Tuesday, May 24, 2016

when grown women act like they're in junior high

you know that moment when someone calls you out of the blue and is angry with you? you get a whole litany of complaints from them, some which are perfectly valid, but they were so off your radar that you’re taken aback by the whole thing? it’s an instant of insight into another perspective; one which you definitely would never have arrived at on your own.

during that phone conversation (which feels strange in and of itself, because honestly, who makes phone calls anymore these days?), you realise that the person actually just wants to be mad and doesn’t want to resolve anything with you. she just wants to communicate her anger. repeatedly and insistently. and she definitely does not want to listen to you, nor does she actually want the information that she claims you have been withholding from her. she mostly seems to want to give you lessons about a culture that you clearly don’t understand, what with your being a foreigner and all. and while it’s all very unpleasant, people are entitled to their emotions. and sometimes situations make us angry. but you’re actually quite zen about it because you have no vested emotions in this person. you’d met her a few times, but actually felt quite ambivalent about her, not disliking, but not liking either. and you chalk the whole thing up to what you have to endure if you’re going to head up a little artsy organisation involving a bunch of women. because women are always worst to one another (why is that?).

however, it doesn’t stop there. the angry person takes to facebook and airs her complaints publicly on the group’s facebook page. you’re traveling for work at the time and don’t have time to address the complaints in the public forum, but thankfully one of the other members does so. a few weeks later, when you try to do so and actually to thank her for motivating the board to start an electronic newsletter to keep members informed, you discover that you are blocked from commenting on the post. and also on another post, which is complaining that the angry woman can’t see the information you posted about an upcoming event. and you realise that the reason she can’t see it, or any of your other posts, is that she has blocked you. and you investigate how one goes about that on facebook and you realise that it’s not something that could have been done by accident – it had to have been intentional. she wanted to spew her complaints and she didn’t want you to be able to answer them. and while that’s normal behaviour on the internet, it’s actually not that often that you encounter it in real life. and you move away from ambivalence towards dislike.

but you try to actually curb your knee-jerk response to such a person and handle it from another, more zen place. so you send an email with the comment that you wanted to post, praising her for sharing her experience with the group and for prompting us to start a tiny letter newsletter. and you say that it’s perfectly ok that she has blocked you on facebook (and you actually mean it), but that she should know that it’s why she can’t see the information you post in the group and could she kindly refrain from publicly complaining about that when she has chosen it herself.

she responds with pleas of a lack of tech savvy and asks you to explain how she can fix it. so you play tech support and give her a detailed description of where/how you block and unblock people (after googling your way to how it's done). and when she stops by the exhibition, you also show her the same on your own computer, which you happen to have along. but you maintain a wary distance and are not warm and friendly, because hello, she did block you and now she’s standing right in front of you, lying to your face about it.

some hours later, you hear that she proceeded to go down to the square and talk shit about you to several of your friends. and with that, you’ve had enough and you write to her once again, kindly asking her to please take the conversation directly with you and not go around talking about you on the streets. and, while lying to you directly that she hadn’t done so, like a child, picking up their toys and going home – she petulantly picks up her paintings from the exhibition and says she is leaving the group. and you wonder how grown women (seriously, she's in her 60s) can behave like that.

maybe we really do learn how to behave when we’re in junior high.

and then your ambivalence returns. and you realise it’s all just fodder for an eventual novel. if people didn’t want you to write about them unfavourably, they should have been nicer.

Sunday, May 01, 2016

the view from sunday night

did you know that until this week, i'd never been to brussels? since i've started my new job, i've added two countries i'd not visited before - poland and belgium. i do hope things continue along those lines.

it's very exciting and wonderful to travel, but i miss writing on a daily basis like in the old days (read: five years ago). i find i get a congested feeling, not processing all of these experiences through my fingers and onto the page. i definitely need to find my way back to that. it feels like time has accelerated and i just don't have the same time to sit down and write that i once did. and i miss it a great deal.

but today, with glorious sunshine at last, i didn't manage it either (until now), despite my head spilling over with words that want to find their way out my fingers, thoughts that need to be processed. instead, i used my fingers to plant tomatoes, cucumbers and peppers in the greenhouse, as well as starting broad beans, squash, pumpkins, tomatoes and kale. may 1 sounds late to start things, but it's been such a cold spring, they'd never have survived before this, not even in the greenhouse. but planting feels important as well and it's time i get with my precious molly, who is a garden kitty. she loves when i'm working in the garden, it's the one thing that visibly makes her happy.

