On unempathetic headfighting

I have a handful of friends I very (very, very) rarely see in person. We live too far apart and our lives don’t collide on any kind of regular basis. Instead, we write (and now that corona’s struck, we have more time for more in-depth writing). Technology is a wonderful thing.

Except.

Except, regardless of all the emojis and jokes and stories of our days and silly photos of things we find share-worthy, sometimes words fail to convey the emotion behind the keyboard.

Things that sound harmless in my head occasionally snowball down my arms and through my fingers, so that by the time they reach the screenpaper several latitude lines away, they’ve built up a dangerous energy and explode through my friends’ eyes and send splitters of bad feelings into the furthest corners of their minds, pressing all the niggly buttons as they go. The buttons I would never intentionally poke. The ones my friends are aware of but still, after all this time, haven’t worked out how to disconnect. The ones that are hard-wired into the central nervous system and which set off their own trails of destruction like dominoes or the mouse-traps in comedy films, except fully lacking the humour.

The same reaction can be sparked by the lack of a response.

I know how well these automatic reactions work because I have enough buttons of my own. Buttons my friends press, as unwittingly and unwillingly as I press theirs.

Harmless isn’t always harmless. Sometimes it really hurts. Sometimes it’s the memories of past hurts that come to haunt us, sometimes, but luckily far less regularly, the hurt is new. The ‘battleground of past hurt’ is one of our most frequently but unintentionally visited places.

That we’re still friends is something of a miracle and I’m grateful for them and their patience and ability to work things out.

***

Accusations

My About Page starts with the following story:

Once upon a time, someone interrupted my rant about someone else, with the words, “you do that too!”. That stung for a while, but it’s proved helpful since then. It makes me stop and check my position before getting stressed about others.”

That accusation feels like an eternity ago. Since then, there have been (many) other stinging comments from various people, but nothing quite as soul-shakingly succinct or ‘for general-purpose use’. Things happen, people say things, we work through them and they’re over. Rinse and repeat.

Recently I received the following general-purpose slap-round-the-face-with-a-dead-fish type comment:

“… [you] like to win arguments through domination and tone, not solve anything in any factual or sincere way – it’s all unempathetic headfighting.”

BAM.

*breathes*

Ok.

I would argue (!) that I aim for factual more than dominating, but I can accept that I miss the mark (and hit the wrong tone) more often than I’d like to admit.

“Headfighting” is a word I’d never heard before it was thrown at me like a grenade, but it’s a good word, one I can live with. It fits me and the way I argue more perfectly than any other word I can currently think of. The more I think about it, the more I like it.

Of all the uncomfortable words thrown at me in one sentence, it’s the “unempathetic” that really stings.

No matter how much I tell myself it’s unlikely to be true, that I’m probably not completely unempathetic, the idea lingers that it doesn’t really matter how empathetic I am or think I am; if it’s not felt by the people I care about most, and this person I care about is obviously not feeling it or they wouldn’t have found it necessary to say such a thing, then it doesn’t count.

That’s kind of worrying.

***

Empathy

Wikipedia says: “Empathy is the capacity to understand or feel what another person is experiencing from within their frame of reference, that is, the capacity to place oneself in another’s position. Definitions of empathy encompass a broad range of emotional states.”

If anyone had asked, I would have said I often sense what people are feeling. I would have said I regularly ‘know’ what kind of mood people are in before they start talking. Once upon a time I was even proud of picking up mood changes by the punctuation people used when writing to me. I would have said I could pick up differences in the atmosphere like a people-y barometer. Sometimes I get so caught up in other people’s emotions that I lose track of my own.

Turns out that none of that’s worth very much if you lack the words or the ability to do anything with that knowledge (thinking of it as “know-ledge” when really it’s “feel-ledge” might be part of the problem…) and I lack both, to varying degrees in varying situations.

***

Emotional Vocabulary

When Kate asks me how I feel about things, I tell her what I think about them. I lack vocabulary for feelings and emotions and even when presented with a list (!) I have a hard time matching them to myself or other people. I once told her “I don’t feel.” In return, she sent me a quote that I instantly identified with:

“Others of us come equipped with a somewhat more basic emotional vocabulary that […] consists primarily of ‘good’, ‘not so good: and ‘I already told you’.

When […] asked what they are feeling, they usually say ‘Nothing’, and when they are asked how they are feeling, they usually say, ‘I don’t know.’”

– Stumbling on happiness

This is me.

This is so me, it’s weird reading it from someone else.

I might have a few more words than the person in the book, but it’s not a long list.

I’m working on it, but it’s a sloooow process.

***

Talking about feelings (and cats)

Luckily, or maybe unluckily, this lack of emotional words is only an issue when it comes to things involving people.

