Nobody wins a Pulitzer for being happy

Most writers and artist I admire and respect are very tortured souls. So I’m not too sure why I think I can be a writer being such a privileged middle class princess. Particularly at the moment.

I have a super-dooper awesome man friend whom I adore, a job where I am respected and valued and a house full of wild, eccentric women. Life is good. No wonder I am in a creative lull.

Pain is an irreducible neuro-physiological phenomenon that can be experienced in a myriad of ways. How pain is expressed and therefore lessened is strongly influenced by language, culture and articulated in art. I’m not an alcoholic who marries their 13 year old cousin, I don’t have cholera or syphilis, I don’t have an addiction to ether or opium. I’m just too darn perky and well-adjusted to be an artist.

Sure there are still things that rile me up inside, the death of award-winning photographer and film-maker Tim Hetherington and photojournalist Chris Hondros while covering the Libya conflict is one such event; the saturation and the inane coverage of the Royal Wedding (who cares?); constant discussion on our Prime Minister’s fashion (I’m more concerned about her policies); and the list could go on. Since I no longer work for a NGO I don’t have to be submerged in the media daily. I can pick and choose when I get angry, and for the most part I have tuned out and seem to be better for it.

I felt a tremendous sense of guilt leaving NGO land, but I have been a hell of a lot happier. I think this cannot be underestimated. Recently the UK has started measuring the health of the population not just in economic terms, but also in their sense of wellbeing. My levels of tolerance, positivity and understanding that were usually dried up before the coffee van arrived are now huge reservoirs. I feel like what I can really contribute to the world is a happy individual; they are in scarce supply these days.

So my apologies for the stillness of the Wordatorium of late, I’ve been busy doing nothing and being happy. Hardly Pulitzer prize-winning stuff. I’m sure I’ll get my rant on about something soon enough.

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The Lockout

*gentle breeze*

CLICK

“insert four letter word of your choice”

Recently Jen did a very stupid thing (I’m talking about myself in the third person in a desperate attempt to distance myself from the stupidity). On a glorious sunny day I raced to do some laundry before heading to the beach and our deadlock door slammed shut behind me. Leaving me wearing swimmers, a scruffy dress and egg on my face.

After looking at the impenetrable fortress that is my terrace home (which only drunk and randy boyfriends seem to be able to scale) I borrowed some sandals a flatmate had left by the door (small miracles!) and tried to find one of my flatemates at the local cafe. Unfortunately she didn’t start her shift til 4.30pm. The current time – 10.15am – ####.

So the beach was out, so was anything to do with money and talking to people I knew until my flatmates returned home from work.

I gathered all the free street press I could find and read in the park, lovely. I pretended that I intended to do gardening all along so weeded like crazy between all the pavers.

I’m bored

….

I’m getting hungry

I would give my firstborn child for a coffee

Then I started thinking about all the homeless people I pass everyday. Not just homeless for a couple of hours because they locked themselves out like a total idiot, I mean proper homeless. Being exposed to the heat/cold, the uncertainty, the hunger pains but also the tedium. I could entertain myself for a while with reading, but by 3.30pm I was going a little weird in the head, similar to the isolation I experienced with no electricity in the Philippines.

An RMIT study suggests a “chicken and egg” relationship between homelessness and mental illness – in some cases mental illness contributed to a person becoming homelessness; in others homelessness caused a mental illness. The lack of certainty, control and general hopelessness I would think would lead many down the path to depression and including the circumstances of their homelessness involving domestic abuse, addiction, gambling issues and a whole host of complex social issues.

Eventually my flatmates came home, we had a glass of wine and had a good old laugh at my expense. However the experience made me really appreciate the fact that I do have a home to go to, several in fact, where I can have food, shelter and friends. I am a very lucky person.

Worst job interview ever

Any day when I have a job interview is a toughie, sort of like a date, I put on uncomfortable high heels and am scrutinised by at least one stranger. But there is no wine and maybe they will want to pay me money to work for the man. So it’s more like prostitution. Which is a profession Bill Hicks respects far more than marketing, a fair call.

The job interview was in a house in the not too distant Western Suburbs. Upon arrival I am given an odd questionnaire, “What would you do with $70,000?”, “write 5 of your positive and negative qualities”, “tell us your ideal working hours and why” etc etc.

Is this a dating service?

