Like in most areas of life, pride can easily creep in to blogging, and can poison what has been a good thing. I speak from experience.
I thought I'd list some ways that this can happen- ways it's happened for me, and ways I've seen it happen elsewhere. I just reckon it's something important to be aware of, because pride is one of those sins that can go under the radar. It's not hard to disguise it, or keep it hidden, which only allows it to grow like a choking weed.
So here's my list of examples, stuff to keep an eye out for-
1. Checking your statistics too often
2. Scanning 'shared item' lists for links to your own posts
3. Navigating away in a bad mood when you don't find any
4. Not writing a new post because nobody commented on your last one
5. Taking a blog break, not because you're too busy, but because you haven't been getting as many comments as you'd like
6. Accidentally on purpose dropping things into posts to make yourself look good. "So a funny thing happened to me yesterday, when I was on the way to the florist (to buy a dozen roses for my wife, which I do every second Tuesday)..."
7. Not commenting anymore because you didn't get a reply to your last comment
8. Comparing your blog to other blogs
9. Writing a supposed 'encouraging' Bible reading post, only when you are going well. "What have you been reading? I've been reading Isaiah, Exodus, Job, Matthew and Hebrews this morning. After having prayed for missionaries from 2am to 6am. Isn't God great?" Subtext: "Isn't God almost as great as ME?"
10. Writing lists about pride while picturing other bloggers, rather than yourself.
1. Tell me the truth: Did you do Earth Hour on Saturday night? 2. Why or why not? 3. What colour do you wear a lot of? 4. You have to have the same meal every night for the rest of your life. What's it gonna be? 5. A quote you like
The exhibition opening on Friday night was really good. It was a much bigger deal than I was expecting-- hundreds of people, and hundreds of paintings.
I was super-chuffed when we walked in, about ten minutes after the doors opened, and one of my pictures had already been sold! I was so happy and surprised, and didn't care much about what else happened after that. And then yesterday I got a call to say that the other one had sold as well, so, you gotta be happy with that!
Wow, we had the most shocking night last night. It was the second night since biting the bullet and putting the girls in the same room together. The first night was tiring, but last night was just horrible.
Little e just refused to sleep, and was kicking and screaming basically all night. It's hard to get across how bad those nights can get. When it's say, 3am, and you've got this kid screaming at you, pushing you away, refusing to just stay put, your emotions can really get away from you. You are so tired, and just want to go back to bed, and you well with resentment and anger. It is so frustrating, and you really can go to a pretty dark place.
Anyway, this is nothing you've not heard before, but sometimes you just need to vent about these things.
Feeling good today. I got my storyboard finished yesterday (a bit past deadline, but you get that on the big jobs), and also finally completed my Cognitive Behaviour therapy yesterday. So I'm feeling a bit more freed up, time-wise. Ahhh.
Also, I've gotten my painting blog up to date now, from 2006 to 2010. I put the last few paintings up last night, if you want to see.
Tonight our good friends Carly and Leila are going to mind the kiddo's so E and myself can drive down the coast for the opening night of the exhibition my paintings are in. It'll be fun, and I'm excited about it.
It's really no wonder that I've only bought about three pairs of shoes in the past decade. Shoe shopping sucks about as much as jeans shopping. My feet are kinda small, so I can never find anything in my size. That don't have cartoon characters on them.
Being a real-life Hobbit is difficult, because unlike in the fillums, footwear is expected. There's no gallivanting over the Brandywine Bridge to The Prancing Pony* with bare feet. Most actual-life establishments require shoes.
Anyway, yesterday on a whim, I tried on a pair of shoes, because for once I saw something that I liked. The smallest they had was a size 7, and I needed probably a 6. So the lady goes and gets a pair of ladies shoes and goes, 'these one's will probably fit. They're a ladies size 9, but you can't tell.'
Au contraire, lady. The shapely toe and the dainty laces are kind of a give away. So I walked out disappointed, and vowed to leave it another decade before trying again.
