Meanwhile, back at the ranch…

I have been in absentia for so long that I was scared to log back in. As though it might have imploded from the nothingness, or, possibly, the tumbleweeds that have been blowing around in here might have banded together, raised a sentient grass army, and staged a successful coup. However, apparently my fears were groundless, and the worst that’s confronted me is more concrete evidence of my current blogging lethargy.

Ah well, ‘failure’ is becoming less and less of a big deal in my mind, so…I’m over it.

Quick summary in no particular order: wine and cheese, local drama productions, lies, mis-trust, forgiveness, weekend brunch, job changes, Danny Bhoy, new baby (not ours)…umm…too hard to construct the last two weeks any more completely than that. If I don’t record it, it’s gone, other than vague recollections, punctuated by flashes of clear memories.

Screw it…

I’m so out of sync with this blogging thing. I was trying so hard to, at least, have a record of each day, whether it was a single word, or in greater detail, but I lost track somehow, and it became a torturous need to ‘post every day’.  I need to see the entire forest, and not just focus on the trees. Note to self: remember the bloody name of your blog.

So, quick wrap-up of the last week (14/02/09 – 22/02/09): Mum’s 60th birthday; went away to the coast to celebrate, where it POURED and POURED, when it wasn’t bucketing-down; stayed in a beautiful resort; uncle arrived unexpectedly to surprise Mum (travelling 6 hours on a motorbike in the torrential rain); work sucked; work sucked; work sucked; fight with HL; made some awesome dinners and a very creditable attempt at a dish I tried at a café (banana coconut loaf, served with ricotta and honey); work sucked, but good humour amongst colleagues; excellent Thai to belatedly celebrate V. Day; Australia much better than expected (marketed v. poorly, in my opinion); Mum & Dad over for Sunday dinner…and that about brings it up to date.

I sez to myself, I sez…’Get over your ridiculous, and impossible ‘need’ for perfection. There is much joy in messy beauty, do not let yourself (myself) be inveigled into depression if unattainable standards are not attained.’ And I wish this would be the last time I would have to remind myself of that, but I fear that it is to be something I will struggle with till the end.

Pefect/Not Perfect

HL and I are currently living in the house that was my grandmother’s, when she was alive, and which now belongs to my parents. When a house belongs to a hoarding, infirm 90 year old it ends up deteriorating into a more and more dilapidated state. We are sloooowly dragging some order back in, but I’m still acutely aware of broken things, ugly things, dirty things, inefficient things, at every turn.

I have a bit of a perfectionist streak (I have also mastered the understatement), with which I constantly battle, as it’s terribly inhibiting. When one is holding off on having friends over because the house isn’t right yet, or the garden’s a mess; or when one is scared to dollop paint onto a canvas in case it’s ‘ruined’; or when one won’t post because the words just aren’t ‘smooth’…well…there’s something wrong. Life is waiting at a ‘Give Way’ sign.

One of the first things we did when we moved in here was to start painting. EVERY wall was a faded and dirty bluey-grey that was worse than hospital colours. Colour is incredibly important to me, so to be surrounded by drabness, dreariness, dullness, was too much to live with for very long.

We started in the loungeroom and hall with yellow – rich, buttery, sunflower yellow that glows in candlelight and morning sun and lamplight. I spent hours washing and spackling and sanding and taping off and cutting in so the paint job would be as pristine as I could possibly make it.

After much time spent up a ladder painstakingly adding coat after coat of sunshine I had a bit of a dawning epiphany. No matter how many coats of lovely fresh clean, joyful paint I slapped on, what was underneath was still the same. The stains from my grandmother’s dog, the scuffs and scrapes and foul colour were all still there, they were just underneath. When people came to the house they might see the new colour and be fooled, but I would always know that they were only seeing the cover-up.

