Giving myself the best part of my day

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Three weeks ago I moved.

House.

Job.

State.

When the train carrying my furniture derailed across the desert, I was facing an extra week or so, over Christmas, alone in a near-empty strange house. My two very familiar cats were with me, the moving company had been very supportive about helping me get hold of essentials to tide me over, and I still had a dewy-eyed kind of outlook about this being one big, exciting adventure to be relished. And I had moved to be near the beach. The beach!!!!

BUT, with most of the objects around me totally unfamiliar, no real feel for the geography and no appointments to keep I decided I needed to do a bit extra to gain some kind of routine and stability.

I set a morning routine.

I’m not sure I would have otherwise thought so carefully or purposefully about what was important for me to do daily.

I am lucky enough to have a job where I can (within reason, and as part of a very two-edged sword) set my own timetable during the day. In the past, I have conscientiously tried to exercise before work and then make it in to the office as early as possible. Sort of a “you can have dessert after main course” approach, where I aimed to put in all my work hours as soon as possible so I could go off and play later in the day.

Except, I also have the kind of job where a few extra minutes spent at the end of the work day easily becomes a few extra hours, especially if I want to maximise the fun, interesting and rewarding aspects. I have written before about how the hamster wheel of academia works against self-care by encouraging people with a particular personality-type, who have been rewarded all their lives for a very specific set of actions and traits, to voluntarily strive for excellence beyond common sense.

When I made my list of all the things I would love to do daily, it was pretty long. And some extra ideas came after the inevitable Google search.

I asked myself “What would happen if I started work at a reasonable, but not so early, hour? What if I took the time when I was freshest and most rested, to do things I would love to do, but seem not to get around to each day?” I decided on a routine where I spent an unheard-of hour and a half of my freshest time focussing on activities that would make me healthier and happier.

So, for a few days I did just that. I’d like to say that I stuck to it and every morning has been a celebration of what I love, followed by a productive 8 hours or so of academic work. As far as academic self-care, though, even after ten years or so in the game I am still very, very much on “L” plates and I have already put in some horrendously long all-nighters. (This may, however, actually suit my work-style and not be so horrific… if I remember to balance it out…)

So, during my week rattling around in my house, I bought myself an oversized beanbag at Kmart and set up a “morning place” and decided on:

beanbag and plant
  1. Wake up. No devices in the bathroom. (Unlike usual Twitter, email, looking at teaching site. I am sure I am not the only one…)
  2. Floss and brush teeth
  3. Feed cats, open curtains and windows
  4. Grab glass of warm water with lemon and walk to morning place
  5. Morning pages using pencil on iPad into Goodnotes. This is three pages of writing without censorship or aiming for good form – just writing. It is the corner-stone of Julia Cameron’s the Artist’s Way . This releases any pressing thoughts that would otherwise be whirring about. It also reminds me that yes, I CAN write. So later in the day when I need to do it again I can just get down into it without any preciousness about how HARD it is. It’s only taken me 15 years or so to try it out, since John and Becky at Aurora suggested it was useful.
  6. Mindfulness/meditation. I have been setting a timer and am up to 12 minutes now. The cats detect when I am about to start and both climb on my lap. Better than goat yoga ?
  7. Walk down to beach and swim.
  8. Return home to shower and dress for the day
  9. Make breakfast
  10. THEN, over breakfast, for the first time since waking up, look over the news headlines and Twitter and what is on my Trello board for the day.

I did this on 6 January, and it brought home how beneficial this process could be. Instead of sitting on the loo, barely yet awake and doom-scrolling through reports of this outrage and that horror, I found out about the first 2021 U.S. coup attempt over breakfast, having been in a more relaxed and sustaining world for a couple of hours.

Thanks to Sandy for her very eloquent post this evening about why she has not been blogging for spurring me to blog this evening 🙂

“Job ready” vs university education. BlogJune 2020/10

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I came from industry into a “clinical professional” teaching position at university.

