This shot always makes me happy.
This shot always makes me happy.
I’ve always had eclectic reading patterns, and that has become more pronounced with age. I came off a bender of Kristen Cashore, pondered my way through grim and ambiguous Joe Abercrombie, and then got stuck on a series by an author who will remain nameless until I hit the interesting bits. I will say that the story is set on Mars. Usually reading catnip for me.
My favorite binge reading falls into the dystopian category and includes Margaret Atwood’s “The Handmaid’s Tale,” and especially Sheri S. Tepper’s “The Gate to Women’s Country.” I was introduced to both during my college years and still reread them every few years. I have read most of the books written by them, actually.
More recently, as I’m stuck in Martian tedium (I love a good space battle), I’ve been doing much of my reading on the internet. I have a few favorites that I visit on a daily basis. The guilty pleasure of one celebrity gossip blog. I know. Hanging my head in shame. I also spend quality time on the metalsmithing groups I belong to on Facebook, where I mostly lurk. I learn a great deal, and am not currently productive, so…I’m quiet. I belong to another group that is a bit more private and obscure, but always has fascinating topics in play. Lots of science, lots of how the mind works, lots of serious questions about society and humanity but handled in a very congenial fashion. It’s often academic, and it’s often personal, and the mix is very interesting. Of any group, I communicate most freely with my artist peeps. Sometimes it’s actually about art, and sometimes it’s more about life. All good. In reality, my most interesting and intense conversations are one on one. I’m not so much the group kind of person.
There’s BBC and sometimes CNN. Refinery 29 for my fashion moments. Most of which are geared to a woman a decade or two younger than me, but I still enjoy seeing the current trends. The New York Times, The Atlantic, The Washington Post — all appear now and then. I read an article — on which one I can’t remember — about mommy issues recently. I don’t have children, but I find the mommy struggles interesting as they reinforce my belief that I’m not mommy material. I hold parents in awe.
But my gateway site. The one that leads me to the most interesting and compelling blogs and articles and thought provoking notions, is easily “The Hairpin.” I’m addicted. And for the past two or three days I’ve been having whiplash reading that has led me to the blog “Tits and Sass” about sex workers — and not the downtrodden sterotypical sex worker, but the empowered professional sex worker — on one side and “Feminist Morman Housewives” on the other. And not the downtrodden sterotypical conservative housewives, but the proud and empowered ones. The juxtaposition is fascinating. I can’t help but wonder what would happen should these two groups of women actually meet and talk.
It’s all enough to make a person really rethink “the obvious.” None of us, really, is ever so easy to pigeonhole. We are creatures of nuance. Lately I’m thinking about how I fit into these groups that I belong to. I’m an artist of sorts, if one that is in a dormant state. But I’m thinking, too, about if I’m a feminist. And I’m not sure at this point in history what the definition of a feminist even is.
I’ve mentioned in my “About” non-blurb that I read for a few other writers. When I was 23 I thought I would BE a writer. That I had a novel in me that needed to come out, but I didn’t yet know what it was. I thought that perhaps it would be a fictionalized account of some pivotal events that happened during my college years, but I did my time in counseling for that and have moved on in life. I stopped thinking that I would be a writer. Instead I thought I have nothing to say. That I don’t have a clear point of view, a clear story to tell. And to write well — you need those things! And yet, I was considering what it is that I do in my life now — I am an artist. I wanted to be one when I was a teen. I have always been fascinated by science and behavior. I read about Pavlov when I was 12 and started reading more about animal behavior. And then I discovered Jane Goodall and wanted to be her when I grew up. That fascination with animal behavior morphed into a fascination with human behavior and in high school I was reading about Freud (Boo!) and Yung (Meh…), and Rogers (Yay!). I thought maybe I’d be a journalist — one who covered conflict and human misery in foreign lands. I’m so glad that part didn’t pan out, as I would probably have had a nervous breakdown. And in the end I decided, after I left college (psychology and sociology — my strengths), that all I really wanted to be was normal. And I was. Just quietly normal working with homeless people for ten years.
