Tuesday, November 30, 2010
Feelin' GroovyEveryone's heard this a hundred times before. Maybe a billion. But: When your body feels better, you feel better.
But, golly gee. It's really true.
During one horrible night over the weekend, when I tried to go to sleep without my Nyquil-induced coma, I woke up at about 3:40 and just could not go back to sleep. I mulled over everything there was to mull about: my symptoms so numerous I couldn't distinguish my sore throat from my headache from my fever from my cough; my mother's age and increasingly proportionate sweetness and dementia; my own age and the fact of all our mortality; the things I wish I'd done; the things I'll probably never do... you name it, I mulled it over.
At 4:30 I took two melatonin, downed some cough syrup, and settled back into bed confident that I would be soon sliding off into dream land.
At 5:00 I was still staring at the clock, going back over all the things I'd lost, all the people who hated me for not calling them enough, the things in the garage that needed sorting out, my god! the storage unit, I'd never get that dealt with and I'd be spending money every month, for ever... like throwing it away.. flushing it down the john, and why? because I was a loser and could never just get down and do anything and I'd better get used to it because I was now never going to have my mobility back again so the storage unit would stay unsorted... you get my drift.
At 5:30 I began marveling that I could actually take one Melatonin tablet, at 35,000 feet, with -65 degree Fahrenheit air surrounding the little metal container I was bobbling around in, completely at the mercy of some unknown entity in the cockpit, who probably wasn't even trying to fly the plane but who was him/herself completely at the mercy of some piece of software some bozo developer put together somewhere to fly planes over long distances at very high altitudes with like some funky old QA process and no functional specs and a list of Known Limitations a mile long, with no place to rest my neck, and annoying people yapping behind me, and children crying and stupid images burning through my eyelids from the video in the back of the seat in front of me (the little plane crawling with excruciating slowness across the map of the US, ticking of the miles in 12 foot increments, the miles decrementing with agonizing slowness, the smattering of little hamlets of farmhouse lights clumped in the dark far far below us, their inhabitants slumbering in their warm feather beds after an honest day's work and maybe a half hour or so watching Sarah Palin's Alaska before slipping off into dreamland, then staring back at the little plane on the monitor....oh look... we've got a ground speed of 555 miles and we've traveled exactly 10 miles), and how, freezing and neck spasming and annoyed and somewhat molecularly freaked out -- I could fall asleep within about 20 minutes.
But that night, with two tablets, and a very comfortable bed, and a sweet husband by my side and a goofball dog sleeping quietly on the floor, and a good day of watching Swamp Loggers under our belts, and all well and right and good with the world: nope. Could not sleep.
At 6:00 am I thought, my GOD it's going to be the night that I woke up at 3:40 and never went back to sleep.
And then, I must've, because the next time I looked it was all of 6:30. Thus even ruining my story (and martyrdom.)
And while I was ruminating about every single last part of me and my life that had gone off track, and wondering how in the world I would ever get any part of it back in shape again... that my days of exercising were certainly over, and my days of actually feeling happy were obviously gone, and that any wonder or joy or sense of mastery I ever had over anything was now going to progressively erode away until I would be laying in bed someday, at 87 (my mother's age) and I'd still feel like me but I would be old. Old old old. And my body wouldn't work and my brain would be bleak and, basically, I'd feel like I was feeling at right that moment... only I'd feel that way all the time.
And, well, you know, that certainly cheered me up.
So I made a little deal with myself. Very slowly, maybe, possibly... I could try to get back on track. And I wouldn't try to do it all at once because that would absolutely be impossible. But maybe there was one, or maybe two things I could do, for a week, to kind of try to sneak up on health, both mental and spiritual and physical. I wouldn't just jump into it, and further dislocate every bone in my body. But I'd stealthily, and carefully, and quietly... just try two things.
I would sit in meditation for five minutes a day.
And I would drink more water.
That's it. I couldn't solve anything more. In a place where there was no foothold to start from, the first goal was to get a foothold. And meditation has always worked for me (which is good as I, you know, married the meditation teacher). And water... hey. Always a good start.
So I've been doing it. Two days. And the sitting is like an oasis to my frenzied mind. It just feels good to stop. And I know this, and I've done this. But, gosh, it really works. And it felt like a balm to my sore and wounded brain.
And water. Water: good.
And then today I went and bought about $100 worth of high end supplements from Whole Foods. Including a sleep-inducing something that promises something called "relaxation" (whatever that is). And a supplement that addresses stress and immunity. Hmmm... ya think? So, yeah, that went into the basket. And some teas with pretty pictures and nice marketing writing on the box that make you feel better just reading them. Or at least you have the potential for feeling better.
And ... I'm feeling better. Like, actually really better. Roger of course feels like crap because the angel of death is now in his body... so maybe I'm just joyful I've been liberated... but... it's true. Body feels good; you feel good.
