Monotony Woes

I feel the waves of sadness rushing in today. Thoughts or feelings? I’m not sure, they’re two sides of a coin anyway, right?

I’ve just put my beautiful little boy to bed for his afternoon nap after a morning of baby baths and housework and feelings I can’t quite get to the root of. Usually when I’m feeling this way I make myself a nice hot cup of tea, wrap myself up in a fleece blanket on the couch and watch a detective type TV show that takes my mind away from whatever is bothering me and into solving the fictional case. Solving someone else’s case, ironically. By the time the show is over I usually feel calmer but today is the amalgamation of a week of feeling this way and maybe, uncomfortable as it is, I should sit down with the sadness and process it.

I seem to go from extreme to extreme. When I was younger I expressed every thought and feeling I had to anyone who would listen, thinking that somehow getting it “out” of me would help me to feel better. I realised slowly that the thought processes generating each feeling we have don’t ever “get out” they reboot. The mind is  a server and the negative thoughts that create sadness are a virus that cant be cleared by repeating the virus. Talking about it all the time just built up the thoughts, added to them and the opinions of other people added more doubt to my own quiet inner voice. It took me a really long time to understand that talking about things excessively didn’t actually help matters.

Coincidentally I faced a circumstance at the same time as this epiphany that meant I would have to spend a lot of time alone for the following two years. At first, it was awful but then I adapted the above habit of burying my fears in that hot sweet tea and hiding under a fleece blanket in a make believe world of TV mysteries, conveniently solvable within the hour. My introversion became extreme, so much so that when the two years was over it took me another full year to learn to open up again. I was so safe in my hiding place, my mind refused to come out.

The problem with both of the above coping mechanisms is that neither attempts to solve the problem. Analysing it to death without focusing on possible solutions or ignoring it completely I am nowhere nearer to removing the virus from my server. Today I decided not to turn on the TV and to sit quietly with my cuppa. This was not fun! I have become so good at shutting out my thoughts, that now I just get a feeling of dread without knowing what it is in relation to. I decided maybe the best way to figure it out was to write every flicker of a thought I had before my mind shut them down. here goes,

Thought One: All the things I haven’t done , the path’s I didn’t take.

This is a reoccurring thought for me lately. There are so many things I loved and thought I would do with my life and I am now 30 working to pay the bills and hiding in my TV. Since I was a little girl I always wanted to be a singer (cue annoying reality TV sob story music as per every contestant ever on a singing show.) It is my truth but it is not a unique wish. I pursued a musical education from the age of 5 and I am thankful that I can play instruments and I have a voice but I am not performing. I am not living the dream of pouring my soul into the lyrics of a beautiful song, and sharing it from the safety of a stage with thousands who feel the same way and come alive in the moment. I got so broken-hearted by not achieving the dream that I cut music out of my life all together. It was too painful to let my soul dream. Is it too late? Or am I thinking about this constantly because some divine purpose is pushing me to stop ignoring it for all the necessities and bills and responsibilities of an adult and just try anyway.

Thought Two: I’m looking older.

I think all women suffer from this horrible thought in their 30th year at some point. It’s when you leave the beauty of 20 something skin and body behind and start to face the abuse you’ve given your body thus far in life. Suddenly you cant get away with sleeping in your make up or eating that extra sweet treat and you seems to have less motivation / energy to workout. I have always been tunnel visioned when I make up my mind. Again to the extreme, when I was younger, if I felt my body wasn’t good enough for me I would use any means necessary to make a change. Now it’s March and I had vowed in January to eat clean and work out 4 days a week and I simply keep failing. I start and stop and do good then fall off. It is exhausting and humiliating as I feel despicable for apparently not being the kind of person who does what she says she will. I thought I was better than that? And why do I feel so much pressure to be physically perfect anyway? In a world drunk on physicality… I feel hungover.

Thought Three: This reality is infinite and I will never experience enough.

