Working with what is happy

Ooh. It’s been a long, often lost voyage to come to more feeling and emotion. In my 40s, I’m beginning to experience rage and acknowledge anger when anger is something different than sadness because as a child I knew sadness when it occurred but I avoided eye contact with anger and fled from rage.

So, it is stirring, a slightly scary sort, to read this question:

“What would you like to put into a book that would make you happy?”

https://miamirail.org/literature/widening-the-horror-genre-a-conversation-with-victor-lavalle/

I would put into a book are: justice; heartbreak and some redemption or newfound life following such ache; death, and the accompanying despair and disappearing that is colloquially ghosting but in fact is so much more than a brash decision; humor, wit; overlooked and underrepresented adjectives in current vernacular.

Just today, I read in a novel how genie derives from jinn. I may have read that genie cokes from this Islamic mystical and spiritual type but I’d forgotten that even though I’d only read about jinn a few months ago.

I’d also write about intuition and the bizarre occurrences that are not coincidence. And the magic of the outdoors and the wild and the minute being that we humans are yet we are holons on earth.

How I tell it

“But so much is storytelling.”

I can tell a version that redeems everyone, or I can parrot a story that I’ve heard countless times since childhood.

It’s a bizarre, scary, daunting and liberating epiphany to notice that it isn’t just the events of what occurred but how I assign meaning to the occurrences that can influence, if not wholly determine, how I feel and what I suggest to listeners whether a single person or hundreds.

This is a trick about storytelling as it is a subtlety of self-perception. Recently, I told of four instances where a similar threatening dynamic occurred across 10 years and when I recounted them together, as a part of a set, I started to read new meaning into the dynamics coloring my life.

Over the last three weeks, I’ve seen how readiness to tell ones story depends on an agency to be the one to elaborate and describe. To be the subject rather than an object of a fly on the wall, a nuisance, or a passive extra in some larger event. It has been remarkable to witness the shift happening, as well as the consent or non consent to share, to tell.

From the oven to my belly

7 of the 19 windows currently open are on the smittenkitchen.com domain, those being:

Earlier today, I baked the corn pudding recipe for the first time. But that page is no longer open so it isn’t in the list above though it was the gateway to a number of these other sweet, baked things. The estimated cook and prep time was 40 minutes but between bathroom assistance and reading two books, it was closer to two hours before that was finished. It took about two hours for all of the dish to be gone, too.

As the list above reveals, I like to bake. And I like chocolate. And I keep coming back to SK and Deb Perelman because the simplicity and the reductions in how to prepare is a relief and the food when finished is devoured.

Deb Perelman’s website is up there with Mark Bittman’s How to Cook Everything: Simple Recipes for Great Food cookbook as a few of the constants that I return again and again. I only began to use Perelman after a friend’s recommendation of World Peace Cookies in December 2016 whereas I’ve had Bittman’s cookbook since 2002.

I frequent the site for Saveur and Food52 as well but not with the frequency of the others.

Talking w the children about Kamloops

How are the children?

Listening to the stories of genocide, savagery, the incomprehensible behavior of whites that litter through history.

Last week, the children listened to the news detailing the research in Kamloops/Tk’emlúps te Secwepemc that revealed that 215 children were buried in a mass grave.

That wasn’t a school. It was a prison.

That wasn’t a residential school. It was an assimilation hall.

A few days prior to the stories out of British Columbia, I had picked up:

  • I Am Not a Number (Second Story Press, 2016)
  • Little Bird #1, by Darcy van Poelgeest (Image Comics, 2019)

The week prior, we were exposed to the language of lies wrapped inside a tone of cunning deception that qualified the officials who kidnapped and stole indigenous children as “nice” and the act of forcibly relocating children as “tricked” with stories of nourishing meals.

Lies perpetuated through decades and centuries, repeated in news accounts, embellished in children’s books upholding the sanctity of white colonizers, refraining from mentioning the horrors of abusers and authorities.

What we talkin about when we talk about

messages lie in words …. But it’s metamessages that have clout, because they stir emotions, and emotions are the currency of relationships.

So said Deborah Tannen on page 10 of I only say this because I love you (2001).

Tannen wrote “those closest to us have front-row seats to view our faults” yet they also have the proximity to our attributes, gifts but we perpetuate a culture that does not appreciate as much as it deprecates.

A decade ago, I remember how bringing an assets based approach was a welcome salve in the nonprofit/civic sector rather than the continued fixation with being motivated by what was missing or lacking in a place and wanting to be the problem solvers by confronting those things that were missing. But a few workshops in a year full of meetings results in a low concentration. And that short lived attempt to embrace what a place had was challenging to sustain when being critical is easy and familiar and a way that we have been told to treat one another in school, at work, in public spaces, and at home.

Now, I have made it a fixture of naming appreciations for the people i am with on a daily basis, at the end of most of the webinars that I design. And still it is difficult for people to begin with what they like.

Tannen elaborated no messages and metamessages by saying:

  • message: the meaning of the words and sentences spoken, what anyone with a dictionary and a grammar book could figure out.
  • metamessage: “the meaning that is not said, what we glean from every aspect of context: the way something is said, who is saying it, or that fact that it is said at all.

Or using another metaphor that “message is the word meaning while metamessage is the heart meaning.” Tanner elaborated by saying how metamessages are implicit and difficult to pinpoint as they are about relationships. Her early suggestion is to distinguish metamessage from message and one way of doing so is metacommunicating or talking about communication, which I suppose is using words to describe the implicit heart emotions.