# posted by Katherine Doughtie Nolan @ 9:00 AM 0 comments
Monday, November 29, 2010
Photos from the 90'sI attempted to do something yesterday, which was kind of remarkable in itself. But what I chose to do troubled my sleep and got into my sub-conscious in a way that I wasn't expecting.
I have boxes and boxes of photos. And I'm trying to, very gradually, get them in some kind of order. I manage to spend about 20 minutes on the project once every three months (which puts me at an estimated completion time of about 2060), but I figured a rainy afternoon in which I'm too sick to do anything else would be a good time to hack away at it.
I picked a box with pictures from the '90s. And over the next couple of hours I saw a long, bittersweet slide show of the first six years or so of my kids' lives, highlighted by many birthday parties, vacations, visits to grandparents, school events. I saw the first months of baby pictures for Spencer evolve into his first birthday party, held proudly by his godfather. I saw him blowing out his second set of birthday candles out at Travel Town, surrounded by an assortment of people I can barely remember. At two, he was not yet in school so I hadn't formed the close network of friends that I have now, so the people at that birthday party were all friends from our former lives... from Gavin's school days mainly.
Then Taylor was born, and I have a series of him and Spencer and Gavin in the hospital room, Spencer grinning proudly like he'd created his brother all by himself. I have a couple of sequences of them at four years old (Spencer) and about one (Taylor). And then a few later at about five and two. But it's obvious that life got pretty busy in those years and the only time the camera came out was for special occasions.
I found some pictures of a camping trip I took Spencer on, up to Northern California up by Tahoe. It was a reunion of some of my friends from college, all of whom (including myself) turning 40 that year. We felt so old. And we all had our four-year-olds with us. Most of my friends and I tracked exactly when we had kids, whether it was a hormonal alarm clock going of or just plain understanding that we'd never be more ready than we were right then. Since none of us were ready, we all collectively held our noses and took the plunge at the same time.
So the pictures from that series show Spencer's first touching of snow, and a piggy back ride on the shoulders of an old friend from college. There was a romance between Spencer and that friend's daughter, a romance that time and space conspired to thwart. But it was a poignant moment when they all came back down last summer for the wedding and the teenagers from that camping trip got to reconnect.
There are many pictures of the kids and I visiting with my mom, and many pictures of the kids with friends. Lots of birthdays, trips to Disneyland, trips with friends up to the long-lost, much lamented Mira Mar in Santa Barbara. Trips to the snow up in Angeles Crest to sled and build fluffy little snow people.
And there is even a set of pictures of me doing something without the kids -- a trip I took with my mom to New York in 1998. We both acknowledge that was the pinnacle of our relationship and our pictures reveal our mutual exuberance, our sense of adventure and extravagance.
Something happened to me on that trip. It was at a performance of The Lion King, which I cried all the way through. I remember being pierced with the understanding at that moment that my life needed to have more of a sense of joy in it. That I had lost, somewhere, the wonder, the buoyancy, the excitement.
All the pictures show happy joyful kids. And adults. But there are shadows in the pictures that of course I did not see at the time. Occasions that seem so happy in the picture, I remember being extraordinarily stressful behind the scenes. And looking at these pictures with my older, more informed eyes, I notice a few things. First of all, I'm always juggling. I'm juggling the kids, or have a wary eye cast over on something that needs my attention.
My (now ex) husband rarely appears in these pictures, and not because he was snapping the shutter. He just wasn't there. Except for some early birthday pictures, the only time he appears is when we're in certain groupings, with certain people, and I now see those images with a different understanding altogether.
And of course, I know that the closer we come to 1998, the closer we are moving towards changing these kids' lives indelibly. I look back at my old house and the pictures taken there and remember thinking that would be forever. I remember thinking that my partnership with my husband was solid and strong and that we'd be making our decisions together all the way through college and beyond.
But now, of course, I know that the course shifted. The paths diverged. And at the end of that box of pictures, I found a set of shots showing the duplex I moved into at the very end of 1998. A sweet little two story duplex. The pictures are from when I'd just moved in. My mom is there helping me furnish it; I'd left all unduplicated furnishings behind, so as to impact Gavin as little as possible. I had my brand new rug from Ikea on the living room floor (the same rug that Roger also bought, when he also separated from his wife, on the exact day I moved from Gavin's house). I do not yet have my bookcases. But the outline of the new life was there. A new life. A new, and much needed, beginning.
The kids are beaming in my arms, and there's an unmistakable lightness to all of us. I have a picture of me goofing around with Taylor (the only one of the whole box of hundreds of pictures where I'm seen being goofy and fooling around). And even though you'd think that these pictures would be laced with pain and stress and fatigue, the complete opposite is true: there is a light, there is a joy, there is the buoyancy that I'd missed for oh so long.
