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Avery,

I can’t in good conscious believe that you will achieve anything more than the standards of my own living, just because I tell you to do so. I dream that you will choose to spend your evenings engaging in a variety of intellectual challenges, alongside an age appropriate context of responsibilities. My strategy of providing this path, is best described by a rule I learned from the craft of screenwriting, “Show, don’t tell”. Avery, if you were alive right now, all I could possibly show you lately, is an unhealthy addiction to video-games, porn, Facebook debating and the Netflix instant queue. It would be an easy path of ignorance to sit on my couch of lethargic shame and believe that I will magically break all of these habits the day you are born. I owe you more than that, and I will set a higher standard for this family to live by, starting right now.

Rather than specifically focusing on one goal, I could be a much better parent if I simply generalize my self-improvement, in an effort to be an all-around better person. That is what I want for you Avery, O let thy be the light.

Dad’s manifesto of change:

Seven days a week, I will spend a minimum of thirty-minutes on each of these things:.

  • Chores

Dishes, Laundry and the litter-box

  • Exercise

Weights, Yoga, and Running

  • Creativity

Writing, Editing, Photography

  • Reading

Fiction, Non-Fiction, Science, Philosophy, Journalism, self-help, and Barley Legal

Accountability:
Good intentions are routinely lost in the fray of repetition and exhaustion. I need a hook, that keeps me dedicated to this mission statement. That hook is this blog and it’s regular readers. I will live tweet these daily goals @Lessonsforavery and I will add a recent tweets gadget to the side bar of this blog. So everybody and anybody, will be able to see my progress, and if I’m slacking, they are encouraged to tweet @Lesssonsforavery and provide me a social media kick in the ass, if they wish to.

Follow me!

This is what it’s like to be an adult Avery, struggling to micro-manage these fleeting attempts to convince ourselves that we have control of something. We shall all fail at some point, even so, our ultimate goal is to simply never give up, in-spite of all the fore-shadowing of our eventual demise. Life must be treated as an opportunity, to be something more than those before us. Procrastination is the poison, that blinds us from death, by creating the fear of life. Now or never, count me in; be prepared Avery, because your next.

Below, are some pictures from my less-than-recent accomplishments, hopefully these shall serve as motivation, to be a better person.

First two pictures are from a 10K foot-race I participated in 2008. Finished in 1:01:33

These are from the top of a mountain I free-climbed in the Appalachians.
And Finally, these are from another hiking trip. Diane and I completed this treacherous 9-mile long day-hike through thick swampy forests, across cable bridges, and around the largest water-fall in South Carolina.

Hi Avery,

If I can teach you one lesson, pertaining to the culture and dynamics of human-nature, it would be this:

Power Corrupts.

This rule is to human-nature, as gravity is to the universe, and as your father, protector and provider, it is my responsibility to wield the powers of adulthood for the betterment of your well-being. This role and duty is inherently a corruption of my will. The irony is that I myself, to this very day, still battle the will of my parents, and I anticipate, that I always will. Power just isn’t something you ask for, or something life just hands you, it’s something you fight for. So I expect, anticipate, and plan for, all the love and happiness we shared over your childhood, to be put aside, and I encourage you to challenge the authority of your captures.

I forgive you Avery, for I know that if I do my job right, you will not go silently into that good night. I said and did horrible things to both of my parents, and we survived. Even so, when I spend time with them, I often want to apologize for my rebellion, and what I think is guilt, may actually just be appreciation, admiration, and eventual inspiration.

Hopefully, I’m ready Avery, or as ready as I can be; either way, I will try to rememeber, that my goal is to survive this war, because there is no victor, just another recruit

From one warrior to another, bring it on brat.

Inspired by this guy:

Hey Avery,

When you’re a kid, you will be taxed with numerous challenges. Everything from your first heart-beat to motor-functions, breath of air, bowel movements, crying and on, and eventually you will learn to play, laugh, and dance; and yes, it can be all fun and games, but someone always gets hurt. I don’t mean some little scrape on the knee, or for that matter, I’m not even talking about physical harm, this lesson is about learning to handle emotional pain.

