Breaking up is hard to do

Hey you.

We both know we’ve been growing apart over the past few months. A few unreturned messages here, a few unanswered questions there. I suppose I always knew this day would finally come, and to be honest, I’ve been avoiding it.

But today I decided that I can no longer avoid the painful truth.

I don’t want to feel guilty every time our schedules don’t align. I’m sick of making excuses when I’m running late at work.

Or, truthfully, when I don’t want to spend time with you at all.

I wonder if I’m really just afraid of a commitment. I’ve been accused of that in the past, and it might be true. In my rush to be everything to everyone, maybe I’m nothing to no one.  Maybe I do spread myself too thinly.

But that’s exactly why I’m doing this. I need some time to myself to determine what it is that I really want, and how I want to spend my limited amounts of time and energy.

It feels worse somehow, because I know I was your first, in a lot of ways. I know you trusted my judgment, and you relied on my support. I miss those happier times, when we seemed to be in perfect sync. You left me exhausted, drenched in sweat, wondering if I’d be able to walk the next day – and yet also perfectly content, relaxed and at peace with the world. You opened my mind, heart and body in ways that I could not have imagined were possible.

To be fair to myself, I’m not the only one who’s changed. You seem to be more interested in others, and that’s taken away from the time you could give to me.  Sometimes, it doesn’t seem as though you’re interested in my needs at all.

Maybe one day, we’ll meet again and things will be different.

But for now, it’s time to move on.

Goodbye, yoga studio.  Namaste.



We can be heroes

Despite my best efforts to turn everyone I met into a hero, people sensibly enough did not feel like playing the part thrust on them…Since others would not perform as I demanded or expected, I had to do it myself and act heroically. (Martha Gellhorn)

I started the year reading novels, but recently became addicted to reading biographies. It started when I was presented with a homework assignment to discover “what inspires me”.  Two days later, I walked out of the World’s Biggest Bookstore with a Beatles piano book, a world travel guide, and a biography of Harry Belafonte (did you know he blinded himself with a pair of scissors when he was a child?).

I digress.

There are many life stories out there in print, some more inspiring than others (Kardashian, anyone?).  But the stories I find most compelling are those of people who, despite having incredible talent, intelligence or courage, seem to face the same personal insecurities and questions as the rest of us.  Belafonte is not shy in his memoirs about admitting his lifelong work with a trusted therapist to deal with his emotional problems arising from childhood neglect. Churchill suffered his entire life from debilitating bouts of depression. Gellhorn was bullied as a child.  Yet all of these heroic figures (at least to some) learned to deal with their insecurities and use their gifts to influence and change the world.

I was away from these parts of the interwebs for a very long time, and what I missed the most during my absence was the sharing of stories. To be sure, some blogs are the equivalent of a Kardashian memoir. But many are funny, poetic, charming, and yes, epic. We should not discount how much we all can inspire and learn from each other, every day.

You can always start by checking out some of the lovely people listed on the right hand side of this page.  I guarantee you’ll find something there to inspire you.


The theatre saved my life

We had been chatting in animated fashion for almost an hour, my arms no doubt flapping wildly as I described my love for certain productions I had seen over the past year or so. If this had been a date, instead of a marketing discussion about the theatre-going choices of Torontonians (or non-theatre-going choices, as it is for so many), it would have been one of the better ones I had been on lately. I was in theatre-junkie heaven, comparing notes with two like-minded individuals who worked in the industry and who seemed a little perplexed by my unbridled exuberance – I imagine it’s probably rare to meet a middle-aged financial services executive who attends 50+ theatre productions in a single year. To them, I was like a unicorn that had wandered into their midst, requiring careful study.

Non-date #1 shakes his head slightly with humour and disbelief, signalling the question I knew would eventually arise. “But what is it is it that is driving your interest? Did you grow up attending the theatre?”

“No, not really. It still amazes one of my best friends that I only first attended a Stratford show a few years ago. I had never gone until then, not in school, not once.”

I suddenly feel as though I have to provide a more fulsome response to the puzzled looks on the faces around the table, and yet I know the answer I have isn’t one that I feel I should share with people I’ve known only for an hour, and with whom I would like to engage in a professional relationship.

“A few years ago, I decided that I should take advantage of the arts that we have available in the city, and so, I did.”  The words are uncomfortable coming out of my mouth, because although they are technically true, they don’t feel honest. I sip my coffee and smile. Both non-dates smile and I know they are picking up on my discomfort. They nod, murmur, “that’s great” and move on.

As I walk home from the coffee shop, I wonder what would have happened if I had told them that the theatre saved my life.

No, really, it’s true.

The theatre saved my life.

I’ll try to explain.

I went on a blind date a number of years ago, very shortly after I split with The Ex, and although the date* was utterly forgettable and we were a terrible match, I had an epiphany during the date that ultimately changed the course of my life.

I realized that I was a horribly boring and shallow person. Or, that I was actually an interesting person, but leading a horribly boring and shallow life.

