August 26, 2013 at 10:48 pm (community, complex pleasures, musings)

apparently the dalai lama was in sydney recently, and he talked about anger. he says that in modern life we get very angry very quickly, citing things like road rage. probably true, though i don’t know how i’d evaluate whether it’s a new thing.

he also said that holding your anger for too long does two things: makes you sick, and makes others not trust you.

i’m not a huge fan of the dalai lama, and this is one of the things that makes me uncomfortable about him (though i also can’t confirm what i picked up third hand was an accurate assessment of his point). as an activist, i use anger. it is very important to me as a valid response to many things, a rallying point, a motivation. its expression is a tool, a demonstration of the severity of my point and catharsis.

anger is better than despair, and sometimes you get to choose between the two.

that’s not to say he’s never worth listening to. that anger makes us sick is something we’ve been struggling with forever, that we still need to figure out more about. that anger alienates others is an interesting thought – i know it pulls some of us together, but maybe its capacity to put people off is one factor in why it’s hard to get our message out to others. what to do about it? have multiple faces of an issue, i guess. allow our anger while being careful to manage its effects on ourselves and on others. make sure we’re using the anger and not letting it use us. understand more about what it is, what it does to us and how it is seen by others. know when to hold it and when to let it go.



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spring of the student associations

September 10, 2009 at 12:09 pm (community, complex pleasures, musings, simple pleasures, ultimo sa)

the mulberries are growing and the student associations are blooming. life is good.

i dropped in at macquarie uni the other day. there are people running around in red, screen printed tshirts for their first student-council-equivalent. and not just a few, there were tshirts everywhere! over the years since i was around, the student council and other organisations got eroded, corrupted and eventually abolished. good people have been working hard for the last several years to create a new, better organisation within the generic association they were bequeathed to replace the whole lot. i’m sure there’s plenty more to do, but on a nice sunny day with people out and talking to eachother, it looks like they’ve gotten somewhere. there’s an energy i haven’t seen there for a long time, perhaps ever. it helps that the wonderful old space that the women’s room never should’ve given up has now become the queerspace, and that people are meeting about a food co-op. people were dancing outside the atrium and i didn’t even feel bad that the old rabbit warren that used to house the student council and the art space has been gutted for the new generic association offices – they’re shiny and glassy and full of people, with a functional reception with a reasonable list of clubs evident at the pigeonholes. the two organisations that the space was taken from were long dead, but indications are that, when their replacements get big enough to be able to use office space, they will have competent enough people to win that fight.

yesterday i was at ultimo tafe and stopped by their student association to catch up. i came away with a similar feeling of hope; there’s been shakeup in the staffing situation, with someone getting a promotion and others shuffling up, and it all seems to be to the better. not only have memberships have gone up to about a third of the population (take a look at that, unis!) but the new board is active, both helping out with the general activities of the association and having ideas. gosh, ideas! all four of them are being put through the frontline management course, which both displays a certain level of commitment and means that there will be four serious student-run projects happening this year. collaboration with departments is going well, including a shiny makeover for the student newspaper that i started, which indicates that it will continue. sports have started up again after a few years of not being able to fill teams, with a soccer competition against eora – one of many collaborations with them which are fruit of the seeds i kept planting back when. all this is in the environment of the tafe pushing a serious commitment to greenskilling, actually surveying people about the footwear courses and trying to work something out, and security keeping up the good work we’ve seen the entire time i’ve been involved. seven of their 21 staff are permanent, and it seems enough to keep up good continuity and make them the best and most understanding service in the area.

i’m no longer enrolled in either of these organisations, but i can delight in seeing results of my previous hard work amongst the bubbling up of good things, even if i’m not there to enjoy them directly. now i’m at yet another educational institution. i’ve gone and nominated for uts’ academic board already, and their student elections are coming up too. i’ll have to investigate…

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as if we were free

August 23, 2009 at 9:46 pm (community, complex pleasures, mechanical engineering, out and about, queer, travel)

one of the things i got to do overseas that i haven’t for ages, was performance. in berlin i joined in a drag king performance at the very last minute, apparently there was footage filmed but i haven’t seen it. i also read out a poem. it was translated from slovenian and it took a lot of editing before it was readable, i only got the printout a day before, and i spent all that time walking around berlin, overshooting my destinations as i read bits out loud, gesturing the emphases with a red pen in hand. noone thought to mention that i’d be juggling a microphone too. five minutes before the show i find out that the translation was done by one of my new friends, and she didn’t like my editing, but she ended up agreeing that i had as much right as her to interpret a translation. and besides, it was about to start. here is the version i read, more or less.

