Thursday, October 20, 2011

Staying Engaged

Not only do I not understand her, I no longer have any idea about how to see where she starts her world.

Part of the gap comes from differences of perspective. We disagree about money, duty, race, gender, sexuality, class, expectations and obligations, disability, religion, politics, education, wellness, family and just about anything else you could name. I do not see how she can hold any of the positions she holds either per se or in tandem with each other. We appear not to value any of the same things in the same way, and while there are several people in my life about whom I could say the same thing, our differences here are divisive; there's no crossing these gaps.

So instead of looking at everything she's doing wrong and everything that I dislike about her, I'm going to look at me and what I've contributed to the mess.  I have chosen, inconsistently, to do a mix of things that both in and of themselves simultaneously exacerbate and improve the situation. And then there's when and how I choose to deploy them.

Let's take the question of education -- because we fight about that one a lot.  We get tied up if we start arguing who has more of it and at what cost -- financially and personally.  Trying to be right is a pointless endeavour.  We might be better off trying address the things that lurk behind the question of college degrees: obligation and responsibility. 

Factually speaking, nothing I learned at college is of practicable use to anyone. Sharing what I learned or even what I was doing was always more alienating and distancing, so I learned that the facts of my subject knowledge never were the coin-in-trade. But being in a college environment exposed me to stuff I didn't know people knew. About how to be in the world. About how the world works. About voting, politics, credit, money, life-planning, self-presentation ... Decision-making.

I was shocked to find these were things people made choices about -- job offer? take it or leave it.  The complexities of the dress codes -- I knew there were codes; I just didn't understand them so fully.  Career, as opposed to work? Buy a house? Save? How? Budget?  I had no idea.  And where I came from, people didn't ever talk about it.  You either knew (mysteriously), and life worked out all right.  Or you tried hard, and life went wrong anyway.  Or some things worked without trying; some things failed despite trying.

It was that uncertainty that got to me.  The not knowing why and not knowing how or if.

College didn't teach me those facts, but it did -- or at least the people I encountered -- did show me that I might need to know stuff like this.  I learned how to access this knowledge and how to interpret it.  And that is the biggest difference between our notions of education.  It's not the weight of the facts that I learned.  It's the stuff I learned from realizing that other people had choices and options that I wasn't even aware of.  It's the stuff I learned from copying people.  From imitating those who looked successful.

So, I don't talk about my education; I share what I know of life-skills.  Having them has changed my life; I am less scared about the world.  I no longer believe that the rug will be pulled from underneath me at any moment.  And when the forces of evil yank on my rug, I have the skills and the support to fight back successfully.  How to share is the challenge. The best way would be to do it, little by little. By being with. By talking a little as things came up. By modeling and talking about what I do. By being human with each other.  But that would require contact.  And trust.

And that we don't have.


  1. Powerful and touches home in a few places-maybe even touches hard enough to generate some forward movement. Thank you for this post today.

  2. Hi, I just wanted to let you know that I've added your blog to the Disability Blog Hub ( Keep up the great work :)

  3. I love what Lynda said.

    Great post.