Our Humble Humanity

I’m feeling inspired of late to ponder our humble humanity. I think it’s fair to say I’m a little addicted The 100to the latest TV series instalment called ‘The 100’ (we’re up to season 3 people, there’s still time to catch up). It’s based on the novels by Kass Morgan and it takes another punt at showcasing humanities errors and delivers us with a planet and people that are struggling to regenerate, post nuclear fallout.

While the acting isn’t Emmy nomination worthy, I love it for the way the characters are faced with a multitude of moral dilemmas, in trying to make a life for themselves. Each episode inevitably prompts an intense discussion between my husband and I, about which course of action we would have taken.

I’ve also been reading an awful lot of teen dystopic fiction lately. You know, the kind about dark, disturbing futuristic worlds, brooding characters who face no end of moral dilemmas and a plot that inevitably throws up more twists than a British TV murder mystery.

Yes, it’s a growing market as I’m sure you’re aware. The recent spate of films spawned from the novels (Hunger Games, Divergent and Maze Runner series etc.) will have persuaded even the most reluctant reader, to become interested in the genre. And not just in this teen-age bracket.

I’ve always been drawn to this genre when I think about it (should I be worried?) starting right back in my final year of High school. Our unconventionally cool English teacher introduced us to George Orwell’s 1984‘1984’ and I was disgusted at the bleak world of ‘Oceania’ and its main character Winston, yet fascinated at the concept of a society which was built on fear, control via Big Brother. It seemed unbelievable, but no so unbelievable given our past or indeed our present.

In my first year at university ‘A Handmaid’s Tale’ was prescribed reading for one of my courses. It shook me up big time; converted me to atheism and reverted me to feminism. But seriously, it opened my eyes to the concept of a world so different from our own, yet possible, if we fail to learn from our mistakes. The author Margret Attwood herself stated while writing the book “I would not include anything that human beings had not already done in some other place or time, or for which the technology did not already exist” (The Guardian, 2012).

Sure they’re all works of fiction, one writer’s imagination at play, but the moral messages regarding human nature are very real and confronting. They pose more questions than answers, but then I guess that’s the point. They force us, in a cringe worthy way, to look at who we are as individuals and as a collective (damn those clever authors!).

Maybe it’s because I am a female that I feel the need to explore these issues of what makes us human? womanWould these novels be so bleak if it weren’t for the male run societies? It’s interesting to note by-the-way that a lot of these dystopic novels feature strong female leads, who kick ass and stick it to the authority……. just saying. So where am I going with all this?

It’s just got me wondering a lot lately, why are we so fixated with a future that is bleak? Is it simply because ‘sensationalism sells’, rather like the way negative stories fill our news headlines? Or is it something deeper, like an understanding that we as humans have already committed too many crimes against nature and one another, to backup now?

I recycle, make sure I’m an educated voter (well most of the time), ride a bike to school, I teach angst- ridden teenagers, try to even buy organic when I can afford it, but somehow I’m pretty sure this isn’t enough to avoid a nuclear fallout or a totalitarian government forcing their way into power. What’s a humble human to do, to ensure that a world like this remains in the pages of a fiction novel?

The answer my friends is ……. well I don’t really think I have THE answer. I think what I do have though is what all good dystopic novels end with ….hope (a bit cheesy I know). I reckon we humans have the potential to do really ‘good’ things as individuals and as a collective, we just need to learn from our crappy mistakes! Each of these works of fiction make that point glaringly obvious. Learn from the past, make better choices now and hope like hell that if the world does fall apart, we can get our shit together. I think there’s something in that.

Now, I’m off to indulge in some scintillating romance fiction (I hear it’s good) and then I’m going to read up on the candidates in our upcoming local elections. Ahhh, I feel hopeful already.

Time, we need to talk.

There are few things certain in this life, but Time is the one constant. It never leaves our side. Clock

Sometimes it can be the clingy type, dragging at the base of your ankle, following you around aimlessly and then it can be the playful, pushy type, willing you to move forward at breakneck speed.

Or it’s more often than not, that silent observer in the far corner, hooded and brooding, waiting patiently until the moment you recall its presence.

Either way, it is ever present and I’m beginning to question this relationship more, in many ways.

3 Main Issues

Firstly, there just is never enough of it. There is this ever growing pile of books on my bedside table that Time just won’t allow me to make a dent in it, despite my efforts.

I’ve been trying to get properly organised for work since the beginning of the year, you know, a diary, excel spread sheet thingy etc. and Time is just budging its way past me, leaving me floundering behind.

We moved into our first home a year ago, and still we have blank walls begging for framed pictures or a book shelf to house my collection (and said bedside table stash) that has remained in boxes, BooksI’m pretty sure for the last 15 years or so.

Thanks Time for making sure that hasn’t happened…..again.

Look, at this point some of you would probably just call me lazy, but I’d shoulder that criticism if it wasn’t for the love of trying.

Time is just not cooperative. It’s too busy making sure I keep prioritising, although whether I’ve got that right is a whole other issue.

Secondly, they say with age comes wisdom (or so I’d like to think), yet I’m none the wiser for learning HOW to deal with Time. Sometimes I play dumb and just ignore it, but it’s cottoned on (cheeky bugger) and that’s when it seems to speed up.

