Thursday, January 29, 2009
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