Extra Ordinary

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Find the ‘extra’…

I don’t own a single album of David Bowie, so the devastation I felt upon his passing seemed disproportional. A similar dichotomy happened only days later, with Alan Rickman.

Extraordinary strangers. People who I’ve glimpsed through the world’s eye with their extraordinary talents, while they undoubtedly continued with their ordinary lives, viewing themselves as unremarkable and simply creating, working and living.

I’m drawn to this humbleness. Not those who bask in their success but wonder at it, are confused by it and possibly curse the attention it brings.

I follow The Bloggess. I cannot claim to know her but she gives so much of herself on her blog and in her books that it is difficult to not feel connected. She wrote this post about David Bowie and Alan Rickman (among others) which I marvelled at not simply because I felt exactly the same but because she does not see herself among them. She is among them. She is extraordinary.

She’ll never read this.

Wil Wheaton and Anne Wheaton are extraordinary. They are good people and I would happily say I adore them. I feel delighted that they share their lives on social media because they make me laugh but they’ve dealt with enough nonsense for Wil (at one time or other) to post instructions on how to be respectful, and for Anne to quit twitter. Just before she quit, I sent her a direct message.

Twitter comment

She didn’t read it.

If she did, it didn’t make any difference – I didn’t expect it would. I am one of hundreds upon thousands of people waving my arms around her.

She’ll never read this either.

These are five people who have touched my life without their knowledge, be it by their humour or sensibilities or genius or grace, or they’ve simply shared a part of their life. There are many others. Writers, artists, creators, comedians – people I’ve found on Twitter or Instagram or WordPress or TED talks. Often not famous. There’s a part of me that believes if the world were smaller, we’d be friends. With some, I already am.

I am thankful for these connections – however large and worldly, or small and obscure.

Extraordinary strangers. Those who are likely think of themselves as quite ordinary but are remarkable. Not necessarily in a Bowie way, or a Rickman way, but in their own way.

And if you’re sitting there reading this thinking I’m not talking about you. Why not? Life is extraordinary . The mechanics of a purring cat. The brain. An opening flower.

Ordinary and extraordinary are not mutually exclusive.

The only thing that limits us is our perception.

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Sticks and Stones

I was always good at Playing the Game.

That’s what my mother called it. The art of moving among people, saying what needed to be said without being angry or offensive. I internalised emotions. I diffused situations with humour. I remained silent if necessary.

I recognised this at an early age.  I noticed some classmates lacked it. My own brother lacked it. Although he was older than me, there were times I came to his defence. Ever the diplomat, me.

One of my favourite of Aesop ‘s fables was The Oak and the Reeds. It’s not as well known as some of them, but it resonated with me. The tale of the old tree than grew with the reeds beside the river. The tree was proud of its strength and size but a great gust of wind tore up the oak from the ground.

The tree wept.

“I don’t understand it. How can something as frail and slender as a reed escape the anger of the wind, while a strong tree has been torn up by its roots?”

The reeds explain the moral of the story.

“Sometimes in  order to survive, it is better to give way.”

And this is how I played the game. I stuck to my opinions when they truly mattered and let everything else go. I decided who I respected and who I didn’t – and as to the latter – if I didn’t respect you, why would I about care what you said or thought?

I was so lucky to believe this. To believe this so strongly I left school without enemies and a small group of friends who stood with me.

Though, we are never unbroken.

My insecurities lie in my capabilities. My ability to write, for one. I suffer from anxiety and have developed a habit of surpressing how I feel. Sometimes, I surpress too much.

As an adult looking back, those who ‘broke’ me were adults and/or people I respected.

But.

But the beauty of being an adult is when looking back you realise we are all victims of our lives. We all (mostly) do not intend to sabotage the lives of others but do what we think is best at the time. Then to compound this there are personalities and how two people can take the same experience and interpret it a very different way.

Of course, bullies do intend to sabotage lives, they’ll probably never realise how much. They’ll probably never realise how broken they are themselves.

I was bullied at school but I was always lucky to be a reed.


So, I’ve just come from Ra, and she wrote this. It’s a whole heap of awesome, but this clip triggered these memories.


nanopoblano2015darkDay 24 of Nano Poblano! That is, Ra’s version of NaBloPoMo.

We’re posting everyday in the month of November!

When I say ‘we’ I mean these awesome folk.

 

Stranger Danger

At school, we did a course called Stranger Danger. I was all of seven years old and we were educated in the matter of childhood abduction. What to do. What not to do. Words like molestation weren’t mentioned. We weren’t told that culprits were likely to be people we knew. I was lucky enough not to be one of these victims.

Yet, there have been many circumstances where strangers were nice. Even kind.

My grandfather told me about the time he broke down. This is before mobile phones and before my grandparents even had a land line. He was at the side of the road for a good hour before someone pulled over to offer assistance. This fellow was from a low socio-economic background, under-educated and on the side of poor. He offered help.