Call the Whambulance

My journey through this challenge, was very difficult, and I must remain connected to this time of my life, so that I can be aware of your own struggle, and be your guiding light. This is the story of my own childish journey through the dark murky waters of emotional ambiguity.

Gradually over time, I began to feel my body and mind change, and I recall this metamorphosis being hard to notice in the moment, but still strangely confusing. My family was very loving and providing, but I remember feeling like they were distracted and not aware of my introspective struggle.

I should clarify, I didn’t roll up into a ball and cry in my room, I did actually try to heal these wounds, but I was a kid, and my first attempts to discover emotional clarity, were quite crude, and rather dangerous. My first solution came to me while facing social-anxiety, I recall wanting to talk to my baby-sitter, and was afraid to do so. Instead, I sat in my room, and would stare into my cheap plastic osculating fan. I took off the plastic barrier and started jamming action figures and other random objects into the spinning blades. The destruction, and dismay gave me an internal sense of fulfillment, that I had never before felt. Once bored with that game, I began to wonder what would happen if I jammed my finger into the fan blades. I imagined the blood, drama and panic it would cause. I did approach the fan blades with my pinky-finger, hoping for the worst, but I didn’t have the courage to find out that a plastic fan, can’t actually sever a finger. A week later, I told my Mother, that I was thinking about committing suicide. It was a lie, I wanted attention, and I got the attention of a psychiatrist instead. I was prescribed anti-depressants and everyone acted as if all was well. I never swallowed a single pill.

I never swallow

 

So I failed the fan test, but the idea planted the seed of a dangerous concept, that pain and fear could provide a momentary sense of emotional clarity. One night I stole a pair of tweezers from the bathroom; I can’t even remember how I got this idea, but I laid in my bed and began plucking single hairs from the inside of my nose, one by one. I did this until my nostrils were hairless, then I would wait, until I could seek relief another night. My patience grew short, and I would wait less and less. I was already a drug addict, and I didn’t even know what drugs were yet. One night, I was seeking relief real bad, and my nostrils were bone dry and would even spot with blood, so I decided to start plucking other hairs, eye-lashes, eye brows, and I had even started at the top of my head. So I got out of control, and one day while I was at school, a classmate pointed at the top my head and shouted, “baldy!”. I had not known, but I plucked a bald spot, the size of a quarter, into the top of my head. My Mom and the therapist she said was mine, decided I was allergic to the antideppresants, I was pretending to take. I will never forget my Father, when he looked directly into my eyes, and announced, “He is doing it to himself”, nobody believed him, and I didn’t have the strength to out myself, but for some strange reason, it was all I really wanted, is to be noticed.

Coming soon, a picture from my Jr. High year book with the nickname “Baldy” underneath.

Things made a turn for the better at this point, far from perfect, but better. One of the most important influences of my positive growth was discovered through music. I borrowed my Dads album “Animals” by Pink Floyd, just because the cover art interested me. The very opening track is “Pigs on the Wing Part 1”, and I remember feeling like I had already wrote the lyrics to a song that I have never before.

If you didn’t care what happened to me,

and I didn’t care for you,

we would zig zag our way through the boredom and pain,

occasionally glancing up through the rain

wondering which of the buggers to blame

and watching for pigs on the wing. 

I continued to discover that many of these confusing emotions were all packaged in this fascinating poetic rhythm. Nirvana, Nine Inch Nails, The Doors and Pink Floyd, spoke to the dark corners of my imagination, and provided a contextual beauty to the emotional pain I struggled to process. It may not have been the last time I flirted with self-destructive behavior, but it was the last time I felt like I didn’t have any other option.

The soundtrack of my puberty.

 

Avery, my situation was my own, and not yours. I intend to do everything in my capability to protect you, but I know even the greatest efforts will falter under the ambiguous nature of the human psyche.

