Sunday, June 26, 2011

Trust30; day 27: Personal Recipe

I do not wish to expiate, but to live. My life is for itself and not for a spectacle. I much prefer that it should be of a lower strain, so it be genuine and equal, than that it should be glittering and unsteady. I wish it to be sound and sweet, and not to need diet and bleeding. - Ralph Waldo Emerson

Think about the type of person you’d NEVER want to be 5 years from now. Write out your own personal recipe to prevent this from happening and commit to following it. “Thought is the seed of action.”

I am going to do my best to avoid criticism in this post. I simply wonder if people don't understand the true power of focus. I know that I'm still learning, gaining perspective on how incredibly powerful it is. This prompt seems to be pulling in opposing directions, noting that thought is the seed of action but ignoring that focusing on anything is the actual planting of those seeds. It is incredibly simply but not easy.

There is no "No."

Every time I watch a parent with a young child that is not behaving according to their desires point at them at say an emphatic, "No!", I wonder if they understand the results of that action.

All choices exist all of the time. Black and white, odd and even, yes and no. All there, waiting for our choosing to "light them up," animate them, call them to action.

It's like wearing a mining helmet on your head. What you're looking at exists in the beam of light. As you turn away, something else becomes the subject of your attention and gains a place in your story.

The child wants attention. "Look at me!" his actions cry. The parent yells and thus gives him what he wants, even if it's perceived as negative. It is still attention. Mission accomplished.

So can anyone give me any reason at all why I would want to light up the kind of person that I would NEVER want to be in 5 years? And why I would want to put up a barrier to NOT become that?

I am a work in progress. I look in the direction that I now choose to progress towards. I understand that I'll have to adjust along the way and reserve the option to utterly change my course if that is what feels right.

However, I won't just say "No." To point my attention at something and utter the word is still pointing.

As an experiment, try pointing at something and walking in the opposite direction. See where it gets you and how comfortable it feels.

Thank you for this prompt. I believe that I'll choose "walking towards the light."

The light of "Yes, that feels right."


  1. Hmm. Rich, while I agree with your misgivings about the contradictions inherent in this prompt, it simply has to be said that your comments on parenting over-simplify things a bit.

    As the father of a three-and-a-half-year-old boy, I am most days painfully aware that while most things a child does are about attention-seeking, not everything is.

    Sometimes it's just a lack of experience. They're doing something dangerous that they don't realise the consequences of, and not always are they open to negotiation or explanation. At three, a kid might not have the language skills to understand why he shouldn't be teetering on the arm of an armchair, that it's not the wisest place to stand, for example. You can try explaining to him why this might not be a good idea. You can pick him up and put him down on the floor as often as you like, he may (like my boy) simply keep returning to the chair - while shouting at me, "Don't say no, Dad. I just doing it!"

    You might say that's great (he's agreeing with you!) and that if you want your child to turn out to be Edmund Hillary, you have to encourage him to place himself in danger. You may say it's far better to let the child learn from his or her mistakes. Yes AND no. That depends how much risk you're willing to take with your child. Sometimes, saying 'No' is preferable to spending Sunday afternoon in casualty with a crying child, punishing yourself for not stopping him sooner.

    After several attempts to reason with your child, you might choose simply to say 'No.' Of course there is a 'No'! Sorry, but it's slightly ridiculous to suggest otherwise.

    Just as there is encouragement there is discouragement. Some things simply aren't sensible behaviour and some children are unreasonably headstrong. That may be a valuable quality at most times, but one vital component of being a parent is passing on experience, and sometimes language is insufficient.

    When it comes to a timely warning "No!" is often preferable to "I wouldn't do that if I were you," and I hope for obvious reasons :-)

    Again, I agree with the spirit of what you're saying, Rich, but I also strongly believe parenthood is a constantly shifting landscape of negotiations and compromises. Real life is less forgiving of principles and position-taking than this.

    Idealism is a fine thing but there are real life situations in which it's not really useful as a parenting tool.