Inanimate objects, with the possible exception of glass, don’t care or talk about feelings. (The washing doesn’t care how aggressively I load it into the machine. My bike doesn’t care how I’m feeling when I cycle it. The weather doesn’t care what anyone thinks of it, it does its thing regardless of who hates it. The wardrobe doesn’t care how indecisively I get dressed. Glass, for reasons I haven’t yet discovered, does care what mood I’m in, at least enough to only cooperate when I’m being nice to it. Even then, it doesn’t talk to me, so words aren’t an issue.)

(Many) animals can sense moods and intents and act as they gauge appropriate. A cat might curl up on your lap and let you stroke it, or it might hide and avoid you, but it won’t talk about feelings, neither its own, nor yours.

People do. Especially people you know. In the best case, they care what you do and feel and they have their own doings and feelings which need considering and reacting or responding to. A while ago, when I was seething about something, but willing to admit that it wasn’t a rational something, and not wishing to explode all over the person I deemed ‘responsible’, a friend suggested I give my hurt a bubble bath. That is an idea I would never have had in a million years.

When it comes down to it, my approach to feelings (and empathy) is much more cat-like than people-like. Approach cautiously, then, if I like you, and/or I think you like/need my company, I’ll stay close and listen and maybe hug depending on the person, or if I don’t like you or I feel disliked or unappreciated or hurt or scared, I’ll distance myself (maybe after I put my hackles up, hiss, scratch or bite). I might well talk, possibly too much, but I am unlikely to talk about feelings.

***

Private thoughts and Button pressing

I love good words when they’re directed at me, but I’m more likely to return my sentiments in a hug than an equal outpouring. I don’t ‘gush’. It takes me forever to tell people I love them (if I ever do :/). I try not to get angry. I rarely cry in public. I don’t shout at people (in public or otherwise). I don’t (like) kiss(ing) in public. I don’t go in for public displays of anything. Private things are private, and even then, even in private, opening up to what’s more than just below the surface is something I don’t do easily. Stirring up what’s below that, is something I hardly do by myself…

Against that, when my buttons are pressed, and they are unfortunately quite easy to press, especially when I’m tired, and even more especially in writing, I can get hung up on something secondary, something unimportant and not at all the point of what was being said. If I feel hurt (or angry or any of the ‘not-so-good’ emotions) I have two main go-to ‘programs’ either retreat-and-sulk or claws-first, reasons-after. Reasons, especially badly explained written reasons (or any reasons at all when aimed at heart-people), aren’t particularly useful as either bridges or bandages, and sulking doesn’t solve anything. If I’m very aware of myself and my own needs, there’s a third option – to accept that I’m not able to respond to something constructively ‘right now’ and say so, but that is something I’m still working on, very very slowly. (NB: I’m open for advice on further options..)

***

Robotic self-awareness

Awareness is a hard beast to tame. Sometimes, when I try to focus on not stressing, not hurting (you or myself), not getting angry, not being unreasonable, not saying anything that could be misinterpreted, I end up sounding robotic. Getting rid of the perceived negatives sometimes seems to erase the humanity in the positives. I’m sure there’s some way of striking a happy balance, but I haven’t found it yet.

In primary school, we were read a story about someone who built a wall around their garden so they could stay safe and wouldn’t be harmed by anything. It took them quite a long time to realise that they were also keeping out the good things. I don’t remember the details, but at the end they took down the wall, and let everything in. That’s something I’m working on too.. Unfortunately, I still have overly-enthusiastic antibody-like guards to warn me that ‘bad things’ are coming and to defend me from them, and there are far more of them than celebratory-messengers to let me know about ‘good things’.

***

Dodging deep feelings

On a related note, when I’m scared by the deep deep feelings in myself, I’m liable to skirt round yours, partly because I don’t know how to help, but also partly so I don’t have to deal with my own. Sometimes I’ll actively pick out the bits I’m confident I can handle, and ignore the rest, sometimes it’s more subconscious than intentional. Sometimes I get stuck on the first bit of new information and don’t register the rest.

If you tell me Ghandi survived on a grain of rice a day and that you know that it’s possible because you’ve been close to death [by starvation], there’s a good chance I’ll focus on Ghandi and the rice. That’s something I don’t know and which causes an instant “need to know more” reaction. Death (and related suffering) is not a topic I’m good at talking about, at least not on a personal level, so I, mostly unconsciously, skip it. I’m not trying to reduce your experience, or imply that you’re not telling the truth.

