Mad at Monet

Last week, I received a message on social media that went something along the lines of:

“You must be very busy. Too busy for me. I’ll stop bugging you, Alarna.”

The message came two days after our previous interaction, from someone well aware of the project currently taking up all my hours of screen squinting time.

Persistenceofchromaticmemory

Persistence of Chromatic Memory by Jan

It would have been so easy to fling accusations and blame right back where that came from – except that I was blocked.

Forced into a moment of self-reflection, I realised.

There’s a great disconnect that seems to happen when I compare my online activities with real life.

In real life, I guard my time with the jealousy of a besieged lover…

Friends would be lucky to hear from me once in a month. My family, maybe once in a fortnight.

It’s taken years of training for them to finally understand:

When they text, they may or may not get a reply in the near future, and;
If they don’t explain the nature of the emergency, they (very likely) will not get a call back!

Now, instead of leaving me snarky messages, they call each other to compare notes, and comfort themselves in the knowledge they’re not the only ones being ignored.

So how is it, when my online interactions go beyond casual acquaintance that daily conversations start to be the norm?

Truth is, home alone in the office, faced with jobs you’d rather not do, it’s all too tempting to go on virtual walk about…

twitter

facebookgooglepluskik-button2youtubelinkedinflickrpinterestbloggrinstagram-buttonBy the time you realise you’re enjoying being needed just that little bit too much, you’ve also built up an expectation that you’ll always be there.

Anytime of night or day.

And the rest, as ‘they’ say, is History…

It’s so much harder to break bad habits, than it is to make good in the first place.

So whom do we blame? The ghost in the machine with ADD? Or the attention starved grown up, outside?

A couple of weeks ago, Ms and I took her mother for a birthday treat to see the Monet exhibition at the National Gallery.

Monet

The Seine near Giverny by Claude Monet

The nuances of light captured in his paintings are what might now pass for time-lapse photography. Only instead of a camera, it was a man standing for twelve hours a day, honing his paintbrush with the precision of a lens.

On these working trips, he’d write to his wife, bemoaning the isolation. He couldn’t even reply to his friends, because his work required his ‘total dedication’.

When I read those words, instead of admiring his immense discipline and focus, I suddenly found myself having one of those ‘lucky bastard’ moments.

“He didn’t have to deal with social media, lucky bastard.”

“Neither do you,” piped in Ms, which just made me all the madder.

But she had a point.

How do we expect to create, when we have one eye fixed permanently on whatever social media widget(s) takes our current fancy?

It really has nothing to do with being busy.
It’s about creative focus.

Silly as it might be, I was mad at Monet, because there was no one left to blame but me for my fragmented brain.

We blame ‘them’ for making the rules of engagement, and robbing us of our focus and our peace of mind. But in the end, who are ‘they’ except ‘us’ – which means You. And. I?

‘They’ may not like it, but we do have the power to say ‘no’.

It’s times like this I wish I could get off this planet and issue a general apology for ever being sociable…

You know what I’m saying?

Glamour Me Happy

Pam

“You don’t know me that well.
My mad face and my happy face are the same.”

– Pam (the Vampire Barbie), True Blood

This week I was over at the lovely Heather (A Very Tessa Tangent’s) blog, reading “Unsnarkism: How to be happy in 5 easy steps”. My favourite is the stapler on the head – tip 4 🙂

I was trying to think what my 5 steps to happiness would be and, naturally, since I just finished watching Season 5, my mind immediately wandered to True Blood.

Hoyt

There’s that scene where the ever adorable Hoyt begs his now ex-vampire girlfriend, Jessica, to glamour him.

“I tell you what I need – from you – for my going away present. I want you to glamour me. Make me forget about you. I want you gone. Out of my head. I want to lay down, go to sleep, close my eyes and not dream about you. Ever again.”

It’s one of those tear jerker scenes. And it took me back to some of my other favourite moments in entertainment.

imagesBuffy – and the spell Willow casts to make her girlfriend, Tara, forget about their argument.

eternal_sunshine_of_the_spotless_mind_ver2

Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind – the movie that turned me into a Jim Carey fan.

Reflecting on it now, I realise that, at least for me, happiness is closely linked to forgetfulness, ergo escape.