I travelled abroad in my 20’s and had an absolute blast, but that entire decade seems to have vanished in the blink of an eye.

Now in my mid 30’s, family in toe and children to raise, I find myself willing Time to speed up occasionally ‘Not long now before they’ll be eating solids, sleeping through the night, be out of nappies, head off to school’. Why?

Thirdly, it’s apparent that Time is best mates with that old frenemy, Stress. Perfect! My husband and I discussed the other night how Time is a precursor to stress.

We both get incredibly tense when it’s marking time as teachers, because we have such a limited timeframe to get them back to students, for reporting purposes. But more than that, our ‘time’ at home as a family is jeopardised as a result, in turn creating greater stress. Time is without a doubt, a teacher’s worst enemy.

So where does that leave me and Time?

Well, if there’s one positive I’m going to choose to take from this twisted relationship, I figure it’s got to be in valuing the Now. Without sounding all new age, it’s as simple as that.

I love watching my boys play, hearing their laughter and seeing their little bodies run about on the grass. I love listening to tunes on the radio and thinking about what the lyrics really mean.

I love eating Child playingfreshly baked scones, so warm the butter and jam slides off them and onto your waiting fingers. I love taking a swim in the ocean and that tingling sensation you get when the salt water dries on your skin.

Oh and I reeeeeally love savouring the earthy, sweet smell and peppery flavours of a glass of red wine.

I’m not always good at appreciating the present, (goodness knows that frenemy Stress likes to saunter by at different times during the day, in its many forms) but when I do, Time seems to be a little kinder to me.

And when that happens, I’m a little more inclined to reach out to it and give it a hefty slap on the back, for Old Time’s sake.

 

The Paradox of Self-efficacy And Family

Family, I’ve often pondered the complexity of them.

They can bind us in both good and bad ways, there is no end to the drama they can create and yet they form the very fabric of society and inevitably shape us as individuals.

While there’s no denying the ‘picture’ of family is evolving, some things stay the same.

I had yet another sobering conversation today with a friend, you know the kind where questions are posed about ‘how as adults, are we meant to live together….happily, with all the chaos that family-life brings: having kids, working to pay a mortgage, trying to find time as a couple?’

Add to that, the pressure to seem like a ‘got-it-together’ family unit and you’ve got a recipe for major unhappiness.

It’s an ongoing conversation that does the rounds with pretty much all my friends and I’m beginning to wonder if it qualifies as enough empirical research to write a PhD thesis.

But in all seriousness, I know we’ve all had these conversations with friends (well, at least women do) and it’s gotten to the point where I’m not just wondering HOW we can change it, this whirlwind that is family life, but WHAT are the factors that created it.

Prior to starting our own families, we were responsible only for ourselves. Free to ride the wave of opportunity, to try out a few things and along the way, develop a good grounding in who we thought we were and our capabilities.

As Psychologist Dr Bandura labels it, we had a relatively high level of self-efficacy, the belief in our capabilities to organise and execute the courses of action required to manage situations’.

In short, we rocked! Nothing was beyond our reach and we were confident enough to know what it was we had to do, to get it. Confidence ensured success and success ensured confidence.

It was this period in my life where the pull to live and work abroad outweighed any apprehensions I might have had earlier in my life and the desire to travel alone was thrilling. Forget that I’d never done it before, I was pretty sure I’d figure it out.

But enter steady relationship, kids and the pressures of work and fast-forward to the current age of emotional turmoil, sleep deprivation (no doubt the cause of the emotional turmoil) and constant guilt at stuffing up the juggling act that is working and being a parent and a spouse………and well ….. the scales on the old self-efficacy have turned, big time.

Seeing as success is the basis for building belief in one’s personal efficacy, our relatively new (and what feel like everyday) ‘failures’, naturally undermine it.

Succeeding at completing a tantrum free visit to the supermarket, seems about as likely as me becoming the next Prime Minister and achieving a quiet uninterrupted conversation with my partner… well better left as a distant memory. We’ve inevitably got lost along the way.

Our circumstance have changed and relatively quickly, our stress has multiplied in these different areas merging and we are still playing catch-up, that we haven’t had time to regroup and develop self-efficacy in this new ‘family’ terrain.

The screaming toddler at the supermarket, the work deadlines that yet again aren’t met, the partner who feels like a stranger, the waking baby every 2 hours, the house that looks like a tip…. better yet, all combined!

Just how do we navigate this and try to stay sane, let alone happy, as individuals AND as a family?

We’ve lost confidence in ourselves, because our sense of ‘self’ no long exists in the traditional sense. WE are a family, bound by blood (and sweat and tears seems highly appropriate to add here), but from exactly this, is where I reckon we should draw strength and in turn success.

Families by their nature are complex and so are we as individuals. We will never work it ALL out, but we can try to go easy on ourselves and accept that we are in a new (albeit freaky) phase of our life.

That nobody has really got it together, that you never really ‘arrive’ in life and that our successes may be measured in small increments.

Maybe instead of regaining self-efficacy, we’ll develop ‘us-efficacy’ a way of believing in OUR abilities as a team, a family, to manage situations.

Too airy-fairy for you, well maybe even for me, but we can live (and try), in hope….together.