Monday, April 30, 2012

The fun is the hunt

Our neighborhood's long-delayed egg hunt finally took place on Saturday. Alex took Wally, who enjoyed being able to walk on the dirt and grass in the forbidden yard. Apparently it's not okay for a few toddlers to hop across the grass, but dozens converging to dig up artificially-flavored corn syrup mixed with edible wax hidden in plastic is not only permitted but encouraged. Not to sound bitter. I'm not anti-candy, and I love a good egg hunt. I'm glad the kids got a chance to enjoy the yard was happy to hear Alex let Wally poke around without coaching him from the sidelines as has become something of a sport, and not just here. Actually, it's very gentle here, compared to places where parents organize stampedes and encourage pushing and shoving.

Still, even at our egg hunt, there are parents screeching at their kids to go faster, to pick up more, "get that before someone else". Last year I saw a baby examining a lovely Easter-egg blue egg, really enjoying the shape and feel of it, when his dad knocked it out of his hand into the basket and told him to get a move on and grab more eggs. "They'll be time for that later."

Another mom told me she saw someone scooping eggs into her shirt on Saturday then dumping them into her kids' baskets. Another parent didn't even bother to transfer the eggs, but simply stuffed the pockets of her own cargo pants.

I mean it's nuts. You don't even have to unpack the metaphor. The entire point is for the kids to have fun on the search, yet someone people deny them the  experience in favor of a "higher yield", really getting off on the competition aspect. It's so easily transferable an illustration to our culture of high-achievement, where the eye is always on the prize, and the person who dies with the most money saved up in the bank, I guess, wins?

True, the toddler fascinated by the egg will probably did have time later that afternoon to examine and enjoy it. But being in the moment isn't something you can really put off. I wish I could stop the moms and dads desperately driving their kids on to collect the most eggs and say... 

You do realize the whole fun of this is the hunt. It's a game. On Halloween, if the first house you went to just dumped a bunch of candy into your bags, it would ruin the night. If you want chocolate-covered eggs and Jelly beans, go by them; they're on clearance now. The point of the egg hunt is that it's a little adventure. It's the thrill of finding an egg because you searched for it, came upon a secret little spot, or craned your neck up to examine a tree branch. It's the happy exploration, the little quest. It's the process itself that's supposed to be fun.

Friday, April 27, 2012

We are made of dreams and bones

This morning my friend Kristin sent me the link for 596 acres where vacant lots in Brooklyn are taken over to create community gardens. I checked it out and felt inspired, then spent way too much time searching for a local community garden to join on this supposedly easily-navigable sight oasis.  I couldn't find any nearby. We do have wonderful parks, all along the river. And nice playgrounds. And these lovely ornamental grasses all around our neighborhood. But I got really fixated on the idea of a community garden where kids really could dig and plant seeds and help weed and watch things grow. And then maybe even eat the things that grow, or give them to other people to eat. My neighbor friend Becky has long dreamed of a community garden on top of the eyesore parking lot in the middle of our complex. Kristin and Becky are both teachers, not gardeners per se. But like my sister, another teacher, they all know the value of kids spending time outdoors, in nature.

Lately I've also been trying to find volunteer opportunities to do with a four-year-old, thinking there must be stuff we can do together, like gardening or picking up trash or visiting seniors. But I can't find anything local for kids that young. Tomorrow is a Social Action Day organized by The New Shul with projects and games for kids at the Chelsea Elliot Houses right nearby. Families are welcome but the recommendation is for volunteers age 10 and up. I've asked people who are part of various churches if they have a service component that includes kids. No luck yet. And then I thought, if no opportunities for service with kids exist, I'll just have to start making some up. I mean, there's a lot we can do, even if it's not "official". Like maybe we could start collecting and bringing compost down to the Saturday morning pickup at Abdington Square on Saturday mornings. Even if we're not good enough citizens to collect banana peels all week long, maybe we can at least start with the apple cores and coffee grinds on Friday.

Just basically, starting small. Doing one, small good thing, rather than dreaming of elaborate idealistic plans for someday, a day that may never come.

These green dreams were in the back of my head as I went on with my work this morning. And then I went for a quick run before I had to pick up Wally. It was too windy, so I went for a short run, not all the way out to the river (I'm feeling wimpy today, probably because of too much drinking last night).

