This weekend, you and I stayed at your grandarent's house while your mom went to a Christmas party with some friends. It was the first time in your life that you've had to go to bed without her to nurse you to sleep. In a way, it was a disaster, but it was also a really good experience for both of us. But maybe I'm getting ahead of myself, telling you about how something is different than the normal routine without first explaining how things usually go?
You're six months old, almost exactly. You're still extremely tall for a baby. You can sit up without leaning on things, and you're just on the verge of being able to crawl. Right now you get up on all fours and sort of waggle back and forth, not quite sure how to get the legs to go forward without doing a faceplant. Which you do! But through it all you're incredibly cheerful, and whenever this whole crawling thing gets to be too confusing, with this leg there and that arm over there - you sort of lay down on your stomach, and lift all your limbs up like a sky-diver in freefall. This is sort of your neutral position, and then you can very purposefully and carefully start over again to get yourself in action all over. It's amazing watching you work this stuff out, I can see from the very serious look on your face that you're determined to work it out. Not so serious that if someone catches your eye you won't give them a giant smile, as per your usual reaction.
Sometime in the evening you get tired, and there's a certain tension in your eyes, and you make less happy burbling sounds and more tired-sounding complaints. So then your mom takes you to bed and sort of nurses you to sleep. At some point you get more sleepy than hungry, and we'll tuck you into your crib and have a little while to ourselves. Mostly you'll sleep for at least a few hours, but not always. The next step is getting you to go to bed on your own, but we're not there yet.
So last Saturday your grandmother and I were trying to get you to go to sleep since your mom wasn't home yet, and we didn't expect her till later. But, stubborn little monkey that you are, you absolutely refused to go to sleep until she got home. You weren't cranky about it at all - in fact you were almost supernaturally cheerful, laughing and giggling, smiling at everyone. But sleep? No way! I tried everything; I tried carrying you around and singing you sea-shanties ("Lowland away" is our mutual favorite, I think), feeding you a bottle, or just sitting with you while you were in your crib, dressed for bed. But you were totally animated, crawling around your crib, banging toys against the sides, chattering away in happy baby talk, and just generally showing no signs of slowing down at all.
After a big bottle of milk, you closed your eyes just long enough to fool me into thinking you might be asleep. But no, as soon as I slid you into the crib, you were up and shouting again. This time you were actually upset, and I couldn't get you to calm down until I put you in the front pack again, and walked around the house. And that's what I had to do until your mom got home, whereupon you were promptly out like a light and allowed no evidence whatsoever that we had any problems getting you to sleep at all.
Any other baby would probably cry and carry on when tired, but not you. You're just bright-eyed and playful, interested in everything around you. Hopefully we can get you on a schedule where you're sleeping through the night, but I'm grateful that you're such a cheerful baby. Soon enough you'll be crawling around and talking, but for now you're still just a tiny, happy monkey. Big smiles before bed, big smiles in the morning - and as much energy as the sun.
It's so ridiculously cute.
I'm happy to take Pascale and Eowyn to see where I come from, and meet many of the people that matter to me.
And it seemed so good on paper - October on the East Coast - glorious foliage, Valley Forge, crisp cool evenings...
Nope, 85 degrees and as muggy as yoga-pants at a shvitz. Great!
Well. I'm going to pay my regards to Anarchy Chicken, eat a cheesesteak and see some friends. In less than 48 hours.
I left you and your mom sleeping in bed this morning. You are clearly about to go through another growth spurt, because you've been feeding as much as you possibly can, night and day. Consequently, both of you are fairly exhausted, and you were sleepy but cheerful when I set out for work. I've been giving some thought about what I hope for you and your future life - not just as a child, where I know we'll do our very best to keep you happy, healthy and thriving. But there will come a day when you leave the nest to set out in the world on your own, and I hope to give you the moral compass to help you find your way, and a map of skills, experiences, knowledge and love of adventure so you pick the right destination for you.
So how do we lead a good life? This is literally one of the oldest questions in the world, maybe only slightly less considered than "why are we here in the first place?" I've given much thought to the latter, and I don't know at all, nor really does anyone in human history - so if someone tells you they've got it figured out, be skeptical indeed. But the former question, I think my experience; both mistakes and triumphs, has left me in a position of at least a little bit of authority, and I want you to know what I've discovered. You'll make up your own mind, and I wouldn't have it any other way - but I hope you'll take into account what I've found to be true for me. What I've learned comes as much from my failings as from my success. If I am an imperfect example, don't take that as invalidating what I've said - take it instead as your chance to surpass me, to lead a more fulfilling life, and to pass that on to your children.
