Collective Well-Being,  Pre-blog Musings

Don’t Look Into Your Neighbor’s Bowl…and Other Ways You Design Your Life

Hello Sweet Girl, 

I have been reading “Sick in the Head: Conversations About Life and Comedy” by Judd Apatow. It’s been…somewhat of a soul-searching experience. The conversations in the book are down-to-earth and accessible. The book has really made me go deeper on a personal level, asking myself questions about my own experiences and where I find myself currently in life, on every level (emotionally, spiritually, physically, etc.). 

There is one particular response from Louis C.K. that I very much appreciated and wanted to share with you. It’s on page 299 and I’m going to write it verbatim so I don’t miss anything. 

“Judd: What are the things that you’re trying to say on the show about being a parent?

Louis: I always try to show that I don’t have any control as a parent, you know what I mean? I did this thing with the little one on the show and I’m telling her this thing about don’t look into your neighbor’s bowl unless it’s to check if they have enough. I try to teach my kids this kind of thing. The reason why we cut sandwiches in half is so you can offer somebody a piece of your sandwich. You don’t need the whole sandwich. Everybody in your line of sight, you offer it to them and if nobody wants it, then hey, you get a whole sandwich but you’re only supposed to eat half. I tell them these things.”

I love that. I really do. Particularly the part about not looking into your neighbor’s bowl unless it’s to check if they have enough. That is such an uplifting message! It’s so important in terms of the attitude regarding keeping up with the Jones’. If you’re going to look at what your neighbor has and compare, do it with the mindset of ensuring they have enough. If they don’t, and you do, then get over there and share with them. Don’t make them feel guilty or obligated to you. Just share. You’re both human and you both need human love and acceptance. You have the opportunity to be that embrace for your neighbors when they need it. 

Of course, it’s equally important to allow your neighbors to be that embrace for you if you need it. You know how good it feels to help somebody…don’t deny your neighbor that same lightness of being just because you feel prideful. Not only do you hurt yourself by turning away help that is needed and offered, but you hurt them by rejecting their gift to you that was made out of kindness and caring. Imagine how you feel when you genuinely try to help somebody and they turn you down, they tell you no. It hurts your feelings or is at least frustrating. If you turn away help from a friend or well-intentioned person, you are making them feel the same way. 

Something else I love is on page 300. Honestly, I wasn’t expecting to be so enamored with Louis C.K.’s parenting style, but I really am. 

Judd and Louis are talking about how you manage technology with kids. Louis is talking about how he tries to stay off social media altogether, but has to engage when he is promoting his work. Then it becomes an obsession, of sorts. He says “it’s a sickness,” and talks about how he starts to constantly think about the Tweets and whether somebody is responding to him and what they are saying and how dare they say mean things, etc. It gets in the way of everything else, being so obsessive about what other people think and knowing where to find out (i.e. Twitter). 

“Louis: … It’s a sickness. I can’t handle it. So the thought occurred to me: I need to help my daughter figure out how to do this. I think I’ve done a good thing already, which is that she’ll be the last one of her friends to get a smartphone. And because she’s watched all of her friends change since getting them, and I’ve watched them change, too. I know all of these kids. I know the parents and I know the kids. I’ve known them since they were little. And I see these kids that are suddenly seized by this thing. When they come over — like, my daughter had a sleepover party recently and I made her friends check their phones at the door. 

Judd: They start shaking. 

Louis: They itch, they shake, they can’t listen to each other — it hurts them to not have their phones. And she’s observing this because she’s not one of them. It’s a big caution for her. So when she does get one, she’ll have a better shot than I have and that her friends have had. 

Judd: What’s hard is that they are afraid to drop out of this mass communication. But like I’ve said to my daughter, “Maybe you should be known as the kid who is hard to reach.”

Louis: That’s right. That’s the coolest possible thing you can be. But it’s pollution. It’s pollution. You need time by yourself. I was watching Rocky with a friend of mine. And there’s all these scenes of him sitting on this dirt mattress, alone — the guy is so alone, it’s beautiful how alone he is. Nobody’s alone like that anymore. Nobody. You know, cops on the beat in New York are staring at their fucking phones. Airline pilots are on iPads. Fucking hell. It’s crazy.”

