Month: March 2016

London innit?

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London

Like an ex you suddenly find yourself still attracted to

Such a bad idea to get involved. We made a clean break but

old habits die hard.

London

The frenetic pace of the megalopolis

Seductive adrenaline rush of desire

gives way to the sweaty comedown of failure

Again.

London

Your beautiful grotty streets

Millions of tiny dwellings chock full of humanity

in all its vibrant, glorious horror.

London

The verve of creativity bursting at the seams… I could… I should…

tap into it, I could be amazing

But you don’t want me

The pain of utter imperviousness cuts deeper, somehow, than it should… I could…

Have been a contender? Maybe never.

London

You try to hit the ground running

Keep up with the crowds, meet up with like-minded souls. A mad rush

The things you lose by the wayside

can never be recovered

Until next time, my indifferent lover,

London.

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The Spring Thing

Springtime in Zurich

I wanted to write a more cheerful post, as promised. This is not so easy for me – as anyone who has read more than two entries on here will know, I tend to go for cynicism over sentiment, self-deprecation over life affirmation. But hey, it’s springtime! Let’s bring the happy.

So I’m going to talk about parenting again. Funny story, actually. Last week I spent Mon-Weds working quite a bit, and doing my German. Then I took “time off” Thurs-Friday and spent it with my kids without working (ahem-much-except when they were asleep-ahem). And it was SO NICE. It made me realise two things. 1. I tend to think of myself as a Stay At Home Mum but I guess I’m really not. (I actually read a nice blog on this very thing – the Stay At Home Mum (or parent) Who Works) and 2. It’s soo fucking hard to get the balance right.

I make point #2 because it seems like the obvious answer to More Happy should be – well, just work less and spend more time with the kids. But I know that wouldn’t work either. I’d get bored, frustrated, and feel like I was losing myself, losing my edge in the workplace. Or do I protest too much? Hmm maybe I should try it. Unlikely. And, to be honest, I don’t think many Stay at Home Parents (SAHPs – waitasec – Saps? Really?! yikes) are “just” that anyway. Whether you’re doing the muffin tin meals I talked about last week, or not, or whatever else, there’s loads of stuff to get through when you’re fulltime on “home duties”: from grocery shopping, bill paying and, yes, fun crafternoons as well (which, I’ve since been informed that dads do do with their kids, although that wasn’t quite how I meant it… but I digress). I guess what I did last week for a couple of rare, early-Spring days was push all the other stuff aside and just hang out with my kids and my mum friends (I’m afraid I don’t know any local SAHDs – ooh, another unfortunate acronym!) and it was lovely and it made me happy.

As kids will do, both of mine seem to have moved into a new stage lately. The baby started walking a week or so ago, he sleeps better at night and is generally a pretty happy chap. It’s lovely although not unexpected – poor old second child is not breaking any new ground! I find I’m far more content to sit back and enjoy each stage with him, as opposed to chivvying for the next development. The downside is, we’re full-on into that Clash of Schedules time, which I also remember from my first kid. This seems to happen in the months around their first birthday… you’ve got yourself into a nice little groove with doing stuff with the baby, seeing your mates, maybe a bit of daycare in place… then suddenly: everyone’s schedules change! The kids are no longer napping. Well, not at the same times. Some are still doing 2 per day. Some have a longy in the morning, others have to be home by 11.45am for lunch and arvo nap or the whole day is shot. Some kids are walking and need to run around outside a lot now. Others are just observing life so their parents are still keen on the cafe. Some parents are starting to get back to work, so there’s a juggle around that too. It’s an awkward time. In a weird way, almost lonelier than the early days of motherhood when at least you’re in a sleepless babylove daze most of the time. Now things start to feel a bit more serious, a bit more this-is-how-it’s-gonna-be.  A new normal.

At the other end of my parenting spectrum, my big boy is nearly five. He’s been at Kindergarten / school for six months now and he’s just started some swimming lessons too. I don’t really see him in action at school but I took him to his second swim class last week and Oh, my heart. In half a year, he’s gone from being a toddler who wanted to carry his bunny everywhere to a proper schoolboy. There he was, bobbing about in the water, with a bunch of other kids his size, following the instructor, doing the stuff, occasionally getting distracted. So normal. Until I became a parent, I never wanted to be normal. But from my pregnancy onwards, I have started to appreciate the comfort of normality. “Everything’s normal” is mostly what you want to hear when it comes to child development from the womb onwards. OK maybe eventually you want to be told they’re super-special-whizzbang-genius at something… maybe… I dunno. But for now, normal is good. I never thought I’d say that.

