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Keeping up with fuzz head

One of the main reasons I’ve kept writing here pretty consistently since 2014 is because it is an incredible memory aid. Being able to refer back easily anywhere, whether it’s to show something to someone else or to myself, is invaluable.

More recently though, I’ve been finding it hard to write things down. Extra frustrating because I want to refer back to this time possibly more than anything.

I think part of it is just the lack of time. It is incredible how much time it takes to care for a little person, even when you have help (daycare three days a week right now in our case, and I’m working those three days).

And the sleep deprivation… it’s interesting, we’re pretty fortunate, I’d say. He’s a very decent sleeper, but it’s still so hard.

B is about 4.5 months old. He goes down between 7 and 8pm and is waking up 1–2 times a night, sometimes once as a bit of a yelp and resettling on his own, and almost always once properly where he needs to be changed and fed. Once his needs are met, he tends to go right back down without rocking/bouncing, which is amazing.

Sam’s job is more demanding right now in terms of a strict schedule (I’m working part time, though that will change soon), so I’m handling nighttime wakeups. For me, that usually means 1–5 hrs of sleep, a brief wakeup when B yelps since I hear it on the monitor, then another 1–3 hrs of sleep. Cumulatively, I generally get 4–7 hours, usually around 6 or 7 I’d say. That sounds alright for a parent of a baby, and it is! But when it happens to be multiple 5 hour nights with a random 4 hour night thrown in… it gets rough.

You can feel the shift. You’re a very different person on not enough sleep than you are on 7–8 hours a night. I get short, blank, forgetful.

Forgetful is the thing I hate the most, I think. I’m relying on apps like Reminders more than ever, not that it totally works. The forgetfulness and lack of patience are the worst. When I lose patience, I have to try to remember that my frustration often isn’t logical, it’s purely lack of sleep. But it’s hard to make that small mental leap in the moment.

All of this is an important reminder of how much even tiny changes in an environment can shape one’s identity, behavior.

Anyways, back to the original point.

I’m learning so much right now. I never grew up around babies, so this is a whole new world for me and it has been fascinating. But it is so hard to keep up. The moment I “learn” something, that thing changes and before I have a moment to jot it down, that knowledge has exited my head and I’m off to learning about the next thing B has thrown at us.

It’s a trip. Keeping up with our little fuzz head, and everything else.

Edit: I had to go back and fix more typos on this post than any other I’ve ever written 💀

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Parental half-life

If you’re lucky to have them around for long enough, you will eventually reach an age where you have existed for more than half of your parents’ lives. You suddenly go from being around for less of their experiences to being around for most of their experiences.

There’s something significant in that, but I’m not quite sure what… Ask me next summer.

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4+ month update

It’s been a little over four months since B arrived. These are some of my experiences or things I’ve learned so far, plucked at random.

I’d say that the books, conversations, and classes prepared me pretty decently in theory, but the physical and emotional reality is almost impossible to prepare for. Being a parent has been much more visceral than I expected.

A woman walking in to James Turrell’s “Three Gems”

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A new chapter

Our little one is here, and life will never be the same.

🌱

It has been a whirlwind month, really a whirlwind few months. I was trying to wrap everything up prior to maternity leave and just about got there, then was suddenly faced with a same-day induction following a routine prenatal appointment at 38w + 4d, three days before my leave was due to start. So close!

I’m not going to go in to detail about the birth in public here, it is too intimate of an event. I will say that besides the shock of the sudden induction and a few other blips, the birth itself went just about as close as I could hope to my “ideal” scenario. I’m so thankful for that. Remembering that the pain is temporary and intentional helped a lot, and Sam’s support was vital, as were our nurses Amy and Lukas and doula Taylor. “Ready, present, relaxed” was on repeat in my head.

The days following the birth involved ups and downs in terms of my health, including a readmission to hospital unfortunately, but have gone fairly smoothly otherwise. Not sleeping as well as we did previously, but that’s to be expected!

And most importantly, our little lad. He’s perfect, gorgeous, and so funny already. He won’t appear often in public photos on this site or elsewhere online, but like most parents, I’m happy to share copious pictures with friends and family via text.

The one-on-one conversations I’ve had with more experienced friends, family, collaborators, clients, and acquaintances about this stuff are some of the moments from my pregnancy that I hold most dear, small acts of selflessness and vulnerability on their part that made me feel so much more prepared for this process and what is to come. I’m thankful to have been able to ask so many people about so many things: what it’s like to be self employed with a young child, navigating how to divvy up responsibilities with your partner, the million different paths that feeding a baby can take, how your sense of identity shifts, what equipment is useful and what is pointless, and so, so many birth stories.

So thank you so much to those people that have reached out, and to those that have kindly opened up when I prodded a bit. It has meant everything.

Along those lines, an invitation: if you’re expecting or even just considering kids and want to talk about what it is like, please don’t hesitate to reach out to me.

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An endless loop

Just finished the article “Ontological Design Has Become Influential In Design Academia – But What Is It?” by JP Hartnett for AIGA Eye on Design, via the Feminist Open Source Investigations Group chat.

This is somewhat related to the previous post, the “we are our experiences” concept. But much more formal than my ramblings, better philosophical underpinnings for sure!

I’d heard of ontological design but hadn’t really dug in to it. This article is a useful dive in.

In very few words (specifically professor of design theory Anne-Marie Willis’s words, not mine): “Design designs us”. In more words, from Hartnett’s article:

A human being cannot exist independently of its surrounding environment — it is not possible to be without being-in-the-world. Being, then, is always relational: with everything that surrounds us, including the full complexity of the completely designed worlds that we inhabit. This point is crucial for ontological design theorists: design doesn’t just perform certain functions — a car transports you from A to B, a poster displays information, etc. — the interrelated totality of designs construct the world through which humans are brought into being and come to be defined through. Human beings, in turn, design the world, which, in turn, designs them… and so on. The process is circular, like an endless loop.

