Memories

“Nothing is ever really lost to us as long as we remember it.” ― L.M. Montgomery, The Story Girl

Have you ever had someone say something, ask something or do something that has suddenly catapulted you into an epiphany?  Suddenly everything makes sense.

I was talking to someone at work a few weeks ago about passions. Very few people actually make a living following their passion, and if you do, you’re damn lucky. One of my colleagues has a passion for health and fitness, and he’s starting a part-time business he does outside of work hours. I wouldn’t be surprised if one day it ends up being his primary source of income. It’s funny, because he didn’t have to tell me that it was his passion, even after only working with him for a few months, it was obvious. Some people’s passions are like that. Others run quiet, I guess. Like mine.

One of my colleagues said that often the reason we didn’t follow our passion was a weak excuse. Like, we just let life get in the way. We didn’t fight hard enough for it. That may well be true. I said that my passion wasn’t really something that earned a lot of money, and that of course triggered the obvious question – what is mine?

I actually had to think about it. I enjoy writing. I enjoy photography. I enjoy family history. I enjoy scrapbooking, journalling, blogging, etc. I have a million projects on the go at any one time. It still amuses me to remember that a friend on Writing.com once told me I needed to get a hobby. I have way too many. Well, maybe not hobbies, but projects. I definitely have too many projects. But which of these is my passion? Well, all of them. Because they all have something in common, and I hadn’t realised it until this question catapulted me into this epiphany.

My passion is preserving memories.

All my projects are about preserving memories. Blogging is about preserving memories. Scrapbooking is about preserving memories. Photography is about preserving memories. Family history is about preserving memories. I’m obsessed with preserving memories.

When people ask what my ultimate fear is, I usually answer that it is losing a loved one. This isn’t a cop out, this is genuinely my biggest fear. But putting aside that obvious (and unoriginal) answer, I have to confess that one of my greatest fears is leaving my projects unfinished. I hate the idea that the memories will be lost because I didn’t get a chance to complete the project.

There is definitely a part of me that wants to leave very clear instructions on how to complete my projects so that they’ll never been left unfinished, whatever happens to me. Is that weird? Am I totally nuts? I can’t see my husband ever completing them for me. Maybe my little sister would, but she’s got kids and a life on the other side of the ocean, she doesn’t have time for my projects. Maybe my daughter would one day. *shrugs* Maybe I should stop procrastinating and finish them myself!  After all, they’re my passion, right?

Pressure, perfection and parenting

Prompt: ‘We live in a time when science is validating what humans have known throughout the ages: that compassion is not a luxury; it is a necessity for our well-being, resilience, and survival.’ ~ Joan Halifax

A friend of mine recently wrote Sunday Funday — Bad Mum Cooking, about her struggles to be the perfect mother.

Everything I do is to try and be super mum, super business partner, super partner, super ‘Stepmother’ (oh and no one can say that with a tone quite like an 11 year old girl).

The school lunches, the dinners, the healthy treats .. it’s a big part of it. Like if I can just make the gluten free, nut free, low sodium, sugar free crackers that taste just like BBQ Shapes (aka kid crack), then I can take a break. Everyone will be happy and I will be a good mum.

On Sunday I wrote a letter to a friend of mine from Writing.com, who is expecting her first child. I dared to give her advice, even knowing that soon-to-be mothers are inundated with so much advice (and much of it contradictory) that they can’t possibly use or even remember it all. I still couldn’t help myself.

The advice I gave Aly was much the same as I wrote in my comment on my friend’s entry.

There is no such thing as the perfect mother.  That person doesn’t exist. If you persist in trying to be that person, you are setting yourself up to fail. You will exhaust and depress yourself trying to achieve something that simply cannot exist.

I remember my in-laws telling me about a friend of theirs who insisted on making all her own baby food from scratch.  She was exhausted.  And with exhaustion comes stress and depression.  How can you being exhausted, stressed and depressed possibly be good for your child?  It can’t.  I can understand wanting to give your child the best possible start in life.  I’m a mother.  Trust me, I get that.  I’m not immune from the internal pressure.  If you think I haven’t cried because I thought I wasn’t good enough at this motherhood gig, you’re dead fucking wrong.  Maybe that’ll surprise some people.  But it’s true.

I’ve cried after shouting at my kids.  What sort of mother shouts at her children like a fucking fishwife?  A bad one, right?

I’ve cried when I’ve run out of money and my child had to eat sandwiches for dinner for a week because we had no money for hot meals.

I cried when my teenage son told me he’d been suicidal for a while in primary school, thanks to bullying.  I cried because I hadn’t intervened early enough to prevent him going through that anguish.