It may not be a recipe for lasting joy, but in the spirit of Heather’s meme, here are my 5 simple steps to a state of (temporary) bliss:

  1. Stimulants. Start the day with a strong cup of coffee, and end it with a martini. I’m in heaven.
  2. Home delivered dinner. In the middle of winter, when you’re staring at an empty fridge and your creativity is fried…Nothing spells happiness like Pumpkin Masala and some piping hot naan bread – delivered to your door!
  3. Quality TV. When I say TV, I mean, on DVD. Now that I’m done with True Blood, I’m hanging out for Breaking Bad to go on sale. Next week…
  4. Nature. A space to go walking, and forget about the world.
  5. Domesticity. This may seem at odds with the implied laziness of the first 4 points. But there’s nothing like cleaning to escape the intangibility of a writer’s pursuits. A physical task with a definite start and finish, to the tune of my best 90’s mix. I mean, who can’t enjoy cleaning to the beat of Mistadobalina?

Well, that’s about as close to being glamoured as I get.

Do you have a favourite superpower? What’s your happy drug?

For more happiness inspiration, also check out Coleen Patrick’s post on how to Bust a Wallow.

Coming Down to Earth

I’m warning you now. This post is not pretty…

Before I went travelling, I took great delight in watching shows like Worlds Apart, where people from developed nations got to spend a week in a village somewhere on the opposite side of the earth and live how the “natives” do.

From the safety of my living room I would hee-haw at the spoilt white people. “Wimps!” I’d say, and wonder how they could be so horribly naive.

All my words were swallowed when, on a little Indonesian boat, I was introduced to the concept of…the squatting toilet.

Squat

“I’m not using that,” I whisper to Ms, and make a pledge to hold It til we make the two and a half hour journey to the national park. Surely they’ll have a sitting toilet there – it’s for tourists, after all…

When we got to the national park, I took off eagerly – bum bag firmly in place containing everything sanitary one could possibly imagine.

But I found, to my horror, a squatting toilet in a much less hygienic state than the one on the boat.

Until that day, I’d never before understood the point of doing squats.

Two days of squatting toilet later, I was lying in recovery on my ‘American spring bed‘ when suddenly I wailed…

“But whyyyyyy? I just don’t understand why, after this many years of evolution and advances in technology, anyone still uses a squatting toilet???”

Meanwhile, Ms (who grew up with squatting toilets) was doubled up in fits of hilarity at my expense.

When she finally recovered her composure, a lengthy discussion ensued.

I agreed I could understand how maybe the squatting toilet made sense in the days of sarongs and no underwear. “But everyone wears high heels and pants these days – it doesn’t make sense anymore!”

Squat Evolution

Then, after a long silence, “I suppose sitting where a hundred other bums have been is not hygienic either,” I muse, still unable to forget the pain in my thighs.

When I returned home, I did some research. And without going into graphic detail, scientific studies show that, in fact, squatting is a much healthier and more ergonomic way of doing business.

I don’t know. I’m not convinced. What about the splash back?

I remember the bemused look on our tour guide’s face, every time I trotted off to use the loo, and came back rubbing my hands with sanitising gel.

The moment I realised, with a stubborn kind of shame, that I am that white woman, after all…

What is it about western culture, and our need to be distanced from the dirt? It must look to others, perched as we are upon our thrones, like we think “our shit don’t stink”.

So I conclude – this is how they get us tourists back for going and messing up their formerly pristine shores.

It’s the locals way of bringing us back down to earth.

Has travel taught you any surprising home truths?

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Since returning from travel, I’ve learned another home truth – I am not managing my work and online obligations very well.

Until I can get my priorities sorted out, I will be off social media, and reducing my posting frequency to fortnightly. Apologies to anyone feeling neglected – I hope to visit you soon.

Thanks to Averil Dean for reminding me that sometimes, us writers have to say ‘no’ to Candy.

Being Positively Youthful

This blog seems to have temporarily turned into a confessional.  I’m not sure why.  Something about that persistent cough, and a need to get things off my chest?

In her comment a couple of weeks ago, Karen McFarland told me that a cough, in Chinese medicine, indicates grief.  Her question, “Are you grieving about something?” touched a nerve.

But what am I grieving?  A small dog?

Well, yes, but the cough began before that.   A few months before my 35th birthday when, looking in the mirror, I saw lines I hadn’t seen before.

Lines that sneered… Whatever did you do with your youth?

