Monday, December 12, 2016

Bumper Bowling

For the past few years, I have been challenged to define myself.  This is difficult work if you've ever chosen to undertake it - a lot harder than it sounds.  At first, I tended to adopt other people's ways of defining themselves that sounded cool to me.  That proved to mostly be mostly close, but not really right.

Turns out, the way to self-define is not to know others, but to know yourself.  Knowing myself is not easy.  I have been trained my whole life to know other stuff, like science and history and math and stuff like that.  I know the stuff related to my work very well, for example and for that I am called an "expert".  But knowing myself?  Well, nobody ever actually asked me to do that until 2009.  When it did come up, it was really more of a means to knowing something else.  Recognize how taking a test makes you feel so you can be better at taking tests, for example.

What I have found out about myself is that I tend to see my relationship with others as like those inflatable bumpers in the gutters at the bowling alley.  These are like really long balloons that keep the ball from going into the gutter, which in bowling is a bad thing to have happen.  Nowadays, most of them are metal. 

Adults don't use them because they have been indoctrinated into a rather radical risk/reward culture.  Being punished for being too close to the edges seems perfectly reasonable and acceptable to most of us.

Many of those same adults, however remain sensitive enough to allow kids the "luxury" of having those balloons up to keep them from being disappointed.  Funny how some people see this as being overprotective while others see bowling as being a little too heavy on the punishment.

Anyway, through this nearly ten-year long period of growing self-awareness, I have come to realize that I am not called on to be sure that everything that the folks around me does is "right" [whatever the hell that means], but rather to just be there - kinda like bowling bumpers - to point out what I think might be wrong or a mistake.  

I'm not here to persuade anyone to do the right thing - mostly because that assumes that I have some sort of clairvoyance into what the "right" thing is.  Luckily, the wrong stuff is a lot easier to see.  My love and power comes from pointing out what I'm pretty sure could be wrong.  I don't actually help you by helping you hit the pins.  That's really up to you.  However, I should do what I can to keep you out of the gutter.

As time goes on, I've had wonderful conversations about this.  Have you ever played bowling with the bumpers installed and made a rule that you HAD to hit the bumper?  Ricochet bowling!  Forced risk-taking.  [PS, don't do this with the metal bumpers, you could break them.  Also, don't do this drunk.  Not that I have any experience with this, but I could imagine [ehem] how it might get out of hand.]

I also have found out that I parent this way, too.  This drives other people a little crazy because they get all whipped into a frenzy when my kids do something stupid or dangerous.  We had a two really close calls [so far], for which I was chastised for "not having done enough" [which is remarkably easier to diagnose after all the facts are known, by the way].   So, I am supposed to raise confident, independent adults who are not supposed to make any mistakes along the way and if they do, its because I failed to protect them.  Yea, right.  Good luck with that. Let me know how that works out for you.

I'm that way in most situations, not just parenting.  I apparently believe that I am not being very present for or on "my team" if my role devolves into the person who is disappointed when other people mess up, has shame at messing up my self, or avoids risk altogether.

As long as we're all generally headed in the direction of the pins, detours and all, I'm good with that.

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