Friday, December 07, 2007

The Path is Still Rocky Sometimes

A faraway unschooler emailed and asked me for some advice this week. I was quite flattered that she sought my voice from a sea of unschoolers after reading my blog. I typed a long reply to her concerns today, hopefully tossing out a few useful tidbits to see her through a low period.

But no sooner do I think I have this unschooling philosophy down-pat, when the inner beasts - old habits and deeply burned neural-pathways - rear up to remind me there are always steps to take forward. No rest yet, even if weary. We learn to navigate the minefield, but the mines are still there.

Rob and Jonathan are still, as I type, engaged in an all-day (though interspersed with a few breaks here and there) video game marathon. They're together. They're laughing. They're having a grand time, playing the same game over and over, building their teams, collaborating, growing bleary-eyed. There was a time not so long ago when I'd have worked like mad to get them to do something else. I'd have gotten grouchy and critical, and thrown snipes in their direction until I wasn't the only unhappy one. And when they'd grudgingly get off the video game or computer (or whatever it was I wished they'd stop), I wouldn't have anything better to offer them.

Was it worth it just to win the battle? I must've thought so, as I continued for many years. And I really believed I was the intellectual superior.

And here's the rub: as I come 'round the bend, toward seeing that everything counts as learning, toward respecting the choices of others even if they're different from my own, toward realizing that I, too, like loads of screen time, just in a different format (writing), Rob comes 'round a different bend, the one that agrees that screen time should be monitored, choices questioned. (Is it the bane of a Virgo-Pisces union to never be on the same page at the same time? It would seem so most days.)

Back to today. I was happy to sit at the computer and catch up on several blogs, try to write (but feeling rather uninspired), and craft some over-due email replies.

All was well, so far.

But sometimes we forget how tiny are the boxes we place each other in. And sometimes the judgments come pouring forth. Sometimes we don't even recognize the triggers.

Rob looked up at me at one point and laughed, derision in his voice, "I can't believe how much time you can spend at that computer." (This is said as he plays video games, mind you, which is my snappy-retort-self speaking. Dare not challenge ME in a battle of come-backs, no sirree.)

I, with an air of complete immaturity, replied, "Oh, and your amount of tv watching and video game playing is no big deal, right?"

We seemed to settle down a bit after that. I read a book. He hauled a load of wood. We all snacked. I did a load of laundry.

He returned to the video game. I returned to the computer.

Later, it was my turn to get snarky. Earlier in the day I had agreed to return the truck to the farm and fetch his car, but I'd forgotten. After it grew dark and Rob realized the vehicles still weren't switched, he asked when I planned to do it. And that's when my inner-whiner went on full-tilt.

I began with, "Why can't you just do it in the morning?" Because he likes everything in place before he begins his Monday work-week. I upped the ante. "Well, I'M not the one who didn't return the truck straight away in the FIRST place." But I'd said I'd do it.

Something in me was triggered. I was deep into a book at that point, the wind was howling outside and rattling the windows; Rob was lounged on the floor in front of the fire. And my inner-martyr began to rapid-fire, and the whiny excuses tumbled to the forefront (but thankfully, stopped just before they exited my mouth), and I wanted oh-so-badly to launch into a tirade about how I do everything around the house and no one does anything for me and I picked up the kitchen after his lazy-*ss about six times already today. (Oh wait, I think that last one may have made a sneaky little escape.)

But then suddenly, in my huff and as my brain cued the next whine, I am taken back to a time many, many years ago, when I witnessed someone else whine in that same poor-me, you-have-to-do-it kind of way. Rob and I were vacationing in Arizona at a lake with his brother Terry and Terry's then-wife Kristy. Kristy was floating on a raft and the rest of us were standing in shallow water, talking. Kristy's raft kept floating toward shore and each time she found herself beached, she whined at Terry to come and fetch her and pull her back to deeper waters. This happened about a dozen times, each time her whine growing more pathetic. I can still hear her voice today - "Teerrrryyyyyyy" - probably because Rob and I have emulated it in jest many times over all these years. It was one of those grating noises, made worse by the fact that she was a grown woman and perfectly capable of launching her own self back to deeper waters.


I was still huffy, but I knew I had to get up, bundle up, and return the truck. I had to take deep breaths. I had to calm my inner whiner, my inner b*tch, and my inner martyr (a wicked trifecta of horridness); but in the end, it gives me another opportunity to reflect. On where those feelings come from. On why certain things still trigger me. On why I go straight back to that icky place time and time again. Even after all these years of work.

And the collective voices of freedom-loving unschoolers come to me. And I revisit some of my favorite paradigm-shifting moments, for sustenance, for a chin-up (or a stiff kick in the arse). Like the time when I complained to my friend Elizabeth that all Rob ever wanted to do on weekends was watch sports.

