When I was a kid, I used to marvel at the fact my Dad’s entire existence fitted into a wardrobe. Even then I was fairly sure my toys and numerous dungarees <shudder!> wouldn’t fit. With age it’s one of those things I’ve come to idolise as I constantly look to minimise. Visiting a friend’s house recently, it stressed me out looking at the state of their fridge door, packed full of post-it notes, post-cards and magnets. It was chaos! Let alone their spare room which was, and is, chock full with cardboard boxes and crap ‘they need’. It gave me night-terrors.
My parents never set out to teach simplicity, it just seemed to seep through. I just don’t like having ‘stuff’. Other aspects include championing the underdog and ceaseless compassion, a love of travel and fondness of America from living in DC and San Francisco. All of course guided by my mother’s endless patience and fortitude. My mother also had an ability to manhandle ceramic dishes glistening red-hot with her bare-hands, dispatch large spiders with the same iron-maws, and persist (and persists in persisting) in remembering every little detail of everything that ever happened in her or my father’s life at any point in time. Unfortunately, none of these qualities were passed on in the genes, as my disastrous spider-handling, hot-pot-juggling, memory-miracle circus would attest.
I was fortunate to have pretty good parents. This regardless of my Dad registering my birth date incorrectly at school, causing an argument - I was five years old, and stubborn as an ox, seemingly. And despite my Dad insisting I’d never learn anything from his DIY misadventures, I clearly did, endowing me with the ability to swear like a sailor in spite of my tender years, causing other kids to constantly threaten to grass. For the first six months I thought ‘amtellin’ was my gang-name. Frothing at the slightest inconvenience to my hectic play-school lifestyle, ‘Jesus Fuc*ing Christ!’ I would declare. ‘My birthday is not the fu&*ing twelfth, Mrs Jones!’
It makes me proud to remember my parents’ work with Amnesty International in providing free-holidays for refugees, and working with the Children’s Country Holiday Fund, a now defunct charity giving children a break from city living in London to instead escape to the countryside of Wales. We weren’t a wealthy family, but in comparison we had everything. It was a humbling experience. My parents changed lives by doing the simple things: offering what they could to help others. ‘Never underestimate the fragility of human beings’ I can hear my parents say, usually when I was raving about some complete arse-hat. Maybe someone else simply forgot my birth date too?
Watching This Week: this week I discovered (she’s been around for years!) Brené Brown’s TED Talk on Vulnerability and Tim Ferris’ podcast interview with her too. Stirring stuff!
Audiobook: The Experts Guide to Sleeping Well by Chris Idzikowski, basically telling me I’m doing everything wrong.
Take care of yourself,
I like my water like I like my emotions: bottled. Inspiration for this blog comes from the 15 Commitments of Conscious Leadership by Jim Demther. The title itself almost put me off: I mean, I’ve seen plenty of unconscious leadership – lifeless, cataleptic, brain-dead leaders? Yeah, ten a penny. ‘Conscious’ in this case means self-aware and the ability to tell themselves the truth. It can be quite confronting. The emphasis in the current chapter focuses on feelings, of all things. Feelings! Like all men, I gave those up years ago.
Or at least that’s the impression of men - abstaining from emotion - crossing our arms and wondering aloud if the ceiling needs a new coat of paint as the credits roll on The Notebook. No, no, just got something in my eye, love! Yes, they’re called tears. And yet the book emphasises something I’ve long thought - feelings are unarguable. You can claim the world is flat or Nazi’s are just misunderstood, but you'd be factually incorrect. You may even get a Twitter warning. However, you can feel many things. There is little point in someone telling you you're wrong, because they’re not you, and don’t feel what you feel...so fuck off, basically. The book doesn’t use those exact words. Maybe it’s in the next chapter, in big bold font. I might laminate it, and carry it around, to pre-empt.
Why is this important? Well, in many relationships we tend to hide feelings instead of voicing them, for fear of embarrassment, of confrontation, of being told we’re wrong, of alienating others. And not only intimate relationships, this could be work, social, almost any relationship. We’re not only lying to ourselves but lying to others too. Some people live their entire lives that way. Take the responsibility, have the tough talks, don’t be too hard on yourself or others. Feelings are unarguable.
What am I reading? Walden by Henry David Thoreau, an oldie but a goodie about life-simplifying
What am I listening to? The Experts Guide to Sleeping Well by Chris Idzikowski. Everything you need to know to get a good night’s sleep. Good advice for insomniacs. Makes me tired just thinking of it
What did I learn this week? Two things: umbrella comes from the noun umbel, the blooming flower shape in botany; NZ continues to be amazing, as per the national porn adverts to protect children. There must be a way to recycle leaders post their two-terms for other countries? Like exchanging Top-Trump Cards:
"Damn, you must have Lincoln, good one. Next!"
"Erm . . . shit . . . embodiment of an arse-hat, 55"
"Hang on, isn't it only out of 50?"
Take care of yourselves
Thinking philosophically, if the universe were using each situation or person you met as an ally to help you grow, what would you learn about yourself and life? Every interaction gives us a chance to improve, to see the world in a different light, to espy an alternate vision of ourselves. This is all according to the very positive Jim Demther, anyway. 2020 – the year we all grew a lot, mostly sideways, whilst watching our favourite racist films. In my opinion, this introspection could equally bring a review of others: it can’t all be about you, unless you’re a colossal egomaniac. Sometimes you just have to admit that you underestimated the sheer size of fuckwittery that some bastards possess, and be done with it.
I always enjoy it when the US is having such a bad run that it invokes an envoy from the Middle East to wind down the window for a chat. Iranian Foreign Minister Zarif condemned what he called “the tragic murder of black people and deadly racial discrimination in the United States” which must have been extremely enjoyable for him. Hand-clapped with sizeable guffaws from the corridors of power in Tehran, Zarif then managed to stutter betwixt colossal smirking and bladder-clutching, “the voices of the protesters must be heard!” before exploding in a pee-fountain. When Iran officials are giving you a kick in the shins on human freedoms, you stare nervously at previously sedentary custard pies in case they leap from the counter straight at your face. What next, Saudi Arabia coming forward with a novel approach to hand cleanliness during COVID?
Aside from locking yourself in a cupboard for the rest of 2020, what can we learn from this? Apart from our absolute refusal to learn, obviously. Whilst the white west contains most of the perceived power, money and access to education, we need a great deal of schooling on equal rights. As for me, there is a balance to be had with protests amidst a COVID epidemic. Personal discomfort vs ability to infect others vs an innate inequality that must be addressed. Perhaps not voting in arrogant, right-wing, religious, racist bigots into top-jobs could be a step in the right direction, but this has been simmering for a long time. As per last week’s blog, it’s the same poor bastards suffering the most in the pandemic that are also tormented through inequality. Am not sure removing Gone with the Wind or banning Little House on the Prairie for its depictions of life one hundred and fifty years ago rights any wrongs but merely, pardon the wording, whitewashes the past. Let’s hope no one still reads the wonderful Flashman. Don’t get me started on blackmail, blackballing (hmm. . .), black death, black sheep, black magic, black pudding or Black Sabbath. Hash browns, arghh!!!
In other news, my third-of-the-way life-crisis has bought a motorcycle into my life, with COVID restrictions enabling a trip out into the country. I forgot how crap freezing fog can be. Then again, honestly, who needs to feel their own toes and fingers? Overrated. Thankfully those forward-thinking Saudi’s have the solution.
Writing and writing...