# posted by Katherine Doughtie Nolan @ 9:30 PM 0 comments
Sunday, November 28, 2010
ChronicNow we're both sick. Roger's feeling all funky and I'm still blech on my concoction of decongestants, expectorants, suppressants and anything else I can find that sounds like it will boost my weary immune system. However, we have a fridge full of Thanksgiving leftovers, we've cleared our schedule of social and work engagements, and they say it's going to rain later. So, all in all, not a bad way to spend a vacation weekend.
Oh. Warning: Since I've sort of committed myself to writing a blog every day, you can now delete this along with every other "today I filed my nails" blog that takes the minutiae of daily life and blows it into headline-worthy 72 point type. Just in case you're wondering what I'm going to make of all this sickness and lethargy, I'll tell you right now -- there's nothing going on and it's highly doubtful I'll find anything meaningful to say by the end of it. I'm just going to spew out dumb stuff and then go take a nap. So... if you want to keep reading, be my guest, just don't expect much.
So, this morning I did nothing basically but loll around with Roger watching infomercials about folk singers and channel surfing to find the best reality shows. We spent a good 15 minutes watching "Deadly Women" featuring atrocious dramatizations of crimes involving women murderers, then about 20 minutes watching with dropped jaws a show about pet hoarding, featuring a woman with 300 cats. Unfortunately, we could not find anything on about swamp logging, which is my current favorite. And we couldn't get a channel that had a show on about moving big things with great difficulty (in this case, the Golden Gate Bridge). That bummed me out.
On the other hand, we did watch a great documentary ("Helvetica") which really kind of made our heads spin (more) with all the nuances a typeface brings to the table. So that was great.
And I finished a terrific book (Chronic City). I'm now an official fan of Jonathan Lethem, a fellow Bennington-ite who did what it takes to become a staggeringly good writer and make us all proud. I'd kind of love to write a paper about this book. It is weird and complex and it has layers and it got under my skin. I couldn't put it down for the last half, and the last few pages I doled out to myself because I didn't want to lose the weird, fantastic, very disturbing world he created.
But end it did, I now I'm back to searching in vain for Swamp Loggers.
Anyone have a good suggestion for a book that will both entertain and sustain itself artistically at the same time?
# posted by Katherine Doughtie Nolan @ 10:30 AM 0 comments
Saturday, November 27, 2010
Viral MeditationThis is being written in a drug-induced haze. Not anything super fun. Just loads of over the counter stuff. "Tussin" (I love the generic names), Nyquil, Cold Away (chinese herbs which usually work great), acetaminophen, and albuterol (which imparts a nice speedy edge to the soporific effects of the other stuff). I'm also taking copious amounts of Vitamin D, and a whole variety of other Chinese herbs.
I'm so locked down in the miseries of my body that I can hardly think.
But, in some ways, that's not altogether a bad thing. I breathe from my mouth, I cough from my chest, my eyes water constantly. I am consistently and acutely aware of every present moment.
This is what meditation is all about, I think in my haze. Present moment sensory awareness. I'm unable to construct a single delusional thought, so much so that I'm actually quite... well, calm. I wouldn't say happy. But stressing about the past and future is basically impossible when the present is so downright uncomfortable. I gaze out into the world through my red and scratchy eyes and think, OK. Whatever. It's neither good nor bad. It just is. And then I just concentrate on my breathing again.
It's meditation. Forced on my by the viruses that must've found me somewhere at 38,000 feet or in some train in Boston or NYC. The bug has gotten inside of me and forced me to stop, or tried very hard at least. So, OK. I'm stopping. Or trying very hard. And in the meanwhile I'll focus on my rattling breath. And contemplate my present moment through my senses. And enjoy the freedom from any deep or worrisome thoughts.
Whatever works. Frankly, I'd rather be in some excruciatingly expensive zendo being fed high end gourmet food and doing yoga all day, but... well... just imagining that is more difficult than it's worth. I'll take a sip of water. Feel it go down my scratchy throat. And then I'll see if I can breathe some more.
# posted by Katherine Doughtie Nolan @ 12:00 PM 0 comments
Friday, November 26, 2010
Radical Parenting #2Here's another radical idea. I'm convinced that this one notion is the single most insidious cause of bad parenting and fractured relationships between parents and children.
Your children are not you.
You can play Mr. Potato Head games all day long and figure out if they have his ears and her irritability, or whether that funny wheezing laugh came form old Aunt Martha, and all that is really fun and all, but it actually doesn't address the fundamental fact that these children of ours are separate people.
The new word here is "separate." First, children are people. And secondly, they are separate.
This is not mitosis. Your little amoeba self does not suddenly and spontaneously split off into another little amoeba and then there are two of you. Your children may have aspects that remind you of you and other aspects that remind you of their other parent. But they are not you and you are not them.
