My oldest daughter is guiding me through a reading of Charles Dickens’ A Tale of Two Cities. She read and analyzed the novel for English class in the spring, and initially, I promised to read alongside her to keep her company among the pages. Life intervened, and three months and a rather large library fine later, I’m finally sitting down to read the book long after she finished it. Saturday night, I texted her while she was on a date: “What is the significance of …. Is that just a weird detail or is it meaningful?” She replied that it was important, and it is a “known thing”. Known to whom, I’m not sure. Certainly not to her mother with the questionable education in English Literature.
My child is sixteen and far more educated than me in many ways. This causes no end of internal conflicts for me as the “authority” figure around this joint. In conversations with her about her school work, I find myself standing in the kitchen holding a greasy spatula or an over-flowing laundry basket wondering what I have to offer her. I often feel as if I’m missing the “known thing”, and I’m winging it on the general knowledge of spot removal, one thousand ways to cook chicken, and how not to tend a garden.
I told a friend recently, “I’m not above faking it,” and I realized this has unexpectedly become my rallying cry. So far, my faking it has kept most of my former patients out of the morgue, three kids thriving across three countries, my marriage and home (mostly) intact, and my relationships breathing oxygenated air. Inexplicably, faking it has also landed me in a master of fine arts program for creative writing. Apparently, they are unaware I spent the better part of the ’90’s reading questionable novels with a healthy side of People magazine.
I find myself faking it a lot on this journey to discovering the “known thing”. As a kid, I naively believed that once I became an adult I would know everything–I would draw closer to flawless wisdom with age. And the more I age, the more I realize how far from flawless, how far from wise, how far from knowledgeable I truly am. The answers I once held fast, unravel with a swift tug. The facts and figures once memorized, drift away on a constant stream of new information. The dreams and plans I made, continue to shape-shift like shadows at sunset.
My hope is that faking it will eventually lead to doing it. And doing it will eventually lead to mastering it–mastering the mystery of the known thing. It takes humility to let my children lead me into the knowing, but I believe I’m better for it. And certainly more well read.
Are you learning anything in unexpected places?