These are the things you need to lead a good life. If you've got all this, you're basically set. I'll help you get as much of this as I possibly can, but a lot of it is up to you; love, respect, honor, prosperity and health.
This you've got. You never need do anything other than be my daughter, and you'll have my love, and your mother's love too. This is always, always yours. And when I say "always always" what I mean is this; there's regular always, which usually in human terms means something like, "Forever, or until such time as we mutually agree not to, or it becomes too difficult or deleterious to continue." But I don't mean that. What I mean is - there is no possible future in which you don't have my love. If there are other universes, with other version of me and you, then all those universes also include me loving you. Always - always.
But of course, life and love is about more than just the love of your family. That lasts forever, and it's very important, but it's a sad person who never loves or is loved by anyone else. So here is my advice to you - love without fear. Love freely, and without regard for its return. Let love be a verb in your life, a thing you do; not a noun, a thing to be captured and kept. Let love be the action you do, and you will find it is also a thing in your life. Look for traits to love in others, and that is what you'll find. And why not go through life finding love in every corner, from every friend, from every stranger. Have a generous, compassionate heart - forgive others for their failings, take joy in their victories - and love will always be around you.
This, my darling, is something you will have to earn. Love comes for free - it's yours from us, and yours to give and discover. But respect comes from more than just the mere fact of human existence. And don't get me wrong, the mere fact of human existence is astonishing, and grand, and confusing and frankly a bit of a mess - and love makes it all go so much smoother. But respect comes from not who you are, but what you do, and what service you perform. A life lead in service to others is certainly a life well-lead. Consider that all the things that you seek to do have at least been attempted by others, and their experience can be of use to you. That's the source of your respect for others; understanding that they have valuable insights and skills from which you can learn, if you show them respect. Understanding your own fallibility and frailty is key to being open to respecting others - we're all hurtling through space on a rock that's twirling around a giant ball of fire, it's crazy and scary and complicated, and anyone who has figured something out has done something worthy of respect. Show respect, appreciate their accomplishments and you will find that you are in turn respected, more often than not. It's tempting to be scornful and derisive of people who are foolish or unkind. But what good is served by this? A moment of laughter on your part, and potentially a lifetime of injury and hurt from your victim. Look for what's good in people, and be as blind as you can to their failings.
But you'll want, and need, the respect of your peers. It doesn't come automatically, it comes from being of use. You must have some skill, profession, talent or service that you perform that other people value. This is a fact of the world; people are due love and compassion because they are humans like us, but respect is something every person earns for themselves. Be bold in your endeavors. Be generous in your service. Work hard and be industrious. Be industrious even in your hobbies and pastimes - cultivate in yourself the tendency to have something to show for everything you do, even the things you do for pleasure, and you will be constantly accruing respect from everyone around you. And please understand that I am completely in your corner and on your side, so naturally I'll be incredibly biased in terms of seeing your achievements of worthy of respect. But the world may not be so generous, and you may have to work hard to earn your way into the school, jobs, professions or associations that you choose. Having done so, you will justly be proud of yourself, and justly have earned the respect of the people around you.
Honor is a gift you give yourself. Once given, no one can take it from you. By honor, I mean all those traits that indicate an ethical person with an unerring moral compass that sets their purpose to working for rightness and goodness.
Be honest and forthcoming; honesty is universally admired and the basis for a true and genuine understanding between people. Embellishment as an act of kindness or (I maintain) for the sake of a good story or good laugh is usually forgivable, but perverting the truth for personal gain is a blemish on your character that never comes to a good end. Avoid the easy, lazy path of telling people what will get you out of trouble or some temporary gain, and hold instead to the high, rocky places where truth abides, and you will accrue far greater gain than any temporary advantage that comes from a lie. The truth never shifts, the truth never disappears when it is discovered - the truth is constant. Hew to it, and you will find yourself always on constant ground.
