Thursday, January 29, 2009

And finally

4. How did you develop so much internal strength of character? Did your parents show you how it's done, or was it something else? Life experience? Or were you just born that way?

I honestly don't think of myself in this way. Its an illusion. I do not have internal strength of character. Stubborn willfullness, yes. Bossiness, yes. Gritting my teeth, yes. But these are masks. I am porous, unhinged, composed mostly of water and fire (which makes steam, yes?). At boarding school I was pulled this way and that, getting into trouble for things that I didn't cause. Hapless. Serene on the outside, turmoil within.

I care too much what people think about me. I have a terrible record for starting things I never seem to finish. I am frequently late, disorganised, taking on too much. No boundaries!

I think I have outer strength, not inner strength - as in, the people around me are what have made me strong (or weak). I have an ability to sense the moods and needs of others with acute precision. I absorb emotional learning very quickly. I am far too aware of others, and very clumsy at emotional self expression.

The really strong role model in my life was my stubborn-as-a-buffalo, stoic, spartan grandfather. He taught me self-reliance. And I think being a lonely bookworm kid also shaped me in that way. I have a huge capacity for endurance - as in, I will passively accept discomfort (long bumpy road trips) and toxic relationships for ever without putting myself first. But I don't think that counts as inner strength. Agh, I don't know. Next question please!

5. When you're in a foul mood, how do you lift yourself out of it? Or do you just witness, or wait for it to change? When you're in a great mood, what do you do to extend it?

Excellent question. If I am in a foul mood, one of three things is wrong.
a) I am hungry and must eat. Low blood sugar turns me into a growling malcontent.
b) I am tired and must sleep. I don't function on a short night's sleep. I have a very vivid and active dreamlife and if I don't spend enough time there I get grumpy.
c)I am overstimulated (over socialised) and need time to myself. I am quite solitary and private by nature and too much intimacy leaves me feeling raw and naked. (Answering these interview questions has been quite taxing!)
This is a paradox however, and one I have been thinking about a lot lately. Its the double pull - for privacy, but also needing recognition. I grew up among adults - not a lot of other kids my age. In a safari camp. So always surrounded by people (adults) who have to 'keep an eye' on you and make sure you don't wander off into danger, but not necessarily taking a real playmates role either. Even now, when I go home, I feel like I'm in a petri-dish, under a microscope. Every one knows every one's business, but its still a kind of lonely space. Weird. So I want to hide, but I am also exhibitionist and gushing confessional. Can you tell? Over-exposure makes me nervous, but so does obscurity.

So - to counter a foul mood I must - eat, nap, or take a long walk. Yoga, of course, is marvelous for balancing. Meditation or breathing, the usual. Red wine is a fine mood enhancer too. When all else fails, the confessional pages of one of my notebooks is usually my best way of self-counselling and has saved me from myself many many times. If that also fails - a vitamin B shot usually sorts me out.

To extend a good mood? Aaah, how quickly they pass. I wish I could say that I make a conscious practice of keeping the good moods alive, but generally I tend to just observe, and not try to attach too much to either good or bad moods. My emotions are not me. They are like the weather, to be enjoyed, and sometimes to take shelter from. Sure, I have control over my mood. There's the logic of course of taking great delight in the little things, to feed the fire as it were. I do have a storehouse of images I keep. Things that have amused me.

Yesterday, a man riding a motorbike down Louis Botha avenue (a busy crazy Joburg road). He was dressed in wellworn tweed, he had a bashed up red helmut and he had an enormous pipe, firmly between his lips. He is now in my treasure chest, along with the image of that cute girl in the supermarket queue who kept putting the contents of her mother's shopping trolley into mine. And if there is one image that makes my heart expand it's the sight of baby elephants at play.

Thanks to Reya for these hefty, illuminating questions.
If you'd like to play too, here's how it works:
Below are the rules. I'll interview the first five people who ask.

1. Leave me a comment saying, "Interview me." Please include your email address if I don't have it. I'll delete it before publishing your comment.
2. I will respond by emailing you five questions. (I get to pick the questions).
3. You will update your blog with the answers to the questions.
4. You will include this explanation and an offer to interview someone else in the same post.
5. When others comment asking to be interviewed, you will ask them five questions.

