Saturday, 22 September 2018

Sorry for your loss

It is a fact of birthday teas that they vary in quality.

This was rather a subdued spread of sugar 'n' carbs certainly, but the head curator's birthday happened to fall on the penultimate day of a multi-week festival of leavetaking for another colleague, who has now moved on to a spectacularly great new job and who is already much missed.

This is the afternoon tea she brought into our office on her last day. The cake was green, pink and purple inside. We'd also had a lavish afternoon tea for the entire staff a few weeks ago, dinner out for our office, drinks, lunch out, karaoke, and dinner out again.

Working with people you actually like is very necessary. It's good. But the drawback is that there gets to be less and less of the worthwhile part of one's life that isn't embedded in work.

* * *

You know, I've been thinking about writing this blog post since about 7pm. Now it's nearly 11pm and as usual I'm having a hard time keep my eyes open. I've written a few warm-up sentences and not started on the main thing, but I fear it isn't going to get started. I've been going about my business - child-wrangling, shopping, cooking, laundry, tidying the house, getting things ready for tomorrow - and the whole time thinking about something I wanted to write, shaping a couple of key sentences in my head, thinking about the motif I'd try to hang it on.

All I wanted to do was write about my day. Today was one of those episodic days that I find are really good to write about because they're a string of experiences, in different settings, with different people and with different qualities, but I'm the thread which each of these little spheres is strung onto, carrying something from each episode into the next and so they do cluster together. I sometimes think beforehand that I know what I'm going to write but usually what I do end up with only really pleases me if it brings out elements of an experience that I was unaware of before writing about it. This post, for instance, from 23 April; I know I began it with the intention of writing about certain difficulties belonging to the lead-up to Anzac Day, but it became about an entirely experience altogether and the time spent in writing it, in thinking it out, opened up a place from which to reflect on certain patterns of feeling and ultimately to try not to be swept up by them again when I see them beginning to emerge.

I'm not saying that writing about my life is therapy. I know the difference. But there is a relationship, and I think it might be of a kind that isn't conducive to writing autobiography, especially in a not very happy period of one's life.

A movie I saw this afternoon - The Ladies in Black -  had not one, but two women in it who read and were moved by Anna Karenina. The movie was a comedy and everyone in it was happy and contented, even the lonely and thwarted old people, although if the movie had had any connection to reality then not one person in it ought to have been happy.

As Tolstoy's novel says at the outset, nothing about happiness is narratively or aesthetically distinctive, but sadness requires examination. Examination generates insight, and the insight is what's of value: the emotion which brought it out to begin with is just the inciting event of the narrative.  But when it's your own life you're writing about, the necessity of measures limiting one's exposure to one's own sadness outweighs all other considerations. I get up early; I pack a lot into my day; I keep busy; I make myself so tired by bedtime that proper thinking is out of the question. (I'm not sure how much sense I'm making right now.) I'd like to think there's a mode I could work in, if I could just find it, which would give me the openings and the insights without needing to start from a place of inner disturbance.

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