Be loyal and faithful. Your word once given is a bond - not only between you and the recipient, but also with yourself. If you are true to your word, faithful in your companionship and loyal in your friendship, you will find those bonds to be true and strong. If you pass the test of fidelity, you'll find over time the people around you are the kind of people who also pass that test. You find the company and friendship you earn - set the highest standard for yourself. Do not abuse the trust of your friends or family, because once broken it is incredibly difficult to repair.
Be courageous, physically and morally. Courage is not reckless, courage measures risk, and acts appropriately without consideration for fear. You will be afraid, of course, the only people who don't experience fear are madmen. But courage is facing the fear and acting anyway. If you must pay a personal cost to do the right thing, when confronted with some moral choice or pressure to do wrong, square your shoulders and face the storm. Whatever the short-term setback, throughout your life the pride and strength that comes from knowing that you can be bowed but not broken, bent but not dismayed is priceless. Feed the lion in your heart a steady diet of adventure. And then reassure your mother and father that the risks you take measured, ameliorated as much as possible, and that you have courage, not foolhardiness. Learning the difference between the two will entail pain and embarrassment, unless you are very, very lucky. I'll be there for you when you fall down. I once ran into a burning house to save a friend. Our house had caught fire, and he was trapped a floor above where the fire started. The price I paid for the subsequent emergency room visit was not unsubstantial - but the sure knowledge that in a moment of crisis I will act without hesitation has served me very well in all the years since, and the confidence and security that came from it would have been a bargain at far greater cost.
Cultivate a good reputation through good work, good conduct and generosity. Your good name and reputation will be one of your most precious assets. If you are consistently honorable in your dealings with other people, then even false accusations of bad faith will be easily disproved. Be the kind of person, because of your actions and words, who no one could believe ill of, and you will find that are never believed to have acted poorly, even if circumstances seem to indicate otherwise.
Every human being deserves a decent life. But freedom from oppression does not mean freedom from adversity; for those who wish more than to merely exist, but to prosper, they must labor. Prosperity is not just a matter of material gain. There are many who can call no material thing their own, but who would consider their lives well-lived because it was in service and use to others. Prosperity comes from setting for yourself a noble, worthy goal, and to making your very best effort at meeting that goal. You may decide to seek your fortune in the arts, in the law, in government service, in charity work, in finance - in any sector of human endeavor that you wish. I'll do my best to arm you with a quiver-full of arrows for when you choose your target, but hitting it will be up to you.
I have lived in difficult poverty, though because I had the good fortune to be born in the U.S., it was not abject. When I didn't perform my best in professional duties, or through misfortune or circumstance, I found myself without means, life was very difficult. Simple, everyday tasks like eating, paying my bills, discharging my debts and living life were fraught with stress. I lived hand-to-mouth and paycheck-to-paycheck. It was not an impossible life (obviously!) but it was difficult, and when I finally got my act together, and caught a lucky break or two, the palpable relief of finding myself with economic security and the ability stay properly insured, to help friends and family in need, to be assured of a decent, enjoyable life was so important that I vowed never to fall into those dire straits again. I hope you'll never have to learn that lesson the hard way, but let me at least impart you with the ability to understand that mere wealth is not sufficient to be prosperous. If you labor ceaselessly, and even excellently, at a job that you loathe, can you truly be said to prosper? Likewise, if you are employed in something that you love, but must depend on others for your maintenance, and can provide no service or help when it's needed from you, can you be said to prosper?
I devoutly hope that you will find yourself professionally engaged in work that you love. Whatever your passion may be, I hope it is for you also a source of security and prosperity. But be also practical and industrious. Balance the consideration of safety and wealth against your needs for fulfillment. Consider that work well done, with honor, integrity, zeal and excellence can truly be its own reward, and the pride that comes from professional accomplishment can be bolstered by more generous work or service in your personal time. You are not owed a dream job by the world. You can't skip the tedious, laborious period of paying your dues that are the entry level of every career. But if you take to your work with gusto, if you never consider any job beneath you, if you do every task you're set to with the same zeal you would whatever your eventual goal may be, then you'll prove to those ahead of you on your career track that you are worth cultivating and promoting. Many young people fall into the trap of only "accepting" the job that they feel is their true calling, never realizing that the people who do that job had to earn their place, who had to work long and hard at the nasty, tedious entry-level positions before they ever got a chance to take a crack at that dream job.
