The Observations and Obsessions of a Superego's Sidekick

Posts tagged “creativity

Writing 101-Free The Mind

mooneye4Twenty minutes to write, twenty minutes to free my mind, and capture in writing my stream of consciousness.  Where do I start, there is so much noise inside my head, constant chatter, new ideas being born, dreams, some shattering, some still infinitely optimistic.  I’d love for you all to think that my thoughts are meaningful, inspirational and provoking, but the truth is there is more Homer Simpson than Aristotle going on in there.  Mindlessly and tunelessly humming a song I heard earlier in the day, cravings for something sweet, and crackpot ideas.

So lets focus a little, why do I write, to fulfill a dream, a dream 33 years in the making but along the way, I found me, a way of expressing myself, of capturing my deepest and darkest thoughts and memories and transforming them into words.  I’ve always admired writers who create images with words, those whose ideas and creations come to life inside my mind, and every time I start writing, my goal is to transform everyday words into lyrical and beautiful prose, my aim continues.

This is the first time I’ve taken part in writing 101, my goal is to expand my writing experience, to try something different.  I recently attempted a poem, two lines in and it’s still sitting in my drafts, was it rubbish, not yet, add a few more lines and it might be though, but what stopped me, is that I froze, and I had no idea where to go next.  I’d like to expand my horizons a little, push myself out of my comfort zone.  Who knows perhaps that poem may even get finished.  I need to be nudged, and that’s how I got into writing this blog.  Reveling a secret dream to a friend, who gently pushed and pushed until I jumped.  The time was right and it was fortuitous, being able to write during a severe and lengthy bipolar depression episode was a lifeline and a great way to keep track of my illness.  I’ve been writing now for a little over three years and not at all sure that I’ve progressed and improved as a writer since my early days, but I can look back and see how much I’ve grown as a person.

Hopefully these next four weeks will help me to develop a writing discipline, something I lack greatly, I tend to be all over the place, nothing for weeks and then a blast of inspiration and then barrenness.  I know to do anything well requires much commitment and practice and perhaps that lilting and lyrical prose will come.

Here’s to the next four weeks, day one down!

Wish me luck.


Embracing The Introvert Inside You.

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Introversion and extroversion became part of Carl Jung’s typology, a theory of psychological types defined by three dichotomies in ‘The Collected Works of C. G. Jung’ published in 1921, his works were extrapolated and expanded to include a fourth dichotomy and this became the basis of the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator, a psychometric questionnaire for understanding human behaviour.  The purpose of this test is to make Jung’s typology understandable and usable in helping people develop constructive and positive changes in their lives by coming to an understanding of their strengths and weaknesses.

There are many definitions for introvert and several will have you believe that an introvert is a shy, reticent person, and while some introverts are shy, this is a misconception.  It is important to remember that introversion isn’t a personality flaw but a character trait, and is not the same as social phobia.   The main difference between introverts and extroverts is the source of their energy, extroverts thrive on social interaction and external factors, whereas the introvert thrives on solitude, creative pursuits and introspection.  All humans fall somewhere on the introvert/extrovert scale, we all have a propensity to lean one way or the other, however no one will be 100% either way, as Jung put it, “there is no such thing as a pure extrovert or a pure introvert; such a man would be in the lunatic asylum.”

However the modern world and society is geared toward the extrovert and yet it is estimated that the worldwide figures for introverts is 1/3 to 1/2 of the population.  We tend to think of extroverts as the movers, shakers and reformers.  But look again, many great achievers are introverts, think Barack Obama, J. K. Rowling, Albert Einstein, Bill Gates, Mark Zuckerberg, Mahatma Gandhi, Rosa Parks, Steve Wozniak, Steven Spielberg and Abraham Lincoln, to name a few.  And while these famous introverts have done great things, it’s in a world skewed toward the extroverts strengths.

The world is a noisy place, and society today, embraces gregarious, chatty personalities, the brainstormers, the quick problem solvers, and overconfidence.    Introverts are often seen as socially awkward, ruminating and dull, whereas the extrovert is sociable, friendly and outgoing, so right from the get go, the extrovert sounds more appealing.   But would it surprise you to know that there are many extroverts that are shy and many introverts who love to socialize.  While the gifts of extroverts seem to be obvious, introverts are excellent at the details, learning through observation, creative and solitary pursuits, and are considered to be thoughtful, self aware and empathetic.

Many of our writers, musicians, scientists, therapists, actors, computer/IT designers, and according to Buzzfeed professional Netflix binge watchers tend to be introverts.  However introverts can be found in every profession, in boardrooms, offices, courtrooms, in fact anywhere, where minds meet and ideas are exchanged, introverts have much to give.  With the extroverts confidence, enthusiasm and momentum, and the introverts attention to detail and creative thinking, just imagine what could be achieved.

