Love and Work: My list of ten things that make me happy.

Kass has asked that I list ten things that make me happy. At first glance this task does not seem easy. I’m much better at writing about things that bother and trouble me. Things that make me happy seem too sugar sweet by half. However, I shall try.

Like Kass in her blog, I shall order these things in no particular order, but the fact that I order them implies an order and so just as I did when I was a child and fantasized about a woman whom I saw each Sunday in the church and rated her as the most beautiful woman in the world, I will qualify my rating.

When I was a child I put the Blessed Virgin Mary first ahead of my mother second, and Miss Andersen, my grade four teacher, third. I could not rate a complete stranger for beauty ahead of my mother. Then I included all my sisters and brothers for beauty and love in a bunch. I would not discriminate one from the other, just as I cannot rate my children as preferred or less today.

When my third daughter was around the age I was when I was in love with the woman in the church, she asked me,

‘Which of your children do you love the best? I don’t care if it’s not me,’ she said. ‘I just want to know.’

She did not let up. For weeks she hounded me with this question. For weeks I refused to give an answer. Eventually her question died away, but she had already decided whom I preferred, and nothing I could say or do would shift her decision, at least not then.

When I was a child I was convinced that my mother preferred me to her other three daughters. After all she gave me her name, her exact name, Elisabeth Margaretha Maria and she let me get away with things, things my older sister never managed to avoid, like having to tidy up – my mother never pressured me – and she bought me a Rockman’s baby doll for my eighth birthday, and a poetry book for my fourteenth. Proof positive of her special love for me.

I stored up evidence of my mother’s favoritism until I was well into adulthood and she was by then in her sixties. Not long after my father had died, my mother told me one day about an assignment she had been given by her church group. She had been asked to write down the name of the person with whom she felt the closest affinity.

My heart did a little flip. I was sure she would say my name, but no. She told me my older sister was the one closest to her in ideals and temperament. I was stunned. My older sister had convinced me for years that my mother hated her, and the feeling, my older sister suggested, was mutual. But this was not how my mother saw it.

You see now why it is so hard for me to list ten things that make me happy. I go off on tangents and always wind up with the difficulties. But I will try here to fulfill Kass’s directive.

1. In honour of what I have said above I will include my family at the top of the list. I bunch them together under the term family, my husband and four daughters, my grandson, my son in law. My love for them all is differential. I love them differently, as I say. Love for me, loving a person no matter who that person might be, makes me happy. I love to be with the ones I love.

2. Writing makes me happy, the sheer joy of clacking away at the keyboard just as I am now, writing, and to no serious agenda. Even here when I am trying to fulfill Kass’s request, I write into the unknown. I love the sense of not knowing where this writing will take me, what I might discover. Writing as an activity, as a process, as much as it sometimes brings me pain, brings me the greatest happiness.

There you have it: the two things that make me most happy.

3. Thereafter I list my work. My work as a therapist makes me happy but it also makes me sad. It worries me at times and I find it difficult and demanding – to be available; to keep my mind open; to project myself as far as I can into another’s state of mind; to try to imagine what might be going on in the room; to read about other people’s ideas on how this thing called therapy works – all these things bring me happiness. They also make me suffer.

I could say this applies to everything that makes me happy. There is nothing pure to me about happiness. It always comes with baggage.

4. So now I’m up to four. Dreaming at night, remembering my dreams in the morning, writing them up and discovering these dreams, days, weeks, months later to be surprised and wonder: Did I dream this? What can it mean? This makes me happy.

5. My house makes me happy. The bank still owns a part of it, but it is still our house. I have lived here since 1980. I have seen many changes. We have renovated twice. It was first built in 1895. It is an old Victorian house with a curved front veranda, lead light at the door and a long central hallway.

At the moment we are working on its maintenance. There are so many things wrong with this house but I am a homebody. I love to have a stable base. Being at home makes me happy.

6. Blogging makes me happy. This could I suppose be subsumed under writing, but blogging also involves reading and responding to others. It involves looking, seeing, listening and most all thinking and feeling in response to the stories of others from my blog community. This for me has some of the pleasure of being with and thinking about good friends and family.

7. Other people’s happiness and successes make me happy, especially the joys of those close to me, particularly my husband and children. I could say that I am happiest when they are happy. The same applies to those with whom I work. I am happy when they achieve a flash of their own genuine happiness, which happens from time to time over the course of our work together.

8. Books make me happy – my library case filled with books most of which I have read or at least dipped into. Books to lose myself in, books whose words flow for me such that I enter new worlds when I read, or revisit my own.

9. My correspondence, my letter writing to people like Gerald Murnane, makes me happy. Again I should perhaps subsume this under writing, but writing snail mail letters, the type you send through the post, the type that makes it into hard copy and gets sent off in envelopes away from me to be read by some beloved friend or others, makes me happy in a way that is different from blogging.

Similarly emailing makes me happy. I’m cheating here. It should perhaps have its own rating but I need more space before I can safely finish. I’ve written about emailing before, too. I love the ping from my computer, the way the little ball flashes red when I have mail, in my in-box. Of course it helps when the mail is personal and from blogging friends and actual friends, anyone who bears genuine good wishes. The experience of connectedness with the outside world, whether nearby or far, gives me great happiness.

10. Watching DVDs, particularly the BBC period dramas, alone in my writing room on my computer screen, while everyone else is asleep late at night after all my tasks for the day are complete, brings me joy. I love it. It is my moment of escape into another world and one that requires little from me other than to bask in the fantasies of what life was like many years ago, usually in England or Europe, when things seemed simpler and paradoxically far more onerous.

