Thursday, June 13, 2013
Sometimes I walk past these sweetly manicured brownstones in the city, and I wonder who lives inside, what their lives are like, if their corner of the world is as manicured as the facades of their homes appear. Today I am slogging through, dragging myself and my dark thoughts through the day. I am imagining everyone's life more perfect than my own, their pockets more able to carry the weight of their responsibilities, the bodies lithe and supple, their homes large and light-filled and artfully appointed, with enough storage for everything of course, and no penchant in them to worry, certainly not the way I worry about the most minute things, almost superstitiously, as if the moment I let up worrying, disaster will blindside me, so I have to keep it at bay by worrying. Sometimes a new danger occurs to me, one I didn't even know to be worried about until I chanced across it, and I feel a wild flash of panic, as if I need to make up for lost time, as if I better get busy worrying about that thing before it has a chance to find my house and come through my door. You might think I'm kidding, but sadly, I'm not.
I had an 8 a.m. meeting this morning, way too early for me. There was a panel of five women and one man talking about what can be done to curb gun violence. They offered the usual prescriptions about background checks and assault weapons bans, but there was also some exploration of societal factors that escalate the problem. One of the women, a psychologist, talked about the need to teach our children to handle disappointment, and to help them foster a sense of kinship with others, especially those who are different from them, rather than an absorption with self and tribe. And then she said this: "We have to allow our children to fail. We have to let them fail and show them we still love them and that the world didn't come to an end. We have to teach them how to pick themselves up after a failure and go on." It's seems so obvious, really. So why do I worry so about my children as if they are delicate hothouse flowers I must protect at all costs, not the resilient, wise, quick-humored souls I know them to be.
So here's a question: When you think about someone having it all, having goodness and wealth and health and beauty, having love and community and purposeful occupation, I mean everything we dream about having, who is that for you? What public or private figure comes to mind? I'm just curious. And I'd wager whoever it is, would be surprised to be seen that way because perfection, the kind we might dream of having, doesn't exist in our understanding. Maybe I need a new understanding.