Contemplations from the Marianas Trench

from the Marianas Trench

The Contemplations

The Contemplations are the children of my intellect, such as it is.
The opinions herein are solely my own.


Now that I am older the sort of games I enjoy are sedentary. I apologize for it and it is always my intention to become involved in more active games, but, as I am sedentary, this would take more action that I am currently capable of. I realize this is a character flaw. But as character flaws go there are many more I am considering working on before I get to sedentary. I have to determine the benefits of change. If they outweigh the cost I may actually get to working on them. (My undergraduate degree was in economics but I feel these principles apply to psychology as well.)

Because I'm sedentary the games I enjoy aren't games in the physical sense. They aren't sports (though neither is golf or bowling - I consider them honorary sports rather than actual sports). No, my pastimes are games only in the sense that they are amusements. I spend hours on my web pages. I spend hours on the Internet. I recently had a chat with a software engineer from India. I was very excited - but it wasn't very interesting. I mean no offense to anyone from India. I have been bored by Anglo-Saxons on a regular basis. No doubt I have bored people. You may be bored even now.

Inspiration One has gotten into soccer. Now THERE is a game - and a terrific place to hurt people with impunity. I can't believe the bruises on her legs. Who on earth came up with the name shin "protector?" I thought there was such a thing as truth in advertising. Of course that begs the questions what her shins would look like WITHOUT them...

If recreational driving were considered a game or a sport (and perhaps it should be with teenagers), Inspiration One would be a world record holder. I miss her, but doubtless I am often the reason she is out of the house. Teenagers feel they need no limits and, however trustworthy the teen, I believe they are necessary. Perhaps they are only necessary for my sanity. Clearly I count that a higher priority than Inspiration One does. If arguing with teenagers was a game or sport *I* would be a world record holder.

The other Inspirations are into games big time. Playstation games. I listen patiently to the complex tales of fighting techniques and game shark codes, but video games are a continuum to me. I do not know where one begins and the next ends. I know just enough to sound as though I am obsessive about video games to an adult who does not have video drones for children. Which is not, of course, enough for the Inspirations, who feel I need an advanced degree in video game strategy.

However, I never complain to the Inspirations Two and Three about their gaming. I suggest going outside, I put imaginary limits on the time they spend on video games so that we occasionally sit around and communicate. A lot of the time, however, we are settled in the same room, one at a computer, two at a playstation - each of us into our own individual games. But in its own way it's quite companionable.

The Contemplator (Lesley Nelson-Burns) 1998

Fairy Tales

I recall reading some time ago that one of the problems with being a woman is that we grow up reading fairy tales and therefore reality would never meet our expectations. Given that this was a very long time ago, it is doubtful this is what I actually read, but that is what I recall. The Contemplator begs to differ with this thesis - if there actually is such a one. Fairy tales prepare women very well for life. There are Prince Charmings (even if they don't REMAIN Prince Charmings), and there are big bad wolves, witches (spelled with a b sometimes), wicked stepmothers, and white knights (sometimes with a bit of tarnish).

My own life is a good example. When I was young, thin, blonde and pretty (thought I didn't appreciate the fact until I was no longer young, thin or blonde), I met Prince Charming. I suppose Prince Charming thought I was a Princess, because we had a wedding out of any fairy tale and had three bright shiny babes. The babes turned into teenagers (otherwise known as aliens) and Prince Charming didn't turn out to be so charming. Exit fairy tales, enter reality.

Or was it an exit to fairy tales? Absolutely not. There is a fairy tale called Hansel and Gretel, and anyone who has raised teenagers can sympathize with a woman who wants to turn children into decorative pastry. In the fairy tale, Hansel and Gretel are saved - and so they are in life. By maturity. God does not give us more than we can handle - teenagers grow up.

After the divorce my life was a fairy tale in more ways that one. I was like Snow White (except for the snow part and the white part). I was like Snow White in the glass shell I built around myself. And I was like Sleeping Beauty (except for the sleeping part and the beauty part). I was like Sleeping Beauty because of the miles of thorns that sprang up all around my castle.