i guess one of the reasons i've been writing less is that i'm working more on getting in touch with my body. my autumn back problems were a real wake-up call. i feel like it happened because i'd neglected the physical side of my being for years. i'm not sure i've ever actually been in touch with my body or really listened to how it's doing. when i'm in copenhagen, i go to yoga nearly every evening, so i'm working very diligently on getting in touch with my body. and trying to learn to listen to it. and it's not easy. while i'm holding a yoga position and i'm supposed to be concentrating on it, i find it hard to keep my mind from wandering off to lists of things to do, emails to write, photos to upload. but i love the feeling that my body is getting stronger and more reliable and i'm learning, slowly but surely, to listen to it and let it be the boss once in awhile, rather than living entirely in my head. it's about finding a balance. i'm not there yet, but i'm practicing.

the past week has been full of wonderful experiences and conversations. getting to know one of my new colleagues, who i really click with, and laughing a lot and buying plenty of belgian chocolate with her. getting together with an old friend and having a wonderful catch-up and deep philosophical discussion over good food. that evening made husband and i think about the way our relationship works and gave both of us a genuine (and thankfully positive) experience of seeing ourselves through someone else's eyes and coming to new appreciation for our relationship. then, a party full of music, dancing and good food in the heart of copenhagen. and today, seeing husband taking his first steps as a politician and candidate for the city council and then enjoying some hours of sunshine in the garden, preparing to grow food to nourish our bodies in the months ahead.

i just have a rich sense that it's all interconnected. i need both mind and body and awareness of both. i need travel to inspire me. i need deep conversations, wine and good food. and i need physical time with the soil and the cats and some sunshine and podcasts in my ears. put it all together, add a little time to write about it and i am filled up and ready for the week ahead. it holds a workshop and meeting a lot of new people. and they promise sunshine. what more can one ask? a couple of days off at the end of the week? go on then, i'll take those too.

enjoy the week ahead, one and all. you never know what's in store!

Sunday, April 24, 2016

making pottery is hard

three whole days of creativity. turns out operating a pottery wheel successfully is rather difficult. and while you can manage to make something in only three days, it might be a bit on the wonky side. but i enjoyed decorating my creations very much. and i enjoyed spending three days in a wonderful creative space.

the weather was crazy over the weekend, covering all the seasons in the space of a few minutes. it was good to be inside at the wheel. even if the wheel was very difficult.

a few of the pieces i ended up making. they'll be glazed and fired and i'll be able to take them home in early june. looking forward to seeing how they look when they're finished!

and now, packing up my suitcase and getting ready for the week ahead. yoga, seafood and brussels on the horizon. it seems life is as ever-shifting as the weather around here...

Monday, April 18, 2016

a to å challenge: e is for energy

this one was easy. i’ve had reason of late to ponder energy, as i’ve felt mine returning after too long a hiatus. and i’ve also thought about where energy comes from for me. it comes from having a job in which i travel. it also comes from having people around me who inspire me. people who take my ideas and have ideas of their own, which makes everyone’s ideas grow and multiply. it comes from meeting interesting people (see travel above), who give me new perspectives and new experiences. it gives me energy to be seen for who i am. for my talents to be recognised and utilised and respected and yes, even liked.

when energy returns to me, i have so much more to give to everyone and everything around me. i have energy to read, to listen, to engage, to be alone, to go to yoga, to contribute at work. i am more open, more engaged, more forgiving, kinder, more inspired. i am so much more who i want to be.

i don't want to be my job, but whether i like it or not, i'm much more energetic when i’m working at a job that gives me energy rather than taking it away. i’ve simply had too many jobs that robbed me of energy instead of giving it to me. but now, that i’m once again a place that charges my batteries, rather than depleting them, i hope that i will finally learn the lesson. i fought it for a long time, but perhaps here in the so-called first world, we are what we do for a living. but also so much more than that.