Hi Avery, 


 It has been a tough couple of months, yet on the surface, I have nothing to complain about, I started a new job, I’m in good health, and I have a great partner to share my life with. So I feel the need to talk to you about my recent nights of paranoia driven sleeplessness.So what is it, why can’t I relax, I have everything going for me, so why not just close my eyes and sleep in peace?


 Avery, I fear the Apocalypse.

 


For me, this word is not some excuse for a wild conspiracy theory, or some cult following of a fiction horror genre, you know, where the dead come to life and eat the living; for me the apocalypse is simply anything that kills my entire family. So anywhere between an atomic bomb, and a head on collision with a drunk driver, I lay there, wondering if something is around the corner, waiting  to rape and murder everything I love.


I’m trying to keep this feeling of dread and panic in perspective, its not like I live my life thinking about this all the time. But with the notion of your future existence, the stakes are only getting higher. So I need to find a path towards peace with this fear, in a practical way, where I can protect my family, as well as my sanity.Here are my two biggest fears: 

 Problem #1 Societal Collapse




Since the day I was born, I have been raised in an environment that solely relies on a communal-system, to provide everything we need to survive. What if that system breaks and seizes to exist? Will we just wait for death while watching our Ipad’s battery life trickle to zero-percent?



Solution: We, as a family, will go camping, backpacking, and we will also practice and prepare for outdoor survival. The outdoors is considered by many, a place for vacation or adventure, but its easy to forget that it’s the home of many living things, and it just may end up being the home for our family. We wont have Ipad’s or the Netflix Instant Queue, but we will always have each other, and if the family dog goes “missing”, don’t ask me whats in the stew. 




 Problem #2, People like to Rape each otherThe very same community that we rely on for our survival, has unfortunately created the advent of the sociopath. People, for a multitude of reasons, derived from a mixture of their environmental and mental influences, will steal, rape and murder each other. How can I protect you from these threats, while being the pacifist, bleeding heart, and anti-gun liberal that I’am?The Solution: 




Well first off, a gun is not an option, although it would be extremely helpful in the case of an apocalypse, and I feel vastly more sympathetic to those who choose to own a gun, than ever before; yet I still have one ethical issue with this choice. I fear that the simplicity of its function would cause a different kind of paranoia. I believe that if a life is to be taken, under any circumstance, I prefer it to require more effort than just pulling a trigger. I have found an alternative to this limitation? I will use a duel weapon system, where I combine pepper spray in my off-hand, and a samurai sword in my right hand. You can’t shoot what you can’t see, and there is just something frightening and classic about a samurai sword. Plus, I think there is something instinctively cautious about  anything that looks like a gigantic knife, and I also feel like there is less chance for an accidental or domestic related incident. If something dies by a sword, it was probably meant to be.



 





During these two sleepless nights, these ideas profoundly scared me, and I laid awake staring at my ceiling contemplating the frailty of life, how quickly it can all end, and everything there is to lose. Ultimately, all I can really do, is place these dark thoughts into something constructive; and embrace my role as your protector, by teaching you how to protect yourself. So sharpen your steal, pack your bags and stock up on pepper spray, the Boyle family will not be fucked with.

Hi Avery, It has been a while since I wrote you, but I have been busy trying to learn about the  universe that we live in. It  is kind of a strange place, but in time, the oddness of most  things living can be understood with the right amount of patience and a pursuit of truth.

My studies have lead me to fantasize about your childhood and I like to picture what your process of discovery might be like; the first time you see a Hawk soaring above a distant tree line, you will be amazed by its sheer grace of flight, and the next time you may wonder, what does it eat and where does it sleep, and finally, the third time you might ask, what kind of Hawk is that? I imagine your curiosity functioning exactly like the very same evolutionary process that created our kind. Sometimes I think of these evolutionary ideas when people say, “It’s a small world”, or “What a coincidence”, and I think, maybe we just want to believe in the idea that something, anything, and everything can be that special, but I must admit Avery, I don’t think it is that special, and the thought of being a father makes me wonder if challenging that notion will be a part of my own  evolutionary adaptation.

