Archive for the 'stuff' Category

08
Apr
13

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.

 

31
Aug
10

Thirty six

I am old enough to

think seriously about my health

draft a will

draft a sonnet

get a mortgage

buy my own drill

learn how to use a drill

avoid those “you’ll regret the tattoo when you’re older” conversations

raise a child

never raise a child

save for my golden years

squander it all on a handful of magic beans

call my broker

answer all the questions on Jeopardy

go to bed after Jeopardy

tell the neighbours to keep it down, I’m trying to get to sleep

sleep with you

howl at the moon

wake up the neighbours

ask for forgiveness

stop apologizing

go for the really expensive shoes

get comfortable

walk myself home

run away with the circus

do the washing up

sweep it under the carpet

question the way the boss runs the show

panic about running my own show

run the show

search for the pot of gold

pick up the cheque

watch it all come together

watch it all come apart

wonder what will happen next

stop worrying about what will happen next

***

30
Aug
10

A few reminders

Take people at face value.  Give others the benefit of the doubt.  Stop looking for hidden meanings, and worse, stop presuming what those hidden meanings are.  If you have a question, ask it openly.  Politely, but openly.

Stop being afraid that you will look stupid.  Speak up.  The only people who aren’t afraid of looking dumb are…dumb people.  So you’re probably safe.  What you think means something and has value, even if no one else recognizes it at the time.  Even if you don’t recognize it at the time.

If you’re going to do something – work, play or otherwise – do it 100% and don’t get caught up in distractions.  Especially, don’t distract yourself.  Get the distractions out of the system, take a break, write, or whatever needs to be done to break the distraction.  And then get back to it.

Follow through.  Finish.  Go all the way.  Going halfway is as much of a failure as never starting.  Commit.

Forgive people.  For the big things and the little things.  And forgive yourself.  Life is too short to keep beating ourselves up over our shortcomings and wrongdoings.  Maybe you don’t want that person in your life anymore, and for good reason.  But forgive them and move on.  If they demonstrate change, give them a chance.

If an action you take makes you feel badly, makes you feel like a bad person, it’s a sign that you need to change your behaviour.  Or, at the very least, acknowledge your bad behaviour.  It’s not a time to start finding excuses or ways to blame the victim of your behaviour.  It’s an indication that you need to take a long, hard look at yourself, and understand that your actions have consequences.

Always try to leave situations and places and people better and stronger than when you found them.  Govern your actions accordingly.

Take care of yourself physically and mentally.  Don’t put off the important work that needs to be done to ensure that you have the energy you need to live the life you want to live.

Don’t be afraid to be alone.  When you’re alone, don’t spend it inside a bubble of unworthiness and self-doubt.  Use the time productively, to engage in activities that you enjoy doing by yourself.  Figure out what these things are and enjoy them to the fullest.  Don’t give into the ridiculous notion that you will somehow be alone forever, because this has never been the case, and will never be the case.  You are not living on a desert island.

Enjoy your life.  There are so many things to enjoy and be thankful for.  Your life is intrinsically privileged and good.  Don’t seek ways to make yourself unhappy because you want to somehow vindicate an idea that “it can’t possibly be this good or last this long”.  Breathe.  Laugh.  Enjoy.

20
Jun
10

I would never disappoint you, my dear

My dear friend Ray kindly informed me that I’ve been shirking my responsibilities around here (i.e. entertaining him), and so he begged threatened asked me nicely if I would please complete the following questionnaire.

So, without further ado…

When were you happiest?

The first night that I slept in my bed in an actual bedroom (with a door!) in my new condo.  That was about two months ago.

What is your greatest fear?

Waking up and finding myself living in a subdivision somewhere in the north end of Brampton, married to my high school boyfriend, pregnant with my fifth child.  Oh, the HORROR!

What is your earliest memory?

Sitting on the kitchen counter, bawling because I had just caught my finger in my Nana’s spinning wheel.  Or was that an episode of Little House on the Prairie?  No, I think that was me.

Which living person do you most admire?

Stephen Lewis.  When others have given up hope, he continues to fight.  Make a donation.

What is the trait you most deplore in yourself?

My incessant need to over-analyze every situation.

What is the trait you most deplore in others?

Pessimism.

What was your most embarrassing moment?

There are so many, how could I pick only one?

What is your most treasured possession?

My home.  Everything else could disappear.

What do you most dislike about your appearance?

My forehead.

If you could bring something extinct back to life, what would you choose?

Dead Like Me.  Sheer brilliance.

What is your favourite smell?

Why can’t they make a cologne that smells like baking cookies?

Cat or dog?

Neither.

What is your guiltiest pleasure?

The question implies that there are pleasures that make me feel guilty.  So…nothing. 

What do you owe your parents?

An apology for that time a friend of a friend vomited on the living room carpet.  Other than that, I don’t feel I can be held responsible for the decade when the aliens invaded my body (aka the teenage girly angst years).

