We just returned from Christmas at the grandparents' house, 100 miles away in Denver. When we got home and were pulling the sleeping kids from the car like pulling the last noodles from the bottom of the colander, Duncan whimpered something like, “I don’t want to leave.” “Leave the car?” I asked. No, “NanaBink’s (the grandparents) house.” And he was still there in his head, where we had spent every Christmas of his life to-date. But if all goes according to plan, we won’t get to do Christmas there for another three years.
The night after Christmas, Nana & Bink gave Di and I a date night after dinner. For those of you without children, Date Nights are typically the only times in parents' lives when we get to have conversations, in the way people usually mean “conversation.” Not “Did you get milk when you picked up Piper, and did they say anything at After School about a bump on her head, and, oh, forgot to tell you we made two payments this month for all-day Kindergarten because I figured...ah shoot, I’ve got to get to the preschool board meeting. Remind me to tell you later...”
We actually do that thing you used to see in movies in the 80s about busy yuppie couples where they’d sit in bed with laptops and send each other e-mails. Really, without scheduling a time when we will Sit Down Together and Talk, we mostly just use messaging protocols of one kind or another instead of actual conversation.
So at this date night we got a chance to talk about the South America trip and why we’re doing it and whether or not you actually could have a goal if truly acting wu wei. But that’s another one of those funny paradoxes. If we are actually trying to be wu wei, we are not wu wei, by definition. But we’re not trying to be wu wei. Wu wei was really just a discovery that seemed to fall from the sky (or a magazine) right when we were considering this life transition "just because if feels right," which is, of course, very wu wei. Get it?
So also in that conversation, I got to thinking about an old Albert Brooks movie called Defending Your Life, in which we discover that when we die we all go to Judgment City where you go on trial to determine if you have overcome fear in your life (in which case you “move on”) or not (then you go back--reincarnated--to try again). I always liked the premise that conquering fear is a noble aspiration for a life. So much of my own disappointment in our culture is that people act from a place of fear. (Our collective response to the 9/11 attacks, for example. Understandable, sure, but arguably created greater danger for our nation than it solved.)
So anyway, on our date, the duel question arises, are we afraid and running? Or are we running and afraid? That is, are we worried about the effect of our culture in raising our kids and running from the culture? Or are we looking for something else to challenge our lifestyle and provide broader perspective on our own culture, and are simply afraid of that decision? With that setup, I'm sure you can guess where we think we are. Yup, we’re afraid of doing this, but we’re still doing it. I’m not sure that’s conquering fear or just plain naiveté, but damn the torpedoes, sail on, move...the thing, and...that other thing!