On the walk back I saw the kids in front of the public elementary school milling all about in a tiny, fenced in yard they have there. I've never seen them hanging out there before. I stopped for a minute to look, and I just couldn't help beaming when I saw they were weeding the patch of dirt that had once maybe been a garden. 

I wanted to take a picture but was afraid I'd be mistaken for a pedophile, and I know some people think it's illegal to take pictures of kids. It's actually perfectly legal, fine to post photos of children as well, but people don't know this because of the parental consent forms that go around and the general hysteria associated with protecting our children, which, as Lenore Skenazy points out nearly daily, does more harm than good. That is a separate story. Sad, that our society has gotten so suspicious, so scared of mostly the wrong things.

This is the public school that most of the parents I know in this neighborhood want to avoid with a ten foot pole because it has many kids from the housing projects (the same above mentioned, Chelsea-Elliot). One local dad even said he would let his daughter go there "over his dead body". They will do anything to avoid it. There's another cute, coveted public school nearby for which some of us in this complex are zoned (not us). In the fall there was a period of time when it looked like some redistricting would go on and we'd all be zoned for this school -- which made me so happy-- community! continuity! a small-town feel! our kids getting to go to school with all their neighboorhood friends! -- but caused an upset and well-organized protest by those zoned for the cute, coveted school. In the end, they won, and the districts remain drawn as they are. So - anyway, this is just to say that the school I mention is sort of the black sheep school, and it's the one I hope Wally gets to go to in 2014 and the one I hope I get to read books at and dig in the dirt with and paint murals on the walls of. But it would be considered far from perfect by most parents here, and these aren't even Tiger Moms or Snowplough dads. They're pretty bohemian and laid back.

So there I was in front of the imperfect school after the imperfect run. And because of our litigious and fearful society I didn't dare take a picture so you just have to take my word that the kids were joyful and free, hopping about in that tiny space, like too many fish in a small tank but still moving about and seeming totally alive. They were out in the sun. No jackets, despite the wind. No money required for this lesson plan. No materials, really. They were weeding, and enjoying it, gleeful with the excavation of each unwanted plant they plucked from the ground. I did stop and tell the teacher I thought it was awesome they were doing that, at the risk of appearing creepy ("Why are you watching first graders playing?"). She was sweaty and kind, hair falling out of her pony tail, holding a trash bag (hope they compost those weeds!). She looked happy.

I put my headphones back on. I was listening to Naomi Shelton, a gospel singer, "I'll take the long road" and kept it on a loop until I got home. "I'll take the long road, yes indeed, but surely surely I will get there." And it just felt so good, to know and accept and be aware of the fact that good things really do happen little by little. Even when you are little and the problems are big. It's Bird by Bird, inch by inch, the journey of a thousand miles that begins with a single step, it's the tortoise, not the hare. Moving forward, and knowing it's going to be a long road and just facing that small task ahead of you because it's really the only way to make progress. Facing that one small step is the hardest leap to make.

One classroom of kids outside weeding the garden won't repair a crumbling public education system or reverse climate change and milling about in that tiny space won't make up for curtailed recess time and the need children have to run free, increasingly denied them. But it's a start. And that's really all we can ask for. They are out there. They are doing it. Their hands are dirty. At this forgotten school people only seem to go if they have no other choice, these left-behind kids were not left inside today. They may not get the tutoring, the art programs, the state-of-the-art technology other kids in the neighborhood get. They may not have the advantages others have. They may not have the same array of choices made available to them upon graduation. They may be forced to take the long road. But they'll get there. Working in the overgrown garden today, they were beginning to make their way.

Title: Garden Song by David Mallett

Pullin' weeds and pickin' stones
We are made of dreams and bones
Need a place to call my own
'Cause the time is close at hand

Thursday, April 26, 2012

Let kids play outside, and get out of their way

From Shine today,

"Danger on the Playground: Riding the Slide with Your Toddler in Your Lap Could Break Her Leg"

It's not only sticks and stones that may break your bones, but your parents insisting you're too fragile to go it alone. Alex wants you to know he's been saying this for a while. Although given that Wally's been nose-diving down slides for well over three years, it may not have applied to me. (I do like riding down with him on my lap sometimes, but that's only because I get weird looks when I go by myself.)