Their choice in plaids does not reflect your style acumen. Their F in geometry was not done solely to remind you of your own humiliations in Middle School. If they like friends that you wouldn't choose... guess what? It's not up to you. They are not your friends, and it's not your choice. Sorry. But they are separate people.
You cannot project your needs, wants, fears, aspirations, dreams, desires, phobias, neuroses, joys, challenges, and successes onto these people. They are not your projection screens. If you hate the water, it's not your place to keep them from sailing. You can teach them to swim -- that's permissible. But you can't keep them from sailing because you don't like the water.
Their opinions about you don't matter either. They don't get to project their shit onto you any more than you get to project your shit onto them. Seriously. If they think you're a big bad meanie, OK then. They can do that. It doesn't mean it's so. And if they love you to pieces it doesn't mean you're perfect either. Everyone gets to still take responsibility for their own being and doing. They do. You do. Separate people.
I saw two examples of this recently, both during our recent slogs through highly traveled airport terminals.
In the first terminal, Spencer was accosted by a woman traveling with three young kids. She had all the stuff. The big puffy airline travel seat, the big fat assed stroller with bags and attachments sprouting out all over the place, the kids with their backpacks and the pouch on her front for the littlest marsupial. She was, maybe, in her late 30's/early 40's and she was traveling with three kids. Three kids AND about $3500 worth of additional equipment.
She enlisted Spencer into helping her. She asked him to take her picture. She asked him to take one of the big airline seats up through the aisle of the plane to get her situated. (Not like he didn't have his own backpack, duffle bag, and my own overflow stuff to deal with.) All this was fine, except for one thing she told him that stuck in my craw. "Hey," she said to him. "You know, not many people could do what I'm doing here."
And, I'm like... what? You mean, this is all about you? The whole point of this whole parade is so you can show the world that you can do it? I mean, it's not the most egregious comment in the world. There are certainly far worse things that she could've said or done that would've bugged me a whole lot more. But... there was ego involved. She was engaged in taking care of her kids and it wasn't about, you know, simply taking care of her kids. It was all about her.
And then there was this kid on the way back. Little girl, maybe two years old. First time I saw her I was immediately taken by her unique fashion sense. She had on a bright green and gray striped jumpsuit and bright red galoshes, that had fake shoestrings printed on them. She was standing in the middle of the aisle stating something factual to her mom who was about twelve feet away. She looked sure of herself, sure of her world, and easy in her place within it.
I watched them in the terminal and they ended up sitting in front of us. The kid occasionally got cranky, and cried a couple of times. She was a very little kid, after all. But what got to me what the way her mother handled her. She talked to her, throughout, like a very caring person would talk to someone she really liked and respected. She was not condescending, she did not lay down the law, she did not threaten or cajole or plead or punish.
When the little girl cried on the plane her mom said, "Wait, stop. I need to understand what you need." And immediately the kid stopped. The mom said "point to what you want, OK?" And the kid did something and then it was all OK again. At the end of the flight I heard the little girl ask her mom if it "was all better." And her mom said "yes, this flight was much better. Thank you." They'd had the conversation, they course corrected and -- what struck me as so neat -- the kid had incorporated into herself the desire to be better. It wasn't because of fear, or desire for a new treat, or because she had been punished into submission. They'd had the conversation, and she wanted to know if the new plan had gone well.
Neat. I would love to know what happens to that child as she grows up. I know both she and her mom felt very lucky to be paired with each other. And I felt lucky to be able to watch them for awhile.
# posted by Katherine Doughtie Nolan @ 9:00 AM 0 comments
Thursday, November 25, 2010
I used to have a tradition of asking everyone who came to Thanksgiving dinner to bring a talisman to put in the center of the table, a representation of something that they were thankful for in their lives. I know that one of my first offerings was a little figurine of a sleeping baby (because it was my first Thanksgiving after Spencer was born -- or maybe my second! -- and I was deeply grateful for all the intermittent moments that he actually slept).
As we await guests and prepare food, I'm going to start off a list of things that I am thankful for on this day, and then I'm going to ask my guests to come in here at their leisure and add to the list.
So here goes:
On this day when we give thanks, I am grateful for...
My incredible family
Roger, who is so committed to taking care of me, and us, that it takes my breath away
Spencer and Taylor, the most amazing people I've ever had the pleasure to know
My beloved extended family - Xia, Zach, Mel, Pythia, David -- who have brought food, helped out, and made this day so warm and cozy
Everyone who did everything while I sat here blowing my nose
All of our incredible friends, north and south, east and west (and even right at home)
My mom's improving health
My banana slug sweatshirt
Soft soft Kleenex (TM)
Our collective sense of humor
Grocery shopping for my family and friends, filling my cart, greeting other shoppers (especially the "amateurs" who only come out on holidays), and feeling bountiful.