As if we were free
Urška Strle

Somewhere in the centre of the small neglected town, which is, at the same time the capital of some small but relaxed East European state, in a newly cobble embellished street in the inner city centre where they just closed two pubs and a bookstore, I have met a man who ordered himself Culture as if he were ordering coffee with milk.

I have to confess, the cobbles are perfectly laid down, all the gaps are carefully clogged with quartz sand, and at the edge it is possible to recognise a slightly rounded pattern. In short, the street of some small neglected town, which is at the same time the capital of some small, cramped, and relaxed South European state, looks like the idyllic image on an old postcard.

Old bakeries arise in all parts of the town like mushrooms after the rain, as if they had decided one day and achingly wrested themselves out from old corner houses where they had modestly waited for decades unnoticed for their grand arrival, and which, on their frontage proudly show the inscription “Old Bakery”, which even more contributes to this idyllic look. I guess I’ve hurried past them for years and years without even noticing. I’ve walked past exactly this old bakery on the corner of this small idyllic street with carefully laid cobbles in the centre of some small neglected town and so on and so forth.

Suddenly an unbearable paranoia came over me, I got the feeling that somewhere out of the corner of my eye I saw a flash of crinoline, and suspiciously I glanced towards the boys in white shirts with black bowties who were picking up the garbage. It appeared to me that time is curving itself as to the pattern of the new cobbles and that we will all find ourselves on that everlasting postcard from the end of the 19th century. Hastily I dashed towards the closest boy, that is, to the left edge, I ripped myself through the yellowish cardboard, and with a crash I landed in front of the doors to the pub which had, in the meantime, already disappeared in another reality.

To eat in this slovenly pub, which displayed insignia as a rallying point for all the enthusiasts of the sautéed potato, was akin to some special kind of masochism. Gnocchi Bolognese turned into spaghetti with tomato sauce, omelette with ham and cheese always remained without the latter two. The bills would be circulating around, they would be counted and discounted and finally there would come the conclusion that there are either too many or too few bills, the cash register is too far away and the next group of naïve tourists are just enough confused, hungry and tired and above all helpless in front of the board, on which specials of the day were written in complicated script.

But the slovenly pub that served for some special kind of masochism disappeared in that other reality, which was, to top it all off, mine. And there is no worse misery than when a person loses her own reality and therefore clings desperately to the handhold of some slovenly pub which went bankrupt, together with her lifestyle.

In the reflection of the filthy abandoned windows of my ailing lifestyle, I saw a mayor. All round and contented he was wiping sweat from his working face on the golden chain on which the city keys were jingling. He was shepherding a small squad of captured guest artists, some stoic, homeless ‘erased ones’, and from his pockets electric cables were forcing their way out, cables which NGO workers for the purpose of some obscure literary event negligently left in the middle of the street in the inner centre of the small neglected town, which is at the same time the capital of some small but relaxed Central European state. He ordered Culture as coffee with milk, and then stirred with a teaspoon an empty cup and grumbled about the bad taste.

I might be extremely happy about the new cobbles if I had to cross them in high heels, but, I think, the magic of the moment was ruined in the second when, under the sole of my beaten up sneakers, quartz sand creaked. Maybe my face would have lightened up if I had been on these new even cobbles with nicely clogged gaps and a slightly rounded pattern pushing a pram that would be running smoothly. But I just stood there at the beginning of that small street in the centre of the town in those damn beaten up sneakers, I was pacing around nervously, under my feet, quartz sand was nastily squeaking and I stared at the abandoned windows of the pub. All this with a newly cobble-embellished street of the inner centre of the small neglected town, which is at the same time a capital of some cramped but relaxed newly joined European state, and there was not a single space left for me to go.

