Friday, November 18, 2011

[Jon] Changes


Before Alice was born, my dad shared a little gem that proves more true every day. He told me, “Being someone’s parent will change you in ways you can never imagine.” And it has. But not just in the ways that directly relate to being a parent. A few years ago, I wouldn’t have believed how comfortable I would become with diapers and breastfeeding. But I probably could have imagined it if I tried, that's not so far outside the realm of probability for a dad.

I am a homebody. I like to be very near those I love, and I like the comfort of my own home. So naturally, I love being able to work from home. My life’s radius has shrunk down to just a mile or two from our house. My surroundings, small and familiar. A byproduct of this is acute awareness of it all. I was talking about this with Erin and compared it to a prisoner knowing every inch in his cell, every sound and routine. When someone spends all his time in the same, small space, they become intimately familiar with every minute detail. Every day I pay closer attention to nearly imperceptible changes in the length of the day, the weather, how this sunrise compares to the others this week, et cetera. I feel like a farmer in the early mornings when I research the exact weather and the sunrise/sunset times for the day; I’ve even started looking at moonrise/set times.

Alice plays, Dad ponders.

Also, like a prisoner, I have plenty of time to contemplate. If you’ve spent considerable amount of daily time with a baby or toddler, I think we can agree that much of the time is pretty boring. I mean that in the nicest way, I’m just not quite as stimulated as Alice is by reading the same book over and over again, or playing with the same toys. So in between our active communication and playtime, during her more independent, exploratory times, I’m kind of left alone with my thoughts while I watch over her. It’s nice, and I’m never bored with them.*


The cats and I, working hard.
Alongside Alice, our two cats are my other faithful companions in this stay-at-home adventure. Spending all day, every day with those little characters, surrounded by their unique personalities, their antics and affection, they’ve affected the way I feel about animal rights, cruelty, and consumption. I love to eat meat. It's one of my favorite culinary experiences. But I’ve come to believe, at least for myself, that my nourishment should not be dependent on another creature’s life. One of my 2011 New Year’s resolutions was to lessen this dependency by eating half as much meat as I was before, and twice as many vegetables. I think I’ve been more than successful and while I’m not completely vegetarian, I am in spirit.


With Erin’s help in the kitchen, I’m trying to utilize all other forms of nutrition, which when done creatively and adventurously, all but make up for the comfort of the old meat-centric recipes we love so much. When we do eat meat, we try to make the best choices and make extra effort to support farmers who provide the animal with the best quality of life possible. And I try to honor that animal’s gift to me by not taking more than I need to sustain, and acknowledging that a life was lost for me to have dinner. With that perspective I want to exhaust every other outlet of more sustainable nutrition before asking for a life.

Our tiny trashcans: we downgraded to the smallest size.
Related to responsible eating, I now see my footprint on the planet. I pay attention to how many lights are on in the house, how much water is being used. I’m aware of how much trash we throw away every week. If you just look and listen, you notice where you need to make a change. I recently tried to imagine a life without convenient weekly trash pickups. Say I had to pile up an entire year’s worth of garbage in our yard. What would that look like? I truly cannot imagine the size of it. Because our excess in packaging is whisked away every week, it’s out of sight out of mind. But it’s not. When I see plastic containers, I like to think, “great, that can be recycled.” Which is great, but what about all of the effort and fuel that is required to produce and then recycle something that wasn’t truly necessary in the first place? I’m learning that the outlying Rs in the three Rs of recycling are the biggest of the three—reduce and reuse. We’re on a non-crazy-person’s goal to reduce our lives down to what matters and to cut out the waste. We’re trying to make careful decisions that give us the greatest reward for the investment. I promise to not become actually crazy about this, I just want to be more intentional and responsible. 


reusing paper and jars.
I’m also developing an ever-increasing appreciation for well-executed ideas. Good design, beautiful typography, innovative ways of solving problems all appeal to me more than ever. I’ve set a challenge for myself that when I work on something, I want to do work that I’m proud of and make the process enriching and enjoyable. I want to solve problems with innovation, thoughtful design, and proper technique. Whether I’m designing our yard’s new irrigation system, or searching out an elegant solution to our leaky diaper sprayer, or laying out music on a page, I want to know that I didn’t just do it, but I did it well, and beautifully, and the right person will admire it.**


irrigation design.
I suppose the common thread through all of this is self-awareness. My small, quiet island-living is turning my thoughts inward, forcing me to examine my choices and more importantly, who I am entirely. I can say that becoming a father (and by extension, working from home), has indeed changed me in ways I never imagined. The amazing thing about it? This is only the beginning.


* I am not a prisoner, and almost never feel trapped. I know you’re thinking that was an unfortunate metaphor, but it was the most accurate I could think of.
** Blogger baffles me in how and where it decides it will insert double hard returns. I try and I try to fix this, even modifying the line breaks in the HTML, but alas, my paragraph breaks are uneven and are not the way they should be.

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