Sunday 30 January 2022

Turning 4

I remembered today I had written this entry about AJ the evening before she turned 4. So I took a couple of photos of Dani the day before she turns 4.

Four years ago? I was already asleep, but awoke at midnight to my waters breaking. A swift and straightforward labour followed (despite having a breech baby) and Dani arrived at 4:29 in the morning. There was a huge full moon in the sky.

Dani’s favourite food is still noodles, which we tend to  call by her baby word, noo-noos. Favourite movies are Chicken Run and The Croods 2. She likes the Frozen characters too. We don’t watch TV shows much but both kids like Battlebots (as do their parents).

Dani is bubbly and social and has a talent for comic timing. She is full of observations, some of which only make sense from her own perspective of the universe but which are always entertaining.

Dani takes Ukrainian dance along with her sister and enjoys it a lot, and will hopefully have her first performance in March. She goes to daycare and enjoys being with her friends, and is very good at keeping track of all her stuff: nothing is ever lost. She has learned or inherited my utter intolerance of any dirt on her clothes (sigh). She would also have made a very good 19th century lady as she likes to layer clothes on top of each other.

AJ and Dani alternate between being best of friends and quarrelling, but very obviously love each other. And they light up the house with love, and turn it upside down.

Tea party!

January is not my favourite month of the year, as I’ve noted many times, but the 31st is definitely the best day in it.

Happy birthday big girl!

Saturday 15 January 2022

Venting and "Mad as Hell": A collage

Lately I had a couple of separate online conversations on the topic of anger and "venting", and some useful thoughts came out of it that I want to capture.

I think it's fair to say that there is a lot our social world today (online, and off). A lot of negative emotion, a lot of frustration. I'm not passing judgment on the emotion itself or the situations causing it. The topic of who does or doesn't "deserve" to be angry is way too complex...if that even is a quagmire worth wading into, of which I'm not at all convinced. But either way, I don't have the attentional energy. I deal with things as they come up, and if I'm not directly involved, I try to give other people's anger a lot For that matter, I try to give it space even when I am involved!

The first text is a quotation from from my (extraordinary) friend Diana. I read this and could immediately relate it to situations in my life:

"I think about the venting thing a lot, because I have moments I really want to just tell the world what I'm thinking and fuck decorum (which means, I think, fuck people's feelings). I've long believed that it's good to vent, but I'm not so sure anymore. That theory seems to be based on what we might call the Teapot Model, where we're like teapots that'll blow our tops if enough steam builds up, and venting is the only thing that will release the pressure.

I've been watching people and thinking about how they behave for a while now, though, and what I've noticed is that those who "vent" stay the angriest. It's almost like their ranting doesn't release the pressure so much as seek confirmation of their opinions which includes the justification of their anger. Venting also draws the approval of those who share one's opinions and anger, which also reinforces the sense that we *should* be angry.

I don't think that bit of received wisdom is right anymore. If there is a net positive to ranting or venting, I have yet to see it." (January 12 2022)

The next thing I read was a question from a friend: "Should we all be mad as hell?" I will leave out the context because honestly, anyone can think of something they could/should be "mad as hell" about. Like, go ahead and think of one....right now.

My friend also mentioned something unpleasant that happened in traffic, which I think is pretty universally relatable. So that was why I included comments on traffic. This is me:

 Traffic stuff terrifies me on a regular basis….though I continue to drive. (Avoiding driving caused such an escalation in my anxiety about it and irrational avoidance that I know that isn’t a good route to go either.) But I think about car accidents every time I get in the car (do other people do this? No idea how normal/abnormal I am) and I do something like pray….albeit not in a very ordered and conscious way, and often with a lot of profanity. I will add you to my driving prayers. Driving is probably THE most obvious example of individual action affecting collective well being, and vice versa (at least in cultures with a rule following ethic).

I’m not entirely sure of the direction of your thoughts in this post, but to address your question “should we all be mad as hell?” There is certainly plenty to be “mad as hell” about, but I’m less certain about manifesting that in the world. The most obvious problem for me is that it’s remarkably easy to be mad as hell, and that there even seems to be an addictive quality to it. By contrast calm people are harder to find, and stepping out of that anger cycle is much harder than stepping into it.

I also see people around me acting mad as hell, including many in cars (terrifying!) but I have no idea what they are mad about and what they imagine they are achieving by it. Perhaps they are mad about the same things I might hypothetically be mad about, and thus we are entirely in sympathy….but I can’t tell. There is no mutual understanding or responsibility.

Also, truthfully, the one thing that almost always alienates me from others is this “mad as hell” thing….for example I had to mute one of my group chats lately, because of the angry tone of the conversation and how people were choosing to express themselves. These are adults I consider kind and responsible, even exceptionally so. I have met them in person. We share a vocation and profession. I am deeply in sympathy with them and their struggles and frustrations, but….it was too much.

Do you (speaking to the person I was responding to) feel abandoned or excluded from the support systems in our society? ….or perhaps they are failing, the institutional ones at least. This is a serious problem. I don’t think anger is the solution, but it might be pointing to something important, something neglected. (January 15th 2022)

The final question is my attempt to find an alternative to shared anger, or to try to treat that anger not as an end in itself, but as a signal or signpost. Certainly, repressing or denying anger is not the (only) way to go, though it might actually the best choice in the moment. But constant anger or frustration is a signal of something that needs attending to. And if we are in a position to do so, perhaps taking some time to investigate is worth it. But, I think it is important to not just mirror back the anger, and if I feel a temptation to join in unthinkingly, well, I probably have to attend to myself first, before doing anything else.

Sunday 2 January 2022

Painting in the New Year

Last year each person in our family made a painting that represented (perhaps) one’s state of mind or mood going into the new year, or maybe just in that moment: see here

We enjoyed it so much we decided to try to make it a tradition and do that same thing New Year’s Eve/Day.

Behold then, the Turtles’ artistic responses to 2021.

AJ: Magical Dreams of the Butterflies

Dani: Polka Dot Shape

Mr Turtle: You Hung It The Wrong Way

Turtle: Still Life With Crumbs of Joy

Mine was way harder than I thought it would be: I had this plan in my head that seemed simple, but that I soon realized had waaaaay too much detail when I actually started. There were so many objects and it was so difficult to figure out what should be painted in what order. 

However, I still enjoyed getting into the process and engaging with the creation in front of me on its own terms. Part of the reason I like doing something hands on like this is it reminds me that reality is not in fact all in my mind. I might have a thought, but I’m not only interacting with my own thoughts, I’m interacting with creation itself, and the painting inevitably takes on its own character apart from what I had imagined. I have to adjust my approach and vision as I work through it. It’s much the same as raising kids, actually….

AJ did the final step for me: the crumbs under the table. I love those big joyous crumbs. They are going to remind me to seize happiness where I find it this year. 

Onward to a 2022 as happy and hopeful as we can make it!