For now, allow me to explain my current day logic, you see the modern human being is at most 200,000 years young, and living in a universe that is at the most 14 BILLION years old, calculates the significance of our species to being about ten-millionth of a percentile (0.0000145%). Also, I have been a sexually active post-pubescent adult for about 16 years, so that equals a total 5,680 days orgasmic existence. Lets assume I managed one-and-a-half orgasms a day, which equals 8,760 orgasms. If we multiply that by 70 million sperm, per ejaculation, that’s where you come in, my perfect, beautiful and amazing one-point-twenty-five thousandth of a percentile  0.00125%.


I suspect this can come off as being dark and cynical, but this math proves an empowering fact, that you have no control over the biological and geological tethers of  your existence, and you can always treat these factors as just that, scientific data. Av  ery,  be warned, for that our culture will trivialize these factors as  being significant in of themselves; but the secret they don’t want you to know, is that you don’t actually have to love your   biological parents, unless they earn it. Who, how and where you  are created is not in your ha nds, and I urge you to give cred it to those who do the work, instead of the ones that figuratively do nothing  more than flip a switch.

 

I’m ready to earn it Avery, and most importantly, I’m excited! Its time for you to transcend being the figment of my imagination, and become the next clump of self-aware molecules, and you should be excited too, because the universe is amazing and mysterious, and its also your home.

Avery, I have good news and bad news.


First the good news:
I got married. It was quick, simple and my partner and I made a fun video of the event.

We did not do this because of love or commitment to each other, we had that before, and that has not changed. We did this for you, more so for the societal structure we have to raise you with.

The bad news:
The world we live in is a bit more complicated than things like: Love, happiness, family and education; no, unfortunately there is much greed and darkness we must tread through. Your birth could be the light at the end of this dark tunnel, but that tunnel has a price, and I’m concerned it is a price I’m not willing to pay.

Your Father is not a perfect man, although I will let you believe so for as long as your willing, but sadly I’m a man that is considered a social reject. Not because I like artsy things, or because I defend controversial politics like politically correct language and affirmative action. No, those things are subjective, and as adults, we wear them on our sleeves and we learn to agree to disagree, or say nothing at all. What earns me the title of a social reject is my complete lack of greed. I say this negatively, I’m not patting myself on the shoulder and bragging about how not greedy I am. What I mean is, I literally don’t care about money, to the point where I would rather be a transient hobo, rather than, “one of them”. So clearly, there is a problem. How can I function as a responsible Father with this attitude? How can I expect my partner to cope with this financial ignorance amicably, and retain a happy functional unit? Were already struggling to figure out how to afford you, and I’m faced with these greedy insurance companies that will treat you and your motherly vessel like a financial investment. It makes me sick, thinking about his garbage, and it makes me question whether or not I should really create you.

I’m feeling very dark and sad Avery, I feel like this is all a bad idea and the prospect of your life is more likely to be that as a victim, rather than a gift. How do I do this, how can I keep my integrity and be the father I need to be without placing my personal ethics on the corporate assembly line of financial greed. I just want to be a creative, healthy, and happy Father. I don’t care about fancy cars, expensive vacations, pretty jewelry, big raises, tax returns, 401ks, interest, credit score, BLAH BLAH BLAH; all I care about is you, and I’m gravely concerned that I can’t do both.

Avery, my friends and family are going to respond to this post with an affirming and positive retort:
It will all change, stay positive Shawn, it is all worth it in the end, love will conquer all, grow-up, be a man, you have so much support, don’t be negative, and this sounds like a cop-out.  

