Monday Miscellany

1. Finally something properly good has happened for my son. He has a job in a well-known pub in London’s West End. This was entirely his own doing – he put together a CV and went around the pubs in his vicinity, asking if any were short-staffed, gradually widening his circle. Last week he did a couple of trial shifts and today he begins behind the bar. He says the people seem nice and it’s really, really busy. I am so pleased for him; to rescue oneself is a powerful experience. I had a post half written in my head about what it’s been like these past few months, and what we’ve all learned from them, but I can’t bring myself to write it down today. I feel worn out with relief.

2. One thing, though, is that recovery is not a linear event. It is circular. Round and around we go, pressing the bruises, feeling the pain, stepping back, irresistibly drawn to pressing them again. It seems like stasis, like being stuck, but more preparation for change is going on than we imagine. The paradox is that the emotional pain gets worse every time those bruises are pressed, not better, because each time we confront the reality of what has happened with more clarity, each time we can bear to face it a little more.

3. Another paradox: I believe that if we can find someone to help us bear witness to our big emotions and then feel them without any of those complicating problems of shame or embarrassment, then we can work through emotions much faster. But it’s very, very hard to be that witness, particularly for people we love. Their pain is our pain. Watching them suffer arouses unresolved emotions of our own. And emotion exerts a huge pressure of distortion. When we are not in the same place, the emotional person seems quite mad, such is the extent of distortion. And then we long to bring their perspective back in line with the reality we’ve all agreed is sane.

4. I think we have too limited an understanding of what sanity is, and that it’s easy to be afraid of anything lying beyond those narrow confines. I think there’s far too much insistence on people being strong and happy and flawless, that this ignores the reality of what it is to be human. If we don’t acknowledge negative emotions in ourselves, then either they turn inwards and attack us with anxiety, low self-esteem, lack of trust, or else they get displaced. When people rage and rant in an excessive way, about things that are irritating or annoying, yes, but maybe not as bad as all that, then I think it’s displaced emotions coming out over some issue that feels more justified than the one that caused the emotions in the first place. And then there’s the third option: contempt or indifference towards people in pain. The urge to think oneself superior, better than that. It’s a strong position inside but ugly from the outside.

5. Hmm, I’ll stop before I actually write the post I said I wouldn’t write, but I will add that any deduction I’ve made above comes from the trial and error of getting it wrong a lot of the time. I’ve had to do a lot of learning from mistakes.

6. I must apologise for being so bad at commenting on other blogs lately. I’m reading, but my thinking-of-the-right-thing-to-say muscle seems to be weary. I’m not actually in the mood for writing much of anything.

7. I have been watching a lot of television, which is most unusual for me. Mr Litlove was competing in the town rowing races last week, which meant I could watch whatever I liked. I ended up really getting into the first season of Downton Abbey, and whilst I am probably the last person in the world to watch it, I have to say it was completely splendid. Maggie Smith as the Dowager Countess of Grantham is brilliant, and the casting of Mr Bates was a stroke of genius (though I fear for that man’s fate – he has the face for suffering). I really admired the way the multiple storylines were handled; only the very last episode tried to squeeze too much in. My mum has the next two series on DVD and I guess I’ll be borrowing them from her.

8.  I’ve also been enjoying the sheer madness that is Boston Legal. I think these must be the most unprofessional bunch of lawyers ever to tread the far margins of legal ethics, but once again the acting is the thing. James Spader is outrageously good; he manages to be simultaneously arrogant and supercilious and dangerous and endearing and charismatic with more integrity than all the others put together. Plus seeing William Shatner as a complete psycho is a lot of fun, and very un-Captain Kirkish.

9. We’ve also been watching Hustle, which is Mr Litlove’s favourite and the one he always votes for, when it comes to a vote. We’ve watched the first four seasons and there’s hardly been a duff episode. They’re conmen (and woman) but with Robin Hood’s philosophy and it’s a treat to find something that’s a lot of fun as well as neatly plotted and rather smart. I never tire of watching the baddies brought down. If only such prescience were available in reality!



43 thoughts on “Monday Miscellany

  1. Good news – I’m so glad for your son. I hope the job helps too to bring him back up from having been so down.
    You can’t beat a telly boxed set to take your mind off things – I’ve got the US House of Cards waiting for me for when my daughter goes on her hols.

