Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Moving Forward

I wanted to round out my year of postings at the number 24, as this is my ‘lucky’ number, but, after thinking about it, I realized 23 seemed to be my lucky number this year, based on a number of timely events. In a naively superstitious way, I somehow cling to things like numerology, astrology, and remembering key dates (for years at a time) as methods to help me explain the sometimes random-chaos that seems to find me in my life.
But here it is—I’m back to number 24, whether I want to be or not.

I talked about reflections in my last post about Christmas spirit. About change, and learning, and growth. Something I notice that I didn’t reflect on was beliefs.
And the spirit of beliefs. And why we have them. And what they mean to us.
I’m not talking about how I ‘believe’ (again, naively) in playing number games to soothe my overactive imagination; I’m talking about that scary word that gets people all worked up at the best of times: Faith.

I have a belief in Faith, and how it can restore you, and how it can make life more bearable, if you can learn to let it. It doesn’t have to be the “scary” kind of faith, that makes people all over the world do incredibly odd, sometimes frightening, often un-understandable things, but rather that inner part of yourself, one that you probably don’t unveil too often, of things that you believe, no matter what anyone says, no matter what proof you may be given that they are not true, things that you FEEL are true. These feelings may sway sometimes in the face of unexpected circumstance, but once you regain your footing, it seems unshakable.

What I believe.
I believe in life after death. I believe this despite having no hard evidence to “prove” this belief of mine, this ‘theory’, other than attending many masses at the Catholic church; I mean that this is a belief I have that is separate from my religious background, although I’m sure it certainly is influenced in part by this background.
I can’t really define this concept though, when talking about life after death. This concept is strictly something I FEEL. Is that what faith is? I feel that you are given the gift of life, to live out here on the revolving-door planet called earth. I feel that you are to make the most of the life you are given, design yourself a place within the framework of family, talent, and circumstance. I believe in being a good person, in good behaviour. I believe, (naïve, superstitious Catholic belief # 173) that you will, at some point, either by God, or Karmic law—be rewarded for said good behaviour. However, I ALSO believe that doing the right thing is, in itself, the only reward needed, even if it sometimes thankless. Meaning; you contribute to an overall, universal feeling of “wellness” when you manage to do the right thing. Whether or not you know it.

I believe, when the time is up for you, meaning, you arrive at your death date, one that I also believe is pre-determined way ahead of time; you die, physically, and your physical ‘earth’ presence is finished. However, all of those things that you perfected about yourself throughout your life, those qualities that make you You, the memories that you constructed with those you loved, who loved you; all of those things do not simply vanish. They can’t. I can’t believe that could ever be the case. I constantly run into people who say things like “I don’t believe in all of that”. All of that? ALL OF WHAT? That’s ALL THERE IS, when you get right down to it.
To me, anyway.

All of the things that make you You.

to be continued….

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Christmas Spirit

What is Christmas Spirit and how do we get it?

It’s not like the H1N1 virus, it doesn’t seem to spread at random. As far as my own beliefs go, Christmas is not a “Hallmark holiday”; it’s an important milestone in the Christian calendar, and other religious events (Kwaanza and Channukah for example) also occur around this time of year. Along with the winter solstice, and the general foreboding of more “Canadian” weather, it allows us to slide into more months of cold weather with a clear outlook; a resolve to do better, be better, and live better than the previous year. For me, Christmas spirit is a kind of optimism to believe that bad times can be overcome, a kind of calm blanket that comes over me, when I would rarely describe myself as calm.

I’ve heard a number of friends talking about how, this year, they have had trouble finding ‘the spirit’. What/where/who is this ‘spirit’ and how do we harness him/her/it?
For some it’s the comfort of familiar rituals—card-sending, baking, endless shopping, visiting friends and family, travel, going home. For others it’s about their children, and creating happy memories for them. For some Christmas is a bittersweet time, one where they remember the past, thinking of people who are no longer with them to enjoy this time, and from there run straight into the mysterious gamut of emotions that come into play at this time of year. Regret, reflection, restoration. Nostalgia, wistfulness, refreshment.

For me, it allows me to reflect on the year gone by, the good times, the tougher times, the level of personal growth I’ve endeavoured to achieve; what I want to achieve in the coming year, a where-do-I-want-to-go-from-here? kind of taking stock.

This year seemed to zig and zag in a peculiar, extraordinary way, and I found myself often unable to keep up with the range of emotions I needed to psychologically deal with the situations I was facing.

There were some amazing highs, and also some very sad lows, and it is the contrasts between the happy events (the wedding of a dear friend, re-uniting and ultimately, moving in with, my current boyfriend, another dear friend giving birth to her first child); and the very sad events (the loss of some very special people and the effect of that on me and on those around me, my sister’s closure of a very difficult time, people around me losing jobs and hope). Through the yo-yo up-and-down of it all I tried my best to not allow panic to seep in, because as I've dwelled on before: you are challenged to handle the difficult events in life with character and face them with bravery, but for me, I often like to self-sabotage the good events, fuelling the fire and belief that everything and anything will go wrong if it can.

I reflect on what I’ve Learned: what have I learned this year? That no amount of good behaviour can offset bad events. That it's simply not possible to control fate. That we are making our way through a city, on whatever street/subway line/sidewalk we choose, but we will end up at a destination that has already been planned. I think if ever there was a year that this has been proven to me, this was it. I've always suspected that this was the case, and I think that I have mentioned it in previous postings.

I reflect on what I would like to Change: thinking before reacting, forgiving before writing off, listening more than speaking. Being more tolerant of everyone in my life, and being tolerant of those who aren't. Being less afraid of Change itself. Which sometimes means jumping in with both feet, straight into the puddle, and maybe getting a bit wet.

I reflect on Relationships. Where can I do better? How can I be more understanding, kinder, a better friend, a better listener, what else can I give to those I love to add dimensions to how we connect and interact?

I reflect on what I've Read: what did I read this year that has stayed inside my head? What do I want to read more about? ( I promise another entry that will deal with this very subject).

Perhaps Christmas allows us all to kick off the old year, with all it’s nuances and burdens (real and imagined), and, despite what may have happened throughout , we somehow summon up the strength and sanguinity to really believe in the future, despite the past. At least I do anyway, perhaps in the naïve belief that positive thinking really does work. In some respects, it has to.
So visit people. Open your home to those who haven't been there before.

Renew your spirit.

Thursday, December 17, 2009


I've come to a number of realizations over the past week or so, none of them are necessarily carved in stone, and a great many of them are strictly my own opinion, based on repeated experience, and on the experiences of others around me.

One has been that I have never been, and never will be, like most people, try as I may.

When I see people laughing and talking in a restaurant I wonder if they are the type of people who are like that all the time. I know they can't be, but still--I feel removed from the basic experience, even though I have laughed and talked in many restaurants in my time, and will continue to, I suppose, for a long time to come. I've had the fortuitous good luck to manage to meet and surround myself with people who are the same way--who look at life in a real way, who have had to make their own way in life, often without the benefit of the guidance of a mentor or adviser.

Another realization I have had is about love. You have love in your life almost all the time, even if there are times when it doesn't feel like it. You often yearn for love you HAD more than love you HAVE. You often don't get to stay put with the 'love of your life' if there is such a thing, if you're lucky enough to have such an event occur. You might marry the life of your love, as I have re-arranged it in my head. Meaning, you marry someone you love, that much is true, but on the other hand, you also may marry this love because you can LIVE with them, ie, create a LIFE.

The "love of your life" on the other hand, sometimes has the side effect of there being so much love, you can't live life with them. It's just too much. Maybe you're too much the same person, or maybe you want them to be a certain way, and it can't happen. So you love the life you create with another, simpler love. The realization I have come to about this is that it is not nearly as depressing as it sounds. The attainment of more love with your life person is a constant dangling carrot, and it motivates you to try harder.

