Went for a walk. Took some pictures of flowers. Let me know if I've got the names wrong.
A couple of bees enjoying a susan or sunflower.
Salvia, I think.
American mountain ash.
Another yellow daisy.
Last of the summer pansies.
Another bee on a susan/sunflower?
A black eyed susan, or conedisk sunflower, dying, sadly.
Some kind of wild mint, maybe? Possibly a variety of creeping jenny?
Coreopsis rosea, being enjoyed by a bee.
Well well well. It's official. Today I turn 33. Sometimes I find celebrating my birthday to be difficult. I mean, it's not like I've accomplished anything. People say "congratulations" to me and I think "For what? Staying alive? Hooray, I'm still alive. Yay me." I'm the same when someone compliments my hair or teeth. I'm always like, "Thanks! I grew 'em myself!" It's not like I worked for any of this. I'm just lucky. I don't mean to be snarky. Maybe I'm just not great at being the centre of attention.
Anyway, it's also the site's birthday. It's 8. If this site is like a baby then I'd say it's been a neglected one. Oh well, with any luck, I'll do better with an actual human.
Speaking of which, the old ladies can't stop bugging me about popping one out. Last month, I was hideously ill (see my last blog post) and my mother decided I was hiding a pregnancy. Everyone is so fucking eager. It's annoying, of course, and often rude (I mean, would YOU make obnoxiously loud assumptions on the state of someone's reproductive health in public*? No? Oh, you must be a normal person not addled by lust for a grandchild.) I try to ignore it while comforting myself by mentioning our interest in adoption. It's fun to watch their little faces crumble. Maybe that's mean. I dunno. I think it's no meaner than harassing me about having a baby, frankly. The aged need to mind their own damn beeswax.
ANYWAY. Nothing much is new, blog friends. For vague reasons (Bad for the environment! Too much electricity! Wanna feel superior to everyone!) Nate and I have never caved in to having air conditioning before, going so far as to lend our window unit (provided by our sweetheart of a landlord) to a neighbour a couple of years ago, but our resolve has faltered. I spent all of yesterday with a humidity migraine. Couldn't take it anymore. The window unit is now rattling away in our bedroom. God bless technology, I say.
I'm getting old, but at least I'm doing so in comfort.
HAPPY BIRTHDAY TO ME.
Here, I share with you a Hoops and Yoyo video of the sort I used to send people before I learned that ecards were gross. YOU GUYS! IT'S HOOPS AND YOYO.
I am officially the worst.
*P.S. I initially wrote "pubic" here by accident. Thanks to Ivan for catching the mistake.
P.P.S. I actually like e-cards. :)
I know, you guys, I KNOW. No blogs. No blogs are being posted and no blogs are being written. No speaks blogs, no chic blogs, no reviews blogs, even! No blogs no blogs no blogs. Who knows when this drought will cease? Who knows from whence it came? Not I, my friends. Not I. Hold in your hearts the hope that this drought will pass. Be ever faithful. And in the meantime...
Sometimes, when you go out for All You Can Eat (AYCE) Sushi with your friends, you find yourself at a place that includes beverages on its AYCE menu. (Score!) And if you're lucky, said beverages include the lurid orange concoction known as Cplus. (Double score!)
Now, some might say that slipping one of these cans of delicious nectar into your purse for later is "stealing." Or, to be specific, "stealing like a crazy old lady" but you know what?
I. DON'T. CARE.
* This is not a real blog post.
** I really did pocket a can of Cplus at AYCE sushi on the weekend. Don't judge.
Well, here we are in February of 2013 and I have yet to write anything new for the year. Actually, that’s not really true. I’ve written lots of new things, just nothing for the blog. It’s not that I haven’t wanted to, or haven’t been thinking about it. I have. I’ve been thinking about it a lot, but hesitating, for various reasons.
