School Days

My little boy recently started school for the first time. And instead of fretting all day, I went to Epcot and had a great time with my wife. We haven’t not had him around us for six-and-a-half years — no date-nights, babysitters, daycare — nothing. But when we sent him into school, I never worried once — I dared not, lest my worry come true. And it turned out, he had a great first day as far as I could tell. He seemed like he had fun and could finally hang around some other kids his own age.

A number of months ago he decided he’d rather go to a regular school instead of home-school. As his homeschool teacher, I wasn’t even insulted, he’s welcome to live his own life. While homeschooling him, I always did so with the potential that he’d switch over to a regular school at some point and always told him what teachers expect and how to behave and all that. I think he went-in pretty prepared — right into first grade and he didn’t seem to miss us at all.

I think if we had put him into kindergarten a year ago, there might have been some separation anxiety issues, but now it seems like he was ready. And that’s been my secret to parenting, not forcing him to do something too soon — simply wait until he’s ready, and voila! — smooth as silk. Also, part of the reason we moved to a new town was because we thought it had a better school-system than the town we previously lived in — and we picked a home only three minutes walking-distance from the school.

At the end of the first day, all the kids were swarming out of the gates. In the distance I saw his little face and I waved. He seemed a bit overwhelmed by the crowds of kids but he smiled and waved back when he saw me. His mom and I walked him home and he told us all about his time in class. It’s neat to witness a little human growing up, I see it as an honor to be able to observe it from the vantage point of a dad. Speaking of which, it’s a new day and time for my wife and I to go have some fun!

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Schrodinger’s Cat

This is not its intended usage, but since “Schrodinger’s Cat” is a commonly used concept, I like to think of it in my own way.

Since I’m an adherent of Simulation Theory, I really do believe that the cat in the box remains in a nebulous state until observed. My belief about the cat actually determines whether it’s alive or dead when I open the box. My belief is what instructs the simulation to render the cat in whatever state I imagine.

So what? Well, I use this concept as a way to force myself to think positively. If whatever I imagine renders before my eyes, then I better make sure I think the highest-quality thoughts lest I receive the worst of what I imagine. And it works — my life has significantly improved since I started ignoring and suppressing my pessimistic tendencies.

In this context, I would define anxiety as the welcoming-in of pessimistic thoughts. In other words, thoughts come and go, both positive and negative — and that’s not a problem — the problem was my willingness to entertain EVERY thought that came into my head. And it was this unfiltered approach to thinking that caused my anxiety. Once I stopped inviting unpleasant thoughts in, anxiety went away.

Do some pessimistic thoughts get pushy and try to barge their way in? Yep. But I push right back, a process that improves with practice. And whether my life is objectively better or just seemingly better doesn’t even matter — awesome is awesome. But as it turns out, things did start out seemingly better but now you could say my circumstances are objectively better too. And all it took, was a more disciplined approach to thinking.

Wet Paint

But Rich, what about [insert pessimistic thought here]? It’s great to hear that you’re havin’ a lovely time and all, but what about when it all comes crashing to a halt because of [insert pessimistic thought here]?

Here’s the deal, if life is out to get me, and this is all a trap to lull me into a false sense of security, then I’m doomed no matter what I do. So what greater slap in the face to a bully than to truly enjoy the run-up to my beating and then laugh all the way through it? But that’s even assuming life is a bully hell-bent on humiliating me before my eventual destruction — which is a ridiculous thought.

Life has literally coddled and cared for me during all these decades of existence only to pull the rug-out now? That’s crazy talk. And if life was truly that sadistic, then screw it. But life isn’t like that, in fact it’s a pretty neat ride. Sure I’ve heard about things happening to other people but that’s not my business is it — some people actually enjoy roller-coasters, they’re not for me though.

But Rich, what if life isn’t really looking-out for you? What if you’re on your own here and things just don’t work out? Well then how did I make it all these years in the first place? Listen bro, I’ve literally done sh*t to make it through life. Apparently I suck at this stuff. I don’t mind, I enjoy having something to do and I like observing and commentating on the action — no big deal. But if skill was a necessary component of game-play, well I’d have lost long ago.

The one thing I’ve finally done though, is start to appreciate the spectacle-that-is-life. That’s the only change I’ve made — and voila!, life has miraculously turned from a dark wasteland of doom into a magical wish-granting world. So screw that pessimistic bullsh*t, it’s not a form of caution or diligence, it’s just pure crap. If you paint the world with pessimistic hues, that’s what you’ll see. Now I’m painting with delightful colors that brighten up my view — and you know what, life is lookin’ good.

Virtual Excitement

Imagine you’re playing a game, it’s a virtual world filled with little characters running around. They all wake up at sunrise, gather food, eat, gather more food, eat, then go to sleep at sunset. There’s nothing more to the game. Everything goes according to plan and everything is in perfect harmony. Is it a fun game? Of course not, it’s a boring waste of time.

Now imagine a similar game, a virtual world filled with little characters running around. But here, calamity often strikes, resource shortages occur, and characters quarrel. Little goes according to plan and harmony is a sought-after but never achieved state. Is it a fun game? Yeah, imbalance is the foundation of most games.

If life wasn’t a game, a smoothing balance would occur over time. Yet as it is, turbulence of shifting varieties keeps the boat rockin’. Life will never reach a balanced state, and we wouldn’t want it to. Do we desire boredom? No, never, it’s literally the worst feeling ever. We’d rather suffer the harshest pains than submit to boredom. We’ll scare ourselves silly rather than be bored.

