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                         Me, after begrudingly examining the lint of my soul for this topic:


Now I've got that out of my system, I realised my disdain for having feelings makes me unable to impart pithy wisdom. But I remembered I have been asked this question before, and recently.

29th November, 2012. Oriental Kingdom, Left Bank, Cuba Street
I was already getting uncomfortable with the conversation, but Simon was on a roll. He looked significantly across the table at Lena, then both looked at me. Simon's face was intense; Lena wore a wry smile. Simon pointed his finger at me, shook it in my direction
"So, do you love him?" he asked.
The gears of my brain jammed. I twisted my mouth to the side, considering my options for answering, and chose maybe the worst one. "What kind of a question is that, Simon? How - I - well?"
"You DO love him!" Simon crowed. Lena intervened. "She didn't say that, Si. You can't just make those assumptions."
"Damn straight!" I followed up, anxious to be supported. "I didn't say that, how could I say that? I haven't known him for more than a few months really -"
"Yeah but you were getting busy, we know - we saw you in the club, remember. Pretty romantic."
"We weren't. And you were much too pissed the other night to see anything... weren't you? Besides, believe me, all that time you lot were nudging and winking I was still trying to figure out if he liked me."
"'Liked you'." Simon sat back, shaking his head sagely. "But isn't love a many-splendored thing, Frith? Aren't you two madly, deeply in love?"
"I don't know. How can I possibly know that?!"
"Oh, if my hand transgress - " Simon was grinning, he likes his Shakespeare, too. "Does your heart go fast when he walks in the room? Are you sitting there working, looking up every time someone walks past, hoping it's him?"
This was beginning to cut a little close to the bone. My brain kicked in, yelling at me to engage avoidance mode and do it quick. I moved the conversation on to how on earth Simon had been quoting Shakespeare* and therein ends the pertinent part of my dinner-time inquisition. But I don't think my friend Simon is right. He's annoyingly perceptive, but he's not right about love.
Love is your heart going pit-a-pat? Love is your longing to be by that person's side? Is love, like someone else suggested, knowingly sacrificing your own interests for another, and doing it gladly? These all seem like symptoms to me. It is the cause, it is the cause! (We're well into Shakespeare in the History department.) Where is this mysterious cause, this 'love' thing? Who can pin it down?
When A and I broke up (I'm being serious here, be gentle with my feelings), I was dreadfully upset for a while because I never said the fatal three words to him**. I never said them because, for one thing, I wasn't sure, and for another I didn't want to freak the giddy boy right out. I said things like "you make me happy" and "I'm glad you're here". Things that are true and sure, that I wouldn't look back on and regret as a lie. It's easy to fool yourself, so, so easy. It seems a little thing to toss those words out and say to yourself, "yep, this is the real thing, that's it right there". But how cheap.
I think, tentatively, when you love someone you have ties between you built of the two of you, like twisted roots of a tree and as hard to uproot. You might resent them sometimes, you might not even like them at times but those ties stay. You might try and try to loosen the knots but they're there, a web of actions and words and time. So you might know in retrospect what happened, you began to love someone, once upon a time, and then later you look back and say to yourself, "ah, that was love, right there, that ungainly knot. I see it now". But I can't recognise a pattern while I'm in the middle of it. I am not the guru this time. I am theorising, maybe I am in denial, I am certainly uncertain. How do you know when you love someone? I don't know at all. Maybe one day...

I only wrote about romantic love (lit. lerrrve) because, well, because it was preying on my mind. Is that so wrong?
And in case you were wondering... we didn't end up together, but it worked out happily anyway.

*This led to some interesting revelations. There are upsides after all to a very small, very gossipy society, even when you're the subject of said gossip.
and maybe then he would have staaaaaaayed with me, we would still be togeeeether, woooooooe was meeeeee***, ****
I think it's more fun to do emotions like opera - that is, melodramatically and at full volume.
**** I am very very glad, now, that we did NOT stay together


I choose... future!

Dear 32 year-old Frith – may I call you Ms. Frith?

