Child One got a 99% on her UCLA Philosophy of Religion mid-term. I told her she was brilliant. And that her genetic briliance must come from me. That, and her slightly Jewy nose. She finds this terribly funny, as do I, because of course Child One is not related to me by blood.
Child One’s Philosophy of Religion course has generated a lot of conversation in our house. Conversation and, sometimes, controversy. Controversy generated by stupidity and insecurity. My own, of course. The conversation went awry the other night, as we were discussing belief in God. We talked about believers and non-believers. Here’s what Sig Other said of me, “You don’t know what you believe. You just have lots of questions.” And here’s what I heard, “You’re an idiot.” This is, to be clear, not remotely what he meant. In fact, he would describe himself as someone asking questions. And, in fact, Judaism is a religion that is all about a relationship of questions. And yet I took offense, I heard something else, something Sig Other did not mean.
So I spent the next day thinking about why I would leap to such a place – why I would default to insecurity. Sig Other had touched a nerve. But the nerve he touched wasn’t about believing or not believing. The nerve he touched wasn’t about asking questions. The nerve he touched was about not having spent enough time or energy searching for the answers to those questions.
“Do whatever you want in life but be the best at whatever it is you choose.” That’s what we were taught, my sisters and me. And it’s a great message for the most part. The flip side is a quest for perfectionism that is often left unfulfilled. I am not a perfectionist. Not by a longshot. And the years spent not dedicating myself 100% to the pursuit of knowledge is coming home to roost in ways I find unbearable. I yearn for more hours to read, to study, to learn. And yet I know that if the pursuit of knowledge were truly a priority, I would rearrange my life to make it so. Work would remain unchanged, but I would let someone else buy the groceries, make the gourmet meals, entertain at their house. Time spent creating a particular environment for my family would be redirected toward the expansion of my own intellect.
But I’m not really that girl. I’m the girl who wants to work for the bacon, buy the bacon and fry the bacon. So I will admit that I’m incredibly jealous of Child One’s experience in this class. Jealous that she gets to sit in a college class surrounded by interested others and engage as her mind is pried wide open to new ideas and engaging thoughts. I long to have the time to discover what I don’t know. I long to have the time to engage in discourse about things I may never grasp but still nonetheless find fascinating. And someday I will. Someday the children will be grown and my job will be less intense and I will make the time to find answers to at least a few of the questions I know its ok to ask. And until then, I’ll long for more time and try to hear the words being said and not the words I imagine.