The softening

I thought if I called this post “The softening”, it would mostly serve to give me a giggle once in a while if I say it like Aziz Ansari says “the sickening” in his series “Master of None”. If you haven’t seen it, I highly recommend. He’s a funny funny man, with lots of insights in to the world of being a brown guy in a relatively white world.

“By being softer, you can hear more, learn more, feel more, and love more”
– Rachel Macy Stafford

The 3rd Spring reflection is pretty rich in content. So much meat that I’m not sure I can digest it all in a single post. She begins with this…
I’ve had enough of my hard edges.
I’m tired of straining my voice.

I’m sure I could have written this reflection. I am short-tempered, I am control freak, I am impatient, I am a nitpicker, I am an over-corrector. I choose “diplomacy” over honesty for fear of hurting feelings (which probably adds to my pent-up rage). I choose not to engage in debate… until I’m alone… imagining what I would have said… or possibly even when I’m retelling the story and adding in the witty remarks I had left in my head.

The basic crux of it all is that I have some hard ass edges. Ask my husband. He probably won’t answer. In fact, he probably won’t speak a single ill word of me because he is a heart of a genuinely kind and gracious person. He is much much more than I deserve. I will be honest here though. I have raised my voice to the point of strain. I have sat in Harry Potter’s room under the stairs and wailed. I have had days where I’ve been so overcome with emotion that I have snapped… in half… then in half again. Even in front of my child. So much for being bigger, kinder, stronger, wiser. There are days when how he’s done the dishes just isn’t good enough, or how he does the laundry. It’s just not how I would do it.

So this week, I’m vowing to listen, vowing to hand over the chores and tasks and ask “How would you do it?”. I will vow to be more accepting of quirks and mannerisms, tastes and styles. I vow to stop nitpicking until it bleeds. I will vow to be kinder to my family and to myself, greeting them and me with loving smiles, regardless of what happened yesterday.
Grudge-holding only hurts us all.

Speaking of grudges, I haven’t spoken to one of my siblings properly in almost 2 years. I keep telling myself it’s not a grudge and I don’t think it is, but sometimes I’m really not sure. If you read this and you know me, maybe it’s something you can ask me about. I’m sure I’d appreciate your insight.

 

Mood: pensive
Current sounds: some white noise in the street (sounds like someone has a lot of lawn). Also Hozier’s “Better Love”.

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One different element

If there is one thing you could change today on your journey towards becoming better, stronger, wiser, kinder… what would it be?

This morning’s read (courtesy of Rachel Macy Stafford) gave me a little to think about – changing just one element from day to day, week to week even, could even be longer.

What if the most attentive person started with just one question? One question that they asked someone, and vowed to listen to the response. I mean really listened.

I’m not a hugely structured person. I like it but I’m not the greatest at creating it. Neither is my husband. So when either one of us tries to create structure, the other usually kills it. It’s not a negative thing, it’s just our nature and personality.

However, I’ve been thinking a lot about the idea of structured screen time. I’m sure lots of parents structure their children’s screen time so they’re only getting so many minutes a day of Peppa Pig, but what about me? All those spare 10 or so minutes I have between doing bits and pieces, I spent scrolling through newsfeeds of people’s lives. And we all know that Facebook or Pinterest or Snapchat is just the surface story.

We have this rule about photo-sharing pictures of our daughter. If it’s something we’re experiencing together as a family, then it can be shared. However, if it’s something she’s doing on her own, then it can’t. It’s partly about seeing her as an individual with individual autonomy. She doesn’t have a lot now but one day she will, and she can choose. It’s just a personal preference. I was a rule we came up with fairly recently, so I was going through my photos and deleting a bunch. I came across this happy family photo with the three of us and my sister on a trip last year to Akaroa.
Everyone is smiling and happy. But that day was actually the worst. My anxiety was at an all time high and I was picking fights with everyone. I was such a ridiculously grumpy and shitty person and I remember even at the time, I couldn’t tell you why.

So what if I could actually paint the picture rather than upload it? What if I could share context and colours instead of just lines? And what if by doing this, I gave room for others to paint their own pictures? What if I just listened?

