Tuesday, March 2, 2010

First of March and Positive Thinking

A day of running about. First, the boys played video games. I washed dishes, made coffee, got everyone out the door. Took Papa to school. Then we visited the West Side Market.
We bought sausages and pork chops, handmade perogies (plain potato and potato and sauerkraut)...

organic artisan bread... I thought at first the image was a skeletal hand, which seemed cool and scary, but it's a sheath of wheat. Oops.

The boys picked out lemon and orange San Pellegrino sparkling drinks. We sat in the car while they drank them and I spoke at length with my friend Barbara about the relationship between radical unschooling and Positive Thinking (more on this at the end).

Then we picked up Papa from school. Stopped at the Food Co-op. Stopped at the pharmacy. Dropped Papa and groceries back at home.

Went to see Planet 51 at the super-duper cheap seats (half off $1.50 on Mondays = $.75 = sweet deal).

This theater was clearly some awesome new multiplex 20 years ago. I can tell by the tile.
And the neon.
Friends met us there, so after the movie, we played (and pretended to play) arcade games for awhile.

Then home. Then quick dinner. Then more media. More Harry Potter. More video games. More movies. Continued to read The Hobbit in graphic novel form to Bastian for bed.

Then, late at night, I finished my Food Co-op newsletter and wrote this lengthy diatribe about Positive Thinking, which may or may not be coherent or what I really meant to say. Enjoy...

There is something about Positive Thinking that has bothered me for quite some time. It wasn't until recently that I began to see it as a pervasive urge in our culture that might be a little misplaced. I'd always been skeptical about Positive Thinking. It always felt wrong, like something I couldn't wear. I simply don't roll that way. I'm a little bit rock n' roll. I like to drink beer and curse loudly. I don't really live on an organic unicorn farm, though I do like to play like I do.

I believe strongly in certain things -like being a responsible citizen of the earth and trying to allow my children the room to be who they are - but no matter how hard I try, there's some sort of bitterness I can't shake. What I've read about being a good, holy, gentle parent tells me that this is bad. I've read that the best way to be is giving, loving, joyful. Always. I've read that if I'm not doing that all the time, it's because I'm not trying hard enough to let go of fear, doubt, and anger. I've been told by books and internet personalities that the right thing to do is look at the wonder and awe of the universe and accept and embrace that it is all there for me, and for my children, should I choose to forget fear, forget anger, forget the manipulation and coercion I was inevitably raised with.

But the thing is, I believe in being a responsible citizen of the earth. So, the whole universe being there for us to embrace makes no logical sense to me. I cannot manifest endless material goods simply by faith that the universe will provide. I cannot simply think positively in order to deal with the huge stressors that are part of my daily existence under the endless reign of the PhD. I personally require a lot more than thinking positively. I need to do hard work to figure out what I can do about the circumstances I've got and more than that, figure out what I can do to help those who have less or change the world to make sure there's plenty to go around. These actions require a little bit of worry, frustration, and fear to motivate.

I also worry that maybe being positive all the time would not in fact be good for my kids. Aside from the fact that I know it's not a reasonable possibility, my sitting around feeling guilty about failing at constant optimism expressed in a thousand tiny interactions with my children certainly would only increase negative emotions, thereby creating a vicious cycle in which my negativity feeds on my negativity, or so goes the story about the tireless act of keeping positive. I'd be no better off then.

What I really need is not a constant thrashing about trying endlessly to be perfect, whether self-delivered or swallowed up in a church or conference setting. Rather, I require tools for working. I require conversations that do not emphasize the magic of life, but examine how to deal with all the bad shit in it. In fact, it would seem to me that the absolute truest test of authentic parenting is not how you phrase joy and butterflies-out-the-butt at children who are screaming and whining about some THING they wanted that went wrong, but rather how you make use of both their intense emotions and your own.

Sometimes it's important that I freak out too. Sometimes I need to throw a tantrum. No amount of good-jobing myself is going to fix that any more than it would fix my child. Sometimes, shit is shit and should be recognized and appreciated as such.

Ultimately, I think it's better that I get to be who I am. I can actively work to be a better, more caring, compassionate, hard-working, intelligent, thoughtful, pragmatic, dedicated, fun, loyal person, but "positive" doesn't really crack the top ten adjectives that describe, to me, a virtue. Positivity, as an objective trait, feels naive to me. I am wary of it. I'd rather be smart than optimistic, any day of the week. Plus, watching me grapple with remorse over and learn to deal with all the crummy crap that I do is good modeling for my children in other virtues: forgiveness, acceptance, grace, love.

I remain dreadfully imperfect, but it's my messiest attributes that are the cross-weaves of my greatest strengths.


Erin said...

Sigh... sounds (and looks) like my kinda day. And the bread DOES look like a skeleton hand! Organic unicorn farm... lol. I love how you think. :)

shannon said...

sorry to burst your 'long-lost grandeur' bubble, but the dollar theater was a dollar theater 20 years ago. i used to go there in jr high, sneaking in all manner of candy and spend the day movie-hopping. :)

ps- i miss you guys!

anna kiss said...

Dammit ShannoN!