|Parents, by Tallulah|
Before we left the Bay Area in 2006 we watched every season of Starsky and Hutch and Miami Vice. We were glutting ourselves on pop culture, all those shows we’d missed out on as kids because we didn’t get that channel. Losing ourselves in those long delayed denied pleasures.
(Growing up, I was thinking, we were tossed by basically inexplicable forces with pretty much no control over what happened. It’s only now, in retrospect—as adults harried by exigencies, unsuspected challenges, feelings that are accretions of a lifetime of experiences—that childhood can look so simple and blissful. And we can finally completely enjoy it.)
(I think the only thing simple about childhood is that your emotions are still new. Listening to Tallulah’s cry before she could talk—it was the purest expression of sadness, anger, confusion. Her laugh, her smile, were the distillation of uncomplicated happiness. Have I screwed that up somehow? Have I betrayed that sacred charge? I hope not.)
Over the past year I’ve started earning money again, not a lot—but enough so I don’t have minor anxiety attacks in the checkout line, and we sent Tallulah to one of the best schools in Puerto Plata (!), with people who picked up their kids in new BMWs.
And: we’ve launched ourselves into routines that resemble to some extent the routines we left behind when we sailed out under the Golden Gate.
I’ve been thinking a lot about work. I work a lot. Work takes me away from parenting and relationships of every kind. In the few moments in which my mind is unoccupied I space out. When I’m not spacing out, or rushing from thing to thing, I try to orient myself to work—productively. In a measured, what I imagine to be a “healthy,” way.
I often fail. I act almost exactly like my mom (sorry, mom)—frantically and single-mindedly pursuing work, always attempting to elude interruption. “I’ve got so much on me!” I exclaim, glancing over my shoulder at the interruption (i.e., child) and then back at whatever I’m doing. (Joan Williams has cool things to say about this child vs. work problem; http://www.uchastings.edu/academics/faculty/facultybios/williams/index.php. I know about Joan Williams thanks to my latest, uh, work.)
I knew my dad growing up—after I became conscious of such things as serious work—mostly in the summers, when he usually wasn’t teaching much. But maybe he, too, is something like me—focused, driven, rather obsessive, with difficulty shifting from work to relaxation (without a glass of wine in hand and even then).
I’ve pondered, in my spare moments, what makes people successful. What is the secret of achieving—and more importantly, doing it happily? Not chewing up everyone around you in your great maw of ambition—trying to become somebody—even just trying to earn enough to survive?
My new program, which I may turn into a self-help book, has this motto. Be more you. If I could figure out how to get out of my own way by being more me—I think that would work. If I can embrace myself, I realized, I can set me aside. “I” become an object—abstracted. Amusing, perhaps interesting, perhaps useful. But ultimately irrelevant.
So I’m working on that. I’m going to sit here copyediting and work on that.
I’m also—(maybe for the first time)—ready to go sailing.