*Gosh, that was so nerdy I had to punch myself in the stomach for it.
If I was a cheesier man than I am - is this possible?- I'd call this The Daddy Diaries. But I'm not, so I won't. Thank your lucky stars.
I've just been thinking about my role as a father to my precious little girls, and often get overwhelmed by the implications and magnitude of this responsibility.
I was talking to E about it last night, after she came home from a book group (on "Radical Womanhood"), where someone had spoken about the really great influence her Christian father had had on her, as she was growing up.
This father had worked so hard on the relational side of things, building such a deep love and trust with his daughter, that the authority of his role just became a real, natural extension of that. She had no qualms submitting to his leadership, because it was so evident where his motives lay.
I think there is a real tendency with men to shy away from the relational side of fathering, maybe even more so with daughters. They leave this aspect chiefly to the mothers, maybe with the semi-valid reasoning that it doesn't come as easily or naturally as to their wives. They quickly fall in to the role of authoritarian, or protector or provider, which are all good things, but things that can't stand on their own.
You get this father that is disconnected and not fully present. He's worked hard 'to put food on the table', so wants to come home, avoid dramas, and relax. Once again, this is partly fair enough, but it's so easy for this to go too far. Suddenly it's the kids' bedtime. You've seen them for a couple of hours, but you've not really engaged with them, except to tell them off for being too loud, or for not eating their dinner. And that's another day gone. And this happens day after day.
Years down the track, the child spirals away from you, and you try to reign them in, either with authority, or with a too-little-too-late "you do know that you can talk to me about anything, don't you?" kind of plea. Well, no I don't know, because you've never really shown me that, and you've never really shared yourself with me, so why should I do so with you?
It's really easy to tut-tut this kind of father, but now that I'm a dad, I can see just how quickly patterns can form, and just how much effort it takes at the end of the day to not become that dad.
Anyway, I have no great answers, I just wanted to start writing down my thoughts about this, as I think more about it. I want to be a dad that my girls trust, and actually know. I want them to hear me apologise when I do stupid things, and I want them to know they can talk to me, simply because I talk to them.
This Friday is the opening night of the exhibition a couple of my pictures are going to be in. I am excited, but a bit nervous too. It's one of those 'putting yourself out there' moments in life when you hope you get some kind of good response. I don't care if I don't win any prizes, but I do care about not getting any response at all. Eek.
This painting thing has been a pretty private pass time over the last few years, as I've built up the confidence to think I like my stuff enough to show other people. I'm not really one of those maverick personalities who presses on after discouragement, but I'm trying hard to become more like that.
I'm going out to Lidcombe this morning for my last appointment for the Cognitive Behaviour Treatment I've been doing the last six months.
In some ways it will be a relief to be done, as I've found it tough to squeeze it in to the schedule. I feel a bit like I haven't been able to give it the time it needed since Christmas- it's felt too rushed. But hopefully I'll have the discipline to go back over it all.
It's definitely been very thought provoking, and I'd say the biggest result is that I care/worry significantly less about other people's appraisal of me/my speech. This has got to be a good thing.
Tell me where your allegiance lies in this scenario--
I saw this school girl on the train, she was sitting in the vestibule bit. She was probably about 16, and had a big backpack and folders and stuff. She was just minding her own business, and looked pretty tired. She'd probably been studying till the wee hours for the chemistry exam in second period.
Then this other lady got on, who was maybe 40, and was rockin' the white socks and sneakers with black stockings and power-dressed upper half look that I'm so fond of. She was holding a novel that she was trying to read while standing up. Probably a crime novel or something about some angsty romance in Tuscany.
Anyway, this lady was looking at the school girl like she wanted to kill her. She kept glancing at her and tut-tutting, and then turning back to Tuscany in utter disgust. Her face was a big grimace of narrowed eyes and pursed lips. Being fairly good at mind-reading, I could tell she was thinking how dare this little brat take a seat, when I, a grown Working Woman could be sitting there. How dare she not vacate. How dare she not even acknowledge my tut-tuttery.
