Why I love Calvin and Hobbes

Calvin & Hobbes

Many many years ago, a good friend loaned me a book of comics. It was a compilation of a daily cartoon strip about a young boy called Calvin and his pet (toy) tiger Hobbes. He assured me it was worth a read and he was right.

I started re-reading them last night (perfect bathroom reading material) and have been reminded of why they resonated so much with me back then, and how they still do so today.

Whimsy. Silliness. Pathos.

As a cartoon strip, the key aim is to provide a level of humour. Early on Calvin & Hobbes was built around subtle word play and it hit my ‘comedy’ sweet spot, but over the years as the readership started to get a sense of who Calvin was, it started to take on a wonderful twist.

Firstly there are the recurring characters and moments; the long running gag where Hobbes ambushes Calvin when he comes home from school, Susie Perkins being treated hideously by Calvin, the endless grotesque snowmen, Hobbes’ hunt for tuna.

We were also introduced to the imagination of a small boy, something I could easily associate with given the age gap between my sister and I (for my first 8 years I was an ‘only’ child); Calvin as film noir detective Tracer Bullet, the intergalactic adventurer Spaceman Spiff and the be-caped hero that is Stupendous Man!.

I still daydream from time to time, taking myself out of the drudgery that adulthood can be and off on various flights of fancy, although these days they tend to be more

And then to the whimsy, my favourite moments where the cartoon steps outside of itself to offer a view of the world that at times is sad, at times poignant and usually played out simply. A wonderful mix of visuals and words to convey a simple message, played out with the wonder and awe that a small boy still has.

These latter strips are the ones that stick with me and I as slowly reshape my life, simplifying, reducing negativity and noise as best I can, they continue to resonate.

It’s funny how quickly we forget the sense of awe we had as children, it’s something I’ve been aware of for a while and I do try and see something beautiful (if not awe inspiring) every day in an effort to retain some external view that isn’t about me or my life; I’m very prone to being introspective too quickly (I give you this blog as a perfect example!).

The child-like sense of the wonder of ‘other’, delivered through the keen eye of Calvin’s creator Bill Watterson, is what rings true. A view of the world free of pessimism, with a healthy dose of skepticism, and no small amount of sarcasm seems to match why own. Or at least the one I try and maintain.

It’s what keeps me coming back to these wonderful comic strips. Whimsy. Silliness. Pathos. Not a bad way to lead a life.

 

Further reading:

 

My Sad Captains

I’m a huge fan of Elbow. Partly for the melodies they weave and the sounds they create, but mostly because of the lyrics which are in turn funny, acidic, bold, soaring, and achingly beautiful. Guy Garvey is my favourite poet.

Their songs, whether of sorrow, elated joy, or poignant recognition often strike a chord and I find myself moved far more strongly than I am with other bands. I don’t know if it’s because I’m of a similar age as the band and so the timely reflections on family and friends seem to ring truer than others, I don’t know if it’s a combination of the music and the moment, but at every single gig I’ve been at (seven and counting) there have always been tears (including one great big sobbing mess of a moment thanks to Scattered Black & Whites).

Of course a lot of this is down to my own emotional disposition – I’m quite happy to confirm that I cry at movies – and the attachments I assign to some songs, but that still requires there to be some form of lyrical hook on which I can hang my emotional baggage and Elbow provide those exquisitely well.

I’ve written before about the small group of people I care about the most who form the core part of my life; my family, my partners and my closest friends. I’m consider myself very lucky that my life is (mostly) full of rich partnerships and laughter. Focusing on reducing the negative influences and letting go of things I can’t control have definitely helped, but the basis of my happiness can be found in those relationships.

Count your age by friends, not years. Count your life by smiles, not tears.

And I do, or at least I try.

The importance I place on these aspects of my life are not something I’m fully aware of, so embedded are they, but it’s when a line in a song rings true that it pushes it all, sometimes overwhelmingly, back into my consciousness.