If you tell me you’re so scared or worried by what someone told you that you won’t be able to sleep, and then, almost in the same breath, ask me how I prioritise what I keep in my too-small freezer, I’ll be 3 lines deep in frozen soup and fishfood before it even registers that there are deeper and more important issues at stake. By the time I’ve discovered what’s happened, we’re buried in superficialities and the potential for sharing (and possibly eradicating) the “can’t-sleep-tonight,-help-me” moment is gone. I don’t want to think about how many similar moments I’ve missed ;(

***

People pleasing

Being responsible for other peoples’ unhappiness is one of the worst things I can think of. Yeah, there’s all that stuff about everyone being responsible for their own reactions, but I think if you punch someone, or bash them with your suitcase when you rush past in a packed station, you’re responsible for the physical pain they feel, even if it wasn’t on purpose. I don’t see that it’s all that different for mental pain. If I say something that hurts someone, regardless of whether I did it on purpose or accidentally, it’s still something I did. Apart from not being a good thing to do, it hurts to see other people hurting and if I can avoid it, I will. I think this is kind of normal.

My problem, if it can be called a problem, is that I’m not really sure where ‘actively hurting’ stops and ‘not actively making them happy’ starts. I don’t think it’s my duty (or even actually possible long-term) to make people happy but I still feel bad if I do something they would like me not to do, or could do something but choose not to do it.

This makes it difficult (not impossible) to create and protect my boundaries or organise my own priorities.

It also makes it difficult to know when to object to the way things are said to me, especially if I can appreciate that the person saying them is stressed about something else. Awarding myself the same right to remain unhurt often comes second to being understanding.

Choosing to stand up for myself, at the cost of not siding with the other person, not being accepting, not being ‘nice’, is really hard, especially if that person isn’t happy as a result of it.

The ‘easy’ version of this, as something to practise on, is arguing about things of no consequence.

***

Self-criticism and slippery slopes

On top of that, I am ridiculously self-critical, to the point that if I think you’ve criticised one thing on my list of Things-I-criticise-myself-for, I will probably assume you would also agree with everything else on my list and more, and come to the conclusion that you think pretty much everything about me needs changing and that you’d be better off if I wasn’t inflicting myself on you. This is not logical or rational. I know this when I’m happy. On a not-so-good day, I can often recognise what’s happening and think my way out of it. On a bad (or very hormonal) day the slope is very slippery.

If you, for example, tell me you didn’t enjoy playing a game with me and that you would have preferred to do something else, that is entirely reasonable from your perspective because you’re letting me know something I couldn’t otherwise find out. It’s a knowledge transfer. A sensible reaction is probably to file that information and offer to play a different game next time. And yet, given the right circumstances (tired/hungry/upset/hormonal/whatever) it might well set off a chain of negative thoughts that are almost entirely unrelated to you or the exact game in question but entirely logical in my head, and before either of us know it, I’m having a pity-party that you didn’t see coming, and don’t understand when I try to spell it out, if I even try.

***

Words, in person and in writing

Words are tricky things. They evoke different feelings and meanings in different people. Nuances aren’t always minor. Explanations don’t always explain anything. What I say isn’t always what you hear (and vice versa).

In ‘real life’ face-to-face interaction it doesn’t really matter so much if we have words for things or if we don’t agree entirely on the meaning. Assuming I can remember the numbers correctly, the actual words people use make up something like 7 % of face-to-face communication, the other 93 % is all the non-verbal stuff; tone, gestures, facial expression, the way you’re breathing and standing and and and… We can wave our arms about and make faces and work out if we’re happy or sad or whatever. Happy is easy. Happy just involves existing and being interested and joining in the rejoicing. Sad (etc) is harder, but when I can’t offer words, I can offer hugs, or ice cream, or sit in the kind of silence that [I hope] isn’t oppressive. If there’s something that needs doing, I can join in with doing it.

It’s (much) harder on the phone, but I’m pretty good at hearing how people say things (I think), which makes it easier to know what they mean, and easier to change track or explain what I originally meant as soon as it’s obvious that something didn’t come across the way I intended it to. It’s instant too, like in ‘real life’, so you can work through things as soon as they happen (that’s simultaneously a potential bad thing, because you have no time to think out an answer, but on the whole still good).

In writing, this becomes horrendously difficult. If you can’t easily express what you’re thinking and feeling in person, when you’re face-to-face, with the whole range of possibilities, you have very little chance in writing, when you’re stripped to nothing but words and a scattering of small, round, yellow faces. Small gaps or differences in understanding can turn into a huge, ravenous canyons seemingly instantaneously. Even emojis, which are supposed to help, are subject to interpretation. I spent a long time using one smily as a ‘guilty-as-charged’ stand-in, later, I was told most people use it to indicate eye-rolling. That’s quite a difference. I use the monkey covering its eyes to represent situations when I would cover my face, apparently there’s a different one for that and the monkey is for ‘see-no-evil’. I can’t even begin a similar list for words. Ice cream doesn’t travel well, and since no-one knows what you’re doing when you’re not writing, silence can be taken as avoidance or lack of interest when you’re actually desperately scrambling to choose a fraction of what you’re thinking and feeling, and arrange it into something that can be read and understood by someone who doesn’t inhabit your head. Or you’ve just been phoned. Or your battery’s just died. Or your computer/phone’s frozen and you can’t make it unfreeze.

