You don't have to understand the world. You just have to find your own way around in it. - Albert Einstein

Monday, 23 May 2016

of the Vintage Crockery Collection

I have begun photographing my collection of vintage crockery before I take most of it off to a collector in town. Of course I wish I could keep them all, because they're so beautiful. But it's time for a Decluttering, so off they go.

I found all these pieces in op shops. As you can imagine, there have been countless beautiful treasures I have found since I let my blog lay fallow. Today, let's start catching up with some plates.

Johnsons of Australia

Midwinter by Stonehenge, England

Johnson Brothers, England - there are three different sizes of this one. I love that they are oval rather than round.

Two small plates from Japan

Tiny dishes. Top two - England, bottom - Japan


Two more from Japan

Burgundy Rose by British Anchor, England

This pair is unusual for the difference of just one small motif between them. Johnsons of Australia
Classic scenes. Left - Crown Lynn, New Zealand, right - Swan Inn by J Broadhurst & Sons, England

Mikasa, Japan

Sunday, 15 May 2016

on the Proper Disposal of Old Journals

I used to keep journals. I kept them lovingly, faithfully and well. Journalling was an important and cherished part of my life. I discovered so much of myself through my journals. Or at least that’s how I remember it.
Because my journals were so important to me, I’d keep them every time I edited my possessions in order to move house. By the time I turned 30 I’d collected a big, heavy pile of journals. It might not look so big to some – I’ve often read writers’ accounts of having piles of old journals stacked from floor to ceiling in their attics or cellars. I’m guessing that these are mostly the kinds of people who have houses with attics and cellars and get to stay put in them for long periods of time. But me, every fucking time I moved house or even re-organised the one I was living in, I’d have to pack the fucking things up, lug them about from here to fucking there, and find somewhere to bloody well store them again. You can tell how frustrated I’ve become by this by all the fucks.
Baggage - extremely literally
It was around this time that I pretty much stopped journalling. I was just too daunted by the thought of more fucking heavy books to carry around with me when next it would come time to pack. I couldn’t bear it. And so I stopped writing. Yep, that’s pretty sad.
I first started thinking about (shock, horror) getting rid of at least some of my journals a few years ago when I was packing up to move up from Victoria. I thought long and hard and deeply. I even googled ‘should I get rid of my old journals?’. Most of the pages that Google offered me were blog posts written by people wondering the same thing as me. The verdict was pretty clear. Nearly everyone who commented on any of these pages said no, no-one should ever dispose of one’s journals, because one day at some point in the future there just might be someone who would benefit from reading those journals or some part thereof, and it would be a terrible disservice to the future of the human race for one to willfully prevent such a thing from happening. So I packed the fucking things up again. And still didn’t produce any more.
And now, I want to keep a journal again. The dread of the pile of accumulated journals growing heavier hasn’t lessened, so I had to ask myself again, well, how about if I got rid of at least some of them? And so, of course, I had to ask Google as well. Google has certainly changed its mind on the subject.
This time I found people considering the content of their journals more closely when questioning the proposition of getting rid of their own journals. Many confessed that they discovered that their early journals, at least, were full of a lot of stuff that they didn’t really have any interest in holding onto any more. This post here by Erin Kurup is a great example. I love how she came to this realisation -  "They were negative, whiny, obnoxious, phony. And you know what? I knew the words were fake as I was writing them. I remember deliberately choosing what to record based on what I believed the record I thought I was supposed to write would look like."
Many people told of sorting through their journals, throwing out the things that they didn’t need to keep a record of any longer, and keeping the things that were still important to them, now, at this time. They reported that they were glad they did it.
So I dug my suitcase full of old journals out from their dusty storage corner. I started at the beginning, with my earliest ‘serious’ journal. I started it when I was nineteen years old and embarking on a very intensive journey of psychotherapy. I’d been told that I could cure my depression by working with this psychotherapy, so I worked it very hard. And all these years later, well, yes, I’m glad I did it. It didn’t cure my depression but it gave me some decent tools for managing my emotions. The journal from this time is very much a therapy journal, very much a torturous exploration of why on earth I might be so fucking miserable – or scared, mostly. So many of the sentences in it start with “I’m scared.” It details the crappiest bits of my relationship with someone who has since passed away. There is really no need for there to be a record of all that stuff. I don’t need to keep it any more.
So I tore all those pages out. I kept some things, like the art therapy pieces that were the most special to me.

I also kept the pages on which I’d recorded my dreams. I’ve always found it a very powerful practice, to record and pay attention to my dreams. Reading them long after I’ve forgotten them, they are still speaking to me. Some of the smaller journals are dedicated entirely to dreams. It looks like I’m going to have to keep those ones for the time being.
By the time I got to the end I’d removed at least 90% of the pages from the journal. And as for the proper way to dispose of old journals, this was widely discussed in the blog posts I read. For me, it could only be by burning them. Fortunately I have a proper fireplace where I can do such a thing. And whoooosh, off they went, up in flames.
And then I picked up the next journal, in chronological order, and continued.

