Posts Tagged “family”

People do change, or rather they age….which causes change.

Its been a while since I posted, and for good reason.  I’ve been gone 3 to 4 days a week for work since March.  Also, I went on my honeymoon and my wife and I are now pregnant.

So…I guess instead of writing about economics, I will write about becoming a father…in a roundabout way.

I like these kind of stories because they are stories.  Personal development is very rarely so clean as we tell it to be.  It is messy and we never realize it when it happens….then later we create a story to rationalize it to ourselves and that story becomes our truth.  It literally becomes true (in a sense) by making up the story.

When I was young my father told me I was part of a family unit and that my behavior reflected on the family so it was not my own to do with as I pleased.  Actually, that is my paraphrase of what he said.  My dad was never good at explaining things; he dictated rather than counseled.  I rarely listened, and still don’t.

I disagreed.  I am me.  I agreed that I was a family member but my behavior was my own to do with as I pleased.  I was vaguely aware that I disliked the idea that others had a charge on my behavior and rejected the idea that whether or not I made good grades, hung out with X person, or had an odd haircut had any bearing on what my parents did in their company.  I saw the two as separate and unrelated.

I largely maintained that point of view throughout my twenties.  I behaved like a self-contained unit…not overly selfish, just very much my own person.  That is a path we all go down; mine just lasted a long time.

I remember having a conversation with a guy in Tel Aviv in 1997.  He said the things you own, own you….so he’d given away his possessions (he was from California) and was now on this trip.  I said, “That’s ridiculous.  Are you telling me that if I asked you for your car, you would simply give it away?”.  He said, “Yes.  That’s exactly what I did before I left.”.  That was the end of the conversation as I had no pithy comeback for that.

My friends were all very independent self-contained people as well.  I didn’t understand “neediness”.  I mistook it for weakness.

I told a girlfriend one time (which was a bad move):  “Its like you’re looking for a reality-buffer, something or someone to stand in between you and whatever is happening in your life that is less than ideal to help you deal with it.  I don’t do that.  It’s just me and if I don’t do it or deal with it….it doesn’t get done.”.

I think that attitude was part of the reason I stayed single for so long; I didn’t understand very well the concept of taking full responsibility for something or someone else.  I take full responsibility for myself and if everyone did the same, then we’d all be taken care of.  I still rarely ask for help (though I am better at giving it); I have habituated myself to doing on my own.

Life doesn’t work like that though.  500 years ago John Donne wrote better than I ever could:

No man is an island entire of itself; every man
is a piece of the continent, a part of the main;
if a clod be washed away by the sea, Europe
is the less, as well as if a promontory were, as
well as any manner of thy friends or of thine
own were; any man’s death diminishes me,
because I am involved in mankind.
And therefore never send to know for whom
the bell tolls; it tolls for thee.

Though it is possible to be an island, much like the analogy would suggest being on an island by yourself is quite lonely and there is little of worth a man could ever accomplish there alone.

When I lived the island life (so to speak) it seemed reasonable.  I was very unattached and the lives of the attached seemed full of busyness and anxiety….and that is true.

However… seems a hard lesson to learn to realize that we are not meant to be unattached.  To be alive is to be attached to each other; my life is given weight and significance by the fact that others are here to witness it.  Civilization requires people who are attached to each other.  Nothing good is accomplished alone.  Even if you must make the case that it was accomplished alone….it is only enjoyed with others.  Without agreement on the fact that we are all here together, you implicitly advocate living in a cave alone, without law, without technology.

If you accept that we are in this together then there must be a certain amount of responsibility toward other people.  I’m not always certain of the degree or how that plays out in practice, but even the theoretical agreement that life requires other people and that we have a responsibility to them causes behavior change, it caused my behavior to change.

Unfortunately, I do not have a cute life story to illustrate how I came to realize that no man is an island.   I should make one up though as its a neater yarn to spin.

So….now I have a wife and she is pregnant.  I’m not really stressed about this anymore than is normal.  I’m good with taking responsibility for others.  Its a fair trade when the alternative is the island life.


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