A more interesting article, in my opinion, was linked from that one, published last July. "Have playgrounds become too safe for kids?" It's not only that they're too safe and therefore boring, but that they're not teaching kids how to be independent, handle fear, and gradually master new challenges. Basically, overprotecting kids doesn't actually protect them, and in many cases does the opposite, leaving them vulnerable to a world they're scared of and don't have the coping skills to navigate. 

It's not just playgrounds themselves that expose this disturbing trend of safety measures that are detrimental and even dangerous, but the whole issue of play and the way its treated. School recess is being phased out or already has been in 40% of U.S. schools due to budget-cuts and need for extra test prep time. Tag is banned in many schools that still have recess because it's considered dangerous. Tag! Dodge ball I can understand. I remember hating dodge ball. I could never dodge. I was always pelted. But I think it's good to suck at things and still be forced to do them. 

This article "Why kids need recess and exercise" by Denene Millner that ran April 3 of this year in parenting and ccn is worth reading.

My sister, a public middle school math teacher, has been writing letters about how the current testing mandates undermine learning and exact a high cost in instruction time (including time for grading the tests) and sending around this petition. Here our current pre-occupations dovetail, a rare occurrence, given that recess time in grade schools is sometimes sacrificed in favor of additional test prep time as it did for the 4th-grade daughter of Ms. Millner as described in the above-mentioned article. Here she writes:

"I could see the toll it was taking on my daughter Mari, when, two weeks before fourth-grade testing, she dragged herself off the bus and into our kitchen--exhausted, tense, and frazzled. Turns out the only break she'd had during her six-and-a-half-hour school day was for a 22-minute lunch (quiet talking only). Recess had been "suspended" for two weeks so the teachers could get in extra test prep--and by this point Mari hadn't seen the monkey bars, bounced across a hopscotch board, or breathed fresh air for days.

She was toast.

And I was fuming.

I mean, prisoners get more time out on the yard than the fourth-graders at my kid's school--and I thought it terribly unfair that my 9-year-old was being denied something as basic as a respite from her classroom. This recess hiatus was a problem. The anecdotal proof was sitting--melting down--before my eyes. And, as it turns out, there is plenty of hard evidence, too. A recent multicenter study of more than 11,000 eight- and nine-year-olds, led by pediatric researchers at the Albert Einstein College of Medicine, in New York City, showed that kids who had at least 15 minutes of recess a day (even just 15 minutes!) behaved better in class."

I'm glad there is more awareness about this issue. I loved recess. And I miss see-saws. 

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Sometimes playing on grass is illegal

A few years ago I gave my nieces a picture book called Beeju, by Alexis Deacon, and they gave it back to Wally last year. 

It’s about an alien who ends up on earth. She makes friends with a litter of puppies, but the mean guy at the shelter tosses her out. Then she makes friends with kids on the school yard, but the cranky teacher makes her leave. Finally, her parents find her and they beam back up to outer space. In the spaceship “Beeju told her parents all about life on earth. How Earth creatures were mostly big and unfriendly, but there were some small ones who seemed hopeful.”

Wally loves this book, and is always happy at the end when Beegu finds her mommy and daddy. We read it many nights.

During the day, lately, in the afternoons, we've been playing outside not on the playground as much but just on the grass near our house. We're lucky to have the nearby playgrounds, but they can be confining, overwhelming (full of teenagers), and aggravating (fights over plastic cars and tricycles). Plus there's just something great about free play outside with grass, dirt, trees, birds, and squirrels darting about. As Richard Louv points out in Last Child in the Woods, there's always enough nature to go around, whether it's sea shells, pebbles or pine combs, there are enough for everyone.

Wally and his friends in the neighborhood been playing so well together. Sharing, laughing, inventing little treasure hunts, collecting rocks,  throwing foam rockets, kicking balls, digging holes, searching for worms. All without any input or involvement from us (the parents). Exactly what you hope for. So natural and yet – in this city at least – such a rare sight. It's a dream. I'm out there thinking, this is so peaceful and what the hours after school should be like – quiet, no scheduled activities, no specific playdates to rush to, just meeting with neighbors outside, casually, whoever's around. No hovering. No torturous "watch me" from the monkey bars. No climbing backwards up the slide to the chagrin of other parents. No danger of running in front of the swings. Right here in the middle of Chelsea, a great scene of a fantasy American childhood...