I am an explorer by nature. My soul yearns to experience everything this short life has to offer and yet I am 9-5ing. I am experiencing the beauty of love and a family that was more important to my heart than anything else. But what of all the things I will never know, of this world as a planet as a place , of my mind as a maze, of my potential in diverse situations. While I may be lost in the system and it’s monotony, the core of me just refuses to conform. A void ever present in the pit of my stomach.

This all sounds very negative and I feel the need to explain, I am not living day to day depressed or particularly unhappy. I am blessed with a comfortable life, a wonderful family and a lovely place to work. I have achieve the best possible “system life” if you will. But I want more, as hard as I try to ignore the yearnings, my soul refuses to settle, it churns up these existential questions on the meaning and the point and I need to find the answers or at least soothe myself with a quest to try.

I usually naturally round my posts off with a conclusion, a cyclic crescendo, but how apt not to find the words when ending a post based on the existential questions that make my soul sad…

 

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Keep my Creativity!!!!!

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I can’t remember the last time I wrote a poem… wrote anything for that matter. Why oh why as soon as I rejoin the rat race due to financial demands do I lose that which makes life magical MY CREATIVITY!!! I am on a mission this year to fight the mundane forces that drive me to a slow death of work, eat, sleep, work, eat, sleep… and steal my will to express and exude all those colours I hold within.

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I’ve realised creativity really does take courage, courage to hold on to what makes your world brighter, and like all else worthwhile, courage to fight for its consistency in your life. Yes I’ll be tired tonight after the hour-long drive home from the busy office, I’ll cook, change in to comfy clothes, and probably slump into the nearest armchair with a hot, sweet cup of tea…but I’m bringing a pen and paper to that armchair too, if it kills me! Even if I fall asleep mid composition at least I’ll be creating, focusing for but a moment on more than heavy eyelids!

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In order to transcend traditional ideas as stated in the above, it seems one must first overcome tradition itself. The working man’s/woman’s tradition, the evening slump tradition, the “I’m too wrecked I’ll do it tomorrow” tradition. I have already lost years to the woe’s of tradition, routine ruts we fall into gladly and perish in without notice, until so much time has passed that we have missed our dreams. NO! Not this year!

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 I used to excuse myself with the well known phrase “I can only create when I’m miserable.” Ah, I’m happy, that must be why I’m not writing, ugh! waste! waste of precious time! What about those moments when a view takes your breath away, or a happening that brings a song or a poem or a painting to your mind instantaneously. I agree, creativity certainly does lie in chaos, but it also lies in peace, because it lies, with us.

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If you’re an artist and you’re struggling with the everyday, remember one vital quote that rings in my ears every time I fall off the creative grid… “Life is not about finding yourself, it’s about creating yourself!!!” (George Bernard Shaw)

Do you tattoo??

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“Tattoos are in limbo – neither fully damned nor fully lauded.” (Roberts, 2012)

 

Argument

In his article, Secret Ink: Tattoo’s Place in Contemporary American Culture Roberts puts forth the argument that the tattoo and concurrently the tattooed in society currently find themselves in a unique position, between the older stereotypical and negative view of the tattoo as a symbol of deviants, and it’s new consideration as a socially acceptable self expressive force, even vogue statement of fashion, that today embellishes so much media as well as the carefully considered hidden ribs and backs of many of today’s middle class youths.

Methodology

In order to explore and ultimately prove his theory Roberts partook in a social experiment whereby acting as an “observer-as-participant” he took on the role of receptionist within a tattoo shop. With this role he was able to observe and record first hand, through a mixture of informal conversations, involvement with shop activities and tuning in to the conversations between clients and artists, the interactions between those within and those experiencing for the first time the culture of tattooing.