***

After all that introspective rambling, I think this is what I’m trying to say:

When you, whoever you are, are upset about something, I would love to be well-grounded and stable enough to wait out the storm and be an island if you need shelter before heading off again. To put myself aside and make a space for you until things are better. That….is not always a realistic expectation :(.

Sometimes I’m not strong enough for both of us, sometimes I’m in the middle of my own storms. Sometimes the way you talk to me hurts and I concentrate on my pain and not on yours. Sometimes I focus on ‘facts’ and not (your) feelings. Sometimes I try to see the whole story and miss that you need me to see your story. Sometimes I miss the whole point and think we’re talking about something else.

Sometimes I don’t have the words I need, to say what you need to hear.

Sometimes I let my words get in the way.

Sometimes I put them in the way on purpose.

Sometimes I suck at being a good friend, not just at being empathetic.

I’m sorry for the times I’ve been a lousy friend. Will you help me become a better one?

On hurting (and carrying on regardless)

Dear mind, dear body, dear soul,

Yes it sucks. Yes, it hurts. Yes it’s hard.

Know what though?

We’re carrying on. We’re not going to stop or give up or collapse or breakdown. We can go slower if you like. But we’re not stopping. There’s a long way to go yet.

Sometimes, like when hunting bears, you can’t go round it, over it or under it, you have to go through it. Guess where we’re going?! Yup. “The only way out is through” and all that jazz.

And we will get through it. Eventually.

Apparently the right kind of pain means you’re getting stronger. I have no idea which sort we’re working with, but let’s assume it’s the helpful sort and go from there.

It hurts more than before, but we’re better than before, so we can deal with more than before. We got through everything to get here, we can get through this to get further.

On the way, we’re going to keep smiling, keep cycling, keep rowing, keep walking and plodding and crawling. Keep talking and writing and listening and laughing and reading and building and trying. Especially trying.

Even when it’s hard. Maybe especially when it’s hard. Or raining or windy or snowy or silent or uphill.

We can do this.

Slowly.

With a million setbacks and a million and one restarts.

With tears and bruises and scars.

With stories and memories and pictures.

With late nights and early mornings and cake and hot chocolate and parsnips.

With barely-done-up trousers and worn out shoes and a brand new coat rack.

With good books and sunny days and amazing conversations.

With fish and fluffy slippers and freshly-put-up lights.

We’ve got this.

With lots of love,

Me xx

“And she never gives up…she just changes her mind!”

– Billy Joel

On rainbows and double ended candle burning

I’m trying to finish my ‘book’* before Saturday evening. Or at the very very latest by Sunday morning. That would mean I can send it off to be printed before I go on holiday. ‘Holiday’ is used in the loosest form here – it’s more a chance to revise ALL the things than a chance to relax.

But anyway.

Book.

It’s taking me considerably longer than I expected and I have been distracted considerably more than I’d hoped.

Most, but not all, of it self inflicted distraction [obviously]. Things like vacuuming the house or hanging out washing or putting up Christmas lights. Things like new fish and new filters and borrowed dogs and fish illnesses. Things like friends and Committee Meetings, and Forum-riots, and birthday travellings. Things like life.

I have written hideously long emails and forum entries instead of reading my course books, and spent time on the phone instead of on the computer.

I have started sorting my unruly collection of photos, instead of taking the ones I need and ignoring the rest.

I have even watched useless programmes on TV instead of revising or proof reading.

On the other hand, after several years of dossing**, my computer objects violently to having to work so hard, and crashes my writing programme every so often – just to make me appreciate its hard hard life. My brother helped pacify it, but it’s still not totally happy.

Rewriting or reformatting the same thing multiple times can make one mutter things like, “well isn’t that irritating”….

***

I have to work during the day and I have school every other evening during the week and at weekends, so when it comes to doing things I want to do, I’m left with lots of scraps of time squished between all the other things. Lots of those scraps are either too small to use, or occur when I’m nowhere near my computer.

Neither schools nor work is prepared to go away and let me write, so the answer is [obviously] to write at night when I would normally be asleep.

That’s not necessarily a problem – ​I work well, probably even my best, at night.

The problem is, I don’t work well at work if I’ve worked well at night.

I don’t even work well at getting up when I’ve worked well at night.

Not that getting up was ever easy. I’m not a morning person at the best of times, and when I’ve slept an average of 5 hours a night for a week or two, I am decidedly less so.