So be on time for work, always. There's almost nothing else you can do every day that shows your professional standards than punctuality. There may be occasions to shine from time to time, but if you're on time or early every day, you've taken the first step to showing that you're a trustworthy worker. Dress well and groom yourself appropriately for your workplace. When in doubt, it's better to be too formal than too casual - you can always take off a jacket or unbutton the top button of your shirt; but if you're wearing sandals when everyone else is wearing dress shoes, you've made a bad impression. Don't gossip in the workplace, or debate matters of politics, faith or romance. You'll spend a lot of your time with your co-workers, and souring your relationship with them over some professionally irrelevant badinage is poor form. Do be friendly and open, but keep an appropriate distance when it comes to intimate matters, or issues that incite passion. Do your best work whenever possible. When you are appointed to have authority over others as you almost certainly will, always praise publicly the successes of others, and privately correct matters of failure. A good leader will pass the credit on to her subordinates for success, and accept responsibility for their failures. Your subordinates will respect and admire your ethics, and your superiors will notice your good ethical standards.
It is true that there are some few who, unearned, have accrued great material wealth, or fame, or power. Don't envy those few, for adversity and difficulty are as inevitable as anything in life, and without the experience of overcoming troubles, they will be ill-equipped to thrive outside of the hothouse of their unearned plenty. You will have the courage and strength to carry on.
And share your prosperity. Generosity means never begrudging paying your share of any debt. Don't lend money to friends - the debt that follows creates a sense of obligation that is poison to the equality and amity that good friends share. But don't hesitate to make gifts of material things or wealth if you have something that another badly needs. Indeed, if this isn't the whole reason to seek prosperity, then I don't know what is. Accruing wealth for your own use is not a noble calling; earning more to empower ever greater generosity is a virtue worthy of much admiration. Let the fruits of your labor be of benefit not only to yourself.
Most of all know this; when you fail, try harder. That is the key to success and prosperity. Every useful endeavor comes from diligent practice and natural talent. So choose an endeavor that plays to your greatest strengths, and then work hard and assiduously to perfect that talent. However hard you work, however much you practice, know that somewhere there is competition, and your competition may be working harder. You will make mistakes. You will suffer failure - but so long as you use that to spur you on to harder work and greater mastery, you will never, ever know defeat. Defeat comes when you give up, and that is wholly your decision to make. No matter how hard you are tested, not matter how many times you've failed, try again, try again, try harder. You only lose if you give up. When you fail, try harder.
Health is both the greatest and the least of the things you will need. Greatest, because without health all the others become difficult or impossible. A healthy body and mind are the foundation on which all other virtues are built. This is not to say that the infirm are without virtue - but there challenges are greater, and if the infirmity is avoidable, so much better to be healthy.
Make a regular practice of exercise of your body. Better if in so doing you find yourself in periods where the whole focus of your mind is completely absorbed in the activity. When the mind and the body act as one, both are invigorated and strengthened. The practice of sport is a sort of manufactured adversity - not only does it serve the purpose of maintenance of the physical engine of your body, but it also constantly tests your resolve and your character. It is in defeat and adversity that we learn who we really are. It's easy to be gracious in victory or plenty, and provides no insight into your strengths or limits. So cultivate challenges that will take your body, your mind, and your spirit to the very brink - push until you break. Do it regularly and with joy. Your body will grow stronger, your mind will be ever sharper and more resilient. What a peculiar fact of human life it is, that we only grow stronger from struggle, and not ease. So eschew ease, seek struggle - chase perfection.
The sooner you cultivate good habits of the body, the longer you will have those habits ingrained. In youth it is easy to have bad habits and be healthy anyway, but this will serve you in bad stead as you age. Please trust me on this one! And health, once lost, is far harder to regain than it would be to simply maintain in the first place. So do the maintenance on your body - keep a regimen of exercise, challenge your mind regularly, seek medical advice when you are ill, eschew faith healing, superstition and any medicine which can not be confirmed by science.