I’m a big fan of technology. I love innovation. I love seeing how far we’ve come and I love how people can create things with coding languages. Of course, I don’t understand a single thing when my husband talks about it but there’s lots of people like him and it’s wonderful. So we’re definitely not anti-screens. But I am pro-balance. And when I look at my QT app and see that I spent 8 hours worth of 10min blocks scrolling through FB, reading aggravating news articles or watching Netflix, I wonder how I could have spread that 8 hours a little better…

Perhaps a little more time jumping off step stools with my child.
Maybe an extra half hour at the gym.
Perhaps using the little time left in my breastfeeding journey to look into my child’s beautifully expressive eyes and marvel.
Maybe an hour flicking through cook books and writing up the next meal plan.
Perhaps a trip to the park with baby and furbaby.
Maybe a coffee date and a walk with a friend.
Perhaps even volunteering an hour or two with a local organisation.

Today I’m committing to using my time to be more present and attentive. I’m committing asking questions and really listening to the answer. I may need help with this.

I’ll let you know tomorrow or whenever I happen to be back here what the time count on my QT app is.

 

 

 

 

 

Don’t judge Chris Brown…

I wrote this last week when I was away in Palmerston North… just some things I was thinking about…

My friend (and now sister-in-law) and I, used to get together often and chat about life. It was an open forum where we could come and chat about things we were struggling with, things worth celebrating and a little something that we were learning from popular culture. We had plenty of teachers – Lady Gaga, Pink, Pussy Cat Dolls, etc. Sounds ridiculous I know, but even though they like to talk crap (or sing crap), popstars always have something on their mind that might be worth hearing. You might be surprised.
I love lots of different styles of music. Lots. My mum had a Bryan Adams tape for the car. After the John Farnham one crapped out, Bryan was the only voice we heard while in the car, except at Christmas time when the Boney M Christmas album was busted out. Is it any wonder we bought Bee Gees and Westlife for the parents when we could? A little more variation is preferable. They had lots of records too… mostly Beatles. Dad was a Genesis/Phil Collins fan and was in to UB40 and Bob Marley. As teenagers, my brother and I really got into Hip Hop/R&B (like most brown kids), and further along I started listening to more metal, punk, blues, etc.

Today was Chris Brown day.
He was made famous quite young for a series of pop hits he made when he was 16 or something. These days people know him better for things like beating Rihanna, cheating on Rihanna, Rihanna, etc.
Crazy.
I recently heard one of his songs. He might have written it or it may have been written for him. Either way I don’t know, but it seems appropriate. The song is called “don’t judge me”. He’s basically singing it to a girl pleading with her not to judge him for his previous actions. He doesn’t deny his previous wrongdoings but asks that she don’t hold them against him.
“Please don’t judge me.
I won’t judge you.
‘Cause it could get ugly before it gets beautiful,” he sings.
…Or it could just get ugly.

The guy has a point ay. I’m away in Palmerston North at the moment and I’m absolutely useless without my home comforts. I just kinda mull around and watch stupid TV. I happened to watch a little bit of Entertainment TV while I was waiting for Home n Away and they were doing an expose on bad fathers. Among the list of bad dads was Tiger Woods, made famous for his cheating scandal. There was a media lady talking about how he’ll never live it down and how life is going to suck for his kids because even though they were young when it all happened, the whole history of Tiger’s indiscretions is posted all over the internet now and that’s a permanent imprint on his kids future. I guess it’s true that with the internet, there’s no living anything down. Once it’s up, it’s up. I can’t imagine how awful that would be. Thank God I’m not famous. Don’t think I like the idea of Fishbowl-living. In saying that though, I also don’t have the greatest track record. I think I’ve said that before. I told Drew about all my previous mistakes pretty early in our relationship. He said they were part of what made me me and he was so proud of who I was that he chose to love all of me as I was. And the mistakes haven’t been all mine. I’m just as proud of my husband and who he is and the journey he’s taken to discover who he is, even if that hasn’t been all great.

I guess it just makes me think about the way we treat people. There’s often not a whole lot of room for second chances. We as spectators can be horribly brutal when it comes to an indiscretion made by one of our heroes. I wonder what the reaction would have been if Richie McCaw did what Tiger Woods did? I wonder how New Zealand would respond? I’m not sure. I mean, what both Tiger & Chris did were awful things, but will Tiger ever be a well-respected golfer again? Will Chris Brown still sell albums like he did before?