Friday, 6 May 2016

on the Pursuit of Happiness

I came across this quote by Australian writer Hugh Mackay last night. It struck a chord with me, and I’ve found my thoughts returning to it throughout the night and this morning. It articulates my own feelings on the subject quite well.
"I don’t mind people being happy – but the idea that everything we do is part of the pursuit of happiness seems to me a really dangerous idea and has led to a contemporary disease in Western society, which is fear of sadness. It’s a really odd thing that we’re now seeing people saying 'write down 3 things that made you happy today before you go to sleep', and 'cheer up' and 'happiness is our birthright' and so on. We’re kind of teaching our kids that happiness is the default position – it’s rubbish. Wholeness is what we ought to be striving for and part of that is sadness, disappointment, frustration, failure; all of those things which make us who we are. Happiness and victory and fulfillment are nice little things that also happen to us, but they don’t teach us much. Everyone says we grow through pain and then as soon as they experience pain they say 'Quick! Move on! Cheer up!'. I’d like just for a year to have a moratorium on the word 'happiness' and to replace it with the word 'wholeness'. Ask yourself 'is this contributing to my wholeness?' and if you’re having a bad day, it is.”
The western world has a culture of trying to be happy, trying to find happiness, to follow our bliss or however you want to put it. But in spite of all this freedom to do so, we’re not getting any happier than our ancestors, who never had a cultural construct in which to question whether or not they were happy with their lives, and whether they might have other options, or what they should do to make themselves happier.  Life was just what it was, and they got on with it. I believe they were better off for it.
I’ve had clinical depression for nearly 30 years. I had two major nervous breakdowns before I left my teens, and another in my mid-20’s (which was most certainly partly caused by trying to follow an idea of happiness, and being bummed that it didn’t work). I had a huge breakthrough when I just gave up thinking of happiness as something that’s important. I don’t even ask myself or wonder if a particular course of action will make me happy or not – it’s not even a criterion for decisions. And I can affirm that life is definitely better and easier this way.
This is an attitude that gets me a lot of criticism from people who are strongly engaged in a philosophy of ‘positivity’ and are into searching for happiness. They think I might be depressed because I fail to pursue and find happiness. I know that’s not true. Depression is a constant – it’s just the state of my brain, probably, I think, as a side effect of having epilepsy and autism. Just faulty wiring. How I deal with depression and the rest of my life is another matter – that’s an active, continuing process and function. It turns out that trying to be happy really doesn’t help at all, and just wastes a lot of energy that could be put into making life as it already is easier to deal with.
It’s not that I don’t feel happiness. I often feel happy. I recognise that I’m feeling it and I appreciate it. I do feel sad more often – that’s part of clinical depression. My point is that I no longer measure the balance or deliberately try to change it. I just get on with life anyway.
Gratitude is a buzzword I’m hearing a lot of people go on about lately. Apparently, we can all make ourselves happier by reminding ourselves to be grateful. It’s pretty much an industry in itself these days, where you can buy a blank book that says ‘Gratitude’ somewhere on the cover, which is supposed to make it somehow more useful in making life ‘better’ than a plain blank notebook would be, or attend a ‘gratitude’ workshop for a fee. I can see that this would have benefits as a cognitive training exercise, for some people who are unduly obsessing on needs or desires and forgetting to recognise or acknowledge all the wonderfulness along the way. But it’s become oversimplified in the process of commercialisation into an equation where basically, more gratitude equals more happiness, and therefore, if you don’t have enough happiness, you must be in need of more gratitude.
I experience gratitude deeply, profoundly and frequently. Several times a day, I’ll spontaneously need to have to take a second to take a breath and allow the intensity of the feeling of gratitude to wash through me. I don’t need to make myself do this, it just happens. A lot. Common triggers include lying down in a comfortable bed, reading excellent writing, the taste of food, the kindness of others, and the beauty and sheer marvel of the natural world. This happens consistently, regardless of whether I’m in a good or a poor mood or state of mind. I sometimes wonder whether I have a need for God in my life partly out of need to ascribe some agent of existence toward which I can direct my gratitude. I often read that people tend to forget God until they’re in trouble and need help, and then they pray. I find the opposite happens to me – I can forget God for a while, until I’m confronted with something, usually a phenomenon of nature, that overwhelms me with wonder, and then I need God to have something to be thankful to, and to rationalise the thrill, not the misery, of existence. So I know that a lack of gratitude is not the cause of my depression.
I think people find the nature of my illness confronting. They don’t want to believe it exists, perhaps, so they try to define clinical depression as a lack of something – sufficient pursuit of happiness, or whatever – on my part. I’m not buying it. If you want to follow happiness, and you’re not hurting anybody else in order to do so, well off you go then, whatever floats your boat and bakes your potatoes, mate. I really can be happy for you, truly. But if you’re trying to tell me how to fix life with happiness, you’re wasting your time. I’ve already tried out that particular philosophy, and I know that I’m better off without it.