Except – of course! – big loud except, because this is how the universe works – now that they are playing so well and easily and casually, running, hiding, wrestling, whispering secrets behind trees--neighbors are calling security on them. Why? Because the rule is, you have to stay on the little strip of sidewalk between the laundry room and the gate. You cannot walk on the grass. It is "ornamental". 

Even though there is this enormous, lovely yard just calling out to them. They are not picking flowers or littering or running with soccer cleats, they are just frolicking, and it baffles me that people would walk by or look out their windows and get so upset at the site of kids (there aren't many, no more than four at any given time) hopping and skipping outside. I never see kids hop and skip in the playground. I want to see kids frolic. To be carefree, joyful, uninhibited. But not everyone does.

So the kids come over to us, looking sheepish after the security guy says they have to get off the grass.We try to reassure them that they were not doing anything wrong, at all, that they were playing really nicely, but it's just a rule. Some people don't think kids should run and have fun on the grass. What can we say?

The security guys are really nice about it and feel bad, but they get complains  (tenants calling management on us) and they have to give us the old hook. So it's off to "watch me" on the playground, spotting on the monkey bars, pushing on the swings. The kids have a harder time playing together in small groups, since there are so many of them there, babies grabbing, older kids eye-rolling, helicopter moms negotiating. Lots of noise. Very little nature.

The other day we were in another little nearby yard. Wally's friend was sleeping after school, so he was playing by himself. A lady in her 90s was out on a bench. I thought she must be happy to have this little kid bouncing around nearby. Kids and old people both have time on their hands. They often co-exist in a peaceful place, in the moment, not worrying about what they have to do next. But the minute Wally hopped onto a dirt path she hollered at him: “That’s not funny. Get off!” Wally jumped, startled, and ran back to me, immediately.

"Beegu wasn't wanted there, it seemed."

Looking for seeds, bug hunting, collecting treasures, running free, skipping along a dirt path--all that would have to wait for a day when we can get to the park.

"That woman was just cranky," I told Wally, as we say goodbye to our friends. "Don't worry."

“There are a lot of cranky people around here,” he answered, walking back to our apartment.

“I know,” I said, feeling bad that my irritation with the neighbors (there are so many cranky people, it’s shocking, really truly bizarre) is going to transfer over to him because of these continued attempts to play on grass and dirt.

"There are a lot of cranky people," he said,  holding my hand. White petals were falling softly around us. Anyway, it had been a long day and it was time to go home and start making dinner. 

“But,” he continued as we strolled past a patch of yellow daffodils, “there are a lot of good ones, too.”

Sunday, April 22, 2012

Happy Earth Day

In honor of Earth Day, here's Wally reading "10 Ways I Can Help the Earth" by Todd Parr. It's this cool little poster that came at the back of The Earth Book. We got it out of the library and it surprised me that the poster was still tucked inside, no envelope or anything, just sitting there between the last page and the back cover, even though the book itself has clearly made the rounds. Something kind of nice about that. Of course one of the ways listed to help the earth is to "share a book" so it'd be kind of crummy to filch the poster that gives you that advice. But, you know, just all the ways it could have slipped out or ripped or gotten lost, but here it is.

Oh yeah - in case you can't understand Wally speak. 

Friday, April 20, 2012


Sorry I've been quiet.

"To put the world in order, we must first put the nation in order; to put the nation in order, we must first put the family in order; to put the family in order; we must first cultivate our personal life; we must first set our hearts right."

This ran in the Times at the end of December. It's by Pico Iyer, an author who moved to rural Japan to "get away from it all".

Also, listen to this if you get a minute.   

Monday, April 2, 2012

The Time is Ripe

“Self-discipline is a form of freedom. Freedom from laziness and lethargy, freedom from expectations and demands of others, freedom from weakness and fear.”
—H.A. Dorfman

Pressing yourself up against absurd deadlines is another way to avoid making real decisions, ones you've thought out, weighed carefully. About a month ago, I wanted to rush through an application for a masters in English with a concentration in writing program, not having taken the GREs yet, or secured letters of reference. I had begun writing the essays and contacting professors, getting myself all wound up, and then realized -- this was just another way I was taking control and giving it to someone/something else, in this case, a rushed and crazy deadline.

Becoming your own authority figure is the hardest thing you have to do in life. I think it's harder than becoming an actual parent. Even then, you can postpone the process of self-actualization indefinitely. When you begin to face it, you start to make enemies. That's something I've spent my whole life trying to avoid. But I feel I am doing that now, becoming so involved in my work that I'm letting people down left and right.

