Have you ever gotten stuck in a thought rut? I got into a wicked one this last week and mostly it included feeling sorry for myself. No why me’s were uttered, but it was a very un-stoic week for someone who thought he understood stoicism. First there was the report that the time spent with kids didn’t matter as much as we thought. That was hard for me to read as a stay-at-home-father because that’s all I do. Quality time isn’t zero, but it’s not 100% either. Parents that stay at home get a lot of the I can’t right now, I have to [fill in a chore]. This was doubly painful because for a long time I thought I should be at work. I was good at working, I liked working, I thought I should be working. Work also never had really dark days like parenting a young child had. Early on I thought that if I had a job where I just broke even, that the job would pay for childcare, I would take it. Anything to get me out of the house. Those feelings have dispersed as my daughters have gotten older, but the report still put me into a bit of a funk.
There was also a collection of personal things that built up inside me. I remember growing up and having a refrigerator with a freezer on the top. As my brother, sister, and I grew older we learned that the others wouldn’t necessarily put things away in an orderly manner. As such, you had to swing open the door with one hand and hold the other hand below the door to catch any falling containers of frozen orange juice so they didn’t land on your toes. Emotionally this last week has been that, making sure nothing spills out as more gets put in.
Then while on a three-hour run I listened to Amy Poehler talk about kids in Haiti. How they’re slaves, they never stop working, and they are sold into prostitution. It made me cry. I was on my 18th mile and I had to start walking because I was crying. I finished my run, came in my house, and hugged my daughter as tight as she would let me.
The next day I went swimming at the YMCA and saw a man with cerebral palsy being carried around the pool by an aid. I felt guilty.
A few years ago there was a joke about having a “man card” that men carried because they did manly things. If you did something unmanly – I think the schtick at the time was drinking the wrong beer – you lost your “man card.” I felt like I might lose my “happy life card.” That God or Buddha or whoever she is would be sitting on the bleachers at the YMCA next to my towel and ask for it. I’d have to have sheepishly hand it over like a child who took one extra piece of candy.
Now I feel a bit better. Easter is around the corner and I love the holidays. Any holiday. I always felt lucky growing up that I enjoyed being around my family – all of them. There would be jokes on television or in the comics that I just wouldn’t understand. They were funny, smart, and told the best stories. I hope that’s what this weekend has in store for me and you.
What I’ve been writing.
I wrote a pair of post at The Waiter’s Pad. One was from Mark Ford who talked about the value of focusing on the things that really matter. Ford at the time was working on a style guide for the publishing company that employed him when he realized, the people reading didn’t care about the style. They cared about getting their questions answered. The second post was from Dr. Moises Naim and he talked about the changes coming our way in mobility, mentality, and more. The interview was okay, the book he was promoting I’ll grab at the library to flip through.
What I’ve been reading.
Last week I didn’t know what I would read next and after a false start with Resilience (but I’m sure to pick it up again one day) I started Mean Genes. It’s a book that considers if we act the way we do, in part, because we’ve evolved into creatures that don’t fit the environment. We value the immediate – the case goes – because there was no way value the future for the longest time. Saving in evolutionary terms meant eating it and putting it in the “piggy bank” known as your hips, but, and stomach.
I picked up the book in part because Nassim Taleb and others cited it, but also because it’s a alternative theory to the behavioral economics I know much better. Knowing the angle of evolutionary biology in how we act is like another tool on a bench for figuring out life’s broken parts.