The secret to my own personal contentment is self awareness and today I am a self confessed introvert, but for many years I forced myself to be other than what I truly was, in the belief that there was something wrong with me.  I tried to be Superwoman, to be all things to all people, the ‘yes’ woman, committee member, volunteer extraordinaire and the life and soul of the party, in my efforts to fulfill my desire to be wanted and needed, but in the end I was left mentally exhausted, unhappy and unwell.  When I stopped resenting and ignoring my introvertive nature, I found a wonderful inner peace.  Today I still belong to committees, but they’re the groups where my gifts, talents and knowledge are recognized, valued and appreciated.  I still attend parties and social events but carefully selected ones, and I love going out for dinner and movies and spending time with those I love, and some of those are incredibly wonderful inspiring extroverts.  But when I feel the need to retreat, I now embrace it, enjoy it and nurture it, it energizes me and then I’m ready for my next great adventure.

 

 

 


It’s Never Too Late To Learn An Instrument.

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I took up playing the piano at the age of 42, however my desire to learn piano goes back to my teens.  My siblings and I were allowed one extra-curricular activity and my first choice was ballet.  But I had a friend that I visited regularly and she played, so I got to have a little experience.  Nothing major, a few chords, chopsticks, you know the easy stuff.  But that desire remained and when we purchased a keyboard for the kids, I was probably the most enthusiastic beyond the initial novelty.  However keyboards are very different to pianos in that the dynamics of the piece are difficult to create with a keyboard, but it didn’t stop me and about a year later I started lessons and a year after that I got my own piano.

A big investment, but by that time I knew that this was what I wanted to do, and my passion for learning was strong.  That I suppose is a major advantage to learning anything new as an adult.  Often that dream extends all the way back to our childhood and it has become ingrained in our imagination.  And when the raising of our children becomes a little less hectic and we suddenly have more time for ourselves, these dreams come flooding back.  I’ve learnt to read music, simply because it’s an integral part of piano and of classical music study and performance and for the better part of the last eight years I’ve played classical music.  I have recently however started expanding my repertoire to pieces this side of the 1950’s.  And I’m currently learning The Cave by Mumford and Sons.  Who knows, one day I might get a chance to jam with a six-fingered banjo player.  Whether your instrument requires you to read music or not, I really think it is very helpful in getting a basic understanding at least, to help with the shaping of a piece.

But this does raise the question for me, can it be too late to start learning, especially with regard to developing any great proficiency.  My daughter started her piano lessons around the same time as me.  It always seemed to be much easier for her, than for me, despite the fact that I practiced ten times more than she.  Her fingers were so much more agile than mine.  I’m in no doubt that children and adults learn in totally different ways and perhaps that explains her ability to grasp what was in front of her faster.  Children almost intuitively learn and they’re not afraid to make mistakes.  Speaking for myself, I always beat myself up if I did something wrong, complete with headbanging the piano.  I’d over think the piece, apply reasoning and thinking strategies and the music became very wooden.

My friend and piano teacher passed away June 2013, and at that time I decided to no longer take lessons, to go it alone basically.  Sadly, I stopped playing for quite some time, it reminded me too much of Liz and didn’t help with everything else that was going on for me.  I’m back playing  again now, but still find myself thinking, I must talk to Liz about shaping this piece.  I still can’t believe she’s gone.

My daughter no longer plays, she simply lost interest and didn’t bothering practicing and finally stopped going to lessons altogether.  I guess making the decision later in life to learn is a big plus.  I still struggle with playing and learning new pieces, but I love playing.  And despite the fact that my fingers are not exactly long (I can barely span an octave), I muddle through, and I also take great delight in the fact that my favourite piano maestro Daniel Barenboim plays so beautifully with equally tiny hands.

Apart from the childhood dream fulfilled, there are many other benefits to taking up an instrument post childhood. It helps to reduce stress, and strengthens the brain, and yes there has actually been studies done in the area of brain power/learning music which show that the longer a person plays the stronger their non-verbal and visuospatial memory, as well as their ability to adapt to new information.  The reason for this and what appears to be unique to playing an instrument, is that it requires a wide array of brain regions and cognitive functions to work together simultaneously, in both right and left hemispheres of the brain.  Add to that playing and listening to music is one the greatest and simplest pleasures imaginable.