The thing is, this blog has evolved a lot. When I first started out blogging, in 2005, I was writing mostly about pithy work stuff. I was so self-conscious. Every post was a name-droppy mess. One week I wrote about interviewing Feist at the Vancouver Folk Festival. Another time, I talked about working a junket for the movie Crash and interviewing Paul Haggis (at the Four Seasons… I believe I made sure to include that oh-so-scintillating fact). This is embarrassing for a lot of reasons. First off, being a name-dropper is inherently gross. (If you’re someone who does it, stop immediately.) Besides that, it just seems … sad. I was sad.
Anyway, after I left that line of work and went back to school to do my MA in Toronto, the blog started to evolve into something more confessional. And okay, that was fine. I like memoir and confessional writing. Always have, despite the fact that the writing scene (literary and less-so) turns a collective nose up at this sort of thing. But my posts were often vague. I can see, looking back, how my posts were a bit like long Facebook status updates where I shared enough to let people know something was going on, but not so much that they would actually know what that something was. I was (and often am) too self-conscious to tell the complete truth about anything. (Again, more on that later.) But on occasion I’d write a post that was truer than others and the response would mushroom. When I wrote that post about high school for example, about how I felt bullied by the girls in my social group … holy crap. People responded. A lot. In fact, though that post went up a full two years ago, I still get comments on it. (I recently had to close the comments section because I didn’t feel like moderating anymore.) In the same vein, I wrote a post about my grandmother’s death about a year ago that, as many regular readers know, caused quite a stir. I took that one down to appease family members who thought it was unfair (and evidently, that I was a horrible, disgusting person for writing it, if you’re to believe the bilious comments they left), but despite that, as with the high school piece, I still get positive feedback. People get in touch to say they loved the piece, and that they wish I’d left it up. Others write to tell me about their own complicated family relationships and the way the older people in their lives have inspired a mix of love and frustration.
(Sidenote: My own family doesn’t appear to have forgiven me, despite the fact that I took that post down. This has been hard to come to terms with. I try to comfort myself with the idea that I told the truth. My mother-in-law gave me a book for Christmas that addresses this very issue. In her memoir Why Be Happy When You Could Be Normal? Jeanette Winterson writes "Unhappy families are conspiracies of silence. The one who breaks the silence is never forgiven. He or she has to learn to forgive him or herself." Maybe this is true. I know many members of my own family would interject here that they are happy thankyouverymuch and that I should just shut up or some such thing. So anyway. I guess I’ll shut up about that.)
Anyway, back to the mainline. Truth-telling, especially about difficult subjects, seems to be what people respond to, at least in my case. Never was this more apparent than in the response to the post I wrote near the end of 2010 called The weight. In that piece, I talked pretty frankly about my body obsession and weight cycling and again, people responded. HUGELY. The post was picked up by several other sites, including at least one from overseas written entirely in a Scandanavian language I don’t know. (So I have no idea what anybody said about it, but they sure seemed to say a lot.) In the States, the blog was found by an organization (HealthyPlace) that focuses on mental health issues and I was invited to speak on one of their podcasts about eating disorders. The comments flooded in, both on the post itself and privately, via email. People wrote to tell me about their own feelings on similar issues. Many people wrote to tell me about their eating disorders. Some just wrote to say hi and to say that the piece made them feel less isolated. (That was nice.)
And ultimately, thanks to the comments and the feedback, I came to see that The weight was probably the most important thing I’d ever written to date, not because of the feedback itself, but because the feedback gave me perspective. And here’s the big thing that came out of that: I finally faced the fact that I myself have an eating disorder.
Yep. I have an Eating Disorder (ED). And there’s more!
I’ve HAD this disorder for about 20 years. And I didn’t even know it.
Now, to be fair, I knew the way I ate and exercised was (sometimes) questionable, but at the same time, my “disordered behaviours” (this is the way we talk in recovery) all felt relatively normal. I was just dieting. I didn’t have Anorexia because hey, I ate (most of the time). And I didn’t have Bulimia because I didn’t really purge (most of the time). As for those periods of crazy exercise, well, that was just being healthy. No pain no gain, right? Sigh.