The joys of the libraries

Even in COVID times, the act of checking out a library book is delightful. We could not go inside the local branch. Instead I wrote a few authors and titles on the back of scrap paper that I handed to the librarian as one child walked through the grass and another rode a bicycle back and forth. We waited on the personalized attention as the librarian walked through the stacks pulling the books that we listed. And I saw one more sitting on top of the shelves nearest the door and asked if we could have that cat going cross country (skiing?), too.

Library books and lending are endless gifts of infinite curiosity. For a few years, I have searched for “publisher: Enchanted Lion” and a few series like Mercy Watson [“the porcine wonder”] by Kate DiCamillo, Dodswortb and Duck by Tim Egan, King and Kayla by Dori Hillestad Butler and the Brambly Hedge by Jill Barklem. I’ve read multiple books (approximately 24 different titles) by these four authors more than 200 in the last three years.

Yesterday’s haul included a few Mercy Watson stories along with books on whales, other marine life and volcanos. It was most special because they were the first library books that we checked out in three months — the longest stretch of not borrowing books in five years.

Now we are back at it in a new library system with no limit on the number of books that we can borrow. But a system that does have late fees, so hopefully I will be more diligent about returning borrowed materials back on time. Better than I was 15 and 20 years ago, when I’d incur late fees but it was paying $.10 a day per book to the libraries and though I never saw the budgets of the library, I never had remorse about paying fees that paid for such a renowned institution.

Wanted: roommate

As I lay down for a second round of snuggles before bedtime, the five year old said:

“Poppa, I have always wanted you to be my roommate.”

I replied by smiling in the dark. I basked in the glow of this sentence as I looked out the window at the silhouette of the trees in the twilight. Then I said:

“I will always have your back. I will always love you even when I’m frustrated, sad, or angry. I will never leave you. You will live with Momma and me until your an adult and you decide where you want to live.”

It was a dignifying for me. I’m moved by the always of five years because these five years have been so enormous and consequential and so quick. And that some facets from a few months ago have been long forgotten. So always is so long.

And, it was a statement of right now. At times, she has the ability to recall some detail or moment or specific from months ago that has not been named and she can bring it up and remember some thing that I forgot. And throughout the day, a five year old can offer immediate feedback about how things are in any exact moment. And that’s what being told that I’m a roommate who has been wanted forever feels like some special love as a father finding my way in these unknowns.

Insights on anger

In recent days, I have been unraveling more of my beliefs about anger. Two days ago: got-headed was a euphemism for violent. Yesterday: my father could not express rage in his home or in public spaces because it was not safe. Today: it is preferable to process anger and resolve anger alone away from others.

As I child, I did not allow myself to feel or express anger or at least that is not what I perceived and understood my feelings as. I opted for sadness rather than anger. I did not trust anger to not be violent or vengeful or lash out at others. Any of those reactions seemed worse than a feeling alone so I didn’t want to experience a feeling that was oriented towards others. Sadness oriented me inside and quieted me so i did not divulge with others.

Isolating anger is curious for me as I wonder if I don’t trust anger as a constructive way of being with others.

Now I experience anger and oftentimes find myself saying words that are lashing out, seeking someone to land on. It still feels untrustworthy and inaccurate. And I don’t know how genuinely what I say demonstrates what I’m feeling. The words that come out in my angry outbursts seem like distractions rather than insightful.

Sadness takes me away from my words and keeps me inside some feelings and many thoughts. I may run through sentences in my heart and head but I’m not trying to persuade or explain to others what feels messy or conflicted or shitty when I’m sad.

It isn’t exact or precise or best. It’s simply where I’m at with my aging relationships with both anger and sadness.

12 definitions of decolonization from Yvette Mutumba

Pablo Larios interviews Yvette Mutumba about decolonization and she rattled off a list of twelve with the most fabulous prelude that I’ve ever read:

What follows only begins to touch on a matter of decades of thinking, working, experiencing, talking and growing.

As for the 12 definitions of decolonization:

> that I will not do the job of those sitting inside institutions and organizations that are predominantly white

> conversations which create serious exchange, but also discomfort, maybe even pain, on the other side of the table.

> having to sit with that discomfort.

> understanding that decolonization is not a matter of ‘us’ and ‘them’, but concerns all of us.

> acknowledging that this is not a current moment or trend.

> not necessarily being political, but no choice to not be political.

> admitting that having grown up in a racist structure is no excuse.

> transparency from the institutional side.

> re-centering

> stepping back and making space.

> creating safe spaces.

> changing structures as much as building new structures

To sit with and revisit

But suddenly the racial interest … felt like a kind of corruption to me.

Never has the perversity of racialized thinking been so clear as when it is being applied to a newborn baby.

Says Danzy Senna in page 165 of her memoirs, Where Did You Sleep Last Night? (Published in 2009 by Farrar, Straus, and Giroux.)

Something for me to ponder. To sit with. And to revisit.

The corruption of being aware of race and being fixated with race in ways that were preordained many generations ago. There is some naïveté to not knowing or pretending to not know one’s history of the histories of a place, of people, and of things. But, that compulsion to pursue and understand becomes a cycle of attempting to know and analyze the world through some lens crafted by ancestors, both ours and our oppressors, that illuminates and also distorts like mirrors in a funhouse. What may be shameful one decade can be empowering in a different mirror. What looked too broad at one moment may become just right in other circumstances.