My grandfather said, ‘Those who have less often give more.’

Once, when at university I was coming home on the bus and felt ill. For three whole stops I kept telling myself I could make it.  By the time I reached my final stop, I had to lay down to prevent myself from fainting. I splayed out on the concrete footpath. A stranger asked me if I was okay.

At school a man stood with a fellow student. I wandered over to find the gentleman trying to explain the currency ‘yen’ to him in broken English.

“We have cents,” I said, “While the Japanese have yen.”

The gentleman thanked me, turned to me and bowed. “For you.” he said, and handed me a coin, hollow and tied with a red ribbon. I still have it.

And once, this happened:

It was a glorious sunny day and I felt on top of the world. It was my day off, and I was walking through town after just treating myself to a small bunch of flowers for the house. I rounded the corner and I saw a well dressed middle-aged man sat on a bench rubbing the back of a woman who laid across him. She was sobbing. Hopeless, shaking sobs. I felt embarrassed that myself and the entire bustling street had caught them in this private and heart-wrenching moment of their lives. I wish I had stopped. I wish I asked them if they were okay. I wish I’d given them my flowers.

So this was a non-list post, inspired by a list-post prompt from Rarasaur.

“Strangers you’ll never forget”

What are yours?


nanopoblano2015darkClick on the link to visit the team of Tiny Peppers. It’s Rarasaur’s version of NaBloPoMo and it’s called Nano Poblano.  Or, as I’ve been calling it lately Nano Problano.

We’re blogging every day in the month of November! I think I’m actually getting the hang of this.

Lost

While trying to work my way around all the Little Peppers’ blog posts, I found this one at Part-Time Monster. It made me ponder what I have lost and how much there is to lose. Then I felt fortunate that I haven’t lost more. Sometimes we have no control over it and other times, maybe we are careless. I guess it is all relative. Some things I’ll never get back, others, I might yet see again.

Like that gift voucher that expires early December.

I’ve lost both sets of grandparents. Which makes them sound like salt and pepper shakers that I left in a car park somewhere. Lost is a strange euphemism for death. But, while the ache of loss never leaves you, I stopped feeling angry that they died and felt  privileged that I knew them to an age where I was old enough to remember them. Old enough to have meaningful relationships with them. Old enough to understand what it meant to lose them.

I’ve lost a dog and two cats and the tree outside my bedroom window.

I lost Billy Goat Gruff when I was three. I took him as a shopping companion with Mum and he never came home. Strangely, I can’t remember what he looked like but I vividly remember my distress when he went missing.

Every year, we gave up some of our things to charity. Technically, that doesn’t classify as ‘lost’ except, I gave up MonkeyMonkeyMoo and regretted it. My aunt knitted him for me when I was in hospital. I kept other things she knitted that were smaller and easier to store.

I’ve lost friends to nothing more sinister than different paths. I lost a book to one of those friends, but I believe the book is better with her.

I lost my favourite dangly earring one winter.

I lost my purse on Christmas Eve and got it back five days later with everything still in it.

I’m losing hair and skin cells and youth with every passing year.

Hopefully I have lost misconceptions and ignorance and fear.

I’ve lost my internet connection and found nanopoblano2015darkit.

Perhaps I have lost religion but found faith.

Perhaps I have lost my mind but found sanity.

So much to lose, but still so much to find.

Laziness: A Case Study

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Sometimes I have ridiculous ideas that solve first world problems.

Like a button you can press on the refrigerator that stops the door-open alarm.

Beep beep.

Sometimes, the door just needs to be open that bit longer.

Beep beep.

Sometimes you drop a tub of yogurt and the lid flies off and there’s white gloop stuck to the milk carton and lettuce and you just simply want a button to make the beeping stop without reaching for the power point.

Beep

I KNOW THE DOOR’S OPEN ALREADY!

     beep.

People on Pedestals

It makes sense we feel connections with people in the public eye. You observe them on television, in film, on stage or follow them through social media. You probably like their show, love their movie, own their art, listen to their music or read their writing. You probably feel, on some level, you know them.

I can understand all this, which makes it difficult for me to explain the ways I don’t understand.

Even as a teenager, at the alleged peak of celebrity obsessions, I was disinterested. I mean, I had ‘celebrity crushes’ but hanging pictures of these strangers on my bedroom wall (no matter how cute they were) seemed weird to me. What posters I did possess were stuck under the lid of my storage chest away from prying eyes – pictures of animals and ALF. Yes, ALF – who’s a puppet. While my pin-up choices made sense in my head, my friends were infatuated with television personalities, bands and film stars. When one friend tried to entice me to get an autograph from a local celebrity, I replied, ‘What for? He wouldn’t want mine’. I managed to confuse my friend, who couldn’t find an argument against it and nevertheless wandered off for the autograph without me.