A healthy mind is as important as a healthy body. Keep your mind nimble and vivacious by constantly learning. Constantly learning also means confronting your own ignorance or fallibility, and replacing it with knowledge. It is appropriate to be skeptical of untested claims, but that's as true in your own beliefs as it is in others. If in the course of argument, you find your position to be incorrect or based on non-fact, then you must graciously and cheerfully adopt the correct position. And indeed, to lose an argument or debate means necessarily that you have profited - for you used to hold a position that was wrong, but now that you understand that it was wrong, you have adopted the correct position, and thus learned and grown. Don't be afraid of being - be cheerful about it, because it means you're learning. An inquisitive mind doesn't allow for inappropriate certainty. The older I get, the more I realize how fallible I can be. Time and again what I felt was a crystal clear certainty, an inevitable, unshakeable truth has turned out to be wrong. The only thing I am certain of anymore is the fact of my own fallibility. I hope that you can learn humility and open-mindedness at a much lower cost than my own; broken friendships, hurt feelings, lost opportunities.
Lastly my darling, know this. The state of the universe is constantly advancing into a greater and greater state of entropy. It seems to me, though it's a belief and maybe even just a superstition, but it seems to me that human endeavor is the only an-entropic force in the universe. It is us that imbues the world around us with order, value and worth. It is us that through the sweat of our brows, the strength of our backs, and the keenness of our minds that stave off decay. But entropy is inescapable, and sooner or later we must all succumb to it. Entropy is the great enemy, the terrible destroyer - I hope to nurture in you a great warrior against that enemy. I hope you will do great things, magnificent things. I hope that you will know respect, prosperity, honor and health - I'll do my best to teach you, guide you, and show you the way. But love - that one is yours. Always-always, until the heat death of the universe, and if there is any way my consciousness will survive the death of my physical body, then you will have love from me then, too.
You are three months old, and we love you more than can easily be expressed. But we'll have a lifetime of hugs and kisses, of encouraging words, proud looks and the best attempt I can make at putting in words how much I love you. And even then it won't be long enough, not nearly enough to show you how I feel. But it will have to do.
And this is how our day goes with you, typically. You are a very good sleeper, and normally you sleep until 7:30 in the morning or so, which is after I've gotten up. Your mother sleeps in with you though, since she stays up with you when you need her in the night. And when you wake up, she feeds you a little and then hands you off to me. And you are all smiles in the morning, my little darling. From the moment I've got you, and the light of recognition slowly blooms in your eyes, and a wide smile covers your whole face. You'll put your hands over your cheeks and look away, like you're just so overcome with giddiness that you can't even stand to look anymore. Then I'll clean you up and change you into one of your little outfits, which you are swiftly outgrowing.
Not long after this, I'll have to leave for work. Right about the same time your mother will put you in your snuggly pack to take you for a walk in the neighborhood. This is a sure sign to Blink the dog that it's time for what I call a "monkey parade." He's the Big Monkey and you're Tiny Monkey, and the monkey parade is one of the highlights of Blink's day. Throughout the day your mom feeds you, then plays with you in various ways - she reads a book full of animals and the noises they make. She puts you in a little activity gym thing we have, and you'll bat at the dangling, rattling toys.
At some point in the evening I'll get back from work. Often this is the chance for Pascale to go swimming, and you and I will play together until she returns. If you make the funny "BLAT!" sound that you make to announce displeasure, I'll warm up a bottle of milk for you, and we'll sit on the couch and feed it to you. You enjoy the bottles very much, and like to play with the rubber nipple, rolling it around on your gums and smacking your lips with great relish. Then it's bath time - in your little plastic tub. There's a little washcloth we have that is shaped like a puppet with a pirate on it. I'll hold it up and make pirate-y noises and you'll giggle and smile while I give you a wash. Then I'll wrap you up in a towel, dry you off and put you in some clean pajamas. Then we'll walk around, sometimes go on a little Monkey Parade with Blink, until eventually you fall asleep.
When you're in the pack and sleepy, you look around over the edge of the padded pack, peering with huge eyes. You turn your head from side to side suddenly, like an owl, when you want to see something else. And then slowly your eyelids start to droop, and you'll yawn, and nod your head. Your head will get heavier and heavier, and hit my chest. Then you'll wake a little and perk up, only to repeat the slow collapse. Eventually your head on your hands and your hands on my chest, you'll be out, properly asleep.
"The din of work is subdued,
another day has westered
and mantling darkness arrived.
We'll try and slide you into your cradle without waking you up, but it doesn't always work. If you do wake, you'll look up, slowly focusing, and then again that incandescent smile. But sleep always works its magic, in the end, and we'll have an hour or two if we're lucky to watch a little TV, or play a game, or more likely than not, just read for a while with you asleep in the bascinet.