Luckily, right now, there’s no time to dwell on that question, because Ms and I have an appointment to interview a woman 40 years my senior…

Margaret welcomes us to her home and introduces the dancing Pomeranian, Beau, and more elderly Shih Tzu, Pugsley.

We exchange small talk, and she blithely dismisses the question of marriage.

“Oh, no…I was much too busy for all that.”  As the interview proceeds, we start to understand why.

In the 1970s and 80s, Margaret worked as an ambulance driver for the local animal hospital.  In that time, she saw more death, disease and neglect of animals than most of us will ever see.  Over the years, she has personally given 38 stray cats and dogs a home and a second chance at life.

MargAmbo

She travelled.  And worked three jobs to pay off a house since, back then, the banks refused single women loans.

She has the hearty laugh of a woman half her age, and more energy than I do, judging by her exercise regime.

A walk and a swim every morning down at the beach, aqua aerobics at least twice a week – and she cooks!

“I’m always trying new recipes,” she says, and as soon as the interview is over, the table is laden with cheese, crackers and a delicious avocado dip.

“Wine?” she offers, a little cheekily, when the most we might have expected was a cup of tea.

As the wine flows, and afternoon tea becomes dinner at the pub, she reveals another side.

She speaks about her close ‘friend’, with whom she’s shared her life and home for 38 years.

A woman whom she has nursed through Alzheimer’s, and only recently moved into a nursing home.

She proceeds to tell stories of life in Melbourne when it was illegal to be gay…

Slowly, in one afternoon, Margaret manages to blow my mind of every preconceived idea of age.

I realise, I am not only sitting with an elderly woman who is positively youthful.  I am sitting with a role model.

Margaret

One of a generation of people, my elders, caught between periods of social change, and invisible to those of us now walking in their shoes.

Invisible, that is, until this moment.

We ask her if she worries, being alone at her age, no family…

“You know, I don’t believe in worrying about
things you can’t control.
You just have to live your life, and enjoy each day.
I have no regrets.”

Driving home, I’m quiet.  If there’s one thing I’ve learned from my new friend it is this: age is no barrier.  And to grieve the loss of youth at 35 is more than just a little premature.

Do you worry about getting older? What do you do to stay young?

It Ain’t Over, Baby

Ever tried to break up with your past, and it just keeps coming back to stalk you?

A few weeks ago, I was announcing my availability on the employment market.  Here I was thinking I would find a nice, straightforward, job with fixed hours and low responsibility…

Yeah, really, who was I kidding?

When I think of prospective employers glancing at my resume, I realise there’s no emoticon for the look I can see on their face.

My employment history reads like my life.

It's complicated

It could explain why I haven’t had so much as a call back.

But the fact is – I haven’t been trying very hard because there was another job that had my name on it.  A job I was meaning to avoid…

I started out making videos in the days of standard definition (ie. before HD).

Back then (if you don’t listen to the professionals) it was possible to whack a video camera on auto and get some reasonably decent shots.

Buoyed by the success of my first family video, I fell in love, in more ways then one, and so commenced a long and complicated affair with community video.

It brought me in touch with a quaint little eco-museum, and next thing I knew I was applying for grants, filming cockatoos and standing in front of classes of school kids pretending to have a clue about clay animation.

Three years and not much money later, a 15 minute educational DVD was complete.

Puddlehush

It had a little bit of everything – history and wildlife, animation, indigenous storytelling.  Funded in part by the Environment Protection Authority, it was designed to inspire kids to look after their waterways.

For me, the measure of its success was seeing the kids lining up for copies to take home to mum and dad.  And hearing afterwards that some of them had dragged their parents to a creek tree-planting event.

I could have walked away happy from video then.  But, somehow, word spread and despite its technical flaws, the DVD was successful enough to land me my first ‘professional’ gig with the local university.

Freaking at the thought of what that meant, I figured I should at least look the part and upgrade to a ‘real’ camera.

Camera

Enter the nightmare that is HD.

My guess is they invented HD to get rid of self-taught amateurs like me.  Auto, if it ever really was an option, most definitely died with HD.

Mastering manual settings on the fly is bad enough.  But then comes the question of formats and codecs and frame rates and compression settings and by the time you read all the conflicting information on all the forums ever written…

Let’s just say that there was a certain irony in making videos about Positive Education while on the inside I was channelling The Scream.

