The Picture In Our Heads

 

 

I saw this quote on Facebook a few days ago and realized that it might be the most accurate thing that I have ever seen on that platform. I wish I knew who to attribute it to, because they have somehow managed to elucidate the shortcomings of human experience in under twenty words.

Think of the times when you were the saddest, most disappointed, the angriest. Whether it’s with a person, a place, an experience, chances are that they failed to meet expectations that you had placed. Whether reasonable or not, you wanted things to be better than they were. Needed things to be better.

Think of your biggest mistakes, the regrets that you hold, the things that you took for granted. How many of these decisions were made out of a desire to find something better, a feeling of standards not being met, the chasing of something closer to the picture that you had formed in your head? Dissatisfaction leading to a search for greener pastures that aren’t there.

Sometimes they are. Sometimes we need to be able to identify the status quo as unacceptable. To dream higher, expect more, fight for what we deserve.

Sometimes.

 

Isn’t this what we try to teach our kids? To always want better, to never give up until they achieve everything that they can, to be all that they can be and never settle? I’ll confess to have never read a parenting book, but I’m pretty sure that none of them have a chapter about embracing mediocrity.

That’s what we tell them, but is this a disservice? One of the biggest complaints old men such as myself seem to have with the current generation of young whippersnappers is their sense of entitlement, their expectation of not only “having it all” but of having it handed to them. How many of our children are currently heading out into the world, looking around and asking “what the hell is this shit?”

I don’t want my girls to settle, but I also want them to have reasonable expectations. To strive for the top but also be able to find happiness somewhere beneath the summit if that’s where their journey ends. I want them to be successful, but to measure that by the things that they have. Contentment to come not from the picture in their heads but by the one in front of them.

Its a picture that all too often we end up looking back at longingly, only afterwards realizing how beautiful it really was.

 

 

 

Wanting To Believe

 

This was an early start for me, but overall today was a pretty productive first attempt at  Christmas shopping. I was able to find a successful balance of toys that both myself and the youngest would want to play with and even bought a few things that I don’t think the teenager will hate. Left behind was the mostly illegible three page list for Santa that was scribbled sometime in the middle of October but I’m fairly certain that I deciphered enough to meet some of her requests. If anybody knows where I can find a spell book full of actionable magic I’ll pay ten copper pieces for the map.

To be honest, I was pretty happy with the stubbornness that she showed while insisting that this list be mailed north immediately, before the elves started working for the season. Last year’s skepticism, endless questions and my ridiculous answers seemingly replaced by acceptance and reminders to her friends about the locations of “Santa-Cams”, the jolly one’s surveillance network.

 

Holding onto belief
Hes always watching

 

Privacy concerns aside, it amazes me sometimes how easily she is able to mold facts into a way that fits with her narrative. She has learned fire safety in school, actually attends Girl Scout meetings in a firehouse, and knows that this is a smoke alarm. She knows what to do if it ever goes off and her mother isn’t cooking but has no problem also believing that it has another purpose, that anything remotely electronic looking that hangs from a ceiling or telephone pole is monitoring her behavior.

It amazes me, but it probably shouldn’t. Aren’t we all guilty of this to some extent, this ignoring of evidence and common sense, desperately clinging to ideas and hopes that we know to be misguided? The voice in our head that we silence because our hearts say different. The voice that we ignore because to listen invites pain, a challenge to the status quo that we refuse to acknowledge, repudiation of what we so desperately want to be true.

Sometimes this can be a good thing, the chasing of dreams and aspirations that come true despite naysayers and easier paths that could be taken. Leaps of faith and inspirational defiance of odds.

Other times it’s delusion, the flapping of arms to attempt flight as one careens over the edge.

 

wanting to believe
should have seen this coming

 

There is a balance to be found, as there is in most things. A middle ground somewhere between innocence and cynicism, optimism and fatalism.

I want my girls to believe. In Santa Claus, toy making elves, fairies and angels. To believe that people can change, that love conquers all, that stories can end with happily ever after.

I want them to believe, so I’ll continue to lie. To them and to myself.

 

 

 

 

DIY Daddy
Keep Calm and Carry On Linking Sunday

Happening For A Reason

 

We all have our little pet peeves, commonplace sayings or activities that drive us insane. Sometimes these aggravations are reasonable, sometimes less so. Some we make public, some we keep to ourselves.

Mine is a phrase, one that many of you probably use, one that brings you comfort. In a way I envy that because I just can’t bring myself to believe that “everything happens for a reason”, that our bad times are moments meant to test us or make us stronger, that they will eventually lead to a greater good or purpose.

For some this is an extension of religious beliefs, the idea that there is a higher power with a grand plan for all of us, a trust that there is a benevolent force guiding our journey. I mean no offense to any that feel this way. I just don’t believe it.

For others it’s a coping mechanism, a straw to grasp at when drowning in despair. A way to make sense of the senseless. I understand that, the search for light in the darkness. I’d encourage anybody there to hold onto that, to use every tool available to get yourself through your travails.

 

How many decisions do you think that we make over the course of a single day? Hundreds, thousands, millions? Some are small, some are big. Some right, some wrong. Each one, each metaphorical right or left turn taking us further from where we just were and leading us down new roads. Sometimes the differences seem insignificant, but are they really?

I don’t think they are.

I think that everything that happens to us, good and bad, comes from these decisions. I don’t think we are capable of tracing everything back, don’t think hindsight always shows us our wrong turns or even allows us to be able to identify them as such. I don’t think that our right turns always take us where we thought they would or that by making more of them things would be any better.

