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seriousness and silliness

"Their rapt immersion evokes a familiar resentment in me"
I remember the ninja girl telling me about a scene in Alison Bechdel's Fun Home, with everyone in the family in their own corner of the house, deeply engaged in their private pursuits. I remember at the time I felt implicated--she didn't mention it in an accusing way, just in passing--but still: it seemed to me even then something that we, as a family, were prone to.

So now I'm actually reading Fun Home (for book group), and I arrived at that part, and it's even more indicting:

It was a vicious circle, though. The more gratification we found in our own geniuses, the more isolated we grew.

Don't get me wrong: as a private person with lots of things I like doing alone, I'm not advocating lots of enforced togetherness and activities that are first choice for no one. Especially now: my kids are all out in the world or are very shortly going to be venturing out into the world--it's right for them to be doing their own thing. But Bechdel describes her natal family as like an artists' colony, and that's not what I want for when we do all come together. I guess where I'm at now is that we should be looking out at each other with interest and receptivity (and love)--that that's what a family does for its members.

1992, as seen from 1969
On a lighter note, the healing angel got a collection of Philip K. Dick's short stories for Christmas. I've never read any Philip K. Dick! So, we've been reading some of these stories after dinner. Last night we read The Electric Ant (1969). It's about a guy who discovers he's a robot and decides to tamper with his inner workings to try to alter his perceptions of reality . . . or perhaps reality itself, guys! Like psychedelic drug trips, only with computers.

His reality is mediated via a roll of punch-card magnetic tape. There are flying cars called squibs and video phones (that you dial, and that are stationary) called fones, and if you want to access a computer (a big giant UNIVAC-style thing), you have to dial it up--no personal computers. It all takes place in the far future of 1992.

Have a picture from a Marvel Comics reprint of the story


( 14 comments — Leave a comment )
Dec. 31st, 2015 09:58 pm (UTC)
It can be so hard to balance space and privacy with connection and family!
Dec. 31st, 2015 11:24 pm (UTC)
Yes it is, and I've been reassessing. It's complicated: at this stage, as I say in the post, I need to be (and generally I do feel this way) encouraging the kids to have confidence in themselves as adventurers who are setting off on their own journeys (but are always welcome back for R&R). But at the same time, I'm aware now, in ways I wasn't before, of how my own peculiarities encouraged a kind of selfish isolationism ... it's a bit rich for me to notice it **now**, but there you go.

I was thinking more broadly of the annoying term "dysfunctional family." I know there are some horror shows out there, cases of abusive parents, or cases with massive deceptions or neglect ... but it seems to me that in the bell part of the bell curve, you've got lots of families with ups and downs and tensions and misunderstandings and regrets and so on, struggling to do the right thing by one another, but not always agreeing on what that is or how to manifest it. And okay, sometimes, maybe even lots of times, that can feel like barely functioning, but that's life too... so...

(so in this comment you get the post I didn't make--didn't make it because I didn't know where to go with it...)
Jan. 2nd, 2016 01:06 am (UTC)
It's an important conversation, but a difficult one too because it requires us to doubt what we've already done, and doubts can lead to regrets, and sometimes regrets motivate us to make changes that might or might not be better for us and our families...

There are things I regret doing and not doing with Dev. There are times I didn't push him to do something that I now think I should have pushed for because, in trying to "correct" what I considered a mistake my parents made with me, I think I went too far on the pendulum-swing by not offering *enough* direction. So now, like you, I'm wondering if I created something I need to fix or merely created something different! :)
Dec. 31st, 2015 10:52 pm (UTC)
You're a good mom!
Dec. 31st, 2015 11:25 pm (UTC)
I don't know if I'm always the best mom for the moment, if you know what I mean. But I definitely *want* to be a good one.
Jan. 1st, 2016 12:20 am (UTC)
I know that my family has a tendency to do the same thing: Mom sewing, Dad working on his boat, my brother studying, and me (at least theoretically) writing...

I suppose we could all do this in the same room, like a family in a Victorian novel where the house has only one heat source and no one wants to get farther away from it than absolutely necessary. But even in Victorian novels, they do seem to sit around the fire all pursuing their own pursuits.
Jan. 1st, 2016 12:27 am (UTC)
That's very true; there's no reason it has to be a bad thing--I think it really does depend on how it is when a family all comes together. I think when everyone's secure and happy, and well disposed toward one another, then yeah, it doesn't matter whether you're doing things together or separately... so maybe I'm kind of barking up a wrong tree focusing on it.

(I do like the Victorian thing of everyone doing their separate things but in a share space--that's super companionable)
Jan. 1st, 2016 12:31 am (UTC)
Yeah, I find the shared space + separate activities thing super charming, too. I used to have some friends where we'd hang out and do that, and it was very pleasant and low-key. No one needed to provide entertainment or anything.

Of course, it doesn't really work with friends (or family) who you only see occasionally.
Jan. 1st, 2016 02:00 pm (UTC)
Yeah, that's true about it not working if you only see people occasionally.

The message I remember so clearly from my own childhood, and which I more or less passed along to my kids, was not to feel compelled to do X or Y thing. I know there were some things we were told we had to do, like there were some things I made my kids do, but basically we were given the message that it was good/okay to run with our feelings, so if we didn't want to do something, we didn't have to. But it turns out you have to *sometimes* do things you don't want in order to sustain a relationship. Most people know that, but it came as a news flash to me :-P
Jan. 1st, 2016 02:19 pm (UTC)
I think it comes as a news flash to a lot of USians-- it doesn't get narrated that way to any extent at all.
Jan. 1st, 2016 03:03 am (UTC)
I suspect that the question is: are you (we) all each other's respectful housemates?

Which is okay. It certainly beats familial demands that others act as henchpersons, servitors, admirers, inferiors, second of third bananas.

But how much better to be each other's supporters, encouragers, beta-readers-- and if it should fall out so, collaborators....
Jan. 1st, 2016 02:06 pm (UTC)
Yes--I totally agree with this.
Jan. 1st, 2016 01:01 pm (UTC)
Being, as you are, a person with several personal interests that can be isolating, I find the balancing act of pursuing my pastimes and example-setting on my mind quite often of late. On the one hand, I would like the family to be together, engaged in fun, interesting, and if possible, communal things; but on the other hand, I just want some time alone to do what I want to do without constant interruptions.

Our craft room is turning out to be a good thing for us. Everyone has his or her own station comes and goes as pleases. It is pretty much a given that if J and I are working on something, the kids will go to their own stations and create, too. Because we are all in the same room, there is a lot of chatting and helping...and, yes, even interruptions. I'm enjoying it so far, though, finding it companionable, to borrow a word from another commenter. :)
Jan. 1st, 2016 02:13 pm (UTC)
I really like how you describe your craft room. It sounds blissful and warm and creative.

Thinking of your first paragraph, one thing I remember from Sirens, from writers who've continued with writing while they had small children, was the setting aside of time or space where they weren't to be bothered. They all did that--even if the space was just separated from the surroundings by a curtain. But of course when kids are **really** little, they can't be asked to not interrupt (babies cry; toddlers don't understand those rules), so yeah, private time, let alone private creative time, can be hard. Enjoying creativity that can tolerate interruptions (like in the craft room) is one way to get around the problem.
( 14 comments — Leave a comment )

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