I wanted to leave a window to remind myself that perfection is not something that can be achieved, even though we, as humans, love it and are drawn to it. I taped off a rectangle of the original colour and painted up to it. Inside the rectangle I painted these two things:

“To all perfection I see a limit” Psalm 119:96a and
“As for God, his way is perfect” Psalm 18:30a

Superficial things can look bright and shiny, but that doesn’t mean that they are beautiful to the core. My house is ugly and graceless at its heart, even though it’s much more liveable and ‘pretty’ now. Similarly, it’s easy to paint over our own crap so we look like we’ve got it together, but the crap’s still there, lurking.

Gratefully, thankfully, God is deeply unsatisfied with superficial. My life was/is ugly and graceless, but those kind of renovations, the internal and eternal kind, are of the ‘complete gut, overhaul and rebuild from the foundations up’ variety.

Perfection is something that eludes me, even as I chase it. I won’t have it while I’m alive. But it is there, waiting, round the corner.

Perfect/Not perfect

Perfect/Not perfect

(Edited to add: This post has been percolating for a while, but the motivating impetus was a comment made by Rodney)

Where did the words go?

One of the reasons that I started a blog was to create a place to release the torrent of words that kept pouring out at odd times. I would find myself standing under the shower, or at the sink, or driving to the supermarket, and realise that I was creating whole essays on social theory, pop culture, Christian apologetics, faith thoughts…

Because they had nowhere to go they did just that – went nowhere. Once they were removed from my head, just by thinking and planning, they seemed to disappear.

I wanted somewhere to dump them, hence (*looks around*)…well…’here’. Now that I have ‘here’, though, the words seem to be gone. Instead of an easy flow from my brain to the page it feels like a chore, like a short-circuit, like a puddle in the sun.

Web 2.huh?

There was a course run at work recently which was designed to introduce people to the Web 2.0 concept. I was having lunch near where the session was taking place and it was a fascinating thing to watch 20 or so middle-aged plus (mostly) women struggle with internet networking, blogs, youtube, wikis and the like. I spoke to a friend who was at the course about how she thought it was going, and whether she was learning anything, and she said that she still didn’t really know what the session was about.

Web 2.0 in a nutshell, to me, means connection, communication, co-operation, and so we talked a bit about how the internet used to be seen primarily as merely a tool for recording and passing on information, but how it’s now seen as much more of a people-linking interactive ‘new way of doing things’. It was a real insight into how difficult and alien the grapple with technology can be for a generation who were adults before home computers were commonplace, ubiquitous.

I was a very small child when we first had a computer in our home in ’79 or so. It was one of the very first ‘regular’ computers in our town, probably one of the earliest in the country. Lots of families had Ataris and Commodore 64s but my dad was one of the first to jump on board with the new technology coming out of a small American company called Apple that would evolve into the multi-billion dollar Mac brand.

We had an Apple II+ if I recall correctly, and I recall, with delight, the utter joy given by hour after hour playing Mystery House, The Wizard and the Princess (the first 2 hi-res adventures), Turtle and later, the original Print Shop. It felt as though a door was opened, through which an ever-expanding and complexifying landscaping could be viewed, and, ultimately, romped in.

My dad was able to see the amazing potential of these machines as being far beyond the ‘super calculator’, and has instilled in me, from a time almost before I can remember, my connection with technology that feels normal and natural. I am utterly grateful to my dad and so, so proud of his enthusiastic ‘jumping aboard’, which pushed him far ahead of many of his contemporaries in the area of personal computing.

Part of the reason that I am grateful to my dad is that computers were so much a part of my growing-up that the internet just seemed like the next door, which then opened onto an even bigger, and more amazing and bewildering and exciting landscape. And then, in 1997, I met HL online.

Web 2.0, schmoo point oh… The computer was ALWAYS about connection and communication and co-operation for my dad.

Softened Heart

When I was in my teens I felt like my heart was hard, as though I wasn’t able to emotionally respond to things the way I thought I should, or the way I wanted to. It really bothered me, especially when I felt cold in response to things that I saw God doing in people around me, things that I knew were the hand of God on people’s lives.