The agent to whom my friend and I sent a query letter for our romance/thriller asked to see the whole manuscript. We sent it Friday. The night before, I met a writer, Lisa Rogak, at a book signing for my friend Mark's sister's book Ripe. Mark is a Dartmouth Grad, a few years older than me. I met him through the alumni network. I think he was the only alumni I called. He helped me get an internship at Senator Kerry's office in Environmental Affairs after I graduated. We hung out a few times that spring--'99--before I moved to New York. Though we reconnected over email in 2004, both campaigning for Kerry, we did not see each other again until a full 10 years later. By that time he'd been married, divorced, donated a kidney to a stranger, joined as a board member to Council for a Liveable World, and done lots of other generous, high-minded stuff.

His sister, Cheryl Sternman Rule, whose food blog I mentioned here a while ago, gave a reading for her new book Ripe at Rizzoli Bookstore on West 57th, you know, one of the few bookstores left anywhere. I expected to duck in and see Mark and his fiance briefly, buy the book, get it signed, drink a glass of wine out of a plastic cup, feel awkward and a bit envious hanging around Rizzoli, and then quietly slip out and be on my way. Mark's entire family was there (along with TONS of other people, huge turnout), and I didn't want to be that clingy, needy, one-off friend when he knew so many others and might be trying to make the rounds. So I was standing by myself, drinking wine and flipping through Cheryl's gorgeous cookbook, when I became involved in a friendly debate with a Devout Christian Democrat over why God would wait until so recently to get on with such an important task (sending his Son, giving the rest of us access to the Kingdom of Heaven because of the crucifixion, the resurrection etc. etc. What about the hundreds of thousands of people who lived before Jesus? Outta luck?) Anyway, it was that discussion with the Devout Christian Democrat from Florida that kept me at the book-signing much longer than I intended. Only because I was still standing there debating God with the Christian Democrat when the crowd thinned out, did a one Lisa Rogak approach me, to comment on my skirt and tell me you can find the best skirts--like mine, she said--in Charleston, South Carolina. (Funny, that town keeps coming up in these random ways, like a Fellini movie or The Usual Suspects. That was the town  I couldn't get to for my cousin's Isle of Palms wedding, the destination of that strange tarmacked flight in October 2010.)

This writer, Lisa Rogak, lived in Charleston, South Carolina, collecting skirts and writing books, but she's now in Berkeley. (Grew up in Jersey, and lived in NYC for ten years). More than strangely-patterned skirts, the cookbook Ripe, and writing connected us. The surprising part came out over dinner at Amarone an hour or so later. This generous, incredible woman insisted on taking me out and giving me all sorts of great advice about writing, doing what, she pointed out, no one had done for her. She's been making a living as a freelance writer for 30 years, authored more than 40 books, and apparently drives a hearse (I saw on her website--she didn't strike me as that quirky in person, although quirky enough, like me, spacey, all-over-the-place topic wise, though clearly in command of a razor sharp focus to produce all she has and continues to.) Where we overlapped was not in New York, or making recipes from Ripe, but in towns six hours north of her.  She had lived in Lebanon, New Hampshire which is just next to Hanover, New Hampshire where Dartmouth is. She lived there much longer, but we were there at the same time.

So, in addition to talking about writing, relationships, people thinking we're spacey, book packagers, Shel Silverstein, having kids (she has a 29-year-old son), culinary writing (she does a lot of it now, that's how she knows Cheryl, the author whose book signing we both attended), Death of a Salesman (she's going to see it), we talked about all kinds of landmarks of my college years -- Sweet Tomatoes, the Hanover Inn, Baker Library Professor Hebert taking his classes out to the lawn next to Sanborn, films at the Hop, d.b.a.'s, the fun of living in a college town with so many great events in such a small space. 

With a Dartmouth grad I met through the alumni network--whose only connection with me was the time we spent in Hanover--serving as the lynchpin, I talked about food and wine in Hanover this woman, Lisa Rogak, at a book signing which she attended because of her shared interest in writing about food and wine with Mark's sister, both of them living in California now, where of course the produce far outshines ours, or even that at the lovely Sweet Tomatoes, in Lebanon, New Hampshire.