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“First, I wanted to know why the client did or did not bring somebody with him or her. Second, I asked what the client was getting tattooed and sought to understand any significance attached to the design. Third, I inquired about the reason for the particular size and location of the tattoo.” (Roberts, 2012, p156 – 157)

Using the above specific questions Roberts was able to determine,

  1. The motivations behind the majority of clients choice to get a tattoo
  2. The possible affiliations or reasons for the choice of tattoo
  3. The clients reaction to possible stigmatization after the fact

Supporting evidence

Roberts found that the general motive behind getting tattoos largely contradicted the older social scientific notions of gang affiliation and, or criminal associations and was in fact a rather a lighter hearted “moment of deviance” for those bridging the gap between young and old, while a completely none deviant and perhaps even more light hearted purely self expressive act for those clients describable as today’s youths. He conveyed this dynamic perfectly through his desciption of the interaction between middle aged client “Betty” and younger company namely daughter “Maggie” and grandson “Joe.”

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“Betty thought of getting a tattoo as an act of deviance and later told me that she would never have gotten the tattoo on her own or if she had to pay for it herself. She was tattooed with four other women, all of whom considered their tattoos to be their “walk on the wild side.” Although her mom and dad both considered tattoos deviant, Maggie, who was in her upper thirties, liked lager tattoos. As Betty and I were speaking, Maggie interrupted us:

[Maggie] Hey, how much would it cost. Just like that. The whole thing.(she was pointing at a flash piece of a chalice titled with wine splashing out from the top and a cross floating above it. There was banner around it which read last call for acohol.)…

[Betty](scoots to the edge of the couch and leans forward in order to see what her daughter is talking about.) oh you wouldn’t get that!?

[Maggie] sure I would.

[Betty] That big!?!?”

[Maggie] Yeah, on my back( points to the small of her back)

[Betty] No, that’s too much. That’s crazy.

This interaction between Betty and Maggie Provides a good example of the intergenerational cultural conflict that often surrounds tattoos. Not only did Maggie bring her son (who is a minor) to be tattooed, she was also interested in getting a tattoo that is approximately six inches by six inches. Even thought it would be in a hidden location, her mother still thought the tattoo’s size made it “too much.” In Betty’s eyes, it was on thing to get a small tattoo in a moment of weakness, but it was quite another to plan a large tattoo.” (Roberts, 2012, p159-160)

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However despite the evidential shift in societal acceptance and belief systems surrounding the tattoo the older negative connotations were proved by Roberts still at large as the new age “tattooees” longed to contain their self expressions in places easily hidden if needs be, for potential disapprovers. The extent to which tattooees where willing to go to keep their statements optionally heard if you like even exceeded recommendations of excess pain proving a strong awareness that the negative connotations associated with tattoos were still live and well in some of today’s social circles, be them old or white collar.

This obvious awareness in the younger more accepting generation of the still smoking negativity of older societal beliefs is also echoed in the fact that Roberts found that two thirds brought someone with them not as originally stated by one client for moral support but rather due to an instilled distrust and discomfort entering the potentially “dangerous” habitat of the tattooed people!

“Among the 48 tattooees, 32 had at least one person accompany them… There were also 39 tattoo consultations during this period, 13 of whom came alone. It is interesting to notice that the ratio of individuals coming alone (one-third) and individuals coming with company (two thirds) was exactly the same for both people getting tattooed and people merely being consulted… this calls into question clients’ stated reasons for bringing moral support.” (Roberts, 2012, p157)

Furthermore Roberts continued,

“Although many clients, like Naomi, claim that it was merely a fear of pain that caused them to bring friends and / or family, the data suggests that this is an insincere claim meant to save face. If it were really a fear of pain that led the clients to bring moral support, then one would expect to find a clear distinction between the number of individuals who came in for tattoos with support and the number who came in for tattoo consultations with support. After all, if one is not getting a tattoo on a given day, there is little need to be concerned with physical pain…it is not likely that the clients were, in fact, afraid of pain. On the contrary, it was a fear of and lack of comfort with tattoo culture, as discussed by Eugene, which drove clients to bring support into the shop.” (Roberts, 2012, p158)

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Alternative Hypotheses

When considering other critical theorists and their points of view Roberts exclaimed that,

“While the ‘Tattoo Renaissance’ (Sanders, ‘Marks’ 401) has led to a dramatic shift in the attitudes and arguments put forth by academics concerning tattoos, by no means are the old attitudes disappearing from the literature.”