Seven videos later, I decided video making was definitely not for me.  I was about to put the camera on eBay when…

…through a complex network of ‘who you know’, a local animal hospital offered a commission to record interviews for a historical memoir.

The thing is, it’s not just any animal hospital.  It’s Pepi’s hospital.

Pepi

I never could say no to him.

So, I guess the moral of the story is…“it ain’t over til it’s over”! 

In the coming weeks, I hope to entertain you all with some fur raising stories of the video making adventure.  And I know, somewhere, that Pepi will be smug at how it all goes back to him 🙂

When was the last time you tried to break up with your past? Did it end well?

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If you’d like to know more about Pepi, check out these posts:

The Best Man in My Life
Dear Pepi

But if you’d prefer the shorter, heart-warming version, go here.

The Power to Change (Part 2)

Change is a process.  Like waves, a wise old friend once told me – a constant backward-forward motion bringing in the changing of the tide.

The Wave

The Wave, by Albert Bierstadt c. 1880

Last week, I explained how a university’s Positive Education Program revealed my surprising lack of pep when it comes to life change. Being in need of a major attitude overhaul, I decided to try out the idea of a gratitude journal.

It can feel kind of sucky sitting in bed at night writing a list of all the good things that happened in your day.  When I started, three was an achievement.

But slowly it became more natural, and the lists began to get longer.  My breathing eased.  Smiles came more regularly.  Yoga returned.

Then winter came, and everything stalled.

Tellingly, the final journal entry for 2012 was written on 19 June…

Freezing windy day. Got nowhere much…Survived the day.

IMG_2006

Fast forward to 2013, and it’s the cyber community who I really have to thank for snapping me out of my winter induced inertia.

It began with a reminder from Bent People’s Adriana, of the power of yoga in dissolving psychic blocks.  Have you ever had a dream in the night that came true the next day?

That’s right, I said to self, I really need to take up yoga again.

But then the excuses started rolling in…

I can’t stand on my head before coffee.
Or after coffee.
After breakfast, ewww…no.
And by that time…

A few weeks later, still trying to combat my excuses, I read a post by Legionwriter’s Lucas, whose own gentle journey towards calm confirmed, again, the power of breath in rescuing our “beleaguered hypothalamus”.

The whole problem is Revenge, I told myself.
If I didn’t need that to put me to sleep,
I’d at least have time to meditate.

Girl in the Hat, aka Anna Fonté turned up the heat with Lies My Body Tells Me, forcing me acknowledge how much I let ‘pain’ tell me that ‘I can’t’.

It’s my lower back again, I whined.
No use starting ‘til I see the chiropractor.

Valerie then added her wisdom on meditation.  Apparently, it’s normal to fidget when you meditate.  And pain, like a child, will actually stop crying when it’s given some attention.

Interesting, I thought.  There goes that excuse…

But it was the question posed by Anna’s Wonder Woman post that finally got my attention.

What if, for two minutes a day,
instead of struggling with the concept of mind over matter,
we gave our bodies power to control our weak willed minds?

In that moment, my resistance faltered.  All the voices, pushing me forward, urging me on, rushed through, finally propelling me to act.

I struck a pose, and kicked the nightly Revenge habit in preference for yoga and meditation.

Water and Fire

Water and Fire, by Franz Stuck

Suddenly, it was no more The Prodigy’s “inhale, inhale, you’re the victim”.  I was exhaling, and it was like all that extra oxygen needed somewhere to go.

Afterburn’s guest post about jogging (of all things) gave me a radical idea.  Daniela Martinez talked about losing herself in the flow of the run, the importance (again) of breath – and of exercising to a playlist.

Honestly.  I’d never imagined jogging before, let alone to a playlist.  But the universe had just delivered a new album from Andrea, a loyal Twitter friend.

It was just the push I needed to finally break a sweat.

I swallowed yet another lame excuse – I don’t have an iP – and uploaded it to my old Nokia 6120.  Dusted off the old bicycle.

And I’ve been pedalling ever since.

Okay.  Winter’s still to come.  And the new tune is not exactly pumping.

But as I pedal, all I can hear is the rhythm of the breath, and the voices urging me to “make your desire’s reality”.