Years ago I read an amazing article about 'the human condition' for lack of a better turn of phrase. It was written by a woman whose husband had sustained a brain injury, and she was living out the last few months, weeks, days of having her husband cognitive and aware of himself. He was, as a result of the injury, going to lose this ability. She talked of wanting more time with his aware-self, and her longing of the past times they had had together, that simple, routine life they had built as a twosome, without giving a thought to how special it was. She came to the conclusion that it is that "longing" that makes us what we are. The longing for something more, someone more, another goal, something we can work toward, attain, and triumph over. She defined it as part of being human. It was a thought that had never in my entire life occurred to me, and I have to say, it left me wondrous.

I see the parallel between the love of your life and your actual life, the one you live everyday with everyone else, parking the car crooked, the heal of your shoe breaking at a key moment, your temper flaring, impatience rearing its' ugly head, your missing someone far away, your frustration with people who are determined to make life (more) difficult, because it already is difficult. In your head, you can create a perfect conversation with this missing person, whom you long for, whom you idealize, whom you idolize. But the reality is there at home, on the couch, being his very im-perfect self, but still being THERE, not out there, launched from your heart and head into a deity-like form, which, as we age and hurtle forward on what I always refer to as this revolving-door planet, we know doesn't exist. However, as I pointed out at the beginning of this posting these are MY realizations, based, for the most part, on my opinion, with a little bit of experience thrown in there for good measure.

It's not disappointing, it truly isn't. Life is full of failure, of mis-steps, of guilt, of regrets, of all those broken-shoe days that conspire to make you miss the little packages of hope that show up.
I read another article very recently that talked about this very thing; little packages. It summed it up thusly: In life, those big packages we wait for show up few and far between. It is those little packages that we are to take note of, to sit up straight for, to use as motivation for that endless longing that is to be human.

Makes sense.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

A Poem from the New Yorker, September 24, 2001

Try to Praise the Mutilated World

Try to praise the mutilated world.
Remember June`s long days,
and wild strawberries, drops of wine, the dew.
The nettles that methodically overgrow
the abandoned homesteads of exiles.
You must praise the mutilated world.
You watched the stylish yachts and ships;
one of them had a long trip ahead of it,
while salty oblivion awaited others.
You`ve seen the refugees heading nowhere,
you`ve heard the executioners sing joyfully.
You should praise the mutilated world.
Remember the moments when we were together
in a white room and the curtain fluttered.
Return in thought to the concert where music flared.
You gathered acorns in the park in autumn
and leaves eddied over the earth`s scars.
Praise the mutilated world
and the gray feather a thrush lost,
and the gentle light that strays and vanishes
and returns.

--Adam Zagajewski (translated from the Polish by Clare Cavanagh.)

Friday, December 11, 2009


This week I've spent some time visiting my twenty-something self. She was quite the girl. I don't mean that in a completely negative connotation.

I kept a series of journals, one after the other after the other, in various notebooks with artistic covers, and as I started going through them I noticed how I would continue in the same vein of thinking from one notebook to the other, starting with a new date, not even a cover page, I would just dive right into the next one. I took them down off of a high shelf to start leafing through them, mostly to go back through some old, long-buried memories of someone whom, at one time, was very special to me.

The first thing that struck me about my journals as I began to read through them was how detailed they were, how descriptive, how utterly emotive, and in some cases, how desparate the entries were--my desparation in trying to understand MYself, the person I would grow into, grow up to be, maybe the WOMAN I am today--so different from that very innocent girl, with no veneer, no protection, no savvy, and very little insight into human nature, not even her own.

It struck me as odd, because on the surface, I was technically a very put-together twenty-something; I had a job that I was continually advancing in, I had my own apartment where I lived alone and paid all the bills for myself, with no help; I went to a gym on a regular basis, I cooked dinner alone every night, and I had a huge friend base with a very active social life.

But inside, from ages 25 to I'd say, about 31, I suffered from a long, debilitating depression, which affected my view of my interior life, my perception of myself, and my hopefulness for any kind of future, let alone a positive one.

Back to the journals--the second thing that struck me was how memory really and truly does gloss over all the detailed memories of your life. And I have an amazing memory. But even I have forgotten multitudes of things in the last 6 years I've been "recovered" from my depression. I have forgotten things and situations in all detail until I started reading through them over the last few days. Conversations, songs I listened to that formed a soundtrack for me to live along to, places I went, things I ate, what my view was like outside my Bathurst apartment window, and how I felt about my job at the time--it was like reading something written by someone else. Looking back on my writings as a healthy person is sort of terrifying. I had no idea, at the time, what kind of shape I really was in. I just went along day by day, accepting my constant crying, my unbelievable misery, and my pain as normal.

During this time, I was lucky enough to be under the care and supervision of a very skilled psychotherapist, who guided me through cognitive therapy, with the right balance of kindness and candor, to help me recognize the behaviour patterns and pitfalls I continually fell back into.

I also had a very close friend, with his own demonic depression, who hid it, I realize now, much the way I so cleverly hid mine. He was several years older than me, too, so he had the benefit of living that much more and refining how he let the world see him.

On the outside, he was a gregarious, endlessly patient and forgiving person, who never complained, and who could always, no matter how futile the situation, see the humour in it, without making the joke at someone elses' expense. Inside, I suspect, and I can only suspect, I can't ask him directly, as I haven't seen him in six years, that he suffered much the way I did, possibly in an even bleaker fashion. In true twenty-something, like-seeking-like fashion, I did exactly what my now thirty-something self knows would have been the absolute worst thing to do: I fell in love with him. Consequences be damned. And boy, was I ever damned.

Sometime in 2004 I stopped writing in those journals. I had stopped all dating, I had stopped all fantasies about someone rescuing me from myself, and I finally, after so long, started to see who I could be if I could only just LET myself. I've always been a late bloomer in every respect of the word, in every stage of life, and thus it took me to 31 to get to a place most people are in when they are in their early twenties. No bother, it was just the way it was. It still is.

Also sometime in 2004 I stopped being in love with my friend. I hadn't seen him in a long time (he had moved away), and we no longer communicated. I would hear about him from mutual friends, and I would file any information away quietly, and think about it when I was alone. I was glad he seemed to be living his life the fashion he wanted--freely, unfettered, a vagabond-like existence that he seemed to be perfectly suited for.
When I learned of his death this week, nothing could have prepared me. It was too much of a shock, even now, years on, time gone by, life running along like a train on a track.

As it said in the paper today.

Rest in peace my love.

Saturday, October 24, 2009


On Thursday, October 22nd, I climbed the CN tower, that ever-present Toronto skyline anchor.

As a life-long Toronto girl, the CN tower has meant different things over the years to me. In primary school, it meant a guaranteed field trip every year. It was always a visit fraught with nerves, as I will admit, I have always had a fear of heights. Not a crippling fear but a fear nonetheless. So, over the years, I have had no urge to visit the tower and look out on the vastness of the city from such a height. When you live your whole life in one city, you rarely have the urge to participate in things "touristy", in truth, you tend to scoff at them (well, I do, anyway).

However, as an interior designer and a person who has always loved the architecture of buildings in general, the tower represents something much more than concrete and metal.

It represents home.

When I drive back from my office north of the city, every weekday, I see it looming in the distance as I drive south on the DVP toward my downtown condo. It reminds me of all the reasons why I live in the city, and of all the choices I've made in my life to get me to the point I am now--the "where I'm supposed to be" of it all.

So when some co-workers decided to repeat the feat a small group had attempted last year--to climb the interior steps of the CN tower for the United Way, I gave in and said I would do it. Truth be told, I really didn't think about it too much. It was a good group activity, a 'team-building' type of exercise, and I regularly work out with the best of intentions.

Piece of cake, right?

I naively thought there were 100 flights of stairs. There are 144 flights. I found this out about 20 minutes prior to climbing them.

To begin, you clear security, and are given a card. The helpful staff punch in the card, and that is your starting time. GO.

And I did. For the first 40 flights I took a serious pace, not slowing. I did math in my head, dividing the flights up into fractions, as in 40 floors is just under one-third. It was daunting.

At 72 floors I was at the halfway point, gasping for breath as the air got thinner and thinner as I climbed higher and higher. It wasn't that crowded. As in life, you catch up to the people you are supposed to be with; the rest fall behind. Another smaller group is far, far ahead.