At the risk of cheating I add jewelery, the rough silver variety, not expensive but strong and bold, the stuff my husband makes, and two of my daughters make; silver earrings that hang long and low, these give me pleasure.

Once I start on objects my list gets far too long and I have already over reached my mark.

Thanks, Kass. This has been fun. My impulse is to tag many of the people you have tagged including yourself but that would defeat the purpose, so I presume I should move further afield.

With that qualifier in mind, I shall try to find ten other lovely and wonderful bloggers who might not, unlike Jim of the Truth about Lies, find the task too irksome, but even Jim, for all your hesitation, you have written a list of sorts in your response to Kass and have shared a most wonderful poem.

It’s a good idea therefore, Kass, this task you have set us. It gets us to work. What greater happiness is there than through work.

Work and Love: Freud’s two parameters for living.

So here’s the task for the following bloggers, if you have the time, the desire and energy, if you can bear it, please list ten things that make you happy and then tag ten bloggers who might have their go in turn.

If you choose not to, for whatever reason, it is fine. It will not be held against you. As far as I’m concerned blogging is for pleasure, despite its sometimes onerous nature. It ought not be done out of sheer obligation or duty.

Since reading through this, I have changed my mind.

To choose to tag people is to show preferences in one way or another. I find this too difficult, especially as I do not want to leave people feeling burdened, nor do I want to leave others, who like me, might feel left out.

So I have only completed half the task. Unless someone can convince me otherwise I will not tag others here. But I invite anyone who has gone to the trouble to read this post to have a go at the exercise if only for fun. And please add it as a post or a comment or whatever you like as you see fit.

Footnotes and Waffle

Last night I watched scenes from the 1995 BBC version of Pride and Prejudice. I scrolled through the sections that hold less interest for me and moved onto the sections in which Darcy and Lizzie Bennett feature. I am looking for the happy ever after quality, the escapist thrill of the olden day romance, with all its affected old fashioned speech, its strait laced manners.

Lizzie Bennett’s forthright tone and Darcy’s brooding gentleman like qualities comfort me. Like wearing warm socks on a cold night in bed when my feet are too cold to let me sleep, or drinking a sweet cup of milky Earl Grey tea.

Earl Grey tea reminds me of those times many years ago when I was studying for my final year of social work. I hated to study then. I could not concentrate for long. I would prefer to do housework than to sit at my desk reading the assigned text books. Nothing made much sense to me then and even as I might have basically understood the material we were meant to pore over and absorb, I could not see the point of it. I could not recast it in the form of an essay that might answer a particular question or address an set topic without sounding pompous, wishy-washy or just waffling on, as I fear I am doing now.

Waffling on.

Waffle waffle, words on the page. The movement of my fingers as I type, the words that form in my mind as I sit here hunched over the keyboard is pleasurable in itself. No matter what the words. Almost no matter. I am aware at the same time that I wish I were saying something meaningful, something that would take me somewhere, somewhere purposeful, somewhere with oomph.

Is this blogging drowning out my capacity to think?

On Friday a friend told me that they had refused to send her exegesis in for marking as it had no footnotes. No footnotes is not the stuff of PhDs. It would not pass.

I wonder who wrote that rule down and when? Footnotes signify what? That the work has been filtered through the minds of other researchers; that the person writing the thesis has considered other points of view and acknowledges them accordingly?

It seems it is not good enough to write down the contents of one’s thoughts without some reference to other people’s ideas, nor is it satisfactory to so assimilate and process other people’s thoughts that they cannot be clearly demarcated with a footnote at least and preferably not just a reference to the author of the idea, but also to the title of the text book in which the idea appears and best of all the page number.

This proves that you have read it. You cannot write about other people’s ideas without acknowledging them, and yet there is little that any of us write that does not include other people’s ideas.

If there is no such thing anymore as an original, a truly original thought and if every thought derives from somewhere else, and someone else has already considered it, then the business of scholarship presumably is to develop that thought somehow, at best or at worst I suppose it is merely to paraphrase the thought so that it sounds as though you have understood it and can therefore regurgitate it in the interests of your own ideas. Then the thesis becomes a laddering of other people’s ideas all piled one on top of the other.

I have a tendency to bring other people’s ideas together from different places. Some thoughts from psychoanalytic theory mesh with thoughts from autobiographical theory and they look good together. I make them make sense in much the same way as I force my dreams to make sense, more sense than they would have were I able to write down my dreams exactly as I dream.

Dreams are far less tidy and cooperative than narratives. Narrative demands a logical sequence of events, one that leads to another or clear gaps in between where readers can use their imaginations to leap over the gaps and create their own bridges. Dreams make impossible leaps that are only possible in our imaginations and unconscious minds.

It is not enough for me to write what I think. I must marry what I think to what other people think. Other people whose ideas bear some relevance to what I write about.

At the Writer’s House where we explored new forms of writing, Peter Bishop told us to follow the tangents. I am good at following tangents. I do it effortlessly.

In thesis writing it is also necessary to follow tangents at least in the beginning but there comes a point where I must stop following tangents and stay in one place.

I must pull all the threads together and make some coherent sense of what I have discovered both in my own thinking and also in that of those whose writings I have explored. This is the difficult part. It is like stitching a jumper together once all the panels have been knitted separately. The stitches must appear seamless. The stitches must be so carefully done as to give the appearance that the jumper was knitted as a whole, one piece rather than a series of pieces.

This I find difficult. This I resist. I want to keep knitting new panels but my jumper will become a many armed thing if I am not careful and there is no one person other than a monster with more than two arms.