more small things

colour inspo.jpg

My goal is to allow readers their own experience of whatever discovery I have made, so that it feels new to them, but also familiar, in that it is a piece with their own experience. It is a form of serious play.
― Kathleen Norris, The Quotidian Mysteries: Laundry, Liturgy and Women’s Work

The photos and the quote aren’t particularly related, except that I read a while ago how the personal is deemed feminine and non-serious, and this is one of the reasons I like to keep my focus on the personal, on the ‘feminine’ (not quite sure what that latter actually means though, truthfully). It is also why methodologies like autoethnography have a bad reputation, especially the kind that focus more on individual experience than on cultural critique. I.e., my kind. I hope the work I do will challenge that, but more importantly I hope that I will be able to give readers of the work their own experience of whatever discovery I have made.

I’m writing this down today, because I forget. I get caught up in worrying too much about how well done a thing is, and forget to focus on what kind of experience it has to offer.

I forget to play.

things are beautiful if you love them*

Processed with VSCO with c2 presetThere’s a freedom in giving up, in embracing the smallness of the world I have come to inhabit. I keep wanting to be super-woman, to resist, to turn it all around in some grand and epic story of courage and redemption. Odds were beaten, enemies overcome! Triumphal victory accomplished!

How exhausting. It also sounds a lot more like seeking applause, than living a life.

I think what I mean is that I don’t need redemption, and there is nothing wrong with small.


*I’m sure I’ve used this quote before, it’s by the writer Jean Anouilh.

looking for light

looking for light collage.jpg

At least I have the flowers of myself,
and my thoughts, no god
can take that;
I have the fervour of myself for a presence
and my own spirit for light;

and my spirit with its loss
knows this;
though small against the black,
small against the formless rocks
hell must break before I am lost;

before I am lost
hell must open like a red rose
for the dead to pass.

– H.D., Eurydice

A friend shared this poem; I thought it beautiful. I thought it sad and glorious and beautiful, and when I woke last night in agony (something new, I don’t know what), my left leg twisting itself off from the rest of my body, when I lay there for hours in pain  feeling alone and ashamed and utterly, utterly, without use or point or purpose, some part of me remembered that at least I have the flowers of myself.

I found some sleep as morning approached, woke with a nagging ache in place of  searing pain. I took my camera out to the back garden to look for some available light, to find some fervour, to capture some spirit. I don’t know if I succeeded, but the looking was enough. It was early, the sun was only just beginning his morning run, and my messy, weedy, muddy garden welcomed me without care or judgement. My messy, weedy, muddy garden is oblivious to anything but its own growth and procreation; this is always a peace and a solace.

I am not in hell, nor am I lost; just a little drained and jaded from riding this eternal roller-coaster of good pain days and bad. Last night’s hit, it kind of broke something. False hope, perhaps, or the fool’s impervious belief that the sun will always come out tomorrow.

I don’t know. I just know that I am tired. I am worn out, I am adrift, and I am tired.

alive is good

wallflower

The wallflower, a personal favourite but she’s not that happy in my garden, the poor love. She’s alive, and trying to blossom, but also small and raggedy and struggling.

I’ve been reading over my past work, my first PhD article included, work I thought was good, even pretty good at times, and it often isn’t? Repeated words, missed typos, sub-par grammar, poor flow, and confusing logic. I’m vastly improved from the worst of late last year/early this year, but not as improved as I thought I was. It’s perplexing, honestly; also distressing. I bloody well and most emphatically hope I will continue to improve, and I also think I just have to suck it all up (as we all do, so often, for so many reasons) and learn to be more tortoise and less hare. Just don’t have the chops to make it as a hare anymore.

Well, so. A small and raggedy and struggling brain still, perhaps. But alive, and trying to blossom.

 

it’s my own fault, but still..

drowning overlay

Current mood. It’s a very busy month, and my camera is now breaking down along with my laptop (both very old, but breaking together means I can’t afford a replacement camera of the quality I was hoping for; not important, privileged white lady problem, I’ll go home now) and my unfathomable reluctance to show anyone anything to do with anything about my PhD work (and I have done a lot) has led to a bottle neck of work I need to get through right when Warren is away, the kids are in exams, and Ernie … well Ernie is just Ernie.

SONY DSC

Bless.

It’ll get done. It always does. And I will get over myself too. I always do. Note to self though: get over yourself sooner next time.

it’s sort of a manifesto i suppose

I wrote this on my instagram account this morning, and decided it needed to go here too, because the philosophy behind it kind of sums up everything about me that is useful and good.

SONY DSC

Warren is on a month long business trip, his second since Jan., his fourth (or fifth?) overseas trip in total this year. It’s not unusual, most of our married life has been lived this way. But I felt sad, so I bought flowers and practised my bouquet-making. I’m less sad now. It might look superficial and pointless to find some sense of peace and belonging in the colours and textures of a sparse wee bunch of commercially grown flora, but we live our lives in the minutiae of the everyday – our deepest pains are often found there, our largest comforts too.

angh-

current mood.jpg
I’m guessing I was feeling a little similar the day I made this collage too…

angh-
proto-indo-european root meaning “tight, painfully constricted, painful.”
Forms all or part of: agnail, anger

I woke up angry this morning. It’s the emotion that has surprised me most with the brachial neuritis pain; when it’s bad (and/or constant) I just get really pissed off.  Like: people expect me to do things? Like get out of bed and shower and pretend I’m a grown and contributing adult human woman? SO RUDE. It’s been building for a few weeks, but not nerve-inflammation-relapse kind of pain, just the ebb and flow of slowly-recovering kind of pain. Someone has put both of my shoulders in a vice today. I wish they would effing eff the effing eff off.

sulkyI’ve been wondering what the anger is about. Some of it is fear: maybe this really is forever? Some of it is sulky childishness: it will hurt to move, I don’t want to move, why should I have to move? And some of it is the invisibility of sucking it up and getting shit done anyway. Days like today, I want a medal for my efforts. Or at least visibility. Which I suppose I now have, and I also have the beginnings of a post-rant embarrassment hangover to prove it.

