Il n’ y a pas du feu au lac…Vaudois saying
I often wonder why I blog. I’ve even blogged about it, of course I have, though I often come to the end of something I have been blogging about and think yep that’s it, that’s the last blog I will ever write.
However, I am ready to organise my ideas into another format and make them sustainable in case the next blog is my last or I want to take my website down. I have spoken to several, very nice, people in the publishing world and even though the feedback has been so wonderful, I can’t quite see how I fit there. It is very different from blogging as I drink tea and swizzle round on my spinny chair and writing about things which make me feel super excited and thrilled. I understand people want to make sure you are a horse worth backing before they invest time, money and energy into you. However, given my need to please, I can’t help feel the way that I am trying to squeeze square peg self, yet again, into a round hole, it all feels a bit like the medium might just become the message and the parts of my writing which appeal to me and other people may well get lost in the process. And, if there’s one thing I’ve learnt from trawling through my life during this accidental techie series is that it is important to listen to my heart.
The other thing is that I always tell myself that I only write about computing which is just a big fat lie. I write about myself on here all the time. So, why do I feel the need to lie? I guess I feel vulnerable, though I was thrilled when someone said on YouTube the other day that being vulnerability is a superpower, but vulnerable is scary and even though it’s not true I still think that no one is reading. Also, I feel that it is rather self-absorbed to be taking up precious bandwidth about my feelings. Funnily enough, the other day someone left me a comment telling me that I was a nasty self absorbed stalker which echoed my thoughts as I had blogged about how bad I felt about telling someone how I felt (let down) and my name is Stalker. I have never really felt allowed to express myself, I was taught not to burden people and when I had a chat about with a friend, she said and I agree, that it’s a woman thing – we were taught to put up and shut up. The troll who left comments here really needled me and got me thinking: Perhaps they are right? Or, perhaps they were just repeating something someone once said to them? I’ve always been quite hard on myself and so it isn’t anything I’ve not already said to myself. However, and I can’t find the blog I’ve written about it in, we do take people online as experts – especially influencers – over the opinions of people we know. And, conversely strangers’ comments can hurt us but not as much as our loved ones can. Thankfully, no one close to me shares the opinion of me being a nasty self-absorbed stalker, or at least they’ve never said as much, and this troll-y person didn’t leave a proper name or whatever so they are not experts or influencers or anyone really. They are nameless and faceless, as bullies often are, I was going to link to some other research but to be honest, I have wasted too much bandwidth on it already and am going to take the advice of Dame Helen Mirren:
Global warming is a huge concern, we have everything online and now we have data centres in the North Pole or wherever there’s a cold place to save on air conditioning, they are melting the ice caps and it’s so wasteful compared to way back when we viewed memory as precious and every input was calculated and carefully made and stored in a sparse matrix as memory was hard to come by. In California they turned off the electrical cables to prevent wild fire and people were roaming the streets in what sounded like a post-apocalyptic melt-down looking for wifi as we are all so codependent on our phones and my imagination runs riot and I think who am I to be wasting precious resources on my thoughts? And, that’s without getting into thinking about all those people who don’t have access to anything they need, like fresh water. It is unbelievable how we have all these resources and yet some people do not have access to fresh drinking water.
In almost every blog I write about anything I summarise Maslow’s hierarchy of needs, especially when we share on social media in a sentence: we all want to be heard, we all want to feel like we matter to which I added in the last blog because we all want to feel better. Actually, I think all this time, I’ve really been talking about myself. I’ve really been talking it over with myself and I read and research a lot to make sense of our ever shifting digital landscape. I am always asking the three usability questions any UX consultant hopes that their user can answer: Where have we been? Where are we now? Where are we going?
I began this blog series with the same questions about myself as somewhere along the line I have forgotten what it is like to have fun when I am thinking about work. I am not even studying the theory of fun, at least that would be useful. It just feels like that there is always another hoop to jump through, someone else who needs impressing, and you have to have the right number of hits or followers on twitter and all that nonsense, and even when you get that, speaking from experience, it is meaningless, it is not my measure of being impressed, and just lately, I am wondering where are the people who are going to impress me, wow me, inspire me? It’s the easiest thing in the world to criticise. It is so much harder to create and it seems that online people either do one, or the other.