                   

[please fill in the blank, and assume your encouragement is appreciated, without it being stated like a broken record of supportive rhetoric, I’m exploring truth, not begging for support]

In conclusion:
I’m so ashamed of the world I live in, I’m worried that you will be happier living innocently in the depths of my imagination, than in your own flesh; the older I get, the more I find myself doing the same. Your smile would be warming, but this world is always colder. It might be too late, and I already feel the regret of a future not worth having.

Maybe if I pay my insurance company enough money, I can be happy, sort of…

“Avery……. No!”

Sorry to yell Avery, I’m just practicing. I do hope your a good kid, or better yet, I hope I can guide you towards being a good kid, as all parents intend to do. But I’m afraid I have to tell you the truth about myself in regards to this topic, I wasn’t a good kid. I think most people go through a phase when they decide to act like an asshole and do some embarrassingly awful things. All that stuff is pretty common, and I hope to be there for you, when your social rebellion crosses the line and parental consequences need to step in.

When I was young, the word “no” was said to me many times; and mostly, I disobeyed. I never shoved my rebellion in their face, instead I hid it by a combination of stealth and luck. I created my own world and lived by my own rules, and the only rule was, don’t ever get caught.

Of these rebellious memories, my absolute favorite was sneaking out at night. I would meet two of my friends in a backyard every night for about a month straight. We wouldn’t do anything horrible, instead we embarked on random adventures into the night. With our authority figures sound asleep, we were free from the shackles of obedience. Mostly, we would just hop fences and explore a strangers property; sometimes we would purposefully get chased by an occasional harmless dog. At our worst we would get creative with lawn ornaments, and rearrange them onto the next door neighbors yard, and see if they would be relocated the next night. Unfortunately, like all good things, they come to an end; our innocent gang of three expanded into a savage pack of nine. Our innocent adventures escalated with mob mentality and became property destroying chaos. Lawn ornaments were smashed or stolen, front doors would be soaked in the urine of uncivil youth. It wasn’t long before our fantasy world crashed to reality when a cop finally spotted us. It was my first true adult experience, the sensation of running for a true purpose, no gym teacher holding a stop-watch, no collie harmlessly nipping at our heels, this was the real world, and consequence was pursuing me on foot. The group split up and sprinted for freedom. I got home safely, and instantly made an unspoken decision, to not sneak out ever again.

Although I got out clean, I still had no respect for consequences. My parents thought I was a good kid, and so did the rest of the civil world. Yet I still had a palpable desire to go against the grain at every chance. This confident disregard held true, especially with my confidence as a swimmer. Water was my new fantasy world without rules, especially while fully submerged, I felt like nobody could tell me what to do, If I could just stay under water. I explored this fantasy with arrogance and total disregard to all safety. I would dive into the shallowest pools, head first, without a second thought. I would tackle the tallest and sketchiest rope swings in any lake, without ever spotting my landing. Just like everything else, luck carried me through these adventures unscathed for many years. Then one random summer weekday, I had the house to myself, and I decided to swim alone. I had been swimming in the same pool for many years, and I had dove cleanly into it hundreds of times, and it became a routine behavior. On this day, I dove in, and misjudged my angle. I smashed into the bottom of the pool head first; my neck crumpled and crunch into my shoulders as my vision distorted with a flash of white light. I was frozen in a moment of shock, yet I remained conscious, and pulled myself out of the pool. I violently shook in fear, and I kept thinking that any second I was about to become a paraplegic. As I began to calm down, I started to realize that in this exact situation, if one element of this moment had varied just the tiniest bit, I could have drowned to death. The very same Mother that gave birth to me, would have came home from work to find her first-born child floating dead in the pool. I thought long and hard about this moment, Avery, and I loathed my recklessness. I still think of this moment, every time I swim to this day, even though I still feel the temptation to challenge the authority of “life”, I always jump in feet first.

It’s a very frightening idea, teaching a person the difference between wrong and right, and to be honest, were still just as confused as you. But I promise to try my best, and I can at least hope that you take after your mother on this subject, cause I probably should be dead.

Hey Avery,

I been thinking about you lately.