But I liked this school girl, because even though she was probably aware of Ms. Tuscany's fury, she didn't worry about her, or get chizzy herself. She just gave a vague expression of "I'm not going to bother with you".
Now, I know that this is a tricky one. Teenagers are often annoying on trains, and don't show much respect. And usually I'm the first to take the side of the Grown Adult. But I just hated Tuscany's attitude, like it was her right to sit, and the world must jump out of the way as she enters the carriage. Lady, you've got sneakers on, so you are obviously quite capable of standing for ten minutes. You are carrying a handbag, whereas this girl has a massive backpack and bunch of folders. And she's practically an adult now anyway.
Maybe it's you, Tuscany, who needs to learn a bit more respect and understanding.
I'm feeling like I'm in the middle of a bit of a whirlwind at the moment, which is why the dry spell here. It feels like when things are too crazy to cope with, another big thing crops up, making it all even more hectic. I'd kill for a day to just stop and gather my thoughts!
Anyways, I'll get there, and will reply to your comments soon, friends. In the meantime, probably a bit of microblogging.
Ahh. Football season. The Tige's came through last night with an awesome win, after trailing 20-4 against the dirty ol' Sea Eagles. Good to have Lote Tuqiri on the team now, with him scoring on his first touch of the ball. And great to see Gareth Ellis score his first NRL try. Awesome! go you Tige's.
Ironically, while I was at the concert last night, this game was being played a couple of doors down!
The Pixies last night were awesome! It was a fantastic concert. Me and my mate scrambled right up the front, within a few metres of the stage- about as close as I've ever come to 'moshing'. There was a lot of jumping and a lot of sweating.
They played their classic '89 album, Doolittle from start to finish, and it all sounded so great. Oh man. I was instantly transported back to year 8, when I played this album repeatedly.
they all looked kinda old, but I was surprised at how good they still sounded, especially Frank Black's vocals. I was wondering whether he could still pull off the manic screams in the chorus of 'Tame'. He didn't disappoint!
It's been a very hectic few days, and will continue to be for the next week or so. If the blogging quietens for a bit here and there, this is why.
The funeral yesterday for E's grandfather went pretty well. It was a pretty big, draining day though, with a lot of driving. Then dropped the girls at home about 7pm, after driving back from Collaroy and rushed to get in to the city to see The Pixies. Walked in the door about 1am, absolutely wrecked, but then frustratingly couldn't sleep for ages after that.
All up, I'm working on about three or four hours sleep today, which isn't quite cutting it..
1. A hobby you'd take up if you had the time and inclination 2. Sum up in one word the weekend just gone 3. Do you use conditioner? 4. Your first school 5. What's worse- a jokey person who can't be serious, or a serious person who can't be jokey?
So, it turns out that that burnt toast episode earlier in the week was a mere run through of the catastrophic turn of events this morning.
So, I'm at work, and I pop my toast in the toaster, and go back to my desk to check my emails. I eventually remember and hurry back to the kitchenette to find it full of smoke. I yelp, and dispose of the evidence. I try my trick of shooing the smoke with a tea towel. No avail.
Moments later the alarms. The sound is pierced in to my memory. Then not just my floor, but the corresponding nine other floors of the building. The sound of the apocalypse.
I hurry down stairs, where hundreds of people are evacuating. Lines of people head diligently towards North Sydney Oval in single file. There is no building manager in sight. I find some familiar faces and own up. They smile, and say it's okay, but I can see little daggers and pitchforks when I look in to their eyes.
The crowds increase, but still no building manager, and no sign of the fire brigade.
Twenty minutes later, yes twenty minutes of non stop alarms and "Emergency! Emergency! Evacuate Now! Evacuate Now!" over the loud speaker, the fire engines finally roll up. Apparently communication was down, and they hadn't been alerted. Just this one morning.