Last week, I was in Bikram and someone was standing in from of me blowing their nose and throwing the tissue on the floor. No where else in society is it socially acceptable to honk your conk on your snot-rag and just fling it on the floor, it really is disgusting. So, I asked the person to please tuck her tissue under her towel as it was grossing me out. She got really angry and refused to do it and then spent the rest of the class not only blowing her nose and throwing it on the floor but turning round so that she could give me evil death stares whilst she did it. I hate angry confrontation and was thrown into one of those transference flashbacks full of self-recrimination. So, I did my usual and apologised profusely which made her go on and on at me. Luckily, a couple of people came up afterwards to ask how I was and said: You didn’t do anything wrong.
It was lovely of them but alas, I still carried the ugh feeling with me all day and the thought: If only I hadn’t asked, which is ridiculous. It was a reasonable request, expressed politely, but it triggered something in the person who decided that the only way to respond was with an angry outburst and sustained passive-aggressive behaviour directed at me until the teacher asked them to stop.
Typing this now makes me all nervous since it came the day after I was trolled here on my website, which is such trigger for me. If ever there was an incident anywhere and I told my mother she invariably said: Well you must have done something wrong, otherwise it wouldn’t have happened. So, if I hadn’t been blogging here about my feelings I wouldn’t have had my very own troll come forward and feel the need to leave comments with one goal to intentionally hurt me. You succeeded, well done, I hope you are very proud.
I also hope that my mother was trying to say that there are two sides to every story and not just being a bit of a tyrant (which alas sometimes she could be as she had an amazing scary temper) – like Bikram nose blower, she felt unfairly singled out, she doesn’t know that my immune system remains compromised and I am likely to catch whatever she is waving around – but really all I ever wanted from my mother or anyone was a bit of understanding and in the really painful moments: That sucks to be in that situation. I’m sorry that happened to you, which is what I try to do when someone shares something with me. Whether I succeed or not is another story. I try but I am beginning to see that I am sometimes a hot mess and I won’t ever reach that place where I feel balanced or happy or successful because it doesn’t exist. It is not a destination, it’s fleeting and when it happens there’s no need to hold on so tight.
I have trailed right through from my beginning as an accidental techie to now, and once more I feel like I have nothing else to say, and there’s nothing else I want to do. But then I often think that and I come back as the best bit of HCl is that it is always changing. Sometimes I am tired of being so cerebral that I run off and do other things like that time I trained to be a yoga teacher, I like yoga, I love yoga, I just don’t want to teach it (but if I did, snot rags would be banned, just saying), and I trained as a journalist and a tarot reader, and a creative writer, though I turned down my place on the MA as I don’t need another degree. And, then I come back to it, I come right back to being an accidental techie. It’s what I love to do and that has to be a measure of success – being lucky enough to do what you love and to take a break too. That’s privilege.
Success is not a destination. Feeling good or balanced or Zen is not a destination. Happiness is not a destination. All these things are subjective anyway. The good news is that it’s all fleeting and temporary which means that this funky mood I am in today is fleeting too and the bad feeling I have from asking for what I need will pass too, and it was with this realisation, once more as it’s not new, I finally understand what the Vaudois phrase above is on about: There’s no crisis. People used to say often at the quatre heure apero: on est bien ici, and il n’y a pas du feu au lac. If you aren’t in the middle of a crisis then all is well, sit back and enjoy your 2dl of vin blanc. And, that’s the thing, I’ve lived through quite a few crises it’s just that sometimes my mind doesn’t know the difference, it thinks it has to keep striving, keep meeting those goals, keep firefighting. Il n’y a pas du feu au lac.
This weekend was the 10th anniversary of our family transplant, which is super amazing, and I am so grateful to all those wonderful medical people who worked miracles – nurses, doctors, surgeons, consultants, counsellors, everyone – who saved my daughter’s life, kept my husband safe, saved my life, saved my mum’s and dad’s lives and gave us extra time together until they died. And, I kept thinking that I can hardly believe that we are still here, after everything we’ve lived through and that on est bien ici and il n’ ya pas du feu au lac though my parents are dead and gone. So, my little family went camping at the weekend to celebrate 10 years and we were dancing about under the stars in wonder and joy and sadness and hysterical laughter at the way life works.