I was thrilled the next morning, really disbelieving my luck in meeting this writer who had, for no reason I could ascertain, agreed to help me.  I'd met her through another person who, for no real reason, other than niceness, had guided me when I was just out of college. 

Really I had only expected to feel impressed and vaguely jealous in Rizzoli Bookstore, and ended up having this great dinner with Lisa. And that came just hours after deciding that I had to turn my energy away from social stuff almost entirely if I was ever going to get anything done. 

I have been feeling frustrated lately, realizing that I've spent years--my whole life really--honing and refining conversation skills. I bristle and take note--even inadvertently--at all the little irritating things people do in conversation. Either by not paying attention, or contradicting, or saying "hmm" when more than that is called for, or being too silent, or unenthusiastic, or challenging, or flipping the conversation back to themselves, or saying "Anyway..." in a way that implies the other person was boring you, or not validating, or distracting, or disagreeing when someone just wants support, or advising when someone just wants to vent, or getting their own needs met rather than the other person's. Being attuned to the inner workings of conversations just gets me into trouble, I realized. I want to be blunt. I want to be not understanding. I want to be sharper, more critical, less supportive, less engaging, less flexible. I want to do these things so I'll have more time to work, and less time where I feel "forced" into socializing because I am, as a shrink once referred to me, "an easy mark". ( At the time I protested silently, believing there really was more to the story as to why people demand so much of my time, but, many months and hundreds of free-writing pages later, her “easy mark” comment to describe my social persona has started to seem like nothing short of a bull’s-eye.)

My parents have this neighbor Antoinette--Tony for short--and Tony is always curt and able to cut people off and even just start walking off when she's done with a conversation or wants to be somewhere else. She doesn't feel the need to excuse herself or apologize for being curt. So I have taken to asking myself, "What Would Tony Do?" or WWTD for short to help myself along in, basically, getting my own goals met and not the goal of pleasing everyone with whom I happen to come in contact. That Thursday, before the booksigning, I felt determined to emulate that more, but it's hard, because all those behaviors -- the "my time is more important" behaviors, or just general brusqueness or not-connecting--it's all stuff that makes me absolutely recoil in other people. But this is my task, to learn to imitate behavior I don't really like. The "I have to be outta here by 5:30" rigid declarations, the "Saturday isn't good for me, we like time with just the family" self-centeredness, the "sounds great but I have too much to do" lack of spontaneity. The detached head nod in response to a personal story when so much more than that is called for. It's just not serving me, anymore, being this easy mark. Always trying to do the "right" thing in conversation, always trying to be flexible, responsible.

So I had convinced myself that I needed to be ruder, to get closer to where I wanted to be.

And here was this example, just the total opposite, just hours later, God seeming to be playing a joke on me by delaying me there in Rizzoli with this existence-of-God debate. Delaying me so that I became, in a way, an easy mark for a fabulous thing--the guidance of this author, or even if nothing else comes of it, the really great night out. It was the social aspect that served me, my comfort in talking to strangers basically, that led me not just to meet this author, but presumably, to engage her enough so that she wanted to take me to dinner. It's like, I could send out 100 pitch letters to book packagers and not get as far as I got that one night, because of these little conversations where, I tried to be (as usual) the opposite of rude. (Writing that out doesn't make it sound like all that worthy a goal, certainly not in the realm of Mark's kidney donation, for example. What's your main goal in life? "I try not to be rude.")

And then it was just all this good luck, because all these other book projects are moving along, too. Along with that good news from the agent. That one's just a remote possibility. But those are my favorite kind, I realized, because they're the green light out there on the dock. They're something to hope for, and long for, while you toil away with your smaller work. 

Being not rude can help, in some situations. Is the answer, "you have to find a balance"? An almost aggressively cliche thing to say, if usually true.  Though balance is important, and not just for juggling too much stuff. That's a circus act, one we should engage in only if we love the spectacle. Balance is important because it implies deliberate action, thoughtful behavior, carefully weighed alternatives. It rejects extreme positions. "I'm not going to be polite anymore. It's too time-consuming" is extreme. So is responding to a fear of being a "fall off the earth all I care about is my tiny nuclear family" mom in such a dramatic way that you over-prioritize everyone but your family. Clinging to extreme positions is yet another way to undermine your decision-making ability, your own judgement. It's yet another way to refuse to be the agent of your own real-life action game.