I think my blog has neglected a voice that you will naturally grow to love. You will come to know her as Mom. I remember when I met her, I firmly believed I wouldn’t ever have a child. I even hypothesized my own vasectomy and a future of being the guy who turns to his pets and calls them family. I know, it was a hard sell, and I often wondered if your Mother would be another girl I push away or get pushed away from. I was an idealist, and I think that my social rebellion was most of my appeal. Aesthetically I’m harmless, I never dress flashy, I have no tattoos, and I can socially present myself in a friendly way, but beneath that average guy routine, was a proudly conflicted person who marveled in his rejection of family convention. Some of it is my dedication to an idea of youthful arrogance, and some of it was the emotional baggage of growing up in a broken home.

Avery, let me set the record straight, I ended that paragraph sounding like a victim; let me clarify, I was not a victim. I was loved, cared for, and I had plenty of fun-filled adventures. So when I speak of things that weren’t pretty, I prefer to think of them as my rite-of-passage into being an adult. This way I can focus on building a future that has a better version of me in it. Together, your Mother and I plan to grow in new directions and finally leave our childhood behind us. We may have been dragging our feet until now, but have no fear, you are already the center of everything we do.

What I have learned over time is that the compromises we make as adults, become necessities of personal growth. I can at least proudly say that I have made my own path, and I’m finally ready to share it with you.

I will admit, it saddens me to see my youth in the rear-view mirror, thankfully I can look forward to witnessing your own.

Love,
Dad

Hi Avery,

I recently read the famous novella by Ernest Hemingway “The Old Man and the Sea”, it is an honest examination of the meaning of life. That being the struggle against death. This ride your heart beat is taking you on, is leading to eventual defeat, that nobody can win.

Your mind is fishing for life and its caught your body. A vehicle that starts out as a beacon of freedom, resilience, growth, and a feeling of limitless capabilities, will only last as long as it takes you to figure how to use it, by that time, the peak of its performance will be looking at you in the rear view mirror, with an unavoidable collision in front of you.


This is what I will look like to you

Just the other day, I was walking across a street and my foot tripped on a pot-hole. I was enjoying my music, and a beautiful Chicago morning then, bang!

                                        

That was an unjust quick version of the story, to really appreciate the significance of this blunder, I will break it down for you play by play. First, a single foot clips the edge of a pothole. My mind enters a slow motion panic, I can feel my senses heighten, my heart rate increase and my brain sub-consciously screams “Red-alert, were going down, prepare for impact!”.
                                                     
Second, I struggle to not fall. My momentum carries me through three long steps acting as a fleeting  attempt to prevent the crash. This effort has only increased my velocity, and will result in further damage.

Third, I crash. The impact was powerful, I  had enough velocity to carry my momentum into an over-the-shoulder tuck and roll. It was not a moment of graceful gymnastics, it was a crushing display of physics, where soft-tissue weight and bone density is multiplied by gravity and says hello to a surface of asphalt.

Finally, the aftermath. I get up quick, too quick. I do not check for injuries, instead I continue walking in the exact path I had been hurled off of. Except, I was not the same person as I was before impact. My extremities twitched uncontrollably and felt unnaturally light. I could feel my nerve endings scan for pain, a pain that adrenaline would be hiding. My heart worked double time, and my brain felt disconnected from all things non-survival related. A new destination was safety and rest for my aging body to reconnect itself with the comfort of survival.

Were trapped Avery, we depend on a vessel that exists in a world of rules. These rules will catch up to you, and you will lose. I knew that day, I was closer to death, than I was to life. The mathematics of average life expectancy are severely irrelevant,  I felt my body truly struggle with the fear of death. It was simple and primal, but it scared me, and launched me into a deeper understanding of the reality of demise. This is a warning, because this moment arrived quickly for me, as I clung to an idea of youth, but it is officially just that, an idea. The end is always near, and every molecule of our body feels it, but every part of society will tell you to ignore it.

Like all parents, I hope I die first.

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