Sometimes, for forward momentum, all we need is persistent, gentle push.  So to all of you who got me there, thank you for giving me the power to change.

Ever had a moment that broke through your resistance?  What gets you There?

The Power to Change (Part 1)

Fourteen months ago I developed this terribly anti-social dry cough.

Thanks to digital media, you’re lucky enough not to hear it.  But for those in close proximity, it’s not exactly the most endearing habit on earth.

After much nagging, I eventually paid a visit to the specialist (paid being the operative word) – only to be told what I already knew.

There’s nothing wrong with me!

So I guess that makes me psychosomatically insane…

In search of answers, I did a little googling this morning.  And if what they say about Louise L. Hay’s theories is correct, I am apparently resisting change.  Either that, or it’s a blatant “world, look at me!” grab for attention.

My fear is that she’s right – on both counts.   At least, it seems like an effective strategy for continued unemployment…

From my childhood, I have far too many fond memories of being doted on when sick.  Mum, tending to me in the middle of the night, with alternate hot and cold compresses, vapour rubs and lemon ginger teas.

In my memory, I was never more loved than when I was unwell.

Fast forward a few years, and suddenly you realise there’s no Mum anymore.  What was once Mum’s love is now a matter of self-love.

And that’s where it gets tricky.

A couple of years ago, I was commissioned by a local university to develop some videos on Positive Education.

It’s strange, how the universe sends you subtle messages.  During the research phase, I filled out the online survey of character strengths developed by the Authentic Happiness Testing Centre at University of Pennsylvania.

The survey creates a rank of 24 core character strengths, highlighting your top five.  But what is most revealing are the strengths that fall at the bottom.

Among my bottom five were “Capacity to love and be loved” and “Zest, enthusiasm and energy”.

Put those two things together, and what you have is someone who doesn’t love you or themselves enough to get off their lazy ass and Exercise!!

Me. The last time I had Zest, Enthusiasm and Energy.

Me. The last time I had
Zest, Enthusiasm and Energy.

But now I have this pesky cough screaming at me.  A little tell tale hack drawing the world’s attention to my self neglect.

How to change?

If, like me, you suffer from “vague and general feelings of powerlessness”, then you need to read Girl in the Hat’s “Body Talk” series, starting with this post.  Now.

There’s a video as well.  You need to watch it.

In it, the science behind a simple posture is explained, made all the more compelling by the fact that it requires no real effort at all.

Basically, anyone who can sit still for two minutes and breathe can do it, so you can see why it appealed to yours truly.

The odd thing is, the day I read Anna Fonté’s post, something clicked.

Since then, I’ve reignited my stop-start relationship with yoga. I’ve started meditating again.  And as of today, I’ve broken through a personal record by cycling for the sixth day in a row!

It’s early days, of course.  I’m almost scared to say it in case I jinx the flow.  But that’s the old me talking.

The new me celebrates achievements as they happen.  And understands that change is a process.

Sometimes it happens imperceptibly.  Like staring at an optical illusion until, suddenly, you see it and you wonder why you never did before.

Next week, I’ll explore this theme more fully.  But in the meantime, I’m curious.

Does anybody out there struggle as I do with the power to change?

Just Breathe

Here I am, one week out chanting my ‘Change is good’ mantra, and you ask – how’s that working for you?

Suddenly there’s a sound like a record needle scratching out my flow…

Okay.  So this is what change is really like.

I decided to start my weekend off with my first ever three day detox diet, in the hope of a good energy kick for the impending job hunt.

Lettuce

The inspiration came from fellow Aussie blogger, Melly Williams, herself a shining example of good health and fitness.  The recipes in themselves were great – especially the chia seed dessert – so simple, filling and yum.

But after a day of no carbs (except the few I added for necessity), as my stomach lining started turning on itself and I started feeling all lightheaded – I realised something.

If you already look like a borderline famine victim – maybe detox is not the thing you need?

Maybe – here’s a thought – maybe what you really need is to Eat. More. Food!

So, one failed detox later, I’m sitting at my computer clicking job ads.

Search

I’m not sure if the slightly sick feeling is from the detox or the job hunt.  But as I click on one job after another, I feel my determined ‘can do’ face slide into a familiar queasy mope.

There are certain key words that keep repeating themselves…

“Vibrant, outgoing personality.”

“Ability to multitask.”

No.  I’ve been down that road before.  It never ends well.

