29 August 2010

Falling for Fall

When I woke this morning I heard the rustle of leaves through the open window, shaking in the wind. There was something to the quality of the light that was not the blazing haughtiness of summer but a different sort of touch. When I got up to shower and eventually opened the window to let some of the steam out, the brisk air that caressed my skin filled me with a sort of primal energy.

It would have been impossible to not notice that the weather has turned. August is fickle in England. While the rest of the northern hemisphere swelters, in England autumn decides to come early. As my birthday falls in August, it's something I've been particularly aware of. It never ends up being warm. It starts to rain again.

And yet, how can I be unhappy at the start of what is decidedly my favorite season? I love the fall. I love the light and the sound and the temperature and the color. It's true, I can do without the rain, but even rain can be pleasing if it falls the right way. Those heavy downpours of fat drops splattering on pavements and roofs and windows. There is something about it all that makes me tremendously happy and at peace.

Of course I know that other people hate the fall. To them it symbolizes the end of summer and the coming of winter. The disappearance of long days. For children, the dreadful return to school.

But when have I ever cared for trends? To me fall is glorious. For being someone so generally annoyed by the outdoors, I find it amusing that on a day like today I simply need to look outside to be happy. These are the days when I like to be cycling, to have picnics. When you need a wrap or a blanket, when it might be too cold, when I can honestly seek out and enjoy the warmth of the sun without fear of overheating.

And it doesn't hurt that the bugs start to disappear.

I know that there will be dark days and darker still. Cold and wet is not what I enjoy, unless I am settled by a fire. But I can tolerate all of that for days like just now. I'm thankful for small pleasures like this. For the joy and happiness it brings to me. Just to see the sky and breath the air and hear the wind amongst the drying leaves. I love this time of year, I truly do.

27 August 2010

Spurning Stuff

Stuff isn't going to make you happy. Stuff might make you happy for a short while. The reality though, is that for the happiness you gain fleetingly, in most cases, it is then followed with a burden and responsibility of dealing with the stuff that no longer pleases you in the way it initially did.

I suppose as children, as we grow and learn, this is counter intuitive. Every year of a growing person's life, they have a necessity to get new stuff, be it clothes that fit or books or toys that keep a pace of development. And this I don't have a problem with.

But did you ever consider that it sets up a template for adult life that is not sensible? I certainly find the older I get the less things I want. Don't get me wrong, I am frequently pleased by the knowledge of the existence of things. I experience a vicarious sort of joy in the experience through knowledge of other people's creative endeavors and making ability. But I no longer covet these things. In many ways, simply knowing that they exist is enough.

I make my choices differently these days. I consider purchases to be made. I think about where in my house something is going to fit. I weigh out how much I think I will use something. I think about how long the item in question will last. I have so many books now, that I have to consider if a book is shelf-worthy or not. Although in this instance, it is not thinking that keeps me from buying a book, it does however, keep me from keeping a book. I can no longer keep all the books I read. The ones that get kept must truly be worthy.

I still want my chair. But getting this chair will be something of a lifetime pursuit. And I know when I get the chair, I will not ever want to give it up, and I will not want another chair to replace it. So this also seems a worthwhile love affair.

But stuff. Stuff is what dreams are made of. But dreams can haunt you, you know? They can plague you, and they can turn into nightmares. Maybe a good dose of reality is better than a dream sometimes.

All of this occurs to me this morning as a friend of mine is going into fits about not getting something she wants. Something that she thinks will make her happy. Because it seems to me sometimes her entire life is a series of benchmarks and achievements that someone else dictated. Somehow she's adopted this measuring stick and has a deep internal belief that the reason she is not happy in life is that she has not done or achieved or gotten all the stuff on the list. But you know, it doesn't matter if that stuff you're talking about is a 60 inch television or a ring on your finger. Thinking that stuff is going to make you happy is wrong. Stuff doesn't make people happy.