    • You’re so right – it’s been a real comfort to watch the telly! And easier than reading somehow. You must tell me what House of Cards is like – that one sounds up my street, too.

  2. What a perceptive and incisive analysis of emotional reactions and responses. Sometime I would love to read the post you’d planned. I haven’t watched Downton Abby so you’re not the only one. But I saw all of Foyle’s War, all of Kingdom, Call the Midwifes, and now in the midst of Doc Martin. I also watched all of Dance Academy with my younger d, which was repetitive but at the same time somehow soothing, and more endurable than Glee. This is what stress leads to in my house, too! That and Netflix. I watched Winter’s Bone, which was a very good movie, after reading another book by the same writer, and liked Jennifer Lawrence in that very much.

    • Ooh lots of good tv there that’s tempting – particularly Foyle’s War. I’ve seen some episodes of that but only a few, really. You are quite right that Glee becomes unendurable, over time…. There may yet be another post; I think I’m still processing! It does also make me feel better to write it down and get it outside of my head. That’s the point when I can finally say goodbye to it (for a while, until we’re back there again!).

  3. So pleased for your son – hopefully this will be the start of new things for him. My eldest daughter (Middle Child) is currently going through a breakup too (what is it with my offspring – Eldest Child is only just through his) so we are off on the emotional merry-go-round again. Such is life – I guess we don’t have children for the fun of it :s Watching TV mindlessly is very soothing, though!

    • Oh Karen! Maybe the eldest child will be able to provide some very useful support for the middle daughter, having been through it all so recently. Your comment about not having children for the fun of it did make me laugh. And I must say, I have taken a great deal of comfort from your comments over this period – it has helped no end to know we were not alone! I am most definitely here for hand holding, if you needed it!

      • Thanks Victoria – I think Eldest has already offered Middle some advice, and she’s keeping herself busy. Fortunately she has good friends around her and also good work colleagues so that will help. Plus I’m hoping to meet up with her in London soon so we can see the Virginia Woolf exhibit at the NPG – which will be lovely!

  4. Such good news that your son has found himself a job, and one that gets him out into the world. I’m sorry that it’s been such a painful journey for you all.

    I’ve taken refuge in TV when times are hard – H and I spent several months watching all seven series of The West Wing when the entire house was being turned upside down by builders (during which time I was working to print deadlines from home). I began to worry when I began dreaming about it, though.

    • I guess it’s because we are such a small family, just the three of us, and whilst I would like to be the sort of person who can go to the other side of the house and forget about what’s going on, I have to admit I am not that person. And he has been so upset, poor lad. But TV is a good refuge – and I’ve heard lots of good things about The West Wing. I think it matters more HOW you were dreaming about it than the dreaming itself. Hopefully you were dreaming you had the power to shift those print deadlines where they needed to go! 🙂

  5. I’m really glad about the job. My godson has just been told that the position he was offered way back last December, for this September, has fallen through and so he’s back looking for work again. He has a good science degree, speaks both Japanese and Mandarin fluently as well as having a reasonable knowledge of Spanish and Swedish – you’d think the world was his oyster, but these days it just doesn’t work like that.

    • Oh that is just plain mean! Your poor godson. Hopefully in time he will find out that he dodged a bullet somehow – or that a much better position will present itself. Those sound like really excellent qualifications, and that will definitely pay off in the end. But poor him right now, he must be disappointed.

  6. Hello litlove, it’s been a while since I visited the Reading Room what with the holidays, and I am SO pleased that your son has a job. Being the sort of person who lies about griping when dealt a blow by fate, I am always impressed by people who get up and do something. I hope that he enjoys his work and that your relief is translating into feeling better about it all.

    I can’t really recommend any good telly although I am very fond of Inspector Montalbano in his slightly improbable Sicily.

    You are, as always, so very acute in point 4. And I am finding the same as you about point 6. In my case I think it’s the heat and the holidays, it makes me feel very scattered and dissociated.

    • Dear Helen, it is always a delight when you visit, though I am completely with you on being rather distrait thanks to the weather. School holidays make it much worse! I did love your comment about lying around griping. I think this is an essential part of any bad experience – why were we given negative emotions if all we are supposed to do is ignore them? Seems unlikely to me. And I can assure you there has been plenty of griping from all concerned. 🙂 However, I am so very pleased that he has found himself a job and is enjoying it. It is a huge relief. You remind me also I must give one of those Inspector Montalbano books a go. I’ve been curious about them before.