“If my faith is an integral – the integral – part of my life,” I reasoned, “why do I have so little feeling towards it?” So I prayed. I told God that I felt distant and unresponsive, and that I wanted to break that, to soften my heart. I asked that any time I encountered something that was truly the work of God, something that revealed eternity, that I would be moved to tears.

This is a prayer that a part of me has regretted deeply over the years, not because God said no, but because he said ok. And so I cry sometimes. But, even though I’m very grateful to have a much more emotional reaction to important things I still tend to be someone who likes to keep it together in public.

I don’t like to disembowel my feelings to display them too openly, especially not when the exhibition engenders pity in others (as raw emotion often does), and since asking for this there have been countless times when the depth and beauty and faith of someone or some action has, indeed, brought physical tears to my eyes. And that happened today when I went to a blog that I visit regularly, and found this post.

So, my heart’s softened, and I’m grateful, and I wouldn’t change it…but I’m also a bit embarrassed sometimes. Which, I guess, is a good thing 🙂

Hoorah!

Well, I’m relieved… I’ve just spent the last hour and a half trying to figure out why I couldn’t see or access my blog, and as a last resort (I know, I know, should have been a first resort) completely shut down and started again, and, lo and behold, here ’tis 🙂 Dunno what happened, but I’m glad it’s fixed.

Confession

‘Stuff’ and ‘things’ haven’t been that simple or easy for a while – too much thinking/worrying about health things and family things and work things and finance things…you know how it is. So, today, at lunchtime, I’m sitting, reading, feeling a bit ‘weighted’. I come across a passage in my book that is rife with the mention of colours: green leaf; yellow sun; orange persimmon. My heart feels a physical ‘leap of joy’ (cheesy, huh? but true) and I realise that colour, even just thinking about it, even just reading about it (‘a riot of colour’) physically brings me – greater than pleasure – joy, bliss, delight, elation…

I’ve always loved colour, but never quite enunciated to myself that colour can change things, fix things, entrance and capture me. It feels like a big (though so simple) discovery and life feels more manageable again. But this isn’t the confession.

This is it. I was thinking about whether to mention this experience here and I started putting a theoretical post together in my head and it felt a bit empty. Empty because the physical ‘leap of joy’ had felt like a gift from God – an insight into how God sees me, sees the world, sees my future – and I had started editing that aspect out.

See, here’s the thing…I’m a Christian. I haven’t wanted to mention it till now. It’s something that labels me, stereotypes me. A lot of that stereotyping is due to how Christians act, foolish things we do in public, ridiculous things we say, rickety platforms we set ourselves on, arrogant and hurtful actions we take. Some of it is due to a pigeonholing by people who aren’t Christians.

I was reading through some of Mighty Girl‘s archives earlier this evening and I came across this quote that she’d overheard on a bus once : “Bring out the religious stuff and the crowd goes dead.”. And this is totally how I felt…feel I guess. It’s used as a pejorative – ‘Christian blogger’ (kinda like ‘Mommy blogger’ I s’pose). As though once that piece of information is known then there’s no point in reading any further. As though someone is defined by one fact about them.

But, while my faith in Jesus is the most defining thing about me – it colours every interaction, influences every thought – it isn’t the only thing. I live in the real world, not some ‘tele-evangelist’ or ‘martyr’ or ‘saint’ or ‘holier-than-thou’ self-created, self-deluded world. I like stuff that ‘normal people’ like (coffee, youtube, ‘alternate reality’ movies, mango lassis, lolcats, gin-and-tonics, Lost). And my faith is changing, growing, evolving, more grey than it’s ever been. It doesn’t look like it used to from the outside, and it doesn’t feel like it used to on the inside, but it’s not something that I can ignore when blogging.

A man by any other name

So, I was talking to the husband yesterday about his presence here. I asked him if he had any ideas about what he might like to be called so I can be respectful of his privacy, but still provide some insight into who he is.