Basically, like a lot of people, I thought Anorexia and Bulimia were all there was. (I bet many of you think that right now, in fact. Nobody tells us about the dangers of sub-clinical disordered eating in general, not to mention Orthorexia, or Anorexia Athletica, or what I have: Eating Disorder Not Otherwise Specified (EDNOS). It’s a real thing – a clinically recognized eating disorder with defined diagnostic criteria. EDNOS is, I believe, the most commonly diagnosed ED out there. And before 2012, I’d never even heard of it. Just one more thing to write in the “society is totally fucked up” column.
Anyway. The good news is, I’m getting better. Without going into too much detail about that part of things, I can say that I’m officially “in recovery” and have been for a while. It’s going okay. But EDs, from what I’ve leaned, can be a lot like substance abuse issues in that relapse is always a possibility, and of course, I have shitty days where I hate myself and I am really REALLY tempted to do the things I used to do to “fix” my body, but for the most part, I resist. I’m trucking along. I’m lucky. I’m a “middle class” person who often passes as “white” living in a big city with a lot of resources designed for and made available specifically for people like me. A lot of people aren’t as lucky as I am. (People can and do die from EDs like mine. Or they lead really sad lives chained to their disorders forever.) I’m getting better.
I’m also fat. Have you noticed? People do. Just last week, I had the pleasure of a longish conversation with a stranger who wanted to know when I was “due.” (I said March, by the way, because it just felt so much easier that saying, “Actually, I’m just fat.” *) I get comments about my “still” pretty face. I am faced with friends who are obsessed with their own bodies who look at me and clearly think (sometimes even say) “What HAPPENED?” They’re obviously terrified that whatever it is might happen to them. Others are fond of chastising me for identifying my body as fat at all. “Oh, Jen, you’re not fat!” they exclaim, with so much speed it’s obvious that fat is the worst thing they think a person could be. (I do this too. I can't help it. We all do. We're all trying to be nice.) The thing is, I'm trying to get comfortable with the notion of fat as fine and to let go of the constantly repeated idea that fat = disgusting, lazy, greedy, ugly, etc. etc. etc. ** but people think that way, even though many don't realize it. It makes a lot of folks uncomfortable when you challenge that. It’s all pretty ridiculous. Fat really scares people. (And the truth is, while I’m fat, I’m not even especially fat. I can’t even imagine the absolute horror show of abuse and shame heaped on people who are fatter than I am. It’s truly terrifying and extremely unjust, but that’s another topic and this blog is already long enough as it is. ***) All I’m really trying to say is that since taking real steps to recover, all this body-talk has made social interactions hard. Or rather, harder than they used to be.
Supportive or not, fat-positive or not, kind or not, other people are “triggers” for me. (There’s that recovery language again.) And this might mean that in the last year, I’ve started seeing less of you. Or maybe I deleted you from Facebook or something. This brings us to the second big mental health revelation in this post:
In addition to my super fun ED, I also have pretty pronounced Social Anxiety Disorder (SAD). Hooray!
As with my ED, I’ve had it for a long time, but my diagnosis is pretty recent. I spent most of my 20s fighting this because when combined with my naturally introverted nature I was seen as “anti-social” and “no fun.” I was embarrassed by my desire to be alone or to spend time with friends one-on-one instead of at parties, so I worked hard to hide that. (Note here that being introverted is not the same as being shy. And neither of those things is the same as Social Anxiety Disorder. There’s lots of literature if you want to read up to better understand the differences.) Anyway, like I said, I worked hard to hide both my natural introversion (which is really no big deal, not an illness or even a problem, and which I’ve learned to accept) and my anxiety (which IS a big deal and can be debilitating ) and I got really good at it. People comment all the time on how gregarious I seem, how good I am at talking to strangers, how confident I am (especially on 5+ drinks). What can I say? When I seem gregarious, I’m really wishing I was dead! Ha ha! Fooled you!