I quit searching the Administration section and decide maybe Customer Service is the way to go after all.

I manage to find two jobs that require “listening skills” and “attention to detail”, wade through the lengthy online application form, multiple choice questionnaire and the resume upload.  Oh, that’s right. Cover Letter.

How many ways can you say you’re eager, keen, delighted…goddamn desperate for a job?

The letter ends with something about being an asset to the team.  I finally upload and submit.  Phew.  A good day’s work in there already.

Several days later, and I’m at it again – I notice the two jobs I applied for have already readvertised.  Hmmm.  Guess I need to work on my pitch.

Sunflowers

This is usually the part where I curse the day I ever enrolled in that Bachelor of Arts.  Why didn’t I choose law?  Or counselling?  Or teaching, even – I could have been a good teacher.

At least I thought so, until I read fellow job hunter Anna Fonté’s post about the realities of teaching.  No.  I definitely could not have done that.

But why did I always choose meaningful over skilled?

There’s no answer to that question.  Except that was what I needed to do.  And now, here I am.  I’m exactly where I need to be.  Right now.

If you’ve ever doubted that, or need some reassurance about the direction that you’re heading in, read Nina Badzin’s post, on her journey towards the right path.

There’s something so very practical, and encouraging about her story of becoming a blogger and freelance writer.  She reminds me when I need to hear it most – that nothing is ever wasted.

Change is not going to be easy.  It never is.  And so I tell myself.

Just believe.  Just breathe.

Is there any change you’re finding challenging this year?  What gets you through?

Return of the Pep

You know that feeling when you’re staring down the barrel of another year, and you wake up and realise it’s already here?

That’s me this year.  Somehow, 2012 got away from me.

One minute I was looking ahead at a glistening oasis of holidays…

Apollo Bay Pan

The next, I’m scowling at the pile of unaccounted for receipts sitting where I left them from the year before.

Office

Where did it all go?

Okay, so I have some photographic evidence of a holiday…

The camping trip that was downgraded (or was it upgraded?) to an apartment by the beach.

Apollo Bay Apartment

(Some dubious iPad quality photos).

Xmas lunch

A chilly Christmas with hers truly and some friends (who won’t be photographed).

Me and Ms

And that promised ‘Aunty outing’ to the zoo – my Christmas gift to the neephs.

Kids at Zoo

My photos of New Years Eve didn’t really work out.  But I can tell you as I sat with Ms, sharing sangria and tapas, that ours wasn’t the only table wildly entertained by the 9pm city fringe scene.

The group of girls, all wobble between the their too high heels and too short shorts, as they hurried for a tram.

The noble beer wielding knight, dragging his girlfriend up from the middle of the road, as they staggered to their next venue.

The pulp fiction pin up with the guy no one remembers striding by…

Then there was the crowd at the kooky bar we later frequented.  Frat boys in glittering top hats, big bottomed girls and Gangnam Style Indian boys (along with the rest of us), doing our best to groove to the most non-rhythmic and unrecognisable tunes from the eighties, nineties and now.

We all deserted it before midnight in preference for fireworks on the beach.

The highlight was returning to our hotel bar just in time for the DJ to play Dear Pepi’s favourite song – the one we threw the squeaky toy to, singing “Return of the Mack Pep”…

Pep

Now, as I stare at my pile of receipts on the thankfully sunnier side of 2013, I realise the reason for the blur.

26 December marked three months in the absence of fur!

Yes, Pepi was just a small scrap of dog.  But sometimes you don’t realise the space they take up until they’re gone.

He was the reason for some complicated work-from-home employment decisions.

He was my excuse reason for escaping social engagements and family obligations.

The reason for my choice of “pets welcome” hovel home.

If you let me, I’d probably say he was the reason I didn’t travel or achieve anything more in my life.  But seriously, how much can you pin on one small dog?

The truth is, in three months of deafening quiet since his absence, my mind has roamed anywhere except the places that it ought to be…

This is more than a New Year.  It’s the end of an era.
It’s time for change.

2013 is a year of no more excuses.  Time to quit hanging on the fringes, time to get back in the flow of life.

So, as well as blogging, I’ll be on the search for an uncomplicated job with a workplace and a break out room.  I’ll be working on a change of residence.  Maybe planning an overseas trip.  And one of these days, I’m pretty sure, I’ll get back to the gym!