You're very cheerful. You never cry, though sometimes you fuss if you're hungry, or so tired you've forgotten how to sleep. You smile a lot, and brilliantly always. You make happy, warbling, lilting sounds - the happier you are the longer and more loud. And it's almost always long and loud, because your'e a happy creature, and your happiness is part of mine, and together the sum is greater than the parts.
May it always be so.
I was wandering around a flea market, when I saw Van Morrison. He was rummaging through old records, and though I knew he was a private and kind of grumpy guy, I was surprised to see him. In the dream world, he'd very publicly left for Russia as a protest against the shallowness of Western society. (This is Edward Snowden in the news, peeking into my subconscious.) So I tentatively greeted him, told him that I'd found his music to fill a place in my heart that nothing else could quite fill. Then I asked what made him come back from Russia.
A cantankerous soul, he said, "I'm not back from Russia. You see nothing, ok? I'm just visiting for a wedding." (Yesterday I was talking with my boss about weddings and going home to see people for them.) I asked him what made him choose Russia. He said, "No bullshit. People say what they mean, and they spill what's on their minds. You gotta have a thick skin, but if someone tells you they're your friend, they are your friend for life." (This pertains to recent strains in my social circle. To put it mildly. And my own bad feelings about that and other past failed friendships.)
So I asked him if he wanted to get a drink. He begrudgingly said yes. Somehow this turned into talking about songwriting. And really, I admire Van Morrison's songwriting maybe more than any other living musician - his stuff is so lean and tight and meaningful without being unsubtle. It's a marvel of elegance - elegance in the mathematical sense, that he gets you from the start of the song right through to your heart in just a few notes, and then stays there. If I could write fiction like Van Morrison writes songs, I'd be incredibly successful. So I'm trying not to enthuse too much in the dream, and I figure by the time he finishes his beer he's on his way, but he says, "Ok, let's sit down at a piano and write your song, ok?"
So we did, there was a piano there in the little bar we're in, and we grabbed a sheet of (conveniently available) sheet music. And I start to hum it to him while he plucks it on the piano, and I write down the words. And before too long, there it is - and so we play it together, he's on the piano and I had a little drum-kit with brushes, a snare, a small cymbal..just enough to lay down some jazz percussion, just supporting the piano, not loud. Just a base. And I fumble through this song, but I'm excited and I'm feeling it and it's fresh in my mind - and I'm getting supported by Van fucking Morrison, who takes off on wild improvisation around the melody. And in a couple of minutes we're done and I'm beaming. And he says, "Yeah, not too bad. A good start."
And this is like the best compliment I've ever gotten in my life. So I thank him for his time, his talent, his teaching. And he says, "Look, I gotta do this Christmas thing for a friend. Why don't you sit in, do percussion?" I'm completely bowled over. Explain I'm not trained or anything, I was just playing by feel, but he's ok with that, best way to do it, in his opinion. So we go to this church basement and a dozen people or so are there, and we start to play some Christmas music. (This is because we watched the last episode of "Orange Is The New Black" the other day, which had a Christmas pageant.) And he plays this incredible improvisation on "Joy To The World" - it's a total deconstruction of the song, and then a rill and a whir and reel around the melody and back again. And I kept up on the drums, and it was really great, very satisfying deep in the guts, where your harshest critic lives. So we're done the set, and I ask him if we can play my song?
So he shrugs, and I hand him the sheet music, and we try it again. But it just doesn't gel this time. It's not awful, but it's not good, either. Stumble a few times, and I'm trying really hard to recapture that moment and it's just not working. So after we're done Van shuffles the paper around and I'm like, "I'm sorry, that's my fault obviously. I don't know the song well enough, I guess, I couldn't remember it."
And then I get a message from my subconscious about being an artist in the form of an admonishment from Van Morrison. "It's not because you don't know it well enough. That's not where it comes from, it's not about *knowing* the song. It's about being honest, and singing without any kind of protection from the world. It's about making music that makes you vulnerable, and making that beautiful. If it doesn't hurt, you're not doing it right. And if it comes straight from your heart, but you don't know the song, you're still doing something beautiful - but if your performance is technically perfect but has no soul, no one will care. Be. Fucking. Real."
