Friday, December 10, 2004

What You Don't Want Is Not Enough

Once when husband and I were young(er) and first married, my brother called. I related some something to him that husband and I were maybe not seeing eye to eye on and he said for me to put husband on the phone and he'd tell him how to handle women. Husband retorted, "I have not mucked up three marriages like he has. He should be asking me for advice, not offering it." Brother did not like that. But he was between his third and fourth marriages at that point, what could he say?

And so I started to think about it, look at it. Who did I really learn stuff from. You don't learn to be healthy from going to a hospital. You don't learn to farm by going to the grocery. You don't learn to think by going to school. In fact, what you learn from each of these institutions is the opposite.

When I was a child, I was forced to take music lessons. I never heard one of those music teachers, from piano to band, actually play a damn thing, and certainly not play anything that I found inspiring, that I wanted to emulate. I hated music lessons from these dried up juice-less people, but I love music.

I also danced as a child and I do remember the dancers. Not at first. At first they were just college dance majors I think -- although I remember the first one was a girl named Sydney. But later dancers, they were NOT juice-less people. I admired that my teachers could move, really move, even the aged grande ballerina whose name I can no longer remember moved with grace. And I could learn to move like them, like the music, move in a way that brought people to their feet sometimes.

With horses it was great when I got to take lessons from really great riders, or just watch them ride, or watch them teach my teachers classes. I still remember one Herr Schmidt getting on one Nipper and Nipper looking surprised he could do dressage quite that well, "Oh, THIS is how it's supposed to go," he seemed to say. I used to cry regularly just watching good horses with good riders doing their thing, it was that beautiful.

When I went to college, I was surprised when none of these people who were supposed to teach me had really done anything themselves. The head of my department had never worked outside academia if you didn't count his required, academic, internships. The English professor who deemed my writing merely cute had never actually written anything that got published, or anything that he wanted me, or anyone else, to read. My putting together a little newsletter for our homeschool group was more writing than he had done in his so-called career. The psych prof told me, repeatedly, what a great therapist she was while she projected every issue she'd ever had onto me.

Eventually what I learned was this: look toward success, not failure. It is important to know what you don't want but you can't build a house by knowing only that you don't want it to fall down, that you don't want it to leak, and that you want it to be easy to clean. What you don't want is not enough. Examples may be hard to come by. Demand proof because a lot of people talk a good garden but don't have photographs of more than a sprig of parsley they've grown themselves.

That brother of mine? I don't know but he might have learned something from our good example: He's been married to #4 (waving to my friend and SIL Ish) for a good long time now.

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