Wednesday, June 10, 2015

Planet Earth

As the munchkin nears her four-month birthday, I feel I've settled back into some semblance of myself. Or maybe it's that the little one has been assimilated into my being. A sense of normalcy teases me.

It's nice, mostly. I've learned more about myself and the world by being virtually house-bound these four months than I have in a long time.

For one thing, I learned that I'm not as intrinsically motivated as I like to think. Now that the little girl takes relatively predictable naps and goes to bed easily at an early hour, I do have some free time. (Shocking, I know!) I keep telling myself to write, or to do a major revision of an online class, but it just doesn't happen. Instead, I invent chores to do, or load up the Sims on my shiny new computer and boss that family around. (They are far more compliant than anyone in real life.)

As it turns out, my relentless drive to work is as much about interacting with others as it is my own love of doing so. Teaching provides endless opportunities to curry favor, be "liked," and enjoy the feeling of learning happening. I get a lot of feedback that I interpret as "approval" at this job.

Something about having this baby has brought me in touch with my mortality a bit more. Someone once told me that when a parent dies, you realize your own mortality. That didn't happen when my mom died--perhaps because she died young--but boy, is aging ever on the horizon after this girl arrived.

When the baby was a newborn, she nursed for long periods of time, so I got in the habit of watching TV while I nursed her. She has evolved into a speed eater, but that hasn't stopped me from turning on the TV while she eats. Since she is more aware of her environment now, I try to play shows that are not as obscene as my normal fair (Broad City, anyone?). I decided to give Planet Earth a try, as it's available on Netflix streaming. David Attenborough's calm voice and the cinematography usually make for a lovely viewing experience, and when baby is propped up next to me after a feeding I don't feel so guilty that my four month old is already watching TV.

But nature shows can be just awful. There was a particularly sad episode that centered on the arctics, and I guess the creators wanted to make some statement about the effects of global warming, so they showed how the polar bear's habitat was shrinking. This one polar bear had swum for so long and finally made it to a tiny island inhabited by walruses. He was desperately hungry and attempted to kill a walrus, something Attenborough made seem like a rare thing. The walrus won, injuring the polar bear in the process. The camera mercilessly shows the polar bear limping away, and it dies a slow death of starvation.

I thought about that damn polar bear all night. How the bear was raised like the other cubby bears the episode started with, that this one made it into adulthood, and how the shrinking ice caps are making life a marathon just a bit longer than these bears can run. And the Emporer Penguins go on this long journey to incubate just one little egg, and some of them won't make it because their moms will die when they're off trying to feed themselves, and some other penguin mamas will be so desperate to replace the baby that dies for whatever reason that they'll accidentally crush the baby they want to adopt they're so excited about it.

Image result for sick sad worldI remember the Daria cartoon that she and Jane would always watch: it's a Sick Sad World. How hard it is to love something deeply, to know that others love deeply, and that sometimes it doesn't work out well.