I know it’s traditional to begin these time-travelling letters with a “now don’t freak out” caveat, but excuse me while I, your ten-years-younger self, angst (oh, and, this is a time-travelling letter. Don’t freak out). THIRTY-TWO IN JUST TEN YEARS?!?!?!?!?!!!! Man aliiiiiiive I’m getting elderly already! I know YOU won’t agree with me, but just WHEN did you get so sage and mature, good-lookin’? I turn my back and you got all grown-up... anyway, please receive this letter kindly, and laugh at your rambling younger self and her obsession with the self-conscious form.

Oh my gosh, I just realised I’m a hipster. I don’t think I can finish this letter ‘cause my evening just became fully booked for self-examination, repentance and contrition.

How is it possible to have wandered so far off-topic already?

Dear thirty-two-year-old self, you won the battle for recognition and attention with twelve-year-old self. It was a close-drawn thing but when I sat down and weighed all the options, it was you I wanted to talk to. Why? I’m not entirely sure.  Probably the allure of the unknown. Twelve-year-old Frithlet was an earnest, gangly, sweet kid, IMHO, but you, Ms. Frith, are exponentially better. I don’t know you and I don’t know anything about you – and I’m puzzled how to write to you when you’re such a mystery. Treat this, then, as a fan letter. From an admiring acolyte to a distant, sunny figure.

Oh what a lot of tosh I write when I’m feeling self-consious.

But I do so admire you, Ms. Frith. You’ve got life worked out. You know where you’re going and how you’re getting there and you’re doing it, just watch you go! You probably have more qualifications than I do, too. You’re so much better and more together than me, I’m kind of jealous. You bitch.

No, don’t stop reading! I didn’t mean it. I was just excited by the moment.

I really hope you’ve got it all together, Ms. Frith. I wish you nothing but the best. None of these bullshit ‘growth opportunities” or “learning experiences”. I hope you live without mishap. That you never have to ring your parents crying from the other side of the world. I hope you don’t get discouraged by constant rejection emails. I hope no-one ever tells you you’re too irresponsible to have their children (I mean, wtf). I hope you’re no longer occasionally too poor for groceries (that must be more embarrassing at your age). I hope you’ve grown out of the virulent strain of super-procrastination that results in weeks-long, sickeningly ill, all-work-no-sleep benders. I hope you’re happy, in short.

On the other hand, I hope you have adventures. I hope you have challenges. I hope it is never too much to bear but always enough to be exciting, even though the balance never seems quite right in the crucial moment. I hope you’ve been to see Petra. If not, FFS GO!!! You’ve wanted to do that since, like, Year 11. Please go and do some more travelling, and don’t tell me the travel itch is leaving you alone now. You big baby. It NEVER leaves you alone, you’re just scared of it. Go and do something cool. Take the most trite piece of true advice I know and go do something for the first time, please. I worry about you getting too stuck in a rut, doing the same thing every day for years at a stretch. DON’T DO THAT TO ME. Can we shake it up a bit? Do something, ANYTHING, to make a change. To keep yourself fresh, you know.

hark a vagrant - tigers
from: http://www.harkavagrant.com/index.php?id=72

More time-travel under the cutCollapse )


Karanga Atuu, Karanga Mai | The Call

(Written with parallel translation, and glossary below. If you live in New Zealand, your challenge is to at least skim the Māori first.)

I tērā wiki, i timata au i tēnei tuhinga mo te mamae ki au mo te reo rangatira i tēnei whenua, tāna iti haere, ā, nō ngā pire o te Taraipiunara ō Waitangi, mo ngā whakamauāhara me ngā wawata o te iwi Māori kua waiho, kua whiu ki waha i ngā whakaaro o te nuinga mō te wā roroa. Inaianei, i muri i te rautau o te pātai atu, te whai i te kaupapa ki roto i ngā kōti, me te mana, arohatia hoki o nga tīpuna me nga rangatira, i ēnei rā kua whai taringa ngā wawata me ngā whakamauāhara o te iwi Māori.