“I like to play tennis, ski, draft contracts and count my mountain of gold,” my date said. “What do you like to do?”**

In the harsh light of day (or, rather, the harsh light of the PATH), I discovered that I didn’t have much to say, or much that I wanted to say out loud.

“I have an active social life.”

“I go out and drink wine with my friends. A lot.”

“I like to write.”

“I used to write.  Sometimes, these days, I get ambitious and send regrettable texts after I drink the wine.”

“I like yoga.”

“Everyone says they like yoga, so if I say it, he’ll probably believe it.”

I was sitting and sipping tea with someone who practically had “DUD” stamped directly into his DNA, but at least he was doing something.  Tennis.  Skiing. Stuff that Rich Guys do. All of my energy was being poured (literally sometimes) into treading water on a never-ending sea of regret and bitterness, clinging helplessly to one rapidly deflating rubber dinghy after another.

I said that I would go places I had never been, but I didn’t go anywhere.

I said that I would experience new things that I had always wanted to try, but I didn’t do anything new.

I realized in that moment that all I had to do was stop kicking, open my eyes, and look around. This is why I say that the theatre saved my life. It was the beacon of light that led me out of the dark and turbulent emotional waters and gave me new territory to explore.  Today I know that as I discovered words and characters and performances I loved, I was really re-discovering myself.  One experience led to another, and another, and…well, you get the picture. My world instantly expanded, and I was hooked. I wanted more.

“Everything is new to me,” I tried to explain to a friend. “I was born yesterday, so just assume I haven’t seen it before.”  That’s how I felt, as though I had just been born. Or re-born, perhaps.  And now I want to see it all.

* The “Date” took place at 10:30 a.m. at the Starbucks in the PATH/foodcourt underneath Brookfield Place. Let’s face it, the only good morning dates are the ones that continue from the night before.

** Note: I may be paraphrasing. But he did like to play tennis.


Legoland by Atomic Vaudeville starts this week at Theatre Passe Muraille!  Legoland is the prequel to Ride the Cyclone – one of my all-time favourite musicals featuring a dead glee club contemplating the afterlife.  Here’s a little taste of RTC:


What happened to the salon?

Toronto-20130331-00332“The idea was that anybody could come but for form’s sake and in Paris you have to have a formula, everybody was supposed to be able to mention the name of somebody who had told them about it…It was an endless variety.  And everybody came and no one made any difference. Gertrude Stein sat peacefully in a chair and those who could did the same, the rest stood. There were the friends who sat around the stove and talked and there were the endless strangers who came and went.”

Gertrude Stein (The Autobiography of Alice B. Toklas, 1933).

You enter the room, greeted by the sounds of laughter, broken fragments of conversation from distant corners, a Cole Porter tune on the piano. More laughter. Introductions are made. Young writers and painters revealing themselves, shaping and reshaping, coming to blows by midnight, embracing by dawn, commingling ideas and colour and words and thought in one single space, confined by four walls.

A salon. What happened to the salon?

I stumbled upon a copy of Gertrude Stein’s “Autobiography of Alice B. Toklas”, a richly humourous and virtually comma-free account of Stein’s years in Paris in between the First and Second World Wars.  The book, of course, is actually Stein’s autobiography in the third person, told from the point of view of her partner, Alice Toklas. It would still be a wonderful book, full of unforgettable prose (such as a description of a woman as having a “George Washington face”), even if it didn’t concern Stein’s many salon guests, such as Matisse, Picasso, Jean Cocteau, and Hemingway. Some of this has been captured in Woody Allen’s beautiful film, Midnight in Paris (great casting of Kathy Bates as Stein, by the way):

I’ve had this conversation with a number of friends, and these are the lofty, cerebral conclusions we’ve made:

1. Salons are cool.

2. Salons are informal. An organized event is not a salon.

3. Salons require direct and personal interaction without editing.  An online community is not a salon.

4. Salons probably require a lot of booze.

5. Salons don’t exist anymore.

Unfortunately, it seems like we’ve become a society of rigid thinkers, so carefully scheduled and planned that we leave virtually no room for the unexpected encounter, for disagreement, for differences of opinion.  We abhore conflict and challenge and critique and colour. We paint our walls beige because if we paint them purple, we might be judged and our condos will lose value and no one will ever love us. We think that art is either a class taken by children or something produced by a select club of BFA-wielding sprites, and opinion is something that is handed to us by television talking heads and professional pollsters. We are lacking the opportunities we once had to take real risks and make real connections with the Other, and because of this enormous gap, we now lack the ability to know ourselves better.

“Then there were quantities of germans, not too popular because they tended always to want to see anything that was put away and they tended to break things and Gertrude Stein has a weakness for breakable objects, she has a horror of people who collect only the unbreakable.”

Next Saturday night, and every Saturday night thereafter, I will display all of my breakable objects, open a bottle of wine, play the piano and see who arrives on my doorstep with a bucket of purple paint.


Why create a new space when you can clean up an old space? It took a while to dust off the cobwebs, but perhaps I can write more about that later. I’m hoping to use this space more frequently over the coming year or so.  Welcome back!


Directionally challenged

I’ve become the kind of person who gets stopped on the street for directions.