Just something I’m thinking about.

Take me as I am,
Not who I was…


It’s happening… Star Trek is winning me over…

Perhaps a lot of it is to do with being married to an engineer with an affinity for science-fiction. Either way, it’s happening. I was reading an article the other day that featured a short interview with Guy Pearce, who is the latest badass in Iron Man 3 (good movie btw). He talked about how he wasn’t a big fan of fantasy because that stuff is totally unreal, but science-fiction however, presents possibilities. It’s about the movements of technology and how vast and unexplored it is (as well as the entire universe).

I was thinking just before about how easy it is to love something and hide it. I read all these stories and blogs about closet Trekkies and it kinda makes me sad that people don’t own what they really like. That said, I’m sure I would have punished my siblings if any of them told me they were really into Star Trek. It was just one of those really geeky things that us cool kids would never go near. Now I’m thinking that perhaps it’s a little misunderstood (previously by myself also). I’m not going to profess that I’m a Trekkie, by no means. That’s a little extreme. But I am interested. There’s a lot more depth than I originally gave it credit. Every now and then it frustrates me how fickle humans can be assuming some sort of “superior race complex”, but it’s every bit like the journey of race, culture and ethnicity that we experience here on earth.

On an episode I watched most recently, the Starship Enterprise and a rival spaceship owned and operated by the Ferengi’s was immobilised by a planet that had previously lost all it’s Empire and so too civilisation. While there is tension between the two, they seek to work together to overcome the planet’s energy-sucking forces. So a bunch of Picard’s staff & and a few of the Ferengi’s beam down only to have the Ferengi’s turn on team SSE. They eventually awaken from some kind of stupor and meet the planet humanoid. He asks a riddle of Commander Riker who responds well and earns the respect of said humanoid. They become acquainted and humanoid lets the SSE go. But then he asks Riker if he should get rid of the Ferengi’s and Riker’s response is gracious. Basically he says no and that while they’re violent and deceptive, there’s much they could learn and there’s nothing they’d learn from being destroyed. When we think about human history, the things we’ve learned from having destroyed each other can be summarised down to “how to regret”.

I think that’s kind of the beauty of Star Trek. It has this base awareness of smallness vs magnitude. Not everything exists to be self-serving (the whole universe doesn’t revolve around the earth), but there’s kind of a beautiful interweaving between races, aliens, etc. (It does kinda annoy me though that sometimes when the SSE lands on some strange planet, they start referring to the beings there as aliens – you’ll find me shouting at Picard “But YOU’RE the alien!!” – nevertheless, a small piece of annoyance). And then on the SSE, you’ve got lots of people & other beings working together, everyone possessing a different strength or gift. It’s cool beans. You should try it sometime.

Love & aliens,

L

Testing, testing, 1 – 2 – 3…

My husband is an electronics engineer. At present he works as a Senior Test Analyst for a fairly prominent radio communications company here in New Zealand. He often says I should be a tester. In fact, when we started dating, he bought me my very own crystal radio kit. It consisted of parts of a crystal radio that I got to put together using a soldering iron. He certainly is romantic isn’t he?

I guess even then, he knew me better than he thought. When I was a kid, I used to love taking apart old radios. I think I was fascinated by how they worked. Obviously not fascinated enough to do the study required to actually fix radios, so I spent more time breaking them than I did fixing them. Nevertheless, dad (a bus driver), would bring home all these old radios and when they started crapping out, I’d bust out a screwdriver (sometimes it was a knife), and I’d start taking them apart. I managed to prolong the life of about 70% of the radios simply by fiddling around with them. Of course the length of prolonging varied. Then I’d try again and eventually, they’d die. My husband tells me that Test Analysts basically break things for a living. I think I’d enjoy that.

But here’s the thing… I’m not a big fan of science.
I think I’ve learned more being married to my husband than I had when I was in high school. That said, as soon as I didn’t have to take science at school, I dropped it. It was far too technical and detailed. I thought I could become a doctor but realised that the only thing I liked about what doctors do, is helping people. So I dived into other subjects, like social studies, art, statistics, classics, etc. I love people. I love watching behaviour and hearing their stories. Social work is all about discovering certain aspects of a persons nature and behaviour. If you ask the right questions, you get the right hints. And sometimes, if you listen carefully enough, you find the right triggers.