Last week, I began this post as a complaint about the state of Te Reo in this country, and, because of the Waitangi Settlement bills, about the wrongs and hopes of Māori that have been ignored and excluded from mainstream discourse for so long. Now, after a century of asking, pursuit through the courts, and the strength and commitment of leaders past and present, today these grievances and desires of te iwi Māori have found ears.

Ko te whawhai nui mo te iwi Māori i tēnei rā te arohatia i te reo. Ehara tēnei he mea mā te kawanatanga anake (ahakoa mā te kawanatanga he wahanga nui) engari mā ngā iwi o Niu Tīreni. I tū a Pita Sharples i tērā wiki ki roto Paremata, i kōrerorero he mea tika mō te iwi Māori ki te manaakitia i tēnei taonga, ehara mā te kawanatanga anake. Ki aku nei whakaaro, iti noiho āna whakaaro. Mā ngā iwi katoa, mēnā Māori, Pākehā, Hainamana, Wīwī, nō Awherika ki te Tonga, Hāmoa ranei, hei aha - ko te reō rangatira te reo  o te whenau whāngai i a matou katoa. Nō reira mā matou katoa ki te manaakitia, i te kaingākautia hoki i tēnei taonga. Mā te mahara i te reō, ka mahara i te whenua me te ahurea o ngā tāngata tuatahi, ā, ngā pūtake o te ao ō Aotearoa.*

The biggest struggle for Māori these days is to cherish the language. This is not something only government should be concerned about (although there should be a large part for government) but for the peoples of New Zealand. Pita Sharples  stood in Parliament last week and spoke about how it is right for Māori, not just the government, to treasure and protect Te Reo. I myself think he doesn't go far enough. it's for every people, whether Māori, Pākehā, Chinese, French, South African, Samoan or whatever - the Old Language is the language of the land that nurtures us all. So it's for all of us to nurture and cherish this treasure. Through understanding the language, understanding of the indigenous land and culture follows, and equally, of our New Zealand roots.

Ko tērā atu whawhai nui, kua whawhaitia mō tetahi rautau me te hawhe, ko te mana whenua. Ko te tahae whenua, me te ngaro whenua, he mamae, he hē hohonu mō ngā iwi me ngā kaumātua. Ko tēnei hē te pūtake tuturu ō ngā hē tokomaha i tae mai ki ngā iwi.
Ko tā matou waimarie, kei te noho ai mātou i ngā rā mīharo, ngā rā whakapāha mō te kawanatanga. Mā te mau kaha ki tō rātou kaupapa tika, kei te tau mai ki ngā iwi he puretumu mai te Taraipiunara ō Waitangi. I noho puku ai au ki roto i te whare paremata i tērā wiki ki te matakitaki i te whiwhi puretumu mō Ngāi Tāmanuhiri me Rongowhakaata hoki. I mātaki au i ngā roimata o ngā Mema Māori, me i tangi hoki ahau. Nui rawa ngā hē i taka ki runga i ēnei iwi, iti rawa ō rātou hē. I te tau 2012 i whai whakapāha ratou mō ngā tau pōkere, me i whiwhi rātou anō i te taonga o ngā whenua.
Anei te hohonu o te whakaaro mo Tariana Turia, korerorero ai mo "te honore mana ki te korero mo tēnei pire", mō tana hari, me ngā hara o ngā kua pahi - i tēnei wā.

The other major stuggle, fought out for a century and a half, is land rights. Theft of land and loss of land is a grief and a deeply felt wrong for iwi and elders. This wrong is an original source of many problems that have plagued iwi.
it's our good fortune that we live in the days of wonders, days of apology and redress by the crown. Through relentless focus on their cause, iwi have gained compensation from the Waitangi Tribunal. I sat quietly in the Houses of Parliament last week and watched Ngāi Tāmanuhiri and Rongowhakaata gain their compensation. I watched the tears of the Māori Members and I cried a bit in empathy. These iwi were disadvantaged by huge injustices, which they did nothing to deserve. In 2012 they gained an apology for the dark years they'd suffered, and regained some of their treasured lands.

This video shows Tariana Turia's depth of feeling, who speaks of "The honour it is to speak to this bill", of her joy, and the injustice that is now past. (Mihimihi Māori until 1:30, then an eloquent examination of Ngāi Tāmanuhiri's experience of land loss.)