Cars and a book about WWI

Cars and a book about WWI

Another interesting factor of my kids growing up, particularly the older one, is he’s starting to reach an stage when I can clearly remember myself at that age. I have some memories of Kindergarten (which you attend for a few hours per week from 3- and 4-years-old in Australia) but I recall a lot more of early primary school (from ~5yo). I’m remembering the toys and stationery I had, going to friends’ houses to play, the games we had at playlunch, lunch and afternoon recess… I hate to say it, but it’s given me another pang about not having a girl. All the stuff with dolls and hairstyles and glitter pens and dressing up and whatever else. I loved that shit. And it’s not that boys can’t or won’t do that but at the moment mine seem pretty content to play with cars, trains, weapons (we try to discourage this but what can you do, it’s the reality) and read books on animals and World War 1 (again – eesh. I don’t mind him knowing real history but I guess I wish he’d turned his attention to this a bit later). And it’s not to say that a daughter would necessarily be into “girl” stuff either. But still… a small sigh.

Anyway, my kids are generally awesome. And they really made me feel good last week. I even managed to channel some of the fight-play into a heavy metal battle dance off to Soundgarden with my eldest so I shall not complain. Plus, it’s springtime after what suddenly feels like it was a looong winter. The blossoms are coming out in Zurich and there’s lots to look forward to.

So that’s my cheerful post. Happy Easter.

 

 

The pointy end of parenting

Muffin-tin meal Claire-style

Muffin-tin meal Claire-style

I know anxiety is scratching at my door when the Perfect Mom Blogs start affecting me. I don’t need to see this shit about muffin-tin meals and crafternoons that people put up in some wack Pinstagrammed version of real life. No one is doing that stuff all the time (unless they’re paid to, surely!?). Ignore, ignore, ignore. And yet, some of the ideas are great, so I keep on clicking through…

But sometimes I reach a sort of critical mass when it all gets too much and I start feeling inadequate and grumpy. Because I don’t WANT to do all that stuff, most of it is just silly bits from the pointy end of parenting, or should I say motherhood (are any dads doing this stuff?). The 2% – where it’s like, the kids are fine, smart, happy, well fed and, by dint of their lucky, lucky birth, in the top 5% of the world’s wealthiest people anyway. And we’re also white. And (in my kids’ case) male. So, basically: life’s birth lottery won, and rest-of-life odds stacked massively in our favour.

And then there’s this final 2% of parenting where you’re not meant to say “good job” you’re meant to say “I’m impressed by how hard you tried” or some bullshit, just to tweak out any final flaws and ensure these perfect human specimens who are happy and obedient, but not too obedient (because they need to be able to say “no” to drugs and bad sex when they’re 15 – or something). And so they’ll always know that we love them unconditionally but what about when we sort of hate them because it really REALLY is time to turn off the TV and come to dinner now, and I just stubbed my toe on your toy while trying to get you to come to the table, you ungrateful little twerp. And they say “No” again and you just feel so much rage because you’re tired and they’re always undermining you and, and, and… And then they finally do the thing you want and then the love comes flooding back. I mean, that’s not unconditional love is it? Maybe it still is.

And you know what? The kids are fine. But they’re going to end up with a bundle of neuroses and insecurities, and feeling like they’re unlovable and getting too drunk and having bad sex and getting underage tattoos no matter what probably because: teenagers. And they are people and that’s what people do. And so they should. Or else there would be no art, no music, no writing, no politics, no cars, no iPhones, no science, no moany blog posts, no geography, no online reviews of mountaintop jacuzzis, no poetry, no love. No progress, no devolution, no society, no me, no you.

I am actually secretly worried that we’re yet to see the first generation of “gently parented” kids attain adulthood. I mean, what if by never raising our voices, we’re raising a generation of empathetic monsters who are so mutually understanding of each others’ boundaries and stuff that all that art, culture, politics and taxi drivers just disappears into one big puddle of polite political correctness (gone mad)? Nah. You know it won’t happen because, as I said. We’re people. They’re people. They will grow up no matter what we do. Even if they end up crying to a counsellor one day about the interminable crafternoons of their childhood… The kids are alright. And I guess I am too.

