Saturday, May 17, 2008

Four Months (part two)

I'm angry. I've discovered that I get angry a lot more easily than before. It really isn't that surprising, though I always considered myself a very even-tempered person, because I have a father whose anger would boil out over the edge often and I also married a person who never had a problem expressing that aspect of her personality.

I was trying to figure out why I was suddenly feeling all of this anger and thought that it naturally had to do with the fact that raising two children is a lot more difficult than raising only one. More pressure, thus more pressure steaming from under the lid waiting to blow. It was so frustrating because when we had kids, I always told myself that I wasn't going to treat them the way that I was treated by my parents. I was going to be better. Now, here I am falling into these reactionary impulses that give me the urge to strike out irrationally. It was really making me angry.

When I started questioning what was happening to me I realized that it wasn't the kids that caused me to be like this, I was already like this. I just don't know how to express it. Xtina may have no problem feeling that charge and flashing it without hesitation, but I had always held everything inside, totally afraid to express myself. That may work when you're a child as a defense mechanism of sort but when you're an adult, it's not very healthy. So, as I struggled over all of these emotions and tried to find the cause, I realized that I was mostly angry at myself. This burning anger is trying to decimate all of those anemic tendencies that make me hide in the shadows when I should be confronting life with the full authority of my existence.

I also understood that this problem wasn't something that suddenly came about because we decided to have children. It's so very easy to fall into negative ignorant impulses when you have a child because suddenly, you're in a position of power, total and complete control. Parenthood is a form of authoritarianism. It brings out the tyrannical nature of the human soul but it also brings out the true purpose of compassion. I've often written about the latter in this blog but never the former and until now, I think that's because I've never really understood this aspect of myself.

It's always been there. It was in every impulse of self-destruction. It was in the way I treated women. It existed every time I swallowed heavy drunken obliteration and screamed into the night. It was there when I cheated and helped others cheat. It was scamming behind every wicked despairing thought that hated life. It's thriving in all the calamities of the world and it's thriving in me. It's in the urge to smack my three-year-old son instead of trying to communicate with him. It's in the impulse to use a box-cutter on my jackasse co-worker as I clutch it in my hand and pray with all of my might that he doesn't force my hand with another inane perspective on life. It's infused in my life and I always thought that I was immune to it.

That's how deep it's become. That's how I knew that I needed to deal with it. That's how I became aware of it.

Now, what does this have to do with having a child and raising them in this crazy world? One of the greatest things about being a parent is that it gives you a new perspective on life. To see the essence of life expressed so uniquely and with fresh vitality changes everything. It's so incredibly beautiful and amazing and terrifying and invigorating. Everything that you thought was important falls by the wayside so that you can experience this fundamental life force that has literally falls into your lap. How often does that happen in life? Profound moments are the ultimate vision of every hollywood movie but in real life they simply don't happen that often. Life isn't quite so dramatic but childbirth is one of those magical moments and unless you experience it for yourself, you have no idea what I'm talking about.

This sense of examining yourself and changing so that you can become a more complete and happy person is hardly revolutionary but it is a fundamental aspect of my life today. In Buddhism it's called human revolution and it's a process of growing and evolving. It's something that we are all searching for as our lives unfold. It's fundamentally human and necessary if we want to be an effective parent.

Ultimately that's what I want, no matter how selfish I am most of the time. I understand that these two little people are going to become their own beautiful ambitious achievers and that they are going to have to overcome all the pitfalls that everyone must face. I know that they don't exist for me but they do exist because of me and they are my responsibility for awhile. Just imagine what I can do for them If I challenge myself to become an amazing person and not just another shitty parent who thinks that they're already perfect.

Well, they're worth it, right? Quinn has been a revelation. She is one of those smiley babies. I always heard the phrase and even though Lucas was pretty special, he didn't really smile all of the time. Quinn does. She sees you and it's like she recognizes the inherent beauty that exists within each and every human being. She will smile at the homeless person on the corner, as long as he's human and even if he wasn't, she might still give him a tweak of her lips just for being alive. She is absolutely adorable and embraceable and everyday I simply want to engulf her small face in my hands and gaze at her beautiful nature.