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back to school…

May 9, 2009 at 1:43 pm (community, complex pleasures, crafty, dance, education, essays, out and about, queer)

i can’t help myself. i’m studying again. i have studied constantly since i was four years old, except for the time between february 2006 and february 2007… and half a semester at the end of the welding course last year while i was finishing off the mechanical engineering. come to think of it, in 2006 i still did the screen printing course. and the upholstery course. hmmm.

anyway, i’m now half way through my first subject in a masters of adult education; understanding adult education and training. it’s been interesting, and though i died over my first essay, i must’ve done a reasonable job, as i got a distinction for it! here it is.

Identifying Your Philosophical Orientation

This commentary is a personal response to taking an inventory on my philosophical orientation regarding adult education. Despite limitations in the instrument, I found the process and my results offered insights into both my philosophy and my practice in adult education. I found the framework to be useful, especially in conjunction with another on a separate axis, but could not locate myself firmly within any particular tradition, whichever way I tried. I was drawn to consider the breadth of purposes inherent in any instance of education, which, I believe, substantiates the broad range of theories and practices in which I find value. Ultimately, the frameworks are only guides to navigate the field in search of all the various theories which one can adapt, use, integrate and enjoy.

Zinn’s (1990) Philosophy of Adult Education Inventory (PAEI) is an interesting instrument. Consisting of a mere fifteen questions, it gives a quick analysis of a person’s philosophy of adult education, according to a framework by Elias and Merriam (Zinn 1990).

In taking the test according to its guidelines, I came out as 97% Humanist, 90% Radical, 88% Progressive, 70% Liberal and 66% Behaviourist. These results are notable for all being quite high and relatively close together as I had difficulty grading the answers. I found merit in almost all of them, and scored everything in the top half of the scale, between ‘neutral’ and ‘strongly agree’. Zinn suggests that this may indicate contradictory philosophies, however I saw answers as appropriate to different situations, rather than challenging each other’s validity.

I had difficulty filling out the inventory with regard to my general philosophy, as without differentiation, half the questions refer to specific practice, such as planning activities, while the rest demand a static philosophy. While both theory and practice are vital and I agree with Grace (2006) one cannot have one without the other, they do not necessarily stay still for examination. My practice varies widely depending on subject and context. Redoing the inventory for five different fields in which I have taught, the variety was more marked that I expected. In fact each one came out with a different primary philosophy, though the range within each was no less bunched than the original.

Burnout Workshops
The radical perspective came up second in general, and top for my Burnout workshops (All scores are tabulated in the appendix below). These workshops, dealing with prevention and management of stress and burnout, are conducted within community groups where the issue is acknowledged as important and very real, both to the individuals and to the group. They are used both to equip individuals for life and participation in the world, and to strengthen community. This is one of the few opportunities I get to confront social action directly, so I’m not surprised it came up the most radical. The humanist element is also strong with facilitation and focus on expanding potential, and working with emotions. Exercises such as role playing ‘saying no’ are effective uses of experiential learning, another focus of Humanism.

Mathematics tutoring
When I teach numeracy and mathematics, it is generally because my students perceive a general need or inadequacy. In trying to overcome their fears of the topic, I use plenty of problem solving and discovery methods to show them what they can do. Needs assessment is also very important, as I cannot rely on these students to be self-directed. These all draw on the progressive category, which scored highest on this take. I have the students’ immediate needs in mind, but I also choose my materials to connect to something wider, real issues in the students’ lives, for better learning by connecting to what students find important, for building confidence in the subject and in life, for community and world involvement and for making the world a little less scared of the subject.

