command-z

So it’s come to this.

I have read a good bit about technology’s effect on the brain. How it’s changing us better and changing us worse. Most of what I read focuses on the worse bit, especially in terms of the electronic vs. real book debate (for an interesting pro-books take, read Warren Farha’s “Why Bother with Books?“). I don’t stare at a screen nearly as much as some, but it still feels like an awful lot. Too much some days. I lose my sense of incarnate reality, if you know what I mean. But two young children and two voracious mutts bring plenty of dirty dishes and dirty clothes and dirty boots (not to mention hair balls and paw prints) to my world, so my hands get their share of the corporeal. My eyes, fried as they may be when I’m doing intensive layout and design, get a good dose of sun, rain and wind.

But I digress. Let’s get back to what it’s come to. As I was trying to make room in the dishwasher last night for my before-bed granola bowl, I removed a pot and a ramekin in an attempt to rearrange, only to have several other dishes collapse in on each other, creating less space than I began with. My very instinctual reaction was “command-z”. This magical shortcut immediately undoes the most recent action/mistake I’ve committed. It’s marvelous and freeing, really, when you think about it. And so easy. And so not how things generally work when you step away from your screen.

The impulse to undo, computer-style, simultaneously took me by surprise and seemed a completely natural, sane reaction. I’m still processing what this means, in terms of my brain. Looking back over my day, I would have undone several of my poorer choices…the most recent being my throwing fit when I couldn’t find a lid for the jar I’d put the lentils in so I proceeded to completely empty the drawer of lids altogether, tossing them angrily (and hard) over my shoulder just to make a whole lot of bratty noise—just to make a great big mess (as I had previously been complaining that 75% of my energy seems to go toward cleaning up other people’s messes, and I thought, Hell, Why not make my own?).

Change is hard. And it takes a long time. Not to mention some people don’t even believe it’s truly possible. I’m not one of those people, but some days I wonder why I’m not. Even when you think you’ve “got it,” you are struck bluntly in the head and reminded you don’t. Not unlike Jonah’s difficulty with letter recognition, or handwriting. I recently read a comment posted by a mother of an autistic child that really nails it. It’s from a series of posts by Landon Bryce of thAutcast.com titled What I Cannot Tell You. This particular section is titled, What Our Children and Their Parents Cannot Tell You.

Bari: Actually my son said it best to his developmental doc: “They think because I did it once, I can do it all the time…some days everything is bothering me and I just can’t, I want to, but I can’t.” He was talking about writing, but it really applies to everything I see him struggle with.

Which segues into Jonah’s most recent progression: writing! He likes it! He has started writing his name in a moderately straight line. He can spell out other words if someone air traces them for him first. He is bringing home journal pages with persons and robots and Mr. Bones’ and turkeys all over them. His last one reminded me of a poem. So I’ll end with it here as a way to say that the magical undo shortcut isn’t often the way real progress gets made. (Note: this was dictated to J’s teacher. He’s not into writing complete sentences yet. The line breaks are mine.)

Scribble Circle
by Jonah

The children scribble
at school. Then they cut
it out. Then
they bounce it
carefully outside.

The End

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