Me: So, this blog-thingy that I started…?

Husband: Yeah…

M: What would you like to be called? I want a name or title that I can refer to you as, but not something that would identify you as such… Any ideas?

H: James Bond

M: No

H: B-Man

M: Nope

H: Golden Man Hunk?

M: No

H: Stud Monkey

M: Ah…no

H: Doc Holliday

M: No

H: Doctor Delicious?

M: No… What about just a name that you pick that might be a bit like your name?

H: meh…What about Giant Penis Man?

M: I’m not putting that on the blog.

H: Come up with your own then.

M: *sigh* Alright.

Fine, Handsome Lad it is then, HL for short.

I can call you Teh Internets…

and Teh Internets, when you call me, you can call me…well…Aili (pretty close, huh? Pronounce it A-li.)

(I never really got the whole ‘Betty’ and ‘Al’ and ‘bodyguard’ thing, but this gives some insight…I guess. Not sure how good teh internets are at being anybody’s bodyguard, and dunno if I’m anybody’s long-lost pal…let’s just see how it goes, huh? *grin*)

Stats and Facts
*Australian
*Married to an American
*Lived in the US for 7 years, from about age 23 to 30-ish (and will move back one day)
*Currently living back in Australia
*1975 is my birth year
*errrmm…we have 2 cats, no kids. That may change at some point in the future (the kid bit, not the cat bit…though, conceivably, cats could die I s’pose…they were very expensive to ship to Australia from the US though, so I hope we get our money’s worth)
*And, that’ll do. It’s always nice to have some concept in one’s head about the owner and updater of a blog, but I don’t need to overshare this early in the peace.

🙂

Dammed Mining

I’ve started thinking about, and trying to read situations throughout the day, in the light of the pursuit of blog quarry. I don’t think I’ve sharpened my pick-axe enough yet, though…

I’ve decided that I’ll be ok if I just blog about the process of learning to blog for a while. This dam of thought and words will be punctured and something will trickle through.

“Sometimes the purpose of a dam … is to keep water from invading a downstream area where activities such as mining are being conducted.” 
I think I’m treading water.

‘paste stuff in books’

Michael Stipe said in an interview with Andrew Denton that he…well…here’s the quote:
“Things like this (a conversation written on a café napkin) that I will look at 10 years from now and I will go, “Good God, we had fish and chips in Melbourne.” I paste stuff in books. I bought the paste, but it’s in my bag. I don’t really do it, I just talk about it.” 

I’ve always collected stuff: ticket stubs; birthday cards; an American dollar bill… I don’t paste anything anywhere, just stick it in a box really, but I like the ‘paste stuff in books’ image. If we don’t deliberately, consciously ‘paste’ – even metaphorically – then, not only is the ‘stuff’ lost, but so also the meaning attached to it. Junk becomes significant from the very act of saving.

This is me, intentionally ‘pasting’.

 

Growing a voice

I don’t know how much to say. I don’t know what to reveal about myself. I don’t know what tone to adopt. I don’t know whether to assume a persona. I don’t know whether to share in snippets or ‘blurt-style’. I don’t know whether to ‘twitter’ this blog or ‘op ed’ it. Off-the-cuff or carefully wrought prose? 

I’ve read so many blog posts over the last few years and, consequently, developed theories and opinions and tastes about ‘good’ blogs and posts that delight, but I’m thinking that I’m gonna put all that on the back-burner and see what unfolds naturally. You’re freeing up head-space, not struggling to craft a masterpiece… Stop over-thinking, dammit.

Right then…

I’m a blog reader, not a blogger, so this post’s a bit scary… 

I’m always terribly frustrated when trying to read a new-found blog from the very beginning (to get ‘the whole story’ as such) and finding very few cues to tell me where to start, so… YOOHOO, OVER HERE, this is The First Post. Not quite sure where we’re going from here on in, but it’s not going anywhere unless I start – DONE.