I'm not sure that I learned anything this year except how difficult it is to ever learn anything. I suppose that's something. But anyway, here are some other fluffy, dirty lintballs of stuff I scavenged from the filter of life.
1 Most recently gleaned, an insight acquired this week when I totalled my car (a VW R32, bollocksed on Thursday). The tip is: when you stop your car and get out, it is best to put the gear stick in the P position, not D.
2 You will never regret a workout.
3 You know Repetition Compulsion? (The seemingly inexplicable re-enactment of painful real-life experiences in an attempt to gain mastery over them.) Well, trust me, anytime you think: "This time it will be different", it won't.
4 James K. Baxter: "Auckland, you great arsehole. Some things I like about you, Some things I cannot like."
5 Virtue is overrated. In striving to be good you sacrifice much. Being resentful and unforgiving when your standards are not maintained all adds up to what Jung called the "well known bad moods and irritability of the over virtuous".
6 It is inadvisable to take four Xanax and drink two bottles of sauvignon blanc.
7 Unpredictable rewards are three to four times more exciting to dopamine receptors. This is the power of intermittent reinforcement at work.
8 Find ways to reward yourself for performing routine tasks. And if you want to change behaviour, provide a reward not only for successfully achieving the end result, but for making the first, most modest gesture towards it.
9 In life, in love, otherness is sexy but unbridgeable. Art provides a framework to contemplate otherness and at least imagine a collapsing of distance.
10 Trauma is passed down through generations. There are studies which show that children and even grandchildren of Holocaust survivors exhibit greater psychophysiological evidence of stress and are more anxious, with elevated stress hormones, than do ethnically similar children of cohorts who were not exposed to the Holocaust. As Scott Stossel quoted psychiatrist John Livingstone in his recent book: "It's as though traumatic experiences get plastered into the tissues of the body and passed on to the next generation." The trauma doesn't even belong to those children but it affects them. Maybe worth remembering this next time you are talking about Maori poverty statistics.
11 Cups of strong sweet tea with jet planes. Soothing.
12 It can be powerful to work with those choices that we have rather than throw up our hands in despair at those that we do not. (From Life Lessons from Hobbes.)
13 I always thought it was all just generic detergent, but expensive shampoo from the hair salon really does work better than the stuff you get from the supermarket.
14 In weakness and shamefulness is the potential for transcendence, heroism or redemption. "Close to the wound, the gift."
15 "Bon Couer ne peut mentir." The heart can see farther than the head. Esoteric thinker John Stuart Mill was depressed but he said "a small ray of light broke in upon my gloom" and he decided to become less repressed and analytic and to develop his emotional and aesthetic faculties.
16 Jeremy Coplan's work on VFD (variable foraging demand) showed that even brief periods of childhood stress -- such as if a mother has to spend all her time foraging for food -- and even mild strains on the mother-child relationship, can have lasting consequences.
17 Love means to love that which is unloveable.
18 Humanity's driving force is apparently not survival but familiarity. No wonder there is so much boring sex around.
19 Someone else is happy with less than you have.
20 The quietness, emptiness, inwardness and sadness of depression can help you get in touch with the weightiness of life.
21 I have a terrible tendency towards "reaction formation", which means behaving in a way which is exactly the opposite of an unacceptable instinctual impulse, for example, acting like you love someone you actually hate.
22 Being an equal partner in a relationship offers certain advantages unavailable to Daddy's Little Girl. "It is bad to love a ruler" (Fleetwood Mac, Gold Dust Woman)
23 By blaming ourselves we can believe in our life-controlling powers; we would prefer to feel guilty than helpless.
24 I want to be like Stampy Longnose. He has his own Stampy's Love Garden, behind his house on Minecraft with a big pink heart and torches, where he puts up names of people who have told jokes or made him happy. It has Lovely Jubbly Love Love Petals.
25 Stampy Longnose I need a project for next year. I was thinking of going to live in Huntly or becoming a lesbian for a year.
26 Sometimes it just hurts. And pleasure-seeking activities don't work. You can't feel better. All you can do is find the thing you can do that makes you feel "less shit" and do that. (Thank you Louise Thompson.)
27 But when you are feeling at your lowest ebb try playing Katy Perry loud and dancing around with your kids in a way you would never want put on YouTube.
28 My super power is making the perfect crunchy toast.
29 Hope is the power of being cheerful in circumstances we know to be desperate (G.K. Chesterton).
30 I have felt uncannily, undeservedly supported by all sorts of people this year - strangers, neighbours, teachers, Facebook friends, lovely Justine who is married to the Ecoya candle man, Barry Humphries, the lady in the parking garage kiosk at 277 who said she liked my column and empathised about my dog dying. Which leads me to the only important thing I learned this year. You are not alone. Your grieving is part of the human condition.