"Why aren't you blogging like you used to?"

I've been getting this question a lot lately. Certainly, since December 2011 and what I like to call "Grandmothergate" I haven't posted much in the way of big thoughts or serious rants. And everybody had a theory as to why. So let's deal with that.
"Are you worried about your family?" 
No. Not really. Am I still upset by the fact that a simple piece of writing caused one relative to threaten me with legal action that would make me "poor for the rest of my life" and others to call me rude, stupid, disgusting, selfish, etc.? Sure. These things sting. How could they not? But in general, those jabs weren't really about my writing. Mostly, they were about other things -- various other personal grievances, confusion and misunderstanding, personal vendettas, and other things both minor (ie. being deleted from Facebook) and major (ie. not knowing how to deal with excessive emotion in the face of loss). So no, I'm not afraid to write because a few angry bio-relatives went way over the top with their criticisms. I mean, I can be a wimp, but I'm not that big a wimp. 

"Are you depressed?"
No. Not that I haven't been depressed before. I took a pretty long break from blogging back in 2007, and that was largely because of depression, but other than my usual anxieties, I feel pretty good these days. So, no, it's not about that.

"Have you changed your mind about what you think is appropriate for a blog?"
NO. Absolutely not. I think calling the (sometimes confessional) personal essays I write for this site "inappropriate" is crazy. Sometimes, looking back, I'm not thrilled with the quality of my prose, but content-wise, I'm proud of everything I've ever written here (and in most instances, elsewhere). Telling the truth is important. Sometimes, it hurts people, and sometimes others don't agree with what you've said, but in my experience, more people are helped and comforted by confessional writing than are hurt by it. When hurt happens, it's mostly about ego and narcissism. It's not really about the writing. So I'm still completely cool with what I've written (and with what I plan to continue writing in the future). In fact, my strongest feelings about my own writing and about the blog were recently summed up by the wonderful writer Anne Lamott, who said, "You own everything that happened to you. Tell your stories. If people wanted you to write warmly about them, they should've behaved better." She's a wise woman. (Note to aspiring writers: If you want an inspiring read, try Lamott's book Bird by Bird. It's great. Side note: Ironically, the person who first introduced me to Lamott more than 12 years ago is also one of the ones who practically threatened to sue me over the Grandmothergate blog. People are weird, eh?) 

So... what's the deal? Why no big stories? Why no deep thoughts?
Seriously, dudes? The truth is this: I have no idea. I don't have enough to say at the moment, but I don't know why. When I really want to write something, I can't help but get it down. I climb out of bed in the middle of the night to write the posts I really need to write. And that just hasn't been happening lately. 
Certainly, external factors have played a part in the absence of meaningful writing on the blog. Yes, I was traumatized by Grandmothergate and remain hurt by that experience, and yes, when I'm feeling down, I don't write much, but I'm also just busy with other things -- career changes, summer softball, travel, my own wedding, etc. Blogging hasn't been a top priority, but beyond that, I also haven't had anything pressing on my mind.

I'm sure it'll pass. One of these nights, I'll have a dream, or read a book, or see something that reminds me of something really worth writing about, and when that happens, I'll scrawl it out. And then I'll share it with you here. And I won't vet it through anyone first. I won't censor it, or temper or, or shy away from it. And it'll probably be riddled with typos. But I'll share it, and with any luck, it will speak to you and you will share it forward. That's what we do in the land of the interweb. It feels good when it happens and I'm positive it will happen again for me one of these days.

Until then... I'll try not to be TOO boring. But no promises, kay?
 
 
It's hot hot hot in the city. I can do nothing but lie in front of the fan. Seriously. Even typing is taking a lot out of me.

So instead of writing something, instead I bring you another (pretty bad) poem I wrote back in 1999 (or maybe 2000). Sometimes I miss being an earnest teenager (or thereabouts). Don't you?
Fan in the Window

summer sirens scream emergency
but are soothing to those
who remember nights of humid city warmth
on the floor, without clothes
exposed to the breeze 
from the open window
in those days before temperature control
when we lay sticky with the sweat of our childhood

nights when the bed was too warm 
and the boards beckoned
the floor calling, come
lie here where it's cool
where the breeze from the fan can wash over you
and the blades of the fan whispered sleep

all summer, we listened to the turning
and in the autumn, without it
the silence was deafening
so the fan was left on
and we found sleep in its comforting
synthetic hum
its lullaby of electricity
 
 
I'm over 30 and still trying to figure out what I want to do when I grow up.