I think that the two most important decisions to make, are that you are prepared to practice consistently and that you choose the right instrument for you.  Not everyone can play anything, I have first hand knowledge of that.  I once considered the flute, but after trying one, I decided that I’d give it a miss.  If I was making any sounds from it, they were only ones dogs could hear.  Not forgetting my eldest son, who definitely has many other wonderful abilities, but persisted in torturing me throughout his primary education with the most appalling tin whistle playing ever,  which he eventually gave up to play the violin.  Oh dear god it was terrible, even worse than the tin whistle, think cats being tortured.  He now plays the guitar, much better, but he won’t be winning any awards any time soon.  When you think of a mothers’ love, it’s never stronger nor put to the test more than when they’re playing an instrument.  Make sure to try a few out, get the right one, it is after all a big investment and a lifetime commitment.  So if your tossing up whether to start, go for it, you won’t regret it.


Humour – Tickling Our Collective Funny Bones


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“Outside of a dog, a book is man’s best friend.  Inside of a dog it’s too dark to read”.~Groucho Marx.

 

Why do we laugh, what do we laugh at and why do people laugh at different things.

Science first, laughter triggers healthy physical changes in the body.  Humor and laughter strengthens our immune system, boosts energy, diminish pain, and protects us from the damaging effects of stress.  Simply put, laughter is good for us.

Humour and laughter are a big part of social interaction, people who make us laugh are more attractive and enjoyable to spend time with.  Laughing creates a bond and a connection with others.  It strengthens relationships, enhances teamwork and helps to defuse conflict.

Sigmund Freud outlined a theory that humour and the use of jokes is a conscious nod to the subconscious.  Taboo subjects become more socially acceptable if delivered as a joke.  Parapaxes or Freudian Slips, another form of unconscious leakage, although at times embarrassing, can also be incredibly funny.

Why do people laugh at different things.  As we age, our response to humour evolves.  Children and teens often find toilet humour and slapstick hilarious, while as adults we may still enjoy this type of humour, experience opens us up to more adult humour.  Intellect is as important aspect of understanding jokes and their nuances and this develops as we grow and learn.

Society and community plays a big part in what we laugh at.  The type of humour we appreciate is often the same as our parents.  The great Tommy Cooper was our families great favourite as was Fawlty Towers, Monty Python and The Goons and to this day I still love all of them.  Of course personality and personal tastes are big factor.

Another theory is Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs, as we strive for self actualization, our humour develops and matures.  One of Maslow’s 15 characteristics is an unusual sense of humour.  As we move through the stages toward self actualization our sense  of humour embodies our emotional and psychological attainment.  Fascinating stuff, I must read more.

I probably laugh at pretty well anything, however I’m not a fan of crude and offensive misogynistic type humour.   I don’t find it at all clever.  But I do love the absurd, the ridiculous, black humour, gallows humour, the humour we find in the darkest places of our minds and the darkest times of our lives.  The way I see it, if you can find something to laugh when times are dark and lonely, then there’ll always be hope and a reason to get up in the morning.

Some of the best comedy series of all time MASH, Frazier, Modern Family and Fawlty Towers to name a few, all share a  magnifying glass look at the absurdity of  life.  And for most part it’s real, we can relate to it.  I don’t know about you, but my family are definitely more Modern Family than The Waltons.  Whether it’s spiritual or emotional strength in times of crisis (the Korean War in Mash), arrogance and pride, family life or even marriage, life is funny and it’s best to have a sense of humour for the journey.  As Daphne says to Niles, “You’d eat a worm if I gave a french name”.

So favourite comedians, I’m a bit of a Marxist-Groucho not Karl. What am I saying, I’m a lot of a Marxist, the funniest man of all, who can forget, the mirror scene or Why a Duck.  Who else likes Groucho, hands up.   Love me a bit of Duck Soup, an anarchical, maniacal feast.   His timing perfection, his sense of the ridiculous and to my mind he’s a great accidental  philosopher.

Hail Freedonia!

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For me humour has been a god send, a safety valve and an indicator that I’ve come through my dark tunnel.  I find myself more able to laugh and enjoy the company of wonderful people.  Laughter got me through many a day and got me up in the morning.

Laughter has certainly been the best medicine for me.


Attaining Contented Isolation?

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I have recently started therapy, a ongoing attempt at re-connecting with myself.  CBT with John on Tuesdays, a space to talk and explore.  No egos hurt, no damage done.  Last week, a compassionate letter to myself, I sat for ages looking at a blank piece of paper and all I could come up with was I’m a good mother and a loyal and loving friend.  Pathetic! Difficult!  Apparently this is common, somewhat comforting, misery does love company. This week it was social interaction and isolation, that opened deep wounds for me.  Then art therapy with Sarah on Thursdays.  Art therapy shows me I can do contented isolation well, I get absorbed in what I’m doing, as I caress the paper with my charcoal covered fingers and I forget all around me, I become calm and at ease with myself.  I also do it well, when I snuggle into bed with my faithful companion, my Kindle.  I get lost in the worlds of Bilbo Baggins, Elizabeth Bennet and Scout Finch and I feel my pain ease and my breathing slow.

