Experience

river

I’ve been running around lately, and every time I pause I have deep thoughts, man. I’m looking forward to the point where my biology has finished mourning my father, because hopefully then my thoughts will then return to their normal stasis of occasional depth but otherwise remain focused on day to day tasks, such as assuring I do not get hit by a car when crossing the street or actually notice when I am about to have a lightning bolt thrown at me.

Lately my thought process has been clambering the caves of the very concept of experience. In Wicca, it means everything. You experience connection to God/ess. You know whether a spell worked or not based on your internal feelings – it’s completely anchored in experience and perception.  In everyday life, it’s repeated a lot like it’s important but I’m starting to suspect on some level it means nothing. I think what we’re working with is one of those double-edged sword situations:

In experience, there’s the “I know this and have seen this happen”  (usually followed by “dumbass” or “you idiot” ) paradigm, and there is the “I want what happened to me to happen to you (or what happened to me will happen to you) logicfail! paradigm.

The logicfail! is the one where you presuppose that what happened to say, your mother, will happen to you. She meets her husband and it’s  love at first sight. You then run around expecting someone to see you and just trip over themselves in love with you – and your mother kind of wishes for this to happen, too. Along with being a massive logicfail! it ignores a whole lot of factors that allow for the possibility of a wonderful and unique experience, something neither one of you has encountered that will enrich the endless story that makes up a family narrative. After all, one of the things that makes a family at least have the illusion of functionality is that neverending narrative that makes each person a character, right? I know from watching way too much television that each character needs his or her own storyline – his or her own set of experiences. Instead, the girl ends up with a crappy life because she couldn’t connect to the person who was her best friend for ten years – just because it wasn’t the sudden romantic repeat performance her mother had essentially raised her to expect.

What if you are here to engage in an experience that is different from that of your predecessors? What if your children are supposed to have an experience that is different from yours, and there’s no guarantee that that is a better experience? My parent really really wanted me to go to their college – they could not conceive that my experience at that college would be different than theirs, or even that perhaps the education might have changed. Both my parents loved college and wanted me to have their experience, even though my circumstances were entirely different. Even though my mother new objectively I was raising money for college and paying it myself at age 18 (and that was room, board, tuition, clothing, EVERYTHING except one or two very small medical bills), she couldn’t wrap her head around the idea that my needs and pressures at any college would be completely different than hers – and that was before you took into account that I was attending college more than thirty years after she did. Thankfully I dug my heels in on being forced to go to my parents’ alma mater – though they denied it even when put in front of them, the quality of education at their school along with job placement in my chosen major were beyond terrible. I love college too, but I don’t think it’s the solution for future generations – I got my degree the very last year holding a degree holds real meaning for a professional writer. Ultimately the value was the people I met rather than the education I got. And coming up with tens of thousands of dollars when your’e 18 and can’t get a car? It’s incredibly stressful and really impacts your enjoyment of “college moments.” I can’t think of a single one where I wasn’t worrying about money at the same time.

Expecting someone to have your experiences – both positive and negative – is crap. Your experiences are just yours, and they are for relating but they aren’t meant to be shared. By wishing your experiences on another person, you’re essentially trying to help yourself to something that is theres, and projecting yourself onto that person and into that person’s life (which I think is called narcissism.) It’s crappy. Tell stories and tell what your outcome was or your observed outcome, but if you’re trying to get a repetition of another experience you’re either missing the point of a person having their own experiences or you’re just a kind of crappy person.

On the other hand, what if your experience is based in an objective reality? For instance, car trouble and government forms. I’ve had plenty of experience with both. Not enough to make me a mechanic or lawyer, but enough that I can reliably tell you where the closest DMV is and how long the line will probably be. Despite having gleaned this information firsthand from experience, Mike rarely if ever listens to me when something crosses his path. I recall telling him very clearly that there is no DMV in downtown Minneapolis. But I still had to go with him as he marched on into the Hennepin building, only to be told to go to the location miles away that I had told him before leaving the house we would have to go. It’s not just male stubborness (though it is a factor.) It’s because Mike considers all experience subjective – if it hasn’t happened to him, it hasn’t happened. It’s maddening to me, and there are days I have wanted to just smack him repeatedly on the head because of it, especially on the days where we’ve wound up spending extra time in DMV lines (because who the hell wants to do that especially after they made an effort to prevent it?) Sometimes you do have to just take someone else’s experience into account – otherwise feedback systems would never work, and as human beings and shoppers we’re extremely reliant on them.

My brain shoots back and forth on the experience spectrum because I’ve had both extremes happen in my life, sometimes on the same day. Clearly my experience is about experiencing the range of experience – and the crazy that can come from either.