And, this has made me think, as has writing here, I can’t control what other people say and do, and writing here gives me great joy, even when it pains me, I can only focus on what I want and either fix what I don’t, or leave them alone, snot rags and verbal abuse, and trolling, and the neighbours blocking our drains because they can’t be arsed not to put baby wipes down the sewage pipes even though they’ve been asked many times not too #ffs, and it’s me who has to call the plumber out.
So, I intend not to bend myself out of shape to keep the peace or jump through yet another hoop in the hope that everything will work out ok. I am planning to be like Jia Jiang who set out to get rejected for 100 days but was pleasantly surprised because people are really nice on the whole. And, I believe that too. No one is doing anything to purposely upset me, not even that troll on here who was typing NO ONE GIVES A SHIT ABOUT YOU. It was obviously very triggering for them and they are wrong PEOPLE DO GIVE A SHIT ABOUT ME. I am so lucky I can count on at least one hand the PEOPLE WHO REALLY, REALLY LOVE ME and hold me and tell me that OFTEN AND I LOVE IT AND I LOVE THEM (and I love you, random citizen). Yes! That is where I want to focus all my time and energy, on people and projects that fill me up and which I deem to make me feel good.
I chunter on here about how the Internet has compressed time and space and blah blah but lying awake in the tent with freezing toes (I forgot my thermal socks) I got to experience the great joy of how the world is always busy, 24/7, busier than my crazy mind and my even crazier troll on a hate rampage. The world is full, all night, of people driving trains, dogs howling, owls hooting, people snoring and fighting and crying and loving, crows crowing, cows mooing and I am thrilled. Thrilled to be a part of every single bit, to breath deeply, to lie under the stars and be a part of everything. I am so grateful to be here. But, sometimes I forget where I have been which is why blogging is great to keep a trace. And, there I was in the middle of the night, far from anything and yet I did wonder why the fuck have I spent any time at all thinking that I need hits, and twitter followers and all that nonsense so that someone else can use that as a measure of my success. I am supposed to decide what success is and what it means to me. I am the one. This is my story, mine. No one else can tell it for me.
I am the one because I said so.Danielle LaPorte, White Hot Truth
So! Instead of lying awake, I have resolved to follow in the footsteps of Christopher Alexander and Edward Tufte – creative inspiring people I have quoted lots of times and whose beautiful classic books I go back to time and again – who self-published because they had a vision. (Oh and so did Danielle LaPorte and her White Hot Truth book.) I don’t really have a vision but the thing I want to do isn’t really what a publisher or agent would feel worth their time and energy, which is fair enough. I just want to get on with it and feel the immediacy and rush of creating, like I do when I write a blog. Perhaps when I have something more focused and easy to market then I could revisit the idea of seeing a book I have written sitting on the shelves in a library or bookshop.
Moreover, I really believe everything I write about the gatekeepers of culture and publishing and the media so it feels natural that I just create the thing I want to create and self-publish and have a nice time, rather than asking people to co-create something I am not clear about and for them to give me feedback which makes me unsure about what I want to do. It looks like I am finally taking my own advice, and that is very nice. That has to be a measure of success and that has to be a destination. I guess I will second-guess myself again at some point but for now I am determined. And, I love how easy it is now to self-publish. It really is. How amazing is that? What would Licklieder have made of that?
I have deleted my webstats as I am so sick of measuring things, and I am just going to get on with enjoying how I feel when I am creating, that is my new yardstick, my feelings. I am going to get me a vision which will hopefully lead to me creating something very beautiful from what I have already created here and from what I feel is awesome and it probably won’t fit into any box but that’s okay by me. My intention is to light my own fire, instead of waiting for someone to either do it for me, or give me permission and if I can’t do that then at the very least, I can have some fun trying. And, the best part is, no one can tell me whether I am successful or not, as in the words of that other great dame:
I’ll be the judge of that…– RuPaul
[*** Update 20/8/20: I listened to myself and made an online course: My guide to human-computer interaction is now available over on Udemy.]