I can’t speak to anyone else’s experience (because everyone’s mental health issues are different, even when they’re ostensibly the same), but in my case, my ED and my SAD are related, and from what I hear, this is often the case. In recovery support groups we talk a lot about how, for some people, the ED is a reaction to stress – a sort of maladaptive coping mechanism that, at least at one time, helped to relive anxiety and dial down the autonomic nervous system response. (Science talk! Woot woot!) This is probably why you’ll hear people who know nothing about Anorexia, for example, talk about how “it’s a control thing.” I assume they heard something along those lines from a high school gym teacher or a teen magazine. It’s not really that simple, but I digress. Certainly, in my case, my ED appears to be a symptom of my anxiety and I’m working on both things concurrently. And I tell you this to explain my rather strong feelings about what is and isn’t okay for me in social situations anymore, which is, I suppose the driving force behind this entire post.
I'm just out. I am out of patience for most of what constitutes “normal” conversation, particularly between women, but really just in general. Your “juice fast,” your New Year’s resolution to “get in shape,” your “jiggle wiggle,” your “cleanse,” your “awesome workouts,” your “Paleo-Atkins-MediFast-WeightWatchers-BiggestLoser-Homeopathic-GlutenFree-Whateverthefuck” – I can’t talk to you about any of that anymore. I can’t hear about it. I can’t take you moralizing about how “bad” you’re being for having that brownie, or how “good” you are for eating that salad. Personally, I can’t because I’m sick and I’m trying to get better and those kinds of conversations contribute to making me worse. Politically, I can’t because I’m just over it. I’m over women being expected to conversationally bond over shared self-hatred. I’m over hearing people congratulate each other for weight loss, even when the weight loss is a result of an illness, like a severe flu, Cancer or an ED. (When I was at my sickest and most engaged with my ED, people were ALWAYS congratulating me, telling me how good I looked, etc. “Good for you,” they’d say. Sometimes, I’d even tell people about my “diets” – I’d confess about how few calories I ate, or how I used to squirt dish soap on food I didn’t want to be tempted to eat (a little trick I learned from a weight-loss guide I ordered from the back of Seventeen magazine when I was 14. I remember the same trick shown on Sex and the City, by the way). People would just keep congratulating. The sentiment was this: Hmm… 500 calories a day? That sounds weird, but stick with it! It’s working! You may be killing yourself, but you look “good” and that’s all that matters!)
So I’m over it. I’m over the whole insane, sexist, scientifically unsound dialogue about health, weight and appearance.
Almost everything you believe about health and weight is probably wrong. Sorry. I know it might annoy you to hear that, but it’s true. It’s a hard fact for people to swallow in general, because most of us have been hearing lies about body appearance our whole lives and we’ve internalized those lies as “common sense.” (For example, “everyone knows” it’s healthier to be thin. Except it’s not. Scientifically speaking. But try to tell people this and then raise your shield because half the people listening are going to want to kill you. We’ve also been told the lie that being “healthy” is somehow the gold standard for personhood. Except, think about that. Do you really believe that someone is a better person who deserves better treatment because he or she is “healthy?” Isn’t that just a bit ableist? Does it really make a lot of sense?) It’s messed up, folks. That’s all there is to it. I’m not going to go into all the evidence and reasoning and science because there’s already a solid community of activists out there doing that and I’d just be paraphrasing them anyway (see footnotes for more on that), but I do want to point out how messed up it is, and how hurtful. And just FYI, hurtful things are stressful things. (And stress really IS unhealthy, physiologically and psychologically. I’m a perfect example of that whole problem at work.)