This is a problem.

Some days, I feel great about my prospects. Light and lucky and like anything is possible. On others, not so much.

I am sure it will all work out, but as was said on the recent Mad Men season finale:

Not every little girl gets to do what she wants. The world cannot support that many ballerinas. 

And in my case, it should also be considered that my ballet looks like this: 
 
 
That moment when you tell your (loving, not-at-ALL-abusive) family that you might lose your job and one of them says, with no trace of humour, black or any other colour, "Good. Now you can get a real job."
Because at some point, it all becomes funny. And predictable. And predicability can yield satisfaction, particularly when there is little else to enjoy in a relationship.
 
 
If you follow me on Facebook or Twitter, you've probably already heard that I bought a bike. No big deal in the grand scheme of things, but for me, a fairly major step. My last bike was purchased around 1991 and I haven't ridden regularly since I was 13, but once upon a time, my bike was an extremely important part of my life. It seemed to represent everything I craved: independence, freedom, loyalty.

That sounds sad, I know, but I loved my bike to life, regularly patting the handlebars as I would a horse, whispering to it as I stabled it in the garage. My bike was a friend to me, and I to it. We were constant companions.
Ontario's helmet law was passed in 1995, and while it wasn't the primary factor in my bike abandonment, it certainly contributed. When I was a kid, biking was easier. No accoutrement required. Stupid, certainly, but I never wore a helmet. I didn't even own a helmet. Sometimes, I didn't even wear shoes. (Don't worry -- I owned plenty of those.) I didn't carry a lock, opting instead to drop my wheels in a heap on the sidewalk outside any establishment I decided to enter.

But then the helmet law came in and there was significant uptick in thefts besides. Locks and helmets became required. And in my teens, I became self-conscious. The mountain bike my dad had purchased for me from Canadian Tire just a few years before (black with funky multi-coloured spatter paint) seemed embarrassingly juvenile. Kids at my school seemed to have fancier bikes. And U-locks. And they ALL wore helmets. They were serious about cycling. (At least, that's how my narcissistic teenage brain processed it. I felt like I didn't fit in.)

I tried to transition, riding a few times with boys from my class, but I couldn't keep up. They all seemed to want to race around the city at high speeds, on main roads. I was used to tooling around on the sidewalk in residential areas. And they regularly traversed big hills and long flights of stairs, lifting their bikes to their shoulders and running up the steps. I tried this with my gazillion-pound mountain bike exactly once and nearly died from overexertion. And that was when I was 15 and fit. I came to hate Casa Loma's Baldwin Steps.
My bike went into the garage and stayed there, gathering dust, for the next ten years. The tires went flat and the chain turned rusty. Eventually, I think my parents threw it away. Barring the very occasional (completely utilitarian) ride on a borrowed cycle, I haven't been on a bike since.

But lately, I've been thinking about all the things I once loved and lost. Singing in choir, for example. Making art. Riding a bike. I want to recapture those things. But my teenage experience with cycling was so hideous. That's not the past I want to return to. I want to go back further, to when riding was pure pleasure and my bike was my friend. (Is that even possible?)

I figured the first step would be to get the right kind of bike. That 90s era mountain bike was a bust, so I thought back further, to the bike I had before that -- the one I liked to pretend was a horse. It was a Blue Angel, with a white banana seat and a pink chain guard. Boys in my neighbourhood mocked it, but I thought it was beautiful.
And even before that, before my friend the Blue Angel, I had a had another bike I loved -- a BMX purchased from a garage sale in Florida in 1985. The bike I learned to ride on. My first without training wheels.

It had pedal-brakes and a low profile. It was perfect for doubling. On the day he bought it, my dad fixed up with a yellow, racing-strip Troxel banana seat, which was, in my opinion, the coolest seat on any bike in the neighbourhood, if not in the world, if not in the universe.

These were the types of bikes I needed to remember.
So, I shopped. And last week, I bought. My "new" bike is a CCM Imperial Mark IV. Red with chrome details, a double kickstand, and a big ol' yellowish/brown/sparkly banana seat.

It is standing, right now, in my living room, awaiting an oil and polish. And soon, I will ride it. Wearing a helmet, and toting a U-lock, of course, because not everything can be as it once was. But last night, before I went to sleep, I gave the handlebars a comforting pat.

I think we're going to be friends.