 

Is this a simplistic notion, dismissive of the randomness of life? Possibly.

Possibly, but I think the fundamental flaw, the thing that that really takes away the control that our decisions have upon our lives is the influence of others. The millions of decisions made by those around us that change our own, that ultimately have as much to do with where we end up than the ones we make ourselves.

I’ve seen good things eventually come of bad, life’s roads leading to places not imagined, wrong turns that eventually lead to different, happier destinations. We all have. I credit the driver’s persistence, their ability and will to continue, not a cosmic GPS or invisible hand guiding their wheel.

I can’t tell you why the good die young, why bad things happen to good people. I can’t tell you what decisions may have been made by them or others that may have had that unintended consequence.

But I believe that they happened.

I may have misled you at the beginning of this post, and for that I apologize. I do think that “everything happens for a reason.”

I just think that reason is us.

 

 

 

Weight Concerns at Six?

 

weight concerns at 6?

 

One of the things that I admire the most about my youngest, that I’m sometimes a bit jealous of, is her self esteem. There are times when it can border on arrogance, cute at six years old, potentially problematic as she gets older, but better than the alternative. Multiple studies have shown that seven out of ten teenage girls have a negative view of themselves, believe that they don’t measure up to how they perceive that they should be. Once formed these feelings of inadequacy are difficult to dispel. Despite our best efforts it’s something that I know the teenager has struggled with at times, something that I had vowed to try and do a better job of identifying earlier if her sister ever felt the same.

What I hadn’t realized is at how young of an age I needed to start my vigilance.

Many times these self image problems revolve around weight. Not actual weight, but how the individual perceives his or her body image and shape versus what they believe it should be. When I was sixteen I hated taking my shirt off at the beach because my ribs showed, ten years ago I would have hesitated because of my massive beer belly. I’m thirty pounds lighter than I was then but last year my daughter still asked when she was going to grow boobs like I had. I think it’s a struggle that many of us can understand.

I can understand it, but I was still shocked and saddened last week when the six year old asked if she could go down into the basement and use the exercise equipment there. She wanted to exercise not because she wanted to wanted to jump around with a calisthenic routine on the Wii or practice her ninja moves on the heavy bag, but because she wanted to lose weight.

My daughter is not a small girl. She’s not fat, actually is very healthy. She plays sports, hikes, rides her bike. We try and encourage physical activity and healthy eating as much as possible. When two of her friends came over this weekend, I was very pleased that they spent three of the four play date hours outside.

We try, but the fact is that this kid loves to eat. She had rotisserie chicken, potatoes, and apple for dinner tonight, but the amount of each that she had was both concerning and somewhat impressive.

She doesn’t think that she is fat, is not yet burdened by insecurity or a desire to meet society’s standards. She wants to lose weight, but also to gain muscle mass in her arms, the better to carry her body weight across the monkey bars, one final playground challenge that she has yet to conquer.

She doesn’t think that, and it’s my job to try and keep it that way. My job to encourage exercise and smart food choices, but also self-acceptance and confidence.  It’s a job that starts much earlier than I realized it would.

 

 

 

JakiJellz

Church and State

 

Some things just shouldn’t be mixed together.  Bleach and vinegar, toasters and tubs, anger and texting, diamond rings and half priced well drinks from five to eight. Religion and politics.

Along with debt avoidance and a search for new resources to exploit, the fleeing of religious persecution was a major motivator for many of those that first traveled across the Atlantic to land here in the New World. Upon arrival some of these settlers then proceeded to persecute anybody that didn’t conform with their puritanical views and the Salem Witch Trails were a pretty dark moment in American history, but the concept of The United States as a place of freedom of worship dates back to the very beginning.

Thomas Jefferson wrote that “legislature should make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof.” When the Bill of Rights was adapted in 1791 this concept became a central tenet of the First Amendment. Worship whatever deity you choose, but keep it out of government.

It’s important to note that I have no prejudices against organized religion. I understand that it is a very important part of many people’s lives, providing them with security, peace and comfort in a time when those things can be hard to come by. I was involved in my church youth group as a child, Amy Grant was the first concert I ever attended, and when the teenager was interested in exploring her faith we spent many Sunday mornings attending together. Her little sister loves to sing and when she is a bit older and I’m confident she can read the hymn lyrics instead of making up her own at full volume we may again try to find a congregation that we are comfortable with.

When we do, it will be a church that looks like this.

 

church and state

 

The problem with religion is that it is often tribal, the congregation of people who all share the same beliefs, both about what is right, but also about what is wrong. For those that live a life outside of these communal morals, there is often little mercy.

It has no place in the government of a nation that is supposed to pride itself in it’s diversity, it’s embracement of all.

I don’t want to hear Ted Cruz say that “any President who doesn’t begin every day on his knees isn’t fit to be commander in chief of this nation”, even if I’m just assuming he’s referring to prayer.

I don’t want to see our actual President tweeting out things like this:

 

 

In my America we worship freedom. The freedom to be who you are, to not have to conform to somebody else’s ideas and beliefs.

I expect those making decisions on my behalf to follow the rational, the analytical, not the ideological of theoretical. Federal, state and municipal governments have different responsibilities to myself and my family that I expect them to meet.

The eventual fate of our souls isn’t one of them.

 

 

Adventures with girls, from preschool to proms