Then to add insult to injury, I am given a typing test. My score is spectacularly low, mainly because I waste half my time listening to the Lady Gaga song blasting from the call centre/kitchen and also sitting in a state of exasperation, “I’m doing a typing test for a manager role?”

Is this a secretary position?

My delightful and amazingly intimidating blonde size 8 incumbent asks if she could take my photo for their records.

Is this a prostitute/ secretary/ dating service position?

She informs me she is moving to New York. “Great, what a fabulous opportunity,” I reply insipidity. I lived in a swamp/tropical paradise in the Philippines, come on Jen, say something cool! Final the manager arrives 30 mins late due to a plumbing emergency (euphemism? code?), looks me up and down then looks at my typing score on the monitor.

“You didn’t do very well.”

“I’m use to writing my own words, not copying paragraphs about astronauts.”

I clearly don’t have this job, but I still have my pride. Damn, should have put “easily distracted by Lady Gaga pop songs while copying inane passages about astronauts” as one of my weaknesses.

After an agonising hour I finally slip away, and do what a lot of people in my position would do; call my mum, best friend and boyfriend to whinge. The last call was the best, as my lovely man friend was with his also lovely and conservative parents and I drop a very naughty four letter word on speaker-phone. No, not that bad, but not good either. Well done me. I then come home to vent and our internet is down.

But I am slowly reclaimed the day with lattes, QOTSA, craft time and knowing that applying for jobs is a two-way street. I wouldn’t want to work there in a million suns.

Please share your appalling job interview stories with me and help shoulder the burden.

Popping the Inner West bubble

There is an old Jamaican proverb, “To eat an egg, you must break the shell”.

There is an old Australian saying,”To buy cheap fruit and veg, head west.” Okay, so there isn’t a saying like that, but it is good advice. As I ventured to Flemington Markets with the delightful Miss Powell I realised whilst waiting at Newtown station that it was the first time I had ever caught the train heading out of the city.

Living around Newtown is fantastic; we have endless options of bars, seedy pubs, trendy retro cafes and Thai restaurants coming out the wazoo. But safe in my little microcosm, have I become one of those myopic people I mock?

According to management theorist Alasdair A. K. White a comfort zone “is a behavioural state within which a person operates in an anxiety-neutral condition, using a limited set of behaviours to deliver a steady level of performance, usually without a sense of risk.” I imagine with a name like Alasdair, his parents were risk-takers.

Are my surroundings a form of comfort zone? A geographical blankie? Definitely, although it is disconcerting how many women have brown hair and bangs around here which is counter-balanced with the militant style clientle of the Sly Fox. Same same creates a sense of belonging.

But today’s little outing has shown me even after a decade of living here, old Sydney has some untapped adventures yet if I choose to leave my Inner West comfort zone.

Time to jettison some physical and emotional baggage

Last year unbeknownst to me I began on a journey of decluttering my existence and renewal.

It began with letting go of a very unhealthy friendship I had. Every time I saw this person I felt worse off for it. The subtle put downs, her embarrassing sleazy behaviour, her negativity hanging around my neck like a dead albatross.

Once I removed this draining person from my life, I had a lot more time for my myriad of other fantastic, creative and positive people in my life.

Next to go was my unfulfilling job, giving me space to think of my next endeavour. Perhaps a little too much time.

With all this newfound time on my hands (thank you redundancy), I have continued to unclutter my physical and my social surroundings. According to the psychology of clutter, surrounding yourself with lots of stuff, activities, people can be a convenient way to keep yourself distracted from noticing the bigger issues you may have been ignoring, or going after what you really want in life. Hmm… sound familiar?

On the physical side of this decluttering process was my recent garage sale. A little money making venture, but mainly I wanted the things I never use to have a second life, to be of value again. One of the sales I delighted in was my Camper shoes going to a disabled girl with wide feet. The shoes are stretchy leather with Velcro straps, and for those of you that have owned Campers you know that they last forever. To me those shoes meant another trendy trophy to my Imelda Marcos-challenging shoe collection that I never wore because they didn’t quite fit. To this girl and her mum it meant she had a pair of shoes she could put by herself, unassisted, that were comfortable and of good quality.

The physical clutter is easy to deal with, but the emotional clutter – feeling socially obliged, self doubt, procrastination – are much harder to acknowledge and therefore deal with. But I’m getting there; it’s all a process.

This post is dedicated to Lyn Adamson, thank you for the gentle kick in the pants.