Random thoughts on a day off

by Milton on Fri, Feb 12th, 2010

in Psychological,Week 27

This is an abstract post that came out of my stream-of-consciousness writing for my daily 750 Words.

Lately I’ve been thinking a lot about how my brain is subconsciously shifting gears into parent mode. My whole life I’ve assumed that this is a choice you make at some point to switch priorities and move from ambitious entrepreneur to ambitious parent. Where ambitious means two completely different things in context. But, I’m finding, that the changes are happening in some chamber of my brain that my conscious brain doesn’t control. And I’m actually relieved about that since I don’t know if I could’ve moved my whole thought process over as easily as it seems to have done over the last 6 months.

Back to the point though, context, like continents along fault lines, is what’s changing here. And right now I’m in that purgatory land between contexts, and it’s that brief little moment when both contexts can be seen from the sky for what they are… tectonic plates rubbing against each other. From any given context’s perspective, each looks like an entire world, and it’s every other context that’s driftless, a game, a system that works within itself but has no real meaning outside of the context. Monopoly money. But all contexts are like that. Life itself is like that. We build an empire and then leave it behind as building blocks for other empires. In the end all of our Legos go back into the shared community box.

In a meaningless world, meaning must be created. It comes from each of our own interpretations and stories of the world, of our place in it, of our people within it. And the context that we call home is the context that we hang most of these meanings on. We become attached to our preferred contexts. Worker, family person, singleton, etc. I’ve always thought of myself as an ambitious person, I stake part of my sense of self on the fact that I want to be successful, I want to be creative, I want to build companies and communities and have lots of friends. Backlash from growing up in Orange County made me shun the easy path of college -> marriage -> kids -> corporate job. Of course, along the way I’ve gone to college, I’m married, I had a semi-corporate job at Amazon for 5 years and even gave up my original dream of being a novelist in order to hop on at the top of the first big bubble in 1998.

Now as it comes time to shift contexts, I’m leaving behind a lot of self-made meaning. And am getting ready to create a whole new batch. The world of parenting comes with quite a few meaning templates though. Tones of voice, warnings of self-sacrifice, lots of reassurance that all of the bootcamp like habits are “worth it”, trained scripts on what to say when, what’s life-changing, what’s safe, what’s wise. It’s weird, and I’m ready to jump in, but am a little hesitant to take anyone else’s word about what I will or will not think, feel, or experience. That’s my own stubbornness.

The one I was thinking about today though was about this miracle of creating a baby. Creating a life from our lives, creating a new being from our being. It’s probably one of the most amazing tricks this universe has come up with. Condensing billions of years of biology into a 9 month process. And, even more interesting, is that we each get our own to play with. Each of us who decides to become a parent, if lucky, gets to experience this trick of the universe in the most personal and intimate way imaginable. It’s as if there were some way, between one and a dozen times in our lives, to create a new solar system. Or experience our own self-made sunset, or volcano, or to invent a new species of animal. Except even more amazing than those other examples. A merged copy of you and your favorite person in the world, with other slightly altered bits from previous generations, and a few random alterations. It’s crazy when I think about it that way, and find the meaning in this experience outside of the rough-cut templates that others have come up with themselves.

But, and here’s the twist, I think the danger of this magical event is to be afraid of it. To think it’s impossible, or likely to fail, or to be cynical about it from the start. Why can such horrible things happen in hospitals that people get away with? Because, despite all the unneeded drugs, lazy and biased excuses for surgery, repetitive sharing of the worst horror stories, cold, impersonal treatment, etc, in the end you still get your own amazing new human being. And it’s “worth it”. And, one might even say, there’s a part of us (some more than others) that think that all good things have to come at a cost. That, the drama, fear, and horror are part of the price that you pay for the privilege of becoming a parent. And that’s just wrong. Part of the reason I want my new child to have nothing to do with the institution of ritualized and religion-sponsored guilt systems. No pain no gain is NOT a law of the universe, and it sucks that so many of us were taught that and even expect that or are comforted by it. Work and pain are two different things. Work can build meaning, work can be joyful, work is good. Anyway, random rant, I guess.

I am of course studying every parent I see these days. I’m excited to join the ranks. I can’t wait, really. The whole thing is out of our control, largely, but it is not scary, it’s not going to suck, it’s going to be awesome. Being out of control is one of the best parts about it… because things are going to happen that are way more complicated, beautiful, awe-inspiring, magical, and rooted in the deepest secrets of the universe than anything I could ever build out of my own intentions.

I get to see a brand new baby that a friend just made in a couple hours. We’re bringing her tatertot casserole, some amazing cookies, and some wide eyes.

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