from regret to inspiration

To Victoria (Vicki), the mother of my son, Zachary

I was thinking about my past concern over the phrase “good father,” thinking in particular of me asking you a question along the lines of “do you think I’m a good father” when we were in a court hearing in early 2002. At the time, the identifier “good father” seemed relevant to me. I wanted to think of myself as a good father. I wanted other people, such as you, to think of me as a good father.

More basic than any of that, though, is that I wanted to be thought of as good in general. Being a good father was not only (in 2002) a new context for me to be (thought of as) good in general, but could have been a compensation for not being good in general- like I would redeem (a belief in) inherent badness or evilness by being good at certain things, in certain ways.

So, I wanted to think of myself, in the new context of father, as a good father plus think of myself as good in general. At least wanted other people to think that I was good and even pretend that I was good. I did not want to get in trouble for being bad. I did not want to be criticized or condemned or punished.

I remember being called bad. I remember being accused of doing things that were called bad even when I had not done those things.

The most prominent incident is the one when I was 7 and I went to a friend’s house to play, then it started raining, then the other kids stayed outside in the rain playing, but I went in to ask the adult there to call my mom to get permission because I knew that to my mom, playing outside in the rain was very bad.

So, the lady told me I could go play and I did. When my mom came to pick me up, she saw that I was wet and said whatever she said, something like “playing in the rain is very bad and you know better than that and you are very bad.” Actually, it is extremely unlikely that she actually said the last part. I am just making that up. That may be what I actually said to myself at the time though. That may be what I made up, like as a fundamentally true thing about me: that I do bad things and I’m a bad boy or bad human or whatever.

Everywhere I got a message that more or less said this: I should be less human and more divine, that is, less how I naturally and instinctually am and more holy, more ideal, more perfect, more of a fit with some language that other important people use to describe however I should be more, instead of being so much like how I was. I learned to believe and act like “something is wrong and in particular something wrong with me.”

In the mid-1990s, I wrote a song with lyrics that begin. “Something’s wrong. Something’s wrong with you. Something’s wrong with you and me.” I think it continues “isn’t there anything that we can do,” which for me was an emphasis on the word “can,” since I had been told so any times of things that I can’t do. I can’t play outside in the rain. It’s very bad. I can’t do very bad things. I just couldn’t do that. I can’t be bad. I couldn’t be bad. I shouldn’t be bad. I mustn’t be bad.

I wanted other people to think of me as good, to look good to them- or at least not look bad/ seem bad. I wanted to seem good to myself.

So, my mom yelled at me about playing in the rain. Eventually, I got her to comprehend that I had asked for permission and that I understood that the adult at the house where I was playing had called my mom and gotten permission for me to play in the rain.

So, I played in the rain. It actually did not seem especially bad to me to play in the rain. I did not feel guilty for playing in the rain. I did not feel bad.

My mom responded to my “defense” to her “attacks” with more yelling. The message I got was “You did not have permission. You’re making excuses. You’re lying.” I should have been guilty for doing something that had apparently scared my mom and set free some rage in her. Instead, I was angry with my mom. My dad was around, too. Why didn’t he stop her? It seemed to me that my dad believed me, but why didn’t he stop her from yelling?

After something like 15 minutes (in a 7 year-old time estimate) of her yelling at me and me crying and occasionally responding back “at” her, eventually my mom called the lady at the house where I had been playing in the rain. A few minutes or so later, my mom came back and more or less apologized to me.

I was still angry and afraid of my mom. For me, she could not be trusted by me or much of anything. (In fact, I had it that I couldn’t trust anyone, that is, I did not. I had to figure things out on my own- or at least try.)

I only trusted my mom in certain ways in which she did seem predictable, but not in general. First there was the Santa Claus thing S well as the Easter Bunny but now… this! Those “games” being fake were disappointing and confusing. This was betrayal, according to me.

This was not just her lying about Santa. This was like her believing in Santa when I knew that Santa was fake, but I would get punished for saying anything about it- for raising the question

She didn’t trust me, at least according to me.I knew I was telling the truth and it was like she wanted to believe that I was lying to her.