This post is dedicated to all my mum friends who don’t think they’re doing enough. You are. X

In Deep

Museum Neuchâtel. Exposition "ABYSSES". http://www.museum-neuchatel.ch/index.php/presse

Museum Neuchâtel. Exposition “ABYSSES”. http://www.museum-neuchatel.ch/index.php/presse

I just finished reading A Little Life by Hanya Yanagihara and I feel compelled to write about it for several reasons. One is that I’m reading novels all the time and it’s one of my single greatest pleasures in life, yet I rarely mention it here. Two is that the book rather moved me. And three is that I saw this exhibition that resonated with the book. I’m sure there’s other reasons but let’s get moving.

A Little Life is a devastating, epic chronicle of one man’s life and that of his friends (Plotspoiler warning). The main character is an orphan who suffers horrific abuse at the hands of various tormentors throughout his childhood, then spends the rest of his life wrestling with the demons — both mental and physical — that the abuse leaves behind. This is juxtaposed with the fact that, in his adulthood, he forms some of the most beautiful relationships with friends, parental figures, mentors, caregivers and romantically.

I think I’d be almost wholehartedly endorsing this book as one of the best I’d read recently, except for the fact that a person whose opinion I respect in these matters was not a big fan, calling it “teen angst for grown ups” and “pain porn”. And, you know what? He’s kind of right.

The main character in A Little Life is addicted to cutting himself and is a mass of injuries and scars — internal and external — due to his self-abuse and that inflicted upon him by others. It’s a visceral depiction of the way, as human beings, we’re all to some extent concealed and revealed by our scars and neuroses. And about how we’re all works-in-progress throughout our little, petty lives. I thought of my own addictions (however minor), my rituals, my patterns of thought and behaviour — some well worn, other forged anew. These behaviours trap us and yet anchor us to our lives, to the people that we are.

Coincidentally, I went to a fascinating exhibition called Abysses at the Natural History Museum in Neuchâtel. The exhibition showed rare photos and taxidermy models of the creatures of the Deep Sea: angler fish, dumbo octopus, lantern sharks, etc. Due to my inadvertent consumption of Octonauts cartoons, I actually knew of the existence of many of these beings (as did my delighted nearly-5yo son, who could identify most of them without referring to the guidebook). But it was incredible to see real photos and, particularly, the physical forms in taxidermy (is it called that when it’s fish?).

I was struck by how the creatures of the deep sea look unfinished. Scarred. Darkness is their final layer of skin. They are a mass of unpigmented flesh and they are not pretty. After all, what need have they of looks? Down there where it’s dark, it’s cold, it’s quiet and it’s hungry… (a quote from the exhibition). Seeing this while reading A Little Life, it seemed poignant as a reference to the way in which everyone hovers on the edge of their own madness, the edge of their own personal abyss; flirting with the danger, sometimes diving further down, other times swimming out into the light…

The book depicted friendship — the love, trust and deep knowledge you get with people you’ve known a long time — heartbreakingly well, while also showing the way we cover ourselves and lie to each other and self-deceive and self-harm and try and try as we might, how we never truly know one another. Unanswerable questions were asked about where the line lies in helping someone who does not want to be helped (or do they?): at what point do you become an enabler? A source of further harm?

I guess, in the end, we’re all just snatching at fragments of luminescence and scraps of food that float down from above. Most of it apparently already digested and shat out several times by those who dwell further up in the light. Of course the creatures of the Deep Sea are also beautiful in an otherworldly way – some are inky-clear to avoid being seen in the dark, others exist in shades of darkroom red, and there’s the flashes of bright to lure prey and/or repel predators as they float in the dark. In this respect, our strangeness is often our beauty. Our ugly parts what make us stong.

The final thing I will say about the book was the conspicuous absence of any mother character. In fact every female in the novel was peripheral. The book discussed parenting and indeed nurturing from a father’s perspective but this lack of The Mother was a bit perplexing. Maybe I’m taking it too personally. And maybe this absence was yet another abuse heaped upon the main character to show a person who truly had been fucked around by fate. It didn’t pass the Bechdel test (if that can be applied to novels) but, to me, the depictions of love and friendship rang true as universal. However, I still have to pull up and question that use of men as the ‘control’ – the neutral ground on which to lay all those other Big Topics.

Of course, in the dark of the Deep Sea, there’s not much nurturing either. Not for those alien-creatures the happy parenting of the whales or the dugongs, oh no. Starve, freeze and sink or swim.

Next week – something fun, I promise.  😛