks different. He's excitable and talkative, and eager to live out every little moment. She said that i did that. I thanked her because that kind of conversation never happens, and I felt happy, and humbled, but I also reminded myself that I didn't do anything except show up. I'm smart enough to know that it's more than just that, but I'm also smart enough to plead with you that it isn't.
Yesterday I willingly walked into what amounted to a housing project I had never been in, to visit a family I barely know, but who needed the attention. It was a housing project like any other housing project, no different because it's here and not in Red Hook, no different even though the faces are deceivingly diverse, the languages many and the smells conflicting, rather than ethnically imbalanced as they might be in certain parts of America. Here in Canada poverty typically has no face anchored in the racial stereotype we are used to. The housing projects hallway smelled of curry, and dope, of burning cedar, and frying hamburger, and dirty shoes (in winter when old snow battered sneakers are left in filthy, wet hallways to kinda sorta dry, the housing projects always smell like sweaty feet). There is no community
of one specific culture or another, there's just poverty...Indian, Caribbean, Eastern European, Aboriginal...and with it residents are robbed of even a sense of community beyond the social and economic factors that they share. In housing here, you are just poor, nothing else, just poor. I knocked on the door and was gestured to come inside by an Aunt. The girl I stopped to help hadn't been in school since the 6th grade. No one had ever called to inquire about her. She was in the most definitive sense, at least according to the local school board, disposable. There on her dirty couch, we talked about it. She expressed her desperate desire to make something of herself and that she knew she never would without being able to read and write and think in a way that was even close to resembling the rest of the working world. She was easily confused and wanted to not be. I made a few phone calls, and arranged a meeting for her to register and take a few courses not at a school, where she would surely fail, but at a local resource house that she was familiar with, with a teacher her Aunt worked with, and that she felt comfortable with, and that she was eager to see. Done. School for the first time in a long time. She was excited. She wanted to hug me but I declined, so her Aunt did. It felt awkward, and I turned to leave, opening the door and finding the sneaker smell where I left it. How had no one helped this kid? It was easy. It was a visit, a gentle urging and a phone call. By the time I got back to my office she had called and left a message to say thanks again. I smiled as I deleted it, knowing that it was better to graciously accept the sentiment but leave it behind me, the bulk of it's value used up already in that first instant.
That's the good stuff, and just from yesterday afternoon alone. I suppose, those are the kind of things that I can orbit around...the things that I should orbit around, not the overwhelming feeling of pathetic fallacy
that I sometimes get bogged down by. There are things that I can be proud of, and naturally, there are things that I struggle with. I probably shouldn't be so concerned with direction, as long as I have purpose. They're two remarkably different things that are lumped together all too often. Even if I don't always know where I'm going, I'm nearly always certain of why I'm going, and that's more important, perhaps. Pathetic fallacy
...maybe I just wanted to type that. I don't think I really believe it. I'm sure it exists, and very likely in great big heaping amounts, but I just might have an answer for it in my everyday. I suppose there's also the notion that it's who sees you for what you really are, and how they see you that's most important. Those friends of mine whose wet shoes are drying in those dirty hallways don't much care if I've never stumbled from point A to point B do they? No, they're quite happy I haven't I guess. That's relativity, I tell myself. Einstein Schmeinstein...it's all about those random smells of curry, and dope, of burning cedar, and frying hamburger, and those dirty, drying shoes. For the rest of my life I'll remember the smell of those drying shoes and feel a little better about my pathetic fallacies.