My biggest learning curve was not working out what skills I needed to impart to make sure students met industry accreditation, and could adapt to future demands. That was easy. It was working out what was unique to a Bachelor-level university degree, and how I taught that.

This is a riff on a Tweet from Brendan Keogh in response to the Federal Government’s announcement of an opaque clustering of disciplinary degrees, making some far cheaper to students than others.

‘job readiness’ is just code for ‘make universities do the training work that companies themselves should be investing in for their junior staff, at the expense of the skills you can only get at a university

Undergraduate students I taught were graduating with a Bachelor of Arts. What I taught had to provide the same education as other B.A.s , and other university-level Bachelor degrees. I had to learn quickly what that involved, because it was not providing the same hands-on technical training that I was used to in my career in academic and public libraries. This was not TAFE.

Thank goodness for the university’s Graduate Attributes. Paraphrased, this told me that I needed to ensure students graduated with:

  • cultural sensitivity
  • an international perspective
  • an ability to communicate clearly
  • critical thinking skills
  • disciplinary understanding

These skills had nothing, and everything, to do specifically with students’ future employment as librarians, records managers and archivists.

We were not talking “job ready” here. While we taught about general metadata structures, generally how to set parameters within a library management system, generally how to create a disposal schedule, we did not teach about specific products or procedures to suit a named or specific workplace. That would be the job of industry. Industry generously mentored our students during their degrees with practicum placements and showed them specific workplace skills and operational functioning.

Taking the graduate attributes seriously meant I wanted students at the end of my units to ask better questions. More questions, with a wider perspective, using disciplinary vocabulary and concepts. I wanted them to understand how to find and evaluate the best evidence. I wanted them to know how to express a point of view precisely and clearly, and to have already double-checked that there was evidence for that view. To make logical conclusions from the evidence before them. To be able to change their minds, to form new opinions and investigate and create new evidence where there was a gap.

Most of all, I wanted the people who would be protecting, preserving and communicating the memory and information of humanity to be humane.

A focus on “job readiness” ignores all these values. It weakens professions by valuing technical skill above independent and critical thinking. This means we get to stay on the same path, getting better at that path, without having ability to question the path itself.

The new government proposals make a Humanities degree the most expensive now, four to five times that of “teaching, clinical psychology, English, maths, nursing, languages and agriculture”. (No, I am not sure I see how that categorization works either).

This misses the point of a Humanities degree. I have a Year 12 student, and I explained it like this to him this morning.

An Arts degree has people ask “why?” and “is this actually good? and “what does good mean?” before a company makes a people-slicer ….. instead of “how can we make money from this people-slicer?” or “what is the most-efficient design and material for this people-slicer?”

What two visual items remind you of your parents? BlogJune 2020/9

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This thoughtlet is via snail’s list of things to write. He mentioned that a collection of books on Marx is a visual reminder of his dad, while for his mum, it is plastic forks.

I was considering the same question today, coincidentally. And came up with similar prosaic and quirky results.

What visual item reminds you of your parents?

Today I went out to a group event for the first time in over three months. All afternoon I did yoga and pastel drawing and guided meditation.

It was a fundraiser for staff in a retreat in the Balinese hills, thrown out of work by the pandemic. Right now is the time the annual art and yoga retreat would have been held, like the one I went on in 2018. But, not this year.

As part of a mandala drawing, we were meditating and visualising before each layer. One layer involved visualising your parents each giving you a gift. (Of course, to maintain safe space this could be interpreted as parental figures or one’s matrilineal or patrilineal ancestors).

For me, with my dad it was blue eyes. This was based on an experience around his hospital bed with a group of cousins and aunts. I answered a question, heads swivelled and I looked back into several sets of identically coloured eyes, all the same as my dad’s. I am sure that my brown ones widened.

For mum, it was fairy cakes in patty pans. She was a “food is love” kind of mum. I hadn’t realised how long it is since I have seen fairy cakes (also called butterfly cakes). The extra care cutting the tops, whipping the cream, sieving the icing sugar, just to make them extra special is emblematic of the type of person she was. She put in extra effort all the time into small things that may not have mattered otherwise, just to make the everyday seem even better.