To whom would you most like to say sorry, and why?

See question above.  Also to the whiny prat at LaGuardia last week who almost cried when I accidentally took his cab.  Drama, drama, drama.

Who would you invite to your dream dinner party?

First, someone who can cook, because I’m not doing it.  Possibly Susur Lee (who totally redeemed himself in my books during Top Chef Masters) or Art Smith (because if he’s good enough for Oprah, he’s good enough for me, dammit).   Guests will include…you know, I was going to think up a list of famous people, but I think I’d rather invite all of my fabulous, interesting friends.  I am truly lucky to be surrounded by people who are fascinating and intelligent.

However, my date will be Don Draper.

Keep your hands off him, Sal. He's mine.

What is the worst job you’ve done?

I could say scooping ice cream or sorting specimens at a medical lab, but it was actually practicing law.  At least at the lab, the shit was contained in little jars.

If you could edit your past, what would you change?

I would seriously reconsider the Ziggy Stardust haircut of 2001.

When did you last cry, and why?

About a month ago, because I thought I might have cancer.

What is the closest you’ve come to death?

At a funeral home, next to a dead body, I hope.

What keeps you awake at night?

Sex, duh.  Or indigestion.  Sometimes both.

What song would you like played at your funeral?

“You Can’t Always Get What You Want” by the Stones, of course.

How would you like to be remembered?

Well, this questionnaire certainly took a sharp turn towards morbidity.

As a highlight in everyone’s life. 

Captivating conversationalist. 

Loyal friend. 

Great lover. 

Fearless writer.

Tireless philanthropist. 

Patron of the arts.

Too much?  I think not.

12
May
10

On Writing, Redux

char·la·tan

–noun
a person who pretends or claims to have more knowledge or skill than he or she possesses; quack.
—Synonyms
impostor, mountebank, fraud, fake, phony.
***
If you haven’t visited the Young Centre for Performing Arts, you really should go.  It is a beautifully converted space, large enough to make you feel comfortable, but intimate enough to see the expressions on the faces of the actors.  The former home of Tank Houses 9 and 10 of the old Gooderham & Worts Distillery is now home to Mamet and Miller and – last night – Friel.
The three troubled characters who inhabit The Faith Healer tell their stories in long, uninterrupted monologues.  I use the plural form of the word quite deliberately – there is in fact only one story, but told from such different points of view that the audience is left wondering what really happened, and who – if anyone – is telling the truth.
Or maybe they are all telling the truth.
The background notes on the play state that Friel described the play as a “metaphor for the art, the craft of writing”.
“A writer sets out to create a fictional world – a lie – and to fill it with as much truth as she can find in herself and express.  Sometimes, magically, it coalesces and audiences are touched.”*
About a week ago, I explored the work of Spalding Gray, a man who freely admitted that although his stories were based on his own life experiences, these experiences were clearly viewed through his own particular lens, filtered by his own brain, and quite possibly altered over long periods of time. 
Have you ever found yourself wondering if an event really happened in the way that you remember? 
We can go through life feeling certain that we know the characters of other people, that we know ourselves, and find that others have a completely different perspective.  How is it possible to know every side and angle to another complex human being?  We see only what that person chooses to show us and we see only what we want to see.
Perception.  Filter.  Distortion.
Writers go one step further.  We have the audacity, the narcissistic tendency, the burning need…to write it all down.  We are not content with viewing and filing away, we instead choose, in our own charming form of madness, to tell the story.  We challenge the audience by laying ourselves bare and saying “Here is what happened, here is what I think, here is my voice.  Make of it what you will”.
Friel also said that “there is an element of the charlatan…in all creative work”.
Quacks.  Mountebanks.** A person who pretends or claims to have more knowledge or skill than he or she possesses.
Yes, that sounds about right.
***
As a side note, it’s getting a little depressing to continually see only older audiences at the theatre.  Most companies, like the amazing Soulpepper, offer heavily discounted tickets to younger patrons.  So, what are you waiting for?
***
* From the Playbill Background Notes, beautifully written by Soulpepper Associate Artist Paula Wing.
**  A word I am trying desperately to fit into everyday conversation.
03
May
10

And Everything is Going Fine

It occurred to me as I was viewing “And Everything is Going Fine” – a documentary by Steven Soderbergh about his friend Spalding Gray – that Gray may have in fact been the very first blogger.*

The late (great?) Spalding Gray

This is probably not an original thought.  But it was the first time it had occurred to me.

I was not a huge Gray fan, as most of his famous monologues had been delivered while I was still a child.   But in 2004, when he was declared missing and presumed dead, I was intrigued.  Soderbergh thankfully did not venture into this dark territory, although it was hinted at throughout the film. 

Hindsight is always 20/20, but the moments of thoughtful sadness, the shy vulnerability, and the raw fear of slipping into the same suicidal tendencies of his mother were plainly evident behind the witty veil of neurotic humour.