Kathy for her ability to keep me calm.
Zach, who constantly amazes me.
Xia, for being in our lives.
Tay and Spence, for coming into my life.
That we have friends and family to spend the day with in good health.
My wonderful work and careers.
my fantastically dis-functional school
my trailer, and treehouse!
My various bits of technology that make my life so much simpler.
And of course my wonderful mother who made this blog and myself,
oh yeah, thanks dad for your spermacle contribution.
And of course Taylor, my super awesome brotha/broski/brohan/brocundo/brodozer
From Sam the Golden Doodle:
Going on walks.
Playing with other animals (species not important).
I'm a man of simplicity so I shall say that I am thankful for everything that has made me smile, and not some awkward sarcastic smile.
From Kathy again...
A great meal, a lovely afternoon with family. Very thankful for the fabulous food, the cleaned-up kitchen and, now, an opportunity to just... stop. Very very thankful for that, too.
# posted by Katherine Doughtie Nolan @ 11:29 AM 0 comments
Wednesday, November 24, 2010
FamilyAh yes. The holidays are upon us.
Thanksgiving is one of my favorites. I do love the colors and lights of Christmas, but Thanksgiving is great because it involves food and people and gratitude.
For the first 17 years of the kids' lives, we spent Thanksgiving in some configuration with their dad. For easily ten years after the divorce, we'd manage to find a place in our hearts and homes to get together to share the meal, sometimes with other people, sometimes with some part of our family, sometimes just the four of us. When my ex-husband got together with his current wife, we all had Thanksgiving together, and when I got together with Roger he blended seamlessly in, adding his son and ex-wife to the mix. It was cozy and lovely.
Last year, we didn't do that. I'm not sure what happened last year. The kids were with Roger and me and we had a lovely extended family day, with Roger's son, his ex-wife, her good friends, and a couple of other friends who chose to share the day with us. We ate and drank and Roger played Alice's Restaurant on the guitar (under duress) and it was lovely.
This year, it looks like we'll do much of the same thing. It will be great, but... it's just not the same without the rest of the family. My ex-husband and his wife have cut themselves out of this tradition, for some reason. And, as weird as it may sound, I really kind of miss them.
Family is a funny thing. Family is composed of people whom you really love, and who really annoy you, and whom you would probably never choose to be with if you really had a choice. But family is special. And it's weird when it spins off into other configurations that consciously and adamantly separate out certain factions.
Anyway. We'll have family, in whatever configuration. And we'll be thankful for the things we do have.
# posted by Katherine Doughtie Nolan @ 12:00 PM 0 comments
Tuesday, November 23, 2010
Radical Parenting #1 (continued)Yesterday I put forth this crazy idea that children are people. And of course I'm being sarcastic because it seems, well, pretty obvious. But as much of a no-brainer as this notion seem, I actually think I'm going to get some pushback.
Here's what I imagine the thought bubbles look like:
Whaaa? What are you saying here, Kathy? If kids are people and they come out kind of mostly pre-formed, what about discipline, what about teaching them about the Things that Matter, what about being a guiding light and a parental influence? If you just let them, you know, be -- what happens to all your control?
Ahhhhhhhhh. Do NOT let me forget to talk about control, because I think all this is all about control. But I'll get to that later.
Here's what I'm saying and not saying: I'm not saying you just let them run wild, like little free naked hippie flower children babies. I'm not saying you don't teach them and guide them and, yes, even make sure they know when they've crossed the very fundamental rules of decency, honesty, fairness and respect. Of course we have a duty to raise children who tell the truth, who use their wise mind whenever possible, and who are emotionally healthy and whole. I'm not in any way saying we don't have a place in their emotional and behavioral upbringing.
What I am saying is that children are people. And as people, we should approach them like we would any other person. Or -- here's a very radical idea -- as we would wish to be approached ourselves.
When you meet a new person, you leave room for all sorts of possibilities, rather than going in with preset notions of how the whole agenda is going to go for the entire span of your relationship. So why can't we do that with our kids?
Here's another thought bubble I feel popping up out there. Oh, Kathy, you're just a softy. We are NOT friends with our kids. We are their parents and if we call ourselves their friends we're somehow going to let them down and we're somehow going to lose all possibility of control over their lives. (There's that control thing again.)
Well. Yes and no. I'm not saying we're their friends like their peers are their friends. We're not their peers and it's not our job or within the realm of possibility to have that type of relationship with them. On the other hand, we're not their owners, either. We're not. If we put ourselves into the position of being their owners we open ourselves up to a whole lot of confused and conflicting and, in my opinion, ultimately impossible positions.
