social ecologies of learning: painting trim and learning to work #recovery #mentalhealth #familysystems

July 23, 2014 § Leave a comment

I seem to be doing better these days. I think the writing is helping. I haven’t had any contact with family aside from my grandson and my daughter so I haven’t had to deal with those old triggers. I have been putting the decision about attending the family event on Aug 9 on the back burner. I just compartmentalized it out of my mind. No decision, no fretting. With my grandson here I am entertaining the idea of having his cousins over for dinner on Friday. I haven’t seen them for a long time even though they live nearby. I blame the dissertation, although renovation chaos did not help.

My nephews are great people and I never have to fear that they will do something undermining toward me. They don’t have the inherited attitude that my siblings maintain in their allegiance to my alcoholic father. It is strange, in my family, that there is no option for talking about Dad’s alcoholism or the effects of Mom’s mental illness. These topics are not discussed. In those circles. My nephews, whose father is also an alcoholic, are much more open. The elder brother even came to an al-anon meeting with me.

I have been pretty much closed down socially because I feel this huge pressure to write on the dissertation every evening and on the weekend. I want to change that. Part of the problem is that I privilege attempting to write over housework, so the kitchen often suffers from neglect. I am too embarrassed to have people over when the stovetop isn’t clean.

I have been thinking about the theory I have been working with, that we are part of extended and multi-layered ecologies of learning, and when we actively seek out relationships that strengthen our capacities to perceive new opportunities and we improve our capabilities to bring those opportunities to fruition through our social connections, and how it could make a difference in any field that is concerned with learning. I have been thinking about how we prepare people to look after shelter dogs and rescues, how we prepare parents to raise children, how we prepare the mentally ill, criminals and addicts to build new lives. These are all learning opportunities that are not taught through formal education but are central to the well-being of our society.

These days my grandson is working with me in construction. It is his first job and he has never done construction before. Yesterday he worked with me learning to paint trim. He learned how to gauge the viscosity of the paint and the thickness of applying the paint to get good coverage but avoid drips. By the end of the day he was painting the flat surfaces of the trim and not leaving any drips, moving along at a good rate. Today he is going to learn to paint the edges without making any smudges.

His social ecology of learning right now includes working with me on a job site painting trim. At the same time he is learning how to bandage a blister, how to pace his efforts, how to time his breaks, and how to handle the tedium in a pleasant way. He is also learning how to earn a living and what it means to show up for work everyday.

For whatever reason, no one ever taught me these lessons, I had to figure them out for myself. I am happy the social ecology of learning that I am contributing to my family is making a difference in the financial security of the family. Somehow that makes all my hard work in recovery worthwhile.


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