There are so many ways in which we all (or okay, maybe not all, but many of us) contribute to a completely fucked up culture of disordered eating and distorted body image and we’ve gotta quit it. Even things that seem on the surface to be “normal” and “nice” are really damaging. Even all that “Ooh, you look so great, I hate you” cutesy nonsense is a problem. All that talk talk talk about your gym schedule, etc. is a problem. **** And it’s a problem I’ve been part of. So don’t get me wrong – I’m not accusing you of anything terrible. I’m guilty too. But as I get better I understand more clearly than ever before that this whole conversation – the one that is about the way people look instead of about anything meaningful or important – needs to end. Period. We’re all trained to be judgmental about our bodies and the bodies of other people. I’m not saying that’s going to magically cease if we stop talking about it, but not talking about it is a nice first step. Keep that shit in your head and talk about anything else. There are so many other things that are more worthwhile.
It isn’t always easy, of course, to hold to all these new ideals as I start to get better and try to stay that way. And I make it harder for myself. Just recently, I appeared on a new show on MTV (hey, remember when I used to be on TV all the time?). Someone I used to know from my days on The After Show invited me to be on this new series called Losing It. It’s simple, really. You sit on a stool and tell the story of how you lost your virginity. Now why, WHY would a person like me agree to do this? Hello, I have an ANXIETY disorder. I am introverted. Doing a show that would be super exposing, both physically (me as a close-up talking head and torso) and emotionally (sex stories are pretty loaded for most people)? It sounded like a TERRIBLE idea. And still, I agreed. I agreed because on some level, I believe that my anxiety disorder and my body image issues, etc., all of those things pale in comparison to the importance of telling the truth about things. I knew I would feel self-conscious and embarrassed and awkward telling my story and I knew waiting for it to air would generate a lot of unnecessary anxiety, but on a more rational level, I also know that I don’t really have anything to be embarrassed about. Not about my story, not about the way I look, not about how smart or articulate I am. There’s NOTHING wrong me with. So I did the show. And then I waited for it to air. Sweating.
And then it did air and it was fine. I was fine. I came across as sort of funny, and charming enough. There’s nothing wrong with what I said or how I said it. And while my memory of what I was talking about is pretty dim, I still think I fairly represented the spirit of how I felt as a 17 year old, which was, I suppose the point. It was fine. Except… I looked so fat. Hideously fat, I thought, especially compared to the photo they showed of me at 17. And despite all my lofty goals and my political feelings about fat being fine, I freaked out a little. It didn’t help that I followed the online feedback about the show via Twitter. Most of it was complimentary. People love Losing It. The MTV audience (teens, mostly, I’m guessing) think it’s hilarious and that’s great. Almost ALL the comments online are positive. But I saw one (JUST ONE) comment about how some of the storytellers (like me) had obviously let themselves go. Look how unhealthy [read: fat] you’ve let yourselves get since high school, said some little Twitter twit. And because I’m crazy, that’s the comment that stuck. I felt ashamed and like I wanted to argue, “Um, actually, I’m fat because I’m overcoming an eating disorder, so SUCK ON THAT, you heartless bitch!” Seriously. This is the impulse I had to stifle, because really, whatever my issues, I don’t want to be overly-defensive. I don’t want to be that guy. That guy is a fun-sponge. *****
My point is that it’s hard. It’s hard to maintain my recovery in the world, the world being what it is. It’s hard enough for me to attend social events because of my anxiety to begin with, but pile on the fact that 99% of events include some form of weight, appearance, faux-health, diet and/or exercising conversation and it’s even harder. It makes me want to stay home 24/7. And stop reading books, watching TV and looking out the window too, because this body-lunacy, it’s everywhere. But of course, total isolation probably isn’t a good solution. Truth might be. Or it might help a bit, which is, I guess, why I’m writing this.
Sadly, telling the truth about any sort of mental health issue means living with stigma, which is definitely difficult. That’s the idea I struggled with when deciding whether or not to post this epic truth-spew. Sharing any of this opens the door to a huge amount of judgment and advice from the often-well-meaning, but totally-ignorant public. (And as a result, comments will probably be on moderation, FYI.) And I’m sure some of my more pleasant acquaintances are rubbing their hands with glee at my revelations. (Nice folks, those.) But still, I did it. I’m anxious, but I’m trying not to be ashamed.