Thank you for being so generous with receiving my long rambling answers. I think I need a nap now.

pics by Freya Reder


Angela said...

Don`t worry, Tam, for having been candid and open. You are a fine woman. And not really all that different from everyone else. You have an ability to find words for your feelings, but we all know those feelings. You grew up in an extreme way, but things are as they are. I should not even wonder if it was good or difficult to grow up in that bush camp. It was both. Accept your life and your personality as it is now. It is good. So move on from here. You have found out quite some helpful things about your character (and it was nice sharing them with us, we won`t misuse our knowing you), now live with yourself. And learn about boundaries, they are necessary. And love yourself.
I do. We do.

Janelle said...

oh beautiful beautiful You...inside and out...XXXX j

Val said...

shewee Tam well done! rivettingly admirably wide open honest responses - no glib rejoinders there. a fabulous brave are incredible xx

Angela said...

Can I add something, or am I being too talkative?
I think that having a hero for a grandfather did not make things easier for you two little girls. I was pretty scared of him when I met him. You see, when I am telling my "normal" blog stories here I also want you to meet that other side you have in you. I am not a famous artist or whatever, just a decent woman with a happy marriage and two kids (and some fun in telling stories), but it`s all right to be that, too. You see?

Reya Mellicker said...

Wow. I keep saying that but I don't know how else to respond until I can reread your responses. They're thick, like poetry there is SO MUCH in here.


Thank you.

Tessa said...

Gosh, Tam, gosh. Not an erudite response, I know, but I'm speechless actually. In awe and admiration. I know you'll go all squirmy hearing that - but it's true. I've been back here several times to read - and reread - your answers to these piercing interview questions. Gawd, I thought, that's fantastic. How full you are of a wonderfully acute and vivid insight and, above all, the kind of self-recognition we so often cower away from, but which inevitably makes us stronger if we face it full on. I toff my hat to you and applaud very loudly indeed. Thank you, Tam, for being so brave and so forthright. And for being YOU here. You are a supershiningstar. Seriously.

'Spect you know this bit from Antonin Artaud's Theatre & The Plague - "In the true theatre a play disturbs the senses' repose, frees the repressed unconscious, incites a kind of virtual revolution (which moreover can have its full effect only if it remains virtual), and imposes on the assembled collectivity an attitude that is both difficult and heroic."

tam said...

Dear Geli, I DO see! Its always been a gap - not knowing the 'other side' of my family, due to distance and poor corresonding habits on my part. You are right, in some ways, about Norman as the hero, but scary? Na, he was very nurturing, in his way, and kind and funny. But yes a - strong authoritative style. Certainly its good to connect with the goodness of normality.

Ag J, you're biased man.
Val, Reya - thanks. Thoughtful questions deserve thoughtful answers, you know. Kind of triggered a mini floodlet, really.

Tessa, you're very kind. I'm glad to have struck some chords for you.
Aaah, yes, the Artaud! I was pondering a suitable quote from the man. I like this too: "In theatre, as in the plague, there is a kind of strange sun, an unusually bright light by which the difficult, even the impossible, suddenly appears to be our natural medium."

Oh, you guys. I'm in my element here, really, despite all my apologies and neuroses! Thank you.

Chimera said...

Other people have said it better but stonking answers to fascinatng questions!
May i ask for an interview from you? Am i in time? (I am still getting hit by occasional blogger's block and feel it might spring my mind)
tanvi x

Lori ann said...

I've not one clever thing to say Tam, i can see that i should have stayed in school longer instead of spending so much time fooling around outofdoors!! maybe i should stop blogging and go back to school! you, on the other hand are a brilliantly, fascinating, person with an interesting life(to say the least)and a big heart.
and brave.
xx lori

Miranda said...

I keep opening this little comments box to respond but dunno what to say. My head hurts and I bet yours does too! In a good way, in a good way! I wish you and Reya could meet!

tam said...

Chimera you are on. Just give me a couple of days to get the questions together.
Lori, and there i was thinking that i haven't spent enough time outdoors! I love your posts, the sense of respect for nature you bring.
Miranda, yes. I think so too. Imagine we do & have nothing to say! Haha.

karen said...

wow, i really enjoyed all the installments of your interview.. thanks for the amazing, insightful responses to Reya's pretty awesome questions... x