Mai ngā rā o Te Whiti, i ngā tau pouri o te rautau kua heke, i karanga atu ēnei iwi ki te whiwhi i te tika, kia muru ngā hē i runga i a ratou. Mo te reo kua ngaro, te whenua ngaro, te tōnuitanga me te mana i tāhae. Mā te mautanga ki tēnei kaupapa, te kaha o te karanga, kua tae mai matou ki tēnei rā o te tiupiri. Mā mātou ngā tāngata o Aotearoa e whakarongo ki tēnei kāranga, hei karanga atu matou hoki mo te whakahoki o ngā wawata, mo te tau mai anō o te tōnuitanga, te rangimarie me te aroha o te atua ki rungai a mātou. Kaua e pōhara i ngā hē, e te whanau, he tinana kotahi matou, me manaakitia tētahi ki tētahi hei tipu matou katoa hei kotahi. Ko tēnei te karanga.

From the time of Te Whiti, through the dark years of the century following, this iwi called out for justice, for the redress of wrongs visited on them. For lost language, lost land, lost prosperity and stolen mana. Through sticking to their cause, and the strength of their calling, we have gained our day of Jubilee. It is for we, the people of New Zealand, to hear the call, and take up the call ourselves for the fulfiilment of our needs, the return of our prosperity, peace, and to live as our God calls us. To not be ignorant of what is wrong, as we who are many are one body, and to look after one another so we grow together.

This is the calling.

whakamauahara - grievance
kaingakautia - cherish
ahurea - culture
whakapāha - apology
puretumu - compensation
pōkere - dark
tika - justice
tōnuitanga - prosperity

* Kare anō au kua kōrero mō ngā huanga whakatīnana mā te tangata mai te kōrero reo rua, kōrero Māori hoki.
  I haven't yet mentioned the practical benefits to the individual from bilingualism, and speaking Māori.

** Leviticus 25:9-10 -- 9 Katahi ka whakatangihia e koe te tetere tangi nui i te tekau o nga ra o te whitu o nga marama; ko a te ra whakamarietanga mea ai koutou kia paku atu te tangi o te tetere puta noa i to koutou whenua.10 A me whakatapu te rima tekau o nga tau, ka karanga ai i te haere noa puta noa i te whenua ma nga tangata katoa o te whenua: hei tiupiri nui tena ma koutou; a me hoki koutou ki tona kainga, ki tona kainga, me hoki ano ki ona whanaunga, ki ona whanaunga.

I mohio koe ka taea koe ki te panui te Paipera Tapu i te reo ki runga i te Ipurangi?
I've provided you with the reference for this bible quote, look it up. Did you know you can also read the Bible in Maori online?
I work for the government. If you read what I have to say about that in this entry, I may have to kill you.

Giggle, giggle. This is New Zealand. And my job didn't even exist until February this year, when special votes were counted and Gumption Green, the 14th of the Tree Pretty Party's MPs and last one into the House of Representatives after the election, was getting ready to take her seat in parliament. Gumption is profoundly deaf. She can't hear a thing, and, though she's perfectly capable of lipreading her way through daily life, following the antics of our 121 fast-and-furious mouthy MPs in the debating chamber is a bit much for anyone to follow visually. That's where I come in. I (and some darned awesome others) feed a live transcript of everything that happens in parliament sessions to Gumption's laptop.

It's a cool job. It's not one you have to be highly intellient to do, though a good knowledge of current affairs helps a lot. Basically, my job is to type really, really fast. Though it's not the only thing you need to be good at, the one thing you can't do this job without is a pretty damn good typing speed. The average New Zealander, as I tell every hapless exam student with a broken arm whose exam essays I transcribe, speaks about 200 words a minute. I'd be very surprised if some of our rapid-fire MPs don't well exceed that standard. Very, very good typists can get to speeds of about 105 words per minute. The kiwi average typing speed is, dont hold your breath, 30 wpm. You, as a person who uses the Internet, probably type considerably faster than that. I do, but there's always going to be a gap between that 200+ spoken words and the typed transcript. That distance is made up by a combination of paraphrasal, keyboard shortcuts (the mechanics of which I won't go into) and practice.