Ownership gets back to control. I own my car therefore I can determine when to change its tires (or not.) I can determine when to gas it up and whether to run it into the ground and how often it should be washed. And in exchange for all this caretaking I expect a certain level of service from this car. I expect it to go forward when I press the accelerator, and I expect it to stop when I push the brake.
Seriously. Don't you see a whole lot of people approaching their kids this way? "Because I said so." "Because I said NO." "Because I'm the mom."
Again, I'm not promoting anarchy. It's more of an approach. Do YOU like it when your boss says the equivalent of "Because it's your job" or "Because otherwise you can't pay for your groceries?" Nope. No one likes to be handled that way. People want to be treated as... here we go again... human beings. And since children are ... RIGHT!... human beings, maybe it's better to treat them the same way as we'd like to be treated.
We are neither friends nor owners of these people. I would suggest we're something that's not either of these things. I would suggest that we're guardians, in the sense that we need to protect their physical and emotional well being. And we're guides, in the sense that we have important information that we have gleaned from years of our own life experience, and we are in a unique position to share that wisdom with these people in hopes that they can learn whatever lessons can be learned from it.
When we decide to have kids, we decide to have new people in our lives. They can be people who are very similar to us in nature and attitude; or they can be extraordinarily different. I propose that we treat them, at whatever age, as fully fledged, fully viable, people. People with their own rights, their own responsibilities, and their own hearts and minds. I propose that we do not presume that we know everything about them, just because we share some of their DNA. I propose that we let them just be. Like we'd let our friends to be, if we cared about them. Or like we'd like to be treated ourselves.
But this leads to Kathy's Second Radical Belief: Children are not us. Which I will discuss soon.
# posted by Katherine Doughtie Nolan @ 9:00 AM 0 comments
Monday, November 22, 2010
Radical Parenting #1Let's talk about parenting.
I have some pretty radical ideas about parenting, although it hadn't been brought to my attention until recently. Much to my surprise, I'm really pushing some pretty major traditional parenting envelopes in my various philosophies about children.
As I promised, however, I'm going to break out and actually put words to some of my more incendiary notions. So grab your Dr. Spock, put the toddler into a time out, and be prepared to hear the first of Kathy's whacked out assertions about these people we call our kids.
Kathy's First Radical Belief about Children: Children are people.
They actually are. They come out of the chute with their own brains. They have their own bodies. They have their own personalities. They like the things they like. And they dislike the things they dislike.
The moment my second son was born I realized instinctively what scientists have been arguing about for ages. In the battle between nature and nurture, nature wins. My second son, at the ripe old age of zero, was simply, and obviously, and immediately, a very different entity than my first son.
They are both their own people, and they started out with much of their personality already intact. They were knowable from day one. Which means to me that it is not entirely incumbent upon us parents to form these little blobs of clay into fully formed human beings. To that I say a big WHEW, and apologize to all the therapists out there who make their living blaming everything on the parents.
Now, that's not to say that we, as parents, can't fuck our kids up. We certainly can. Kathy's theory of radical parenting includes an idea that, while most of our kids' personalities are almost entirely nature-created, how our kids interact with themselves and the outside world are very much informed by what we model to them as parents.
Let me explore this a bit.
From us our child learns how to feel about him or herself. From us our child learns how to be with other people. We model relationships for him, and we show him how much he is valued. From us, his parents and caregivers, he learns how much to trust his own instincts, how much to count on the reliability of his feelings. He learns whether he's worthy or not. And he learns how to conduct his social relationships.
Our children, I believe, learn this by modeling, rather than by our talking at them. I think they watch us conduct our marriages, take care of ourselves, interact with others, and then they use that as a blueprint for how to interact in the same way. (Or not. Negative modeling is oftentimes far more of a powerful imprint than positive modeling.)
All the other stuff in a child -- their tendency to eat things that start with the letter P, their aversion to clothing that contain any colorful pigment, their learning preferences -- all that, I believe, is mainly nature-based. Anything that has to do with how they literally perceive the world through their senses is nature.
There are also peer influences, but I think you get my point. Children are people much like -- I know, this is where it gets a bit out there -- we are. Just as we are a combination of hard-wired preferences and tendencies, so are they. They come out like that, just like we did.
You'd be surprised at how rarely this concept actually looks like it's being acted upon.
Many parents, it seems to me, spend all their energy trying to mold these people into little dolls that behave and think like they think they should. They battle and fight and impose limits and force activities on them and fight with them and ridicule them and tsk tsk tsk that they are such a disappointment when they don't turn out exactly as the parents' current blueprint dictates.
Here's Kathy's Radical New Idea: we can just respect and accept the fact that these children are people in their own right, and we can get to know them. We can enjoy the fact that we have been graced with these very amazing creatures in our lives and we can treat them like the people they are, rather than the clones we may want them to be.
This gets into some other crazy ideas I have, so I'm going to stop here and let you think about this for awhile.