Atkinson is a clear example of this as he states,

“The symbiotic relationship between tattooing and illegal behaviour (or otherwise unconventional lifestyles) still dominates in sociological research. Sociologists prefer to study the subversive subculture uses of tattooing. (Atkinson via Roberts, 2012, p153)

However there are certain critics adapting with the times as they admit that,

“[the tattoo] has undergone dramatic redefinition and has shifted from a form of deviance to an acceptable form of expression.” (Irwin via Roberts, 2012, p154)

There is a clear and definite split in theory here as some sociologist continue to argue the dominance of all negative associations with tattooing, while others attempt to manifest that a complete and utter shift in societal norms has occurred and tattoos are now socially completely acceptable.

In past studies Post and Steward argued that “the physical act of getting a tattoo would cause future deviance.” (Post and Steward via Roberts, 2012, p154) Roberts explains that Ferguson-Rayport, Griffith and Straus; Lander and Kohn all proclaimed a link between tattoos and criminals or the mentally ill in the past while their theories have been recently updated and expanded further by other researchers such as Brooks et al, Carroll and Anderson, Stirn, Hinz and Brahler, Wohlrob et al who “seek to convince readers of a link between tattoos and both mental health problems and (sexual) deviance.” (Roberts, 2012, p154)

While Rosenblatt claims “a vast expansion of tattoos among mainstream Americans since the late 1980s and early 1990s” (Rosenblatt via Roberts, 2012, p153) this in itself suggesting a positive change in societal acceptance in order to cause the increase.

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Others such as Deschesnes, Fines and Demers as well as Koust agree that tattoos have become so widespread that they are now considerable as mainstream. (Deschesnes; Fines and Demers; Koust via Roberts, 2012, p155)

All in all it seems the critical masses either fall on one or other side of a very tall fence.

Conclusion

In contrast to the above decisive war denoting either complete new age positivity or consistent negativity in relation to the tattoo Roberts confirms for us a middle ground is much more likely to be the case in society today. His experiment conveyed neither a public utterly accepting of the tattoo culture nor a people stagnant in their negative perceptions from long ago but rather a transcient time of shifting views. A rare and exciting “in between” period where social norms are absolutely evolving in the young and yet the remainders of a lifetime of prejudice against the very same topic still exists in the older generations of communities. In this light some such as Bell attempt to diversify the argument even further using very valid points to suggest a difference between “the tattooed people” and those who get a tattoo or two

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but if as Roberts states,

“On the one side, researchers portray tattoos negatively by focusing on deviance and mental disorders. On the other, scholars view tattoos as positively contributing to identity formation and fashion” (Roberts, 2012, p153)

Perhaps the point is not to get bogged down splitting hairs over who wins, the anti’s or the pro’s, but rather to embrace and enrich ourselves with the exciting and informed knowledge that theories and perceptions are becoming formed and undone under our very noses. That at this moment self destruction co-exists with self expression, remembrance of love and loss is immortalized alongside boasting’s of murder and other criminal activities. That an all encompassing pocket of human culture has somehow miraculously managed to bring together people from all backgrounds, classes, races and points of view to one momentary, fleeting yet united place of admiration for art, and how apt be it that this art, this moment, this experience, is one as unique, as it is, permanent.

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Art, Architecture and Awesome Music!!

