Life in 4D

It amazes me how, in a world with billions of people, each of whom has a nearly identical set of genes, it can be so difficult to find someone on the same page as you when it comes to interests, beliefs, perspectives and priorities. I suppose each experience we undergo – every book we read, TV show we watch, childhood (or adulthood) interaction and life event, big or small – affects us uniquely, leading us to embrace or discard things, in order to build what seems like a sensible, enjoyable framework in which to understand and live life.

Throughout the course of three decades, but especially in the last few years, my own interests have diverged in three (or more) distinct directions, each of which seems to have increasingly less interaction with the other. I don’t like this, mainly because I feel as if nobody understands the ‘real’ me, but I’m not sure how to change it, or even if I really can or want to. I chose the title ‘Life in 4D’ not to suggest that my own life is particularly extensive on every axis, but because it’s how I’ve begun to visualise it: growing and stretching in different dimensions, with my identity becoming increasingly separated between them.

I recently imagined a scenario in which I came to a sudden and tragic end (don’t read into that too much), upon which my funeral was arranged. Realistically, I’d expect a few dozen people to show up here in Australia. There would probably be most of my church, a few friends from the school community, a few colleagues and maybe a handful from the gym. As representatives from each of these communities rose to share memories of how I touched their lives, I imagine the surprise that would be evident on some of the other’s faces as they heard about who I was from their point of view. I guess I thought by writing this blog post I could help clarify in advance, both for my own sake and that of the dear guests attending my untimely, hypothetical funeral, who I think I am and the various dimensions I occupy:

  • Fitness (The X Dimension): I’ve always liked sports, especially team sports of the not-too-serious variety. As my kids have grown more playful (and heavier), I began to realise that one game of casual soccer per week wasn’t going to cut it if I wanted to keep up with them; I needed core strength. This was my main motivation for starting CrossFit, because I wanted to build strength and CrossFit seems to be successful at achieving that, with the added bonus of having a team atmosphere, and no mirrors. I kept pretty quiet about my CrossFit involvement for a while, but as I’ve become more muscly and stuff I’ve had to explain it to people. I’ve achieved my initial goal of not being a pathetic weakling, but I continue to go a few times a week because I genuinely feel great after a hard workout. Despite all my gainz, I still hesitate to identity myself as a CrossFitter, or even a gym-goer.
  • Faith (The Y Dimension – see what I’m doing here?): I grew up in church. Some of it was pretty cool, some of it I didn’t like at all. I believed what I was taught, then grew up a bit and questioned it all, then grew up some more and chose to continue to believe that God is real, that there is meaning and purpose to existence and that Jesus is at the core of it all. He’s a fantastic teacher and his true followers can only be described as Top Blokes. He really demonstrated love in its fullness, being led like a lamb to the slaughter and forgiving those in the very act of doing it. I challenge anyone to read through the New Testament and find any ulterior motive to Christianity than love of the undeserving. If there is any quality you admire in me, it’s probably a result of my desire to be like Jesus. I identify as a Christian more than anything else, yet I rarely talk about this with people outside of Dimension Y, I guess because it’s kind of uncomfortable for many people.
  • Science (dangit, this one doesn’t cleverly suit the letter Z, nor does it start with an ‘F’): It can be challenging believing in God (particularly a fundamentally good one) and loving science, but I do. I love the study of nature, the pursuit of answers to perplexing questions, the beauty of physics and the eloquence of mathematical language. Professionally speaking I’m a geologist, which is how lots of people likely identify me; however, this is an aspect I consider relatively disposable, of least significance to me. Lots of people in Dimension Z and Dimension Y are sceptical of, or even hostile toward, one another, but I try not to be too hostile toward myself. There are so few people in my life with whom I share these two interests that I tend to mitigate the loneliness of it by reading like-minded bloggers like The Natural Historian and GeoChristian.