I swallow hard, and walk over shiftily to the fire brigade guys, massive burly blokes with their massive suits on. The crowds part as I walk over. I hear whispers. Plots to kill. Gather your pitchforks. Meet at the old mill.
The head fire brigade guy takes off his dark glasses, as I approach. What seems to be the problem, sonny? I explain. Sorry sir, it was me and my toast. I apologise profusely. I take them up to my floor and they do their business. They comment on what a good view I have from my desk. I agree. we have some idle chit chat about television production. They are on their way, their work here is done.
I go back down to the ground zero floor, and I hear things like 'that guy looks guilty' and 'why was he with the fire brigade'. I wait as the mob cools, and move slowly back up to their floors in the lifts.
I get into a lift finally, and skulk back to my desk. And rue the day I was born.
The other day, Michael Clarke the Australian cricketer left a tour of New Zealand to fly back to his fiance, Lara Bingle, who's at the centre of all that nude photo controversy stuff. It now looks like they are going to break up.
But all that aside, I read one commentator say critically of Clarke, that this does not give a good impression, as he is putting his personal life before his professional life.
Since when is that something to criticise? I'd put personal before professional any day of the week.
'Ben, I thought of you today while I was on the train. I was sitting behind a guy with hair-ruff. You know, the thing where the guy's barber (or possibly gardener) has tried to disguise his hirsute nature by shaving all the way around his neck. But then he tilts his head a bit, or his shirt gets pulled down a bit, and you realize that there's a whole forest of bushy hair-growth there, just waiting to burst out. It's like his neck has been ring-barked.
Anyway, I was already feeling nauseous, and then I imagined how you might illustrate such a thing, and I had to put my head between my knees. And so I thought I'd share with you.'
Does anyone read that free afternoon newspaper, mX?
I have this love/hate relationship with it. I have very little time for personal reading, and always tell myself, 'now on the train trip home today, you're gonna read the big, hefty and poignant novel that you lug around with you in your backpack every day.' But then as I go through the turnstiles at the station, my resolve disappears and I grab a free mX.
I then spend the entire journey reading celeb tweets about so-and-so's new poodle, articles about the cracks forming between Brad and Ange, who's hotter between Robert Pattinson and Taylor Lautner, about Lil' Wayne's impending stint in the bighouse.
I get to the end and want to slap myself for having read it cover to cover, and vow that tomorrow will be different. But it never is.
Curse you, mX and the sick strangle-hold you have over my afternoons. Well, I'm going to try and abstain for a week, starting today, to see what I can accomplish without it. I'll let you know of my progress and whether I fall off the wagon.
For some reason I didn't notice that the kitchen was flooded with smoke until much too late. The toaster popping-up mechanism thing hadn't worked, and had made a burnt offering of my breakfast.
I leapt up on to a stool to shoo the smoke away from the smoke alarm with my pyjama top, fearing the wrath if I woke up the girls with the alarm. Thankfully, I finally realised that the alarm had been turned off, so I was going to get off scott-free.
Want to know why we surreptitiously turn off our alarm? Because in our unit alone, there are five or six, including one in the kitchen. Because you need that many in a unit. One goes off, and then triggers the rest.
It is a truly horrible noise, and it's been known to go off in the middle of the night as well, for no apparent reason. The alarms are amazingly old. I think they're actually powered by coal. And they're also hugely oversensitive. If I walk past a box of matches in the supermarket, they go off. If a cowboy sparks up a Marlboro in Arizona, they go off.
Every once in a while some alarm guy comes around to check them, after we continually complain that they go off for no reason. They get cross that we turned them off, give us a little lecture, turn them on again, give the box a little pat, and put on a serious thinking face,then say, "yep, should be right now."
One of the biggest frustrations I have on my long and slow road to some kind of speech fluency, is the inconsistency.
It kills me that I can give a stutterless, 7 minute speech to twenty people one night, and then the following day be struggling to get out a single sentence to a colleague. After the high, the low is especially disheartening.