At one point, as Gray described his art as a kind of “reliving” of his life experiences, I found myself almost yelling at the screen.  “That’s not good for you, Spud!  No one should dwell so long on his or her own life.”

“I guess you’re right, it’s good to let things go,” my companion responded when I made this exclamation outside the Bloor Cinema after the film.

But it’s not just about letting things go.  That answer is too simple.

Writing can be cathartic.  It can be a kind of release, a way of spilling forth words and ideas and feelings that cannot stay contained.

As I’ve said in the past, it can also feel as though one is bleeding onto the page.  There is a fine line between the healthy release and the flow of words that once started, cannot be stopped, cannot be staunched, leaving the writer feeling shaky and weak. 

For years, Gray bled his life onto the stage for the audiences.   He was the story, and the story was him.  His life was his source of inspiration, in a blurring of life and art that is likely very familiar to many bloggers (or at least the good ones – you know who you are).   The writer gives a piece of himself to the reader, cuts himself in the process of sharing an intimate, sometimes terrible life experience.  “Look at me,” the writer says.  “I am bleeding.” 

“I have also had that experience,” the reader says.  “I am bleeding, too.  We share these wounds.  We bleed together.”

The moment of connection between writer and the audience is powerful, humbling, sometimes healing, but it takes the toll on the writer who uses himself as a source of material.  In my opinion, it cannot be sustained for any length of time without causing serious damage to the writer.

After Gray’s accident in 2001 left him with terrible neurological trauma, he was unable to tell the story.

“If you knew that you would only degenerate and would never again be able to pursue your life’s passion, would you end it?” I asked my companion. 

That is a question that can’t be answered in the hypothetical.  The answer will only come in the moment of clarity.

***

It is in moments of illness that we are compelled to recognize that we live not alone but chained to a creature of a different kingdom, whole worlds apart, who has no knowledge of us and by whom it is impossible to make ourselves understood: our body.

Marcel Proust

* There is still time to attend a documentary at the Hot Docs festival in Toronto – running until May 9th.

02
Nov
09

So, it turns out that Carole King was right

I know that all of my loyal chickens readers undoubtedly think that I live some kind of glamourous lifestyle.  It’s all about the drama, the friendly neighbourhood drug dealers, the shopping, and of course, the brunch.  Life in the big city, and all that.

Believe it or not, it’s not always so glamourous. 

Yes, that is my tongue, firmly planted in cheek.

This weekend, while en route to a fabulous brunch in a fabulous Mercedes with a fabulous friend, my old foe motion sickness decided to rear her ugly, nausea-inducing head.

She and I go back a long way.

After decades of dealing with, and mostly hiding, this affliction, I am acutely aware of every phase of nausea.  I have mastered the technique of deep breathing and the zen-like focus required to ensure that no accidents occur.  The goal is always to hide the affliction from others, largely because it causes others to react with panic.   The prospect of projectile vomiting  has a tendency to bring out strange responses in people.  Go figure.

I’ve vomited in cars, out the door of cars,  buses, (not boats, but hey, that could change), back alleyways, major city streets, into napkins, bags, towels, and well, probably my hand.

I cover up the shame I feel at receiving so much negative attention by laughing and waving it off. 

“I’m fine, I’ll be fine,” I protest meekly, as I die a little inside.  I remember telling jokes to an entire bus load of high school kids in the south of Spain, making them laugh in between throwing up into a hastily-obtained trash can.  Keep ’em laughing, I say, and maybe they won’t hate you quite as much for retching violently for an hour on the way to Morocco.

It is difficult to explain the shameful feeling.  The feeling of being a child again, feeling so incredibly sick, and then being antagonized for it.  For being the one who makes difficult, or completely ruins a family outing.  Always being the one child left standing with an adult at the theme park as the others run off to enjoy the latest barf-inducing ride.

Feeling nauseous makes me feel weak and vulnerable, and so I do my best to never mention it, and to hide it at every opportunity.  I would rather stop talking and stare out the window of the car for two hours, silently repressing sickness than admit to you that I am not well.

Yesterday, I somehow managed to make myself so ill that I had to physically leap out of the Mercedes at a stop sign, for fear of being sick, and needed almost an entire hour at my friend’s house to get rid of the sickly shakes and cold sweat, before I could even think of eating the beautifully prepared brunch.

I felt ridiculous and pathetic as my friends kept an eye on me with that look that I dread, the one I interpret as confusion and pity.  Eventually, I recovered, ate something and had a good time catching up.

On the way home, my driving companion and I decided that I was well enough to run a few errands. 

“I knew that something was wrong with you, I just didn’t know what it was.  You just weren’t acting like yourself.”

“I’m so, so sorry.  Really I am.  It’s so embarrassing.”

“Don’t be sorry!  We’re your friends and we care about you.  If you don’t tell us what’s wrong, we can’t help you.”

That may have been one of the best things that anyone has ever said to me.  It may have been one of the best moments of my life.