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03 January 2005 @ 02:41 pm
Today is Skylar’s 22nd birthday. I just left a message for him. I’ll try again later.

The night before he returned to San Francisco, Jay rented Star Trek Nemesis. He left before we watched it, but he’d seen it before. So had I, but all the Star Trek tales run together in my mind. I love Captain Picard. I love that wise, balanced, centered, strong, compassionate and intelligent character. In Nemesis, he tells S., some character who is a clone of Picard himself but who has lived through much different circumstances and turned evil because of them, what it means to be human. To be human, Picard explains, is to want to be more than we are, to strive always to be better than we are. I like that wisdom. It puts us in competition only with ourselves, never with others. It brings to mind Martin Luther King’s sermon about the drum major instinct. We all want to be first, to be the best, to have the most. But King calls on us to be first in love, to be first in moral excellence, and to be first in generosity. In other words, strive to be first in the ways that count. Strive to be the best version of yourself possible.

I have finally figured out the webpage thing. I have finally begun to do something with the 1 1 package I acquired probably about a year ago. I figured out some of it myself but then needed a nudge to get my first post up on the Internet. Jay showed me how to post a photo. Greg reinforced the lesson the next day. Now I understand enough to post photos and writings, and to create new pages. This feels like a big accomplishment – I had a sort of mental block about the whole thing. Now I can be off and running.

A couple of days ago, I posted ‘Slippage’ on the home page, a piece written with inspiration I received from pictures Skylar took of Greg and me in Amsterdam. Slippage refers to the gap between thinking about life and living it, between objectifying it and experiencing it in real time. All the stories we tell ourselves about our lives, the good ones, the bad ones, and the in-between ones, are crafted while we are thinking about our lives. We step out of our skin and tell ourselves stories about ourselves. Every label we apply to ourselves in an effort to become clear about who we are is a story. The truth- value of our stories is relative. I am clever, hardworking, unsuccessful, self-centered, altruistic – whatever. All these stories change constantly in their degree of truthfulness – no one is anything 100% of the time – and each one co-exists with other stories that alter its character according to the context in which it plays out. And the contexts themselves are multifaceted. The context of this writing is both mine now, and yours as you read it now. The context varies according to perspective and temporality. Even in a situation in which people are experiencing the same event together, the inside/outside perspectives co-exist.

So what is the point? That it means nothing – or perhaps many things all at once would be a better way to put it – to say, to tell a story about ourselves, and about others.

I thought that in the group of pictures we took in Europe, I had found a particularly good one of Skylar. I was looking for it last night because I want to post a picture of Skylar on my website. As I looked through the pictures, I couldn’t find a really good shot of Skylar. As I looked through them, most pictures of Skylar sent an image to me that spoke this word: diminished. Skylar looked tired or distracted or unhappy or bored in many of the shots. Even the one I remembered as a good shot didn’t look all that good anymore. I told myself that Skylar looked diminished as a human – tired, lacking, not whole somehow. Then I began to play the old familiar tapes in my mind, the bad mother tapes, the not-present-during-my-son’s-childhood tapes, all those tapes that proclaim that I am a selfish, ungiving person who doesn't care enough about others, and my judgment of Skylar as appearing diminished in his pictures seemed to prove it.

Thankfully, I had just reread my own piece on slippage and realized that Skylar’s identity as diminished was no more real, solid, or unchanging as the identity of the happy and loving couple that Greg and I exude in our photos. I also realized that at 1:30 a.m., I myself felt diminished, exhausted, and overtired yet unable to go to bed at that moment. I was painting my own fatigue on the face of my son in situations nearly six months past and many miles distant, and for a little while, I was doing a pretty good job of convincing myself that the picture was accurate, that it told a true and unchanging story. The only constant in life is change. I was a selfish mother – at moments. I was a loving and present mother – at other moments. Skylar is diminished – we all are – at moments. He is vital and alive and joyous – at other moments.

How can I learn to find a center amidst the constantly changing moment(s) of life? It is a question of learning to surf, to take in life as it occurs, to process it, to let it go, and to remain open to being ever more than I am. To me, this means learning to respond ever more fluidly and calmly to the continual currents of life. It is Neo-consciousness in The Matrix at the moment he is revived from death and realizes that bullets can drop to the floor and attacking blows from Agent Smith can be met one at a time, one right after the other with minimum effort and maximum presence and awareness.