Saturday, August 4, 2012


We (my entire immediate family) are visiting my brother on his farm in Minnesota. There are fewer mosquitoes than I expected, and more people: I hadn't tallied it up before, but now that we're all married with kids, if you get the whole crew together it's 11 people. We got here on Wednesday, and I'm more than a little fried, because my brother has a relatively small house. Anna and J and I are living in a very large REI tent we brought with us, but the level of cacophony and the effort of family take a big chunk out of any recharging I can do.

What's "the effort of family"? I've never written that before. As humans, we're not good at seeing the world directly, as if for the first time; instead, we form a mental image or model, composed of a little bit of what's happening now, but mostly of our past history with similar things. We especially do this with other people, where we conflate our past experience of them, our assumptions about their inner experience, and then conflate that with other people and experiences that remind us of them somehow. Then we convince ourselves that we know this person, and we're a little shocked when they deviate too far from our mental composite to which we assign their name.

Given that you and your family have known each other your whole life and have spent all that time building mental composites of each other and mistaking that for the real person, it's possible there is no group of people in the entire world less likely to see you freshly and clearly, for who you are at this moment, than your family. Love you unconditionally, I hope so. See who you are, no.

The effort of family is the constant struggle of being pulled into being who your family thinks you are, while pushing back to have them see you as you really are. Of trying to connect with each other through the fog of your shared history.

I'm also exhausted because we've done too much traveling this summer. We have been flying somewhere, with J, about every other week since the beginning of June. It is lovely to see everyone! It's time to be done.

My brother and his wife and daughter are at their friends' wedding, three farm fields to the south, and I went to chase down their marvelous dog who so wanted to join them. On the way back--someone else captured the dog--I met an uncle from the wedding, a very nice man named Frank, and we were talking about autism-spectrum kids and Buddhism. Naturally, he's a Tibetan Buddhist, because that's the sort of person visiting from Virginia that you run into, adjacent to your brother's farm in rural Minnesota.

Anna continues her unblemished streak of awesome, of course. And there's good coffee.

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