Rubber workshops
Fun with Rubber and Latex scored closest to my overall outcome, in that the highest score for both was humanism. These workshops are run within the queer women’s communities of Newtown and are a forum to get a specific subculture interacting in an alcohol-free environment, to normalise open dialogue about sex of the varieties relevant to that community and to give people experience in the practical aspect of do-it-yourself philosophy. These are all dire needs in the community at the moment and I would have expected a high score in the radical column, but when I thought about it, I don’t use many radical techniques in planning or teaching, likely because there are relatively few to be found (Newman 1999). The workshops are advertised much more individualistically as an opportunity to have fun, learn skills and take home new toys that one cannot afford to buy commercially. Planning is restricted to materials and sequences of skills and learning is experiential after a short presentation, which may explain the high score for humanism.

Tatting classes
Tatting is a form of lace making that is associated with people’s grandmothers. I often run tatting classes in women’s spaces and, as with most of my teaching, they are a chance for people to connect to a community without putting themselves on display, as there is an ostensible purpose, and something to do with their hands. Tatting is a skill that people learn for learning’s sake, or to connect to women’s history, both which have a place in the liberal tradition (Zinn 1990), which came up as the primary perspective here. Mastering the skill is very important as it looks so simple that anyone who gives up goes away feeling defeated, so I put effort into finding different ways of teaching and promoting learning of the basic concepts, which come naturally to very few. I guess this is where the behaviourism comes in.

Tap dancing classes
Tap dancing came up as behaviourist, the very lowest score on my overall results. One reason I can see is that, where I generally don’t believe in practice and repetition as an important part of learning, that is what dancing is all about. There can be no rhythm in one isolated step. This class, like any of mine, has other objectives such as promoting body confidence, but the teaching is heavily systematic, building from simple step to complex sequence, with constant feedback.

These five case studies shed some light on my original score, which was supposed to position my overall philosophy and deep beliefs about adult education. They suggest to me that Zinn’s idea of purpose is simplistic as she seems to assume that there is one or two purposes behind an educational interaction, where as I can list a dozen at a time, primary and secondary, overt and incidental, cognitive or affective, individual or community, all in play at once.

Yet wherever they are placed, with recurrent themes of facilitation, interactive and experiential learning, personal growth and emphasis on affective content, it is no longer surprising that I came out as 97% humanist. I don’t always practice heavy consultation as I tend to have skills to transmit and the student has already chosen with their feet, but when I am in a classroom I do concentrate on empowering each individual student to be able to learn and connect the information, skills and attitudes to the rest of life. Theory-wise, the only aspect of humanism that came up in the PAEI as problematic is the idea that students are always capable of self direction.

My next score was radical, and I am certainly not surprised I scored high there as many theories which excite me fit into that category. I read plenty of libertarian education, critical pedagogy, postmodernist, feminist, indigenous and queer pedagogy. Yet as much of this field focuses on the organisation of education, over which I have less control than I do over my teaching, these theories have not translated as well as I would like to my practice. I have, however, opened a community space which provides resources, support and a location to all sorts of experimental educational projects. This has directly drawn on Illich’s (1971) Learning Webs.

Progressive theory has also had a significant impact on my thought. I have moved from pedagogy to adult education through the thought of such educators as A S Neill (1926), and pin hopes for schools on reducing the pressure they are under, by expanding, improving and respecting adult education. I work with students’ interests and needs and try to link content to their lives and real world problems, and make use of democracy rather than hierarchy, to model social change further than any content can go.

The liberal tradition is no longer the cutting edge of education, but I cannot ignore its achievements. I do not like to lecture and the list of topics a renaissance mind should know is centuries outdated, but I stand by the concept of a broad base of knowledge and understanding being important for interacting with the world.

Behaviourism, too, makes points one cannot afford to ignore, as it addresses a wealth of issues of how the mind works. At the very base, all the theories in the world won’t help if the student is in no position to learn, either from being subjected to a style of input that their brain cannot process, or merely not having had breakfast.

So, Zinn’s inventory has been useful in clarifying differences in my practice. However, her framework is not the only one by far. The number of similar frameworks with slightly revised categories, differences and overlaps, suggest to me that none of them are quite as comprehensive as they’d like to be, and remind me that they are all merely approximate divisions according to one set of criteria, which would easily be shifted according to another. For example, though the topics are surely related, Zinn’s philosophies of adult education and Merriam’s (Merriam, Caffarella & Baumgartner 2007) Five Orientations to Learning each have five categories, some of which overlap while the others don’t. Though each has some interesting questions on the other axis, I find nothing to recommend one over another, apart from attachment to an inventory.