Oh, long before
You and I were born
Others beat these benches with their empty cups
To the night and the stars
​To be here, and now, and who we are

Another sunrise with my sad captains
​With who I choose to lose my mind
​And if it’s true we only come this way but once
​What a perfect waste of time

Those moments with friends, family, loved ones, spent doing nothing much of note are some of my favourites. The odd memories that spring to mind may be formed around an event, but it’s not the R.E.M. gig at Loch Lomond we talk about, but the inflatable sofa we inherited on our way back to a friend’s house and how long it lasted (months).

I guess this all fits in with my wish to simplify my life, removing negativity and noise as best I can to allow me to focus on the now so that I  have more chances to experience those delicious little moments that make me happy.

 

Letting go

Letting Go

The title of my website is largely true. I’m aware of my flaws and foibles and, for the most part, I accept them and I’m happy within myself. However that doesn’t mean I’m not on the lookout for ways to be a happier me.

I’ve discussed in the past how I’ve taken steps to remove ‘negativity’ and recently I’ve extend that to a more introspective practice; I’m trying to making peace with the things I can’t control, I’m learning that letting go isn’t as bad as I think it is.

Bear with me, I realise this will sound very obvious; why would anyone in their ‘right’ mind get uptight, annoyed or upset at things they cannot control? Road rage is an excellent example of this, the energy expended in vitriol and rage is a waste, it won’t change what has happened and, while it may influence the other party involved, you can’t control how.

One bite at a time

It’s easy to say these things, simple words to utter but much much harder to put into practice. However, in accordance with the old adage “when eating an elephant take one bite at a time” I’ve decided to start to tackle this by focusing on small pieces of my life, one part at a time and I’m starting with the one that just so happens to be my biggest source of stress, my job.

For those that don’t know me, I have a bit of a thing for timeliness. Meetings that start late annoy me and it still staggers me that some of the smart people I work with can’t use a calendar to follow a schedule (there is a special place in hell for those that are late for meetings they arranged). What can I do about that? Ultimately, nothing.

Part of me wants to go into a ‘workplace culture’ rant at this point, how ‘broken window’ syndrome has many facets… but I won’t.

In the past, these occurences used to make me angry and annoyed. Part of me took their lateness as a personal insult, part of me didn’t understand how it can be that I can be on time but others can’t. Futile thoughts and I shudder to think how much energy I wasted on such things.

These days, rather than sitting in a meeting room waiting on people to arrive I do one of two things. I either a. suggest to those already in attendance that we start the meeting b. use my notebook and phone to do some quick tasks (reply to an email for example). After 10 minutes I’ll get up and leave, presuming the meeting will be rescheduled (if it happens without me I’ll presume it wasn’t important that I was there anyway, although that’s also presuming that the type of meeting has been clearly communicated in the first place).

Learning to let go

It has thrown up an interesting challenge though. I’m a very driven, goal oriented kinda guy, so being passive about something isn’t in my nature; the two lovely ladies in my life and I have chatted about my need to ‘fix’ things so it’s not just a work thing but it comes into play there more often than not.

But the more I let go of things, the lower my stress levels drop and the better my health seems to be. It’s a balance of course but I think it’s starting to work.

So what?

Why am I doing this? Because I’m fed up being stressed and worrying about things that I don’t need to worry about, things that I want to do but which are frequently impacted by external forces beyond my control. I can’t stop some things happening, I can’t control the emotional response of others, and I need to stop worrying about that quite so much (I will retain a level of empathy of course, I’m not a monster!).

Figuring out which things to stop worrying about hasn’t been easy, I’ve chopped and changed on my approach on this; Do I start with the presumption that I shouldn’t worry about anything and that everything that needs done will get done by someone else, and so anything that is truly mine to do will be escalated to me? Or do I start by choosing the things I don’t think I should be worrying about.

I’m taking things on a case by case basis at present but so far by letting go of some of these things, when coupled with the avoidance of “negative energy”, seems to be making a different.