And watching people in pursuit of stuff, it's disheartening. So much time is spent craving. So much time that could otherwise be spent living.

It's not that goals are wrong though. It's a fine line this moderation of stuff. I don't think one should spurn all stuff, but maybe be a bit more thoughtful and selective about the stuff one chooses to covet. And a bit more flexibility and adaptability even about the stuff that is conscientiously selected. Because even if you know what it is you really want for all the right reasons, who says you get to have it? You can try your best, and you can be disappointed, but maybe you should think twice if you start to wander into the territory where your entire life is a failure if you can't get this one thing you've placed above all others.

I think I place being alive above everything else. My general health. Having my wits about me, and the ability to bounce back, the flexibility to transform. Maybe I get shot down, maybe I get hugely disappointed. But at the core of what I hold to be valuable, it's not 'stuff'- it's me. Oddly enough, the older I seem to get, the more that seems to matter. And the more it bothers me when people I know are so obsessed with 'stuff'.

19 August 2010

Pacing the Cage

Took the title from a song I'm listening to just at the moment. Seems appropriate to my current condition. I'm in Cambridge today. Packing somewhat haphazardly, I managed to forget some critical things that would have been useful for me to work on here. Mainly my marked up copy of my internship report that I went through with my supervisor. My goal had been to finish the third draft of this report (and hopefully final) this week. But without my mark up, I can't.

Instead I've been looking at word templates for my first year report. Generally it has a similar structure to a dissertation, so really I've just been looking up templates for that. Most of them are hideous. How can I work on a document I don't find aesthetically pleasing? Luckily I found a template from the Bartlett and have taken that one to work with as a foundation. It's not brilliant, but it's better than most and will have to do for now.

At any rate, what I can do is start on my proper research. I have a 40 page document (give or take) due by the end of November. Actually due earlier- I'll need at least a month of revisions. And I have yet to do most of the research required to write it. Getting the template is the first step as I need to organize my thoughts on the structure. Because I've done an internship and my first year hasn't been 'pure research'[, it's not as straightforward as a typical document and I need to figure out how to work it together. I'm sure it will come together. I'm just conscious of just how much work I have to do in the next couple of months.

This past weekend was my birthday. Usually I do a birthday post. I suppose this is it. I'm 36 now. Over some mystical division of age. It bothers me more than 30 did. Probably 40 will bother me more. Or maybe none of it really bothers me. I just don't like getting old. Getting older is one step closer to dead. And as I am not particularly inclined to being dead, I see this natural progression as somewhat unacceptable. I mean, obviously, it is what it is, but I don't like thinking of mortality, which only seems all the easier the older one gets.

Doing my best to flaunt it however, I spent a very youthful birthday weekend camping in the New Forest. That was loads of fun. I got to use my tent properly and commune with the outdoors. Of course me and the outdoors aren't the best of friends and I have to say that my skin, while not good before I went, did it's best to tell me just how much me and the outdoors aren't friends. This week I'm stuck on an extreme regimen of antihistamines and steroid creams as well as regular body lotion to do my best to get the beastly organ under control. I've made an appointment to see my GP Monday. I should have done this sooner perhaps, but I'm not at home so much these days and it's difficult. At any rate, I'm hoping for a dermatology referral, but we'll see.

Back to birthday camping. There were tents. And delicious food. H, my camping pal, cooked a feast of food from the Ottolenghi cookbooks to bring with. This included char grilled broccoli with almonds and chili and garlic, eggplant with saffron sauce and pomegranate, a garlic and goats cheese tart, and white chocolate and raspberry tartlets. We ate very, very well.

We also brought H's horse along in a trailer. So they went off riding in the New Forest every morning while I lounged around reading and then we wandered around in the afternoon. One day I took my bike out with them and went cycling through the New Forest. That was good. It had been raining off and on, so it was cooler and there weren't so many bugs out. Proper use for my little mountain bike. I even forged a stream. Twice. Have some good photos all on Facebook now. Proving that on occasion, I can 'do' the outdoors.