  7. Boxed sets (haven’t had a TV for nearly 20 years, but in the last few years I did get into the boxed sets, mostly rented very cheaply from local library – we’re so lucky still to have one.) : The West Wing is wonderful, intelligent and very effective escapism. The Wire is wonderful too, but not for when you’re feeling particularly vulnerable. In Treatment: the first season with Mia Wasikowska. The Hour. And I have to confess to recently gobbling up Series 1-3 of Game of Thrones in a disgracefully short period – only a good idea if you’re able to view the extreme violence as if it was a cartoon. Ditto True Blood.

    And I love, and deeply agree with, what you wrote at the start of this post

    • Ooh I really must get a hold of some of those therapy shows. I would love those. Mr Litlove has been hugely entranced by Game of Thrones but it is a tad bloodthirsty for me (I walk past shielding my eyes – I am a wimp). But I think we’d both enjoy The West Wing. We do have a library up the road with some DVDs. I used to go more when my son was young, but I should call in again and see what they have in stock. I’m all for using the local resources.

  8. Congrats and yay for your son. This surely must be a big boost for him and I hope it helps him focus on some positives–it can truly be hard when going through so much emotional turmoil! If you are the worst commenter (well I say worst in reference to myself really—I am the next closest–I can’t say why I have fallen behind–am I any busier than any other time these days–I just can’t get things together, though. Downton Abbey is great fun–and a nice way to spend an hour or two–Maggie Smith has all the best lines! 😉

    • Maggie Smith really does have all the best lines! I watched one of the extras after the end of the series and she is talking with Penelope Wilton and saying how nice it is to actually be given something to say. Heh – in other words, she knows she’s hit jackpot. Thank you for being so nice about my son. It has been such a rough patch for him, and it’s lovely to hear him enthusiastic and just so much chirpier. As for commenting, well, it’s just that time of year, isn’t it? I’m hoping I’ll feel livelier when we get to autumn! 🙂

  9. >>And then we long to bring their perspective back in line with the reality we’ve all agreed is sane.

    Yep, this. I remember once crying to my family over a heartbreak, and talking to my brother-in-law about how useless it is to say/be told “it’ll get better with time” because that doesn’t help RIGHT NOW, especially since “with time” is super vague and like, when is the deadline? And he said, the problem with being the comforting party is that the comfortee often doesn’t need anything apart from time and perspective, and those only happen because time passes. It’s nothing the comforter can do for the comfortee.

    • Oh that is so true. What a sage your brother-in-law is! And it is all so tricky for precisely that reason – all the things one thinks are comforting rely on a previous experience of survival. Once you’ve been through a bad patch, you know they do end. But even after a lot of experience, being in the middle of one can still feel interminable. My son has said exactly the same things you said – I think it is pretty much a universal feeling and oh, I just want to hug anyone in that position. Not always possible, alas.

  10. This is good news.
    I always pay special attention when people rant. It’s extrenely interesting because it’s hardly ever about the thing that’s just happening. I normally call it phony emotion but displaced makes sense as well.
    I like to watch “Castle” these days. 🙂

    • I really don’t like ranting – at least not in person. I can cope with it okay in a blog post, say, that’s not directed at me personally, but in real life I find it an act of violence. It’s an introvert issue! Being interested intellectually in what’s going on is a good way to defend oneself, I think. And ‘Castle’ is new to me – I’ll go and look it up!

      • Haha “bumped up” and “rode over.” Are those good things? Sounds like he was in accidents not races!

  11. To witness another’s pain is the very hardest thing; to allow their pain without trying to fix it or at least long before offering any suggestions about what to do. So so so true. The very hardest. AND without taking it into ourselves because if we haul it out of the other person only to bury it inside ourselves, it will set about its cruel work of making us physically, emotionally and/or psychologically ill.

    Your insights are acutely astute.

    PS I agree with you about the first series of Downton. But, sadly, the standard falls horribly, I thought. But perhaps you won’t … perhaps you’ll post about it if you continue to love it and then we can all debate?

    • Angela, you say it so well. I find I do take it inside myself and then feel poisoned afterwards. I’m still working on that one, because it’s of so little help to either of us. I’m a bit concerned about being emotionally manipulated in the later series of Downton (I have heard a few of the plotlines). I don’t like being set up for a sobfest. So we shall have to see how that goes. The first series was really good and in any case must be hard to beat.