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I spent last night at the opening of a wonderful new exhibition by Anthony Haughey named Citizen. Hosted in the Highlanes Gallery, Drogheda, I was at once struck by the architecture of this beautiful space combining it’s early 19th century roots as the former Drogheda Franciscan Church and Friary, with elements of the building dating further back such as the former Franciscan burial crypts and it’s modern renovations including the open plan display rooms and a new floor at the height of the old church balcony. Suiting this stunning space perfectly was the equally exhilarating exhibition itself, telling the tale of citizens or rather none citizens as they exist in the space between their countries of origin and the countries within which they seek asylum and or a better life. Focusing upon the borders and no mans land where these people face the reluctant hosts alongside whom they long to settle, through interactive video, photography, instillation and text Haughey reveals the heart wrenching journeys and struggles of many different nationalities searching for one of their most basic human rights, a place to live in peace.

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Following on from a fabulous location and a fascinating exhibition you would think that things couldn’t get much better culturally speaking, but culture was to raise the bar once more in the form of The Notas.

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 A six piece indie band formed in 2010, consisting of talented musicians from Pakistan to Nigeria, France to Zimbabwe, The Notas performed an acoustic set that left all reeling in awe at the dulcet tones of excellent musicians and the velvet vocals of their lead singer.

A three fold recommendation I urge all to visit the beauty that is the Highlanes Gallery, to delve into the depths of Haugheys inspiring exhibition and to become an avid follower of ever talented ever amazing The Notas!!

For more information please see below:

Highlanes Gallery: http://www.highlanes.ie/Default.aspx

Anthony Haughey: Citizen http://www.highlanes.ie/Activity.aspx?ActivityID=187

The Notas: http://www.facebook.com/TheNotas

Cultural Escapism <3

ImageI love those rare mornings when you wake unknowing of what the day will hold. Your mind quick to list the things that should fill those coming hours and yet some small part of you screams for a break from the mundane, a holiday right at home. What better way to escape reality than to delve into the mysterious depths of ancient artifacts, artwork and literature? I roamed the streets of Dublin at 8am contemplating this  fact when a dear friend, once my lecturer in Joyce came to mind. A fellow fanatic of all that is cultural. To my delight he too had greeted this morn tres tot, and so we collaborated for a day of cultural escapism.

We began with light thesis chat over strong brewed coffee, sweetened by honey, his morning cigarette, and my morning contemplation gazing across the still water at Georges Dock. A morning as biting as I have felt so far this autumn, sent us red nosed and blush cheeked across the river Liffey with a weak and yet bright rising sun at our side. ImageOur expedition began with the National Gallery, wandering and pondering through an array of paintings dating from the 13th to the 20th century. Reliving Jack B Yeats’ transformation into the abstract as if it occurred in front of us, and falling in love with the beautiful Lady Lavery, posing as Kathleen Ni Houlihan (female personification of Ireland)…Image

& Walter Osbourne’s beautiful portrayal “The Streets of Dublin”Image

Following this visual feast we made our way to the Chester Beatty Library where we gorged on his extensive collection of artwork, largely French painters, admiring especially the vitality of Ziem’s Venice…

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Dizzied by the beauty and innate grandeur of so many astounding works we walked the memorial gardens of Dublin Castle, collecting our thoughts in silence and soaking up the now striking afternoon sun.

ImageOverloading our greedy souls with one final colossal collection of East Asian, Islamic, ancient Egyptian and Western artifacts. Among my favourites being the rare slabs of jade inscribed with Asian poetry…

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and a collection of historic books dating from the beginning of leather binding.. Image

showcasing some of the most beautiful books I have ever laid eyes upon…

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“Inebriate of air” as Dickinson so perfectly put it (a mystical state that she experienced through her soul’s awareness, so overwhelming & uplifting that she felt as one does intoxicated by alcohol) we left full of history, myth and renewed artistic dreams.

If as Marcus Garvey states, “A people without culture… is a tree without roots” I am now firmly planted in this rich Irish earth, ready to spend winter preparing many shoots for spring bloom.