The key to all of this, is really to force yourself into 'big picture' thinking. If I graphed my speech fluency over a few days, it would be amazingly up and down and inconsistent. But if I graphed my speech fluency over the past year, it would be a much more steady and promising graph. It's much more useful to think about that, than to dwell on that rubbish conversation I just had with my boss.
I've currently put up my paintings from 2006, and every few days I'll try and post the paintings of the following years, up to the present.
I've been procrastinating making it public, as the thought of having prices on my pictures fills me with embarrassment, but you gotta take the plunge at some point! Next, I need to work out how to get a Paypal link thing on to each post. Not sure how to do that.
1. What time did you go to bed last night? 2. What time did you get up this morning? 3. Do you prefer to listen to music that you can just have on in the background, or music that demands all of your attention? 4. Are you a slow or fast eater? 5. Something you'd like to get done this week
Isaac Ilyich Levitan was a Russian landscape painter in the 1800's. His paintings bring a spiritual weight to the natural world, and really resonate deeply with me. While they are mostly devoid of human presence, the conditions of nature in the paintings seem to mirror certain conditions of the human heart.
I particularly love 'Over Eternal Rest', which depicts a Russian monastery on an outcrop of land, overlooking watery plains, and up to a stormy, expansive sky. I love the stoic looking building, silhouetted against the flat, glarey water.
I love the mastery of depth, in the three levels of cloud- the thin hovering whisp in the middle ground, the low-hanging level behind that, and finally the deep storm cloud in the background.
It will probably come as a pretty massive shock to you to learn that I am not a very scientifically-minded person.
But once you get over that, I want to ask a question that will potentially de-closet me as the dunce that I really am.
Okay, here's the situation. I'm in my car, parked on one side of a quiet suburban street. What I want to do, is pull out from the curb and turn around to drive back the other way. I know you are generally supposed to do a three point turn in this case, but being the envelope-pushing loose cannon of rebellion that I am, I just want to do it in one big turn.
Kutz could do a much better scientific diagram, but here's a visual interpretation for you to work with-
Now, what I want to know is this. Assuming that the steering wheel is turned as far as it goes, are the chances of me making it around in one go affected by the speed which I travel? For example, if I drive really slow, am I more likely to make it than if I zoom?
As I've said before, I seem to be a magnet for random strangers in the street who feel like a bit of a heart to heart. It must be my small, nonthreatening, hobbit-like appearance.
Yesterday I went for a wander, and stopped at a little art gallery to peer through the window. There were a few people standing nearby, and a normal-looking woman in her 30's stepped over towards me, and struck up a conversation.
Here's a transcript, recalled to the best of my ability:
"Which painting's your favourite?" "Uh.... That one, I think." "That one looks like Paris, don't you think? I've never been to Paris. I haven't really travelled much. I finished school in year nine. But I've done eleven courses, can you believe that?" "Wow, that's a lot." "Yes it is. I've written twenty four books. Pretty unbelievable, isn't it?" "Yes, very unbelievable." "Pardon?" "Yeah, that's amazing." "I've been in four musicals. In the chorus line." "Oh yeah?" "All I do is sing and dance and write and act. You've got to have your gifts and talents". "Yeah". "It's pretty amazing isn't it?" "Very amazing". "You should hear my mother though. She says I won't even be able to get a job in a supermarket, they'll give the job to a school kid instead. Can you believe that? That's really cruel. Can you believe that?" "No, that's pretty slack". "It's very slack". "Oh well, I better get going.." "You have to be careful who you talk to around here, don't you? There's a lot of strange people about." "Oh yeah, there sure is. Okay, bye then." "Bye. Nice to meet you. Don't worry, you'll be right. You'll do well, mate."
My Ice Breaker speech at Toastmasters went really well last night, I was so pleased with how it went. Apart for some umms and aahs towards the end, I stayed pretty much fluent and in control the whole time.
