Monday, December 23, 2013

The Things They Tell Me...

I. Snake (6)

We were driving in the car when she said out of nowhere, "How many people do you think are on the earth?"

"I don't really know," I replied, with some curiosity.

"I think it's infinity," she said with finality, having clearly established the answer in her mind before ever asking me.

"It can't be infinity," I  said, "because there's always an exact number."

"But does anyone know the number?"

"Well, not really, because at any given moment, there are always people being born and dying. No one could possibly keep count."

"Is that infinity?"

"If it's not, it's something a lot like it."

II. Natalie (3)

She was brushing her teeth when I chided her, "Don't stick your toothbrush down those little holes! There's dirt in there!"

"But Mother," she laughed, "there's an animal that's stuck in there and he's talking to me."

As I washed her brush out, I told her, "You know, when I was a little girl I used to believe there was a tiny family living down the drain of my bathroom sink, and I used to feed them water."

"I think at that point," she mused thoughtfully, "I was an old lady."

This was not the first time she had referred to her idea that our ages will always exist in some transverse relationship. Every time I mention that she'll be a lady some day, she tells me, "That's when you'll be a little girl!" I've never corrected her; I just keep waiting to hear the idea fleshed out more as her imagination grows.

"You think so?" I asked her.

"Yeah, I do," she said seriously.


Saturday, December 14, 2013

Our imaginations walk before us.

Our imaginations walk before us. We cannot engage in even the simplest act without having first imagined ourselves doing it. If I so much as turn on a light at dusk as I sit reading, my mind has already imagined the feeling of putting my bare, tucked in feet back into my slippers and walking the few steps to the light switch. This forethought unfolds so automatically, weighing the consequences of potential behaviors, that I barely realize that the decision as to when to perform this simple act entails weighing a sense of when would be the best stopping point; a complex calculus of how quickly the light is fading and how wrapped up I am in the flow of the book is unraveled with the seeming ease of Bobby Fisher making a move at chess. And suddenly I act, and the tiny denoument of an executed decision becomes a forgotten texture of my emotional make-up for the day. So much of our lives, however exciting or mundane on the surface, plays out in the silent music of our minds humming away, unnoticed. The only way I feel fully alive is to notice. And we can.

And this is the smallest of scales. We are always in the process of making layers and layers of decisions, from the small things like turning a light on or off, to strategies for handling the difficult people who populate our lives and how better to consider them, to what habits we should strengthen and which we should weaken, to whom we want to become and how others see us. Our minds are constantly working away at these things. One rises to the surface and another recedes; we prioritize them, order our intentions. We meta-decide how to decide what we will do, and this is how we become. We are the pattern of our choices.