Respect and accept. They are people too.
# posted by Katherine Doughtie Nolan @ 9:00 AM 0 comments
Sunday, November 21, 2010
On the Train
Traveling north on the Acela Express with Spencer after a glorious 20 hours or so in New York City. The fall colors sprinkle through the trees in the towns we are traveling through, interspersed with little marinas, junkyards, the backs of warehouses, and the rest of the back yards of this heavily traveled east coast corridor.
I love it out here. The sky is a soft and gentle blue, the hint of the cold to come making itself known in a preliminary way. Before it gets warmer, it will get much colder. Before the trees turn green again, they will become thin stark sticks of gray. Random leaves whip by the train windows, hinting at the snow flurries to come. Inward looking anticipation in the air. The world is gathering its belongings to itself in preparation for the cold.
After Spencer's audition for Emerson was scheduled, I realized that we would have some time afterwards between the end of our duties in Boston and tonight's flight back to LA. I figured that relaxing was for old ladies and wussies and that we could maximize those precious thirty hours or so by taking the train down to NY. Thanks to the miracle of Hilton Honors (TM) points, and my exceptional travel management, we stayed at the Waldorf Astoria, garnered a wide variety of freebies while there, shut the downstairs lobby bar down at 1:35, and had a wonderful old time, all for free.
But as great as all that sounds (and it was great, truly), the pixie dust really came in the middle of our stay. Thanks to Roger, who knew the show, our friend Jill had snatched up some great TKTS tix to "A Life in the Theatre," a David Mamet play that was at once delightful, loads of fun, and more haunting as the immediate memories recede. As Roger said, it's a piece that works on many levels. It absolutely entertains (which is my first prerequisite), but at the same time it raises a lot of thoughts. Relationship of actor to audience, the nature of performance, the act of the creative process ... to what extent is an actor giving, and to what extent does he suck the experience dry in an ultimate act of ego gratification. Good shit.
Of course, in order to do all this with only two actors, you need some pretty top notch talent. And talent there was. The production starred Patrick Stewart and T.R. Knight (O'Malley from Grey's Anatomy). Jill had procured some terrific tickets, about seven rows from the stage, so we were able to experience the energy and expertise at close range. Excellent acting, terrific technical mastery... thoroughly enjoyable.
But that STILL wasn't the best (although it was getting pretty close). After the show, and after Spencer was the first one up for the standing ovation (and everyone else followed), Sir Patrick and TR stopped the applause and said that there was going to be a fundraising collection after the show to help with HIV/AIDS patients. And, as a special incentive, the first ten people to donate $250 would get to come up on stage and have their picture taken with Patrick Stewart.
THIS is where the pixie dust came in. Luckily, Jill is a total geek and has the same sense of misguided (or possibly well-guided) values as I do. We glanced at each other, agreed almost immediately to split it on credit cards and bolted down to the very close stage left door. Yessir. We were second in line and proceeded to happily dig out our cards to swipe.
How cool was that?? Here we were backstage on a broadway stage, in a setting that is my equivalent of a church altar to a priest. And sure enough, about three minutes later we were all shaking hands with Patrick Stewart and thanking him profusely for an amazing performance. He was gracious, warm, and the consummate professional. Spencer whipped out his iPhone and we took the photo above, giggling like little geeky groupies and having our hearts just beating in our chests with glee.
We were fairly quickly ushered on but the really lovely moment happened next. The next couple did not have a phone with a decent camera, so Spencer popped up and offered to take it with his phone and then email it to the guy. Suddenly there's my son, in this bizarre and wonderfully weird situation, hanging out with the stage hands and Patrick Stewart, saving the day. That is when the pixie dust rained down. The moment of connection and synchronicity and culmination. After auditioning for Emerson in the morning, seeing a beautifully first class production about life, literally, in the theatre, and then ending up backstage... there was my son, integrating all of it with grace and good humor.
And the reason this all is so meaningful for us right now, is that it was all so needed, and gratefully received, for both of us. We are both in the thick of way too many conflicting pulls on time and heart these days. We are stressed, overburdened, beleaguered. And before it gets better, it will probably get worse. The winter we are going through as a family will not be over soon.
Pixie dust comes when it will. Unexpected, unbidden, and like a shower of grace from the gods.
# posted by Katherine Doughtie Nolan @ 11:57 AM 0 comments
Saturday, November 20, 2010
In the LobbyFall in Boston. The trees in the Boston Common are losing their color in great glorious swatches. Most of them are shimmering gold and dropping their leaves like early snow. Some are flaming out, like wild crazy 80's rock stars, completely drenched in vivid hot pinks and reds.
You don't need acid in the northeast when the trees are doing it for you.
