Jack of Many Trades

An Impermanent Record

Originally posted: 2018-11-25

Bug's preschool has parent-teacher meetings to discuss things like Kindergarten readiness, so shortly before the holiday we headed in together for the first of, presumably, twenty-seven or so of these things over the next twelve or so years. We got to sit with her teachers and discuss all kinds of skills she's working on, like "drawing lines" and "hopping on one foot," as well as how all of her bad habits come from me. I love my child, but she has never been a good sleeper (and neither have I, though the cpap is helping more than I expected) and I eagerly await the day she will either grow out of it or, as I did, learn to Not Sleep without keeping her parents up.

"Enjoy it," so many people say. "She'll only be like this for a little while."

I really hate that platitude. It sounds good, in a Cats in the Cradle kind of way, but wanting to sleep or not deal with whatever specific issue your small child has is not the same as being a workaholic parent who ignores the fact that your kid exists. It's parent-shaming and it's creating unhealthy standards. Besides which, it's been four years now, I think I can conclusively say that appreciating juvenile insomnia has turned out not to be a very good exercise in studying impermanence.

Impermanence is one of those topics that comes up a lot in Buddhist contexts. Everything is always changing, and the harder you try to hold on, the faster it escapes. When I'm leaning in a more Buddhist direction, I like to listen to dharma talks about it as a way of dealing with anxiety. It sounds a lot like "this too shall pass" or maybe more of a "if you're going through hell, keep going" depending on the day. Either way, it works for me.

There's another kind of impermanence, though. The entropy kind. I don't mean Tyler Durden's "nothing is static, everything is evolving, everything is falling apart" or even the current state of society, because I am trying very hard at the moment to focus on my microcosm. No, I'm talking about the laundry.

There's a pseudo-documentary at the beginning of The Incredibles, where Mr Incredible talks about how, sometimes, he's frustrated that he keeps having to do the superhero thing over and over again. "Can't you just stay saved for like ten minutes?"

I think about that scene when I'm loading the dishwasher. I try to meditate on impermanence when I'm summoning up the energy to cook dinner and the work of cooking seems like such a lot of effort to put into something that I'm then going to eat and then tomorrow I have to find additional food and then eat food again. No matter how much I straighten the living room or the hallway or any other room in the house, Peppa Pig and Miffy and Cheer Bear and Daniel Tiger will be having a picnic there again tomorrow, and there will be a sock under the ottoman and, hell, it may well be my sock.

Everything is not quite falling apart, but everything is losing its mate underneath the couch.

Working up the will to not just do these household tasks but to enjoy them, to find peace in them, to make them a meditation and an offering, is a process. I like having cleaned. I like cooking once I start doing it, most of the time. I have been working on washing the dishes every night, and and with tying straightening up into my offerings routine. In general, now that I'm sleeping more I'm trying to get back into doing a lot of things that had gotten away from me in the last couple of months.

That's not just housekeeping routines, though that's a big part of it. It's also thinking about how we live in our apartment and make the space work, and what sorts of magic I want to do more of (which I'm thinking about "kicking off" on December 6 per Ivy's recommendation) and what sort of spirits I want to spend more time with.

Now that the harvest is finished, the market is closed for the season and the Winter Mara is on the run. On Thursday we marked the ritual summoning of Santa via the nationally televised procession that we call the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade. I'm not terrifically attached to the idea that Santa Claus is Odin but there are certainly enough dotted lines between them for Odin to make use of the connection if he wants to. Santa is a harbinger of the return of the light, beating back the Ragnarok of societal collapse with goodwill toward all, and yet as a Power of Capitalism he's also a part of that entropy.

Maybe Aslan, or the blue wave, or even just spring is coming. Maybe we'll have to build it. That's the macrocosm. I work within it. I do what I can, whether that's the dishes, or five bucks to buy someone a train ticket, or voting, or cloth grocery bags. That's what I know I control, that's my microcosm. That's the Spirits of Christmas Past, Present and Future, I suppose. They show us where these forces are at work in our own lives.

I want to finally do my Christmas Carol pathwork this year and see how it goes off. I want to fully inhabit my space instead of just watching home improvement videos on YouTube. I want to do magic, and I want to live in this moment, even when this moment is burning myself on a tray of roasting carrots.

That's impermanence, and I have to learn to live with it again every second.