Shame is the worst, guys. It’s awful and toxic and it contributed to me being sick for a really long time. I was ashamed of so much about myself, especially my repeated “failure” to “fix” my body. (A lot of people think body “fixing” is possible, by the way. It’s just diet and exercise, they shout. Calories in, calories out. ****** Bleh. It's not. Not for everyone. Not all of the time. And besides that, please please please BE QUIET and MIND YOUR BEESWAX.)
Shame made me a liar, too. ******* Before I was married, I lived with a past boyfriend for years and he had no idea that I was sick at all, let alone how sick I was. (To be fair, we had issues. I probably could have died in that apartment and it would have taken days for him to find me. We weren’t exactly caring toward one another.) But also, he didn’t know because I didn’t tell him. I was ashamed, so I lied. I even managed to lie to myself. That’s the power of shame for you.
I’m told, however, that truthfulness detoxifies shame in real, tangible ways. That’s something I’ve heard in recovery. Telling the truth is one of the things that works when you’re trying to get better. I guess that’s one of the reasons support groups are popular. Telling the truth reduces shame.
So here we are. ********
This week (February 3rd to 9th) is Eating Disorder Awareness Week here in Canada, by the way. So this is all pretty timely, wouldn’t you say? (I’m patting myself on the back right now, in fact.)
Hey, remember all those asterisks? Brace yourself. Here come the footnotes.
* There’s a whole movement to reclaim the word “fat” going on, though you might not have heard about it. So before you start up with the “oh, you’re not fat” comments, that I’m sure you mean to be kind, consider this sort of thing. I’m okay with the way I look. Or at least, I’m trying to be. Saying, “Oh, you’re not fat! Don’t be hard on yourself!” isn’t as helpful as you think it is. It would be more helpful to get your head around the idea that there’s nothing wrong with being fat in the first place. Don’t be afraid of fat OR of the word fat, if you can possibly help it. I know it's hard. It's hard for me too. We're trying to undo a lifetime worth of teaching here, people.
** You might think you aren't participating in this idea that fat people are gross, stupid, lazy, smelly, greedy, etc., but the next time you see a fat character on television or in the movies, pay attention. Is that character smart? Kind? Friendly? Or is that character drawn as evil, dumb, mean, etc.? This kind of repeated stereotyping is rarely challenged, but it's bigoted, plain and simple.
*** Want to learn about fat-activism, size-acceptance, fighting bigotry and/or HAES (Health at Every Size)? I suggest blogs/websites like The Fat Nutritionist and Dances With Fat. Or just get Googling. You have internet access, I know you do.
**** It’s totally cool if you love the gym. More power to you, gym-rat! Love boot-camp? That’s cool too. Talking about these interests and pleasures to like minded individuals who’ve agreed to participate in such conversations is fine. Constantly sharing (and thereby upsetting and even inadvertently shaming) other people for living differently, in real life, on social media, etc. is way. less. fine. Your experience is yours. Hooray! Applying your experience to anyone else, foisting it on anyone else? It's not nice. (I know you didn't mean to hurt anyone, but hey, now you know.)
***** A fun-sponge is someone who sucks all the fun out of social interactions. Do you have a fun-sponge in your social circle? Most of us do.
****** Hey, that rhymed!
******* Eating Disorders are incredibly easy to hide. Lots of mental health issues are. I can promise you, most of the time you CANNOT tell who is sick based on the way they look. Now that I'm in recovery, I know people with eating disorders who run the gamut: women, men, transgendered people, fat people, thin people, racially diverse people, sexually diverse people, socioeconomically diverse people, etc. You have no idea. It surprised me a lot when I started treatment, but it’s a fact. You can't tell. Don't want to hurt people by accident? Don't talk about bodies. Easy peasy!
******** FYI, I’m probably not going to be blogging about this sort of thing often. I don’t think this is going to become some sort of mental health/eating disorder blog. It’s probably just going to keep being what is was: rambling, sporadic and emo. And occasionally, true. Or as true as I can make it on any given day. Make of that whatever you will.