A few years ago, when I started work as a youth worker, I took a personality test called Strengthsfinder. Three out of five of the signature themes that came back were “Connectedness”, “Relator”, and “Restorative”. Connectedness sees the “cause and effect”. It’s about joining the dots and tying together past and present. Relator likes to dig deep with people, asking questions that plunge into the heart of something bigger than a current situation. And Restorative is about fixing things… finding the missing piece and restoring them. Might not be the same as before but it’ll be differently beautiful in a sense.

So while my husband loves figuring out different ways to break a 2-way radio, I like figuring out what’s broken a person. I love the assessment phase of a social working relationship. Someone could come to me needing budgeting advice, but maybe it’s bigger than that. They have no job so with the limited income they receive, they need help rationing.
But why do they have no job? Maybe a conviction hinders them from using their skills.
Where did the conviction come from? Perhaps a drug conviction from way back.
Why did they do drugs? Broken family life.
Do they need a job? Yes.
Why do they need a job? Is it just about getting more money to contribute to society? Ex-partner has banned them from seeing their son and they want to prove they can do it.
(nb. this if a fictional situation, but could be a very real one…)

Criminals are so much more than criminals. Bad parents are so much more than bad parents. And perhaps that’s the reason I’ve never blamed my parents for their bad mistakes (and trust me, there were some pretty bad ones). Bad parenting often comes from bad parenting (note: connectedness). Bullying often comes from bullying. Vicious cycles are hard to stop. Anger & blame, alcohol & gambling were significant problems in my family growing up. So, I’m a careful drinker these days, and I have never touched a poker machine, nor have I set foot into a casino. I also haven’t bought a scratchie card since I was 17. The angry rage part is a bit harder to overcome, but it’s a journey I’m on. Sometimes I get angry and it makes no sense. Or it’s about the smallest thing and I just fly off the handle. And when I’m caught in my bad mood, everyone should stay away. My husband is a good and patient man. He handles me with such grace. It’s not all perfect. Sometimes we make choices that stop us from making negative choices that destroy our lives (and the lives of people around us), other things need more work than simply deciding. It took me a long time to give up destructive drinking.

Anyway, like I said in an earlier post… I’m not sure what to do with psychopathic behaviour. Perhaps I need to take some lessons in psychology.

Talk soon,

L

Happy World Homeless Day

For those who don’t know me well (and actually read this still), I’m a student. I resigned from my job as a youth work out of a need to become more focused on change from a meso/macro level. While working with young people is something I’m really passionate about, one of my biggest struggles is how hard it is to get the young person’s environment to change. So I went  back to school to undertake my Master of Applied Social Work. I’m currently on placement and I’m discovering a few things about the world.

It turns out the whole world is not Christian. I know I’ve always known this having grown up not in the church, but having studied Ministry and worked in the church for a few years now, I’m discovering that normal looks quite different to what I’ve been seeing the last few years. In fact, it looks more like life growing up was more normal. 

I’m also discovering that there are a lot more issues out there than I thought. There’s a woman who got beat by her husband and got her kids taken off her for not getting out of the relationship when she should have. There’s the man who moved down from Auckland months ago because trying to find a job in Auckland is crap. He’s trying to start a new life for him and his kids… while living in his car. There’s the woman being booted out of her home after several years. She has no family, barely speaks English, and barely has any friends. Then there’s the man who’s wife left him and took his kids and refuses to let him see them, the woman who lost her husband, the man discriminated against in the job market because he has tattoos and looks scary. There’s the man who in the winter can’t heat his house properly when all the heat is escaping through cracks in the house. He’s waiting on those three dreaded letters… EQC. There are people trying to change their circumstances, but the cruel world doesn’t often let them. 

I’m discovering more and more than I’m a true blue crier. I cry a lot. I hold it in when people are telling me their stories but when I get home for my lunch break, I let it all out. I cry over injustice, unfairness, and the pain of people’s personal experiences. And always, I’m wondering what I can do to help. Last week felt a little like homeless week. People were coming to me asking me if I knew of places they could live. My heart just wanted to take them home to my house, where I selfishly have four rooms to myself. 

It just sucks man.