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A Funny Thing: Uncompensated

Jan. 1, 2023

by Dr. David Fialk, Chief Cook / Bottle-washer

My daughter, Sefira, who lives in New Orleans, tells me that I cannot comment on life in the States, because I couldn't live there anymore. Last night, by way of retreating from just such a comment I made during our phone call, I told Sefira that I generally avoid political conversations by quoting her prohibition. Last night, Sefira, without denying that she had made that prohibition, contradicted herself: "You could live in the States. You lived here for 50 years. You could again."

This kind of contrarianism was a hallmark of the education I received from my father. He always gave things a twist. Before Dad, it was the hallmark of a branch of Greek philosophy. The Sophists were famous for being able to win one side of an argument and turn around and win the other side. This, it seems to me, demonstrates the inadequacy, of pure reason. No doubt, Dad's turning things around made me smarter. But did it also make me more neurotic?

Last night, after Sefira contradicting herself, our conversation continued:

Me: "I don't know that I could live in the States again. I've gotten used to going out and meeting someone just walking down the street, to ordinary life as an adventure."

She: "You can have adventures on the streets of New Orleans."

Me: "Yes, but here in San Miguel they are less likely to involve gun violence."

I have a one-liner that I often employ when I am meeting someone in a group setting, say the Fabrica Art Walk. When someone begins, "I grew up in..." I interject: "Looks to me like you never grew up." It's always good for a laugh, and brief enough so that, after the chuckles, the person can continue with his answer. Try it yourself. It's my holiday gift to you.

Often, when someone asks me where I grew up, I play the joke in reverse, offering, "My daughter says that I never grew up." I don't care if you're laughing at me, as long as you're laughing.

For reason of this, my eternal youthfulness, I was often the designated parent at Halloween. Ours was a completely secure suburban neighborhood, but Sefira and a friend or two, when they were quite young, still needed a chaperone. I remember dropping out of a tree and something about firecrackers.

I also remember picking Sefira up from school, which I did twice a week for years. When I did we would spend a good while playing on the school's impressive playground. There was always a gaggle of other children, boisterously making unlimited use of the playground that was otherwise only theirs at recess during the school day. Sefira grew up at the time of "peak playground," before lawsuits reined in the unbridled imagination of playground creators.

As the years went by, first grade becoming second becoming third... I was struck, there in that playground, by how the appearance of these kids changed. At six-years-old virtually all of them were radiantly beautiful. At seven, some had lost their shine. At eight some unsightliness creeping into the flock. By nine some faces were unattractive, troubled. I supposed that it was the harsh world taking its toll on their innocence.

Woody Allen wondered what became of his elementary school chums:

One of Sefira's friends, K., did go on to hook up with an unsavory guy and became a drug dealer by association. Now, as with most professions, it all depends on what you're selling and how you're selling it, and I've known some interesting, intelligent drug dealers, but that's another story.

Years before all of that, some time in middle school, I told K.: "If you are rebelling against something, you are still controlled by it." So impressed was K. by this gem that she used it a half dozen years later, as her senior quote in her high school yearbook, giving "Sefira's dad" the credit.

Just yesterday, in this week's "serious" article that accompanies this, the "funny" one, I had a similar insight into the idea of compensating. In that piece the teacher/therapist tells me, "You cannot compensate for it." It occurred to me that as long as you are compensating for something, you are still being controlled by it, still being hurt by the trauma.

We weren't all born to be Shakespeare. Some of us were born to lose. It's not giving up or giving in. It's compassion. Being good enough. Not operating out of a deficit. Like the Serenity Prayer puts it, change what you can and accept the rest.

I met someone on the street the other day, walking his "narcissistic," now demented mother's dog through Guadiana. He told me, "I've come to understand that there is a reason we are born into the wrong family."

Years ago, I realized that I will forever have, as a deep, integral part of my being, the emotionally abandoned child that I was. That history is irrevocably mine. Nothing will cure or change it. But I thought that I could keep that wounded child pleasantly engaged in a back room when I needed to be up front doing what healthy adults need to do. The car pulls to the left, so I would compensate by steering a little to the right.

But my recent, new insight is less judgmental. I'm seeing my woundedness as an asset, a crookedness that is an essential part of the whole. Someone observed that in taking our measure, what is important is not how high we are on the ladder, but how far we have climbed. I would add; how far we have climbed, with a deformed limb or a weight on our back.

As the Bard observed, life is a theater and we all have various parts to play. A wounded child is one of mine. It's a funny thing.


Dr. David presents Lokkal, the social network, the prettiest, most-efficient way to see San Miguel online. Our Wall shows it all. Join and add your point of view.


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