P.S. WEE UPDATE 05/02/2013: HealthyPlace, the org that had me speak on its podcast/radio show after I wrote my initial weight post invited me to participate in its Stand Up for Mental Health campaign. So, sure! Here are the buttons:
So, as some of you may already know, I have become carless. I have a car no more. The car is gone. It was never really my car to begin with. It was little more than a loaner, really, but it was a costly loaner. It required too many repairs, too much gas, too much stress. It was necessary and really helpful for work a couple of years ago, but now that I'm largely working from home, it started to seem possible to do without. And if we can all agree to understand the notion of "cost" as something more than financial, let's just say the darn thing cost too much and leave it at that. It's gone.
So I am without wheels. Unless you count my classic bundle buggy, which is my new go-to for transporting groceries, packages for the shop and other sundries. I am OBSESSED with my buggy. Using my buggy makes me look like a little old lady (especially when I'm rocking a babushka - it's happened), but it makes me feel like a city-dwelling super-person. (Granted, my powers are lame and minimal, but nonetheless.) As I roll along, pushing my buggy topped to the brim, I find myself thinking a string of self congratulatory and positive thoughts like "Look at ME and my BUGGY! Look how much stuff I've got in here! I'm getting much done! I'm, like, the most effective, practical, environmentally-friendly, getting-stuff-done sort of person ever. Basically. I mean, look at all this stuff. And look at ME, pushing it along like it's nothing. I'm the best. Me plus car = totally average. Me plus buggy? Amazeballs! I love MY SUPER AWESOME BUGGY. My buggy is my new best friend. Me and my buggy. Together forever. Buggy buggy buggy."
You think I'm kidding, but I'm not. (Okay, maybe I am a little, but I'm mostly serious.) Pushing my buggy makes me feel great. Strangely confident. I have no idea why.
And then there's taking the TTC (that's what we call Toronto's public transit system, for you out of town readers). I have historically HATED the TTC. Mean bus drivers, motion sickness and a touch of agoraphobia means public transit and me aren't a great mix. Or so I thought. I've remembered something in these last few weeks without a car. I don't fundamentally hate the TTC. I hate it during rush hour. As long as it's not a peak time, the TTC is fine. Riding the city's subways, buses and streetcars reminds me of being a kid, in a good way. I often felt chained as a child, and long before I knew how to drive and certainly before I had my own vehicle, public transit lengthened that chain. It gave me a tiny little bit of freedom that I was desperate for at a time when I felt trapped. It was a way to go where I wanted to go. Far away, if that was my desire. And who could stop me?
I had forgotten how satisfying it was to be able to get miles away from home, where nobody knew me and nobody seemed to notice me, for just a few bucks. I had forgotten how much I loved the anonymity. Sure, it may have seemed odd to the drivers -- to see a kid travelling alone all the way across the city -- but not one driver ever bugged me about it. This is a big place after all. People mind their own business. (A good thing and a bad thing, I know, but for my purposes, a wonderful thing. A relief and a joy.)
There is so much I've forgotten. When you combine that thought with the idea that there's also so much I don't know, understanding the world seems like an overwhelming feat, but these little re-realizations are comforting nonetheless. The city is a living, breathing thing. It's dirty and frustrating and frightening, yes. And it's teeming and strangely beautiful. I'd forgotten. I was outside of all that, shielded by the comforting bubble of my own car, my little protected space. Mine mine mine. But now I'm back in the mix, where nothing specific is mine and I can have a little bit of everything all the same. I'm part of the masses crawling over the surface of this place that we have to share, and it feels good. Crisscrossing the city on foot, seeing it from the window of a streetcar, climbing down into the subway ... I feel like I'm right inside the belly of the world, close to its beating heart.
