Freedom, Air Bags and a little look at relationships

A few weeks ago a few of us mamas found ourselves out at a high-end Rancho Santa Fe restaurant/lounge for a glass of wine after a dinner party. Sitting off to the side of the room, talking amongst ourselves we ended up being approached by an older man (late 50’s?) who wasn’t so much looking for love as he was looking for therapy. Inebriated and hoping that flashing his AMEX black card would impress us enough to agree with him, he started telling us the story of the demise of his marriage. While at first it seemed he and his wife fell into the trap of drifting apart while in the final stages of raising three children, two glasses of wine later we came to the conclusion that his “one meaningless discretion” was really more like years of multiple discretions – oh, and apparently his wife didn’t appreciate all his hard work over the years.

While still working on impressing us, he brought over this old man (79?) and introduced him as the man who invented airbags.  Yes, the safety feature that is standard in all cars since 1980 something. WAY more fascinating than a middle age cheater on the verge of a meltdown in the middle of Mille Fleurs, Woody went on to tell us about his 50 or so patents, and that while 40 years later airbags in his own car saved his life in a head-on collision, it wasn’t even the most profitable of his inventions. This man invented something that later SAVED his life. How meta is that? And what does that say about one’s own personal destiny? It’s almost too mind- scrambling to think about. Like time travel. Or math.

A few weeks before that evening I started reading the Jonathan Franzen book Freedom. When I first put the book on my bedside table, Jason raised his eyebrow and commented about the book being “pretty highbrow “ for me. This immediately made me fear the book. Coupled with comments from people about how they couldn’t put the book down, and how it was one of the best books of the year, I was discouraged by my initial reactions to the book. Hard to get into…emotionally heavy…depressing…it took me about 2 months to get through it.  If you haven’t read it – the book is all about the relationships we have as humans, how our lives turn out, disappointments, and the misunderstandings that we all encounter along the way.

Laying in bed last night around 11:30, trying to sleep, I kept thinking about the characters of the book and how not being honest with each other and assuming they knew what the other was really thinking impacted the outcome of their lives. Then I think back to Jeeter McCheater and the lies that he told his wife over the years, and the emotions that she must have felt but never talked to him about, and I wonder how things may have changed for them if at one point either of them was just honest. And I thought about Woody, who one day had an idea that has since saved millions of lives, including his own. And I thought of my kids, asleep in other rooms, and how am I going to help them to be the best that they can be, love them, encourage them and challenge them without screwing them up somehow?

And I thought about what "Freedom" meant to me…and then I lay awake in a semi-panic attack for 45 minutes. 

What? You thought I was going to have a life-changing revelation ending? If anything, it’s don’t read this book while trying to go to sleep – oh, and buy a car with airbags.