Tag Archives: kids

There Are Voices In My Apartment

dj2Having been raised by a single mother, with no siblings wrestling for attention or screaming to be noticed, I became quite accustomed to the sanctity of silence. I could sit on the floor, lost in isolated make believe, organizing my action figures and creating layered scenarios for their roles in my narrative. There was very little interruption, and as a result, I became fairly comfortable wearing my own skin.

These patterns continued for most of my life. I slid into the safety of a quiet, dark room, and I found I was most productive and clear when the rest of the world disappeared into sleep. All the static of the day seemed to melt beneath the sound of a steady hum. I found keyboards and computer screens, books and balance.

But, for the last decade, a new variety of brain food has worked its way onto my plate. I fear I have become addicted to podcasts.

Now, I’m not actively seeking an intervention. I don’t think it’s quite at that point. But the sounds of endless interviews, medical information, human interest stories, comedic discourse, public radio pieces, fitness advice, and pop culture references have permeated my living space to the point of lunacy.

This isn’t entirely harmful. I’ve got a hungry head, and it needs its snacks. But, floating on a comfort cloud of strangers’ voices can do a pretty great job of bamboozling you into thinking there’s more than one cook in the kitchen. It’s like a big, fat audio comfort blanket, and I’m swaddled like a preemie on the prairie.

So, I will continue to walk into that dark unknown, ears open and mind alert. But, be prepared for some lengthy conversations when our paths finally cross. I’ve logged a lot of listening hours, and I’ve got some things to share.

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Fatherless Figuring

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The only thing that I can even remotely relate to the notion of having a child is someone handing me a scalpel and asking me to perform a complex medical procedure. It’s wildly intimidating, I’m completely unqualified, and a human life is at risk.

For those of you with children, this concept probably seems absurd. You’d argue it’s the most natural, most biologically-hardwired thing in the world. You barely remember a single day before parenthood provided you with purpose, granting you a gift that made you feel alive and empowered. You were waiting, wandering without focus, until you were blessed with this tiny bundle of instant selflessness.

I get it. Well, I get the general drift. But, I just can’t seem to choke down all the Kool-Aid.

I imagine a number of factors are to blame. I’m an only child. I grew up without a father. I think the survival of the planet hinges on population reduction. Blah, blah, blah.

But, recently, I had a mini revelation. I’ve lived (for longer than I care to admit) with the general belief that serious life decisions and responsibilities are handled by adults. Grownups are experienced, knowledgable, and capable of tackling whatever unplanned catastrophes happen to surface. They can get married, buy houses, have children, organize barbecues, and generally have a damn fine time.

Well, now I’m considerably deep into this “adulthood” everyone keeps talking about, and I don’t feel I have even the simplest skill set required to navigate that world. So, since I live in a constant state of contemplation, I’ve arrived at a couple of conclusions.

1) It’s difficult to foster someone else’s childhood when you still want to revisit your own.

-Many thanks to Mom for this one. Ages 0-18 were a self-actualized dream come to life…full of wonder, hope, love, excitement, and security. Sure, there was one major bump on that perfectly-paved road, but that’s why George Hansburg made the pogo stick.

2) You can’t have a kid when you still ARE a kid.

-Obviously, this isn’t true. Every major city in America proves this thesis false on a daily basis. But, I’m referring to a state of mind. Undoubtedly, there are some who would argue I’m a 90-year-old man, living in the body of a weird, writing hermit. However, habitual handcuffs and erratic sleeping patterns aside, I watch the world with the same discerning eyes I had at 15. Maybe everyone feels like that. There’s a saying that we never realize we age until we catch a glimpse of ourselves in the mirror. Well, that may very well be the case. Regardless, these teenage peepers still see the news of impending fatherhood with the same, balanced mix of pity and terror. It’s not celebration. It’s sympathy.

But, I suppose there’s some future awakening or dormant life event waiting to flip those tables and make me one of the “normals.” Anything is possible.

For now, I’ll continue to stay in awe of these crazy youngsters and their fancy adult lives, living like an old man with a teenage heart.

They’re All Made Out of Ticky-Tacky, and They All Look Just the Same.

Bing Crosby And Mary Carlisle In 'Doctor Rhythm'

While reading on the beach in our customary 80-degree January weather, I couldn’t help but notice a striking disconnect among the various couples surrounding my meticulously-positioned lounge chair. At first, I assumed I was jumping to generalizations about boredom inside of stale relationships or the blatant escape tactic of focusing way too much energy on constructing the kid’s sandcastle instead of recognizing the glaring danger signs inside a faltering marriage. But, then I took a closer look.

As I stretched in the sun (with my Kindle steady in hand), I watched people sitting together, but alone. Even those without children, presumably in new relationships, had about as much enthusiasm for one another as dentists have for their halitosis patients. It was detachment at its most fundamental form. I tried to catch pieces of conversations to better paint a picture of the reasons behind the laconism, but the couples were just that. Silent. They acted as if never saying a word to each other was the most normal thing in the world. Apparently, this was their version of a union.

If these people were wrinkling in the sun, deep into their 80’s or 90’s, I would have given them a pass. But, these were not alliances built from history or struggle. These were not teammates who saw the best and worst of the world together, and were now relaxing into the last chapter of their lives with a comfortable understanding of one another’s every quirk and nuance. Some of these purveyors of the silent treatment were barely out of college. Has your partner already become that wildly boring that you feel the irresistible need to escape into your own mind to avoid interaction?

Well, good thing an iPhone is never more than 10 inches away. That’s the most efficient piece of modern distraction ever mass produced.

It’s a sad statement that we choose to align ourselves with people whose company or input we don’t value. Loneliness is a powerful thing, but it’s not that powerful. Life’s too short. Hang with people who can paint a smile on your face.

Or, at least bring a Kindle and learn something.

***This is not a paid endorsement for the Kindle or any particular e-reader. However, if Amazon is listening, I am more than willing to discuss blog sponsorship!