Okay. So most of it is sulky childishness.

an idiot with great taste in art

Just popping in while some assignments print: hello.

nunzio p

I love this work by  – oh bugger, I forgot to save the name again and can’t remember it off the top of my head (I clearly thought I would, I clearly am an idiot). I love the contradictions in this piece, the softness and vulnerability, the brutality, the suggestion of human existence as wonderous and mortality as ordinary, the idea that we are as situated in the seasons of nature as a flower, as a bird, as a bare-leafed tree is.

Printing done, gotta go.

some pictures and a talisman

embroidered collage

Two examples of embroidered photographs to show Veronica, who had not seen these kinds of works before. Unfortunately attribution is lost in the fog of time and distance and I am not sure of the artists here. I am sure it is some very skilled needle work.

ana bartoza

I do know this work is by Ana Barboza, my favourite artist of the genre. She uses knitting in her art also, as part of her manifesto is to ‘bring the value of manual craft back to life.’ Solidarity, sister.


It was good to see Veronica and Kerry again after such a long break. One thing I learned is that it is going to be continually uncomfortable being challenged on my work, however respectfully, when it also represents an experience that is deeply personal, literally painful, and difficult to translate. I’ve spent the last couple of days thinking through how to keep facing these kinds of conversations without hiding the bits I don’t want scrutinised (because they are often the most interesting, the most resonant), and without developing defensive prickles (because the challenges are necessary, I signed up for this thing, and no-one likes a sharp poke in the eye).

Part of it is being clear in myself what I need to justify and what I don’t. I don’t need to justify the pain itself, I don’t need to justify the methods I have used, or will use, to cope with that pain. If disparate bunches of scribbles got me through months of agonising pain, then god bless disparate bunches of scribbles.

But I do need to justify the way I present and give context to both pain and coping. If I choose to use those disparate bunches of scribbles as research data, or research artefact, and they look like a colossal waste of time outside of my own head, then I need to explain why they’re not. What they did for me. What they mean to me. How I see triumph when I look at that big fat pile of messy unintelligible nothing because what it represents is that I’m still here. 2017 was a marathon of grit and persistence and an unceasing barrage of physical torment that I will never be able to adequately explain, but god damn it and god bless it and fuck it all to hell, I am still very much here.

tiny garnet ring

I bought myself a tiny garnet ring to wear on my little finger to remind me of the separation of my work and my self. It’s a trick I learned from Julia, the psychological power of a well chosen talisman. The red is for fire, a destructive, life-giving force, representing the pain I have (and yes, continue to have) gone through and also the power of the patience and persistence I developed in order to keep standing up every time that pain knocked me down. It’s small and fragile because life is small and fragile, and we all have so little time available to us. Spending that time on self-pity is not a choice I want to make. It’s also a garnet because the name comes from the Latin ‘garanatus’, meaning ‘seed-like’; this is to remind me how very much I still have to learn, how very much more room there is to grow. A seed is but the possibility of a tree, and without soil and food and a lot of time, it can only remain so.

To be proud of my self, to remember that time is short, and to remain open to input, to growth. It’s a lot for one tiny ring to handle, but she can cope. She already does.

almost made it

mess and me collage

On the left we have my view for the last 12,812,810,947,857 days; computer screen showing painfully slow PhD writing, piles of notes and books and more notes, and the eternally unfolded washing and unused vacuum cleaner sitting forlornly in the background. I may never housework again. I may decide I am completely against  housework.

I meet with the supervisors tomorrow (hi Kerry! hi Veronica!) and I have had a big and clever plan for weeks to show up with the best article in the history of all articles in my hot little hands, all finished and clever and referenced and finished.

But it’s not finished. It’s hard work, this easy-reading writing. Weaving in all the threads so it looks natural and obvious and so simple that perhaps anyone could have thrown it together over the weekend, it just takes a really long time. I probably edit every sentence a dozen times, then delete half of it and start again. Etc. It’s … it’s like trying to choreograph a 3D jigsaw puzzle on one leg to music that you then also have to compose, while rubbing your stomach with your left hand in time to other music. It’s possible this is a slight exaggeration, but I don’t think so. I have been breaking my own rule of going to bed before midnight and not working on weekends trying to get it done, and last night at 2am, having written just one paragraph in three hours, I had to admit defeat and go to bed.

It’s a bloody brilliant piece of writing. I am so proud of it. I even get to use the word ‘palimpsest’, and name three kinds of demons! But, alas, it’s also not (yet, but really very nearly) finished.

This morning, instead of frantically trying to throw together those last few pages, I took my tired self to the hairdresser instead and told her I wanted a change. I feel changed. Maybe not changed, maybe just more sure-footed. The pain has been (and is) a shit, no doubt, but the confused and confusing mental fog I lost myself under was so much worse. I didn’t know if it would ever lift; I forgot it even could. Now that it has, I’ll be damned if I take my poor wee brain for granted again. I’ll be damned if I wreck it with not enough sleep, and I’ll be damned if I don’t appreciate all the things it can do. It’s unique and it’s mine and I’m so very glad to have it home again.

If that’s not worth new pink hair, I just don’t know what is.