Do You Like... Stuff?

Extra credit if you get the title of this post. (Leave a comment if you know the reference.)

When we're kids we pursue what we like. We read books that interest us, create games with friends, and just generally fill our days with what suits us. For me, this meant becoming obsessed with an electronic typewriter my mom brought home from work. I actually taught myself to type. And then I wrote stories on it. I also did things like try to learn to play the piano on a small toy one (my parents later conceded with proper lessons and a real piano). I was a weirdly prolific diarist and letter writer and I would create "magazines" by cutting out pictures from catalogues and magazines. I also rode my bike and climbed on jungle gyms - like a more normal kid - but there was usually a narrative involved in these activities too.

But then we grow up. I remember the conscious decision I took when leaving for college to stop keeping a journal. I wanted to "experience" things and not just reflect on them. And I took some classes that I wasn't that interested in to push myself and branch out. And there have been many times in my career where I've focused on what I think I should be doing instead of what I wanted to be doing. Not that these things are bad -- in fact, they must be a necessary growth phase.

There's a school of thought, however, about focusing on what inspires us. From Leo Baubauta's no goals philosophy to Steve Job's explanation that a caligraphy class taken in college inpired the fonts on the original mac computer, the idea is that we can't always see where our interests will get us. It's the process that gives us the joy along the way and we can often only connect the dots in hindsight anyway.

So I've been paying attention recently to what "stuff" interests me. I suppose you could say this blog is part of the process. I was almost ready to ditch it a while back. Not feeling like I had that much more to say on the physio stuff (since I'm so much better these days) and feeling a bit stuck in general. And then I thought, well, why can't I just use it to write about what interests me right now, no matter what it is? If people want to read it, grand, and if not, at least I'm still exercising my writing muscle.

In addition to reading what I like, writing about what interests me and even considering taking up the piano again, I've also begun to notice some new things. Here are a few that have taken me a bit by surprise:

The hub and I have become addicted to the luxury of having fresh cut flowers in our flat. There's an amazing flower stall outside of the exit of the Clapham Junction station that we both have to pass on our way home. And we often talk about the flowers we see there and have experimented with buying different combinations. I've been also trying to learn the names of what we're buying as I know absolutely nothing about flowers. Here's a photo of one of my favorites. We call them the brain flowers. And in fact, that's almost what they are called, often referred to as the brain celosia or celosia cockscomb, because they also bear a little resemblance to a rooster's comb.

The way people used to live.
When we went on vacation to Ireland last autumn (and also learned something about Halloween), we visited this amazing house in Killarney, called Muckross House, which is a 19th century Victorian mansion. The hub was not so keen to take the tour (he hates tours) but I was really intrigued, so he conceded. And I was absolutely fascinated by the period decoration of the main rooms in the house and the information we learned about the occupants and how the house itself worked -- all the bells that rang down to the servants in the basement were still there. For some reason, I love the minutiae of everyday life in the past. What did people eat? Where did they sleep? The more boring and routine, the better.

But I'm also interested in people's stories. In fact, the owners of Muckross House nearly bankrupted themselves preparing for Queen Victoria's visit in 1861. That's why biography has been a genre I've discovered in my 30s and haven't turned back (although in retrospect I did like biography as a kid, even though it was usually a school assignment to read it). The first recent biography I read was Josephine: The Rose of Martinique by Andrea Stuart about Napoleon's wife. I only read it because I was taking a non-fiction writing class and my teacher was the author. But it gave me the bug. I think it's the combination of everyday life combined with the fact that truth really can be stranger than fiction. And it also reminds me that no matter how much our lives change with technology and indoor plumbing, they always stay the same. I believe that what motivates, entertains and strikes fear in our hearts is a constant, no matter in what century you live on this earth.

So, what "stuff" have you discovered you like recently? Are you paying attention?

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  1. This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

  2. Biographies and flowers--brilliant! Both slightly indulgent yet relatively inexpensive! I think the Cox comb is a sign that summer is ending--let's hope not as it's barely begun!

  3. I suppose that's the next step - learning which flowers are actually in season! Thanks for stopping by and the comment :)

    I like Stuff. Stuff is Life.
    Great Post!
    What's the reference?

    1. It's Ralph Wiggum's unsuccessful chat-up line to Lisa Simpson (good episode).


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