However there are other ways of navigating theory, some of which can even coordinate with one of the first kind. Apps’ breakup (Zinn 1990), I believe, can enhance Zinn’s or any similar framework and make it more meaningful and flexible by providing sensible places to change category. The categories of Teacher, Learner, Content, Learning and Purpose are very real and distinct, and feel closer to being finite, while being overtly an example of aspects to be covered, rather than attributes on which to choose a category.

For example, as a teacher I tend to be a facilitator, as in the humanist tradition. I tend to treat learners in a progressive manner, working towards fulfilling their interests and discovering their experience. The widest purpose, in the back of my mind, is to bring about social change through community cohesion. I believe this is radical though the change I seek is not specifically revolutionary as some theorists require. I believe learning is incredibly broad, and find it appropriate to be very flexible in my methods. Each tradition focuses on different aspects; maybe behaviourism wins this because they focus on it so much more. And for content, I largely teach what I know, and I do aspire to being a renaissance person, as I see all sorts of weird and wonderful titbits of knowledge and understanding, especially learning from the past, can work together into something richer and more complex, that would be lost if we all stuck to the same popular fields.

To examine the original categories as capable of being broken down on these lines is a step towards seeing them as all aspects of a whole, and also to being able to appreciate theories which do not pretend to be a theory of everything. Indeed, I share many sentiments with the postmodernists, though they have severe limitations, especially in practice (Newman 1999). With a healthy disrespect for categories, they seem to support my inclination to not label myself, but to rather put together an eclectic collection of ideas, past and present, leaving room for the future as well.

Frameworks can help navigate the aisles, but what I put into my basket of theories will depend on what I come to need, what I think I can use, and ultimately, what makes me happy. So much of adult education theory takes itself very seriously, which is a pity as it is stuff on which to dream. Many theorists, and especially policy makers in this country, would do well to read bel hooks and consider how “to be changed by ideas [is] pure pleasure” (hooks 1994).

Despite limitations in the instrument, the PAEI has described my diverse views and given me food for thought on what I find useful, and what I find exciting. From here, I hope to fill some holes such as translating some of my radical theories to practice, and continue add to my – now better organised – basket of theories and practices, ideas, techniques and inspirations, all while cheerfully eluding categorisation.

Appendix: PAEI scores

_                   Liberal   Behaviourist   Progressive    Humanist   Radical
Overall        70           66                    88                    97                 90
Tatting         89          86                     84                    85                 76
Burnout      73          71                     89                    94                 95
Rubber        73          70                     85                    97                 76
Maths          84          80                     97                    90                 81
Tap              79           86                     72                    83                 65

Reference List

Grace, A. 2006, ‘Critical Adult Education: Engaging the Social in Theory and Practice’, in T. Fenwick, T. Nesbit & B. Spencer (eds), Contexts of Adult Education: Canadian Perspectives, Thompson Educational Publishing, Toronto.
hooks, b. 1994, Teaching to Transgress: Education as the Practice of Freedom, Routledge, New York.
Illich, I. 1971, Deschooling Society, Penguin Books Ltd, Harmondsworth, Middlesex, England.
Merriam, S., Caffarella, R. & Baumgartner, L. 2007, ‘Critical Theory, Postmodern and Feminist Perspectives’, in S. Merriam, R. Caffarella & L. Baumgartner (eds), Learning in Adulthood: A Comprehensive Guide, 3rd edn, Jossey-Bass, San Francisco, pp. 241-270.
Neill, A.S. 1926, Summerhill, Penguin Books Australia, Ringwood, Victoria.
Newman, M. 1999, ‘Looking for Postmodern Adult Educators’, in, Maeler’s Regard, Steward Victor Publishing, Sydney, pp. 194-202.
Zinn, L. 1990, ‘Identifying Your Philosophical Orientation’, in Golbraith (ed.), Adult Learning Methods, Kreiger, Florida, pp. 39-77.