Over the past several years, I've been in the process of letting things go. Giving things up. Some of the things I lost in the early days of this went of their own accord, leaving me terrified and worried about how I would get them back. I felt like I'd dropped several rungs on the ladder of success. That feeling passed. It passed slowly, but it passed. And eventually, I started giving things up by choice -- the "career" I thought I wanted, complete with the salary I imagined was necessary -- for example. And every time I made the choice to have "less" I felt better. But still, I've had trouble learning the lesson at the heart of this. Just weeks ago, I was struggling with the idea of giving up the car. What if I'd become to used to it? What it not having it felt too hard? It offered so much convenience. What would I do without it?
I worried and worried and worried, but ultimately, I let it go and now, all those frightened feelings have evaporated. Because, as has happened every time I've lost or given up this sort of thing in the past, EVERY SINGLE TIME, I've gotten more or better back in trade.
Having less, for me, provides a fundamental feeling of relief. It makes me do things I wouldn't otherwise do. It's how I ended up back in Toronto in the first place. It's how I found Nate. It's what made me finally open the store I'd been thinking about for a decade. And now, it's what's getting me out of the house and back in touch with the world. (I think this is called "connectedness.")
This is something worth remembering. For next time.
*Photos from today's post were snapped from the left windows of the northbound Bathurst streetcar.
Did anyone catch last week's title reference? It was an Of Monsters and Men lyric. I know I'm probably late to the part on these guys (being late to the party on almost everything, ever), but I can't help it. I'm obsessed.
Basically, all I'm doing these days is working on the shop and listening to Of Monsters and Men. (And oddly, to Disney musical music from Beauty and the Beast and The Little Mermaid, but who knows what that's about.)
Anyway. I've got nothing to say. Let's listen to music!
How cute are these mofos? Pretty cute, I'd say.
I often ask my niece and nephew about their dreams. I don't know why. They're just little kids (4 and 2 years old, respectively). Most of the time, Kat (the older one) tells me she can't remember her dreams. (The little one, James, who is relatively new to the business of conversation, just blows raspberries and laughs.)
But last summer, Kat had a nightmare. And I've been thinking about it ever since.
She said she dreamt of a "little alien guy in a shell" with "one eye and a little horn" (to demonstrate, she curled a finger up by her forehead). She said the dream was scary because the alien was a "bad guy."
Katherine's been having bad (or at least unsettling) dreams for her entire life, I think. When she was just a couple of months old, she'd often cry out from her crib, and whimper in her sleep. I always wondered about this. What could such a little baby be dreaming about that might make her so upset? A shortage of breast milk? An especially dirty diaper?
I've always suffered from nightmares. I generally have a couple a week. I can't really remember a time when I didn't have them, so it's not so bad any more. I'm used to it. Sometimes, I even enjoy it. But Kat is still a little girl. And I worry about her. I don't like the idea of her having bad dreams.
So, with her birthday coming up, and the dream still in my mind months later, I wrote Katherine a little story. My friend Patty did some drawings to go with it.
I scanned the whole thing into my computer and am having it printed as a book for a present.
It's not a great tale or anything. I use far too many commas, as is my wont. The rhymes are forced and sometimes awkward. But Katherine is only 4. I have a feeling she's going to like it.
Having a niece and nephew is great, by the way. None of the work of parenthood, and all of the fun. Basically the best thing ever. I know that makes me sound baby crazy, and maybe I am (a little), but seriously. Cuteness abounds.
If you want to check out the book, I've included a preview below, or visit the self-publishing site I used to lay it out and have it bound: Blurb.
I have nothing to blog about! I've been spending recent days doing weird and boring stuff like cleaning under the refridgerator. Doesn't make for very interesting anecdotes.
Instead of a proper blog, here's something I like to call "the tickle cam." Enjoy.
Hey! Tomorrow is valentine's day! I don't tend to celebrate this strange "holiday" but take a look at these vintage cards from the generally amusing folks over at Funny or Die. They've been all over the place lately, but I'm not feeling very creative, so forgive me for sharing them one more time.