A number of years ago, when we were both in our early 20's, one of my best friends suffered a string of terrible losses. A grandparent, his brother, a dear childhood friend - they all died within a relatively short period of time. At the time, I had a thought that has come back to haunt me: I felt safe. It seemed unthinkable that the metaphysical powers that be would take all of these people away from my friend and then take me, too. Seemed pretty clear that I was off-limits to the grim reaper for a while.
Then, not too many years later, my friend's father died in a freak car accident. I'd previously shared my thought about feeling safe with my friend's wife, and she cursed me - with love in her heart - when her father-in-law died. She had taken my thought and words to heart and gotten comfort from them, comfort that proved to be false.
Recently, other close friends have endured a similarly cruel string of luck. Job loss on top of existing financial challenges. Divorce and domestic violence among their siblings. Health problems for them and their kids. Of course, all of this has challenged their marriage immensely, and has come on top of all of the regular shit that can otherwise so easily derail any of us - a broken washing machine, two broken cars, just being broke.
At this point, we are standing slack-jawed with these friends. Waiting for the 47th shoe to drop. Its been almost unbelievable.
Sometimes when I am in the solitude of my own mind, I follow a ridiculous path and think about the unfairness of me not being as wealthy or famous as, say, Brad Pitt. I mean it has to happen to SOMEONE, right? Why not me? What usually helps me abandon this trail of trivial thinking is when I realize that there is the same unfairness in me not being the one in a million who is in a plane crash, or is involved in some newsworthy violent crime or unfortunate event. Those people are like lottery winners, insofar as they were somehow selected for a chance event. This is frequently not a good thing.
My conclusion: luck, as a concept, is a mind-fuck. Thinking of the big picture, the possible opportunities for good and bad luck, I'm not sure I want to be lucky.
I'm reminded of a shocking thought I had after my son was born. For the first time in my life "average" and "normal" were my goals. I just wanted my son to be fine and OK, to have his path be worn and smooth.
Of course neither of my kids is normal or average, nor am I, nor is a worn and smooth path really my goal or an option. But I've learned to see the appeal of unremarkable, to want the stability that comes from not winning or losing anything. To feel safe.
I heard a lot about parallel play when my kids were infants and toddlers. Parallel play is a notion from developmental psychology, describing children playing side by side but without interacting. Different than playing alone (that is solitary play) but not necessarily playing with each other (that is group play). Experts say that parallel play is something commonly experienced by kids around ages 2 and 3. Presumably then they move on to group play, or other interactive experiences.
I found myself thinking about parallel play the other weekend. It was a Saturday. My son, age 7 and then some, was reading on the couch. My daughter, age 4, was engaged in some imaginary escapade of one sort or another that involved running from room to room to get accessories or equipment, setting up various materials in some subjectively comprehensible order, occasionally stopping to write notes and place them in small envelopes, and intermittently narrating the entire thing. My husband, age 30 something, was upstairs folding laundry and listening to sports on internet radio. I, age 30 somethingelse, was in the kitchen, simultaneously making marmalade and kombucha.
We were one happy family that afternoon. I think the happiness came not just from our individual activities, which, admittedly, are among our respective favorites (OK - maybe not the laundry folding). Doing these activities side-by-side with each other made the day complete and really added to the level of happiness we each experienced.
Perhaps because I learned about parallel play as a developmental concept, one that is superseded by another developmental concept, I never thought about its continued importance in my own life and in the lives of my kids. Just because we CAN play with each other doesn't mean we always want or need to. I guess that one can extrapolate from that and fine a truism to apply across the board, evolution can be cumulative without being hierarchical.
I decided that day that parallel play is highly underrated as one of the best ways to have fun as a family, even though none of us are toddlers anymore.
The California Supreme Court recently heard oral arguments in the constitutional challenge to Proposition 8, California's gay marriage ban, passed last year by 52% of California voters who voted.
I know people who are hopeful and people who are not. We'll all know within 90 days, one way or another. I did not watch any of the oral arguments, though I've read about the legal theories that are before the Supreme Court. For the most part, however, I cannot stand reading about or thinking about constitutional law - state or federal.