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a room of one’s own

July 16, 2008 at 8:51 pm (complex pleasures)

there’s a new reality in my life, that i’m having trouble dealing with. well, i’m told it’s a reality; i have yet to see the evidence, but it’s giving me trouble regardless. i’m usually open and honest about what’s going on in my life, but this i feel plenty of people won’t understand. i’m having to assess even my closest friends, choosing whether, when and how to out myself. so now i’m putting it out there, so i can get it settled in my mind, talk to the next person like it’s not a big deal, and get on with not having secrets.

so the big deal is, that when i spend my saturdays looking at open houses, it’s to buy, not to rent. everyone who knows i’ve moved home keeps telling me about their friends who need flatmates – only $150, $170, $200 per week… i turn them down, i couldn’t afford that much, i moved out of my last house when my room went up to about $130. not only was it an insulting increase considering the state of the place and the circumstances, but i don’t consider it to be reasonable to spend half one’s income on rent. i earn $270 per week. it’s not much more than the dole, but i’m comfortable with the lifestyle.

yet here i am, looking to spend $300,000 in one hit. or something.

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July 5, 2008 at 12:10 am (complex pleasures)

i just took a look at the list of goals i wrote here a year ago. i never finished the list, mine are alway longer than that, but it has the big ticket items. and on that, i’m doing pretty well. with one year left of my twenties, i’m in the middle of getting goals met, whatever it looks like right now.

i have a job. i’ve had it for five months, and though there are issues, it’s puttering along, businesslike. i’ve lived in newtown, in the heart of things. i’ve spent eighteen months living in a big well known share house, pretty good though it’s not a co-op, and i’m looking to get my own place, which, it seems, will actually happen. i’m also looking at getting my car all fixed up, it takes money and i seem to have it. i’ve learnt a bit about it and helped fix the brakes, and i’ve learnt the basics of welding.

i’m being useful with my family, which has become more important recently. i’ve had a reasonable number of relationships, enough of them with girls, enough to learn about myself and the world, and be happy being single again. i have made good friends and learnt to open up and to be touched. i feel comfortable that living here, i’m going to find out who my real friends are and who aren’t.

i have sold my creative work, though i really should do more of it sometime. i finished my escritoire! i have learnt tango and rumba and swing a bit, though i must do more, and to lead a bit, though there’s a long way to go with that, too. i have cooked up a tap dance with a friend, and had regular practice. it’s on hiatus while she’s overseas, but i have high hopes we’ll perform it. there’s another performance on the boil with someone else, too.

i’ve been around the world – not everywhere, and nowhere recently, but enough to be travelled. and not just easy travelling, either. russia, morocco, turkey. i’ve lived there. and of course, i’ve hitchhiked. all over europe, a bit in turkey, and even at home.

i’ve gotten a degree, and a million other interesting qualifications and skills. i’m nearly finished a diploma in mechanical engineering. i’ve also taught many subjects in many settings. although i’m not teaching regular classes at the moment, i’m still teaching fairly frequently. maybe i do need to do cert four in workplace training and assessment.

i’ve put my ideals where my mouth is. lately i’m creating queer community at NewQ, making atheism important and interesting and radical again with Sydney Atheist Action Group, changing education with the Student Association of the biggest tafe in the country, and everywhere they’re letting me go.

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February 15, 2008 at 1:27 am (complex pleasures)

well, nearly. i went in to centrelink today, to get off austudy. they tried hard to convince me to go back on the dole, and look for work, and chuck in my two day a week carreer for any old full time job they can throw at me. for half as much money as they’d give me if i weren’t bothering to work.

i have been waiting a while for that moment, but they managed to ruin even that; there is still the possibility that a fuss will be made that because someone thinks i should’ve taken myself off payments in december. the facts are in my favour, but the possibility of dispute hanging over my head defeats the purpose of refusing money so that i can walk away triumphantly. because of course, with centrelink the facts aren’t the important thing.