Yuck, practice. But typing's a skill, and like any skill you gain and lose ground depending on how much you practice. I typed just over 60 wpm when I started in this type of work, and I've improved a lot on that number (it's so NICE to work in a way that gives you such concrete yardsticks to measure your progress against!) just by working three days a week typing like a maniac for the sensible, shout-y people in our parliament. The sticking point is that I don't always get to do that. Politicians, bless them, organise their year so they keep ON having blocks aof two or three weeks off. And may I tell you now, two weeks off wreaks havoc with your typing abilities. I walked into the office today wearing warm gloves, cracking my knuckles and remarking "my fingers don't feel very speedy today". And they didn't. And it can well and truly suck when your fingers aren't feeling speedy. I've repeatedly called our dear Prime Minister the 'pom' on non-speedy days, becasue 'o' is typo-ishly close to the 'p' key so necessary for typing 'PM'. During a typing demonstration, I misheard a debate on some Bill restricting rights, and typo-ed onto the projector screen that this bill would result in "restrictive tights", which isn't a current political issue. The IT guys laughed quite a bit.

I try to mitigate this kind of dumb mistake by warm-ups. Have you guy ever learned the piano? And you know how your teachers would make you do scales, endless scales, and arpeggios to warm your hands up? It's like that. Before Gumption arrives at her computer ready for the debating session, I give the keyboard a thorough bashing. My brilliant method is to write out song lyrics. It's the handiest and best, patented Te Aroha method of warming your hands up. You already know the lyrics, so you're not slowed down by going "testing... one, two, three", and you take care to pick a song with a tempo that's speaking speed or quicker. I normally type out "I'll make a man out of you" from Mulan. D'you reckon the songs you choose are indicative? Cause today, in the five minutes before the Speaker opens parliament, I typed this into the transcript:

"I will follow him follow him whereever he may go. There's no mountain too high that will keep, no ocean too deep for my love, he is my destiny. I love him, I love him, and where he goes I'll follow, I'll follow - "

And Gumption, breaking tradition by being early, typed back "Lovely lines :) "

AAAAAAAAAAAARGH. Is a Deaf person likely to recognise ancient pop music? Tomorrow, I think I'll turn off the keyboard first.


I’m meant to be writing about something that makes me happy. Something, in fact, that “makes (me) ache because it's so beautiful / feel so small in its vastness / implode with wonder.”

It’s Monday night and that is the PERFECT night for writing about this because every Monday night I am completely BUZZED and sitting here on my patchwork quilt just humming with energy. Cause Monday nights I go Swing dancing. This is what Swing looks like:

I can even do some of those moves! At, like, half the speed. Swing developed out of the energetic Charleston footwork that was a huge craze back in those decadent, devil-may-care 1920s.  The partnered version kind of developed into Lindy Hop, which is the variety of Swing that I do. It’s names after Charles Lindbergh, who ‘hopped’ across the Atlantic in his plane. Yes that’s a crazy thing to name a dance after. No, I don’t know why.

Anyway, Swing is fantastic. It’s my favourite. It’s a partnered dance (but everyone swaps and shares partners) and the man (the Lead) gives the lead, and the woman (the Follow) follows. It’s a little like Rock’n Roll, a style in which I was once told “The man’s job is to do the thinking and make you look pretty. You are his dolly. Do what he tells you to.” An old-fashioned dance in some ways, but this is complementarian roles at their very best, and it is gosh-darn, helzapoppin’, crazy breathless fun.

So after an evening of getting spun round and round, counterbalanced, swivelling and kicking and scootching and hip-popping, giggling cause it’s just MAD and hilariously awesome, I’m high on endorphins, damp with sweat and half in love with everyone in the room. And then, then I jam down the stairs with waterbottle in hand, burst out into the cold Wellington night and have to put my coat on. Then I spring and hum all the way up the road swigging from my bottle and trying to swivel on the gritty concrete. Up Webb Street and left down Willis and then up, and up and up, past the concrete once-avant-garde council flats and the stately Philosophy centre, the shops, the terraced houses, the sweeping curve of Raroa Road with its triangular park and gnarly trees and war memorial, with big band tunes and smooth swinging jazz filling my head and the Southern Cross turning slowly over Brooklyn Hill.

