Saturday, May 19, 2012

1H0512-Part 2: Soapbox

During my low periods in the last few weeks, one of the things I worried about was the soapbox/ivory-tower nature of blogging. The media in New Zealand, especially those who aren't up to date with the Internet in general and social networking in particular, oscillate in describing our ways of communicating from exhibitionism to voyeurism, sometimes in one breath. While I don't worry much about comments from old fogies of this vintage, (who may be chronologically younger than me; they also like to link these "phenomena" to Jerry Springer and Oprah,) I listen to them so I can ask myself where I think I am.

Some of you have admirably strict editorial policy (or a sane hold on your privacy?) and post only about weaving, or whatever endeavors of your choosing; some of you include a modicum of personal snippets which I enjoy immensely because I get a sense of your person and life. (I love reading biographies, even if I don't like the artwork of the subject.) Whereas here on Unravelling, pretty much anything goes, but it is in part because I use it as my therapy; I try to clarify my thoughts by expressing them here and see if it makes sense in the eyes of Me as Reader. So it doesn't work all the time but you wouldn't believe how much better I've become at walking away from ideas/issues and sometimes even problems. (Another thing that has helped me, if you have a hard time moving on, is to say things out loud; I find it's very refreshing to hear my voice telling me I'm done and now I move on.) 

I think I don't just wear my heart on my sleeve, but have a bright neon-pink one on my forehead, and I see myself as a straight-forward, uncomplicated person. Short-tempered but quick to apologize if I'm in the wrong. So I don't know why I've been told so often in my life I'm so difficult to live with, but then I've lived in environments where straight-forwardness is not seen as the best route. On the other hand, I worry incessantly, I mumble and dilute my opinion so as not to disagree/offend, until frustration erupts. And I hold grudges, if I can remember them.

When I started Unravelling, I pictured myself standing alone in a huge stone basilica, library or museum, starting a conversation and hearing only the echo of my own voice in reply. And to some extent blogging is still like that; it is a soapbox or a platform whence I tell/show you what I made/saw/did/said/thought, and those of you remaining after two, three or fifteen paragraphs often agree with me. At least not many of you would point out where I've gone wrong, especially if it's not weaving/technical, even if you had an idea/opinion.

When you worry or otherwise have mental health issues like I, the flip side of this is, it can become a cell, or Rapunzel's tower, or at least an ivory one whence, (yeah, word of the day,) I cannot gauge what what the "norm" is. I cannot see your face to gauge your reaction. Nor if I am explaining clearly. Or if I'm justifying rather than explaining. And it's this last bit of distinction that's been puzzling/bothering  me to no end. I can't tell if I think, or if my friends think, I use Unravelling to justify my bad behaviors or if I use Unravelling as my confessional and conveniently absolve my own sins. I suppose, in a tiny tiny way, it resembles being a celeb or a politician surrounded by My Peeps and not knowing when things start to go wrong.

Having grown up in a relatively strict upbringing, labeled a difficult child, and then moving to a reasonably free place and engaging in an answer-to-myself work, it's hard for an old girl to see if the ground still exists under her feet, and if not, if she's floating or falling.

I like discourses. I love a good powwow. I miss that in Group R; now it's more or less all decided by convention/"good taste"/a few, and there is very little discourse, discussion, looking at alternatives, the "different", like we used to. Our meetings are rushed and part of it has to do with lots of quick practical decisions we need to make at this stage of planning, but I miss the "what about" musings. I understand the group name is up in the air, too; I don't mind changing, but I can only hope for a genuine exchange of views rather than meaningful glances and frowns. . But I don't want to be seen to disrupt the meetings by proposing it. Goodness gracious me.

So promise me two things. If you can be bothered, if you have the time and the mind, do please remember Unravelling is always open for discourse, and even some friendly, well-meaning disagreements.

And if you sense that I'm only airing out an old grudge without my declaring so, if you sense I am unable to move on emotionally and/or am wasting time, please say so in the comment or email me, and if you're too polite, use the code word, "wet duck". OK?



  1. I love reading your blog and rather envy the freedom you allow yourself. My mother reads my blog obsessively so I really have to watch myself! For all I know, she reads yours as well and notes my comments... but I'll just have to take a chance. Social media in general can be a bit of a self-referential downward spiral, can't they? Thank goodness for looms to take us away from our computers.

  2. Just working through the list in my feed reader, and the next thing up was this. Not saying that it reminds me of anyone in particular other than myself...

  3. My mother reads mine, too, I understand, but since there are too many things we can't/don't talk about, at one point I decided to let all the elephants march through here and see if she wants to pickup any one of them. Who knows, it could open up a whole new discourse.