I could ignore everything that goes on around me, letting circumstances sail-by like water off a duck’s back, never absorbing — but I don’t. Instead I intently watch, waiting to be triggered. THERE!!! Aha! Now I’m scared! Now I’m angry! Frustrated in fact!! Good! Goooood! I’m energized by these little dramas that keep coming into view!

And that’s it. That’s life in a nutshell. Now you understand why things are the way they are. But games are not only meant to be engaging, but fun — if you’re not enjoying yourself then you’re taking it too seriously, perhaps too personally — lighten up. If flickering pixels make you cry then step back a bit and find another part to focus on.

In a way, you’re at a buffet. Select the stuff you want, and stop getting the stuff that grosses you out. Don’t even look at it, just stick to the stuff that delights your palate. Develop an appreciation for the nicer things in life or you’ll be stuck with the worst stuff possible. Fear and frustration are the easiest ways to get your heart racing, but they’re low-quality options that should be avoided.

Have a Role

So what is the role with which I most identify? Obviously I’ve most identified with my inner-observer. I so often sit still watching life go by. But I don’t mind that, I don’t lament my inactivity, I’m more freaked out when life tries to engage with me. I’m like a tourist inside of a safari vehicle driving through the savannah watching all the action safely from my seat. But if the tour-guide stops the vehicle and asks me to step outside, then that’s a no for me dawg.

I can understand that in order to relate to life, I kinda have to live it a bit. But a bit is enough, just a taste is all it takes. In other words, to enjoy the performance, it’s best if I can connect to the material in some way. Beyond that, I actually do feel confined by certain limitations. For example, whenever I try to do stuff, it doesn’t really work out the way I want it to — so maybe life doesn’t even want me doing things on my own. Maybe I really am supposed to sit still in the audience.

On the other hand, life might just be throwing obstacles in my way in order to provide a challenging experience. That’s what games do, isn’t it — provide hurdles between the start and finish lines. A game without challenge isn’t fun. Competing in a contest and feeling the eventual triumph is always a good time. Maybe I’m just being a baby about it, “Boohoo, life is hard!”. Maybe I just have to accept the challenge and keep pushing forward with what I want to do.

But that’s the question isn’t it — what do I want to do? Frankly, not much.

[Fast forward to the next day…]

In that previous moment of contemplation while considering how uninspired I was, I was struck with an idea to go to Disney with my son. And so that’s what we did. It was an epic adventure too. We explored a newly built area, we took a boat to another park, we got FastPasses and rode rides, as a team we ordered popcorn and paid, we strolled the streets of far-off lands, we ate French pastries, we walked to resorts — it was just an overall good time.

In many ways I’m like a fish in water at Disney. And with a little-boy in tow to wonder at the sights and sounds, we’re the perfect duo to have a Magical Day. Maybe life really is meant for living.

Familial Lamentations

Dear diary,

I’m at my mother’s house today. I’m not pleased. When we left the hotel today it felt like I was on my way to prison — the party’s over folks. Last night I was livin’ the high-life eatin’ Mint-Chip Dazzlers at Disney Springs, tonight it’ll be hot dogs in the kitchen.

Of course I’m being overly-dramatic and I can readily recognize it. But my mind is swirling with the worst thoughts possible. I don’t like this place. I could quite easily compose a one-hundred item list of all the things I don’t like about it.

I want to go back to where I just was, my real home. I want a nice condo on main street, I want an annual pass to the parks, I want a nice school and restaurants within walking distance. I want to go strolling right from my front door among all the pleasant little neighborhoods.

I’m still waiting to hear back from the property manager about our approval — I’m just super-impatient. And what if… what if… no I can’t even consider it — we have to be approved! I need that place like I need air to breathe!

Oh diary, we’re running out of time and alternatives. Our old house is gone (and good riddance), but now we’re in limbo, an in-between state of residential uncertainty.

Speaking of family, I went and visited my father’s grave today. Nothing new to report, he’s still dead.

Yours Truly,
Rich

Becoming Childlike

It is written: We must become as little children.

Have you ever seen the sheer delight on a child’s face at the mere mention of a simple treat? Or have you ever witnessed the unflinching forgiveness and fearlessness a child has toward a parent. “You’re my mommy and I love you!” — nothing gets between that sentiment.

So here’s the deal. You grow up. You get jaded. A treat just isn’t going to cut it anymore. And now you’re scared — you’ve been hurt too many times to forgive. Now it’s “Leave me alone! I hate you!”

So what happened? Is your creator a wicked monster that beat the love and wonder out of you? Or, did you just get spooked and run away to hide in the darkest dingiest hole you could find?

Let’s analyze this for a second. Either your creator is a horrible sadist hell-bent on torturing you… or, you were a bit overwhelmed and had a bad reaction. Have you ever seen how some teenagers overreact to perfectly reasonable parents?

Listen, you’ve got to settle down and stop acting like an angsty teen. Your creator is not trying to ruin your life, your creator has your best interests in mind, your creator loves you now and always. You misunderstood and were frightened, no big deal.

Now get back to delight and appreciation, return to forgiveness and fearlessness. Reach out and feel the love of a creator that wants nothing more than to give you the gift of existence. Show your smile, say thanks, maybe “I love you too”.