 

Relationship Significance

Poly Means Many: There are many aspects of polyamory. Each month, the PMM bloggers will write about their views on one of them. Links to all posts can be found at www.polymeansmany.com.

relationship significance

I have ridden the relationship escalator. I got engaged at 20, married at 21 and 13 years later got divorced.

I got engaged because it’s what you did to show commitment, because my partner suggested that it was expected, and because I was happy to do so. Basically I got married because it’s what was expected by society/family.

I didn’t really question any of this, it was all assumed to be just what happened and hey, I was happy so I just went with the flow. It was all very traditional; to mark the engagement, my partner received a ring and I received a watch (not much of a ring kinda guy). To mark our wedding, we both had rings and Louise took (and still uses) my family name.

Time marched on, we got jobs, bought homes and soon another expectation loomed. For years we never really discussed the idea of having children, it just wasn’t something that either of us felt strongly about. Eventually, as we left our early 30s we decided that we wouldn’t have kids at all and told our families of our decision.

That was the first break with “societal expectation” (for want of a better term, if there is one) and possibly set me on the path to where I am now.

Relationship Significance

Skip forward several years, I’m now a divorcee and lucky enough to consider my ex to be a good friend.

Today I’m in two serious relationships, I am in love with two amazing women. We live separately, each of us enjoying having our own space, so (for now) co-habiting is something that we’ve yet to discuss seriously. Without that as an option, how do we mark the significance of our relationships?

Our shared view of polyamory presumes that marriage isn’t really part of the equation* and equally we don’t have the notion of primary/secondary status which marriage could, whether intended or not, imply. Similarly, the length of time I’ve been with Kirsty does not mean that that relationship is more important than my relationship with Clare, it’s just at a different place.

That said, I do find myself wondering about how to mark the importance of my relationships, but is that maybe down to the aforementioned “societal expectations”?

There is also the odd instances where people who don’t know you are poly will ask how your relationship (singular) is going and “hey, it’s been a while now, are there no thoughts of engagement?”

Part of me wonders if I’ve just not quite shaken off all those years of expectations but the nagging feeling that we SHOULD do something persists and if I’m honest, that’s what irks me. Why does part of me feel the need to make any kind of public statement about my relationships?

We have nothing to prove

I no longer believe in the need to have a certificate and a ring to prove my dedication to a relationship. I believe that my love does not need to be noted, or marked, in any way at all.

Yet part of me wants to be able to shout out that I am in love, that I am lucky to have two amazing women in my life. At the very least I would like a reminder that I can keep close.

But those things are for me, for us. There is no more reason for us to have some declaration or signifying act to communicate our relationship status to (our small part of) the world.

Or is there? Whilst “poly” is starting to be noticed in more mainstream channels, perhaps we should be making some more noise, shouting it from the rooftops? Do we have an obligation to polyamory?

Perhaps, but ultimately out relationships are ours and if we do find some way to mark their significance in some way, we will, but I certainly don’t feel beholden to any of the traditional, relationship escalator, displays.

Relationship Dynamics

There are, of course, also other important dynamics within our relationships that I would like to acknowledge over and above any notion of “celebrating being poly”.

I wear an item which marks the dynamic between myself and Kirsty, it’s a constant reminder of that part of our relationship and what it means to us. It’s always there and I like the fact that it makes me think of her.

Clare and I have a different dynamic and I’ve been pondering something, anything, to mark our relationship as well. We’ve not yet figured out what though but no doubt something will avail itself to us.

Defining Significance

One of the reasons I’ve embraced polyamory is because it’s not governed by a set of expectations. My/our relationships are ours to define and we decide what is, and isn’t, significant within our own set of boundaries and constructs.

My relationships are a massively important part of my life and perhaps the simplest way to acknowledge their importance is the fact that I can tell two women, honestly, that I love them.

That feels pretty damn significant to me.

 
* I am not against marriage as a construct, it just doesn’t work for me/us.
 
I will quote the following however:
“Historically, marriage had nothing to do with love. It was a legal contract and was about alliances, getting the right in-laws and adding to your property. Things have changed. Now marriage is about love, or at least it should be.” Sandi Toksvig