“My mom does not listen to me,” I said to myself. Of course, eventually she did listen to me. But my mom may have perceived that I did not listen to her (obey her).

After all, I had played in the rain and perhaps that meant to her that I had disobeyed her and she may have been scared that I would not always comply with her rules, like I might forget or I might even rebel.

Would I think that she was a good mother? Would she think that she was a good mother? Would other people think that she was a good mother- after all, her child not only played in the rain, but played in the rain publicly with a bunch of other kids and in the plain sight of other adults.

How embarrassing for her!.Imagine the thought of her being associated with the kinds of parents of those other children. Imagine the thought of her son being associated with those kinds of kids and with those kinds of families and people and parents and mothers and people and organisms and… people!

Was my mom one of the good organisms or one of the bad organisms? Everyone (whoever that is) knows that there are good bacteria and bad bacteria, good parents and bad parents, good rain and bad rain- like if it’s been dry and you are a farmer, then all rain is good rain, but if it is already flooding around you, all rain is bad rain.

Anyway, everyone (whom I have never actually met) knows that you can’t have too much of a good thing because if you have too much of something, like rain, then it is no longer good, but bad. So, you can only have too much of a bad thing because you can only have a bad thing when there is too much of it, at least according to someone important, such as “everyone.”

To me, my mom was important. It was important to me what she thought, and what she said and anything else she did.

To my mom, I was important. What I did or did not do was important. Which rules I followed and how I followed them was important to her.

Getting sick was bad. Playing in the rain is bad because playing in the rain is the obvious source of getting sick. Everyone knows this, except certain undereducated 7 year olds and also that one lady who had weird ides about health and parenting and all sorts of things. Everyone knows that she is weird, bad, and there is just way too much of her, as established definitively by people saying “I agree that she’s just too much.”

After all, she is German and that is bad, right? (She may have even been one of those German Jews, and whatever people do not like to think about must be bad!) Of course, my best fiend’s parents were German, too, and that means he was of German descent, right? But not all Germans let their kids play in the rain, which is wrong. That is just bad parenting. Do they want their kids to get sick or what?

I hope my mom does not think I am a bad parent. I hope my mom does not think she is a bad human.

I hope you like this, I hope you like me.

I hope you think I like you. I hope I think I like you. I hope I like you. I hope.

I like humans, except when they are just too much for me. Once upon a time, I was too much for me, but actually I was just pretending.

I’m not too much. Okay, maybe I may be too much.

However, I’m not too much for me. I may be too much for you or for my mom or for everyone, but I’m actually the only one for me.

Plus, everyone else is also the only one for me. There is not too much of anyone or of everyone. There is just how much there is, which I sure hope is not too much, huh?

How much is there? How much could there be?

My mom was silly. She seemed all tense about being too much of a bad parent or not enough of a divine ideal or something like that.

Wow, that is so silly that it just about makes me cry, but that would really be just too much, huh? I can’t cry because I am a boy, after all- okay, at least I was when I was 7. Sometimes I cried then. Sometimes I cry now.

I was just a boy. Now, I’m a man. I’m just a man.

Am I a good man? Well, I am just a man.

I’m not much of a horse and I am a horrible helicopter- not even close. However, I’m way too much to be a boy.

I’m an extremely imperfect horse, a horrible joke of a helicopter, and a bad boy. Instead, I’m a man. In fact, I’m a father.

I’m lots of other things too. But I’m not bad or good, or maybe some of each… or both of neither. Santa might be disappointed that I’m not being good for him, but I then might make a bad Santa.

Bad or good is relative to a context. It’s not so much that I am bad rain as that I am not really rain at all. I am a total failure at being a helicopter or a horse or a boy..Guilt is relative to a context.

I thought I had my mother’s permission to play in the rain. She apparently did not think that I sincerely thought that I had her permission. She may have thought I was lying to her, plus being an arrogant idiot to think that I could lie to her about having her permission or not when she obviously would knows whether or not she gave me her permission.

