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September 05, 2009

Facebook as a hedge against lonliness

I spend a lot of my time alone. Often at work, I'll spend hours immersed in work, email or a project without talking face to face or even on the phone with another person. I live alone too, so I go home to a place whose quiet is only broken by me or the mad scramblings of a lunatic cat or two.

This is not my natural or desired, state, alas. I've realized over the years that I'm a people person. Not that I love all of them all the time, but I like having other people around for small moments of interaction as I go about my day. That's also not to say that I don't value time by myself - I do -  I just relish it and actually enjoy it when it's in the context of a life that generally involves a greater default level of human contact.

Yesterday afternoon, my boss swung by my office around 2:45 and said I should head home. It's a ritual between us now, where before a holiday weekend, he says I should leave early and I never do. Our office actually officially closes at three on these pre-holiday weekend days, but I have never in all the years that that policy has been in effect, actually left early. As I'm sitting there, listening to my boss make his ritual "go home" statements, I think to myself - "to what?" My cats? An achingly long weekend unfurling before me, with long hours rattling together filled only by my own company and Oscar's insistent "play with me!" whine?

I had hoped that some of this loneliness would be mitigated by finding a partner but these days that seems like a more tenuous proposition.  I suspect I will need to be more active - perhaps buying a 2 bedroom something-or-other and taking on a roommate - not so much for the economics of it, but for the company, even if infrequent.

Until then, though, Facebook is often for me a hedge against loneliness. It's a little pathetic to write that, but truly, in low moments, it exists as this asynchronous community where I can dip in to the mundanities of life of my network. It feels a bit like the opening 10 minutes of the conversation with a partner or housemate when you walk in the door from work - how was your day? your coworker did what again? yeah, looks like that dead tree down the street finally fell during last nights storm...exactly the sort of thing that I don't have much of these days.

There's another, less positive side to the social network, though. For all that Facebook serves as a conduit for the small moments of daily life and phatic, relationship reinforcing non-conversations (which incidentally are hugely important socially, even if they're relatively vapid), it also serves to reinforce to people like me seeking refuge from loneliness how little other people's lives in my circle resemble my own - how most people I know live overfull lives chockful of spouses, trips, work and children. I too can project that image myself on Facebook if I choose, so perhaps its more of a charade than I think it is, but never the less, even as I seek (and find) solace on Facebook, it comes tinged with a bit of sadness, or perhaps even envy.

September 5, 2009 at 09:40 AM | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack

September 03, 2009

bike commuting

I've started commuting to work a few days a week by bike and I'm shocked by how much I love it. I had a rough start to my relationship with this bike - the frame is a tad too long, and the seat - oh the seat - was an abuser. It wasn't until my third seat that things settled down. It still isn't great, but bearable on the bum.

But I'd been thinking about starting to bike to work, for athletic, environmental and economic reasons. A colleague of mine who lives near me does it sporadically, and another colleague did it regularly with her husband before her son was born last year. So I figured, why not? I have a bike? What's stopping me?

Even though I selected one of the year's hottest days to start, I've been deeply surprised by how much I like it. It's like starting off each day with an adventure. Biking safely in the city requires quick thinking, vigilance and problem solving. I ride "a little bit scared" every morning, because I do need to be prepared for many things - potholes, car doors, insane drivers, people who don't signal their intentions and the general invisibility of bicycles to the car driving public. I ride like I'm invisible - defensively - because to many drivers, I am.

I've been surprised too, by how much I now notice bicycles on the road when I'm behind the wheel of my car in a way I never did before. It's like I've join a select group.

I particularly like the ride home. It's all up hill (literally), but I love having that heart-rate raising transition between home and work, and the delight of pedaling into the lowering dark and cooling day.

I suspect as it gets colder that the commute will get more challenging - that it will be harder to carry all the clothes I'll need for the day and dress comfortably for the ride. I worry too about the loss of daylight and the need to get a few more lights to make a dark commute home feel safe. A rack and panniers (or even just a rack to bungie my bag to) will also substantially improve the commuting experience. At the moment, I can't stomach putting the rack on my "racing" bike (since I only have one and it does double duty for commuting and triathlon training/racing.) But the more I commute, the more I dislike the feeling and disruption of my peripheral vision that results from wearing my large backpack.

But, 4 trips in, I'm starting to think I might be hooked. Probably not for everyday, and probably not in ice and snow, but otherwise, I think a few times a week seems manageable and sensible and more than a little fun.

September 3, 2009 at 09:49 AM | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

September 02, 2009

return to pottery

This spring, pottery class was frustrating. I felt like I wasn't progressing, stagnating at a level of skill that left me frequently with lopsided or off-kilter pots. Sometimes the issues lay in the difficulties of transferring creations off the wheel - it was only late in the game that I learned that many more advanced students own their own "bats" or the platforms that attach to the wheel and allow the just-created piece to be removed so wheel can be used again without having to transfer a wet, fragile piece to another resting place in order to dry. Because the studio I attend has a limited number of bats for students to use, students without their own bats must transfer all their pieces off bats at the end of class (if not before) and on to another platform for drying. Many tragedies occur during this transfer.

My frustrations with pottery simmered enough that once an expensive car repair presented itself, I took that as an opportunity to take a hiatus from pottery, ostensibly for schedule and financial reasons, but also to give myself a break from my lack of progress.

But in an attempt to keep myself busy, particularly in light of sad events in my life that continue to churn and use up most of my excess energy, [I'm not inclined to discuss them here - suffice it to say they are similar to waiting to hear a diagnosis, without being that.] I re-enrolled.

And upon re-enrolling, I declared that I was back with a new purpose: to get back to the basics, to refine my throwing techniques so that I could reliably produce symmetrical and attractive (and larger) items, and eventually, end up producing items at the end of a wheel session that I had envisioned at the beginning (instead of the usual - "hmm, I think I'll make a large bowl...yikes! maybe a small bowl...okaaay, maybe a mug." and at the end I've got a tiny plate.)

So back to basics we went. I spent much of the session refining my centering technique - a crucial skill, because if your clay isn't fully centered on the wheel, your end product is likely to be uneven, assuming it doesn't entirely collapse and get scrapped off into the slip bucket. After working on centering, I went back through the various "throws" (movements with your hands over the clay to move it around and take it from a lump to a bowl), with S, my instructor. We talked finger positioning, pressure, wrists. It was specific and very helpful.

And by the end of class, I had produced two, large symmetrical pots that will most likely eventually become the bodies for satisfyingly large mugs.  As I explained to S at the end, I had finally figured out how to center well, open evenly, and to do the first two (of three) standard throws. So now I had ample time to start screwing up things during the third throw, an opportunity I'd never had before - as the vast majority of my previous pots were already wobbling by this point.

It felt good to recommit to pottery, and to make a noticeable improvement over the two and half hours. It got me outside of my head and myself for an hour or so today. I rode up to pottery wondering what I was doing, why I was going to spend my hard-earned money to continue my mediocrity. I rode away from the studio in the lowering dark glad I'd made the leap back in.

September 2, 2009 at 11:25 PM | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack