2016 in Retrospect

Slightly early, but since I won’t be home for New Year’s, I figured I’ll do it now.

It’s been a weird year, really.

On one hand, there’s been so much I’ve wanted to do and never the time to do it. On the other, I’ve at times felt at peace like never before.

I have grown to resent my job after just learning to love it again, and I’ve been set free from it. It makes me sad, because a part of me was so unwilling to give up and not ready to let go. But another part says that there’s never a day like today to change (cliché as it may be).

It’s also been a year of personal growth for me, of learning to accept myself better. I’ve come to understand my imperfections better, and I hope I’ve learned to be just a bit more forgiving towards myself, as hard as it may be. (And as any possible deity will know, forgiveness I certainly need.)

I cannot say I’ve been happy, per se, depressed as I’ve been, but there have been moments of bliss and sunshine. The time I spent in Karelia this summer is a bright spot (as always), moments with my siblings’ children another (all 5 are wonderful in small doses, the older 2 for being older now and the boys for being smarter than the older two were at their age – especially the youngest is such a sweetheart).

2016 was also a year of sorrow, not only for all the great artists who have left us this year, but also because of personal loss. My uncle passed away very unexpectedly this autumn, and although I hadn’t seen him for a couple of years it still saddens me deeply to see my uncles leave us one by one. Year after year, family photos become more and more filled with death instead of life. Although the memories are happy, for a time those pictures will be bittersweet.

I have come to see my place in the chain of generations, and all the death in the family in the past few years (since 2001, tbh) has been a difficult but eye-opening experience. I’ve come to see and accept that my parents are aging, and that I may not have them for very long, and that I must take my time with them if I am to have it. It cannot be just “someday when”, it has to be today, because tomorrow just might not be there. My father’s brothers have all passed away before 70 (2 under 65), and my dad just turned 70 this year. The fact of the matter is I just might not have him “someday” (and that hurts like hell, as I’m sure you all can imagine).

I feel 2016 crystallized somewhat what I want to do with my life. We (my husband and I) made a lot of plans throughout the year, and I think we both now have a better picture of the road we must walk. In a way similar to mine I also feel my husband grew a lot as a person this year.

All in all, it must have been the most difficult year of my life, even more difficult than my teens, more difficult than that awful year when my grandmother died. I have at times wished for death, and thought it might just be easier to sleep and never wake up than to go on.

As we say in Finland, though, there’s only one way to go from the bottom, and that’s up.

As I was about to hit Publish I realized none of this actually had anything to do with books or writing, so…

P.S. This year I also read less than I would have wanted to but more than I think I did. I liked most books I read, but also managed to turn some reading into a chore. I hate chores, so that was totally a mistake. I’ll take that back next year. That’s my resolution, and you are free to remind me of it if it seems I forget. (But I’ll finish the reading journal on Malleus Maleficarum, because there’s no other way I’ll get through the biblical references…)

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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)

 

 

How important is your Peace to you?

Sounds like philosophy, but it isn’t.

I was watching House, and there was a girl trying to find her birth parents. Obviously she got sick (It’s House after all), and a question came to me.

“How important is your peace to you?”

One might consider this a writing prompt. That is exactly how I’m presenting it.

Even to myself. I have an idea, but I won’t share it with you just yet.

Not that I’d be afraid you’d go for that one, just that I don’t want to come in the way of your own ideas by planting my take.

My personal interpretation might lean more towards peace of mind, is all.

If this inspires you, I’d really love to see the result. No pressure, though. 😉

Helsinki Book Fair pt. 2

I spent way too much. I won’t tell you how much, but let’s just say that price/weight ratio was good enough to make my aching hands worth it.

I managed to avoid any sight or sound of the might-be-murderess, a success already lauded by my mother. She is apparently as fed up with the whole thing as I am.

I also spent half an hour listening to a panel about Finnish magical poetry. I was somewhat disappointed that most of the time was taken up by the other guy talking about his own spiritual experiences while the editor just sat there watching. He had the more interesting points and I would have enjoyed just spending 30 minutes of listening to him alone. (I have an awful memory for names, so unfortunately I cannot remember who they were.)

Apparently the more vocal guy was a teacher by profession and I could really hear it. Not only was he a bit too much in love with his own voice, but he was just as monotonous as some of the teachers of my youth. Don’t get me wrong, the best of teachers can inspire their students to learn even outside their field, and I guess that guy can be an inspiring teacher. Just that I’m not in class any more, and I didn’t come by to get inspirational speeches but facts.

I guess I ought to list out what I got.

Usually the Fair’s got an antiquary side and new books and then all the rest (comics, magazines, postcards…) somewhere about. I make most of my finds from the antiquary side, to the exception of this year.

I bought from one antiquary the loveliest edition of Kalevala from 1930s, with graphic art by Gallen-Kallela. I don’t like the new editions with modern Finnish, I think the poems lose something intrinsic to them if you try to take them away from the ancient words put in place by the original singers.

Also, as a present to my father who is turning 70 later this year I bought a magazine from December 1946. I was also hoping to find a newspaper for the exact date, but the only ones available were the 25th and 29th of December and none from between. I hope he doesn’t take offense from the topic of the magazine, the title of which translates to Health – I am after all known to poke him towards a doctor’s appointment (But hey, if a daughter is not allowed to be worried about her father who is obviously not totally 100% healthy, then who is?).

In relation to Kalevala I also bought a book about Ingrian dirges. They are of a similar root as us Finns from the ancient Karelian woodlands and Ingrian women kept up the song and poem tradition all the way to Soviet times. The Ingrian songs in the book are all lamentations, not necessarily for the dead only but also to those otherwise lost: daughters to their husband’s homes and people leaving for far off places. I’m thinking this’ll be a total tear-jerker for me.

I bought the Finnish grammar. One of those books I’ll probably never read from cover to cover, but if I ever want to know that one thing… (It was over 60% off from retail price too.) Also, in differentiation to all the other Finnish grammars, this one is the BIG grammar. Ought to have everything.

One book is about genre analysis in literature. From what I gather it’s some sort of comprehensive guide to anything you might want to know about that. In short, everything I might wish for. I took a fancy for the field while trying to apply for the university, and this is a nice addition to that collection.

Also a find, I got a book about medieval cooking, both ingredients and implements -wise. It’s looking out to be an interesting read and I might even try out the recipes. Mother suspected I couldn’t get any ingredients, but from a quick rifling through it seems the recipes have been chosen to be accessible to the modern cook. (No brains or pig’s feet. I don’t know about you guys and where you live, but that kind of stuff isn’t readily available anywhere around here unless you happen to butcher your own livestock. I don’t have the means nor the stomach for that and I’ll admit it.)

The last two Finnish titles were a study on misanthropy edited by mr. Nummelin and a study on medieval slave trade of Finnish and Scandinavian people towards the East. I read bits of Nietzsche in German while on Interrail and the misanthropy book falls right on those tracks. And I don’t need to remind you about how much I love history at this point, do I?

This is threatening to be a very long post, so here are the titles of the translated books. I might give a commentary when I’m finished reading these (as I might with what’s mentioned above), but in the meantime if you’re interested Google is your friend. 1491: New Revelations of the Americas before Columbus by Charles C. Mann; A Vindication of the Rights of Woman: With Strictures on Political and Moral Subjects by Mary Wollstonecraft and The Sixth Extinction: An Unnatural History by Elizabeth Kolbert.

I really enjoyed the Fair as I always do, but as usual the food was priced too high (10€ for a soda and a prepacked sandwich, yeah, NO) and there were too many people. By too many people I mean those individuals who think it’s their god-given right to stand in the middle of the hallway in everyone’s way chatting on or those who think that if they pretend they don’t see you they can just walk right into (through) you.

Now, a tumbler of good Scotch whisky and one of my new books and the divan. Ta-ta!

Helsinki Book Fair

Today it starts, ends this Sunday.

I’ll only be going today. I have some time off (for once, THANK YOU, wrist!) but taking the train there several days in a row… I love books, but not as much as to take that bloody train any more often than I have to – nothing wrong with the train but the people in it.

The center hold also a food and wine exhibit, but after seeing what it was like last year I doubt I’ll take more than a quick peek. Last year I didn’t get one sample that actually tasted like the product; the sample bites were cut so small they hardly held in the sampling forks. That was due to people stopping to actually eat out of the samples while chatting with the workers. No wonder they don’t want to hand stuff out when you take more than your due, people…

The wine part requires you to buy a tasting cup. I’m not there to get drunk but to buy books, so none of that either. All the things for sale are obviously also higher end and rather expensive, so they wouldn’t fit in my budget anyway.

But the books, oh, they fit in no matter what!