Thank you inner Van Morrison. I can make art that matters, and that passes your standards, when I'm honest. But don't worry about how people perceive it, or getting it wrong, or be burdened by technique. Check.
You and I went on our first trip around town together last night. Of course the whole family has gone plenty of places together, and you and I (and Blink) take plenty of walks around the neighborhood. But this was the first time I bundled you into the car and took you some place while your mother was out swimming.
You are probably a born speed-demon, because you fuss and sometimes cry at red lights, but are quiet and content the moment the car gets moving. The trip over to the store was uneventful, though if you have some inexplicable hatred of Lincoln Blvd later in life, the explanation is this; too many red lights!
I got you in your snuggly at CostCo. By the time we made it into the store, you were almost asleep, and several people had commented on how cute you are. Within minutes you were fast asleep, your hands in front of your face on my chest, and your face resting on your hands. I took this picture because it was ridiculously cute.
The trip was quite ordinary, except it's the first time you and I did something alone together, just you and I. I'm sure we'll have lots of adventures in the future too - but this went smoothly. You're a good traveling companion, Eowyn. And I love you.
Today was an ordinary day. I have a little cold and you've got a bit of it too. So I stayed home from work and we did stuff together, though your mom was here too, as she usually is. And then she left for a swim, which she does every Wednesday night. And you and Blink and I went for a walk around the neighborhood. Your eyes just peek over the rim of the snuggy thing I carry you in, and you were peering around the neighborhood very solemnly. Blink was capering a bit and occasionally licking my hand to make sure I knew he was there.
And then I very clearly heard you speak. You've cried and giggled and chortled and grunted, and even made some little babbling noises, but they were instinctive - not with the voice, not a spoken word. But today, and you're only one month old, you very clearly said "Ah-wit." Which means nothing, or is in the Deep Language that only babies know and soon forget. But it was in a voice, a speaking voice, and I heard your voice for the first time.
I am so glad that I'll hear your voice lots and lots in the year to come. I hope it's the last thing I hear, I hope it's the voice I hear the most.
I love you;
Aging is the death of more than just the body - but of that foolish certainty. After having discovered one's self to be wrong again and again about the very things one once felt were so obviously true, anyone with even a modicum of self-awareness will come to understand that certainty is an illusion. Where once I might have been willing to bet a great of money on something about which I felt sure to be true - felt in my bones was definitely correct; today I have been wrong about such things so many times that even things I feel must definitely, undoubtedly may true ... I must allow I may be mistaken about. And with a greater depth of understanding about any subject, or every subject, I understand that what I once thought was expertise was just foolishness - there is always more to learn.
This can be the death of action. It can lead to such crippling anxiety about failure; knowing that anything I do today is doomed to be inexpert and less skilled than if I tried to do it later. But it shouldn't be, because after all - it was the doing, the failing, the being wrong, and above all - learning why - that lead to the greater understanding and paradoxical loss of certainty. With maturity, we have to try anyway, even though we know it will be imperfect.
I think this is why many artists and thinkers do most of their best work when they are young and confident. They haven't been beaten, they haven't failed yet, so they're brash and unafraid. And then why so many of them burn out, and either do what they did well once over and over again, or simply retreat into obsolescence. Consider the writer you love who wrote a beautiful work in her youth; and despite more practice as a writer, more experience as a human being, simply writes again and again ever more caricature-like derivatives of that first masterpiece.
But there's a certain breed of cat, a certain kind of thinker, who revels in that uncertainty. Who finds ambiguity and lack of truth beautiful, who is charged up by it, and even more eager to explore and share his or her findings. The kind of artist who is constantly turning over a new leaf, or even who embarks on their artistic career late in life. This is the kind of artist who's seasoning as a person is a refinement of their work, like wine that smooths and rounds out. And this too is why we find weatherbeaten things so much more interesting than when the thing is new - leather that is covered in scuffs and wear, teak which has silvered and roughened.
The trick, as I get older, is to take my hardfought experience, and use it as fuel for the creative fire, rather than an excuse not to take chances. And never stop. I hope I'm a better writer today than I was 20 years ago, and I hope 20 years from now I look back on what I wrote today and see the seeds of what became even better.
Someday the process has to stop. Some day seasoning will become degenerating. Some day I'll have to die - but I hope I turn every moment from now until then into something that makes each day better than the last.