I can’t function at work without sleep and I can’t function at writing without work (to keep me in chocolate and heating). I can’t function at sleeping when I know I won’t finish writing in time.

Vicious circle?

Maybe. Maybe I’m just stretching the bow a little too far (German expression).

Maybe, hopefully, if I stretch it just right, it can be like a rainbow, and I’ll find there’s a pot of something sparkly at the end of it..

In the meantime, I’ll look more closely at all the colours emerging from the grey fog in my head.

Luckily DB is prepared to cook for me.

Luckily my colleagues understand  (a bit) when I’m unfocused.

Luckily I’m almost (!) finished with the book.

Luckily it’s almost Sunday.

Luckily I have ten days of recovery (and revision)*** in a warm country to look forward to.

Luckily I have the luxury of choice, even if things seem unchangeable.

* book = a project I’m working on for my grandparents

** nothing to do with MSDOS

*** R&R ??? 😉

On forgetting my own BlogDay :(

I didn’t write anything yesterday. I went to bed at 7:30 with a headache instead.

Yesterday was the 23rd of November 2016.

I started writing here on 23rd of November 2012.

That means the blog turned 4, and I didn’t even acknowledge it :(.

Luckily Claudette came to the rescue and congratulated it for me..

Thank you 🙂

***

4 years are a long time, but also not very long.

It’s gone fast, but also very slowly.

I am the same, but also very different.

My writing’s changed (a bit), but my subjects haven’t changed (much).

My blog hasn’t changed (much) since then, but my knowledge has (a lot). Since then I have made a very basic website for DB’s company, a very basic website for my molecules, and started to make one for a committee I’m part of, until they decided they didn’t think it was necessary to inform anyone about what they do. I have tested adding forums and making comment forms and polls and making page templates and even tried a tiny bit of code (which I have abandoned for some time in the future when I have more than a handful of spare minutes).

I am nowhere near close to being ‘good’ at making websites, but I am getting ‘better’. I noticed how much time I must’ve spent on here over the years when I was writing to a group of people yesterday who are trying to create a website, and having most of them think I was talking about flying to the moon when I used words like WordPress or themes or PlugIn or WordFence or multiple editors or posting-by-email.

Here’s to the next four(+) years and the next part of the learning curve :).

Incidentally, I wrote 444 posts in those 4 years.

On writing it out

– or “don’t write back in anger”

(Written yesterday; I fell asleep in the middle if the last sentence..)

Yesterday (Monday) I was mad at a situation involving several people and several opinions.

Today (Tuesday), I wrote them all an email. It took me a good part of the morning to get it into something that I could send, but work was out of the question as long as I was still cross. Glass, hard and brittle as it is, is very susceptible to feelings.

***

I took a copy to my favourite secretary to proof read for me. I needed to know if it was still too aggressive for posting. She asked lots of questions about the situation in general, and pronounced my email adequate for the circumstances.

I left it for a while, and when I came back to it and reread it, it made more sense read backwards, so I changed it round a bit, added a couple of new sentences, took out others and pressed send.

Finally it was gone, and with it, most of my anger.

***

I am now a whole lot calmer, and no longer feel the need for pointy instruments or punching bags.

I read the mail to DB when I got home. he said he wouldnt have been able to write it as well, and he’s German. 🙂

***

So far I have received two (or three if you count two from the same person separately) emails from people who support me, my plan, my ideas and my way of getting stroppy while staying mostly neutral.

I think this might be the way forward. (Loud music – sleep – writing)

Advanced warning

Baby-Essay is finished and handed in. Presentation has been presented.

I now have excess writing capacity and two months of repressed ideas – you have been warned  🙂

On writing my fingers to the boneskin

I have “Daumenknochenhautentzündung”.

“Thumb bone skin inflammation” sounds pretty impressive, but German is a whole lot cooler :). I think the Latin is periostitis but I may well be wrong.

I didn’t know that was even a thing until yesterday, I just knew my thumb hurt.

Apparently, all bones are covered with a very thin, very delicate layer of “skin” responsible for connecting them to the ligaments and nerves and blood supply and who knows what (ask someone medical). If you repeatedly bash a part of your body where the bone is close to the surface (like your shin, or your fingers) there’s not enough flesh to cushion the impact, and you run the risk of damaging the aforementioned boneskin (which presumeably has a fancy Latin name like periost).

According to the internet, this kind of damage is generally caused by running in the wrong shoes.

According to my doctor, it can also be caused by writing too much. The repeated pressure of holding a pen, when you aren’t used to it, is enough to disturb the boneskin. Seems there was a reason behind my year 2 teacher’s constant critisism of how tightly I held (and still hold) “writing implements”.