  2. Chris: As a person who consciously chose never to become a parent, I honor and respect your experience. It is absolutely yours and of course, you are right. The way that you experience things, you will always be right as it is your world and you are the absolute authority in it.

    I remember that as a child, and one with an overprotective mother, I secretly delighted in my freedom in doing things that would have "put her in her grave." The more she said "No," the more that it inflamed my desire to do them.

    It also caused me guilt as I loved her and didn't want to make her unhappy. I had an emergency room list in the first ten years of my life that would make most parents give the child up for adoption. To put it mildly, it was a constant battle. Today I realize that this battle was going on within me, not between she and myself.

    That was my experience and nothing that anyone can say can make it either right or wrong. That's simply the way it was. I see it now with my three year old grandson (via my long term relationship with my girlfriend, not biological.)

    I watch the things that he does and how differently he acts depending on the adult he's interacting with. He becomes an actor who knows how the scenes change with each person. It amazes me and I am constantly in awe, even when he does "horrible things" according to those judging. I see their part in how they pulled this from him but would never, ever tell them so.

    That's my unique perception, Chris. If I had chosen to father children, it most certainly would have been different. It is what it is and it can be no other way.

    I truly appreciate your comment and the dialogue here. Life is grand creation and I appreciate it more and more thanks to rich experiences such as these.

    Thank you again.

  3. I understood this, Rich, and realized this was another way to deny yourself something. one of the things I have told myself is, 'never say never'. I have also talked to the students in my creative writing class about the negative power of the 'no' which parents and well intentioned people say to you...its ability to destroy. So yes, from that viewpoint, your observations on this are bang on.

  4. Rich, I did the other way around this time.
    I commented on facebook instead.

    I didn't mean to really. I think the comments belong at the person's blog, but this time it just turned out differently.

    Anyway, thanks for posting,

    In'Lakesh, Michi

  5. Hi again, Rich. I just had to return to this post.

    For many, many years I also made a conscious decision not to become a parent. Life is full of surprises. My son is the best kind of surprise - a surprise who teaches me things, the hard way, every day.

    One expression that springs to mind in connection with parenting is "Circumstances alter cases". There sometimes seems to be - at least in dealing with real children and not those we all theorise about in our minds - no way of avoiding "No". "Yes but" occasionally works, but when you've already negotiated a settlement - over an extra cookie, bedtime, the watching of a TV show - and experienced your kid wriggle out of his or her solemnly made agreement like a tiny Henry Kissinger, you realise it's usually more straightforward to simply stick to your guns.

    I'll close my fatherly rant with an anecdote from this morning. As the three-and-a-half-year-old was in his car seat ready to leave for daycare, I moved forward to the driver's door to kiss his Mum goodbye and skidded in the mud at the edge of the driveway (it had been raining). "Careful, Dad!" the boy called out, echoing what I'd been saying to him to try and dissuade him from clambering on the furniture the other day.

    Perhaps my clumsy approach has its merits, after all :-).

  6. I do so love the interchange here regarding this post. It shows the infinite variety of viewpoints and associated actions that this world is made of. I frequently say (and mean wholeheartedly) "It's your world. I'm just visiting."

    I explain that by saying that I have a tough enough time knowing about MY world that I create and interact with; how in blazes am I ever going to assume that I know/understand anyone elses? From this human vantage point, it really can't be done.

    We all touch one another's lives directly or indirectly. Those we are closest to are our greatest teachers and we, theirs.

    What we co-create with each other is incredible, no judgement levied. It has a purpose; to give us feedback on what's going on inside. In that, it is an amazing experience, hopefully much more pleasurable than not to the one playing it out.

    This is process. It never ends. I can say that now in peace and sincerely offer all of you thanks for being part of mine. This is and has been a vibrant experience, one that I will cherish as build upon.


    PS: Chris, of course it has its merits! Your son very nicely echoed that back to you. So cool, so real...