I started reading for others. And I started messing with metal. And I started talking to other artists and intellectuals about the issues of the day. About how their lives worked and their struggles and triumphs manifested.
I think my chaotic reading is building to something. Some piece of writing that I may someday be brave enough to tackle. Where maybe sex workers and Mormon housewives have something to talk about? Where the intellectuals and the artists realize they are two sides of the same coin? Where we are all more nuanced and real with one another. Where life is ambiguous and poignant and complicated, but ultimately rather beautiful in its imperfection.
I don’t know what the story is yet. In reading for others, I see the enormous energy that is put into building a believable world, and believable people and then torturing them in order for a story to have power. It scares me. I’m not sure I have the fortitude.
At the end of the day, I await my favorite email from my favorite feel good blogs about a lifestyle I will never fathom. “The Royal Order of Sartorial Splendor,” with the sister site “From Her Majesty’s Jewel Vault.”
Because of course. Tiaras. The high point of my day. What can make a jewelry magpie like me happier, except an Etruscan artifact of high karat gold woven chain and granulation? In another life I would be a treasure hunter.
I ran across this photographer’s site today and found his work so beautiful and moving. His use of light is gorgeous, and the combination of formal posing and capturing spontaneous moments is, to me, very powerful.
The other day I was laying in the grass in my backyard gazing at the sky. I rolled over and found two dried and curled up leaves. They came in the house with me, and I promptly forgot about them.
Today I was seeking ways to procrastinate when I saw the leaves on my workbench. Perfect. At first I just took some shots of them on my wooden stool, but I wasn’t capturing anything interesting. Then I glanced up and saw the copper bits and pieces strewn across my bench top and remembered the sheet of copper from which they came. Again, perfect.
I wasted about twenty minutes playing with my camera and then actually got myself together and did some chores before I came back to them tonight.
I can’t decide which I like better, color or black and white. Remember that I’m no real photographer, but these shots please me. The reflection makes me happy — they look like they are floating. I thought about buffing up the copper before shooting, but no. The leaves are perfect in their battered state, and so is the copper — streaks and all.
But before I delve into that, I must apologize for my last WOE posting. It scares me — the prospect of losing my vision — and sends me into a complete depression. How can I make fiddly metal things if I cannot see? What, then, am I for? Things are looking up. Solutions are forming. I’m feeling a bit of purpose again.
But back to thoughts for the young. I belong to a group which shall remain nameless, but we talk about a lot of interesting things there. Today’s discussion that I opted to participate in involved intelligence being linked with certain intensities in personality. I’ve been thinking about it for several days to see if that fit with my own experience, and decided that it does, in fact, fit rather well. There are different categories of this intensity/sensitivity, but the one that I seem to swim about most in is that of the emotional. I’m very attuned to the emotions of other people, and as a result, I’ve learned over the years ways of buffering myself against the onslaught of feeling their emotions on top of mine all of the time, and yet still remaining present for people who are in need. In reality, this is what I think I’m “for” in life, more than the notion of being an artist of any importance. But I care about people, and people tend to tell me things. Things they tend not to tell other people.
So the conversation continued and THE BOSS MAN of the group asked me the startling question: Have I ever considered writing a how to book for young people?
Um…no. My own young person experience was fraught with drama and trauma and uncertainty, and I don’t have children of my own at this point, so I’m not an expert by any means. And then I thought about it a bit more and this is what I said, in part (with minor edits):
“N—–, that sort of made me blink in surprise. No, I’d not thought of that, and my initial response was, “Write what NOT to do.” In considering it, though…everyone’s life is a bit like an iceberg. It’s very hard to address all issues in some one-size-fits-all sort of way. The REAL issues that inform how a person copes are all beneath the water and are formed by individual circumstances that young people aren’t even aware exist. I can only think of basic things:
Be kind to others, especially when you aren’t feeling kind.