My thumb, the one that hurt when I wrote all those revision cards, is suffering from accute Daumenknochenhautentzündung. That basically means it really hurts and I shouldn’t use it for a week or so.

Be warned.

🙂

 

On “re: vision”

I have an exam on Saturday.

Actually. That’s not true.

I have 2 exams* on Saturday.

The date’s been set for several months, but somehow I managed to ignore how fast time slips away when you’re not looking properly.

A month ago I made a list of topics we’d covered, and topics we still needed to cover in class.

A couple of weeks ago I started going over my notes and flicking through the text books.

At some point last week I realised I hadn’t really got a clue about any of the things that were going to come up in the exam. A mild panic later, and I made up my mind to get down to revising “properly”.

I revise best when people ask me to tell them about whatever I’m learning. People ask better questions (and can check if I’m talking rubbish) when they can read them off revision cards. As a bonus, writing things down helps me remember them too.

It seems revision in general, and writing cards in particular, is something that needs practising. 😛

I’ve written masses of notes in class without any problems, but writing revision cards seems to be a different kind of stress. My hands ache. My wrists are sore. My fingers are tired. My thumb’s so tired it’s almost gone to sleep completely (I hope it wakes up soon – I need them both!).

Today is the umpteenth day of staring at the heap of ex-forest on my desk (and ignoring the heaps invading the surrounding vicinity, and the dining room table, and the sofa ….). I am thoroughly bored of writing revision cards. I can’t stop though, because I have no time. I don’t remember ever starting to revise this late before, and I can’t remember it taking so much time up, but I think that’s just selective memory loss ;).

***

I was originally planning to write a post about how it must be a sign you’ve done too much revison when getting-up-to-clean-the-toilet-because-the-cleaner’s-been-on-for-10-minutes becomes a highlight of the afternoon. Then I thought about writing about how tragic it is to run out of whichever coloured cards you were using for Topic A and have to use Topic B’s colour, just when you were starting to think you were actually the slightest little bit organised. Then I thought about how dangerous coffee is, and how fizzy you get when you drink the first full cups ever, and how I am going to have to stop as soon as the exams are over before I can’t imagine a life without it.

I say “planning”, but I really mean the ideas were swirling around the back of my head because I wasn’t going to give myself time away from the revision cards to write any of them down.

This is what you’re getting instead.

***

This morning I got up with DB, prepared to sit at my desk and inflict more pain on my writing-thumb.

And then I had to go to the doctor’s.

Nothing like a good adrenalin kick first thing in the morning.

***

I am a glassblower. I am trained to look at reflections in shiny objects. Especially round shiny objects. You can tell a lot about how round things are when you look at the patterns the reflections make.

This morning, once DB had roared off on his motorbike (leaving me in a bleary sleepy haze, to have a bath and get dressed and write lots) I innocently looked in the mirror.

I shall have to make a mental note not to do that anymore. It’s dangerous.

You know why?

I don’t either.

***

My eye had a dent in it.

<insert silent swearing here>

After blinking and looking again didn’t make it go away, I put eyedrops in and phoned my optician. She said I was welcome to come in and see her, but that she’d rather I went to see a doctor.

So I did.

I sat in the overcroweded waiting rooom and wrote revision cards in front of shuffly old people and loud, wriggly, small children. It’s got to be good for me though – Kate says one should learn in as many places as possible….

***

It seems there’s a hole in my <insert germanised latin name for front-of-eye here>.

Apparently it’s not visible unless you dye the surface yellow and shine very bright lights at it.

Maybe eyedoctors should do glassblowing training before going to doctor-school? 😉

Anyway. I don’t know how it got there, and neither does the doctor, but at least when you know it’s there you can do something about it. I have a new sort of eyedrops and a gel. WHOO!

***

And now, after a very pleasant interlude I’m going to get back to those revision cards – I have an exam to learn for afterall!

 

*on the content of 4 Textbooks

On commuting, phones and free time

I’m back on the train.

I have joined the commuting classes – as if there were such a thing – and I’m quite glad about it.

Not especially about the ride, but it creates a small space in my day where no one can complain about me ‘playing’ with my phone. No one can be jealous or upset that they don’t have my full attention, no one can make me feel guilty for not unpacking/tidying/washing the floor/working/whatever. No one can try and convince me that writing is a waste of time or that no one wants to read what I want to write. Continue reading “On commuting, phones and free time”

On becoming a famous writer…

( – or being praised and proud of it – )

As most of you know, I made a very complicated, old-fashioned, obsolete pump for my Masterpiece.

A couple of months ago the editor of the German Glassblowers Quarterly* appeared at work and asked me to send him a report of how I made it, as well as some photos and a technical drawing.

I duly wrote**, drew*** and sent.

A couple of weeks later (1st April) the article was duly published.

So far I’ve heard good things from all the people who’ve read it****.

