Sunday, 29 April 2007

My dominant narrative?

Kim Ayres that rambling, philosophizing and lovely bearded bloke left a very thought provoking comment on my last post: he told me that in order to get over my procastination problem I need to shift my dominant narrative. When I first read this I just thought arrgh... But something started stirring in my little walnut brain. What, I began thinking, is my dominant narrative exactly? And, actually, what is a narrative in this regard, let alone the dominant one? Is it how I see myself, or how I'd like to see myself, or a mixture of the two? Is it inherited; modelled, consciously, on some individual or type I believe to be cool; modelled subconsciously on some individual or type I believe to be cool; entirely imaginary, or a mixture of the above?

This is how I'd like to be able to describe myself: Tall and thin with an innate sense of elegance nicely juxtaposed with a touch of allure. Searingly intelligent but quietly so. Unable to be ruffled: cool headed but warm and friendly. Flexible: someone for whom the business of living is second nature. Able to deal calmly with whatever comes along, preferably while wearing Marc Jacobs, even though appearances aren't important to me. Well versed in the arts without being remotley smug about it. A writer, who always has a notebook to hand - in her beautiful but battered old brown leather bag - in which to jot down life's oddities. A warm host with a talent for rustling up something delicious from half an onion a carrot and some bulgur wheat. Witty. Motherly but not frumpy. On top of things. Nonchalant, in that sylish French way of my imagination. Laid back, which may be the same as French-nonchalant, but with added Johnny Depp.

This is how I do see myself: Scatty, disorganised, frantic, always fire fighting. Short, scruffy, with a few more pounds to lose and hair that defies the brush (see accompanying photo for evidence of this last point). Constantly being taken by surprise though reasonably flexible and often quite calm. Someone who has never been able to find an article of Marc Jacobs clothing that I can both afford and that fits (or that I actually like for that matter, what's that all about?) Though I am the proud owner of a Chloe skirt that I picked up in TK Maxx for twenty quid and happily wear even though it's at least two sizes too big. Well it is dark brown with while spots and little pin-tuck pleats down the front. Someone who never has time to spend on her novel and although I do carry a note book around with me - in a too new but not for long brown bag - I only remember to write anything in it when I'm at home.

Anyone who asks me will be told I love my life, I just wish I was different. I wish my appearance didn't matter to me so much. I wish I could just get on with things and stop procrastinating. I wish my values and desires matched up.

So what is my dominant narrative? The photograph I've added to this post probably says it all. I like this photo: the sun is shining, I look relaxed, the dressing gown hides most of my shortcomings and my hair obscures the rest. I'm on holiday which suggests there's a touch of the traveller about me. Also, I was in the middle of my dissertation, so shouldn't have gone away at all which hints at a devil-may-care attitude. I look like I haven't got a care in the world. I haven't brushed my hair: I like the idea of being a bit tousled, not unkempt but relaxed enough not to bother too much. And flexible, I like to think I am that. This can mean, however, that I never see anything to the end becuase something else comes along and I think 'Ok, lets have a go at this then.' I'm not one for making plans anyway, I like to see what evolves, what comes up, how things go if they're not forced. I like to think my instinct and natural ability will see me through. Mmm... I think this could be where the 'shift' is required. I need to see myself as someone who plans but whose plans are flexible enough to absorb all but the most debilitating contingencies. Not someone who doesn't need to plan. I need to get it into my head that planning and dealing with life's more boring aspects (opening the mail for example) can be good because they leave the way open for true flexibility. The sort that means you can take off at a moments notice knowing that when you come back everything will still be ticking along nicely.

If anyone can point out a desirable role model here, I'd be most grateful. Does Kate Moss always pay her bills on time? Does Johnny Depp ensure his guttering is clear before he goes off on a shoot? Did Gertrude Jekyll have a routine whereby she dealt with all her correspondence every morning before going into the garden?


Eryl Shields said...

Something odd seems to have happened to the text/picture configuration on this post. I do apologise, but have no idea how to sort it.

Mary Witzl said...

Eryl, your description of yourself is so like me I'm frankly astonished. And the way you'd like to see yourself -- well, that's mine too! Except for the tall part; I'd rather be shorter. I only discovered that being tall was a plus thing after the age of 35.

I'm always wearing out hair brushes on my mane (the bristles fall out) and I take frumpiness to an art form, but I still care (just a little) about appearances. I suspect we are legion -- that most of the women in the world want to be a little better than what they are at the very least; more often that not we just want to be what we are not.

And I know where you live now -- Eastgate! I can't get over that. When I first saw your name on Kim's blog, you might have been in Oslo or Bali or Melbourne. And here you are right in my town...

Eryl Shields said...

Hurrah... Ok I'm going to bite the (too shy) bullet and suggest we meet for coffee somewhere in town. Maybe Esther can come along to help break the ice, I'll ask her. Are you free this week any time? I have to go into Dumfries on Wednesday but that's my only solid commitment this week.