As I mentioned, this was a 'corporate' climb, so there were lots of serious teams of serious companies, much bigger than our little group. There were banks, investment groups, the CAMH, Enbridge (who sponsored the event), and many, many others. One company had a particularly artful group t-shirt, grey in colour (like the steps in the tower) with a beautiful white tree on the front of the shirt, down in the corner, a tree in white, laden with snow. The caption on the back of the shirt, scrolling down near the hem was "We like the winters here". The group of employees from this particular company was overwhelmingly male, young, and fit. They were in the same group of 100 climbers that my company and I were. I cannot possibly describe my jubilance as I sauntered by some of these young, fit men on my way up the tower. Some of them were doing what I wanted to--pausing on a landing, leaning onto the wall for support. I kept going--left foot, right foot.
The CN tower stairwell is not remotely glamourous. It is a metal cage, grey in colour, housing the seemingly-endless flights of grey metal stairs. Yes, metal. Not concrete like the tower itself. They are metal, grey like the fencing surrounding them, and unlike usual buildings, the stairs just keep going--because there are no floors of the building to get onto and off of. The stairs, being metal, have no risers, because that is how industrial stairs are constructed. It's more cost-effective. Each flight is approximately 11 steps, and you reach a landing. There are handrails on each side, grey metal, square, unforgiving. The walls are white, except for one small number on each landing--spray painted in orange is an industrial-type number of the stair flight you are on. As the numbers got higher and higher, I forced myself to not think about where I was, and how high up I was--that would have finished me. As it went, my lungs were having a hard enough time themselves, filled with cold, unconditioned air. The higher up I went, the harder I fought to breathe. The paramedics, grimly stationed every 5 flights or so up, began to make sense. At least 10 times during the climb I mentally pictured myself lying down on one of the landings.

For me, the first 40 floors were a scramble, a competitive way for me to put as much distance between myself and my coworkers as I could. By 60 I was worried. At 72, the half-way point, my breathing bordered on desparate. By 80 I could no longer imagine or calculate rationally the end of the stairs. Something happened between 90 and 95--I spotted a coworker beneath me in the open risers of the stairs, steadily gaining, and somehow, from somewhere, that competitive streak in me opened up, and I booted up the next few flights. 110. 120.
For the last 40 flights I was heavily walking, with two other girls, both from different companies, with whom I had been pacing myself with since my last spurt of energy. We didn't speak, just walked, quickly, determinedly, for those last 30, 20, then--as one of the girls announced at 134--the last 10. The three of us, without a word, started to move faster; when we got to the time-punch clock at the end of the final flight, flight 144, we high-fived. I had finished before everyone else in my office.
After the clock-in, there were still (unbelievably) some more short flights to get up to the observation deck where they were giving out water, and, in the late dusk of a Thursday night, you could look out onto the entire city, from any vantage point, north, east, west, south, and no other building would block your view. That's how high up it is.

Because the CN tower is the tallest building in the world.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Don't Worry

I looked after my niece and nephew on the weekend for a little bit, my sister's children. "Looking after them" is really a misnomer as my sister was there with me for most of the time, except for a small window when she ran out to the store to buy batteries for my nephew's crib player, aka, 'ocean wonders' or 'jungle wonders' anyway, it may be the wrong moniker for this toy but needless to say: no sleep was happening without it, so it's been promoted to the status of Important, Useful Toy.
As you can probably tell by the content of my blog, I am not a parent. I have not (yet?) experienced that privilege/joy/frustration/life-changing, for lack of a better word 'transformation' for myself. But I do have the 'on the sidelines' viewpoint.
As a non-parent, aka, Aunt (or Godmother) in my case, you tend to be a little bit more hyper-vigliant than the parents. I'll give you an example.
One instance, about a year and a half ago, my sister left me with my niece and nephew (my god children as I call them) for a short, short stint, at her home, during a Saturday afternoon. I arrived, Ms. Mary Poppins, and my sister went out, leaving me with them. Before the door had even shut, they had ascertained the obvious:
1) Auntie was here for the afternoon.
2) Auntie is childless ie, not a parent.
3) There is only one Auntie, and two of us.
We could have squared off, but they had already won, let me tell you.
My niece brought me (and my nephew, who had to be carried, as he wasn't walking yet) up to her room to show me the bounty of toys, dresses, and all acroutments associated with her life. My nephew and I sat on the bed to watch her fashion show of one outfit after another, and I felt all was "under control" and how hard was this? Until my nephew, again, not walking as I mentioned, but crawling like a determined beetle with no sense of direction, started scurrying again. On the bed. Right off the bed, so fast, lightning fast, that I didn't even have time to react. He was off, and fell off, the side, with a loud 'thunk' as his poor little head hit the wall. I didn't even have time to react, to grab him. I just had time to launch myself onto the other side of the bed, where he had fallen, and pick him up, wailing, crying, sobbing.
I was mortified. I had been left to care for my sister's children and look what had happened. I picked my crying nephew up, brought him back onto the bed, cradled him in my arms and gave him a million kisses and told him it was alright. My niece, seeing her brother fall, came running, and gave him a big kiss too. I told her that would help him feel better. Her love means something.
Between the two of us, we calmed him down. He had only a little bump on his forehead, and prior to my sister coming home, I tried to rehearse what in the name of christ I would tell her had happened to her son.
My sister arrived home from running some errands and having some much needed 'alone' time about an hour later. I had the children eating a snack, I guiltily admit the tv was on, but we were having a great time. The door opened, my sister walked in, smelling of fresh air and Jean-Paul Gaultier, and both kids ran to the door to greet her. I wondered how prominent the bump on my nephew's head would be to my sister. I didn't have to obsess--my niece, in that proud way children have, announced immediately "River had a-accident" leaving my sister to look my way, where upon I promptly explained all. She thought it all pretty funny, as she knew my nephew's propensity, even prior to walking, for lightning-quick movement.
The whole experience, I think, left me more paranoid than a parent. Now, when I look after them I try anticipate anything/everything that could be a possible injury for either one of them, I see danger everywhere (really, I do anyway), and I tend to react more strongly than my sister, their parent, to anything that may injure them, or any potential accident situation. It's crazy.
I try to balance this with healthy thoughts about how utterly insane some of the things I did during childhood were (for example, jumping off my moving bike without using the brakes just because I thought I could escape the laws of physics. Ouch. ) Also, all the many injuries I did sustain, while just being a child, made of rubber and glue, seemed to be able to keep healing as fast as I did).
Back to Saturday, and my little sojourn while my sister went to the store. It was right around "bedtime" which meant, to my niece and nephew "Storytime" so it was up to me to make this work.
I chose a book that has been a big hit with my niece for a long number of months, called "The Places You'll Go" by the omniscent children's writer Dr. Seuss. I never fully appreciated him as a child myself, but wow, as an adult...this book pretty much tells a child, in child-like terms, every thing they will ever need to know about life; the ups and the downs, the lonely times, the waiting, the happy things, the joy. The mystery, the sky, the wide long streets, the confusion. And, as I've read this before to my niece, I know the storyline well.
They both love being read to. So my nephew got in his little 'hands on lap' position, sitting right beside me, and my niece sprawled out to listen. I opened the book, and read the first few opening lines, as I've read many many times to my niece, and then I got to the part "with your head full of brains and your shoes full of feet, you're too smart to go down any not-so-good street". And I literally choked up. My voice filled with tears, and I pointed at the pictures to distract them, and they didn't seem to notice, they were into the book. I don't know what it was about those lines, the book, it's very very simple message, but it really affected me in some deep way, and that book does seem to do that to me. I recovered, read the rest of the book, skipping over some of the harder parts so they didn't have to listen to that. After all they're children. They don't have to deal with that today. I stuck to the fun parts, with friendly elephants, balloons, and slides. No need for Auntie to get emotional again. But I did keep one key line with me, to add to my week;
"When things start to happen, don't worry, don't stew;
Just go right along. You'll start happening too".