She could have been concerned to have such an arrogant idiot for a son. What kind of mother would have an arrogant idiot for a son? Ah yes, the kind of mother that would have an arrogant idiot for a son is the kid of mother that would have an arrogant idiot for a son.

Similarly, the kind of son who would have an arrogant idiot for a mom is the kind of son who would have an arrogant idiot for a mom. How embarrassing, huh? Can you imagine how guilty I must have felt for having an embarrassing life like that- with a mother like that one and bla bla bla?

Oh my God, though, you should meet ______, who is REALLY an arrogant idiot. No, seriously, come on- it will be so much fun!

So, if someone doesn’t like their story, they might just question whether it is over or not, and if not, then change how it hasn’t ended yet by making up an entirely new ending from the one that hasn’t even ended yet. That would be silly, huh? Well, at least it could be silly.

By the way, please be very careful not to do too much of everything all at once, well, unless you do it badly, because then that actually would kind of make me look good, you know, and I can use all the help that I can use.

Ask not what your country can do for you, but ask what your country can do to make you look good. You see, when you look good, that is not to benefit you. When you look good, your country looks good. So, if your country wants to look good, then your country better make you look good.

If your mother wants to look good, then your mother better make you look good. If you want me to look good, then I better make other people look good. If I want to look good to myself, then I better look at other people as good.

However, if I want to perceive myself however I am and however I may be, like not relative to some ideals of should and so on, then I better perceive other people however they are and however they may be, like not relative to some ideals of should and so on. Yeah, that is probably what I should do.

However, what I have found is that what I actually do is what I actually do, even though that is really just what I have found… so far. After all, who knows how this story hasn’t even ended yet?

I just hope that it’s not silly. A silly ending can make the whole thing seem so silly, even too silly, and how can a silly movie like my life- which is like just a silly movie-  be arrogantly idiotic? I think you’ll just have to choose one or the other- either the movie of my life is silly or it’s arrogantly idiotic- but then again, you can always add more story later- like a sequel- and then the new ending could make all the rest seem like however the new ending seems.

Wow, this is a lot of responsibility, huh? Freedom is just silly with responsibility!

Be careful not to have too much freedom or too much responsibility or too much curiosity or too much arrogance. And never ever play in the rain without permission- well, unless you already are.

Finally, especially if you are a parent, be careful not to do anything that you will ever regret. The only things you should ever regret are things that in the future you may or may not do. Regretting the past is silly, and I know this because I have imagined myself in the future regretting a past that has not even happened yet, and it really was very silly.

Of course, once I imagine myself in the future regretting doing or not doing something, then I can get all of the regret over with in advance and either do the thing or not. You can always find new things to later regret. Never regret any one thing too much.

Experiment with regretting different things. Regretting the same thing over and over is to be avoided, because it is bad as in regretable. Don’t regret only one thing. If you aren’t regretting one particular thing, then you should probably practice regretting at least one thing and then interrupting it, which means first start regretting anything, you know, just to make sure that you don’t regret living a life without ever regretting a wide range of things. That would be such a waste, and entirely silly, and it’s so confusing! Oh my God, just please do not end the story on such a regretable topic as regret.

Say something funny. But, please- and keep in mind that Santa is watching- keep it short. I really can’t stand it when you say too much or take too long to say it or say it the wrong way or even speak at all. So, if I am going to regret whatever you say no matter what, will you please make it funny, okay?

Plus, keep it short… because I have a long list of things to eventually regret- it seems like I keep adding more stuff all the time- and I already regret not doing yet most of the ones I have already listed. By the way, it’s not exactly what you regret that interests me or the fact that you regret anything at all, but exactly how you regret the way you do. Basically, I think that you may be doing it the wrong way.

If you are going to regret something, you should at least regret it the right way. I mean, come on, seriously, don’t be silly. You’re just not very good at regretting, are you? You can’t even fail the right way.

Thank you. It’s inspiring. Your complete and utter failure to properly regret everything all at once is totally inspiring. Sometimes I just stop in awe and wonder out loud “how do you do it?”

“This it it. It’s perfect. Right now, from nothing…” here is anything, like as in everything.

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