Wednesday, May 26, 2010

family: ...take a chance, take a chance on....

.... whatever you want!

I've been thinking a lot about how we end up doing the things we end up doing. Like working as a technical writer. And paddling outrigger canoes in Seattle.

I think this particular flavor of introspection has to do with me watching the girls and wondering what they'll end up doing (not to mention wondering what it is I'll be doing when I grow up!). And stressing that they haven't yet figured it out. I mean, K is already 4, going on 4 1/4. Isn't it time she "kid up" and make a commitment to some sort of career? And L, at 2.5, still looks to her sister for guidance. I try to tell her that she won't be able to do that for the rest of her life.

me: Are you girls going to come outside with me and the dog?
K (distracted with her new pullups): silence
L (looking to her sister): K, we going outthide? You have pullupth on? Daddy, I want pullupth!
me: You have a diaper. You don't need pullups. Do you want to go outside with me?
L: I. Want. Pull. Upth!
dog (watching the stellar's jays from the kitchen door): BARK!!! BARK!!!!

My thinking has to do, too, with a sense that I'm not doing my "life's work" at the moment, and wondering how that impacts the family.

Sample dialog from just about any evening:

M: How was work?
me: Uh... fine.
M: ....

It probably would play out exactly the same way if I was passionate about my work, right?

On the other hand, things aren't horrible. I like to write, and that's what they pay me for at work. I'm just not going home at night to read about summary tasks....

So, on to a specific example. Let's see, how about I illustrate using outrigger paddling?

Another sunny day in Seattle
(at least it's not raining)
(that's me, 2nd from the left)

When you think about it, outrigger canoe paddling is a pretty odd sport. Unless you're a Pacific Islander.

The canoe itself is a strange craft. It's got an ama (outrigger) off to the left, which provides stability on that side, but the whole contraption can be pretty unstable if you shift too far to the right. Lean left all you want, pull up a 200lb ulua on that side, dive off on the left to harvest opihi, no problem. Lean right and... whoops, face, meet water.

Digression: this whole flipping thing is routinely called a "huli" which in Hawaiian means turn over. Huli huli chicken is a standard fundraising food, usually cooked over 1/2 of a 55 gallon can that probably contained petrochemical products or pesticides, cooked by turning the chicken over and over and over.... thus, huli huli chicken. So people talk about a canoe huli-ing, or flipping over. But recently I've seen several references claiming that this is not the correct term. I can't say if that's true. But I can speak from experience that when your canoe hulis in the Columbia River, it's kind of cold and, well, wet.

In other words, the outrigger canoe a crazy craft, and more so here in the Pacific Northwest where the water is about 30 degrees colder than back home. There are design reasons why Hawaiians (and others) came up with the single outrigger, but I'm not sure how practical it is for Seattle.

And yet I've ended up paddling here, and I'm loving it. Even though I'm sitting in a narrow, somewhat unstable canoe that should be cruising along the Kohala coast on 74 degree water in 74 degree air, blinking through snow flurries and cold driving rain. On paper it doesn't make sense, but somehow in person, it does.

Probably because:
  • I love being on the water.
  • I love being physical in a way that allows me to push my body (and swimming was no longer an option due to shoulder issues).
  • And I love the connections paddling gives me to Hawaii and Hawaiian culture.

The key though is this: I never would have figured out how much I love it by thinking about it. There are too many reasons why it doesn't make sense. Maybe back home, but not here. In other words, in order to really know, I had to try it.

And that is my lesson to myself: there are all kinds of reasons and ways to convince myself that something doesn't make sense, that it won't work out or is stupid to pursue. Reasons that may not be valid.

So, K&L, don't close yourself off to options. Don't imagine you can think things through and figure out what makes sense without going out and getting 40 degree water down your neoprene pants (so to speak).

More than anything else, I want you both to feel free to try things, no matter how crazy, no matter how little them "make sense." Don't settle for thinking things through, because you know what, your intellectual justifications may well be full of crap.

ps: Happy 8th, M! I'm looking forward to another 20 or 40....


Anonymous said...

And just look at that reach! Straight armed and everything!!

Maggie said...

Happy anniversary!!!