One guy wants to make the same thing for his masterpiece and my boss (who supervised the making of the pump) delights in shoving the magazine under peoples’ noses and demanding that they read it ;).

Oh yeah!

The best ‘review’ so far, however, was written to me by a glassblowing acquaintance this morning:

“…the article was typical Jesska…. 🙂 🙂 🙂 I could picture you laughing and/or grinning all the way through it 😉 …”.

Apparently he also spoke to the head of the German Glassblowers Association who said there’d “never been such a good article in the magazine”.

That’s pretty cool too, right? :p

* not the real name. The real name is VDG Nachrichten.

** after moving house, building a couple of shelves and generally not sleeping enough

*** ‘corrected’ – I’d already drawn it for the exam, but there were lots of little mistakes I’d only noticed after getting it printed on huge paper the day before it was due in.

**** Shh!! The fact that most of them know me obviously doesn’t count 😉

On decorating

My new room’s* usable!! 🙂

After weeks of shopping, drawing, discussing, clearing out, cutting, painting, and washing every flat surface numerous times, my new “creative corner” is usable 🙂

Notice how I didn’t say finished… There’s still a whole lot to be done. Things like putting pictures up, buying a rug, putting up (read: sweet talking the DB into putting up) some shelving for my stuff, joining the extension lead(/power strip??) to the wall etc etc etc…

But it’s usable.

I’m sitting on my new second hand chair at my new desk, writing my meister projekt this post on my laptop with a huge new second hand screen that you can turn sideways (if you can figure out how to make it talk to your laptop). Behind me is the standing lantern and in front of me is an original retro bendy lamp. My desk has a hole for the cables and there are amazing wonky shelf-boxes on the wall.

Today is another good day.

 

*I’m moving house soon, which is upsetting because it means leaving my amazing old house behind, but cool because I’m moving in with DB and because new things are just generally cool 🙂

On being informed v being ignored

I have a boyfriend 🙂

This happened at some indecipherable point between the beginning of May and the middle of June. I don’t think it’s all that important to have a date, but he does so we’re going to have to think of one.

It’s now August.

I’ve told most people the news.

I’ve also been incredibly busy*.

Being busy not only translates into not-being-at-home, not-being-online, not-making-time-to-phone-people-I-haven’t-spoken-to-for-months-to-tell-them-the-news…..but also into writing-blog-posts-on-my-phone-and-saving-them-as-rough-draft-emails-instead-of-finishing-or-posting-them.

Some people are decidedly not amused at not being told sooner.

Other people are decidedly not amused that I’ve stopped writing.

The second group of people includes myself.

So I’m going to start again.

Writing on the computer that is.

And posting.

And phoning people up.

And maybe being online more often….

Maybe.

Being online isn’t good for my sleep-account.

Then again, not being online doesn’t seem to be so good for my friendships.

Maybe I can get online and still get enough sleep. That would be a first. And firsts are exciting.

 

Watch this space.

 

 

*not always boyfriend related 😉

On Perfect days

(Anyone who read my earlier posts – or spoke to me during May – knows I was invited to spend a week “messing about on a river” (and connecting lakes). This post should have been posted directly after getting back (mid June) but somehow wasn’t. I’m going to post it now anyway)

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Some days are just so perfect nothing could make them better. They’re even perfect in the moment you’re living them, not just in your memory afterwards.

They’re pretty few-and-far-between, but they do exist.

The first Saturday of the boat trip was one of them. The rest of the boat trip was fantastic too, but there’s something about doing things for the first time that makes them special.

This post won’t do it justice, but I’m going to write about it anyway in the hope I can convey a fraction of the amazingness to screen-paper.

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I arrived on Friday, was picked up from the station, fed, watered and sent to bed.

I woke to the promise of warm breadbuns for breakfast. By the time I was up and dressed the promise was reallife and waiting for me on the table.

We packed the car and after a brief detour to the workshop to do some last-minute finishing off, we found ourselves parked in a playground on the banks of a huge lake on the outskirts of the city looking at a row of motor and sailing boats, one of which was to be our home for the next week-and-a-bit.

We unloaded the contents of the car into a heap on the pier and I misused a kid’s trampoline while R parked the car where it wouldn’t disturb anyone. I love trampolining, even if the sign forbids anyone over 14 the pleasure of bouncing. Luckily the trampoline police were on duty elsewhere and I got off with being laughed at by R as he came back to start loading the boat.

The only way onto the boat was a thin wooden plank leading off the wooden pier and across the water.

The plank wobbled.

Also the boat rocked if you touched it. I don’t balance better when holding onto something unstable.

I’m not particularly scared of walking on curbstones, and the plank was considerably wider than a curbstone. However. Something in the knowledge that the plank was at least a metre above the water, whereas the curbstone is a maximum of maybe 10cm above the road, made walking along it that much more nervewracking.