“Victory to the Working Classes” is spray-painted on the road. It makes me giggle every time I see it, and since I’m more and more bourgeoisie every day, that’s really not what the anonymous sloganeer had in mind and the irony just gets to me and makes me laugh harder, nearly loud enough to hear over Sinatra-in-my-head.

It takes me half an hour and that half an hour is my time, to crackle and pop with endorphins, and sing, and enjoy the peace of the night and stars, sometimes even pray. I climb the set of seven zig-zags that takes me to my door.

And the sky is darkened as I ascend the stair.

There are shadows across the windows, clouds in heaven,

And a god among the stars; and I will go

Thinking of him as I might think of daybreak

And humming a tune I know....

from Conrad Aiken, 1919.

Night makes me happy.  Stars and dancing make me happy. God makes me happy. And I stand on swiftly tilting planet, and don’t ache, implode or feel small. I bubble over with happiness and surprise my flatmates. It’s probably obnoxious. But Monday is the best night in the week.


Princess in a tower

The Blog Roll topic 4: "the princess in the tower, the dragon wrapped about it, the knight below. Discuss."


Tower and Pedestal

Tell me a story, she said, wide awake with want in her big eyes.

So I sat down by her on the edge of her crazy quilt. Held her fat little hands, smoothed those crazy golden curls, and told her about the princess in the tower.

Princess in a tower, hiding safe from that bad world, thank you very much, alone with the birds in the roof and the light dropping onto the treetops and everything laid out below her. And the dragon, coiled around the round walls, one eye open, pulling her long soft belly tight around the sandstone blocks, with her orange eye watching.

Princess in a tower, peeping down with eyes wondering and wide at the prince below, ya-hooing back and forward on his dirty-white horse, waving that sword around like he doesn’t know what to do with it. Posing and talking smack, adoring and wanting. Never mind those princes, I said, never fall for a prince, baby girl.

And I kissed her goodnight and drew her curtains against the warm summer dark and left my baby to sleep. And then what did I do? I glided down every one of those circling stairs, remembering hard and trailing my fingers over the worn wood rail ‘til I reached the bottom all dizzy and stopped myself firm.

Princess from the tower, looking up to her prince - it’s no way to do things, I say out loud, stern. Princes, they're well and good, but what's a prince but a man on a pillar? Those pedestals so high they'd make anyone giddy enough to fall. Enough of the princes. Enough of the princess. Enough of pedestals, towers and dragons. One day, baby girl won’t need them.


For once I flex my neglected creative muscles! This was written mostly on the bus and unseen by any calming influence in its current form, so be gentle if it's incomprehensible :)

Why is it that everything we've been discussing just leaches into everything else? We talk about gender roles, about feminism and about flirting. It has to come out somewhere. This isn't my fault.
Also I'd better mention, since I caused consternation with my first draft, that no character in this story is me. I have similar views about pedestals though. Unhealthy things.

Nudge Nudge Nudge. Wink. (Part 2 of 2)

Read the beginning of this behemoth here.

And in case you were wondering after that impressive cliffhanger in the last episode,

Answers under the cut. Go on...Collapse )


**** Before you ask, sleeping by my various guy mates has occurred under various circumstances, but the closest anything got to pants business was the one guy who passed out or fell asleep (hard to tell) in my lap. I hadn’t the heart to wake him. He ended up with creases from my onesie covering one side of his face. I was wearing an oversized polar-fleece jumpsuit and looked like Tinky-Winky. He was drunk and sleepy. Not a recipe for romance.

Nudge nudge, wink wink. (Part 1 of 2)

In which I dissect (from behind a hazmat suit) the theory and practice of flirting. With illustrative anecdotes.

