Sunday, June 16, 2013

Father's Day

Coming to terms with Father's Day.

Father's day gifts. 

My wife gives gifts. I have to admit that I don’t really understand it and have a really hard time with doing it myself. I always feel like getting things from people is a little awkward and giving people things that they’ll actually like is so hit and miss. I’m not a wealthy person or anything, but if there was something I really wanted, I’d probably find a way to buy it. The same is true with most people in my life, so buying them something is hard. The whole gift-giving/gift receiving thing is just one of the many areas where I don’t think I quite function like my wife.

Today was a gift-giving holiday, or for me, a gift receiving holiday. It was Father’s Day. My only child is currently developing inside my wife’s belly, but still, this being the first “Father’s Day” where I could legitimately be called a “Father” meant lots of presents, because my wife gives presents. The presents were nice. She gave me all the 1980’s/1990’s era Batman movies. The super hero genre is probably my favorite genre at the moment, and probably sticks in my top five favorite genres (Alphabetically: Fantasy, Gangster, Sci-Fi, Spy and Super-Hero) any time. So, they were good choices. Probably they were better choices than the potted plant that I gave her for Mother’s Day. She also gave me a couple “Dad” t-shirts.

Me and My Dad

I seriously doubt anyone outside of my immediate family will ever see me wear those t-shirts. I wear a t-shirt every day, but under a shirt with a collar. See, my Dad always wears a shirt with a collar when he goes out in public, and to me, that is how a man should dress. I also wear a beard, like my Dad. I watch the news, like my Dad. I study the Bible, like my Dad. I fix things with JB Weld, duct tape and wire, like my Dad. I play with my dogs, like my Dad. I drive ugly used cars, like my Dad. I prefer to be alone than with people, like my Dad. I do a lot of things like my Dad. I didn’t get my Dad anything for Father’s Day. He didn’t expect anything. I’m sure that he’d have been grateful or tried to appear grateful if I had, but Dad isn’t really into gifts, just like me.

Don’t get me wrong, me and my Dad are very different. My Dad doesn’t like to go to movies. He has more of a temper than I do (but I can get there). My Dad is far more likely to wisely sit in silence if he disagrees, whereas I will always tell people why I think what I do whether they are interested or not. I like the outdoors, but Dad loves them. I really don’t mind going to a party sometimes, Dad hates them. I tend to see things from a much more hopeful perspective than my Dad does, but that’s probably diminishing.

It is really hard to tell how many of these things are nurture and how many are nature. Many of the ways in which I am like my Dad, however, are quite intentional. I want to be like my Dad. Dad is a good guy. He is a wise man. He is a smart man. He is a holy man. I really don’t tolerate criticism of anyone in my family, but least of all, my Dad. I know his imperfections. They are comparatively minor.

Feelings of Father's Day.

The recognition of Father’s Day today, and my place in it has overwhelmed me. My Dad is all of the things I described above, and I feel like I fall short. I try to be good, but I am not as good. I seek wisdom, but I am not as wise. I am recognized most places I go for my intelligence, but at the back of my mind is always; “If you think I’m smart, you should meet my Dad.” As far as pure, personal holiness goes, I can say without hyperbole that I really don’t think any saint or prophet has advantages on my Dad. I, on the other hand, am entirely too comfortable in the world most of the time. Excepting a word which many find acceptable that begins with “C” and is also used for a game fish and dice, I’ve heard my Dad cuss exactly four times in my life, and one of those was in a sermon to illustrate a point. I’m not keeping track to hold those against him, but because they were so shocking, so out of character, that they stick in my mind. Is there any chance that my child will be able to be so shocked if I do something wrong?

I don’t know. I am scared.

Every doctor’s appointment that my wife and I go to fills me with joy. To see my baby on the ultrasound is an amazing experience beyond what I can describe. To hear the heartbeat which is so fast causes my heartbeat to increase speed too. Just to look at my wife’s growing belly makes me smile. I am 37 years old and really had not expected this to happen, but it is.

