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…

Adults are Supposed to be Brave

If you’re lucky enough to be one of the significant adults in a child’s life, you’ve probably already discovered that your role is not exactly what you think it is.

A few months ago, I spent a day on the beach with my sister’s three kids – my Neephs.

After some time, my nephew had finally spotted a crab, and was busy explaining how I should pick it up.

“Why don’t you pick it up?” I enquire, hoping to be off the hook.

“’Cause I’m scared to,” says the little D.

“Well, then, so am I,” I say.

“But Aunty Nana, adults are supposed to be brave!”

It was a priceless opportunity, I thought, to give him a lesson in how adults aren’t always brave.

But we were there with his father, that day, and it wasn’t long before he was plucking some poor creature from the shallows and little D was giving me that look.

Great, I think, now I’ve just given him a lesson in how girls aren’t always brave!

Until that moment, it never occurred to me that our relationship was in the least bit gendered.  We were just people, fellow introverts, sharing a common fear of humans and other things that bite.

Clearly, I wasn’t the best person to be teaching him lessons about bravery 🙂

But it did lead me to question how we teach kids things.

The lesson, in fact, probably had nothing at all to do with bravery, and more to do with respecting natural boundaries.  A lesson in ‘live and let live’.  In co-existing with other creatures.

It would have been a simple lesson for a boy whose first response to others’ touch is often “Go away!”

All I had to say was “How do you think the crab would feel?” and he’d have gotten the point of empathy and kindness.

But even then, once Daddy came along to show him how it’s done, I suppose the lesson would have been that empathy and kindness is for girls. Grrrr.

Where did it all go wrong?

It used to be that Fairy Tales were the source of all things wise, where communities passed down lessons to their kids on how to coexist.

So I consulted with the Brothers Grimm, and it turns out, a little bit of healthy fear is not so bad!

Photo by samlevan courtesy stock.xchng

In “The Story of the Youth Who Went Forth to Learn What Fear Was”, it seems the whole village knows what it is to shudder, except for one boy.  His inability to fear is a source of great shame, and eventually, he is cast out of home.  In his mission to learn how to shudder, he encounters seven swinging corpses, and a haunted castle filled with creatures of the night, his cousin’s corpse, a beggar and some body parts.

Not knowing how to fear, he starts off being kind to all the ghoulies.  The best is when he tries to warm his cousin’s corpse.  Instead of being grateful, the cousin turns into a zombie and tries to strangle him – to which the youth retaliates in kind!

Instead of learning how to fear, the youth learns how to fight.  In the end, his ruthlessness wins him a Princess and a place in the kingdom.  It is finally up to his new wife to teach him how to shudder, which she does by throwing a bucket of cold water on him in the night.  Cold shower, anyone?

The moral of the story, according to moi, is that communal life requires the skill of knowing just a little how to fear, and of respecting your place in the scheme of things.  What’s scary is that progress, in the world outside the home, seems to depend on a foolish and callous bravado.

Photo by Karen Barefoot courtesy stock.xchng

Is this the kind of brave we want our little ones to be? I can’t help wondering what will happen when little D no longer feels okay to admit that he’s afraid.

I’m not sure what the answer is, but I’m looking forward to next week, when Brave hits our cinemas here in Oz.  Tune in then for my take on a modern tale!

In the meantime, I’m curious to know your thoughts.  Can bravery go too far? Should boys be braver than girls? How do we teach our kids empathy without making them weak?

Finding the Path to Peace

This week I’ve met some beautiful people, all of who – in their own way – are grappling with the question of time, regret, living in the moment.  I’m touched by their journeys, especially The Mezz and The Nomad, who echo some of mine.

It’s like we’re always fighting with ourselves, wondering why, in the two or twenty years that passed, we are still here.  But lessons in acceptance sometimes come from the most unlikely places.

Pepi was never one to live outside the moment.  Up until he was fifteen, both he and I were fully convinced of his invincibility.  In this Alter fantasy, he was Bolt, and I his helpless human sidekick.

(See – that’s me in the background – just trying to keep up!)

There was a time when fifty throws of the ball in the park was puppy’s play for him.  He’d bolt on and off the bed, the couch, the front porch step at something close to warp – and if you dared to squeak that squeaky toy…

The only time he sat still was when I ate, and then there were those eyes…

Slowly as his superpowers waned, there always seemed to be a good excuse.

When he lost sight of the ball it was…Aw, well, he does have cataracts.

When he grabbed the ball and ran for home at throw number eight…It must be his arthritis.

When he left a puddle on the kitchen floor…well, that one was harder to excuse.

The day his brain broke we were not prepared.

I had taken him with me for a dinner visit.  Pepi had paced the unfamiliar house the whole night until we left.  It must be he’s excited, I thought.

When we got home he was hyper.  He tried to jump up on the couch, but missed and hit his head.  And then, before my eyes, it all unraveled.

His back legs went limp.  His eyes rolled wild.  He tried to walk and kept on banging into things.

We were both shrieking – he from terror, and me in a futile attempt to stop him injuring himself.  It was like he’d had a stroke.

When we went to see the vet, I didn’t expect them to tell me the only thing they could prescribe was rest.

Idiopathic Vestibular Disease is an alarming, sudden onset loss of balance in older dogs with no known cause.  Though the symptoms can be indicative of other underlying issues, such as brain tumors, luckily for Pepi, this was not the case.  Remarkably, his symptoms mostly subsided after three full days of rest.

But he never has been quite the same.

It was like that moment when Bolt realized it was all a scam.  He never did have superpowers.  It was just an elaborate story people told him so they could entertain themselves.

Any wonder that depression, dementia and hand feeding followed.

Until that point, I had probably spent most of his adult life wishing he would calm the F down.  Now I wished he would just be the way he was before.

I could have put us both out of our misery then, but hadn’t his whole life been working its way to this point?

How could I deny him the part where’s he earned his right to be a pampered pooch?

He’s not the same dog, it’s true.  He’s a Superdog that just retired.

He rarely speaks these days.  He knows his limits.  Sometimes he forgets things.

One day recently he was left home alone for an unusually long time.  When I got back, he was fed.  We played a little game with squeaky toy.  He ate his chew.  After that, he went to sleep in front of the TV, as he likes to do.

Half way through The Good Wife, he woke up with a start.  I caught him staring at me like he’d seen a ghost.  It was clear he couldn’t remember me coming home.  Or the game.  Or being fed.  Or the chew.  He wanted the whole thing, all over again.

I could have said no, but he would have gone to bed all angry.

So I gave him supper, and he slept.  So happily.

The passing of time into old age seems like a cruel joke – but only if we fight it.  Now that we’ve accepted his mortality, it’s a whole new world of discovery on the path to peace.

Have you ever been confronted with the unexpected passing of time?  How have you coped?  If you’ve written or read a post about it, feel free to leave a link in the comments so we can share…