Not New Year’s resolutions, as such, but definitely a new theme.  And a new direction.

Pump up the world…
watch my flow…
here I go…
(Return of the Mack Pep)…

Mark Morrison (1996)

What’s your theme this year?  If it were a song, what would it be?

Women, Anger and Blogging

In the last few weeks, I’ve been thrilled and surprised to meet some incredibly articulate young women in the blogosphere.

When I stumbled onto the not-so-rambly Ramblings of the Insane Girl, it was the brutal honesty of her post about being Allergic to Home  that propelled me to hit ‘Follow’.  At last, there was someone game enough to admit their family was dysfunctional!  It took me right back to 1992…

I was, as usual, hidden away in my room, brooding on the inevitability of changing schools for the third time since Year 7.

Dad, of course, was refusing to send me to boarding school in Melbourne on account of it having corrupted my sister.  I, in opposition, was enacting a cold war.

Three weeks before the term began, when still no decision had been made, Dad suddenly entered my room and offered – as if it was his idea all along – to send me off to Melbourne.

Freedom was never so sweet as the day when, age 15, I won my independence.

It took us another eighteen years to actually discuss what happened after that, but hey – at least we’ve called a truce!

When I discovered the self-proclaimed Pessimistic Optimizer, it was honesty of a different kind that had me hooked.  I gather, from her posts, she is past the college age.  But I love the way she is able to reconnect me with that naïve, wannabe teacher’s pet, whose ultimate goal was to be a goodly shining light.

Problem was, like her, I ended up far too pessimistic  for my own good.  As she says, “How could I not be?  Have you seen the world we live in?”

When I left the safe cocoon of my sheltered private school life and entered the real world of corporate blood lust, my brain nearly exploded.

How could everyone be so mean and sleazy and downright greedy?

The worst thing that can happen to a Taurean goody-two-shoes, at the age of 22, is being told you are just “young and idealistic”.  Needless to say, what ensued was what my Mother affectionately refers to as “another one of Alarna’s little bombshells”.

My dubious art from Year 10

That was when I discovered the fine line between bravery and stupidity.

But that’s another story 🙂

It is possible, for these reasons, I was drawn to read The Musings of a Pirate.  They came in the form of a Personal Rant filed under ‘Socially Deprived’ (Disclaimer: this post contains coarse language). “Don’t waste your time with this”, she said.  So, of course, I did.  And it most definitely was NOT a waste.

Whiney, selfish, righteous rants don’t interest me.  But this is different.  It is full of energy, passion and highly motivated, female ANGER.  Anger at restraint.  At the way in which boys are encouraged to achieve, while girls are deemed “not ready”.  At the way an angry girl is mocked.

If anyone has ever wondered what goes on in the mind of their angry young women, this is a must read.  What I love is the constructive note of the anger, borne out of a desire to “ACHIEVE something in this world”.

Anger in women is a much maligned emotion.  Just compare a Google search on ‘Angry Young Man’ to ‘Angry Young Woman’.  One has a Wikipedia page and is clearly expected.  The other is a problem to be understood.

But history is full of highly effective angry young women.  Check out Colin Falcolner’s informative posts on Princess Pingyang, Mary Shelley and Isabella, Braveheart of France – to name a few.

The signs are there that the new millennium is calling for young women to be a force for change.  Take Buffy or Brave or Britain’s new generation of young, angry, female playwrights, for instance.  Then there’s will.i.am’s Science Technology Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) advocacy, aimed at encouraging girls from the ghetto to be the leaders of tomorrow, (see the Graham Norton interview, 11:20 minutes in).

The question is how we harness the rage into a creative, rather than destructive, force.  Here, I think The Pirate might have given us a clue:

“I’m not that much different than the dogs I train and I just want to know I’m on the right track, at least a little. You’d suck as a dog trainer. You don’t have any clear objective, you’re light with your praise and heavy on your criticism. That’s what good dog trainers realize traumatizes a dog.”

Next week I promise to discuss the concept of dog parenting.  But for now, I think what she is saying is, all we need is a little positive reinforcement 🙂

I love that these days a blogosphere exists, where women can and do support each other.  Thanks to these young women, I’ve been reconnected with the passion of my youth.  Together, maybe there’s a chance that we can keep the flame alive…