On Knowing


“The thing that’s important to know is that you never know. You’re always sort of feeling your way.”

Diane Arbus

At first, I read the second part of this quote in what I suspect is the wrong way. You’re always sort of feeling YOUR way. As in we walk around in this life and everything we do, everything we see, is filtered through our own personal lens. For me, peevish-tinted lenses as variable as the winds. By turns frothy, angsty, optimistic, pissed off, in love with everything or weary and bored. Impatient, wide-eyed, ornery, grateful. In other words, it may not be possible to get to THE truth of the matter. Perhaps the best we can hope for is to get to ONE’S truth of the matter. And maybe that’s ok as long as allowances are made for all other sentient creatures and THEIR truths and THEIR matters. I’m going to call this benevolent relativism – I will not google it, because I would like to think that I am the first to say it. You’re always sort of feeling YOUR way.

But this isn’t what Diane was talking about.

Diane was talking about feeling your way, muddling through, doing our best without all the answers and information. When my mind did its agile flip to read the words in the way I believe were intended (kind of like those brain teasers where you either see two women’s faces or a vase), I thought yes, yes, that TOO!

All my writing on this blog has been an attempt to capture moments and tease out the strands of beauty and meaning and humor within. That’s sort of it. I hope to never have conveyed that I have anything resembling the answers. Answers are not what I’m about. Questions are what I’m about. And clever rationalizations. Finding fancy and funny ways to say hey, this rag-tag-seat-of-my-pants way of careening through life and raising my kids works for me. Because in the end, what other choice do we have? We can’t know the right way because there is no right way.

Richard Linklater won a Golden Globe for best director for Boyhood (well deserved! hurray!) and in his acceptance speech he dedicated it to all the parents who are evolving every day and the families just making their way through this world, doing the best they can. I might have spilled a little of my vino blanco when I wiped away a tear with the back of my wrist. On my hardest and darkest days of parenting, I try to remind myself that every day is a new day. Every day is an opportunity to start fresh. Children have mercifully short memories and open hearts. We have new opportunities, minute-by-minute, to do right by them. Same for our spouses, our friends, strangers.

Knowing, answers, absolutes – they’re dicey, man. But we can know this: We are all sort of feeling our way.

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