What would your two items be?

Owl stage. BlogJune 2020/8

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A wise old own sat in an oak,

The more he heard, the less he spoke.

The less he spoke the more he heard,

Why aren’t we all like that old bird?

English Nursery Rhyme. Oxford Dictionary of Nursery Rhymes. (1951) p. 403


I have been quiet on BlogJune for the last couple of days because I don’t really have a lot to say. I don’t think it is because I am disengaging.

I’ve spent the last 15 years or so in positions where I shared what I knew. A lot. Where I tried to model vulnerability and openness to learning by publicly modelling not-knowing, but having a go anyhow.

After the shock of my position being made redundant and all the readjustments and uncertainty that involves, I finally got to switch off that constant scanning the horizon for updated knowledge in my teaching and research areas.

https://commons.m.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:WiseOldOwlWartime.jpg

While I happily still keep up with the discipline, for a decade I felt like I was letting my students, employer, profession and work colleagues down if I didn’t at least ATTEMPT to know all there was to know about library, records and archives technology and its implications.

I did this while teaching a unit where I constantly reassured my students that knowing facts was far less important than knowing disciplinary concepts and language, where disciplinary information could be found, what authoritative evidence looked like and building networks of knowledgeable people with whom they could nut things out. Knowing who, how and what to ask being far more important than building a large network of interlinking facts carried solo in one’s head like an encyclopaedia.

Not knowing something was never a problem, I told my students. Not knowing when and how to fix that knowledge gap was.

Yet…

I felt that I needed to keep up-to-date with all the things, all the time.

I probably didn’t actually have to.

I also felt like I could not advise students to be curious and ask questions and build knowledge collaboratively if I was not doing the same. Much of the content on this blog was around trying to do that. Showing my “working out” as I tried to make sense of disciplinary knowledge.

I no longer feel like I have to walk with my head in a huge cloud of interlinked, constantly overflowing, knowledge that threatens to spill and float away if I don’t hold it aloft. I don’t have to seek, gather and integrate every new piece of vaguely-relevant knowledge that drifts past. I don’t have the same motivation to share in the way I did.

It’s not that I’ve stopped caring. It’s that my personal relationship to how we create and maintain disciplinary knowledge has shifted to more of a listening role.

(As I previewed this post, I noticed the owl in my header image staring out like it has for the last 15 years or so. “‘Yes”, it blinked at me, “you’ve finally caught up”.)

Non Violent Direct Action. BlogJune 2020/7

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IT’S UNFAIR AND WE NEED TO FIX IT


COVID-19 has magnified cracks and inequities in how we share what we have.

Disproportionate numbers of black people are dying world-wide from the disease. In Australia thousands of people already unemployed are finally able to afford food and shelter now that the government has matched their payment to the payment provided to people who are newly-unemployed because of the pandemic.

Just two examples out of so many.

Non-white people already knew about the inequities.

I think white people already knew too. Rather than debating whether we did, or didn’t know before, we clearly do know now.

COVID-19 has hit hard and discriminately because we live in an unfair system. People die when there is no Personal Protective Equipment not because we are without resources to plan, manufacture or distribute this; it is because we live in countries that allow and encourage obscene and uneven distribution of resources. Direct consequences of active choices.

The pandemic was the catalyst to so many deaths, but as can be seen by the differing death rates in different countries, a large proportion of deaths are the result of political systems that accept unfair decisions about resource allocation.

I’M A WHITE WOMAN. WHAT CAN I DO TO MAKE THINGS BETTER?

In Australia I benefit through nothing I have done except be born in a family that is treated differently to other families by the education, health, social and employment systems. Others are penalised for exactly the same reason.

What do we do? How can white people be allies and listen well to non-white voices without forcing them to do the work to educate us?

Listening. Amplifying voices. Not speaking on behalf of, or over non-white voices – and not speaking up when there is a non-white person who could do the job. Admitting our comfort is at the expense of others’ discomfort. Leaning into discomfort, not expecting praise for learning to be better at giving space and listening. Donate to organisations like the Aboriginal Legal Service.

