My favorite month is going by too quickly. It’s half over. The only thing I really don’t like about October is dressing up for Halloween and PSL flavors. Everything else, I’m all in.
A haphazard list of the good things I’ve enjoyed so far: waking up earlier than the sun, audiobooks and walks in the woods, Stephen King’s Holly, a new Thursday Murder Club to make me smile, baking bread, homemade soup, hot pizza from the Ooni, fire pits and a properly-toasted marshmallow, pulling weeds and cleaning out the garden pots, a 24-hour stream celebrating Thelonious Monk’s birthday, Oktoberfest beer, pumpkin chocolate chip cookies, caramel apples, pulling out favorite sweaters, spooky movies, and waking up from a nap with your dog. Is there anything better than an afternoon fall nap?
Cecilia and I have a running “discussion” about the use of air conditioning in our house. She would prefer to keep it at Rocky meat locker levels. I am a bit more frugal. To avoid having the same “discussion” each night, we’ve come up with temperature thresholds that dictate when we use it. Can’t argue with a thermometer. Well, you can if you’re a teenager….
It’s the ability to tolerate minor discomfort.
Obviously, this really isn’t just about air conditioning usage, but it did lead me to think about our ability to tolerate minor discomfort. It is shocking to me sometimes how readily we all set aside our ambitions, merely to avoid tolerable levels of unpleasantness.
It’s easier to flip through FB or TikTok or Insta and get that hit rather starting that dreaded task even when you know, you know, you’re going to feel better when it’s done.
And this isn’t just me preaching to the girls, I’ve been wrestling with this through my sabbatical with my goal to write 2k words a day. I know its gotta get done, but I put it off or make side deals with myself even if I know better.
What’s the fix? Heck if I know other than just working at it. Exposure therapy. Let those feelings of anxiety or boredom come and then go and get on with the task. Keep doing that and you’ve got yourself a superpower that is slowly going extinct.
I am (in)famous in the family for listening to podcasts and audiobooks at 1.5x or greater. It drives the girls crazy. Add in my love of flashcards and a to-do list and you wouldn’t think I’d be the primary audience for the slow learning movement, but I’m not always in a rush. There is nothing fast about writing a book. So, I read about about the Slow Learning Project with interest, especially their Bill of Rights.
Immerse yourself completely and make haste slowly. Indeed.
I learned about the dandelion and orchid parenting metaphor this week. Interesting, in and of itself, but then I tried to figure out what I was.
When I am between projects, I often feel like a dandelion. I feel scattered to the winds, content to land wherever, read whatever, bake whatever, do whatever. I can be easily distracted and can get interested in anything. This is both good and bad. Chaos can be a very fruitful for creativity. My favorite parts of my books often come completely out of the blue.
On the other hand, there are definitely orchid parts of me. Perhaps you’ve heard me talk about flash cards or a compulsive need to vacuum. I’m not sure I could contemplate writing an entire book without a plan, even if that plan gets ripped up and changed many times.
Maybe this metaphor has limits or maybe kids, parents, and artists will always fall somewhere between the extreme. A garden with both is certainly more interesting.
As it grew darker last Tuesday, and the girls got their costumes ready, Ally asked if I believed in ghosts.
No, I do not believe in ghosts or spirits. But I do believe in memories.
I believe in the collective memory of all the people doing what human beings have always done before me. Being a parent, being a Dad, being a son, being a man. Getting it right sometimes. Screwing it up sometimes.
Whether spirits exist or not, we are never alone. Memories, for me, are a benign presence, not a haunting one. They exist to teach, advise, caution, and inspire with all that prior experience.
They protect us. They reassure us. They give us company.
A new co-worker found out about my book thing. Like a lot of people, she wanted to know how I got it done. How did I write books and work a full-time job?
The pat answer is that you don’t write a book in one chunk. You write it a little at a time, day by day. If it’s important to you, you find the time.
And maybe that’s how it is now after I’ve made writing a habit. But it didn’t start that way. I finished the first book because I didn’t know any better. This quote from Orson Welles when asked where his confidence came from says it better than I can:
“Ignorance! Ignorance! Sheer ignorance, you know. There’s no confidence to equal it. It’s only when you know something about a profession that you’re timid or careful.”
Sometimes it’s far better not to know. Go on an adventure, people. Don’t wait. Be an amateur, explore the untried and find new ground.
We are coming up on report card and conference season and this is just a reminder to myself not to get distracted. Easier said than done. Life has a way of filling any empty space with opportunities, responsibilities, competition, glitter. It can consume us.
So this is a reminder to myself: keep the main thing, the main thing. This might be different for every family or individual but for me, as a Dad, it’s not to lose sight of the main job: raising well-adjusted, self-reliant, decent, happy kids. It’s not hitting benchmarks, or a certain GPA, or college.
The main thing is for them to be healthy, have good values, and have a good sense of who they are and what they want to spend their life on.
Everything else is secondary. Nice, but not necessary.
P.S., The main main thing, of course, is to love them and to love them while we can. I don’t generally need a reminder of that.
Now, on to the puppies.