I cried when I left my three month old daughter with a caregiver and went to work, and then read on Facebook that a friend had written ‘No amount of money is worth more to me than this time with my children’.  Clearly working mums are bad mums.

I still make mistakes.  I always will.  Because no one is perfect.  No one is a perfect mother.  A perfect father.  A perfect wife or husband.  A perfect sibling or child.  My children are not perfect, my husband is not perfect and I am not fucking perfect.  But my children know I love them.  My children know they are important to me.  My children know that I will always do what I think is best for them, even if sometimes I’m wrong and it doesn’t turn out to be best for them.  My children won’t remember the week of sandwiches.  They’ll remember that I fell on my ass trying to ice skate with them.  My children won’t remember that I shouted at them.  They’ll remember how I nearly threw up after going on the scary rides with them at Rainbows End.  My children won’t remember that I wasn’t able to help out on school trips because I was working.  They’ll remember me spending hours helping them make a journal, bake a cake, do homework, draw a picture, do a cartwheel, whistle, or a thousand other things.

Ultimately, I believe that what children truly cherish is your time and attention.  The rest is important, yes.  But only up to a point.  It’s not worth making yourself miserable over. It’s okay to be the fun mum.  Honest.

History in the making

Prompt: What event in history do you wish you could have witnessed, and why?

There are so many moments in history that people live through, and it is only on reflection that we realise how significant and important they were. I saw the 9/11 terror attack unfold on my television screen, and although the events were shocking and dramatic and, yes, I wrote about them in my blog at the time, I could never have guessed that the date would become synonymous with that event forever after. There was the Global Financial Crisis, but that didn’t feel like an historical event, it just… It was something we lived through, and it lasted a while, and it trailed off, there was no sudden end, but… I lived through the Global Financial Crisis. It has a name and everything.

For me personally, one moment that screamed historical significance at the time was when New Zealand gave gay couples the right to marry.

Others we realise at the time. For me personally, one moment that screamed historical significance at the time was when New Zealand gave gay couples the right to marry. I was cheering from the sidelines and so pleased to witness that moment in history. When Barrack Obama was voted in as President of the United States, I knew that was an historical moment.

Many historical events in history are negative things. Wars. Tragedies of all kinds. Very few monumental moments in history are positive.

The prompt is worded in an interesting way. I was alive when Prince William and Kate Middleton married, but I sure as hell didn’t ‘witness’ the occasion. Unless you mean I saw it on TV. Does that even count?

When I first read this prompt, one event came to mind. Then I went and Googled historical events and waffled back and forth, but ultimately I ended up back where I started. I did consider personal events, like meeting my older brother who passed away before I was born, meeting my maternal grandmother who passed away before I was born, and so on and so forth. But I figured that’s not really the idea behind the prompt. So here goes…

On 19th September 1893, 87 years before I was born, New Zealand became the first country in the world to grant ALL women the right to vote, irrespective of race, class or wealth.

On 19th September 1893, 87 years before I was born, New Zealand became the first country in the world to grant ALL women the right to vote, irrespective of race, class or wealth. That was a pretty epic moment in history right there, and what’s more, it was MY country that did it. I think witnessing that moment would be seriously cool. While I was on Wikipedia, I also found this fun fact: From March 2005 to August 2006, the Head of State (the Queen), the Prime Minister, the Governor General, the Chief Justice and the Speaker of the House of Representatives of New Zealand were ALL women. That fucking rocks. Right? The five highest positions in the country all held by women at the same time.

So yeah, that’s my answer to the question. Witnessing the actual moment with my own eyes, or just being a citizen of this country when this historic moment occurred. Either way, that was pretty cool, and I’m pretty damn proud of my country.

Smashbooking or scrapbooking?

So, Elycia on Writing.com introduced me to something called smashbooking.

Although smashbooking is a new term, it’s hardly a new concept. It basically describes the journals I kept in 1999-2000.

Although there doesn’t appear to be a definitive definition online, smashbooking is pretty much informal scrapbooking. It’s taking a journal and not just writing in it, but also pasting bits of pieces of paper and memorabilia in it. Whereas scrapbooks tend to be organised and neat, with a focus on the layout and craftmanship, smashbooks glory in randomness.

I started with boring journals. Just pages of text. I have a tendency towards perfection that I struggle with in my journals. You can see in my early journals that I tried to always write the date the same way, I would never go off the lines or doodle. Very uniform and neat. And boring.

I basically mimicked Chelsea’s style until I developed one of my own. Sound familiar? Yeah, it’s the same thing I did with poetry. Then I went flatting with Chelsea, and her journals were a riot of colour and craziness that I envied. I mean seriously envied. It was clear to me that my neat, boring journals and her colourful, creative journals were metaphors for our lives and personalities. I was the boring one. She was the fun one.