I can feel myself sinking again, I’m turning  back inside, the critical and angry me, the hyper-vigilant me, the despairing me.  I’ve learnt how to recognize the signs, and I attempt to self isolate, although that doesn’t always work out, in an effort to avoid further damage to my already suffering friendships.

I think one of the greatest losers in depression is friendship, the desolation that depression brings affects everyone. I find myself now very isolated, my children are grown up and I rarely see them.  My family a long way away, my friends are few and even fewer are my close friends.  And over the months I feel some  backing away, retreating somewhat to protect themselves, I get this, I don’t blame them, I was horrendous, I only hope that when this is all over, I can regain what I’ve lost.  My friends are precious to me, to me they’re my family and family is everything.

I lost Liz at this time to sudden death, the ultimate isolation.  I get so angry with her, then I think of the senselessness and futility of this and I get angry with myself.  I still see her face everywhere, and sometimes I forget she’s gone and I smile and start walking towards her and then I remember.  I’m exploring my grief in therapy but sometimes I feel I’m moving backwards.

I know the greatest gift I can give myself is contentedness in my own company, the gift of being alone not lonely, see I know this, but doing it is something altogether different.


Philo Vance

Both my Plinky and blog sites appeared to be littered with book reviews, maybe they’re both morphing into that sort of site, not surprising though, books are a huge part of my life. The book I’m reading at the moment on my Kindle is the last of the Philo Vance detective stories, The Winter Murder Case by S. S. Van Dine. There are 12 Philo Vance novels in total, all written and set in 1920’s & 30’s New York.

S.S. Van Dine was a pseudonym for the writer Willard Huntington Wright, his last book being published posthumously. I can’t even remember how I came across these books, perhaps I saw a reference to Philo Vance in another book I was reading. All the same though I’ve loved these books and have read them one after the other, over the last few weeks.

I would recommend these books but not to everyone, the writing is a little old fashioned, but the writers use of the English language is exquisite. Fortunately the kindle allows you to highlight words and find the definition and I’ve discovered some incredibly beautiful words. However these are clever detective stories, particularly the early ones and they’re solvable. I abhor detective novels where it’s impossible for the reader to work out ‘whodunit’, to me that’s not playing fair.

But the main reason I love these books is because of Philo Vance. I downloaded the first book and enjoyed it and so downloaded the rest. Very early on in the second book, I fell in love with Philo Vance and can pinpoint the exact moment.

It was in the book, The Canary Murder Case, canary being the well known soubriquet of the murder victim Margaret Odell, a famous singer and dancer (no stampeding to the comment section, I haven’t given anything away) and follows:

‘Currie sensed an emergency and departed. A minute or two later Vance, in an elaborately embroidered silk kimono and sandals, appeared at the living room door.

“My word!” he greeted us, in mild astonishment, glancing at the clock. “Haven’t you chaps gone to bed yet?”

He strolled to the mantel and selected a gold-tipped Régie cigarette from a small Florentine humidor. Markham’s eyes narrowed; he was in no mood for levity.

“The Canary has been murdered,” I blurted out.

Vance held his wax vesta poised and gave me a look of indolent inquisitiveness. “Whose canary?”‘

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The Canary Murder Case with William Powell as Philo Vance and Louise Brooks as Margaret Odell (The Canary)

That was the moment, that I fell in love and would have adored to be his friend. He would have infuriated me, and I dare say at times I would have wanted to kill him, but then at times I feel that way about some of my dearest friends. Why, because despite that, or perhaps because of that, they’re the most inspiring, comforting, enjoyable, exciting and lovable people I’m blessed to know.  And I get a sense of that about Philo Vance.  He came alive to me.

No doubt Philo Vance is irritating, a regular polymath, a know it all, not a ‘Cliff Clavin’ know it all, but one you however can’t help admiring. He’s a gentleman, a connoisseur and gentle soul.

As the poet Ogden Nash wrote ‘Philo Vance needs a kick in the pance’.

I’m quite sure if you decide to give these books a try, you’ll feel the same way on a regular basis, but you will laugh and you may even work out a couple of the culprits. These books are great, give them a try, and enjoy.

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I was introduced to this about a year ago by a friend.  Magical, peaceful, beautiful.  I listen to this often.  Enjoy.