This really resonates with me. I wonder how your Papa and I will teach you about technology and how involved we will let you be with it. We can’t shelter you from it, of course, as it is so prolific and would be doing you a disservice for that very reason. In any case, we are so attached to our own technological devices that is impossible to keep them from you. I track your feedings and diaper changes on my phone, so I constantly have it next to me when you are with me. You see that. You are curious about this thing Mama is always holding onto. 

Same with Papa. He often has his phone, which is the same shape as that thing Mama holds onto, and you want to hold it, too. You watch how we interact with our phones and you mimic that interaction. You use one finger to navigate the screen and press buttons. It never fails that you turn on the camera on both of our phones when we let you hold it. You take pictures and video, usually of nothing. You try to dial numbers. We have to take the phone away from you so that you don’t accidentally dial 911 or something. 

Whenever me or Papa try to do something on our laptops, you try to grab the laptop or bang on the keys. 

Also, we watch “Last Week Tonight” with John Oliver every week, as well as “A Closer Look” with Seth Meyers and “The Daily Show” with Noah Trevor. You watch them with us, or are at least in the same room when we watch. You also very much enjoy watching music videos, particularly those of Taylor Swift. You actually watch those. You focus on the TV. You’re engaged, entranced, even. You seem to love Taylor Swift. You also like watching Elmo…

In any case, my point is that there is no keeping you away from electronics. The question, then, is how do we allow you to engage with electronics without also allowing you to become a zombie to human connection and the ability to concentrate and/or focus on anything other than a screen? I like the idea of ensuring you’re the last of your friends to have a smartphone. Even with that, it seems you will still be quite young, as kids are getting smartphones earlier and earlier these days. 

This is a delicate issue and I’m not sure how it will play out. It is definitely important to me that you learn how to entertain yourself from an early age — WITHOUT the use of electronics. One way I try to encourage that is by rarely letting you play with my phone. Another way is that I never turn the TV on. When it’s just you and me, we’re usually just spending time with each other. No music (sometimes I play Spotify, but it’s usually quiet). No TV. No podcasts. Nothing but the sounds of our voices and the sounds of the house, or the outdoors when we take a walk. A third way is that I don’t attempt to engage you all the time. In fact, I give you your own time every day. Time that I will be engaged in my own work, which is an opportunity for you to take part in learning more about your surroundings and your capabilities. I try not to interrupt you, to give you the space to develop your concentration. 

You seem to prefer that I sit on the floor with you, or sit on your bed (which is a mattress on the floor), so that I am very easily accessible to you. Oftentimes, if I am standing at my desk in the office or sitting at the breakfast table in the kitchen, you will use my legs as leverage to stand up and then cry while you look at me. Then, if I sit down, you’re okay. No more tears. You may even go play on your own. You will stay that, way, too — happily engaged — as long as I stay on the floor with you. Sometimes I will bring my laptop to the floor with me, but then you will want to play with it, which prevents me from actually being productive. It’s a game for now…but you are slowly increasing your desire for independence, which I happily encourage. 

You are my sweet, darling baby button. I love you and find you such a joy to be around. I adore watching you grow and seeing more and more of your personality as the days go by. You are a happy baby who wants to play and be close to others. You don’t like to be alone, unless it’s on your terms (you’ll leave a room we’re both in on your own, but become upset if I leave a room without you). You start dancing whenever you hear a song you like (Taylor Swift is a favorite, but you have more recently danced to Elton John and Christopher Cross — and even when Papa plays the guitar). You seem really to enjoy eating (we feed you whatever we are eating), though you often make a face of disgust or surprise as the food hits your tongue (this is no way stops you from taking another bite, so I assume you are enjoying it). You say “Mama” all the time, which is adorable, though you clearly don’t attach meaning to it yet. You get so excited when you see Papa once he gets home from work. You squeal with delight, hide your face in my chest, turn around, squeal again, bounce up and down, then start crawling quickly toward him while you laugh. It is so precious! I’d like to get a video of it next week…