That’s not to imply I wouldn’t want to meet the famous people I admire. Unfortunately, when those opportunities present themselves I imagine myself standing with a gazillion other people who may or may not be screaming for the off chance of a short conversation that may or may not be meaningless. Of course, this standard of mine means I’m unlikely to ever meet them in any capacity. Which perhaps makes me all the poorer.

Look. Can’t we just meet for a coffee?

I find myself feeling sorry for well-known people. Some are better at negotiating ‘celebrity’ than others but I often see the down side.

I follow Emma Watson on Twitter and some months ago now she tweeted this:

“I told my dad I am learning to touch type and he said he still uses the ‘hunt and peck’ technique. And now I’m crying laughing. #dads”

Charming, right? One of the responses to this comment was vile. Irrelevant and vile. At the time I saw it, it had thirteen RTs and several more tagged it as a favourite. I realise that’s a relatively small portion of her followers but I still got the heebie-jeebies on Emma’s behalf.

Then there was this photo that did the rounds on Twitter

 

Should this treatment be part of being famous? Really? Taking pictures of them doing things unrelated to their job? With their kids in the park? In the supermarket? But I guess it fills me with horror because I would hate it happening to me.

In my teens I witnessed a girl scream when she unexpectedly meet a actor from an Australian soapie. A short and shocked ‘argh!’ like she’d just uncovered a spider. I admit, it is odd seeing people from television/film in public (it’s a bit like when you’re a child and see your school teacher at the supermarket), but scream? Without meaning to sound like Spock, this response seemed illogical.

I once saw Miriam Margolyes at the airport (she notably played Professor Sprout in the Harry Potter films) and I kept well away. She looked like she wanted to be swallowed by the world and avoided making eye contact with anyone.

But there is a market for it. People buy celebrity magazines. I have family and friends who buy them. Some ‘celebrities’ probably buy them. And I don’t understand it at all. So when The Daily Post asked the question, ‘Who did you idolise as a teenager? Did you go crazy for the Beatles? Ga-ga over Duran Duran? In love with Justin Bieber? Did you think Elvis was the livin’ end?’, I couldn’t relate to this either.

I know I’ve way over-thought this, but sometimes I feel we use the word ‘idolise’ too freely; we feel it more than we think about why. We give more weight to attractiveness than we do to identity. We mix up actors with the characters they play, we confuse popularity with talent and fame with worth. What am I idolising exactly?

I don’t like people on pedestals. I’m not saying you can’t look up to people, only that I prefer admiration over adoration and respect over worship. Some of the kindest, extraordinary, admirable, inspiring and talented people are not well-known at all.

 

Who are your non-famous idols? Do you have an autograph of someone you admire and if so what does it mean to you?

 

Words: A Two Part Invention

As a sentimentalist, I resist the evolution of the English language. I’m not upset by the addition of new words but I lament the loss of old ones. I get quite excited when I discover an old word and try to work into a sentence through the day – I need to keep it alive that little bit longer.

Technology is responsible for many new words these days. Google has become a verb and there’s a need to stick ‘i’ in front of most saleable items. Some terms fall out of use almost as rapidly as they’re invented – remember that narrow window of time when it was cool to say ‘book’? Those were the days when predictive text on your mobile phone alternated between ‘book’ and ‘cool’. After that, technology moved onto autocorrect and that glorious day I asked my husband to ‘sick me up’.

I consider myself, in my own private universe, an inventor of words. I’m sure this isn’t unique to me. Whether by intention or happenstance we invent words relevant to our families and our lives. I habitually extend words to ‘cute-ify’ things. Like spiders are ‘spinskees’ (because they need a good dose of cute-ification) and mice are ‘minchkees’. Sometimes my husband arranges my mad-cap descriptions into a single word. The other day I called our cat a ‘furry monkey’ and as quick as a flash my husband adds, ‘That would make him “funkey”’, he paused before adding, ‘Or “murry”, but that’s not as good’. Admittedly, together we have a supply of these words designed solely for the cat. My favourite is ‘peets’ – paws and feet.

‘Peets’ is my own invention, but if I’m honest, most of my words form by accident. When in Scotland, we discovered the word ‘crabbit’. It means grouchy and it’s probably derived from (or related to) ‘crabby’ which is the form I’m familiar with. I inexplicably found ‘crabbit’ really amusing. When either my husband or I got a little irritable, we began saying to each other, ‘don’t be crabbit’ and we’d instantly start smirking. In one such moment, I accidently told my husband not to be ‘grumpit’ – that unique blend of grumpy and crabbit with the fortune of sounding like a delicious toasty breakfast treat.

‘Grumpit’ is my new favourite word.

What are your word inventions? Do tell.