It’s like a pyjama party on the internet. Pull up a bean-bag and let me tell you about my cats wide-ranging knowledge of flirtatiousness. Like any good pyjama party, I am going to range between doling out ladles of take-with-a-grain-or-teaspoon-or-heck-mound of salt advice, a goodly dose of pontification, and reminiscence at every decent interval on my experience. It should be interesting, don’t you think? Hmm?

And why am I doing this? Because a group of us have been talking about it for nearly a week now and haven’t stopped yet. Because we all have different views and I want to add my two cents. Because some people are genuinely confused. Because I know a little bit about relationships and quite a lot about people.

The great and good Mel Mylvaganam has asked me the following questions about flirting:

  • how can people flirt (and what falls into the "please don’t' do that" category)
  • when is it okay to flirt
  • at which stage in a friendship/relationship

To which I replied “I dunno”, and felt a bit uncomfortable. This is because, well, we’ve all spent the last week responding with varying degrees of heat* to a chance encounter with the SICR Guide to Flirting , a piece of genuine and highly prescriptive analysis of how to flirt with other people. A guide to interaction on the “carefully compares the risks and benefits of the ‘social smile’ in a flirting situation” level of detail. It’s not, really, advice. It’s instructions. On how to, as one friend tartly put it, “insert tab A into slot B”.

Why I can't write this post and did anywayCollapse )

To be continued... in a second post! read the footnotes in the meantime :)

I do believe in footnotes. I do, I do.Collapse )

In which I present a small sample of what is wrong with the world and why I’m... actually... pretty ok with that. And why I'm not ok with being ok. Got that? Good.

I was happy that ‘contentment’ came out of the hat as our topic for this round. But now I have to write about it. And to write about contentment actually seems really, really odd.

Really odd.

Because I spend my life complaining. Really, I do. I’m a keyboard warrior*. I spend a large portion of my life signed in to Facebook (if not active, as those of you who’ve tried to chat to me know) and sniffing down corners of the internet in which people are being wrong. Up with this I will not put. The rest of my life is about evenly divided between dissecting the actions of the politicians I work around, and being curmudgeonly to my friends and relations. I spend a lot of time in a state of permanent dissatisfaction. Discontentment. And I try to inspire the same state in others too. Because I think there’s a lot to be discontent about.

being feminist and Christian is not oxymoronic. Or moronic. Smartypants.Collapse )

Leftie rageCollapse )

So as you can see, there are a lot of things out there I’m angry about. There are a lot of things you’re angry about too, I bet (there should be). They might not be the same things I’m angry about. Probably not. So what effect do all the stupid things wrong with the world have on my contentment levels?

Some of the time, as you may have picked up, it makes me rage. However, shockingly, I don’t actually go about my day in a haze of anger and trailed by a small black cloud and seething aura of clenched-teeth swear-words. I’m more likely to be found tripping along**** humming something light and airy to myself and chatting about hair products or Outrageous reruns while bumping into lamp-posts. I am content, even though there’s all this bad stuff happening in the world – and this is only in New Zealand. Hey, this is only within my pretty limited politics-and-girls-oriented gambit.

So I’m content. Big deal.

Contentment is, on one hand, ok. It’s a way of being, well, content, without letting all the injustices of life (ranging from broken hair-straighteners to damp homes for disadvantaged kids) get to you constantly. It’s the only way to deal and not become overwhelmed by the injustice that goes on every day, all around, and which we can, individually, do very little to stop. So; I’m content. I don’t think about the world’s problems all the time. I take refuge in a short attention span and enjoy my refuge there. And why not? Being discontent constantly does no good. It does a lot of harm. I know people who’ve gone through their lives being overwhelmed by how terrible things are and their powerlessness. It leads them nowhere pretty. It’s called depression. It doesn’t save the world. Contentment is a much better thing to feel about your life, the world, everything. Contented people, who have a calm base to their own perceptions, are in a much better position to help themselves and others. It’s not complacency.