And I’m also going to do some Christmas shopping while there. Wouldn’t do of me to be all selfish and only buy things for me… Or it would, but I hate Christmas shopping so this way I’ll at least get it done.

Yes. There are women who hate shopping. You’ve just met one. It’s really just not for Christmas but for anything except books or food in general. I especially hate fitting rooms and clothes stores. I hate the sales associates (not their fault, I just hate being asked stuff) and I hate the music and the commercials. (And I hate the fact that when you would actually need help no one suddenly wants to help you any more.)

I’ve not looked through the events, but I did spot one ad for the book fair… Apparently, a woman who was first not a suspect, then a suspect and now acquitted of her husband’s murder a few years back is there to promote her book. I personally believe she offed him, but she had plenty of time to get rid of the evidence when the police where off chasing bad leads. Oh well, she was found not guilty and now she wants several millions from the state for the time she spent incarcerated. She has also written this book about her time after the death of her husband (or something like that).

I hope I won’t be there when she is there. I really do not want to hear her talk about any of that stuff over the loudspeakers. The media just shut up about it, I’ve had plenty more than enough.

Let’s take a look though, out of pure curiosity… Who’s there today?

Apparently, the themes this year are nature and “Finnish Public School 150 Years”. So there is some nature photography by Sergey Korshkov on display (and in all likelihood his photo books). Also some discussions seem to border the subject.

School, children and learning have a bigger part of Thursday, likely because on weekdays school classes tend to be there. There’s the opening ceremony for the 150th anniversary of the school system; some guy (never heard of him) has written a book about kids and internet and is there to talk about it, a local science center has a pop-up section; a workshop just for kids and some other stuff as well… Apparently, this year it would be great to be under 12 at the book fair. Alas, those days are far gone for me.

Aaand there it is. Memoirs of the Murder Widow, 12:30-13:00. Craptastic. I’ll just go and see the food expo for that half an hour.

Speaking of which, time to get going! There are a few interesting panels I want to check out before that.

I’ll think I’ll write a little follow-up later on, this was cut a bit short…

Goodreads widget

Spur of the moment addition.

I must remind you, that my Goodreads page is for the moment a work in progress.

I have so far added only about a third of the books in my possession and some of the read/reading/unread -shelves are not exactly correct at the moment.

Insofar as are the books that I have read in my possession, the list is right. The question is more of have I truly finished all of them yet. Some of my books are waiting for bigger shelves in the basement, and I have just mercilessly added them to await the time to actually comb through it and put everything in their correct virtual shelves anyway.

So, as I have warned you before, should you visit in order to see my bookshelves… You will be greeted by a construction site gone horribly wrong.

I’ll let you know when it’s safe to enter without a helmet…

Museum of Innocence

Orhan Pamuk

So, I wrote a bit about this one before. Then I thought it’d be a good book for a bath, and on that count I was right.

As a whole though, I’m not really sure what to think of it. It’s well-written and the story is interesting, but still, towards the end I was getting a bit ‘meh’.

It may be I just require a re-read.

I couldn’t make myself to particularly like Füsun, but then, I’m not entirely sure I was meant to like her. Kemal fell in love with her even when she wasn’t the kind of girl he should have focused on in the first place, and the further the story progressed it came clear that this unsuitability was pervasive of her as a character. I’m not saying Sibel was the right one either, but I know for sure Füsun wasn’t really it.

Perhaps it is indeed this description of the madness that is love that has won the book its acclaim.

The name is also very apt. I took it first in a totally wrong sense, but the further I reflect upon it, the clearer I see the innocence that was truly in question.

Yet, despite seeing the genius within the book I can’t but think it would have benefited from some more editing. I do understand that the despair of love is one of the carrying themes of the book, but at some point you just want to grab Kemal by the lapels and shake him and yell: “Just get over it you moron, eight years mooning over a girl that’s not really that into you is just dumb!”

There are points throughout the story that let you forget the incessant obsession (or even kinda sympathize with his tortured, misunderstood soul!), but then he goes and steals something and there goes the crazy train again.

I really don’t know what else to say of it.

I sort of liked it, because of the meta story and the little gems of wisdom scattered throughout the story. Some of them are so universal and true just about anyone can agree with them.

Then again I sort of didn’t like it, and there were points that were a chore to meander through. And as I said, there’s the point where pining over long lost love just becomes pathetic (and that’s just painful to follow, in writing and in real life).

Let’s just leave it at that.