I think constitutional law scholars and judges dealing with constitutional law questions are generally full of shit. It is almost entirely outcome-oriented stuff, with arguments being constructed to arrive at a particular result, not, as they lead us to believe in law school, the results flowing from a logically constructed argument based on pure legal theory and analysis. I don't necessarily blame the judges and scholars, although it is quite irritating when they are so blind to their own result-determined reasoning. It really can't be any other way - many of the questions one must face in the course of dealing with a constitutional law question can only be answered using some internal set of belief systems that, inevitably, get to the core of the outcome of the con-law question. What rights are inalienable? What does equality mean? How can we answer these questions without expression of our personal views? Equality does mean gay and straight couples sharing the exact same rights and dignities to me, but that is because I believe it to be so, not because "equality" in and of itself means anything. Nothing is equal just like nothing is fair, kids.
Anyway, this post is not about constitutional law, really. It is about the ways in which we live our lives to express our values and create equality - or at least equity - despite the law and society and all of it.
We're going to Florida later this month to my husband's first cousin's wedding. This wedding is untraditional in a number of ways. It is on a Thursday. It is outdoors. From what I can gather, it is not going to be a religious service. The invitation did not contain the couple's parents' names, or registry information, or details about an expensive reception in antiquated language.
Perhaps because the wedding is not traditional there are quite a few relatives who are not going, including our cousin's own stepmother! Maybe - just maybe - these relatives are not going because Ken's cousin is gay and they don't think this is a real wedding simply because it is not a legal marriage. Not that they are homophobic, necessarily. But are they treating this wedding the same way they would treat this same wedding if it were between a man and a woman?
My wedding was also not traditional, in the traditional sense of traditional. Like this one, my wedding was sparsely attended by distant (geographically, culturally or emotionally) relatives. Maybe it was because my husband and I both appeared in sun dresses on our hand-lettered wedding invitation. Or maybe it was because we were living an "alternative" life in Santa Cruz, making art and music instead of making money, and people didn't take us seriously. At least my wedding was on a Saturday.
Now is really a terrible time for us to travel to this wedding. Disposable income is at an all-time low. We're taking the kids out of school and just a week after we get home they'll be out of school for spring break (there goes more income disposed!) Really it is kind of a pain in the ass, logistically.
I believe that if this wedding was sanctifying a legal marriage, we would have considered not going. And we considered not going because of the money and the timing. But we ultimately decided that a) a first cousin is a first cousin, and he came to our vow renewal ceremony, 12 years after our original wedding, and b) we have to put as much positive energy into the issue of gay marriage as we possibly can, and that includes not just voting and marching and holding vigils, but also maybe holding same-sex weddings in higher esteem than we would hold another similarly situated opposite-sex wedding. Affirmative action, wedding-style.
And so, my point: Fuck all those people who didn't come to my wedding just because they think I'm weird and that somehow makes my wedding less important. And fuck all the people not going to this one.
Dreams are so crazy.
I had this excellent dream the other night about two friends. They recently completed a gorgeous renovation on a beautiful house but are moving to another city for reasons that make complete sense. In my dream they were at a different house, one they had either just moved into or were planning to soon leave, cant remember which.
In any event, there was this crazy tree-house type structure in the yard, it was sort of circular and seemed like it had been maybe built around a tree at some point but was now free standing. It was very cool, super fun for kids but they decided it needed to come down – I think it was because they were trying to sell the house.
Anyway, somehow they had devised this way of folding it up instead of tearing it down in a destructive and messy way. A bunch of us helped – first one side of the structure kind of cantilevered in, so that the whole thing was kind of half folded and extended over us. Then that side came down and the entire structure was kind of flattened on itself, standing. Then we somehow folded the whole thing in half and laid it on the ground.
It was a pretty tremendous experience for me – I was in the middle of the structure while all this activity was going on, and with every fold the whole structure moved around or above me. It should have been terrifying but it wasn't.
The gist of the dream is so straightforward, in that magical clarity of dreaminess - the moving, the packing, the magnitude of it, the lack of fear.