But I'm glad to be back now. Or at least, my skin is definitely glad to be back now. It really is completely ridiculous how badly it flared. How bad it's been all year. How it's spread out of it's usual areas to wider patches. How ugly it makes me feel. Above and beyond anything else about it, that's by far the worst. Nothing like big red blotches on yourself to make you all too aware of your appearance. At least I have a doctor's appointment. On the other hand, there's probably very little they can do for me or tell me about it. But what else can I do?

In the social arm of my life, have plans to see L on Friday. Although with my skin how it is, it's hard to be excited about that as opposed to terribly self conscious. Haven't seen him for two weeks though, so not really wanting to push it off. Still not at all sure what's going on with us. But it's a welcome distraction at the moment. I suppose at some point we have to actually talk about 'what we're doing' but seeing as we talk so little, it hasn't come up yet. To be honest, I'm so distracted with other things at the moment, it's not high on my worry list. Which is probably for the best. If I think about it too much, I have no doubts it will creep up the list, so just as well to not.

Oh, and while I feel restrained and restricted, by lack of being at home, lack of my papers, bad skin, and everything else keeping me from keeping on at the moment, I should also remark that last week I had the meeting with my Industrial Partner and other PhD candidate about our topics and that it went exceptionally well. I got lots of lovely feedback about how put together I seem and well articulated and I got my stake on my topic area of choice.

But all it reminded me of was this conversation I had with a professor/mentor of mine back in grad school who seriously told me off in a hallway once upon a time for not being confident in myself and insisting on looking to others for validation and approval. So all in one day I was lifted up high on others flattery, and then dashed to the rocks by my memories of how I haven't perhaps changed all that much in this particular area in almost ten years.

10 August 2010


If there is one thing that most people who know me well know, it would be that generally I do not like the outdoors. If you are going to suggest something to do with me, and it involves being outside, there better be some other very good reason that I will want to go do this thing. And usually there will be some derogatory comment about how whatever it was would be better, if it wasn't outside.

So it is with some perplexity that I find I am ridiculously looking forward to going on a camping trip for my birthday. I'm going with H- we are going to the southern edge of the New Forest and we are also taking her horse in a trailer. We will be staying at a small campsite which has showers and toilets and will be pitching tents.

I bought a tent earlier this year to camp one night on a Common (entirely illegally) for H's birthday. And the last time before that I stayed in a tent was at Glastonbury a couple of years ago. But even back then I thought this tent thing had something going for it.

I don't know if it's related to my architectural interests or not, but there is something incredibly satisfying about erecting shelter. It's almost primal the enjoyment I get from this experience, even though my tent is modern and made of clever materials that means the actual effort I put in to erecting the tent is not all that much, but I don't care, it's still incredibly satisfying.

And then you get to stay -in-the-tent!! how cool is that??

Or maybe it's just a way of creating an indoor in the outdoors that I like about it. Honest, I have no idea, but I am really looking forward to camping. And checking out the New Forest. And going to the seashore. And going to a winery. And sitting on a horse (okay, this one is slightly more dubious, but I sort of figure I have to try it).

So yeah. I don't really try to explain it. And I have no other desire to go do things outdoors. I haven't changed my thinking about this, I'm just making an exception for a camping trip- and pretty much confusing every person that knows me in the process. Ha.

04 August 2010


So today is Wednesday. Yesterday when I was out in the evening meeting up with some people I got very confused about what day of the week it was. In fact, I had no idea. This is how this back and forth madness is muddling my mind. When I was told it was actually only Tuesday I failed to grasp it for a moment or two, before everything clicked back into place.

Of course time has little meaning when you are not expected anywhere or at any particular time. The schedules I have set up for myself are exactly that- schedules I have set up for myself. I could just go do whatever, whenever and wherever I chose and it would probably take some time before anyone came asking after me. And if I proved that I was managing to stay on top of things and progress, then I'm pretty sure I'd be left to get on with things.