She'd heard this lament several times, and she finally asked, "Well, what would you rather be doing?"

"I don't know; taking a hike at the park," I moaned.

"So, take a hike."


So simple. So profound. Still so difficult at times, obviously.

Today was mostly a success; we each did what we wanted to do and happily co-existed for most of the day. But perhaps no success is apparent unless it has an opposing bit of failure for perspective on occasion, just as no light can be perceived without the contrasting darkness.

When I returned from delivering the truck and fetching the car, Rob was hastily cleaning up the kitchen. With a silly smirk on his face he said, "Darn, I wanted to be done before you got back!"

The rocks in the path are still there. We get pretty good at not tripping over them; but after all this time we may still stumble over a few. A skinned knee (or a bruised ego) reminds us to pay closer attention, calls us back to focus.

That's not always a bad thing.


Scotty said...

You're an incredible writer. Through your words I was able to SEE through your eyes as you went through your day. Thank you for painting such a wonderful picture about the constant struggle within... this scenario reminds me when a new friend recently sent me a note saying that new emotional management concepts that I'm irritated by/struggling with have to flex to fit ME, not the other way around. I was gladdened, and reminded in this moment that it's all good. You rock.

Stephanie said...

Wow! You are a wonderful writer, you should enjoy it and spend your time doing it.

I can relate to many things you said and we have come a long way but there is still a road ahead to get where we want to be.

Thank you for sharing a part of your journey.

Anonymous said...

Sounds like you could use a refresher course in the unschooling lifestyle *snort* So, are you going up to Madison next month or what?! I have a hotel room for Friday and am planning a leisurely visit, a good nights sleep and an invigorating day.

Stephanie said...

Is that why you were looking for obos???

Thanks for sharing with us this part of the process.
Somehow it helps when others we respect admit to struggles - not in a 'misery loves company' way, but in a "be kind and understanding" way - if we can forgive and accept a friend so completely, then maybe we can be nicer to ourselves the next time we aren't all that we long to be, also.
Steph S.

Life With Us said...

Thanks for writing that post. It was very helpful to me as a still new unschooler and a whiner/maryter!

vickie said...

Loved your post. Just what I needed to read today. I've been feeling a bit whiny myself lately and it's helpful to be reminded that others have to navigate around some of those feelings also.

skyelark said...

Oh Laura, I love to read your blog and your responses. . . almost makes me want to get to work on the ole blog myself, it sounds so fun and satisfying and helpful. Only problem is I'm afraid if I actually start to think about my life in a more conscious way I might start to make even more crazy radical decisions about it than I already am - like maybe quitting the job and starting that goat cheese stand and stumping for Kucinich, and growing my own vegetables and baking my own bread again. And then what would happen.

Yikes - what I really need is a Mom I can bounce ideas off of. I feel like I haven't made a single good decision since my Mom became too ill to be my bouncer. Can the Webalific World out there provide the same mixture of irreverence, honesty and humor? I feel like one of those cartoon characters that keeps smacking into walls. . . and OK my inner whiner doesn't take much to get activated either does it???

Anyway - your blog and the links to it are my new weekend sanity that keeps me questioning in a healthy (I think) way - thanks!

piscesgrrl said...

scotty - hi and welcome! You're Diana's SCB, are you not? :) Had to rustle around your blog for a while to find out! THANKS for your kind words; the journey is intense, is it not? I enjoyed your musings as well!

stephanie - thanks! Sometimes I worry I give a distorted view when I post about the end-results of the paradigm shifts, the good parts. Good to show a little of the messy struggle to get there sometimes, keep it real.

peacegoddess - yes, I'm going! Sent in my registration. A hotel room, huh? You GO grrl.

stephanie s. - YES. I used to say "I'm so glad you struggle with that too" but realized I didn't want to say I'm glad someone struggles. :) It is, however, helpful, as you say, in being kinder, gentler to ourselves as we stretch. We don't always get it right. I think it's the ones who can grow from the mistakes that make it over the long haul.

life with us - hi! Sometimes I have to tell my inner whiner/martyr to 'shut the h*ll UP already' because sometimes she gets up in my stuff before I even realize what's going on. It happens less these days, thankfully. It gets easier as we get more creative and more yes-oriented!

vickie - well you came to the right place today then! I'm even sorry to admit that yesterday was worse than the day I wrote about. I even knew it, and still seemed powerless to stop it. Yoga helped. Need.More.Yoga.

skyelark - hey grrl, good to see you here! I didn't recognize your username but the goat cheese stand was a dead giveaway. :) I've always known you to be a healthy questioner, that's why I've always been drawn to you! We need to get together more often... Think on how!