    • Aha, thank you for that comment. I watched only series 2 (on the recommendation of my mother who watched series 1 and I must say I was sorely disappointed and have not watched any more of it. Loved the dresses though 🙂

      • It seemed to me that the frocks became more gorgeous as the standard of characterisation and plot fell! Perhaps because they were the only things left worth watching?

  12. How pleased you must be that your son took the initiative in getting this job. I think it sounds like the perfect (short term )solution and I suspect other opportunities will present themselves now that he is feeling more receptive… Hooray.

    There’s a lot to be said for relaxing with TV. I am always happy to watch old classic movies when life is in a minor key. My never fail cheer up movie is “Some like it hot” and never fail cheer up music is Gilbert & Sullivan.

    And your description of James Spader – just fabulous. You’ve put in one sentence the exact nature of his appeal.

    • Ooh I agree about old films. I must have watched Rear Window a dozen times but I never tire of it. I will have to watch ‘Some Like It Hot’ – can you believe I’ve never seen it! Thank you for your lovely comment about my son. He needed heading in a better direction and I hope very much this is it. He has been enjoying the work so far and says the people are nice, which is always good news. I feel exactly as you do, that there may be other new doors opening to him, now he is more ready for them. As for James Spader – he is just magnificent. I am going to have to watch Sex, Lies and Videotape, too.

  13. Not at all a bother to me if you are not commenting on my posts, just so long as I get to read yours! I’m glad your son has made a positive step. I hope the busy-ness is good for him. I remember being quite a morose and droopy character in my teens and early twenties. Then real life got in the way.

    We like Hustle in our house. Good family viewing. Lots of opportunities for plot hole spotting.

    • Heh, your comment amused me no end. I love what you say about life getting in the way – yes, I remember it like that, too! And I completely agree about plot hole spotting. Why isn’t this recognised as a national family sport?

  14. Yay for your son!! As for comfort telly, what works for us at the moment is “Location Location Location”. There’s something comforting about Kirsty and Phil’s house-hunting. We get to watch a lot of CBeebies too but thankfully not Teletubbies anymore! (Oh, and I loved your analysis of emotional work.)

    • Do you know, we went through an obsession with Phil and Kirsty a while back. They are just such an endearing package – all that teasing and flirting and house-hunting. Appealing voyeurism on so many levels! I did not realise this programme was still on – I shall have to track it down. You are right it is so comforting. Heh, I remember the children’s tv years well. That can be quite hypnotic too!

  15. Good for your son! There is no worry like the worry over one’s children. I asked my mother when she stopped worrying about me and she said, “I still do.” She’s 94. Yipes. I swore I would never watch Downton Abbey again after one particular season ending. But I relented. What can I say? I love it. I don’t watch much TV regularly but I do love Doc Martin as well as some old Britcoms: Keeping Up Appearances, Vicar of Dibley, and As Time Goes By. I also loved Chef and To The Manor Born, but they aren’t on anymore. Oh, and Two Fat Ladies…loved that show (and have the CDs).

    • Yipes indeed! And yet, she says sighing, I know it’s true. It never ends does it? And I kind of think you have to have children to know just what it’s like to have the most precious part of you outside and running loose in the world. So unnerving. I bet I can guess which season ending you are thinking of, and I imagine I might skip that episode myself. I’m no fan of that sort of melodrama. But there is so much to love about it. My favourite sitcom of all time is Frasier and I’ve watched that over and over (I know it too well now). But you name some really good ones (we think Jean and Lionel are a bit like my parents!).

  16. Glad to hear about your son’s recent employment. And, so, so happy that you have seen and liked my two all time favourite TV shows. No surprise though about Downton Abbey. And S1 and S2 are probably the best written/acted/produced TV series I’ve ever watched. You must catch up with your mother’s DVD’s.

    But Boston Legal! I’m so excited that you like it. It’s writing is superb, very contemporary and very relevant. Some cases I saw on the series, and then a few months later, a real-life situation in the news would happen exactly as the show’s story. You’re spot-on in your analysis of James Spader’s character… plus one more attribute: vulnerable. It seems all the effort in being cool, quirky, smart, provocative… is to hide a very vulnerable inner self. And don’t you love the balcony scenes/chats at the end of every show?

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