Friday, October 16, 2009

Three Words, Ten Years

Here it goes.
Twenty-six started slow. At the Keg. But not Leslie. The Mansion Keg. Where I was. Filling a shift. After midnight sitting. The bar alone. But for Nikki. I’m twenty-six. Disbelief set in. Drink in hand. Far from home. Far from sanity. Years from sanity. But hopeful nonetheless. Twenty-something-hopeful. Hope springs eternal. In your twenties. That is, only.
Back from Keg. In basement apartment. Lived below family. A loud family. With two children. With weight issues. And stomping issues. They rose early. Earlier than me. I sat outside. To avoid noise. With New Yorker. My tanning lotion. My current book. Sunglasses and water. Alone, reading, thinking. The whole summer. Two jobs going. One at night. One all day. Every day, endless. But I persevered. The backyard, grass. My tan, golden. Talking on phone. Standing in shower. Watching the rain. Learning, eating, alone. In bed, alone. Watching TV, alone. Underground, with wallpaper. Open-concept kitchen. Air-conditioning, cold. Watching the crows. Conversations with God. Sitting on steps. Watching cars drive. Listening, my head. My head, spinning. Short-story reading. Answering the phone. Ordering Chinese food. Rolling the carpet. After the flood. Lots of rain. Loved the crows. Followed the crows. Through the park. On running shoes. On roller-blades. Falling, tripping, embarrassed. Got over it.
Back to backyard. Then the snow. White, falling, quiet. No loud noise. Discovering new shows. Another twenty-birthday. Thai food, Rosedale. Ernest Hemingway book. Chili in food. Friends at table. Birthday candle-blowing. New Yorker renewing. Toronto Life arriving. Getting thrown out. Or, evicted out.
New apartment hunt. Late October, fall. Move-in date. Hallow’s Eve Night. Black and orange. My new windows. The church outside. The loud street. A Toronto street. My new couch. My old bed. My endless loneliness. My constant books. Summer next year. Hottest in years. New century, hot. Hot summer weather. Hot brick building. No air-conditioning. No mercy, ever. The fourth storey. Facing the east. The morning sun. Beaming in, always. The a/c unit. My parents bought. My friend installed. I read a lot. The Fountainhead summer. Sitting at window. In a chair. Getting into Rand. Getting into myself. Turned twenty-eight. End of summer. Pre-September eleventh. Pre the collapse. Falling in love. Another October month. My sister’s engagement. Her wedding plans. My laryngitis, voice. Nothing to say. The time marching. My love affair. My subsequent heartbreak. Recorded in walls. Etched on heart. My heart died. It awakened later. But never fully.
The next season. Wore in, out. No date to. Take to my. My sister’s wedding. Bright blue day. Lots of people. Sister in white. Smiles, hugs, toasts. I’m twenty-nine. In the photos. Bright blue dress. Birks’ box-blue. Had to cut. Myself out of. The blue dress. A few months. And, suddenly, thirty! A new decade. A new heart. A new spirit. Where is that. Twenty-something girl? I think, mirror. Where do I. Go to now? Who do I. Go to now?
Life on Bathurst. Continued unabated, slow. The walls unpainted. My unwillingness to. Settle into home. To accept it. To accept myself. It-what was. Not-what if. My hair, short. My hair, long. My skin, pale. My skin, tan. Is that it? Just each season? Not each day. Can’t remember “each”. Just the “every”. Everytime I cried. Everytime I failed. Everytime I folded. Up into myself. A small chair. By the window. Looking out, dreaming. I still dreamed. On the fridge. Poems I loved. The Table poem. The Mutilated World. Poems from Globe. The paper drew. Me back into. My own world. Then one day.
I went out. Back out in. To the world. The one out. There, the window. The door open.
My heart open. Not fully there. But open nonetheless.
August, thirty-one. Another hot summer. Not much changed. Same Bathurst apartment. Same two jobs. Same little car. Same little life. But I adjusted. My outlook on. The future, somewhat. Less fear now. More hope now. What changed, when? Can’t really tell. Just..hope and. More hope and. Some more money. Did that help? Maybe it did.
I can’t recall. Just knowing that. I could keep. It up alone. Helped, maybe, maybe.
What was read? That random summer? Maybe 1984 again. Maybe some Hemingway. Maybe Chick-lit only. Dulling my senses. Not my memory. That remained intact. I could remember. The past clearly. The white walls. The tangled sheets. Who was there. Who I was. With that person. Then you move. Onto someone else. You both do. You have to.
Thirty-two came. And gave back. The first age. In a dog’s. Age to give. Something back to. Me, myself, I. Renewal, new person. Something special, real. Safe, comfortable, chess. Games, not really. Love, yes, maybe. The golden compass. Another warm October. Along Lake Ontario. Turning to winter. But this time. With a friend.
Trips, births, deaths. I’m thirty-three. I’ve dreaded it. For many years. Is it cursed? Seemed to be. My mom’s illness. My nephew’s illness. My own anxiety. A new home. But I can’t. Enjoy it yet. Not while everything. Is upside down. In my life. In their lives. In all our. Collectively screwed lives. I lose weight. Alot, without thinking. I go away. On a trip. With an acquaintance. And her viewpoint. Opens my eyes. Just like that. Life’s beauty and. Endless power to. Surprise, comes back. Open my eyes. And look at. My life, earth. It’s sliding by. The ocean surf. The jet-ski rides. The little houses. The ragged streets. I come home. Changed forever, in. A good way. Tanned, happy, calm. I feel peace. Never feel that! Thirty-four arrives. Just in time. I’m still calm. Nothing seems to. Rattle my cage. Like it used. To do, always. I don’t react. I just live. I can’t control. What will happen. What won’t happen. Life will happen. I want to. Make it happen. But I don’t. Obsess over it. Anymore, at all. Heartbreak can arrive. At any time. It can also. Leave whenever you. Can let it. I go away. Again, and again. It changes me. Back to my. Old young self. Carefree, unfettered, unwilling. To give up. This late date.

Those three words. Look at what. They have done. And then undone. And done again.

Eight quick years. Running across pages. Only two more. To finish writing. This little post.
Thirty five, August. A nice party. With good girlfriends. The year flies. More than ever. I visit Europe. For the first. And last time? I prefer heat. And beach and. Not a city.
Another long winter. But I persevere. I reunite with. Him, the him. Of three times. Third time’s a. Charm, they say. Are they right? I hope so. We witness love. A lot of it. It’s all around. Us, and me. It changes him. Too, I hope. We move in. Not a big. Deal or fanfare. Just us, together. No illusions and. No real surprises. We’re two confirmed. Singles who just. Happened to find. Single each other.
Thirty-six just. Under two months. Ago, really, without. A big realization. I’m just at. That stage of. New mid-life. Where you can. If you try. Hard, still look. Pretty good, and. You can, if. You really want. To, lie shamelessly. About your age. Which I don’t. Re-connecting with. An old friend. One who has. Known me for. More than years. More than these. Ten little years. And has been. Away from my. Life for almost. That amount of. Took an opportunity. For some introspection.
An opportunity to. Evaluate when, exactly. My dream to. Write went away. Or rather, when. I filed that. Dream under “later”. But guess what? Later is now.
Later is ten. Years old today.
Happy birthday later.

Friday, October 9, 2009

Artistic Temperment

As soon as you accept the idea that you are in control of your
thoughts you will be able to create your own happiness.