I'm such a woos I could conduct all my relationships via the correspondence method.

Carole said...

It seems since I read your post last night, and then reread it this morning, you added two paragraphs. It's a great post and I am busy trying to really understand what a dominant narrative is. But in between trying to figure that out, I so love that you are human. Wonderful.

Eryl Shields said...

Hello Carole. You're right I've added stuff I woke up thinking about, and edited a few sentences. But by doing that the sense of it changed so I had to add and edit further! This is one that could probably be changed ad infinitum as I work out what a dominant narrative is and then endeavour explore my own.

I'm glad you find me to be human: I suppose that is the whole point of blogging, or any other type of interaction: to convince other people that you are indeed a person too.

Kanani said...

If we were to post the two descriptions on Match.com for a fictitious woman who wants a date, which would garner the most dates?

Eryl Shields said...

Now there's a question - my experience of men tells me it wouldn't be the searingly intelligent one. Is that sexist?

Mary Witzl said...

Now, the question is: are you an Adamson's or an Arriety's person? Or -- have you discovered Hammerland's?

I'm generally free during the week after I've gotten the kids off to school. Then after that I sit and read my rejection letters...

Eryl Shields said...

I haven't discovered Hammerlands for anything other than plants and the egg-lady on the way there. Are they good?

If the weather is nice I used to like the Moffat Weavers because they have, or at least had when last I looked, a garden. Otherwise Adamson's are always good for cake.

eg(scotland) said...

Eryl - thanks for stopping by my site. I like yours - and I really like your style of writing. So much of what you say in this post could be me - it's uncanny. Dealing with life's boring aspects? Yeah, dealing with the mail is a real problem. I thought that was why plastic carrier bags had been invented. You know, mail sits somewhere, then moves to carrier bag until such time as there is a panic to find car insurance or some such document at which point all the carrier bags are brought out. I so need to get organised!


Eryl Shields said...

Hello eg, welcome and thanks for taking the time to comment. One of the things I'm really enjoying about this blog thing is how many people seem to be in the same boat as me. It cuts to the interesting stuff without having to go through the 'Hi, what do you do' bit which I've always hated.

Kim Ayres said...

I seem to have struck a nerve somewhere, without a great deal of explanation. I love the idea that something I said sparked a whole blog post and series of comments on a different blog.

I haven't yet managed to distill the ideas I have on narratives and dominant narratives into a few sentences yet. In fact I'm beginning to realise I've probably got a whole book's worth to write.

As a doorway into this though, the idea behind narrative is that it's a story. And that each story has it's own sets of rules and boundaries that you accept while you are reading it. So, in Wind of the Willow's for example, you don't worry about the fact that rats, badgers and moles are all friends and that frogs drive cars.

Now think of every event and relationship we have as a separate narrative. Each has a set of rules we abide by, that don't always apply in other ones. Consequently our behaviour can change from one to the next. We also have different roles in each one. In some we are the hero, in some we are best supporting actor, in some we are a bit part player, in some we are the villain and in some we are a cardboard cutout part of the scenery.

Some of these roles are assigned to us, but many we take on board because we don't question them.

The way we view ourselves defines our dominant narrative, but that narrative defines our experience of the world.

There is no inherent truth in any narrative - each is purely a human construct - but we buy into them. They have a use, certainly, but they don't HAVE to be the way they are.

If you can change your dominant narrative, you can fundamentally change your experience of the world.

Pah. Let's have a coffee and I'll explain it with napkins, shortbread, teaspoons and sugar sachets...

Eryl Shields said...

Kim, you're on this is totally fascinating and also fits into my Nietzsche studies. I should be free sometime next week so will give you a shout.

Meanwhile I'm going to try and dissentangle some of my minor narratives in readyness for exploring the big one.

I guess you've touched a nerve because we all want, at bottom, to live the best lives we can, and just the tiniest hint at a possible way to do that is all that's needed to garner interest.

eg(scotland) said...

Eryl - you hit the nail full on when you say we all want to live the best lives we can. &

Kim - when I first read what you said I though I need the dominant narrative for dummies book - but when I read it again I think I got it. I think that it trying to change mine that has led me to the need for PLAN A.


eg(scotland) said...

Oh - I think I was so caught up in this that my typing went out the window.


PI said...

Nice photo! I don't think your comings are short at all.

PI said...

Just read Kim's comment and it reminded me how I realised the other day that I speak with a different voice in different comment boxes. Is this normal?

Eryl Shields said...

EG ~ Yeah I think we do and it's bloody difficult sometimes. Your plan A is a damn fine way to go.

Pi ~ Welcome and thanks.
Yes it is normal, we change our register depending on who we are dealing with/talking to, so we have a dealing with the bank manager register, a talking to the husband/wife/lover register etc. Mine changes drastically when I'm talking to my son, and his does when he talks to me, even though he's a grown up we both talk as if he is still five.

Isn't Kim clever? He may be my Guru!

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