I am framing this as “who gets material stuff is unfair”, but acknowledge that it is not so simple or surface. As a white woman I have a very different experience about how I feel about my personal safety at any minute, what kinds of checks I am doing to monitor my tone and how I am appearing to others when I go outside my home.

I have very different expectations about which institutions and people working in them I can trust to help, and which I need to avoid due to a history of pain and damage to people like me. I have a difference in how often I will be minding my business and feeling OK about the world, only to have that challenged by intentional or unintentional reminders of being treated differently due to my family.

TAKING ACTION THROUGH CIVIL PROTEST

In Western Australia The Black Lives Matter March takes place in Hyde Park at midday on Saturday 13 June.

Changing the world to a fairer, more equitable, one for everyone is not just a Saturday afternoon, or even a single weekend, job. White people need to give things up. We may, and should, come out with less so everyone can have more.

Listening to non-white voices, finding out what help is needed, not doing what we think is better without first checking is a key way. Marching at the back in protests. Speaking out, even though we know we may sound hypocritical and tokenistic, and if we are accused of this changing how we do it so we do it better next time.

This is a long road and everyone who wants to help will do it differently. For me, I can see that civil action and protest will continue to be part of the way I want to make a difference.

Taking part in School Strike for Climate and Extinction Rebellion direct actions at the end of last year I was reintroduced to resources and concepts around Non Violent Direct Action. Part of the process involves working out what you personally do and do not consider to be violent, how far you would personally go in acts of non-violent disobedience and learning techniques for de-escalation, conflict resolution, restorative action and keeping yourself and others physically safe.

If you are thinking about protest and civil action being part of how you address inequity, then you may be interested in following up resources around NVDA on Nicola Paris’ CounterAct site, or Non Violent Direct Action resources at the Commons Social Change Library

Gargoyle, almond, chickens, egg, grapevine. BlogJune 2020/5

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Part of the new chookyard.

No more bending for eggs.

Other people adopted pandemic puppies or pandemic kittens, but I finally accepted that the arrangement I had for my chooks for 20 years was really not so clever, even though it sounded really, really ingenious. I held on to the theory of it way longer than I should have.

With a bit of help I moved the chooks and had their enclosure rebuilt using mostly materials I already had.

SEEMED LIKE A GOOD IDEA…

The old enclosure was on a circular vege garden with a 2 metre radius. One side of the enclosure had a curve following the outer rim of the garden, with the other two sides straight, covering a 1/3 segment of the circle.

The idea was that the chooks dug and poo-ed in their enclosure, then after two months I rotated the whole enclosure around to the next third of the circular garden. The chooks would eat down the plants that had now gone to seed while I would plant the next lot of plants where they had just prepared the bed.

EXCEPT….

I like to let my chooks roam free. In my small garden, that meant they would eat down my newly-planted veges, jump into the blueberries and eat the new fruit, scratch up the basil in the container gardens…or I would have to leave them behind wire on sunny days when they could be running and climbing.

SO…

The new enclosure uses the curved frame from the old one on top of a limestone wall and lets the chooks roam under the almonds and feijoas…. but also has a hatch mechanism so that during the day I can let them out to fossick down three sides of my house. Each side is about a metre from the very high fence -line, with a mulberry courtyard and a lemon-tree courtyard along the way.

I already had the guinea pig cage to shelter them in the yard, but by putting it on top with an access hole in the floor, and adding a front-facing door, I can now collect the eggs without bending down.

Quite a bit of grain-throwing and greens-shaking at the top of the ladder was needed for a couple of days before the chooks would use the new area.

Not running on empty. BlogJune 2020/3

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I last bought petrol for my car on 15 March, 80 days ago… and the fuel tank is nowhere near empty.

The major journey was an hour round-trip to Perth to recharge the battery after it went flat through lack of use.

Also a metaphor. I am one of those people who are getting more sleep, nutrition, exercise and peace in lockdown.

It is hard to identify any more with having been so driven.