When I try to classify where it is I fall on the spectrum of "personality type", I always have a hard time. Partly because I get the sense, say, if I'm trying to describe myself, that I'm all over the place, which really, depending on whom I'm interacting with and where, I am.
It's kind of like those quizzes you sometimes complete in a magazine that you might read at the gym, you fill it in with your head, you're on the elliptical and you don't have a pen. If you get this many "D's" you are a gregarious, instantly-befriending type; if you get a certain amount of B's you are shy, retiring, and someone who never goes after what they want; if you amass a bunch of A's, you are a go-getter, ruthless, a true "type A".
So my personality type is part type A, with that 'get it done' instinct, but then I have a thoughtful dreamer thrown in there too. Over-sensitive to the plights of this world? That's me, too.
So describing myself in any realm is never that simple.
The day began at 5 am, because this is the time my mind decided to wake the rest of me up, ready or not, to think about things that are best left alone.
My boyfriend's step mom summed up what one needs to do when niggled with those mind-gone-wild thoughts at 4, 5am, and it's this: "Let the thoughts just drift away like a leaf blowing in the wind." It sounds SO amazing, so simple, so d0-able, and yet, unlike the lovely quote that heads this post, at 5 am I HAVE NO CONTROL. It starts with the Next Day, as in what do I have to do the Next Day, or, at 5 am, That Day, and why I can't control my mind, or at least corner it into pretending to think positively. No leaf blowing was going to happen.
I turned to the state of the desparate, trying to get a few more precious minutes, minutes, I'm saying, of sleep. I decided to count sheep. Not just any sheep. The clay-mation sheep from the Serta ads, that look so forlorn on the commercials, when the person gets a new mattress and no longer needs the clay-mation sheep. Well, I needed them. I tried to count them all, their sad, forlorn faces imprinted on my brain from the ads.
Guess what? Yea. Yup.
So I saw this quote today on a 'positive thinking' website, and it seems so ...easy. But I sometimes have trouble controlling my own thoughts. They've controlled me for so long. Listening to a church sermon at the baptism of a good friend's little baby on sunday, the minister said something that really struck me: "No amount of worrying will add even one hour to your lifespan". It was almost like what Oprah defines as one of her "aha" moments. I literally have used worry as a shield for years, decades, eternities. And the minister is right. Time will march on, fate will chalk up what it wants, your life will unfold, streets into streets on the folds of the map of where you're going, taking whatever route it wants, ending up in the same destination. That is, where you're meant to be. Do you have a say in it? To some extent, yes. Meaning, you get to decide where you turn left or right. But, as I mentioned to a friend in a conversation of "discourse" the big decisions in life are sometimes made for you--meaning, you don't make them, so they make themselves. All those big things, the ones that you mull over at 5 am, are things that occupy your deeper mind, where, no matter what, you aim to meet your number one need, whatever that might be. Work-related, love-life, or that crazy idea that just won't go away.
In the daylight, waking hours, you can shelve what you think you may really need to do, at the time, but maybe, at 5 am, it's when the real thinking is going on.
There's no hiding from inside your own head at that time of the morning, let me tell you.

Saturday, October 3, 2009


Years ago, from a psychotherapist I was visting after experiencing a robbery at the place I was working at the time, I received a list of what some might call "instructions", a photocopied sheet that my dr. may have given to all of her patients. It was a list with some interesting suggestions, one of which was to come up with a "mission statement" for your own life, and my previous post triggered it for me.

The mission statement I came up with was that I was going to live my own life, my way, to the end. Meaning, I wasn't going to allow anyone else's view of what I should or should not do in my life, or with my life, colour any of the decisions I was going to make, or any of the things I wanted to be. And so far, I've managed to keep this theme, this mission statement going.

I will admit I've had some meagre bad luck, the first paragraph of this post gives a nod to that (it's not an event I ever give my full headspace to anymore); I've also done alot of growing up to get to where I've gotten to, shedding those unrealistic expectations of what life is supposed to be, and what life may or may not owe me (life owes me exactly nothing); and because of these beliefs of mine, this little credo, I've managed to get through alot more meagre bad luck, to prove, as one very close friend once put it, how resourceful I really am.
Over the last two years, I've had to really monitor the amount of time I spend worrying/obsessing/over-analyzing, and allow myself to really do alot less reacting, alot more observing, and it's allowed me to come to some amazing conclusions about what I call "sorority living." Let me explain.
My sister drives this point home as describing people as "Real". Or "Not Real."
Real means genuine. Real means caring. Real means concern, and real means feeling really happy for others when they have something great happen to them. Real also means feeling the pangs others feel when something goes really really wrong. It means participating in someone's life, if you are there as a friend. It means going the extra mile. It means not keeping score. It means giving that person some slack when they need it.
Not Real. Not so good. It means that you will hear white lies. And, being real, you won't call a person on those white lies. You are generous enough to let them have them. (by the way, you're not doing them any favours.) It continues. It means that you will probably do them alot of favours, ones that they often won't reciprocate. Sometimes, being Real goes hand-in-hand with being a giver. Not real's are often takers. It means un-genuine, un-original behaviour. They will hide behind their own lies, because they are motivated by envy. Not Real's will probably be very jealous of the Real's. The Real's are there, staying the course of their own life, navigating with the truth, and this gives them a clear conscience. The Not Real's don't know WHAT that feels like.

I have recently caught up with some of my very very Real "old" friends, meaning that, we've all been in each other's lives for a long long time, even if we are unable to communicate as frequently as we would like. They each reminded me, each in their own way, how important real-ness is. They are all some of the most real women I know. Genuine, passionate, stubbornly original. I contrast this with some behaviour I've fallen victim to recently, both in my personal and professional life. It doesn't go unnoticed. But, like a Real, I don't call them on it.
Because I don't have to.
They already know what they're like.

6 word Saturday

As instructed on The One Minute Writer, I am describing my life in 6 words:
My life is my own book.

Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Good Days and Sad Days

It happens to everyone, you get older, you amass a certain amount of time on this revolving door planet, you collect, in all spaces of your head, a catalogue of memories, ones that you hold onto tightly, and ones that you wish didn't take up quite so much room, but they're there, all the same. Part of you, your consciousness, your ghosts.
The good days zoom by. By the time you're in your mid-thirties, as I am, they still stand out. Maybe good days is not the right term--maybe it's the great days, the ones you can't believe you were ever lucky enough to have. For most people, that's the day they had their child, or children, or their wedding day. Graduation can rank high too. All those things that mark achievements, the passing of time. Mine are random and special. The day I moved into my condo, the one I saved for all by myself, and did the closing process on my own. The first day of my first real job, how I didn't know where to eat lunch, but I'd succeeded something all by myself nonetheless, even if I was making it up as I went along. My first day driving a car on my own. The day I picked up my black lab, Shadow and brought her home to my dad for Father's Day. Summer days, birthdays, good Christmases, when you realized you're in love with someone and felt like you couldn't live without them.
The more mediocre good days share head space too. Recognition at work from someone you value, getting that great parking spot, that amazing dinner.
But you can't have the good without the bad, right?
I remember all the sad days, the saddest saddest days. I've had my share. Cherished friends move away. You lose an opportunity you thought you had in the bag. A crime shatters some beliefs about people that were helping you get through life. Your dog comes to the end of her short life, and you berate yourself for not giving enough time.
Or someone you love is hurting. And you have to witness the whole thing.
Yesterday for me was one of those days. One of the people who I count as my favourite, out of a small pool, came to a conclusion of a long-suffering problem yesterday. I couldn't do much--you never really can in these situations. You are there as a comfort, a kind of talisman, touchstone, so that they can place this portion of their life, one of their sad days, in some kind of order, thinking that even though it was a sad day, an important person in their life provided some type of routine, of just sitting there, even if there wasn't much to say.
I thought that as I got older, I would get more into myself and feel other people's pain less, but that hasn't happened. Especially because I'm an older sister. And somewhere inside myself is that older sister, be it 6 years old to her 4, or 15 years old to her 13, that, despite our many differences and choices, I would do anything to spare the pain and take it on myself.
Yesterday reminded me that we are all on our own path, walking it in our own way, and the outcome sometimes doesn't really matter. It's more about the process, getting yourself there, in the way that you need to.
I will have this sad day with me for the rest of my life, especially the very end of the day, contrasting the beautiful happy day a few years ago, where anything seemed possible.
That's life.

Monday, September 7, 2009

24 Songs for a 24 Girl

I keep reading the Celebrity Playlists on iTunes and trying to see if I have similar tastes...so far, the closest ones I can identify with are Chris Kattan and Rachel Zoe. The former, too funny. The latter...scary. I think a playlist, to qualify, needs to be at least 15 songs. Here are a few of my "all time favourites..." in no particular order.

1) Miles Away--Madonna. Ah the Material Girl. I've followed her career since I WAS a girl, several years back. I had a replica of the Papa Don't Preach outfit at age 13, minus the pregnancy--pale denim jeans, and a striped top. My idol. One of the influences on the woman I am today. In this song, Madonna reminds us she doesn't have it all. No one does. Ever.

2) Drowned World (Substitute for Love). I know. Another Madonna pick. But this one is special, too, in it's own way, from the Ray of Light album. The sacrifices she made to get where she is today (the highest selling tour ever with Sticky and Sweet). The price wasn't cheap. Remember that.

