On turning 43 and reading Bluets

KB collage1

Pictures of Kirstenbosch this past Saturday. Late summer sun shining on Castle Rock. Red balloons in the trees. A quiet bench. I was in a bit of a mood. Still digesting turning another year older (43). Nothing to feel bad about really. Tea on my birthday with family two days earlier. Lovely presents (including some really interesting books, many of them chosen by me).

Admittedly Leah had a complete meltdown on the evening of my birthday. It was a good thing we hadn’t planned to go out. Screaming. Refusing supper, bath, bottle, bed. Climbing out of her bed. Telling L and I to “Go away!” It’s all relative of course. I told L that I thought our daughter had the beginnings of a mood disorder. “This is not normal! Our daughter will end up with Bipolar.” L in tears.

So to Kirstenbosch on the Saturday. By myself for an hour. A book (Bluets) to finish but I was disappointed. I loved parts of this book but as a whole it was disappointing. As a memoir there was so much she left out. As a meditation on the colour blue and what it meant to her in that period of her life it was amazingly powerful but also …. skimpy perhaps? It didn’t fit the mould of memoirs that I’m used to.

But as always, just thinking about this book makes me appreciate it more. And I know that when Litlove reviews it, I will see it again in a whole new light. But on Saturday I was grumpy. And the book didn’t help. I think she captured the intangibility of the colour blue and also the intensity of emotion. (Very crude plot summary: she was a bit depressed at the end of a relationship.) The result was a disturbing but also inspirational read. We love (people, colours, things) and then those things disappoint us. Life goes on.

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8 Responses to On turning 43 and reading Bluets

  1. smithereens says:

    happy belated birthday! Sorry about the disappointing book. My son still has meltdown on birthday celebrations when he realizes that it’s not his own and he’s not the center of attention. I hope it won’t make him bipolar ;)

    • Pete says:

      Thanks smithereens! I’ve got a lot more perspective on those tantrums now and I’ve been reassured that they don’t signify a mood disorder. Always reassuring to hear that other people’s children also have tantrums.

  2. litlove says:

    I can perfectly see that it’s not the book to read when things are not quite right in the world and a more solid, transformative emotion like solidarity or sympathy would be much more satisfying. I found your perspective on it very interesting, in fact, and I’m glad you wrote about it. As for the tantrums, sigh, they are alas oh so normal, and the parental horror, confusion, guilt and frustration they elicit is too. I don’t know if it will make you feel better or worse, but my son aged 3 went through a period of refusing to poo (long story why, but it came about after a sudden illness that scared him). The tortures we went through! And it was one of those not normal/normal things that eventually went away of its own accord. Bringing up a child makes me constantly aware of what a narrow corridor of acceptable behaviour I live in myself…. Don’t beat yourself up whatever you do; we’ve all been there!

    • Pete says:

      Hi Litlove, thanks for the reassurance re the tantrums. I’d also forgotten that about your son and now that the toilet-training stage is slowly starting, I can begin to imagine how difficult that must have been.

      As for Bluets, I’m really looking forward to your take on it. I’ve found one quote which I really love and so I’m putting it here to encourage others to read also. I’d hate my grumpiness to put people off Maggie Nelson’s excellent book. Here’s the quote:

      “Keep in mind the effects of the various sources, volumes, light-sources, films, expanses, degrees of solidity, solubility, temperature, elasticity, on colour. Think of an object’s capacity to emit, reflect, absorb, transmit, or scatter light …”

      That made me think of the connection with emotions as well and how multi-faceted and unique they are for each person.

  3. litlove says:

    Oh and happy birthday!! Sorry, got so caught up in other things (I turned 44 last month and have decided just to live for the presents…)

  4. You are not alone with the temper tantrums, Pete! I think your profession might make you worry somewhat unnecessarily about mood disorders and such – I’m the same way when it comes to physical issues since I handle PR for a women’s hospital. E has had nights like that and I have spent more than one evening on thecouch in her room, ingorning her while she banged on the crib, letting her wear herself out. If it’s not during bedtime we do tend to let her have her tantrum, even leaving her to go to another room. She has just recently started asking us for her “bear” while she has a tantrum and is beginning to self soothe in that way – just in the last couple of weeks. When it comes to straight up good parenting advice, I recommend the website askmoxie.org – maybe check it out. I’ve found the advice there incredibly helpful. And happy belated birthday!

  5. DoctorDi says:

    Pete, hi…oh, it’s so nice to be back here, checking in on you and everyone else. Grad emailed me and I realised with a pang how long it had been since I’d read any of your blogs, and how much I miss you all. I think I do actually miss writing my own blog, too, but I don’t feel ready to go back to it. Things are still tumultuous. I’m still in need of something I haven’t been able to identify or find. But I wanted to say a very, very belated happy birthday, and to reassure you that a) my birthdays are often fraught too; I think it’s very common to argue with loved ones precisely on those days we’d hoped to enjoy and b) the tantrums are normal. Oh, so very normal. Oh, so very frequent. Oh, so very draining. Oh, yes.

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