    Cally, you remember I grew up around PhDs so lived more or less inside the Ivory Tower but not quite belonging there. Looking back, I think that kind of protected living suited him because I suspect fundamentally he has problems performing in groups also. If he had professional issues or self-doubt, he didn't discuss it with us, certainly, and observing his personality I doubt he spoke to Mom about it specifically, but looking back, every night at dinner while he worked at Grandpa's university (closer to home), he reported in great detail the events of the day to my mother during dinner, (while we were expected to eat in silence and not meant to listen/understand grown-up conversation), and now I see that that was his explanation/self-justification. Wednesdays were bad because they had the departmental meeting and some weeks he couldn't finish before we went to bed. After he switched universities, he usually didn't make it home by our dinner time. Bliss.

    In the end I think it's more about personalities than types/categories/anything-else-that-covers-a-group-or-genre, but for me, visualizing things like a Ivory Tower helps me understand the loose set of behaviors that could take place in such places.

    FYI, Dad had/has no hobby, didn't/doesn't socialize outside of work until retirement, so totally different from yourself for starters. I, on the other hand, find I've inherited so much traits from him and not from my mother that I need to check with Ben regularly to gauge myself.

  4. I think insecurity is very common in PhD students - I have certainly always seen it around me and it comes through in a lot of PhD blogs as well - but I see two opposite poles manifest themselves post-PhD. On the one hand, there are those who continue to be insecure and are expecting to be "found out" for not being good enough at any moment, and on the other there are those who take the PhD "badge" to be the absolute and final mark of their worth and so they can never be wrong about anything ever again! I know that's an exaggeration, but as my PhD is "about" higher education as well as taking place within it, I spend an unhealthy amount of time reading what academics say about themselves and find it thoroughly depressing. The latter group are particularly disheartening, as they inflate "the PhD" to be a sign of Superior Mental Capacity in All Things rather than a highly specialised qualification which shows that they know how to conduct research in a particular field - the pursuit of which was their own choice rather than something which naturally adhered itself to them because of their magnificent brain. It is scary to read these people!

    Although the HE context may be particularly prone to this, I see exactly the same two poles at work in the art/craft world - and dare I say, especially in art? I was shocked by the comments I heard a respected tapestry weaver make about not-art-school-trained craftspeople: for her, an apprentice-trained craftsperson (for instance) was clearly not a valid being in the way that an art school grad would be, no matter the actual merits of the work they produced. That seems to me to be much the same attitude as the arrogant PhD-holder has to the non-PhD-holding world. You get 'em everywhere.

  5. Your first paragraph makes a fascinating read. Your thesis must be absolutely interesting, Cally.

    Yeah, we get those everywhere, don't we? Even in IT - Ben only had high school dip when he started to work, and he had to train all the univ grads. When he enrolled in IT courses, (we thought it'd be a better way for him to learn English than regular Eng Lang classes since he had 12 years on his CV) he enjoyed the certificate level because they were mostly practical, but hated when he switched to Bachelors because they did a lot of general/airy-fairy stuff and some of the tutors had never worked in the field.

    I couldn't say which is better/worse on account of I've done the most general/impractical stuff until I came across weaving, but there is too much weight on these acronyms. In Japan, a Bachelor's degree is kinda like... a permission to live.

    A while back NZ Labour govt under Helen Clark got rid of the title in the Honors system, but this National (party) govt brought it back and made it optional. Some of us were rather dismayed how many jumped to the opportunity to be called "Sir", including Peter Jackson. On the other hand if we can name kids Prince, Duke, Madonna, etc., why not create our own title for extreme weaving enthusiasts? Something exotic, delicate yet strong??

    Any suggestions???

  6. It can be an acronym after our name, OR a title before.

  7. Hi Meg...I've been out of town and so haven't gotten to your blog until this morning. I have no deep, philosophical or esoteric comment(s) to make, but I did want to say that I very much enjoy reading your blog. The fact that you talk about a variety of things...not just weaving...and that you let your feelings be "out there" is what I like most of all. Although our dialogue is one-sided for the most part, I feel very much like I'm involved in a REAL conversation with a friend. Thanks for being so open and honest.

  8. I love way you blog. You are unique and it is marvelous that you are willing to show and tell things as they come to you. I hope you know that I read every post and that mentally I engage with all of them, but most the energy to comment has left me in the last years as my health problems have worsened. Would you take it as a compliment if I told you I'm quietest in the comments sections of the blogs that I find most thought-and-feeling provoking? A cheery "hey, that's so pretty!" seems like kind of an insult when the writer has poured so much of him or herself into their post.

    Wet duck?! Never.

  9. Awww, thank you for the nice words, Trapunto, and sorry to hear your health has worsened. I should have a small photo of you posted at the top of my computer screen! :-)


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