3) Mystery Girl--Roy Orbison. Well, he was hell bent and determined to work with U2 in his lifetime, and didn't he have Bono pen him a tune? My dad has always been a big RO fan, and I concur, but this song takes his voice to another level. You can hear Bono's lyrics coming through loud and clear in this song--he takes the doomed love affair to another level.

4) Nowhere Girl--B Movie--this is a song I discovered on a wicked 80s retro station on live365.com, posted by none other than Java Jane, my 80s retro dj hero. It has a classic 80s back beat, with ubiquitous lyrics..."Nowhere girl...you never go outside...nowhere girl..cause you prefer to hide..." It describes my persona in my late teens/early 20's.

5) The Beatles--there are several songs, I Love Her being one, and Something being another. My dad played them on the piano when I was a little girl.

6) So Young--Suede--the soundtrack of me being 21 and learning to snowboard.

7) Is Your Love Strong Enough?--Roxy Music--a favourite of me and my boyfriend. Also reminds me of another good friend and her love of 80s musics, of which she has an encyclopedic knowledge of.

8) Just Like Heaven--The Cure--There is nothing better than the first few lines of this song, in music.

9) Atomic--Blondie. Another ground breaking female artist. I can't say enough about this song. See number 10.

10) Sunday Girl--Blondie. Playing right alongside me as I go through this life.

11) Some Kind of Stranger--Sisters of Mercy--This song is every mistake I ever made. Someone knocking on the door at the wrong time of night, and answering.

12) Sand in my Shoes--Dido--Ahhh vacation. I remember St. Maarten vividly.

13) Warning Sign--Coldplay--Me in 2003. I didn't even have a date for my sister's wedding.

14) Black Metallic--Catherine Wheel--Driving home from the Keg when I was 19 and I had a huge crush on the guy who introduced me to this song.

15) Candy--Iggy Pop--See number 7. The lyrics really touch me in this song, as does Kate's voice, filled with longing for her lost love. The song needed a third verse, but the talking works well, too.

16) Somebody's Crying--Chris Isaak--Reminds me of how you forget all the bad relationships once you're in a good one.

17) Back to Black--Amy Winehouse--But sometimes you still remember those lying, cheating bastards.

18) The Ghost in You--Psychedelic Furs--All the memories of people in your life, especially the ones who have left you, either in geographical terms, or taken a leave psychologically, they stay with you. Isn't that amazing? You can call up their ghost, their memory, anytime you want.

19) Kite--U2--I've heard this song is about Michael Hutchence, which makes sense, but in my head, it's about me.

20) Message--Coldplay--My song is love. Love, love, and more love.

21) Song for the Lovers--Richard Ashcroft--Dinner at my boyfriend's Port Credit apartment when we were first dating. I play that song, and I'm right there.

22) 4 in the Morning--Gwen Stefani--Her voice is at its best at this song (my opinion only) and like Kate Pearce in Candy, you can hear her longing, for love, for completion, from another person. It's something we all want.

23) Pocketful of Sunshine--Natasha Bedingfield--Another song that makes me think of vacation, and being on a cigarette boat on the Caribbean ocean with no life jacket. You had to be there.

24) In God's Hands--Nelly Furtado--This song got me through a difficult time. I still love her voice and she does a great ballad.

Monday, August 10, 2009


Working out is therapeutic, although it can sometimes seem to have the opposite effect, ie, causing guilt and panic when one doesn't follow through the schedule one has set for oneself.
But at the gym that is often where my best thinking occurs.
On Sunday ("storm day") I was thinking about my past, my years as a young girl, and what motivated me to do my best, all the time.
At the age of about 8, I was bitten by the track and field bug. I couldn't shake it as I moved through grade school, then on to junior high. It was the perfect sport for me, solitary, completely dependant on my own motivation, competitive to the second, very cutthroat.
By the time I'd reached about 13, somewhere in the neighbourhood of grade 7 or 8, I was very involved in the sport. My strongest events were short sprints, although I could be depended to on to give a very good showing in relay events and running long jump.
Then I discovered hurdles. What a metaphor for the rest of my life.
Hurdling is racing, at top speed, with obstacles placed at a measured distance at certain points apart, the same height throughout the race, designed to test the runner's coordination and pacing. I only knew one thing at the age of 13--I really wanted to compete in this sport on my school team.
I'm 5'-3" now. Then I was probably a couple of inches short of my final height. That's a bit short for the hurdles. Long legs are a real asset when you're flying over thin wooden beams. But I was too young to appreciate this fact. I wanted a new event, a new challenge, and I wanted to succeed at it.
The team was pretty much picked and I was left to last, one of the spares, to compete with the other girl who wanted a spot on the team. She was also 13. Unlike me, she had sprouted up to a height, un-reachable to me, of 5'-9". At 13. Was she faster? You better believe it. Was she better at getting over the jumps? Of course. I was discouraged. But determined.
Every morning at 7 am, leading up to the final team picks, I would be running out of the house through the schoolyard that led to my junior high school (the run there was my warm-up) to make it for practices. I did that every day for three weeks. 5'-9" took it a little easier. I guess she could afford to. She showed up for every second, sometimes every third, practice. It irritated me, beyond belief, but a talk with my dad helped me focus on just worrying about my own performance and attendance at practice, and I put the blinders on.
At one of the near-to-last practices, I suffered a brutal fall, flat on my face, that knocked the wind out of me. Despite this, I got up and finished the practice heat.
The last day of practice, after about 3 weeks, the coach, a wry, yet devestatingly honest female geography teached, announced that I had the last spot on the team, not 5'-9". I couldn't believe it. But then, I could. 5'-9" wasn't even there to hear the announcement.
I competed at the meet, came in third, the smallest, shortest girl there.
I was beaming when I finished that race, one of many I competed in that day.
But more than learning that hard work is its own reward, I also learned that, often, a seemingly insurmountable competitor will do away with themselves. The ones that talk a good game, with nothing to show for it. The ones that buzz around, touting their accomplishments, while seething with their own insecurities. That hare and tortoise thing can't be all wrong.

Tuesday, July 21, 2009


In May of this year, I celebrated my 10 year anniversary. No, not at my job (that was last August, even though I can hardly believe it). It was 10 years since I first began living alone. Not as in, leaving my parents' home, but as in living by myself.

The first "by myself" apartment was a subterranean dwelling (ok, basement) in Scarborough, not far from where I grew up. The owner of the house lived upstairs and she was a friend of my dad's so I got a great deal on the rent. She had 2 small children living up there with her, and my days of sleeping in were over once I moved in. The children were boisterous and energetic, as children are. She did, however, have a vast backyard with a small area that I called 'my own' and over the 2 summers I was living there, I used it extensively, as I also had a subscription to the New Yorker at the time, and, I must admit, a stunning tan. I moved out after she decided she needed the basement for her growing family and headed back downtown. Well, midtown.

I found the apartment on Bathurst, where I lived for almost the next 7 years, after my favourite aunt told me to drive along the street, looking for vacancy / for rent signs, and just go in and ask to speak to the superintendent. I did just that. They took me to a top floor apartment in a low-rise building right on Bathurst Street. The top floor was a huge carrot dangling for me, after living below a loud family. Also, the apartment faced a large Catholic church, directly opposite, visible through the very large windows that looked east onto the street.

I moved in two weeks after I saw it, mid-month, in October, just shy of Hallowe'en. It was the year 2000. Summer 2001 saw one of the hottest Ontario summers in years. It also saw me, without air conditioning, ( I later bought a window unit) reading The Fountainhead near the open dining room window. The New Yorker subscription continued, and I read that between chapters.
It didn't take long for me to aclimatize to living alone. After all, I worked very long hours and didn't spend a huge amount of time awake in the apartment anyway. Most of my waking hours were logged when I was home, after work, eating dinner in front of the tv, or at home after a night at the restaurant where I worked part-time, staying up late by myself, reading, thinking, and wondering if I would ever live with anyone ever again. After a while, I couldn't imagine it.

