Thursday, 19 April 2012

Your input is needed and valued

Manifesto Letter Collage by Piia Rossi

When the idea was circulated in the ‘Trailing Spouses' art group by Patty to think up a manifesto for our group, I was wary at first. As I had been unable to take part in so many meetings, I was wondering how much a part of the group I really was. I read up on the other ideas from the trailing spouses to see if I could get some inspiration. One manifesto idea was, Trailing Spouses are open to trying new things and going beyond their comfort zones. I must admit that I am not very good at trying new things. However, I definitely went beyond my comfort zone when I took part in a theatre workshop for the Trailing Spouses organised by member Coralie and her drama teacher, Rob. One exercise was called The Emotion Bus but it was more like a rollercoaster ride.  We each had to take a slip of paper with an emotion written on it, and to board “the bus” and approach the “bus driver” with that emotion in mind. I had the emotion “happy” and although happiness is a familiar emotion it is a different experience when you can go overboard and act ecstatically happy about something as banal as a bus ride, wax lyrical about the colour of the bus and how wonderful your bus driver is etc. There was also something karmic about the exercise as your emotion was mirrored and returned by the bus driver. In short, what you dished out, you got back in spades. As the bus filled up, we were supposed to mirror the boarding emotions, such as anger, fear, depression and love. Most of the time, I was just giggling at the back, but other times I felt genuinely swept up in whatever emotion was coming on the bus. One minute the bus was not going anywhere, because someone felt depressed and suddenly there didn’t seem much point any more, and the next we were heading off into a romantic sunset in a haze of hippy love.

It made me aware of the fact that people don’t display enough emotions in everyday life. Also, you might think the emotions most people are afraid of displaying are negative emotions, but actually I think people are even more afraid of looking happy in public here. As part of my research for my post “Old bag with school bag” I struck up conversation with someone working on the trams here on my journey home, and asked him why all the school children on the tram were heading home at midday. At first his face was a closed book, so closed it had one of those locks and keys I used to have on my diaries when I was twelve. Then the kinks appeared in his official demeanour. His mask melted, and lo and behold a human being appeared, and he actually looked relieved as a big smile enveloped his face. Perhaps only foreigners can get away with this, so I wouldn’t suggest everyone approach stony-faced officials on a whim.  But this brings me to another member's manifesto idea, Trailing Spouses value strength as much as vulnerability, emotions included.

I still can’t pin down exactly what the 'Trailing Spouses' art group is, but I see that as a good thing. Although it has a founding member, Piia Rossi, who is basing her PHD on the project, it seems to have a life of its own and is very democratic. When I think of a manifesto I tend to think of a narrow agenda, but apart from outlawing the “art police” as Piia puts it, there aren’t any rules as to what art can entail. In the group, art has been written, acted out, constructed and even baked.

Another manifesto idea was, Your input is needed and valued which I like because I felt it could be read several ways. Was the input needed and valued by the group or could the countries we find ourselves also value our input and even need us? Well, at least we can rely on the former, T.Ss!  There were lots of other manifesto ideas, but as it is still a work in progress, I haven’t mentioned them all here. And my manifesto idea?  We are not afraid of going off at a tangent.  No, hang on, that sounds more like a manifesto for my blog. Wait a minute, inspire, don’t perspire, no that is just plain silly. There goes the career as a political speechwriter. What about Trailing Spouses are not afraid to laugh at themselves? Is it a collective laugh, or laughing on an individual basis at oneself, but in a collective environment? Stop, just stop right there.

postscript: Just took a stroll through the town and was overwhelmed by cheery citizens of all ages, ready to strike up conversation with me and Henry, so maybe those grim countenances also have a lot to do with the long drawn out drizzly winters in Bielefeld. 


  1. What a nice blog post, Catherine! I certainly hope you feel part of the group. Each member brings something special and different, and YOUR input is needed and valued. I'd like to point out that the manifesto was Coralie's original idea.
    I thought your analysis of the emotion bus was right on. We ARE more afraid of happy public emotions...maybe it's because it encourages more social interaction, and it's safer to be left alone? It was nice to act out some pure, unadulterated emotion, knowing that our emotions would be mirrored by others. In then end, maybe that's all we want.

  2. Thank you so much Patty for your comments. Had a great time at the meeting on Thursday, and after in the pub. It is nice to have this network of friends in Bielefeld, who are so inspiring. I didn't realise that Coralie had come up with the idea! Catherinex