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new job

February 4, 2008 at 9:59 pm (acoustics, brain, complex pleasures)

i finally started my long awaited job. now maybe i can start to relax!

it’s been months and months since they told my father they’d employ me and i was given a number to ring. it’s been months since my interview that noone but me turned up to. so much waiting for return of communication, and considering how disastrous my previous job in the field was, the whole thing has been tying me up in knots.

the first day was quite promising, though so was the first day at sca… but here, i got to do a whole project, amongst the computer login troubles and being dismissed with Industrial Noise Policy to read. i got to calculate what glass was required for the windows of a proposed building from just the address, a flight path map and a standard! take one egg, a cat and a length of string… and my report got sent to the client!

so, it looks quite promising. as long as i get enough sleep to get through each day. that means going to bed now…

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new world

November 25, 2007 at 10:38 am (complex pleasures)

whatever happens now, howard is gone! in the first federal election that i haven’t been registered to vote against him in bennelong.

that’s cause for celebration. tears, actual tears alone in front of the tv, then revelry at the hub, talking to people and watching the abc projected on the wall. jumping up and down while shouting down the phone over the cheering. then back home to study for the six exams i have next week. rotten timing, but that’s ok.

my whole adult life howard has been in office and things have been going steadily downhill. i learn about cycles but don’t see them. now the trajectory, one way or another, will change. maybe we’ll even see the other side of the cycle… my expectations aren’t really very high, my hopes aren’t focussed any higher than the raft of changes and rollbacks rudd’s flagged for the next hundred days. if we get a bunch of them, things will be more bearable. a few of them may affect me directly, but even more than that it might make space in my brain for the strange concept that change can be a good thing! i hope he doesn’t disappoint us too soon.

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extraordinary communications

November 10, 2007 at 12:23 am (complex pleasures)

someone who is still very dear to me has been looking after me through my latest dramas. now she may need some care herself, but is about to leave the country. last time she left sydney she cut off contact at about this time, hopefully she won’t again but there are worse ways to disappear than with a text message, in duplicate no less, that says Love you. i may or may not find out what she means.

otherwise, two more dear friends spent an evening complaining to me about their bad new jobs, and are obviously, radiantly, so much happier than i’ve seen either of them in a long, long time.

last night i was up till three talking sexuality and queer politics with new friends who, though straight, can ask refreshingly intelligent questions. even though i was the one kept talking all night, by someone who, in the most affectionate terms, never shuts up, i learnt something. chosen family is a beautiful concept i’m learning to live more fully, but it is not revolutionary. i inherited it from my father, who often expressed a sense of awe at how brilliant and interesting and generally wonderful his friends are. they are my older generation of family, the people i really shouldn’t neglect, unlike my biological family who i sometimes feel affection for but i’m sure i’ll be guilted into seeing often enough. this felt particularly pertinent as my father went into hospital this morning to get a cancer on the end of his nose dealt with. by the afternoon he was home and chirpy enough to regale me with details of real estate viewings, as he likes to do these days.

over the last decade or so i have chosen for myself a brilliant and interesting and generally wonderful family. i worry at how scarred so many are, from alchohol, psychological trouble and abuse, but i appreciate them all the more as i have recently learnt to ask for help and so many people have come through for me, often drawing their support and wonderfulness from the very things that are problematic in their own lives. this support is actually a new thing for me. maybe those people who were only ever there when they felt like it are the ones who are friends but not family. it’s one way to demarcate. maybe i just needed to ask. maybe sometimes… still, i am aware of the effect that even people who are keeping their distance have on my life, and right now i’m seeing them all as benevolent forces. it’s nice.

it feels like the weekend on tuesday, and tuesday on the weekend. it’s now past midnight, saturday morning, and i can’t pretend i have anything more important to do than study for my many impending exams, except for going to sleep. but ella is playing and sensual rain keeps falling heavily on the other side of the wall, and i feel like being quiet and honest and making something curvy, pulling it from my brain with only the dark glittering world for extra material. the physics might be urgent but this is important.

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