Tuesday, October 30, 2007

"Life's a dance you learn as you go,

sometimes you lead, sometimes you follow..."

Sometimes you'd rather just stay in bed, pull the covers over your head and wait it out.

Usually, however, the latter is not an option. Not even during Fire Week, when we all had to keep getting up to see if it was our turn to evacuate, or if we could open the windows again, or if we had to go to work that day.

Since my windows are open again and The Calendar is at the printer, I finally have the time and capacity to do a little blog update. These are the subjects that have been bouncing around in my head like little cells on a plate of glass under a microscope: people with babies, people who do not live in the fire zone, people and reality, residency programs.

1) I've talked about this subject with my other friends who do NOT have babies. The reason I have spoken with this particular category of friend is I can't seem to find any of my friends who DO have babies. It really does seem that the edge of the Earth is in fact parallel to the edge of the chute that babies come through--once the kid crosses that line its adults take that last step on Earth and crossover into Babyland. My friends who have had friends with babies for longer than I have, tell me that the Disappeared Adults are common and that I had better get used to it. I once heard a child-free couple say that they purposely stopped being friends with people who have babies because all those people ever talk about is their babies. I thought they were joking or just mean, but I think perhaps they were using a defense mechanism by saying it was their choice.

I am a woman who would be apt to be the kind of child-free friend of a friend-with-child who would help the other woman. I would change diapers. I would feed bottles and baby food. I would probably even get a car seat so I could truck around the children of my various friends-with-children and the friend could do whatever it is friends do when they need their child to be separated from them for a time.

I have done these things for some women for some time.

But now it seems, I have officially entered the formerly-known-as zone.

I live in the world of The Unknown now.

Why don't I know?

Because of the Edge.

Up here, where the child-free adults live, we ask each other about the Formerly Known and all of us have to conjecture. We try to give our friends-with-children the benefit of the doubt; we tell each other that it is because children take so much time, so much energy, so many resources and are so strict about their bedtime and their presence in, let's say, bookstores, coffee shops, bars and restaurants or classes or non-child-proof houses that our Formerly Knowns have simply been sucked into what we see as a void of child-ed-ness. Others, those who are parents of children so old that the parents have climbed back over the edge say that the Disappeared aren't suddenly angry with us, but their lives have taken a turn that cannot involve us the way we used to be involved in their lives.

That line of reasoning sounds all well and good and logical, but it still sucks and we child-free types ask why the Formerly Known do not want us even as helpers. Why we who used to help ourselves to food and beverage from each other's kitchens are suddenly thought of as guests instead of an extra pair of hands. Why friendship suddenly has to mean more than presence--simple parallel play, even.

The child-free behold the adult lives that we have and miss our Formerly Knowns while we also feverishly embrace what we have up here where the children do not live with us (we have nieces, nephews and the occasional borrow-baby) . Sometimes we seem to get it--life just turned around and there it is: those other people are gone--but sometimes we do not. Sometimes we look around and say, "Wait a moment. Where'd she go?"

2) This morning Diana prepared the sliding glass door to the balcony to stay open so the doggies could go outside to drink their water. (Since they have beards and drink with their tongues, they make a big mess on the floor if the bowl is left in the kitchen.)

"Oh, are you putting that outside again?" I asked.

"Yeah. I pulled it in here because of the fires, but that's sooooo last week," she said.

Of course, we both know that it's only "last week" for those of us who returned to our offices and classrooms today, and those who never left their homes, are back in their homes or whose homes are standing but smoke damaged.

Meanwhile, it is difficult to understand the way life just kept happening outside San Diego while we sat around watching the county burn down.

Today is October 30. Almost Halloween. Reformation Sunday has come and gone. The tenth month is nearly over. Bills are still due, pay day is still to come, and TV programs continue with their storyline despite our all-news-all-the-time missing episodes.

I talked to someone who called me to check our fire status last week. Right at the beginning of the conversation I told him, "I can't talk for long, we're not supposed to use our cell phones."

"Who's not supposed to use their cell phones?" he asked.

"People in San Diego. We need to leave the lines open so that the people working on the fires can use them--everyone's using them so much that sometimes we're getting messages that calls can't go through."

This normally uber-socially-conscious person said, "Oh," got more info about my safety-status and then started telling me about the project he and his friends were working on in the garage.


Didn't I just say we couldn't talk for long?

And thus, my analysis of people and reality.

3) The idea probably is not a break-through: every person has a unique reality.

Even those of us who live in the fire zone all have a different reality of the fires because our experience is different. Even four people in one family living in a three-bedroom home have unique realities because they have unique experiences and perspectives of the very same moments. Einstein would argue that even time flows differently for each of the four people, so perhaps the moments are not even the same.

So, how can I expect someone to understand my feelings when he lives in a place where A) he can work in his garage because the air is clean, B) he can be with friends and doing something other than volunteering or worrying because none of them might be evacuated soon, C) he cannot even smell the fire and D) if he were listening to the radio or watching TV, his programming would remain uninterrupted?

What I have come to know is that no one can ever fully understand someone else's reality. We can try, but we cannot actually know what they know.

Maybe what we have to settle for is the attempt and acceptance. "I will try to understand your reality, but I need you to help me by giving me as much information as you can so I can work toward my understanding of you. I hope you will accept me for who I am and what I know and feel."

Maybe none of it will ever make any more sense than none at all.

1 comment:

Penny said...

It is hard to know someone's reality. I try hard to keep in touch with friends who do not have children, but as time passes things change. You have more children, you work more hours, your husband is home more so you need to spend time as a family, etc. I miss my friends, but your friendship has to change with your life changes. Some of my friends have remained intact, and others have fallen off. I miss life BC (before children), but I love my children also. Sometimes it is easier to go forward rather than reach back and retrieve a previous friendship, but we, with children, never forget the memories of when you were in our lives.