Flotsam 2023

Flotsam 2023

Resolutions, anyone? What are you reading? What does emotional fulfillment mean to you? It’s been awhile since I’ve just written an off-the-cuff post. And the sun is out.

I’m still reflecting on 2022. It was a good year.

As the year ended, I read a light bit of fiction that was recommended to me by an algorithm, or maybe just PR. I have no time for fiction as I’m always reading research, but I wanted frivolity. Lessons in Chemistry by Bonnie Garmus was funny and cute and will be loved by women who do not understand the joy (or art, some might say) of playing dumb and humoring the system, i.e., the women who convince men we love to stay in the background and cheer them on. It’s biology! If that is your schtick, bless you, but it does confound the rest of us. I’ve wondered for most of my life just how many women are happy with this set up. Else why doesn’t it change? This is not to blame women. I’ve just noted that when so many women are happy to find makeup and short skirts the route to “empowerment” (you might notice that Bezos, Jinping, Musk and Putin, for example, don’t indulge), how do things change? Garmus also humorously points out how general corruption and turning-the-other-cheek is rewarded by our society.

Men wrote a number of good reviews of it on the empire as well.

Pride and Prejudice

It’s also accurate in that wealth, looks, and tenacity (or emotional shutdown) will aid success or save the day. If fact, if you want to open your mouth as a woman, you better have all these things. That’s how it was in 1961, at least. Now, of course, we are equal.

Read that however you want.

I saw these yesterday in a bookstore and they are gorgeous but wow I have too many books.

My new year’s resolution: I need to spend less time puttering around my home. I love things to be just so, but you can spend an eternity tidying, cooking, washing dishes, etc. How should I go about this? Leave more? (I do. All the time.) I might add that I don’t love tidying but I love the result. I love cooking, but the idea of cooking daily would kill that love very quickly. True love, I suppose, is enjoyed on most, but not all, days. Like cold showers.

But everyone is different.

So, what brings you emotional fulfillment? This was the prompt for my chosen tarot card this morning. Yes, I love tarot, and I pick a card daily as a way to connect with the subconscious and woo part of myself, especially when my daily work is about facts and rationality. Finally my woo side and my rational side are coming together, or at least on speaking terms. It’s taken decades of work to get here.


Some might notice that these concepts are often gendered. Men are allegedly rational and factual. Women are allegedly given to woo, a la Ms. Paltrow. I’ve been meaning to find a way to talk about this since 2021, but the topic can be hackneyed, and these days, controversial. Men like to lead. Women like to follow. Ah yes, darling, that’s why your mother was so controlling. She liked to follow. Or, more likely, she wanted to do something other than pick up after you all her life. If you’re lucky, she didn’t. But I’m getting ahead of myself.

Most of us love binaries, though things aren’t always so simple. I’ve always been acutely aware of possessing “opposing” (for want of a better word) qualities that battle for consciousness or acknowledgment. Those that society, or family, or my defense mechanisms prefer win out. I neglect or suppress the other quality.

English lacks good words for these “opposing” qualities. We often call them feminine and masculine, some call them yin and yang, but these are problematic for various reasons. I do realize this is something Carl Jung liked to wax on about with his internal animus and anima, but the concepts are far older than Jung.

Some lists from the interwebs:

Feminine Masculine
Intuition Logic/Reason
Emotional Intelligence Cognitive Intelligence
Collaboration Competition
Equality and connection Hierarchy and status
Explore Explain
Interdependent Independent
compromising firm
understanding tough
relationship personal achievement
flexible disciplined
learning knowing
Sensing now Planning next
Stakeholder Shareholder
Inspiring coaching Commanding/controlling
Whole Parts
Sustainable Profitable
Cold/Cool Hot/Warm
Wet Dry
Night Day
Winter Summer
Earth Space
Rest Activity
Structure Function
Contracting Expansive
Inward Outward
Front of body Back of body
Passive Activity
Slow Fast
Calm Alert
Interior Exterior
Front Back
Body Head

This is absurd.

Just last night I heard a woman explaining that women are “nesters” because thousands of years of evolution. This is patently ahistorical. Until the 18th century in the west, women were seen as the more lascivious gender, and male academics backed it up with science, then as now.

If you step back and think about it (please), you not only know women and men who possess qualities of the “opposing” list, but you realize that we all behave differently in different contexts. At work you might be a collaborator, but at your hobby or home you might be competitive. And while it’s great that some want to explode the gender binary altogether, I’m frankly disappointed (yes, GenX) that women and men aren’t encouraged to enjoy whatever characteristics that feel right to them in the moment without being labelled deviant. But I’m dated. That was definitely a 70s thing.

I wrote this on January 1st, but didn’t post it because it meandered somewhat pointlessly. This stuff has been said quite well in other places. And I’m admittedly posting it now because my research isn’t translating into blog posts as it was last year. I’m falling into 19th century texts marveling at how little has changed. Same, same, but different. I love these old books and journals but I’ve learned from my students that this is an oddity.

Students are suffering. As I’m sure I’ve said several times, I teach at universities as far apart on the economic spectrum as possible. They are all suffering. Mental health issues are commonplace and many, if not most students, don’t have the motivation to improve their health through the behavioral changes I write about on this blog.

I think about this a lot. How do we motivate people when they have lost motivation? When they don’t want to get up, get outside, move around, see friends, or work on things that matter to them? To stop the habits that soothe but suffocate them? And what about the students who don’t have time to do these things because they are just getting by on what needs to be done?

Dunno. I guess just focus on those who have the motivation.

Another part of the problem is that change is so so so slow that it often feels invisible. Until it doesn’t.

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