Cleaning Frenzy

I’ve had so much stuff I’ve needed to do around the apartment I’ve had very little time to give to writing. It’s not just physical cleaning I’ve being doing though, I’ve been airing my head as well.

On the positive side though, I’m pretty much done with the most urgent of my chores.

There’s just so much more to do (and even the ‘non-urgent’ list is stuff I should have really done years ago. Shame on me.) that sometimes I don’t know where to start.

I hadn’t even realized how much energy I was spending on working until I stopped doing that. No wonder this place was (and in places still is) a mess. Honestly, though, I’ve learned that no more than 50% of the mess can be my fault and therefore I should expect the creator of the other 50% to take some responsibility. He’s getting there, but sometimes I just have to wonder.

On the stuff more related to this blog, I also frenzied through my bookshelf.

Now you must be wondering what my priorities are, if my bookshelf is on my urgent list. I’ll get there.

I took out all the books I’d read (but had remained under the notion “I just might have time to read this again here”, which is unlikely) and those I plan to take with me to North Karelia. They’re packed up and are waiting for me to take them over to the basement. The box to North Karelia will be staying upstairs. I’m not sure about those yet and I might add stuff – but then I’ll need another box (I’m awful and I have zero impulse control on books).

That’s part of why they were on the urgent list, really. If I get them out from underfoot I’ll have more room to pack some more. We’ve a lot of stuff and this is not a big apartment. (And my furniture is not good for this particular flat, but that’s another story entirely.)

I also vow I’ll buy no more books until the bookshelf is done. I really have to keep this one because I have to carry those things out of here. I love them, but really I need a house to keep them in as is.

There are many interesting books still waiting, so shouldn’t be too much of a problem. Just have to stay home and away from any store in Finland (every grocery store has some pocket books – might not be good, but they’re everywhere).

Regarding my Malleus reading journal though, I realized I’d at some point packed away the Bible I was supposed to cross-reference from. D’oh. Hope it’s not in the basement. I’m NOT opening those boxes again until I’m at my next apartment. (If it’s there the Malleus reading journal is officially on hiatus until next autumn.)

Trying to sort through my inflated worldly possessions has taught me to be better at letting go as well. I have some hoarding tendencies and sometimes get a bit too attached to inanimate objects, but there’s just got to be a line somewhere. I’ve thrown away a lot of stuff I’d kept for ‘that one day when I’ll fix this shit’. Should throw away a lot more, but hey, it’s really a process. Should I capitalize that? Maybe.

Having a clear-set deadline has always been a help for me, and knowing that we won’t be having a place of our own for a couple months really puts pressure into throwing away the unnecessary. I just dread the look on our parents’ faces when they realize what they’ve agreed to…

Anyway, just to let you know I didn’t die over the New Year’s. I’ve been so inspired lately, who knows what’ll happen regarding the actually interesting stuff instead of my housework.

Hopefully. My muses are fickle and cruel.

(And yeah, I’m just posting about doing my chores. I’m so sorry.)

Ehh…

It’s been a while.

Now, I know this might come across like a huge excuse to being lazy, but bear with me.

I cannot go into details much, seeing as that would not be in accordance with the contracts I’ve signed and am legally bound to obey.

But what I can tell you is why I haven’t been writing anything up here. And that is the part anyone interested in this blog really deserves to know.

For the past three years, I’ve had health issues that have prevented me from doing my work properly. This in turn created friction between me and my employer (or the representative of the employer in charge or HR in my unit, but whatever). When it became clear my health problems were of a more permanent nature and would permanently decrease my work performance, the person above decided it was a good idea to try to bully me into resigning.

So, the past year and a half or so, I’ve been given unworkable shifts (literally shifts my doctor has repeatedly told the person I shouldn’t and cannot do) and I’ve been told repeatedly that my colleagues think my “special treatment” is unfair.

I’ve asked my colleagues whether the find my decreased performance a hindrance, and so far no one did, or at least never told me they did. More often than not, they told me I did a good job doing the parts of the job I could do and they didn’t like.

When things got to the point that I started getting written up for minor things, I realized that not only am I broken physically, my employer is also trying to break me mentally.

I went to my doctor and told him quite honestly that I could no longer bear going to a place where I’m so clearly no longer wanted. I told him that being constantly reminder of what is “wrong” with me has created this enormous amount of anxiety and that in times I just want to crawl to a corner and die. I’ve been depressed (and diagnosed) previously, and although I knew the symptoms I had tried to ignore them.

My doctor wrote me an official statement with the basic idea of “this person is not suitable to her assigned task”. He said this would probably get me fired, which here in Finland means you get a few months’ pay (depending on how long you’ve worked there) from your former employer and no ‘quarantine’ from unemployment support. This would be the best option, in regards to finances.

My boss didn’t fire me though. They had no idea what to do with the paper and would have to call their superiors. Please come again.

So, yesterday I resigned with 6 months pay. Apparently, my HR manager’s superiors had put their foot down. I don’t know if this is the fact, but for some reason, she was instructed to pay me out. And knowing that I cannot work in the near future due to my physical injuries and the fact that I’m mentally drained, I took the chance.

