Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Velveteen and other rabbits

So, I'm nearly a quarter of the way through of my year-long anthropological experiment.  In some respects, the time has flown by at an unbelievably precipitous pace, and in others (particularly in those moments when I'm actually doing the heavy lifting), the time passes at a rate more commonly observed on treadmills.

This seems to be as good a time as any to reflect on what, if anything, I've actually learned.  I'd procrastinate and delay this introspection until tomorrow, but the penultimate episode of One Tree Hill is on tomorrow night, and I need to keep my priorities in order.   This also seems to be as good a time as any to casually mention that if anyone calls, texts or otherwise interrupts me on Wednesday, April 4th between the hours 8 and 10 PM,  they'd better be on fire.  I've invested 9 years in the fates of Nathan and Haley and Brooke---and I'm not above going Dan Scott on someone's ass (my fellow One Tree Hillers will know what I mean) if I am interrupted during the series finale.

Yes, I know that One Tree Hill might just be the worst written show in history.  Whenever you can honestly say that Steven Colletti (from Laguna Beach fame) is the best actor on any show, you know it's bad.  Mock me as you will, and it won't make even the slightest dent in my admiration.

So, what have I learned after 90 days?  In addition to the now-obvious facts that it's pretty hard to come up with new daily new experiences when you're an old dog (ok, let's face it, an old bitch) and it's even harder to come up with daily good deeds no matter how well-intentioned you are, I think I can boil it down to this:

My daughter.

My daughter is the reason.

My daughter is the root cause of the all of the new experiences and she's the reason why I want to do good deeds.

My daughter is the reason that I want to be better, braver, stronger, more accomplished.

I thought I was supposed to be the one teaching her, inspiring her, guiding her.  Fool.

Fool. Fool.  Fool.  Fool.  Fool.

My daughter is the teacher.   I'm just ridiculously fortunate that someone trusted me enough to loan her to me for a while.  As anyone who knows me can attest, I'm not a religious person (and I won't talk about religion here), but that doesn't mean and has never meant that I don't believe in anything.  In my esteemed tradition of quoting bad pop song lyrics, I bring you the lyrics to the Live song "Heaven", which pretty much nails it:

I don't need no one to tell me about heaven
I'll look at my daughter
and I'll believe.

It's that simple and it's that complicated.

My life is that simple and my life is that complicated.  That's probably the other big takeaway from the last 90 days.

Watching my complicated daughter makes me appreciate the life's complications and watching my daughter's simplicity makes me appreciate the simplicity in everyone else.  And don't even get me started on the contradictions.  If I'm a walking, talking anomaly, Little M is a running, screaming anomaly.

She's taught me that a good nature and a foul mouth can harmoniously co-exist.  How else can you possibly explain a child who is first to console a friend, wants to save sick kids and lonely stray bananas, and wants to give her toys to kids how need them more----and then follow that up with charming and ladylike phrases such "I smell like a french whore" (she totally did, btw, after a dousing with Eau de Sponge Bob) or "stop at the stop sign, you douche".

She's taught me that words are words, and actions are actions---and that actions trump words every time.

She's taught me to ask for what I want----directly, actively and clearly.  I'm proud to report that I am so much less bossy than she is.  I've never barked out orders for shamrock shakes at 1:30 am.  On a Tuesday.

She's taught me that if you love someone, you tell them.  Then and there.  In the moment.

She's taught me that if you're unhappy about something, SPEAK UP.  I'm also proud to report that I've not told anyone that their rules are stupid...but I've thought it.  And that's progress.  Who am I kidding?  I've selectively started to tell people that their rules were stupid.

She's taught me to forgive---quickly and without strings and without conditions.  Cookies help.

She's taught me that sometimes the wrong choices bring you to the right places.

She's taught me, in her glorious impatience and dogged stubbornness that I know is hereditary, that if you really want something, you fight for it.  (My apologies to everyone in Target who has witnessed these fights firsthand).

She's taught me that being real is more valuable than being perfect on the surface.

She's taught me that once you are real to someone, you can't revert back to being a shiny new toy. (yes, my favorite story as a child was The Velveteen Rabbit).

And most importantly, she's taught me that the most important good deed that I can accomplish is making other people feel important.  To validate them.  To show up when they need you.  That a busy calendar is a great thing to have, that trying to make the world a better place is a great goal to have, that working hard and accomplishment are honorable goals---but while you should respect those people who make time for you in their busy schedules, you should love those people who don't look at their schedules when you really need them.

I guess it's simple, but it's not easy.  That remembering details and birthdays and baby showers and art shows matters and favorite colors and names of children and pets and boats matter.  That showing people that they are important---that they matter---is the single greatest good deed.

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