I know what I know if you know what I mean

I am a reformed know-it-all.

I used to roll around in knowledge like a warm Dunkin Donut munchkin in powdered sugar. I wanted to be covered in it and then I wanted you to lick me.

Because I knew something. And if I knew it, you should know it, too. Then all our lives would be better.

My knowing has always been a well-intentioned sort.

It didn’t matter what the knowing was: At some points in my life, the knowing was boys. At others, it was Judaism or organized religion. At another junction, it was true love. And at yet another, it was friendship.

I knew what I knew and knowing it made me right. Being right made me feel safe. Not just on-the-surface safe — not the kind of safe we feel when we double-lock our doors or put on seat belts. No, a kind of subconscious, impregnable bubble of well-being that convinced me I knew people and I knew the world and I knew what should be done to make things right or better or good.

Then, something happened. Someone convinced me that there were things I didn’t know. Not only that, someone convinced me there were things I could never know — like what it was like to live during the French Revolution or what it felt like to be in the 2004 tsunami — no matter how much studying I did; no matter how much learning; no matter, even, how much listening. Some things are just unknowable because they are unique experiences. Even if, God forbid, I one day faced a tsunami, it would never be the 2004 tsunami. No matter how many videos on YouTube I watch, I am still an observer.  No matter how many poignant blogs I read, I am still only a participant in my own experience. And so therefore, there is a distinction to be made between what I know and what I know.

Once I knew this — once I knew this — I looked at life very differently. My experience of life and people changed when I understood “I know what I know” and when I accepted “I know there are things I will never know.”

There are things I cannot possibly know no matter how loving, how compassionate, how empathetic, how caring, how interested, how hungry I am. And this matters because it impacts my point of view, it affects how I see the world, people, opportunities, challenges, and risks.

My life changed because I stepped out towards life then as a curious observer; the kind of curious observer we are all born as and remain until life teaches us over and over again to be afraid.

Afraid of being out of control.

Afraid of being in danger.

Afraid of looking stupid.

Afraid of being stupid.

Afraid of being unloved.

Afraid of being unloveable.

You know the list … it’s longer than this.

This isn’t to say I am always acting as the curious observer. Today, for instance, as a man walked out into the street directly in front of my moving car, I thought immediately, “idiot!” But the curious observer now sits in the passenger seat and says, “maybe he had a belly ache and was rushing to the bathroom.” What she doesn’t say, but I know is, “Remember when you did that once?”

The thing is: the frightened know-it-all is constantly whispering from the passenger seat. Remnants of her will float up from deep inside me as ego-scented vibrational waves. Usually this happens when I am on social media or in heated conversations with my husband or my mother. The frightened know-it-all is sensitive to emotions, especially rejection and accusation. She is reactive, especially when under duress. She is only, after all, trying to keep me safe.

But she no longer can hang out there ruling like a queen bee on the playground of my life, one that is indeed filled with mines, but probably less dangerous than I perceive. The curious observer is there, too, asking questions; waiting for answers before stepping out.

 

How peeling eggs turned me into Ralph Macchio

I think the majority of the world falls into two camps.

People who don’t mind peeling eggs. And people who hate it with all their might.

Peeling eggs, for me, is torture.

It’s a slow torture, too.

It’s painful to my senses. The uneven, unexpected cracks that may or may not lace the eggs once they come out of the pot. The stretch of the skin as you pull off the hard, cracked outer shell.  The rubbery touch and feel of the skin beneath. All the small left over pieces that you can’t easily scrape off your fingertip.

I can hardly stand it.

What I like even less about peeling eggs is the amount of time it takes, and the fact that each egg must be peeled slowly and with care. This isn’t so bad if you want just one egg, but becomes more of a nuisance if you need to make egg salad …and much more of a pain if you are making egg salad for a party of 10 or 15 people.

That’s a lot of eggs to peel.

But what I like even LESS is when a piece of shell pulls off with it some of the meat of the egg white.

Grrrr… and you’re left with a very deformed, less than perfect, certainly not whole, egg.

As a borderline perfectionist, this truly is almost more than I can bear.

But I bear it.

Over the years, I have been given a few tips on how to peel eggs easier. (“Wait til they’ve cooled. Do it quick while they’re still hot. Crack a hole on each end and blow into it first.”)

No matter what the technique, it still is a process I wish I didn’t have to go through.

But I do it anyway.

Mindfulness comes in handy in these situations, I have found.

