Parked the car by the boat ramp. Dogs, people abound, and we delight in the canines gamboling about on the pathways. My daughter keeps up a cheery banter, expansive as young children tend to be when they brim with energy and have their innocence about them. This is as it should be.
Me, the adult, I am not so lucky. The walk started off well. We ambled slowly to take in the fresh air with no agenda. Geese and gulls on the lake, along with a small flotilla of waterfowl which I could not identify. I speculated they might be scoters or buffleheads, the sounding out of which provoked a fit of giggles in her.
The walk resumed. Conversation, and then a small cloud of distraction dimmed the light. I abruptly fixated on a troubling observation, set free from my subconscious; the statement framed itself in my mind thusly:
In America as I know it, I have never seen so many espouse the idea of independent thinking while at the same time so eager to join groups, and be so chauvinistic about their affiliations.This rumination was sparked by the sheer number of people I saw wearing clothing or accessories on which one cannot fail to notice all sorts of logos, brands, symbols, and statements which presumably signify the allegiances of the wearer. From the brand of water one drinks to the American flag, from which sports team one follows to what corporate clothing chain at which one prefers to shop, I was depressed by the widespread group think I saw emblazoned on almost everyone.
Never having been a "joiner", and never having felt it important to be a walking advertisement for a brand, I have encountered everything from polite puzzlement to outright hostility from others when discussing this subject. As if by choosing not to engage in the cognitive dissonance of declaring my individuality by wearing/buying/driving/eating the same clothes/goods/car/fast food that thousands of others do, I am an alien, an auslander, a non-consumer. In this culture, consumerism equates with normal.
And I am not normal, I suppose. For pete's sake, real football, i.e. soccer, is my favorite sport. In many area of this country, that is almost un-American in the minds of some.
So there I was, out for a walk with my beautiful daughter on a lovely sunny day, and all wrapped up in uneasiness about my 'square peg, round hole' self-image. I felt discombobulated. On a day such as this, being divided about myself should have never occurred. In my mind's eye, I saw the transformation from human to sheep in progress. I sighed.
As is very often the case, it was the unintentional ministrations of my daughter that pulled me out of my funk. Her laughter and cheerfulness, to be exact. She was asking me questions, and making observations about the geese and the dogs and the rocks on the water's edge. She giggled and held my hand. She spoke to me of many things that matter to the mind and heart of a child. She made jokes, and laughed.
We rounded the east end of the lake. The sun began dipping behind the clouds, slow strobes of white gold light painting the dry grass in the meadow and her cherubic countenance. It was then I took a few deep breaths to fill my lungs with the cool air wafting across the water. I held them. My mind reset itself as I watched her make her way down the berm of rocks alongside the path. I shook off the funk.
I knew clearly that to be the best father I can be for my daughter, I must honor my true self. I may always be a square peg, but that peg is a worthy soul that is deserving of respect...especially from myself. I meditated on that as we returned to the car, watching my daughter and stitching my mind back together.