But it’s not enough, is it? Contentment, fine, all very good, but as I see it, it’s a neutral. It’s when things are ok ENOUGH for you to be reasonably fine in your life. Nothing is actively bad but... nothing is great. There aren’t wild excesses of misery... or of happiness. I may be content with my lemonade iceblock, or my high school education, but what would be GREAT and make me REALLY HAPPY is a Kapiti creamy raspberry and a Masters’ degree. I don’t think I’m automatically entitled to a lifetime of overwhelming happiness. But neither do I think we should forget and be content with contentment. Adventure is out there – with extremes of happiness and misery thrown in. Let’s be content, and aim higher.


*Keyboard Warrior TM (not mine). Also, I hereby pre-emptively justify myself: I am not only a keyboard warrior. I’m no Xena but in addition to banging away on QWERTY, I do also sign petitions, march and give money and time to various good causes. I don’t just talk about them**. Not all the time.

**Further disclaimer. The things I care about tend to be controversial. There are a lot of opposing views around. Holding heated debates around issues like “should people who can’t afford it themselves be given help money to survive” (answer: um, yes) is actually pretty important. Changing the hearts and minds of the world, one Facebook comment thread at a time.

*** DPB figures don’t show what Paula Bennet thinks they show. I don’t have either them or her interpretation to hand, having been out of parliament for a couple of weeks, but it basically goes “thieving promiscuous whores, get off my tax-payer dollar” and is pretty simplistic and, uh, wrong.

****Ok, tromping along. Even in my down-time, I still love my stomp-the-patriarchy boots. They’re the best. And they keep my feet dry.

PS: Speaking of Christianity, gender roles, and the like, I am currently embroiled in a conversation about Flirting and its purpose, place, and execution and it’s making me curious. Breakout post, ahoy!

PPS: Possibly the most indicative and depressing thing I came across googling for facts about sexism and sexual abuse in New Zealand is the Women’s Refuge website. Right at the top it has a large, easy-to-find button called “hide my visit” that clears all traces of the site from your browser history. So your abusive partner/father/whoever can’t find out you looked at it. Fucking. Brilliant.


This is part of a series organised over at The Blog Roll, in which a group (I hope!) of us (and by us, I mean we tentative earnest bloggers) write about the same thing. In theory. They don't know (heh, heh, villainous chuckle here) that I intend to just do my own take. All along, all I wanted to do was tell you guys about this. So this thing happened on Saturday night at Plunket*:


Plunket on a Saturday night

So this is the scene. Here we sit in the lounge of our teeny upstairs flat in Kelburn. The walls, post-dinner (cooked, eaten, and cleared) are still damp with condensation. There are foam beanbag beans all over the floor. Dotting the carpet. Our vacuum cleaner is pakaru. Consequently, our floor is untidy.

I am perched on a swivel chair, bending over the laptop on the table to the side of the room, tapping at my keyboard and jumping from articles about the deep meaning in Where the Wild Things Are to Youtube clips from Dumbo, piping up intermittently to share how tragic an elephant's captivity is, and etc.

Camilla has her blankie tucked over her legs, feet crossed beneath it, cosy in a cane armchair leaning against the bench by the door, engrossed in The Hunger Games. We discussed the merits of character arcs and development beforehand, with reference to the books' current rival in the world of pop cultural story consciousness, Game of Thrones. Tom is draped over the other cane chair, feet propped on a swivel, elbows akimbo, dipping his head down into the pages of the second, or third or whatever, volume of the Game of Thrones books. Dipping it back up again to regale us with bits of information or observation about the current exciting and melodramatic events of the saga. Saga. Beowulf would turn in his grave.

Chloe’s neatly sitting in the dead centre of the couch. She’s got her fingers in her mouth and is looking at a flowchart from her notes. Dear Chloe, why are you studying? Two days still 'til school starts again.

The big TV is showing a series menu, but the screen is greyed out and has been for hours. It hums gently. The light is yellow and bright. The kitchen is clean, the counters bare. It’s warm.

Tom looks up and looks pointedly at Chloe.  Chloe takes a minute to notice, then gazes back. They hold the line of sight. I happen to lift my head from the screen and watch them for a couple of seconds. Her face is serene. His is serious. I drop my head and let them have their moment.  They do. And then we all go back to our reading.


And of such things is community made.

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