I have been brought down so low in the past couple months, that even doing what I most like doing – reading and writing – has become a task too mighty to handle. You can probably tell by the amount of projects I’ve posted vs. the amount of projects I’ve finished. That was me trying to motivate myself and failing.

You should see my home; if I say reading and writing have suffered, the biggest loser is probably chores. The place looks like a dump, which of course doesn’t help me thinking better things about myself (what a pathetic little c*** you are, not even able to take care of your home), nor does it help get the creative juices flowing.

In conjunction with my already low self esteem my treatment at work has made me feel worthless. At the point I was just a week ago, I thought I couldn’t post anything, because that would just make me look an even bigger fool; because I possibly couldn’t have anything  to say that anyone would want to read.

Now, the thing I hate even more than excuses is promises that aren’t kept. So I’m not going to promise anything.

I’m not quitting, though.

Might just be even more sporadic than thus far.

(Yeah and I just cannot come up with a good title for this. Just bad ones. So… ehh)

 

 

Theft of Culture

In particular in the past couple of years, a conversation has arisen whether the major populace (read, the white man) has the right to use the images and symbols of minority cultures in art or popular culture. I’ve mostly followed the Finnish part of the discussion, due to availability, but the broad outlines are applicable everywhere.

Tradition

The first time I can remember hearing about this issue is way older, though.

Way back in the late eighties and early nineties certain Finnish comedians created a sketch for their TV program about two very drunk Lappish men (link to a Youtube clip in Finnish). It was/is a common caricature that the Sami people use a lot of alcohol and especially since the comedians were wearing the traditional Sami clothes, the implication was clear. I doubt anyone in Lapland drinks any more than anyone else anywhere else in Finland – those who drink a lot are equally marinated everywhere and those who drink smart, drink smart.

Obviously, and for a very good reason, many people took offense. I can’t recall the program being cancelled or getting any repercussions, though, and they are actually airing re-runs of it. I’m assuming the audiences are marginal and no-one has made a fuss because no one is watching anymore. I saw a few minutes of the show one evening and it wasn’t any funnier than the first time around.

The Sami dress has caused a few other incidents. I understand why they are particular: many traditional dresses have a lot of unwritten code about how they should be worn and by whom and when. I know my own dress (traditional dress from western Finland) is supposed to be worn the way I have it only by married women and very differently by unmarried.

Culture

Then came the case of the book Oneiron, a Finlandia prize winner by Laura Lindstedt.

I haven’t personally read it, but it is a conversation between women of different backgrounds. One of the women is an American Jew who has suffered from an eating disorder. There are also parts in the book in Hebrew, which have then been translated for the advantage of the non-speaker.

Particularly the case of this fictional Jewish girl incensed an actual living Jewish girl with a similar past. She wrote about it (in Finnish), asking why Lindstedt couldn’t write a book from the viewpoint of a white Finnish woman? Why does she have to steal from someone else’s culture for profit?

 

But why should Lindstedt, me, you, Salman Rushdie or the president of South Africa only be limited to writing about those exactly alike us?

Isn’t it truly the most enlightening experience to learn new things about ourselves and others in both trying to think like them while writing or reading about them? Especially writing in this aspect is more important, because in order to create something believable, one must be able to put themselves in the character’s shoes. If that does not bring about true friendship between peoples and an end to discrimination, I don’t know what will.

But of course it is easier to keep on bickering, and especially when something is said by the wrong kind of person (in this case, although not male, still a privileged white westerner), it is easier to dismiss it as colonialist patronizing. It is easier to say they’re trying to profit from non-white tradition without having to experience the oppression it used to come with.

Sure, as a white westerner I personally cannot know a thing about being a black person in America in the 60’s (1860’s and 1960’s both apply), or about being casteless in India during the caste system (or even still today in places). I cannot even realistically put myself in my great-grandmother’s shoes, because I have no idea what it’s like to live without electricity or running water. That cannot and should not stop me from trying, though.

Limits?

I process the world through writing and reading. In the opinion of these other people I am stealing their culture if and when I write about it, should anyone else see it. I’m not yet sure if it counts if I’m the only one who sees it. Even if it just to better understand them and said culture. Would they prefer I remain ignorant and insult them through ignorance?

Do writers of all ethnicities, no matter how minor or major, from now on limit themselves to only writing about the kind of experience they might have garnered? That will make for a poor literary future. Do these people themselves always stop themselves from writing about what they are not, just not to steal that culture in return?

It is true the literary world has for long been dominated by man, white man to be more precise. That cannot be changed by limiting subject matters for others, but by going and writing something worthwhile of your own.

One must remember, that to reach true equality one cannot only try to reach it just for their own group but for everyone. And truly the best option would be to forget groups altogether.

Culture is not just tradition and history and what has been, although that is one part. It is a very big and important part, no doubt, but also not the whole thing.

Culture is personal, interpersonal and surpassing the personal. No one person can say what it is or what is accepted, because that changes over time and between people.

Culture is also not a resource that runs out when used. No, it grows and multiplies and evolves every time it is used, no matter how and by whom.