Year 8. 2007. My horoscope for January 1, New Year's Day, in the National Post said that 2007 was an auspiscious year for me to buy real estate. In a compulsive fashion, I did just that.
After getting a realtor, and a mortgage pre-approval, I started looking for a condo. I found it, very downtown, in the form of a loft that was formerly an optical office, with the connecting factory building also converted to lofts. I was home. Still alone, but more home than I had ever felt living alone. Every evening when I came home from work and duplicated my routine on Bathurst (who doesn't eat in front of the tv living alone, tell me this?) I would marvel at the high, smooth ceilings, the exposed ductwork, and the open concept rooms. Never mind that I would suffer another very hot, un-air-conditioned summer in those open rooms; as soon as the problem was resolved, I forgot it.

Recently, I got back into a relationship with a person whom I had been on-again, off-again for the past few years. We had discussed, in a previous incarnation, living together. I had done it once before with a boyfriend, years ago, and did not consider it to be something I wanted to do again. But things change, people change. They do. That expression "People don't change" is really a myth. They DO change, and you change too. If you're lucky, and you really work at it, they (and you) can change for the better.

So here I am, ending a 10-year plus stint. I could tell I was ready in a few ways. One, I'm really happy in my relationship. When both are working at it, it makes things easier than if only one is. Two--I started, probably about six or eight months ago, to feel very lonely in my living-alone life. That hadn't happened in a long time. Three--when I think about my boyfriend moving in, I have no feeling of dread or fear of 'giving up space'. I'm just excited. For my chance, for my turn. I've had plenty of time (ahem ten years....) to absorb every minutae detail about myself. I'm really ready to open things up.

Thursday, July 9, 2009

Tier One

I once read an article in a forgettable magazine, about friendship.
Although the magazine was forgettable, the message in this article (I read it
about 15 years ago), has never left me.
It talked about the "levels" of friendship that women cultivate, and now, as I get
well into my thirties, I'm finally starting to see and experience that.
No, it's not a "people come into your life for a reason/season" type-thing, but more of
a comment on how dynamic, and how, for lack of a better word, malleable friendships
between women are.
I recently had a conversation with a very dear (and long time) friend of mine on the phone.
We were talking about how, at a certain point in your life (usually around 28, 29, 30) you
go one way or the other. One way being the Marriage-and-Children route; the other being the Not-Marriage-and-Children route. It often isn't even a decision you "make" yourself, like choosing what career you want to commit to, or what you're ordering off the wine list. It's
sometimes kind of made for you. You might get lucky, fall in love with a great, committed partner at 22, and that sort of maps out the next few years--you build a life with that person, marry them, and have children with them. Alongside that, you may very well be constructing the early years of your career, and then bam, you're 30. Or the opposite may happen. You may be barrelling along, just as much in search of love and acceptance as the other gal, and guess what? It just doesn't happen. Or it does, it just happens wayyy later than you thought it would.
Your career (which you have plennnttty of time to devote to) benefits hugely. Your personal life...ahh. Not so much. You have wonderful friendships, as do your married counterparts, and for this you're grateful. But you wonder about the great divide. Because whose kidding who? In our socially-structured world, we are expected to reach milestones, especially as women.
The Great Divide ensues.
You're at the point where tiers of friendships begin to emerge.
Tier One is the top point--you talk to them everyday. Or at least every other day. They hear it all, your fears, your successes, your best and worst moments. You can finish each other sentences. You have tonnes in common. You can make spontaneous plans, ie, an hour before, and don't give it a thought. You may have very good highs with these girls, and sometimes severe lows. But you know they are in your life for good.
Tier Two. There are usually, when you have a good friendship base, alot of Tier Twos. They are amazing people, you've usually known them a long time, and no, you're not on a daily phone call; but you may be on a daily email, they connect through other tier twos and can catch up on your news without a conversation, and the internet in all its' email and Facebook glory, can let you get solid glimpses of one another's lives and keep up to date. In short, they are constants.
Tier Three. You may have once been tier one with this friend, and vice versa, but something has changed. Sometimes it's a misunderstanding, or a life changing circumstance, sometimes it is the Marriage and Children thing, and, usually through no ill will or recognizable sudden shift, you're not the person she calls on to have dinner with, and she's the last person you call when you need a serious opinion, because you know she's busy and over-extended. You think of each other fondly, but things have changed.
If you've managed to read this far, you're probably asking yourself, where is this going?
Well, as my friend on the phone proved to me this past week, there are sometimes when the tier system simply does not apply.
There are some people, if you are lucky enough to find them, who just get you. They just do. They always have.
They always will.

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Summer Reading Schedule

These are a few favourites and a few i plan to read in the future. Keep in mind i often have strange taste in books...
Manhattan When I Was Young--Mary Cantwell Stunning fictional (?) memoir (?) of a young woman's journey through Old New York as she goes through her life.
What Remains--Carole Radwizill
Suite Francaise--Irene Menirovsky Depressing but poignant
No. 1 Ladies Detective Agency (series)-- Alexander McCall Smith no cell phones, no email, just the human condition. yes, it sounds cliched. Guess what? IT ISN'T
Naked--David Sedaris He is a New Yorker writer so i'm completely biased.
1984--George Orwell We live in a dystopia now. Why not explore that?
Animal Dreams--Barbara Kingsolver Has never left my top ten for life and it's been almost 20 years.
Banana Rose--Natalie Goldberg A gem of a writer, never has received the accolades she richly deserves.
Time Traveller's Wife--Audrey Niffenegger One of the best love stories ever written.
The Fountainhead--Ayn Rand As an interior designer, this might be why this book is so meaningful to me.
She's Come Undone--Wally Lamb Used to laugh on the subway reading this. People probably felt sorry for me. They needn't worry. I was in bliss.
Girls Guide to Hunting and Fishing--Melissa Bank An unfortunate title, an unfortunate cover (the version i have anyway) but this book is amazing. Relationships. With yourself. Imagine!
The Wonder Spot--Melissa Bank Sophomore effort. You would think a person, even with abundant intelligence, could not re create the effect of GGHF. But she did. Fantastic book.
The Corrections--Jonathan Franzen Not an easy read, but worth it. The man took on OPRAH.
The Last King of Scotland--Giles Fogen Puts the movie to shame.
Important Articles and Personal Propery--Leanne Shapton It's an auction catatlogue in the form of a novel. Amazing.
The Pleasure of my Company--Steve Martin. Just read it. It's indescribable.
What Remains--Carole Radziwill Her husband has cancer, her best friend is famous. A beautiful, quiet book.
The Year of Magical Thinking--Joan Didion She knows what she's doing.
Drinking--A Love Story Caroline Knapp She doesn't shy away from the absolute simplicity of being unable to control her drinking. Dryly, she chronicles her struggle with the observance of a journalist.
Darkness Visible--William Styron Best memoir of depression I have ever read. His depression debilitates him in the evening, not the morning, and he struggles to keep going.
Autobiography of a Face--Lucy Grealy A child in a situation that forces her to grow up and strengthen her mind quickly. Well written and a must for anyone experiencing what they may feel is an insurmountable problem.
The Journals of Sylvia Plath--Edited by Ted Hughes Neurotic? To the bone. Intelligent. Too. Whatever you do, do not read this in the depth of Canadian Winter.

You don't have to like this list, or even see the relevancy. As with all my blog posts, they are for myself....

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Reading in Bed

I'm up late reading "Important Artifacts and Personal Property from the Collection of Lenore Doolan and Harold Morris, Including Books, Street Fashion, and Jewlery".
It's depressing, therefore I find it quite readable.
Reasons why:
1) at the start of the relationship she is 26 and he is 39. Why why why.
2) that 2 people in semi-creative fields in the new millenium can own that much
crap, and I mean CRAP is beyond me.
3) if New York is the centre of cultural zeitgeist and these 2 are living in the
centre of it (see point 2) creative fields) then their lack of any kind of taste, save for
kitsch, is disturbing on many levels.
For those who have not delved into this masterpiece just yet,
let me admit, that yes, I DO like it,
hence the fact that I can't put it down and
I know I have to get up in 6 hours.
It IS original, using an auction catalogue for the
forum of a burgeoning, then ultimately, failing,
(flailing?) romance. But the photos scream
to be done in colour to me.
The endless black and white, the girl half of the couple's astoundingly
ugly bathing suits, and the odd collections
of books are distressing to say the least.
But compelling, yes. Oddly, yes.
It's written by a Canadian. Of course it is!
Transplanted to New York, but Canadian through and through.