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Pages from my journal, circa 1999

My creative journalling style is not quite the same as Chelsea’s. I don’t think anyway, it’s been years since I saw any of her journals. I can never quite let go of my perfectionism, so it’s more like carefully considered randomness.

Blogging has been more convenient for me since I had kids, but I could never bring myself to throw out all the little scraps of memorabilia that I would previously have journalled. Birthday and Christmas cards, letters and postcards, tickets to events, etc. I kept them all.

I tried scrapbooking, and loved it. It suited my perfectionist tendencies, and allowed me to combine writing, memorabilia and photos. Pretty much my ideal medium. Except… Yeah, except it is expensive, and takes way too much time and space.

I truly believe that to do scrapbooking successfully, you need a craft room. That way you’re not constantly having to pack everything away again every time. I spent more time setting up and packing up than I actually did scrapbooking. And it IS expensive. I loved it, but it just wasn’t practical for me.

Digital scrapbooking is much cheaper (there are so many freebies on the net) and takes up no space, makes no mess. So that’s awesome.

But I still ended up with all these scraps of paper I couldn’t bring myself to throw out.

So I’ve gone back to smashbooking. Except, of course, I’ve always called it journalling.

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A page from my 2017 journal (aka smashbook)

I’m in the process of sorting out all those scraps of paper I’ve saved over the years. First step is to sort them into years. Literally, I have bits and pieces dating from 2001-2017. It’s very clear when I stopped journalling and the bits of papers starting piling up. Ha ha!

Because I have kept a blog, which has my own journalling, my poetry, my stories (although my stories are too long to go in a journal) and even quotes and things, I have the writing side of things to go with the memorabilia. So I’ve bought some more blank journals and I’m going to backdate my journals. I know, that’s a fucking mammoth project. Trust me, I know. I’m already behind on 2017, how the fuck am I going to catch up with sixteen years of journalling?! It makes me want to cry just thinking about it! It’s not like I needed yet another mammoth project. Seriously, for someone with so little time, I have so many projects on the go. It’s ridiculous. The one thing I don’t really have is many photos. My old journals never contained many photos, but my scrapbook pages centered around them. Hmm, maybe one day I’ll find the balance.

I did think about creating digital books, and somehow incorporating the memorabilia into them. That idea appeals to me. Partly because there’s not screeds of handwriting for me to do. Ha ha! But I just can’t figure out how to make it work.

Caitie saw some of my early journals when we were sorting my memorabilia, and she decided to keep her own journal too. Like me, she is seriously struggling with letting go of perfectionist tendencies. It’s hard for her to accept that the page doesn’t have to be perfect, that it’s okay to make mistakes. I think it’s good for her, but I have a lot of empathy for her, because it’s something I’ve dealt with numerous times. Journalling, poetry, etc. It’s hard to accept that it doesn’t have to be perfect. Sometimes it takes looking back at it to appreciate the beauty of the imperfections.

Write like you think

Prompt: “Writing, to me, is simply thinking through my fingers.” Isaac Asimov

Two things today made this prompt quite relevant. The first was when my admin assistant was laughing over an email she got. After sending out a politely worded follow up to a client, she got back an email that said “Um, well…” She couldn’t quite wrap her head around the idea that someone had actually written an um, as if they were talking instead of writing.

And my friend Ann from Writing.com responded to the letters I sent her, saying that my babbling letters reminded her of the long, newsy ones she used to get from her older relatives when they were alive.

For me, writing is like thinking through my fingers. I think that’s such an awesome quote. I know that we have the ability to edit what we write, especially when using computers instead of pen and paper, but other than correcting typos, I often don’t edit my writing. I’m not talking about poems and stories, which obviously need editing and revising, but rather blog entries, emails, letters, forum posts, etc. I also write like I think. This is particularly true when I’m writing snail mail letters, as I have a tendency to just babble as if they were on the other end of the phone line or similar. I have definitely been known to write ‘um’, ‘hmm’ and other ‘vocalised pauses’.

When I was in high school (and even in years since), people used to moan about minimum word lengths for written assignments. I’ve never in my life had a problem meeting a minimum word length. Ha ha! I have definitely had the reverse problem though, trying to trim my words and make them more concise to fit a word limit. But babbling? Even on a technical subject? That’s easy.

There’s definitely a time and a place for it. I know that I shouldn’t use ‘um’ in a formal work email, or a uni assignment. But I also know that it makes my blog entries more conversational and my letters more personal. I suppose that ultimately it’s part of what gives my writing a personal voice. Right? People are always saying you should find your own voice when it comes to your writing. Writing like I’m thinking, or how I talk, is part of my writing voice.