I was also really pleased that I could make the most of the opportunity and talk openly about my faith for a bit. I've never really done anything like that before. I got good feedback on it all too, so I'm pretty happy.
I only found out about this yesterday, and lay awake last night trying to work out how to reduce my life into a few minutes. Also trying to work out a non-lame sounding way of talking about being a Christian. Scary stuff.
I seem to spend a lot of time navigating my way through crowds, walking to or from train stations. This can become a frustratingly tedious pass time, but I have learnt a technique to optimise efficiency in these situations. Slipstreaming.
Invisible channels run through crowds of people, channels that you can learn to detect. It's about seeing the fast-moving objects and taking refuge in their wake, and seeing slow-moving objects and keeping clear of them. A balance of these two disciplines will aid you on your journey.
Here are a few tips for the Slipstreaming beginner.
Anti-Slipstreams (slow-moving objects):
These are the ones you need to look out for and avoid.
*Groups of tourists. Tend to walk in a row. Will stop without notice to photograph some building or to look at an upside-down map.
*Groups of teenagers. It's like getting stuck behind a gaggle of lethargic ducks. Boys will be rumbling and hitting each other. Girls will be emotionally scarring each other with words. Both will be looking at their mobile phones, and not the path. The sheer size of these groups will make over-taking very difficult.
*Mothers Groups. A slow pace is set to negotiate a pram with one hand while holding a take away coffee in the other. Walking toddlers will bring down the pace further still. More walking in rows. Superprams difficult to overtake.
Slip-Streams (fast-moving objects):
Okay, these are the good ones. Get in behind these, and it will be plain sailing.
* Business men late for a meeting. They will be striding quickly with an anxious expression. Just be on guard for swinging briefcases.
* Solo mothers with prams and bike pants. When they are by themselves, they can move quickly, and the bike pants tell you they mean business. The pace will be brisk, and the pram will clear a sizable stream, fit for you and even a companion if you wish.
* Crazy people. This is a higher-risk stream, not really for the beginner, but one that you can get a good return on. You'll need to keep your wits about you as strange outbursts and sudden changes in direction are likely. But the person's general demeanor will have cleared you a very wide wake to work in. Enjoy with caution.
Well, practice these for starters, and then in time we can work through the intermediate level of Slipstreaming.
1. Rate your whistling skills 2. You have to go without music or television for a year. Which? 3. I wish there were more blogs about.. 4. Could you work alone without interaction with other people, in an ongoing way? 5. If you could eat anything at all right now, what would it be?
Friday Night: night in with the girls, cooked hamburgers and drunk a beer, put kids down, watched half of Dream Girls on tele then crashed. Saturday: Up at the breaka breaka dawn to go to church weekend away at Kurrajong for the day, heard some great talks on the Resurrection by our old friend Andrew Barry, went swimming with Little e, went canoeing with Little e, drove home exhausted, stopped for some hard-earned KFC on the way, put kids down and watched Marley and Me yet again. Crashed. Sunday: Went to church by myself as I was on morning tea (nothing like a roster to keep you from backsliding), came home for a bit, went to a family thing for my Mum's birthday, came home, got kids off, finished Marley and Me, and crashed, exhausted.
Even though I was too timid to do anything about all those sweet sites and blogs being blocked at work, this morning they are now miraculously accessible again.
Obviously, I put this down to the powers of my mind. Last week I saw some IT bloke in the lift, and though I said nothing more than a brief hello, my angstful mindwaves went out to him, and conveyed in but a fleeting glance how disgruntled I was with the unjust blockages going down hither and thither.
It's all in the icy, detached stare. The blink and turn. The curt body language. There's a whole other level of communication at play here, friends. To the untrained eye it may look like passive aggression, when in actuality it is a highly evolved scientific skill requiring years of intense training.
Nevertheless, now the www is once more my oyster.
But being the incredibly humble guy that I am, I won't even alert my many colleagues to the fact that when it comes down to it, they have me to thank for the hard-fought freedom that in time, they will once again take for granted.