Sunday, April 17, 2016

a little hello from sunday night

it's quiet, except for the sound of rain on the roof. the child is back at school. husband is on his way back from a meeting in copenhagen. it's just me and the cats. it feels peaceful. it's been busy the past couple of weeks with travels, meeting new people (and seeing some old friends), generating new ideas, taking loads of pictures and stretching outside my comfort zone photographically, practicing yoga, moving to a new place in copenhagen. life feels full and happy. i've been giving what leftover time i have to curling up with a good book in the evening. it seems to be what my soul craves of me right now. yoga is teaching me to listen to that.

more soon.

Monday, April 04, 2016

a to å challenge : d is for drinking

i've had this post open for hours. i've had a hard time deciding what "d" is for. is it death? divided? downpour? depressed? diamonds? downward facing dog? i know it's not a regular dog, since i'm a cat person. and then it hit me...drinking. (i had to use this photo because it includes both a cocktail and a cat, which, i realize, both start with c, not d.) 

back when i got my first job in denmark, i remember being very surprised that there was beer at lunch in the canteen for those who wanted it. it was next to cokes and fizzy water and milk and people did occasionally take one. of course, i was surprised there was a canteen at all, since in the states, we'd go out and grab some lunch somewhere, but in denmark, it's very normal that there is a work canteen and that you pop down with your colleagues, eat lunch, talk and then go back to work, taking about 30 minutes together to eat. alas beers in the canteen are no longer the norm (not that i ever recall taking one). but, even still, in general, danes have a very relaxed attitude towards alcohol.

the same cannot be said of norwegians. i've been doing photoshoots of late and have had to work around a norwegian law that mandates that norwegians cannot even see alcohol in an advertisement. apparently it's too dangerous for them. so even photos of a wine or whisky tasting have to feature empty glasses, leaving the alcohol to the imagination.

and i would maintain that that just makes things worse. like with teenagers, the thing you forbid is the most attractive. so when norwegians get access to alcohol at reasonable prices, they go a little crazy. much like south dakota teenagers on a saturday night when someone of age has bought them some beer and they sit in their cars(!) drinking it.

here in denmark, we also have a relaxed attitude to young people and alcohol. the drinking age is 18 (to buy alcohol), but most young people drink at parties long before that and to be honest, it's their parents buying it for them. as i see it, this is a good thing, because then you know how much the kid has and where it's come from. there are these shots that are very popular "the small sour" they're called - they come in a variety of flavors and although they are ostensibly vodka-based, they are only 16% alcohol (rather than the usual 40% vodka boasts) and they, along with soda-sweet ciders, are what the young people want to drink at their parties. frankly, they are foul and i think they serve to put the young people off alcohol more than encouraging them to drink more.

interestingly, the relaxed attitude towards alcohol seems to make the young people more sensible about it. it's not forbidden and therefore much less attractive. we are always more compelled by the things we cannot have. 

* * *

i do not buy this argument that the way the rest of the friends treated ross signaled the beginning of the end of western civilization. ross was an annoying, mopey, whiny git from the first episode. he was the least appealing friend and quite frankly, he wasn't that intelligent. i never bought him as a paleontology professor.

* * *

and on that note, has the art world also gone to hell in a handbasket?

* * *

j.k. rowling's twitter is putting people off her work.

* * *

on motherhood and the hard truths of messy, wonderful, full lives.
"When we lay our struggles and our worst selves bare, we help others feel less alone.
It takes a village to help us retain our sense of self."

i think i needed to read that sentence today in light of my revision to this post.

Sunday, April 03, 2016

a to å challenge: c is for competition

today we went to one of the many gymnastics exhibitions the child's boarding school is participating in. as we watched the schools and clubs that came before flemming, it struck me that this aspect of danish culture is really interesting. i'd always been puzzled by it because of the lack of competition in it. the exhibitions are just that...exhibitions, performances of elaborate routines which took days and weeks and months to learn, but there is no winner at the end of the day. no scores, no medals. and for me, as an american, that's always been strange - how do you know you did well if you don't find out who wins?

but today, it struck me that what these kids are learning is much deeper than just a dance routine and a few flips. they're learning to perform both as individuals and as part of a larger team. they are each learning their part and doing it to the best of their ability, but it's only as a larger whole that it all comes together. when 200 kids are standing on the floor, doing the same routine and doing it well, it has a power and an impact that's much larger than a single individual doing the same routine alone. and these kids leave the floor, elated with the energy of a performance well done, so there's no need to know who wins to know you did well.  i suspect there's a lesson in that. i also suspect it's a lesson that will serve them well as they grow up and enter the workplace.