I must say that as parents, Xtina and I are very fortunate people. When Lucas was born we were always told that he might be a great baby but that when we have another one, we'd better watch out because the second one will be the opposite. Well, could it be possible that Quinn is even easier than Lucas. She is absolutely adorable. Even in the midst of all the madness, it's such a joy to wallow in the wonder of our children's lives. It's crushing, this love and wide open, breathing freely with the stars, pulsing with the heart of the universe.

We have so much time and love to give and all they do is ask for it, all they want is for us to embrace them. How hard is that?

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Monday, May 05, 2008

43 Months

(Lucas & Daddyo rock climbing in Anza Borrego)

There are many types of cries that you come to discover as a parent. When children are very little (like Quinn now) , they generally have only one way that they cry, which can change tempo and volume depending on how irritated they become. Eventually they learn that this is the best way to get you to respond to their needs, even when those needs turn into simple desires. Training children to make requests using a certain amount of politeness and respect is an important aspect of their journey from babyhood to childhood...then hopefully to adolescence and adulthood as well. The ultimate goal of all parents is to help make this transition as smooth as possible so that these little people will one day become gracious and dynamic human beings. It's a difficult process and sometimes we parents do not succeed (so many babies over the age of twenty in the world).

Lucas is having some difficulty making that transition in his third year. He's actually perfecting the act of crying...or at least he's putting on a performance. His new favorite phrase starts with the words "I can't". He's learning the fine art of resistance even though he's still not quite old enough to read Sun Tzu. I think that he's beginning to love the sound of whine at the back of his throat. And when we try to get him to do a task that we already know that he's perfectly capable of accomplishing, he flops down on the ground and actually cries.

I'm wondering if this is an instinctual response that he's harbored within him since his larval stage and I am also becoming keenly aware of what is a genuine cry and what is nothing more than a mockery of pain. Now, I've never been the type of person who expresses visible compassion for a person when their difficult emotions break the surface. I have trouble finding the words that may help simply due to the fact that I truly believe that each of us deal with adversity in our own unique way. It's strange to try and understand what someone is going through at that painful moment, to project your experience on their lives. I just don't get that. Ultimately, all I ever want in that situation is to be hugged, words never ever suffice. But as a parent, your children need you more than anything because they are so emotionally undeveloped, everything is brand new and they need your guidance through the dark.

Since I have a hard time comforting people when they actually need it, my initial reaction to those who aren't really suffering but acting like they are, almost always is a certain level of disdain. I know that this type of reaction toward my child will never create value within our relationship, that's something that I've struggled to deal with regarding my own father for my entire life (Oh no, I'm like my old man!) but I also don't want to indulge his penchant for creating drama. It's freaking hard to find the balance and even though I think of myself as an mild mannered fellow, my little boy is challenging that myth on a continuous basis.

But this new awareness is also helping me understand the truth about compassion. There are many ways that we comfort each other as a human beings. Some situations require a strict stance while others demand a strong voice of righteousness. Some people need comforting and others need a good kick in the rear in order to overcome their own inadequacies. Ultimately, we are not the vehicle for their deliverance, only they can do it for themselves. Our actions can provide a jump-start for their lives at the most.

Since I have this blossoming relationship that has developed from the moment of birth, I am discovering the path of compassion within my own heart and how to use it. It's beautiful to look at people with these new eyes and I am awakening to certain truths in my life, not for the first time but simply with a different perspective. The most important of these truths is that I love my family. I love the life that we've built and there are incredible moments of utter appreciation that descend upon me at random. I feel this energy of love coursing through me like bloodflow and I realize that it's an infinite aspect of my soul. In that moment I notice the strength of it, so enormous that it feels bigger than the universe. So big that sometimes it makes me cry...for real.

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