Wednesday, May 19, 2010

365 Photo Project - Day 138

Taken: May 18, 2010, 7 p.m.
Location: Healdsburg, Ca

I talk a lot about my Internet addiction but I don't mean to dismiss it entirely. There is so much you can do online now that in certain ways it does make your life easier.  The access to photographs, art, essays, fiction, all sorts of scientific and medical materials, interviews, historical documents, research papers and more makes it a virtual university for learning about almost anything.

My personal favorite is iTunes University and podcasts. I usually only listen to the radio when I'm in my car and unlike the my time in traffic-challenged Los Angeles, I don't spend all that much time in my car anymore. I miss listening to my favorite NPR shows, like Fresh Air. But now I can keep up with them through iTunes and it's changed my life. I have only scratched the surface of iTunes U, picking and choosing lectures, interviews and readings on a variety of subjects that interest me. Every time I find something particularly interesting I'm reminded of the power of the Internet to enlighten, instruct and educate. Way cool.

In two recently Fresh Air interviews, successful middle-aged adults talked about their parents, how misunderstood they were as kids and how hard they tried to not become like them. For a kid whose parents were both (relatively) loving and understanding, I admit I'm fascinating by stories of strained relationships between parents and children. I write a lot about them -- very few of my major characters come from typical, so-called normal or well-adjusted families.

I won't put too fine a point on this --  I mean the reason I like to write about troubled relationships is because it's interestingly dramatically. I think I empathize because I know what it's like to be safe and loved. It's helpful to have a comparison to draw from -- not that growing up my siblings and I didn't have major bumps along the way. I remember a time when I could barely speak to my Dad. Thinking back on it now, it just makes me seem like a brat but my 16-year-old self would probably disagree.

I don't mean fighting was wrong. Like I've written here before, I learned at an early age that the road isn't straight and you're as likely as not to tumble and fall. Collecting scrapes and bruises, wounds and battle scars is part of the experience. My parents taught me it was okay to fuck up, as long as you were willing to learn from it. You might disappoint them every so often but you could never lose their love. That's just the kind of gentle landing pad a kid with big dreams needs when she's about to jump off into the deep end.

The other thing this attitude teaches a person is that disappointment is part and parcel to the journey. There's a line in an Indigo Girls song that touches on this: "I hear the owl in the night / I realize some things will never be made right."  When you grow up knowing you're not going to win every battle, get everything you want, you gain a crucial understanding how the world works. The first and most obvious lesson is how terribly unfair it is. But if you're getting the right education, you quickly realize that's just surface shit. In the end, fair or unfair, it won't matter.  Thinking of yourself as the center of the universe is only gonna bring you grief. Everybody thinks they're getting a raw deal, even the beautiful people.

The thing that will stick with you, the lesson worth learning is that life isn't going to always work out, not in the way you hope it will. Not even how you imagine or fear. The irony is that this isn't always a bad thing. You must follow your heart whenever you can -- to me it's the only way to truly be happy -- but you can't forget that it's the journey that's ultimately the story of the life you will live. The end doesn't matter - the only end that's important is the one nobody survives -- focus too much on the finish line and you'll miss everything.

I sometimes think back on my old successes and wonder why I made such a big deal about them. They seem so small and inconsequential now.  Same for those nights when I cried myself to sleep over some big sorrow -- turns out whatever I was unhappy about wasn't the end of the world after all.

My father is big on taking stuff as it comes, never making too much out of the victories or the defeats. If you make too much about them, your life will just be a roller coaster with steep climbs, death falls and a whole lot of blind turns. Might be fun to live with way for awhile but, you'll just be making things harder on yourself.  Trust me on that one.

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