I'm here with my oldest son, visiting colleges and prepping him for an audition to his first choice school. I am his willing accomplice as we roam the streets, dropping in at Dunkin' Donuts for sugar and caffeine reinforcements and navigating the T -- me going old school with a tear out map from the hotel tourist brochures, and him on his iPhone.
He usually wins in the navigation department, a fact that fills me with equal parts pride and chagrin. Up until I married Roger (whom I am VERY proud to say is as good with directions as I am) I was always the navigator in the family, the intrepid traveler, the one holding the map. There's always one person who has that designation in a traveling group: the guy who holds the map. And it's always been me, and now Roger or me.
But now I have this son. This... kid. Who figures out the logistics of traveling as fast as I do. Sometimes faster. He's taller than me, he holds the door open for other people, he knows the niceties of moving through the world. He hands spare change to the shivering guys standing outside the McDonald's. He handles himself so well I find myself increasingly relying on him.
It's the passing of the baton. I feel it in a dozen ways. My body is sore from the red-eye, so I let him to take both bags. I tell him to go figure out how to get from point A to point B, and I find myself not double-checking his route. I trust him.
I easily envision us in twenty or thirty years. Roger and I will officially be doddering, slow, frail. We will probably both be deferring to all three of our sons as the guys with the map. And I have to swallow the shudder of mortality that runs down my back and soothe it with immense rushes of pride. I see it daily these days: I have raised a son who can survive out in the wilds of a new city. Who can navigate a map. Who has street smarts and who is compassionate to strangers.
My worry about my son as he juggles school and applications and film shoots and theatre productions takes up a lot of my time these days. We are both under immense amounts of emotional stress and I watch us both for signs of failure, of falling apart, of letting the myriad plates come spinning off and crashing into the walls. But when I'm out here in the world with him, I get to see him as I hope he will be next year as he's off, somewhere, going to college. I get to see him exercising a reasonable amount of judgment, of being aware of his world. I feel reassured.
Like the trees, the time comes when we get to burst with color for a short short while. Then the leaves start to blow off in beautiful gusts, leaving the limbs bare for the winter.
# posted by Katherine Doughtie Nolan @ 9:00 AM 1 comments
Friday, November 19, 2010
VoiceIn September of 2008 I was given some information.
This information was, as they say, game changing. It made me understand that much of what I understood about my life was wrong. It made me understand that the world was not as I'd perceived it. It shocked me into realizing exactly how idealistic I am, how all too ready I am to believe that other people go through life with the same values that I have. It made me realize that certain events, certain actions, have ripple effects that catastrophically compound rather than diminish in intensity.
This was damning information. Damning to people I know and still love. It nuked friendships. It decimated trusts. It took out my world with a surgical precision.
And it was information that can go no further, because it would do the same to other people I love. People who do not deserve to know this information any more than I did.
Which meant, as I worked through this information over many many painful months, that along with everything else, I realized that -- for once -- I could not write about something very important and personal to me and share it publicly.
I could not write about it. Which has meant that, for the past two years, I have not been able to write.
It's been like a big intestinal blockage. The thing that most needed to be expressed, could not come out. I could no longer write the words that needed so badly to be written. I could no longer write the words that could possibly alchemize the poison of the situation into something useful, something funny, something benign.
I could no longer write.
What happens when a writer cannot write the story she has to write? What happens when that inner, urgent, passionate imperative to make sense out of chaos ... cannot be given articulation? Sure, it's painful to the writer. But, as I've asked myself over and over for all this time, in the bigger picture, who cares? Does it matter?
Of course it matters to me, the writer. I mean, intestinal blockages matter -- a LOT -- to the person who is blocked. But, seriously... and I'm sorry for going to this metaphor but it really actually kind of works... it's just not that interesting a subject to anyone else. Whether I write something or not, in the cosmic sense, is inconsequential.
I've recently learned that another blog that I created in partnership with someone else was taken down without my permission. Oddly enough, the same person who gave me the information that turned my world upside down is the same person who erased my words from the world without my consent.
I have a lot to say. And whether there's anyone out there listening is really not the point. The point is that my voice was stilled, and now I'm no longer willing to be quiet. I can protect the people I need to protect and still wake up with a roar. I can figure out how to break the silence without breaking hearts.
The size of the audience is not the point.
The point is voice.
The point is whether a voice, anyone's voice, has a right to be heard.
So, after thinking about it for a good long while, I realize that I have only three words to say:
Fuck that, people.
Whether anyone likes it or not, I do get to have a voice. And it does get to be heard. And you can read it or not. I don't care. The point is that no one gets to erase my words. And no one gets to hide if I decide that I have information that also needs to get out. No one gets to password protect the truth, my friends.
So, starting today: more blogs. I have a fuckload of things to say.
And it's about time I start saying them.
# posted by Katherine Doughtie Nolan @ 5:14 AM 2 comments