Monday, June 8, 2009

2 Things for Monday

I have what could be described as a mildly difficult neighbour. She's sort of high-profile, and due to some situations beyond my control, I became grist for the mill, so to speak, and have had to decide how to deal with the possible "bad blood". Last night I got home late, there was a card in my door, no label, and it was sealed. I stepped into my apartment, locked the door behind me, and ripped open the envelope. It was a card, albeit a creepy one, of a woman in a kind of newspaper origami, with curlers in her hair, and the headline "Sex Scandal". Inside was a handwritten note. It was...odd to say the least.
What to do?
I consulted the experts, 2 good friends who have been following developments closely. They had, from the beginning, persuaded me not to slash any tires and instead, deal with the situation by taking the high road.
So I did.
On the way home, while shopping, I picked up a bottle of Cabernet. I came home, work clothes still on, heels, raincoat, the whole bit, and wrapped said Cabernet in a New Yorker wine bag, covered with typeface, my own little attempt at newspaper humour. I took a deep breath and walked next door.
I knocked, in a civil, not angry, way, and waited, holding gift aloft so my visit would not be interpreted as disingenuous.
Door opened. I introduced myself and handed over the wine. Stammering ensued. I kept it short. No hard feelings. Walked back to my apartment, head held high. Good deed done.
Ahh Monday.
My rumination about the card last night didn't last long. I had another piece of news after an old friend sent me a message, commenting on my blog. I had been having thoughts about wasting time on Sundays, frittering them away by not getting to the "big things" in life, whatever the hell those things are. Her message gave me serious pause, and this is a friend who has always had a gift for doing that to me. Back in the day this was a friend who challenged me with an intellect that I had never seen before. I am thinking of her today. My friend commented that she was glad I'm still writing. I'm glad too. It's been a while, but sometimes it's the only way I can communicate with myself, and with the people who know me well, to whom I can't always have the big conversations with. The conversations that mean you have to feel twinges of pain, or of regret. Where things are often said that leave you feeling exposed and uncomfortable. But as I once read in a memoir-ic novel by a writer whom I really admire--"If it feels scary and painful, it probably means you're doing the right thing." -Caroline Knapp, author.

Sunday, June 7, 2009

Dry Your Eyes Sunday Girl

Most of my downtime, as you can see from my postings, happens on Sundays. They are a lazy-ish day, even for me, and i am not the "sit on the couch and do nothing" type.
They used to be a bit more fun, let me explain.
About a year and a half ago, my dear friend Lauren moved to NYC. She was my ultimate Sunday Girl partner. We coined the term from the fantastic song by Blondie, and how we spent Sundays together (as fellow never-been-married-no-kids-in-the-forecast) varied only according to weather. Rainy days meant scrapbooking inside, organizing photos while heating up frozen pizza, swigging back wine, and baking cookies. Nice day out? Buying flowers on Avenue Road, sunning ourselves on the rooftop of my building, or lunch out on a patio, usually the Bedford pub.
We appreciated the same laid-back approach to the day--not rushing about doing errands, in the traffic snarl of downtown Sunday, but a more relaxed vibe that let the day stretch out.
Sundays in 2009 usually involve a serious workout and no lazy morning. It's a trade-off. I need to work out alot to allow myself the caloric intake i love. Now, at 35, I need to maintain and energize, and the work-outs give me that. Then, maybe a tan, lunch with my sister, and then laundry and cleaning. Not alot of time for soul searching. Then, as I've written about before, I focus on Monday worrying. Why can't I space out my creative times through out the week? I have a demanding job, and after taking care of errands, food shopping, proper meal cooking, and my never ending commute--there is not alot of evening time left. The need to set realistic goals in terms of weeknights is imperative. Ahh a goal. Something I can work toward. ...

Wednesday, April 22, 2009


It sometimes seems, and I think that people want it to seem--that life is effortless for some. They put on a show that things are going very well, and that life is easy, manageable, and never better. Their pictures show smiling faces, their emails chirp about picket fences, home renovations, and pets. And yet...something seems..amiss. I've written those emails, the ones where you tell everyone that things are Great! and your relationship is Going Well! and that you are Moving ahead! and going forward with the wedding/kitchen renovation/new car/vacation to the Caribbean.
But behind those emails, there are the same doubts. The same worries, the same IMperfections. That our haircut is outdated. That those 5 lbs are NEVER going to depart, that we're looking different than we did 5 years ago (how could we not?). That everyone else has more money/self confidence/mojo/luck/looks than we did.
But really, we are our own worst enemy. In reality, everyone else is staring at themselves in the mirror with that ever-critical eye turned on themselves. And everyone has their achilles heel that follows them, when they get out of bed in the morning, down the street, into the office, and back home.
So what is the trick? Recognizing your own weakness and chink in your armour can help. For me, taking the edge off involves listing my own positive points, like shiny hair, bright eyes, a sense of humour--against my short stature, my curvy build, and my non-fashionista sensibilities. It's not as bad as it sounds. The other strategy is to lose the sorority mindset and focus on the inner things. The things that don't show in photographs. Like, a core of strength that lets things shake you, but not take you. The way you calm yourself from anxiety in the face of a problem, and don't let it overtake you. Comforting a friend. Helping a parent. Giving advice.
Those things that don't show in photographs.
Those quiet, real things.

Monday, April 20, 2009


A rainy Monday. After stressing about Monday all day yesterday, the day was quite benign.

It began with a 4 am nightmare after which sleep eluded me. It was clock-watch-and-worry time.

I can't help it, it's what I do.

I started with work, the economy, (I guiltily admit that this was my first worry, perhaps because the nightmare had been work-related); I then moved on to family members, health and well-being, the general misery and failure of my personal life, and it went on from there.

I'm not remotely proud of unscrewing the Bell Jar in the middle of the night and crawling up inside it, but a girl has to do what a girl has to do. Sometimes there is no fighting the big worries that crop up in the early hours of the morning. You just have to let them in. Maybe it's really the only way to release them.

I had a mediocre weekend. Let me explain.
After attending what feels like the thousandth-wedding shower of my lifetime (albeit a fabulous one of a wonderful friend) I left feeling like I always do, like the one who is eternally not chosen, the ultimate singleton. The feeling didn't last, dinner with 5 girlfriends and 3 bottles of wine teased it out of me, but I still had to face Sunday morning. Ugh. Sometimes.

So now it's Monday evening, I've spent the evening the way I imagine grown-ups do, cooking, tidying up, watching the rain, feeding my sister's cat. And now, back in the swing of the work week, I feel a little more serene, like "here's my place".
It's the weekends that are scary. That remind me my identity has not yet found a niche in my personal life. It's all wrapped up in my work-life, where, for 10 years, I have been able to lose more hours then I have spent on myself, working for some nameless reason, covering ground that seems endless. But it's what I do. I'm reminded of a quote I once heard, someone defending their occupation-- "It's what I do--not who I am"...
Is it who I am?
Or what I do?
I think it's time to start really evaluating life outside the office.

Sunday, April 19, 2009

Sunday Afternoon for Single Girls

Ahh Sunday afternoon. Sometimes, for a single girl with some time on her hands, it can be the most depressing time of the week. I've read articles and columns about what my sister and I have coined "Sunday Night Syndrome". It starts innocuously enough, maybe a few thoughts of the coming week twinging you while you're at the gym in the morning, or maybe while you're lying in bed, making excuses not to go to the gym.
Then you have some coffee, try to go outside and find the city teeming with people, all coupled up, wrapped around each other as they walk down the street. And you feel a little smaller, a little less noticed.
Throw in the fact that all your married and relationship-ed friends are doing husband/family/boyfriend things, and a girl can really go adrift.
You picture the rest of your life as one long, unbroken string of workweeks, and paying every bill yourself, and you are fully there. In an angst ridden Wonderland where your life, in your mid-thirties, does not really resemble the 'standard'.