Don’t make boxes where no boxes need be, people.

 


I really do hope we can have some discussion about this in a constructive manner and also that I got what I’m thinking written down here so that my actual point comes across. I’ve been mulling about this for about four months or so, and it’s getting a bit messy…

Vacation

We’ll be out for North Karelia early the day after tomorrow. There, beyond a very long drive, lies a little lake. Over the rounded cliff on the lake’s eastern edge one finds two small raw timber cottages. There lies my newest Paradise on Earth (also known as my in-law’s family summer cottage).

From previous experience I know that wifi or 3G (no hope of 4G) or even mobile phone calls seldom work out there. It’s very remote and the nearest link tower is blocked by the rough terrain. There’s also some ore in the soil there, as even radio channels tend to get a little choppy.

Personally, I’m from the very west of Finland which is very even and in places also rather treeless. The western Finns made their forests into permanent fields when the eastern Finns used a burn-farm-leave -tactic. In the west, there are less lakes or hills but the river valleys provide better soil than the rocky eastern territories. In the ancient times, the farming strategies made sense. In the modern time, they ensure that it looks like a different country going from eat to west or west to east.

The East is lake territory. There are also the worn down roots of an ancient mountain range, worn to it’s last by the last Ice Age. This means there is a lot of hills, cliffs, boulders and rubble. All the lakes tend to take the same direction, north-west to south-east, also due to the movements of ice some 25k+ years ago. All the hills go like that too, in little strings. This picture is one very very good example, although replace hills with island.

IMG_1676

From Ukko-Koli, a view that has inspired many famous Finnish painters. Photo from personal archives.

Also due to the farming tactic mentioned earlier there is a lot more and a lot older forest there than elsewhere in Finland. I wish I’d had the sense of getting a pair of good rubber boots there so I could go wander around in the woods and not worry about snakes (or pits I could get stuck into or thorny bushes or old Russian bombshells or whatever else I could stumble upon, because rubber boots can take it all, for reals). Maybe I will this year.

I don’t know if there’s really any chance of any bombshells there, but whoever knows? All kinds of crazy things happen during wars.

Also this year my parents will be visiting us there, so I guess I’ll be playing the hostess. Funny being a hostess to your own mother somewhere. I mean, when they came to my apartment they started doing the dishes and vacuuming (which I had already done, thank you very much). I doubt they’d do that there, or anything similar as I don’t think there’s a vacuum cleaner there. Surely not?

(My husband’s grandparents are hoarders or something very close. There’s tons of crap at the cottage no one dares to throw away before they pass away. I counted four coffee makers the last time we were there, and you wouldn’t want to use one of them.)

Now, just so you understand, this post has absolutely no other point than for me to inform you that for the next two weeks updates are unlikely and only remotely within any realm of possibility. I’ll be writing something while there, undoubtedly, to be published later.

That is, if I’ll have the time from all the relaxing, drinking and bathing in the sauna.

Status update

This post is totally unrelated to anything, mostly just me venting about certain things. If you don’t care to read a rant about how my boss is a bitch, feel free to skip this one.

So, as I might have mentioned, I spent most of last year running from doctor to doctor due to issues with my right hand. Last November I finally got permission to go back to work after two and a half months of sick leave.

Last week I had to go work the registers at my job. It was going fine up until the last hour or so, when a client with a huge load of groceries came up to my till. That’s cool and all, except that my hand totally disliked it. So, knowing that I had another cashier shift next week I went to the manager and told her I couldn’t do it with my hand.

She told me I should really consider finding another job. Legally she cannot fire me because of my health unless I spend a whole year on sick leave. It is also legally my employer’s task to find me something I can do until I fully recuperate, no matter how many times they try to say they have nothing I could do.

She went on that cashier duty is part of my job, the same as everyone else. The truth is that there are many people with other work-related injuries and also many healthy individuals who never have to work the registers, no matter the fact that they have the training to do it. It has also been the recommendation of my doctor that I should not work as a cashier due to the repetitive motions and heavy load it puts on my hand. It seems I’m the only one to whom the rule applies. In the three years prior to my injury I also never had cashier duty. Suddenly after my doctor has forbidden it it’s of the utmost importance.

I feel like she’s trying to make me quit my job. If I won’t do it willingly and go quietly I’m certain she will start fabricating warnings for me as she has done to many others.

I’m just asking, is this really what five and a half years of dedicated work is worth? I’ve never said no to any task that’s been within my abilities, I’ve been willing to stretch and give up my free time to do my job. Until my health problems – that were caused BY my job – I’ve had much fewer sick days than the average employee.

But hey, she can try and get me fired. I’ve got the union at my back. She should really think long and hard whether she and the company want to go through a law suit over something so menial. I refuse to go down quietly, I refuse to quit when the law is on my side. Sure, if they’re willing to pay me (let’s say a year, year-and-a-half worth of pay in the least) I think we can work out an agreement… but there’s a snowball’s chance in Hell of that.

That’s the rant, for now. I’ll be posting something more relevant in a couple of days, hopefully. Until then, ta-ta.