The calendar, the cost, and a pretty cool kid

I have changed all my various calendars to July.

I know it's not July until tomorrow, but ... well ... it's JULY tomorrow! There's nothing on today's pages anyway, and I can't wait any longer. July's calendar has work days (at the library, which is, in fact, the best place in the whole world to "work" out there in the big wide world), and school days, and birthdays, and vacation days on it. And at the top, a gorgeously bright picture of the Stone Mad Gallery in County Cork, Ireland. July, July, July ... I do love July.

This year, on the way to July, I have discovered "hidden costs" of my returning to school.

The first is the undeniable fact that being happy - sometimes stubbornly happy - being optimistic and hopeful and ready to move into the unknown - the fact is that this earns a hostile response from a certain sort of person. I find myself as bewildered by this as I have ever been. There is always a small and persistent group of people - a faithful, all-volunteer Greek Chorus - somewhere in my life who, hearing me say about almost anything, "I'm happy because ___," feel that they simply must take me down a peg. It's like some kind of compulsion for them. They get quite fierce sometimes - they simply must warn me of impending failures, or show me the dangers I'm evidently too silly to see, or testify earnestly to me of the pain and difficulty that awaits me.

Why is that?

The easy answer is in ordinary things like jealousy and insecurity and things like that, but those things don't answer the question for me. I guess what I want to know is this. Why do some people, when faced with reasoned and yet ebullient happiness, react as if they, personally, have been threatened in some way? That's what I think I'm starting to figure out. It's not personal about me - it's something threatening about happiness itself somehow. What is that? (Corollary question: Should I stop being happy out loud? I won't, of course. I made that decision a long time ago. But it does bother me to cause such disturbances in other people, and I can't help noticing it.)

Another unexpected price for this new adventure is found within my own reactions. That "chronolog" we're working on for our next class? Where we list the dates and places and names of our experiences and then articulate the learning? Well, it's a shockingly intense exercise! It has only the remotest connection to a "list" and has a lot in common with things usually called "examination of conscience," and "introspective analysis," and "dredging up the past." A person can only excavate in this territory for just so long at a time before the emotional component of making such a list becomes too overwhelming. I confess - I am surprised at this. I'm also glad I started early! And the kid in this blog entry's title? That would be our youngest. We had a very interesting conversation yesterday, this kid and I. This is the only kid of our three kids who got old enough before learning to read to know that he didn't know how. The other two weren't ever really aware that they didn't know how to read - to them, it seemed like everything else in their worlds. New stuff happened all the time. Reading was just one more new thing.

For that youngest kid, though, there were months and months and months and months of extreme frustration. It became my chief occupation to take off the pressure. Motivation wasn't nearly the problem that the frustration was for this kid. And back then, in the midst of it all, I used to tell the Dad in this house that I was going to "write my learned paper" on the several steps needed for literacy. I would be fully qualified to do so by the time this kid learned to read because he wasn't skipping or hurrying through any of the steps. Every excruciatingly minuscule element of human written, spoken, and readable language was obvious in this process thirteen (fourteen? fifteen?) years ago.

There was one day that sticks in my mind. It was the day I announced the outrageous concept that, "if you know the word, you can just read it. You don't have to sound it out."

He looked at me like I'd just told him that "if you're really mad, you can punch the other guy in the face." Or ... "if you really want the candy, just steal it." You'd have thought every moral law he had ever encountered was offended by such a shocking announcement. He studied my face for awhile to see if I was serious. I appeared to be so. But I was so startled by the look on his face that I found myself sputtering. "Really! Everyone does it!" (Oh, now there's a great way to make decisions!) "I mean, that's how people read. Just say the words you know. It's okay. When you learn a whole bunch of them, you can read as fast as you want."

Hm. He had his doubts as to my personal integrity that day, but he was willing to humor me. And he began to read.

Yesterday, the grown up version of that kid did something that reminded me of this whole reading episode of his life. He named off all the things he has wanted to do or experience or have, and then how he did or experienced or got each of those things. The kid is still all about the specificity of life. Every tiny bit of a thing is something he sees - still experiences as a life reality. But now? Now he draws his own conclusions.

Yesterday he said, "So I started thinking about it." (My heart leaps for joy. He "thinks about it." That was one of the things we wanted most for our kids - the ability to "think about it.") "And I figured something out." (Note: we are not leaping to conclusions here. No, no. Not this guy. Every component still in place, we proceed from the list to the conclusion one step at a time. His life is a game, but the game is Hopscotch. You're not allowed to skip any squares.) And his conclusion?

"The reason people don't have what they want is because they don't go get it."

Oooooh, yeaaaaah... The dude can READ!

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