Having made it to the boat carrying considerably less than I could carry along a curbstone, R wisely decided I ought to stay inside the boat. He fetched the rest of our stuff while I stowed it somewhere it’d be out-of-the-way yet accessible for the rest of the week.

As soon as the pier was empty we were off 🙂

R’s friend A and A’s nephew D were already onboard A’s boat and waiting for us to get our butts in gear and catch them up.

The first port-of-call was the filling-station.

Filling a boat is very strange. For starters you have to pull up alongside the fuel pump in your boat and then tie it up before you can fill it. I don’t drive, but I’ve never seen anyone tie their car up, and I don’t remember ever tying my motorbike up. I clambered out of the boat and stood on the ‘bank’ out of the way.

When the tanks were full, we untied the boats, moved 50yards up the river and ‘parked’ (involving more tying up) so we could go shopping. We didn’t want to leave the boats unattended, so A and D went shopping first, then it was our turn. The shop was a good 5 minute walk from the river so they brought the shopping trolley back with them. We laughed, took photos 🙂 and walked the empty trolley back to the shop. R refused to walk the trolley back after we’d shopped, so we left it in its trolley shed and carried our shopping back to the boat.

We now had food for the boat and food for us. We needed water. We stopped at a very small port, where a man threw the end of a hosepipe at us and wished us a good day when we threw it back to him.

All things being sorted, we were finally ready to go.

 

It didn’t take long before R suggested I drive. Drive? Steer? Whatever one does to boats to make them go where you want them to go.

As I said above, I don’t drive, but I was curious and 8km/h is a speed even I can handle, so I agreed and he set about telling me how it works. I slid onto his side of the ‘sofa’ and took the wheel. A drove in front of us setting both the speed and the direction, so I just had to follow him without ramming him, the banks of the river, the other boats, or anything else really. There’s also a guage to tell you how deep the water is. Running aground does you no favours.

It seems I am surprisingly good at steering a boat :).

Having discovered this, R relaxed and lay back in the sun. I can’t watch people being lazy if I’m not 😉 and I was supposed to be revising for my upcoming Glass-Theory-Exam, so I dug my 400 painstakingly written 13×7 cards out and handed them to R with the request to go through and ask me the questions. The rest of the day was spent with me behind the wheel and R behind the cards.

Turns out R is dyslexic and, apparently, my handwriting is appalling. Reading is something that came pretty naturally to me, so I don’t really understand how it must feel not to be able to, even if I can understand not making out other peoples’ handwriting. He stumbled through the question while I tried to work out what I might have written, then I answered and he tried to work out what I might have written and whether it coincided with what I answered.

R knows loads – often more than the teacher – and can [usually] explain it in a way that makes me want to listen, so each card became the starting point for a mini-lesson.

 

After a while we arrived at the lake. A threw the anchors out and R and D attached our boat to theirs and we all went swimming (very cold, but okay once you were in).

I lay on deck “to dry” ;). R brought me a Thermarest which meant I lay there a lot longer than strictly necessary.. 🙂

A started washing his boat, I can’t watch people being lazy when I can’t, but I can’t watch people being quite so active while I’m laying around doing nothing (actively watching them be busy doesn’t count) so I washed ‘our’ windows. I’d been irritated by all the dead flies and gunk on the windscreen while driving but hadn’t wanted to say anything… This was a fantastic opportunity to do something about it – and prove my year of washing school windows was good for something.

R sunbathed – apparently watching people clean stuff helps him sleep ;).

As soon as everything on A’s boat and the windows on ours gleamed and glistened (wonderful words :)) we settled down for a BBQ and an evening in. Our boats were joined together so that we were practically all in one ‘room’. The BBQ was on theirs, so we were able to relax (even more) and wait to be served :).

In our supermarket dash it seems R and I had stumbled across the best lamb ever. I wouldn’t recognise the packaging if I was looking for it, and I don’t even remember what the shop was called, which is a bummer, but maybe its bestness wasn’t entirely due to the sheep…

 

D is clumsier than I am 🙂 He was our dinner-entertainment, dropping and spilling things to the amusement of all (and he laughed with the rest of us, so either he’s a fantastic actor or he really didn’t care).

A washed up, R lit the oil lamps and anti-fly-candles and I sat with a Baileys-and-milk listening to the Irish country band giving a concert on the far side of the lake (even if I didn’t believe R had booked them especially) and watching the stars come out.

 

I don’t think anything could have added to the “idylle” (idyllic-ness).

Quote: dreams

“Dreams are illustrations from the book your soul is writing about you”

Marsha Norman

(If this is true, mine’s going to be a very odd book..)