Unless you don’t mind chomping on shells, peeling eggs requires extraordinary presence and patience.  You need both hands to peel and you need a careful eye to search and find the leftover pieces of shell on the egg.

You need to be with the egg.

You can’t be typing a text to your husband or responding to an email from your boss.

You can’t be changing the baby’s diaper or sitting on the toilet.

You can’t speed through it — unless you don’t mind peeling half the egg off with the shell.

And you can’t do it in front of the TV or in the dark in bed.

And if you hate peeling eggs as much as I do — you tolerate all this in the hopes that the ends will justify the means. BUT, at the same time, you are required to completely give up expectations of the outcome.

You need to be okay with the mauled, ugly egg, for instance — or you’ll be boiling and peeling eggs all day long, over and over again.

I was peeling eggs semi-mindfully today — and by semi-mindfully, I mean my emotional state was somewhere between pulling out my hair and poking out my eyes — when my 6 year old son came over and asked if he could help.

I almost said, “Thank GOD!” and ran away.

Instead, I sat with him and patiently showed him how to peel an egg. I taught him the steps, instructed him on how to peel the shell completely, and coached him on letting go of the need for the egg to be perfect.

As I heard my voice out loud, guiding him on concepts I still myself need coaching on, I suddenly got the epiphany of  “peeling the eggs”

Do you hear Mr. Miyagi’s voice the way I do?

He’s saying:

“Peel the eggs eggs

Peel the eggs

Peel the eggs …

No, no look here.

Slowly, slowly.

Peel the eggs

Peel the eggs

Peel the eggs.

Very good, Jenny San.

Don’t forget to breathe…

Peel the eggs,

Peel the eggs.”

The beet goes on

I thought the most interesting thing about today would be the beet.

I pulled four beets from the vegetable drawer because I knew if I didn’t do something with them today they’d go bad tomorrow.

I have a strange relationship with beets.

I want to love them.

I want to savor them like my friend Allison, who once said to me,

“Mmmm…I love beets.”

But I can’t. I just can’t. At best, I can tolerate beets when they’re roasted just so and soaked in a little olive oil and balsamic vinegar.

But beets are so incredibly beautiful that I will wash them and peel them and slice them and stand over them in wonderous amazement even if I won’t eat them.

dancing beet

The red pink of beets should not exist in nature.

It should be synthetic, it is so beautiful.

The spiral designs inside a beet, however, should exist in nature.

Beet innards are exactly the kinds of puzzles that nature produces and we call God.

I love beets, but I can’t eat them.

After the beets, I tried to take a nap.

Two of my kids were sleeping: one sprawled on the couch in a beet-colored dress with wrinkled flowers on the strap and the other with his head hanging off the bottom bunk.

He fell asleep in the middle of a tantrum while I tried to soothe him with Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone, Chapter 1, page 1.

There was a knock at the door.

It was Nachum.

Looking for my son.

I knew it was Nachum because I heard his fingers drumming on the metal railing outside.

I liked that I knew it was Nachum and didn’t mind so much that he was rousing me from my almost nap.

My son was not at home. He was at a basketball game with his dad.

I told this to Nachum. He turned around and left as quickly as he came.

I tried to take a nap.

There was a knock at the door.

It was not Nachum, but a man whose name should have been Nachum.

He was in a rumpled white button down shirt and black pants.

He had a long black beard, too.

He might have had a black yarmulke but I didn’t notice when he turned to walk away.

I was too busy remembering his smile.

I gave him 20 shekels and he was happy.

I was happy, too.

So happy, I stopped trying to take a nap.

= = =

(This post was written in less than 15 minutes. Wanna take on the Friday 15-minute challenge? Write today for 15 minutes and leave a link to your post in the comments below and tag your post 15-minute Friday.)

Graduating to grownup

I didn’t write this, but oh how I wish I did. Actually, no, I’m grateful for the words. For knowing that someone sees the world this way. Saw the world this way. Grateful to David Foster Wallace for writing it, and speaking the “capital T truth.”

This video is powerful and touching and true.

*   *   *   *

This is Water

By David Foster Wallace

 

“The only thing that is capital T true is that you get to decide how you’re going to try to see it.”

“Please don’t just dismiss it as one finger-wagging Dr. Laura sermon. None of this stuff is really about morality or religion or dogma or big fancy questions of life after death. The capital T truth is about life before death. It is about the real value of a real education….which has almost nothing to do with knowledge and everything to do with simple awareness.”