Monday, February 13, 2012

Ah, To Be a Surfer Dude


It is halftime at the Syracuse-Louisville game with SU down by two. Both girls are up in their beds. The one with strep is likely already asleep. The healthy one is planning to read for another half hour. My wife is out at the PTO meeting and likely going for a drink with her friends afterward. I sit alone in the den with music paying, a cat on the couch asleep, a dog on the floor asleep, the television muted, and enough time to write for a few.

These have traditionally been times of struggle for me. Time alone. I always thought that I wanted time alone, that I wasn't getting enough of it and that maybe I couldn't get enough of it, but when I did get some I found myself at loose ends. Worse than that, I found myself anxious and lost. It was as if there were too many options and the pressure on me was too great. I still get that way from time to time, but not tonight.

Today has been a day of accepting things. First, last night we learned that our youngest daughter had a fever and that we would be keeping her home today. I knew that my wife couldn't take the day off from work and that I could. I wrote lesson plans (much more challenging to write plans for someone else than for myself) and got things together. It wasn't any big deal, just something to do.

And today, I woke early enough to go over to school, make copies, fix up the classroom the way it needed to be, and then come back home. I stayed with the girl as she rested on the couch, read her book, watched things on the computer. I stayed in the room with her because it just felt like the place to be. I wasn't analyzing anything, wasn't wishing, wasn't trying to be anything. I was just there in the moments. And because of that it was joyous. There's no other word for it. I loved being home with my girl today. And I think she loved it too.

Now, with everyone either up in bed or out on the town, I'm happy to be spending time by myself, watching the game, writing this essay, not worrying about what is next, what tomorrow will bring, what I could be accomplishing tonight. Even writing this, I have a sense that I'm not writing tight prose, that I'm going a little off my tracks, but I also know that it's just a matter of writing, continuing to punch the keys, and then coming back to it after I finish. There's no reason to get too worried.

I sound like a surfer dude, I suppose. I'd rather sound like a Tibetan monk, but I take what I can get. You know, dude? Besides, there are worse things to aspire to than being a surfer dude or maybe Zonker from Doonesbury. The calm is a good start. The dedication to being in the moment, that's the real skill. I suppose that surfers have to cultivate the skill of accepting what is thrown at them. It's not like football, basketball, or tennis, where the groundskeepers and maintenance people can set the field or court just so. In the ocean, you have to wait for the wave. You can't manufacture one. And when the wave comes, you have to be there. You have to be ready for it and set to act.

My day wasn't as cool as all that, but the comparison seems to me to still be right. I was in the water, I was feeling the movements, and each time a good wave came by, I was already on it as it rose. It's just that my waves were moments of talking to and playing with my eight-year-old daughter. Pretty much the same, right? Sure.

I'll end this piece with something I'm struggling to accept. The big news right now is about the Obama administration and the Catholic bishops fighting over contraception. I looked into it and found out that according to the faith my parents tried to raise me in, I have sinned by getting a vasectomy. Here I thought I was acting responsibly, but a bunch of guys want to tell me that I have sinned against God. This is yet another reason why I don't practice Catholicism or any religion any more.

I want to rail against this whole thing. I want to scream from the rooftops about the insanity of it. But more than those things, I want to learn how to accept and be calm through these passing storm. I suppose I'll get there eventually. Until then, I'll just wait in the water for the next wave, keep my fingers tapping, and write on.