Jul 19, 2012

The Law of Entropy

"There's nothing to watch on TV, even when you're watching something on TV" I thought wearily to myself as I clicked through the quadrillion channels we promise ourselves we'll cancel every month. I surfed over to 'NOVA' on PBS, an old favorite from grad school days when FREINDS seemed too puerile and Seinfeld too snarky and cynical for my youthful optimism (I have since learnt to appreciate both shows). At 11 pm on a weekday, after a work day, single parenting (hubby's out of town) and fighting a sinus infection to boot, an old favorite certainly presented the path of least resistance.

 They were discussing the Second Law of Thermodynamics and the concept of 'entropy'. One of the concepts behind entropy is that 'nature tends from order to disorder' and they carefully explained that 'disorder' is actually a 'measure of multiplicity' (from http://hyperphysics.phy-astr.gsu.edu/hbase/therm/entrop.html#e3). So 'If a given state can be accomplished in many more ways, then it is more probable than one which can be accomplished in only a few ways.' To me this means that things will probably turn out the way you think but not how. So craft all the plans that you want but prepare to watch as they unravel and eventually sort themselves out.

The half-asleep 10 minutes I watched simmered overnight and this morning brought into focus some nebulous thoughts I’ve been happening about how we fulfill ourselves in the unlikeliest ways. For instance, I've always been an empathetic person and thus more prone to feeling sad about the state of the world than is healthy. I’d ago long decided that I'd counter my sadness by becoming a ‘better person' and that self-awareness, planning and hard work is the ticket. Then Life happened and the abovementioned qualities rustled up only overwork, fussiness and frustration. I felt I had insufficient time for volunteerism beyond the few token annual efforts (like sporadically walking dogs at the local shelter, doing park clean-ups, volunteer GIS for disaster relief, writing checks for disasters etc). It was more important right then to focus on professional landmarks, working on the new house and bonding with the husband over shared passions.

Then came our son. Unlike many of my friends, I find that I've done more for others AFTER I became a harassed, overworked mom than before. The way I figure it, I actually feel more gratitude for my life after having been given my son and naturally work harder at giving back. Wanting to model goodness for my son provides me more opportunities to do so. I've invested some critical time into my profession at the key time so now have little more space to give it as well. I still don’t do a fraction of what I'd like to do, but it's more than before. So per the laws of entropy, becoming a 'better person' happened anyway, in spite of me, because there were so many ways for it to happen. I know this is not a truly scientific analogy and I'm not interested in any geeky, scientific critiques of my logic -  but wow. Go figure.

Two days ago my friends, the Subs, became legal parents to LilV. This means that a court declared that Asub was 'forever mother' to the 4 year old perched on her hip and that VBsub, whose hand he was tightly clutching, was his 'forever father'. In the photograph of their bigmoment, there were grins on the Subs' faces as they became a family in every sense. Even though we came to our family via different route, the first family pic they shared from Bangalore when they met their son for the first time, seemed familiar. I remember the first time Shouvik gave me and Oyon a joint hug, collapsing 3 people into one entity without any words. I saw the same thing in their first family picture too and the Law of Entropy called out to me again.

We both got at our but goals in such different ways:
1.  Their parturition was entirely logistical: instead of navigating a maze of hospital corridors and insurance/hospital paperwork, they dealt with bureaucracies and legal systems in two countries. Talk about a tough delivery.
2. Their gestation was over 2 years, not my 36.4 weeks.
3. Unlike mine, their birth plan skipped lightly over c-sections (last resort) and tubal ligation (yes, please if c-section occurs) and landed on precisely how to deal with the foster family to ease the trauma of parting a 3 year old from a loving albeit temporary home.
4. They decorated a nursery and dreamt their share of 'this time next year we'll be three' dreams but unlike me, waited an additional year without bitterness to see it come true.

And here we are now. All parents, all struggling with our roles, delighting in our children, finding happiness where we least expected it as well as where we looked for it and constantly, constantly evolving as we move from order to the disorder that it takes to achieve true equilibrium.

So the next time you make a promise to yourself about how you want to react, what you expect from your hard work and then watch it go down in flames, just remember that it’s not just you….the whole universe is unraveling.

But it will work out in the end all the same.

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