I want to give you the tools to design your own life. I want you to understand that your happiness is inside you — it will never come from an outside source, be that an achievement or another person. You will never find happiness by chasing it, as it is already inside of you. It is a matter of embracing your happiness. Accepting your life as your own responsibility. There are things you will not have control over — such as other people — but you absolutely have control over your responses and your thoughts. People will hurt you, and that is okay. Life is about having as many experiences as you can, and your hurt is an experience you can learn from. Embrace it. Accept it. You will hurt others, and while you should never do so intentionally, hurt will still be a result of something you do (or don’t do) or say (or don’t say). Give yourself the same love that you give to others, or even more. You are the only person that you absolutely will be spending the rest of your life with — so be kind. To yourself. Be a friend to yourself. 

You have so much to offer the world. The things you’re interested in and have a passion for are likely the very things that are the seeds of what you have to offer the world, and the way you do so will be uniquely you. I don’t know what your interests will be, but I aim to do my best to encourage your curiosity and help you learn more and dive deep into the subjects that really interest you. If that means getting you into classes, or introducing you to a mentor, or taking you on a particular trip, or any number of other things, I will be there and do my very best to ensure you have the tools you need to design your life. 

It starts now, with me helping you develop independence. You are crawling all over the house and will undoubtedly be walking any day now. I still think you may do so before your 11th month…so ten more days! I have faith. If you don’t, so be it. It doesn’t matter. You’ll walk when you’re ready. You pull all the books off of the bookshelves you can reach. You flip through the books, turning the pages or just fanning the pages. You pull the spices off of the spice rack. You pull the silverware out of the dishwasher. You pull the sugar and flour out of the pantry. You pull all the cooking spoons and spatulas out of the cupboard. You are all over the place. The only time I stop you from doing anything is if it may be dangerous (like you banging glass spice bottles against the tile – you actually did break one that way, though thankfully it did not shatter) or if you are bending or tearing the pages of a book (which I am pleasantly surprised to find that you really do not do very often). 

I want you to have your own mind. Think your own thoughts. I want you to question everything. I want you NOT to be a sheep, like so many others who adopt all of their thoughts on face value, because they heard somebody say it. Naturally, I hope that you will think similarly to your Papa and I, but even with us, I want you to question our beliefs. When you question our beliefs, it will be a great exercise for us to rethink them. This will either make us reinforce the feelings we have about a particular topic, or it will cause us to pause and shift our line of thinking. Either way, it will be appreciated. Your questioning attitude will ensure that we do not become complacent. I aim to question you in the same way, to ensure you do not become complacent and you choose your beliefs because you have thought through the implications of them (and others) and know very well what resonates with you. 

Life is about growth, and growth can ONLY happen with change. Change is a MUST, and it is beautiful. This is why I want you to question everything. The moment we stop making any changes in our lives is the moment we stop growing, and I never want to stop growing. I want you to always be growing, too, and with intention. 

I am so fortunate to have you in my life. With you by my side, I feel like I have a new life and a new opportunity at life. I see things through a filter that is you, and I love what I see. There is nothing but time and possibilities ahead. It makes me feel like my age (currently 35) is really irrelevant, and there is nothing that I cannot do if I put in the work. That was true when I was 15 and it will be true when I am 50. Age is just a number and does not define you if you choose for it not to define you. With you by my side, Baby Girl, my age has nothing to do with it, and I’m so grateful for that. 

My darling Baby Girl, I ought to bring this letter to an end. It is now 11Jul20, at 10:42pm, and I could tell you so very much more. But alas, you may wake up at any time (you went to bed almost two hours ago, and usually wake up two to two and a half hours after going to bed) and I ought to get ready for sleep. 

I love you, my sweet. You are a gift to my world, and I am ever grateful and honored for this most wonderful opportunity to love you and educate you, to teach you how to be independent and embrace the creator that you were born to be. 

I have the biggest hugs for you, and all the cheek-kisses!

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