Don’t take your clothes off with another person before you are at least sixteen (hopefully older), and then wrap up the relevant bits before touching.
Your heart will be broken, but you’ll be okay and will grow from the experience.
You are going to make mistakes, and that’s allowed. The important part is to learn something from them.
YOU decide who you are, no one else has the right to define that for you.
You are allowed to choose your family. Don’t be enslaved by blood if the people you share it with cause you pain.
Your feelings are valid, no matter what they are, but you are responsible for how you act on them. ”
I will add a previous part of the conversation in which I also said that I learned to speak my needs through some of the relationships I’d had rather than expecting someone else to merely read my mind.
So young people: Speak your needs. Not with malice. Not with ultimatums. Not in anger. Speak them calmly and clearly and let others decide if they can meet them. If they cannot, then you can decide if you want to stay or go, and if you go, you can do so with the knowledge that it’s not a crime against you that they cannot meet your needs. It is only a difference in who they are versus what you need. Move forward and be happy.
And be honest. Be honestly yourself, be honest about your feelings. Be honest about what you can give. Do not be hurtful, but do be honest.
Not earth shattering advice, but there it is.
It’s in limbo. Pretty simple, really. With my continued vision problems, I still can’t reliably see to GET BACK TO WORK. I think I’m starting to lose my mind a little.
On the positive side, we bought a bit of land for an exorbitant sum of money a couple of months ago, and our architect is drawing up the plans for the house we intend to build on it. Thinking about that keeps me a bit more grounded.
My husband asked me today if I was frustrated. Yes. Angry? Yes. It’s to no avail dwelling in those emotions, but they are difficult to battle. I hope for some positive news at the doctor’s office tomorrow. Two years of this…I need some progress. I know well enough not to expect it.
I’m guilty of The Selfie. It was accidental at first. I got a new laptop with a camera in it and I like to fiddle with the possibilities of technology in a scattershot fashion, so I thought: Why not? I can control the image in the way I can’t control a photograph someone else takes of me.
First foray involving a piece of jewelry I’d made for a friend. The jewelry was the point of it really.
Add in a little spice of “What I do.” (My favorite avatar photo.)
Maybe get a little provocative and turn myself into someone no one would recognize in my actual life. No makeup, wet hair. No one sees me like this in real life.
Try on the school marm persona. (Which completely cracks me up.)
Glow a little.
Be distraught. I truly was, three friends had passed away in the course of ten days and I didn’t know what to do with myself.
Rock your natural pallor.
Be pissed off. Again, no makeup and in a bathrobe.
And most terrifying of all as a 42 year old woman, attempt the teenaged version and end up acutely embarrassed by my dirty bathroom mirror, bad lighting, flannel shirt, and a silly pose. ARGH!
So what is my point? I think it’s a valid form of self expression. So many young woman use it as a means of being sexy or silly, but I don’t always see them using the practice to explore their own psyche — what makes them interesting across the spectrum of emotion and the way they relate to the world. The selfie has a bad rap for being the practice of narcissism, and it is. (Duck pout…groan.) I can admit that. It’s the study of oneself. Of putting yourself in the most flattering light. But it also reveals us if we let it. The different facets of how we perceive ourselves and how that may or may not gel with how the rest of the world perceives us. It’s food for thought. I don’t think mine through beforehand. I sit and take photos on a whim. Most end up deleted. Many make me laugh. Many make me lament that I’m GETTING OLDER! WHERE DID THOSE JOWLS COME FROM??? But it’s also an interesting way to take my own emotional temperature.
I went to my husband’s office Christmas party several years ago, and while it was quite fun, I turn into a dour and uncooperative photo subject. My husband’s boss at the time told me that I needed to cooperate with photos, because someday I will die, and people will want to remember what I was like. (Let’s do a shot! Tequila!) And he has a point. But I don’t take these for other people — I take them for me. Still…it’s not a bad idea for the rest of the world to see you as you see yourself. Narcissistic or not.
And sometimes I just don’t really want to be me.