And on the consequences of embracing ontological design in practice instead of relegating it to theory and academia:

One welcome outcome of an embrace of ontological design theory would be the death of the individualism that has plagued the design profession — “iconic” designs, individual designers, celebrated in isolation as they usually are in design publications — don’t make any sense in this context.

That would be welcome indeed.

I don’t quite see how it can happen unless there is a true revolution in the way we talk and think about design—more holistic and less about singular problems, more collective and less individual—but maybe circumstances are ripening for such a change.

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“Who gets to be a revolutionary?”

“Who gets to be a revolutionary?”

Writer Dayna Evans asks this partway through her Eater article “The Women Erased From the Story of No-Knead Bread”. It’s a good question. Who gets top billing for a semi-simultaneous invention or a collective idea?

It reminds me of discovering Louise Brigham’s box furniture while doing some research on Gerrit Rietveld’s crate furniture.

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“I hope I’m pleasing David”

GP It felt like… he was trying… for me to be myself. Whatever that is. But I know that’s one of the hard… I mean, I always get very anxious when somebody says “be yourself”. Because that assumes that we know who we are. We’re just a collection of how other people see us a lot of the time, I think.

DB I didn’t tell you to be yourself.

GP No you didn’t. I just felt like that’s what you wanted.

DB Mm.

GP But in the end I’m just this sort of nervous construct of who I hoped I am. And that I hope I’m pleasing David.

Laughter

DB I’m very pleased!

Grayson Perry talking to photographer David Bailey about his experience being photographed. From Grayson’s Art Club, series 2 episode 1, around 15:30.

Grayson’s Art Club has been such a lovely watch recently, so wholesome, funny, and touching. Philippa Perry’s presence throughout is a huge plus.

Available on Channel 4 in the UK and possibly BBC Select in the US. Not sure how BBC Select has it though since it’s a Channel 4 show. There are a lot of clips on YouTube as well.

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Identity wrangling

A hand cupping some water from a stream

Cupping the water in Spicey Gill coming down from Ilkley Moor. Photo taken a year ago today.

“You are not your emotions.” Well you are, but you are not only your emotions. And you can choose not to be controlled by your emotions.

Life is made up of micro and macro decisions, and their consequences.

I chose to move back to the US, and now I am grappling with the reality of that decision, amongst other things. It has made life easier in some respects, and harder in others. Do I regret it? No. Will we be here forever? Magic eight ball says 🎱 “Concentrate and ask again”.

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Maintenance is everything

I don’t expect most of the opinions that I hold now to have the same shape in 10, 20. years. I don’t think any of us is the same person every day, identity shifts with every tiny experience, so it’d be a silly thing to suggest or expect.

But one that I think might stick, the thing that might last if I ever wrote a manifesto: Maintenance is everything.

Bikes, physical health, mental health, roads, relationships, furniture, websites, clothing, parks, plants, sewers.

If it’s worth creating/buying/doing in the first place, it’s usually worth maintaining. And I love maintenance, fixing things, so that’s lucky! (Don’t like cleaning so much, which is another major part of physical maintenance, but I’m working on that.)

The problem is that new/shiny is a lot more lucrative than old/broken (more on this). How do we shift that mindset?

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it’s a wild world

A woodcut by Albrecht Dürer of the northern hemisphere celestial globe, from the Minneapolis Institute of Art collection

Albrecht Dürer, The Northern Hemisphere of the Celestial Globe, woodcut, 1515 | (CC-PDM) Public Domain, Minneapolis Institute of Art collection (source)

Came across two tweets today that have jointly taken up residence in my head. This tweet:

i don’t want a career, i want whatever bilbo baggins and the rest of the hobbits had in the shire

And from this tweet, a short clip of Ethan Hawke’s TED talk:

I think that most of us really want to offer the world something of quality, ☝️something that the world will consider good or important☝️. And that’s really the enemy, because it’s not up to us whether what we do is any good. If history has taught us anything, the world is an extremely unreliable critic.

The shire is tiny, quaint, communal. That’s part of why it “works”.

Our world, on the other hand, is enormous and increasingly fractured. We can be exposed to nearly every possible facet and product of humanity via our phone screens. The desire to make a mark is as strong as it has ever been, but it’s hard to do anything that feels of real consequence when you’re effectively a sea-monkey navigating the Pacific Ocean.

You can make it feel smaller by limiting media consumption (traditional and social), but it has to be a daily, conscious action. And the pressure to engage can be enormous depending on your age and career. It just wears you down.

I suppose the goal is a balance, cultivating a smaller, more meaningful personal world (friends, collaborators, family, acquaintances) that you can retreat to and just occasionally reaching out in to the hurricane. But when making a decent living feels tied to the hurricane, or the hurricane seems like all you have left… it’s not an easy truce.

This is why the silent retreats, the off-grid living, the hamlet cottages are so compelling. It’s easy to think that physically moving somewhere less frantic will automatically offer peace, but unless you can temper the virtual arena that makes up your world, it’s just more of the same.

No answers here, as usual. Just more thoughts for the whirlpool.


Edit: I just re-read this and it makes me cringe a bit. It’s so obvious, and it has occurred to me a thousand times before. Why is it an epiphany every time I think about it? I always forget, it’s like Groundhog Day. Maybe this is what mantras are for. Something like the perennial I am enough, but more My sphere of influence, the way I define it, and the way I engage with it is enough. Ugh I don’t know!