“Where is the washroom?”

In the corner of the food court – next to the deli.

“How far is University Avenue from here?”

Two blocks east.

“Where is the nearest subway station?”

You’re standing on it.  The entrance is on the corner.

I think you get the picture.  I clearly look like someone who knows where I’m going and how to get there.

I attended a funeral last week.  It was the first time I had been to a funeral in years, let alone a church. 

I stood around outside the church before the ceremony.  I was uncomfortable.  I was nervous. I was surprised at my discomfort, because while I hadn’t been to a funeral recently, I attended many when I was younger.  I didn’t recall this feeling. 

It was a clear day and the sun poured in through the stained glass windows of the church.  There was a large organ, and music and singing.  And a big, loving family, and many friends.  Kind words were spoken.  Tears were shed, but there was a sense of belonging and an undercurrent of togetherness.  There was grief, but also a kind of joy in the knowledge that one person’s life can continue through others.

And it was then that I realized, taking all of this in — as though I was floating above it — that I realized that I had no idea where I was going.


Now I know why Van Gogh Went Crazy and Cut off his Own Ear

Do paint fumes kill brain cells?

All signs point to yes.

In my infinite wisdom, I decided that I would use a portion of my first real vacation of 2010 (from December 23rd to January 4, 2011)* to paint my new** condo. 

Why did I choose to paint it myself instead of hiring a painter?

a) I am a go-getter with moxie and energy to spare.

b)  I want to experience the pride that comes with engaging in a  DIY project (and anything involving a drill is still out of the question).

c)  I was gouged the last time I hired painters, but was so afraid that they would come back and break my legs with the illegal key copy they undoubtedly made that I agreed to their terms.

d)  I am a $%^&! moron.***

Armed with this logic, I pranced off to my local Canadian Tire to choose my weapons of mass destruction.   All of the walls would be painted a very trendy grey colour named “Veil”.  The accent walls would be painted a very warm and jaunty colour named “Bonnie Bell”.  One cab ride and a glass of red wine later, I was ready to attack.

Now, the first roll of the brush onto a stark white wall is always a bit of a shock.   But Bonnie turned out to be less of a burnt…something and a bit more…well…bright LEGO orange…than I thought.

It was now evening .  “I’ll paint the whole wall and see what it looks like in the morning”.

That night, when the clock struck midnight, I was visited by two ghosts.

"Naeeeeee!!! Ya canna paeeent a wall orrrrrange, ya wee chickeee!"

The ghosts of Colin and Justin roused me from my slumber, and dragged me out into the living room to look at what I had wrought.  

The wall was like the giant monolith from 2001, except that it was orange.

“What have I done, Colin and Justin?!?” I howled, “WHAT HAVE I DONE?!?”  I began sweating profusely.  “Is it too late for me?”

They pointed with cold, yet fabulously manicured hands at the receipt on the dining room table.

“Are you trying to tell me that I have to go back?  Back to the store?”

A paint chip lay next to the receipt.   I knew what I had to do.

The next morning, I trundled off to the Canadian Tire and bought a gallon of “Downing Street”.  Brick red, and very dignified.  Very Churchillian.

*  I am planning on taking my 2011 vacation on or about 2020.

**  Yes, I moved in at the end of April.  Keep in mind that it took me THREE YEARS from move in date to paint a previous condo.  This is relatively quick by comparison.

***  DING DING DING!  We have a winner.


It’s like being a lapsed Catholic, but worse

In 2010, you wrote 28 new posts.

Thanks, WordPress.com Stats Helper Monkeys, for pointing that out to me.

What the hell was I doing in 2010?  I wrote only 28 posts?

Was I curing cancer?  Recovering from cancer?  Building a house? Getting knocked up with triplets?  Appearing on Broadway?  Appearing in Playboy?  Marrying Hugh Hefner?

Well, no.

We think you did great!

That’s very kind, WordPress.com Monkeys, but I think it kinda sucks, actually.  I used to be able to knock out a solid 500 words daily* with no problem, and now…28 posts in 2011?

You haven’t blogged since 2004.

That is a much more honest assessment from a friend.   It’s been far too long.

You should always be writing.  You’re very talented.

Aw, that’s very sweet.  But it’s very time consuming.

To be honest, it’s easier to write when one’s life is a bit of a calamity.  It’s also easier to write when it’s done anonymously.  Lots of juicy, angsty material, and no danger of one’s mother finding out about that time you woke up on the floor of…well, never mind.

In 2010, calamity is a word that pretty much dropped out of my vocabulary.  The edges have smoothed off a little, the skin is a little thicker, and the fog has lifted enough to allow me to see a little farther down the road.  Writing about those things now makes me feel like a twelve-year old writing in a pink diary with a big, fluffy purple pen.  I’d like to think that I’ve matured since I started blogging in 2008, and the writing should reflect those changes.

It’s time to start writing about more interesting things, more often.  But like the rest of my out-of-shape muscles, the writing skills require some careful coaxing and stretching.

Happy 2011, everyone.  It’s going to be an interesting year.


* This includes drunken rambling.