Of course that doesn't work for me at all. I am someone who works much better with schedules and deadlines and structure. So I have created some of my own, although I will be the first to admit I am procrastinating in a somewhat exceptional way. This is probably because I have no immediately pressing deadlines. Or rather, I have one, but I have written a second draft of what is needed for that and am awaiting comments. Actually that's true in the case of two different deadlines. So I am waiting. And while I wait, I procrastinate.

I suppose I could be getting into my next phase of work which is an awfully large chunk of research. It's such a large chunk that it's actually a bit overwhelming and I have not quite determined the best way to attack the beast. But I am thinking about it. I will say this is one of the more confusing aspects to how I work. I think about things a lot while I appear to be dilly dallying, but when I sit down to do the work, I have a much better idea of exactly what I want to do. Part of me feels like this is a bit of an excuse, and part of me feels like this is a valid method. It's probably a bit of both.

Needless to say, I have poked and prodded the beast and looked up a couple of things here and there but have not yet committed to the charge. But it's coming. Soon. So I am not worried.

In the meantime...

Boys are terribly confusing. In fact, I'm tempted to go back to an earlier musing that boys are stupid and should have rocks thrown at them. Regardless, I just despise pretty much everything about dating and dislike being reminded of this whilst in the middle of some sort of dating thing. I can't stand the game playing and the uncertainty. I hate the mixed messages and the mental gymnastics of trying to understand what someone else means when the reality is you just don't know them well enough to know what they mean and that's part of the problem.

I've had four dates with L. The most recent date, this past weekend was a study in the above. I was certain up until I was shown to be wrong that I was being stood up. The main reason for this is that L seems to be poor at communicating. Now. Is he poor at communicating because he's not interested or is he poor at communicating because that's just part of who he is or is it something else? See, I don't know. And I certainly don't know him well enough to trust him, so when I send both text and email for a confirmation of 'are we meeting up' and get nothing back, I have no reason not to assume that I'm being stood up.

And even if I wasn't stood up, is this good behavior? I think it's not. It shows a decisive lack of something. Lets say, a lack of eagerness. And that sucks. Because in the interim time between finally getting a text off him and meeting up, my relief and not being stood up had overtaken my irritation and we had a really lovely evening which involved good conversation, fooling around, and sex. But that was Saturday night. And it's now Wednesday and I've not heard a peep out of him. So I'm again thrown back to confusion and suspicion. S says that I should wait for him to get in touch with me, that at this stage a boy should be showing interest through, you know, showing interest.

But I hate this. I'm already waiting for things in my work life, do I have to sit around waiting for things in my personal life as well? I'm not really good at waiting. I'm impatient and impulsive and have known to even be demanding. This waiting business does not suit me.

So instead I just get irritable about it. Because truth be told, I sort of like this boy L. I know, I try to keep these things emotionally squelched for obvious reasons, but he's someone I actually really just like. I can see him as someone who could be a good friend, good fun, and it doesn't hurt in the slightest that he's tactile and good in bed. But aside from the last bit, it's the personality elements that do it for me. So I suppose it sucks all the more if I think he's blowing me off.

But I don't know if he's blowing me off....

Argh. Boys are stupid and should have rocks thrown at them.

In other unrelated news, while sleeping two nights ago, I punched the wall. I punched the wall so hard that I now have scabbed knuckles. Of course this woke me up and it hurt. I have no idea why this happened. I think I sort of half woke up as I was doing it. Who does this sort of thing?? I know I move around in bed, and I've been known to kick (and punch) people before, but punching walls, now that's just silly. Although my scabbed knuckles do nothing but amuse me. I know, I'm weird.

Three hours left to my self imposed schedule before I can cycle in the rain to catch the train back to London. Maybe I should attempt to do some work.