Mae West once said she was snow white until she drifted. It wasn't my morals or principals that drifted. In fact, the years before the divorce and after tested my morals and principals and I hold them closer than I did before, because they have been tested. What drifted was my naivete, my softness, and my optimism for myself.

Prince Charming, my ass, I thought. Been there, done that - won't be fooled again. White knight? That assumes I needed rescuing and I did that for myself, thank you. Big Bad Wolves? I had a big brick house which no big bad wolf even wanted to TRY to blow down!

And then, quite by accident, I met a man who was charming without being a prince, who was as willing for me to be HIS white knight as much as to be one for me, who had the fun mischievous smile of a big bad wolf, but a loyal heart and soul within.

And here I am, believing in happily ever after. It's not that I believe completely in fairy tales, or fantasies. It's that I recognize there is something of real life in fairy tales. It is not the purity and beauty that rings true, it is overcoming the foe and killing the dragon. I think I've slain some of the worst dragons life can send. The dragons were fear of loving, the fear of giving.

Do I imagine this will be easy? No - but I am much better prepared for tough times. I am no longer the princess in the fairy tale, but the wise woman. I don't have the same expectations I did when I was the princess. I don't have the same dreams I did when I was the princess. And having no expectations, they have been met far beyond my dreams!

The Contemplator (Lesley Nelson-Burns) 2001


I can't believe I haven't contemplated motivation before this. Well, I have contemplated motivation many times before this, but I have always been defeated in coming to any conclusions about it. This because I am raising two teenaged males. Much of my life is devoted to attempting to motivate them to clean their rooms - or just clean up after themselves period - to take out the trash, do homework and to do the various insundry things which were considered obligitory when I was a teenager. Lest you think I am jumping off into, "When *I* was a kid," let me assure you that I recall my mother having problems motivating me. The difference appears to be that I felt obligated to do things and guilt was a powerful motivator. If my inspirations feel obligated to do things or guilty when they don't, they are a lot better at hiding it than I was!

Guilt has proven a poor motivator. I'm probably just not good at the method. Inevitably I feel guilty about making them feel guilty and end up doing the job myself. I hate to admit it, but I have a problem making a male feel guilty about not doing laundry, doing the dishes or asking them to help prepare dinner. I attribute this to brainwashing by the patriarchy and struggle to overcome it. However, guilt as motivation clearly has more issues for me than for them!

There is also motivation by threat. The trick is finding something you can threaten them with. I have never used physical threats, and rarely employed physical punishment. Spanking was reserved for when the inspirations did something that would endanger themselves - running toward the road, putting the extension cord in their mouths...

My inspirations now tower over me and outweight me by 50 pounds, so it's a good thing I never employed the method. The only time I am tempted to use physical threats and bodily harm, is in getting the inspirations out of bed and off to school. However, there is NO external motivation that can motivate them out of bed school mornings. I have told them if they don't get to school, the school will eventually send a notice saying they will have to repeat the year. That seems to have done the trick. I wish I could use it at other times. "If you don't take out the trash, the school will have you repeat 8th grade... "

I have tried to discover those very special things I can deprive them of - the very threat of which would motivate them to do my bidding. I thought I found it with the Playstation 2. I have come to understand that threat is only as good as the game they are currently obssessed with. There is a brief margin of opportunity which occurs immediately after they purchase a game and the two or three sleepless days later when they conquer it.

Nagging is limited in it's effectiveness, and wears me out as much as it irritates them. Bribery is generally effective, it's just that I can no longer afford the rates.

So I need a method that is cheap (meaning cost-free), plentiful and at least marginally effective. The one thing I have for my children in endless supply is love. I don't include patience in that, or as much tolerance for when they are uninspirational as I should have, but there is a limitless supply of love. There is little more embarrassing for a teenage male than for a mother to say, "I love you," especially when there seems to be no earth-shattering event preceding the words. A close second is, "I'm proud of you." On the other hand, there are few more satisfying things for a mother to say than those words.

So the last time Inspiration Three cleaned his room I took the opportunity to use positive reinforcement. "What a great job... I love you... and I am so proud of you." He was embarrassed, but I could tell he liked the sound of it. He liked the ten dollars even more....

The Contemplator (Lesley Nelson-Burns) 2002