All of that joy, however, is tempered with a growing sense of trepidation. How can I be good enough for a child to emulate? Sure, I worry about how I can provide financially. I worry about whether or not this is the best town to raise a kid. I worry about the outside influences the child will receive at daycare, then school, then college. I worry more about my influence. I worry about whether or not I can really be who my Dad is to me. I worry about whether or not I can be someone good enough for my child.

Friday, June 14, 2013

My Space

Coming to terms with space

Yesterday I walked into my office and found everything gone. I was not robbed or anything like that. My university is going through a reorganization which partially involves relocation to offices which place the colleges and departments in geographic proximity to each other. I knew that this day was coming and had been frantically boxing and cleaning to prepare for it. Unfortunately, there had been some problems in communication and I had thought my office was to be gutted today, not yesterday.

The space is not really mine. I know that. Even most of the items in there belong to the university not to me: printers, phones, computers, desks shelves, chairs, etc. I'd known that I'd be moving out soon. As people became increasingly frantic about their stuff moving out, I wasn't. I laughed at their silliness. The University was going to continue to provide people with offices. Why did it matter where mine was? 

Then I walked in the door of my empty office.

I still think that if I'd known the move was happening yesterday instead of today, it might have gone better. I spent the rest of the day in a state of shock. I still don't know if I've recovered. It was all just . . . gone. My stuff is in storage while another office is being prepared for me. I can ask the secretary for a key any time I need access to my boxes. It's okay, really. 

But while the office was not really my space, it is more my space than anything else. It was probably the only place in town where I could really feel safe and comfortable. My house is my wife's space, and is governed by her rules. Before I got married I felt like I could pretty freely leave papers, office supplies, clothes, toys, etc. anywhere I wanted. I am productive in a mess and could not have made it through graduate school if I hadn't been able to live in one. My wife isn't comfortable in a mess, and usually that's fine. Home isn't a place where I try to be productive. When I do bring work home, I feel constantly worried that I might make a mess, leave something out or accidentally break something. I cannot feel the level of safety there that I can in a real office. 

I have a public area where I walk my dogs. To a large extent I feel like that space is mine. It is where I do most of my Bible reading and prayer. It is quiet, natural, and free. Still, I have no say over that space. I might set myself up on a boulder and do my reading, but I always have to keep one eye on the dogs in case someone else comes by. Then I call the dogs over, leash them up, and move on. We are often disturbed here from our play and reverie. I cannot feel secure there. 

All the other spaces I inhabit are very much shared. Stores, streets, parks, church, and libraries are places where people are constantly passing through. There is no privacy. There is no liberty. These are public places.

My office is my space

While during "office hours" people are encouraged to drop by, the rest of the day it is perfectly acceptable to shut the door and even to lock it. I can be messy. I can be free. If something breaks, I throw it away. If something is misplaced, it is still where I placed it, so I can generally find it quickly. Here the rules are my rules and can vary with my whim. This is the room I walk into after teaching, take off my tie and breathe peacefully. It is safe and quiet and free.

In my office I can create. I can write blogs, articles, poems and lesson plans uninterrupted. I keep things there that help me create. The creative process is not just about reading an article and writing an article. Sometimes it involves coloring a picture in between or looking up images, or putting up Facebook statuses or taking off my shirt. I know that sounds weird, but I've done better research in the past two years than in the rest of my life and I think I know how it works for me. 

I know that it is not my space. I know that it belongs to the university, and ultimately to the state. That's why I felt like it was funny when people were so upset about having to move. We need a space for our work, but it doesn't have to be THAT space. When it suddenly disappeared, however, it no longer felt so funny.

But I'm spoiled.

I am well aware of the fact that many people do not have a space. For many people, their creative and intellectual pursuits must be done in public. While I wait for a new office, I will be one of them and it shouldn't be so bad. I guess we'll see how it goes for the next couple weeks. I'll give you a hint though. If you see a lot on this blog, it is probably not going well. Blogs are an intermediary level of production for me. They represent unfinished intellectual products and are not really something that "counts" for work. Generally, they mean I'm not getting more important things done.

Hopefully, I can do some work without having a space.