Fatherhood is the fourth dimension (Time), which suits it well because it keeps steaming forward no matter what I do, permeating all others dimensions. I knew from a young age that I wanted to be a dad, and now that I am one, I love it. Everyone knows this about me, and it’s the only dimension I feel perfectly comfortable talking about with anyone (even blatant kid-haters). The other great thing about having kids is that they know me and accept me and love me just as I am. To them, I am a CrossFitter and a Christian and a Geologist and they love all of it, because they love me. No topic is off-limits or uncomfortable (yet) and they see no reason why I shouldn’t read the Bible, collect rocks and swing upside down on monkey bars as much as I like. Eventually they’ll find me super embarrassing, but I’ll make the most of that too.

Have I gotten any further ahead by writing this out? I don’t know. It’s natural, probably healthy and wise in some respects, to be selective about which aspects of yourself you choose to reveal to others (or the entire internet), but it’s funny to think that your Tim is different to Kathryn’s Tim, who’s different to my colleagues’ Tim, who’s different to my church family’s Tim and CrossFit Tim. And I’m sure they’re all different to how I perceive myself.

How about you – do you feel like you’ve selectively withheld aspects of your identity and now can’t seem to bring them all together with any one person or group? Perhaps this is more normal than I’m aware of. If you’ve made it this far into the post I’d definitely be keen to hear your thoughts on the matter.

’til next time,

Tim the Patriarchal Angel of Science and Gainz

10 year letters

This is Tim.

When Eden was almost 3, and Kate was just a wee little 1-year-old, I often thought about how the girls and I had such a special relationship, and how it was a shame that they wouldn’t remember any of it. I mean, sure we can all have a general sense of a positive or negative childhood, but nobody really remembers details of when they’re a baby or a toddler. Some people hardly even remember older childhood – my memories are pretty hazy before about middle school, except for a couple of exceptionally emotional/intense experiences.

I also began to think that it was a shame that these adoring daughters of mine would soon become teenagers. I do remember what it’s like to be a teenager, though not as a girl, but I know your relationship with your parents tends to change dramatically over those years. It’s probably inevitable that there will be tension between parents and children during the teenage years. Parents will remember the special bond they had with their young kids; the nights they carried them to bed, out cold and all floppy, then laid them down and just sat and watched them sleeping, filled with inexplicable adoration. We’ll remember when we walked in the door after work every day and they ran full speed into our arms, shouting “Daddy!!” as if we’d been gone for days, or weeks (which I also get to experience – the greeting is pretty much the same in both cases). We’ll remember when they thought everything we did was AMAZING; when we could induce fits of laughter simply by adding the word “poo” to a joke or story; when we taught them to ride a bike and our hearts were filled to bursting with pride and delight, even as theirs were.

But they probably won’t remember much of that, which made me a bit sad… so I came up with an idea, which I want to share with you because I think it’s a good one and you might want to do it too. I call it the 10-year letters, and it’s pretty simple. On Eden’s third birthday, or within a week or two of it, I wrote her a letter telling her about where we live, who her friends are, what kind of things we like to do together, where I work/what I do/how I feel about it, a funny story or two about her and I, and what I wonder or hope or pray for her at the age of 13 (about how boys are trouble, you know). Then I sealed it up, wrote “Eden – 13” on it and filed it away. In 10 year’s time, on her 13th birthday, she’ll get her first letter. Kate will get her first letter when she turns 12.

It’ll be a snapshot of the relationship we had 10 years earlier, and by the time she turns 13 I’ll have a stash of letters for her all the way through to her 22nd birthday. All through the teenage years and into adulthood my daughters will be reminded  each year about – or perhaps learn for the first time about – what we’ve been through together. I won’t remember the details I’ve written in those letters, but I’m sure they will provide some insight into how much my kids have always meant to me; something I am only beginning to grasp about my own parents now that my girls are growing up. Mom and dad, did you really feel the way about me that I feel about Eden and Kate? I find it hard to believe, and I wish I could remember it. Thanks for taking care of me.

So, fellow dads (or mums), if you like the idea: get on board! It’s easy, and I’ve found that the process of reminiscing over the previous year and writing about it by hand is beneficial in its own right. Based on a Google search, I’m not the only dad (or mum) who’s written letters to his or her kids for the future, but I just might be one of the only ones doing it as systematically as I am (systematic: how’s that for a romantic word?). Stay tuned and I’ll let you know how it all works out, starting in about 8 years 🙂