I am very giddy, excited and happy to report to you all that I am engaged!! Last night, after a long weekend camping, the boyfriend asked me to go out for dinner, which was quite a treat! We went to Moxie’s, one of our shared favourites, and then we went for a walk down by the Ottawa River locks to watch the sunset. We played with the ducks and watched the pink sky give way to dark blue over the horizon of the Alexandria Bridge, the art gallery and the museum of civilization. He began stopping in the middle of sentences and darting his eyes back and forth as if looking for someone. I asked him why he was acting so weird, when all of a sudden he said he had something to ask me. He then pulled out a box, asked if I’d marry him, and I don’t remember much of what happened next. (Anticlimactic for you, I know). There was a lot of me crying and us hugging and him waiting for an answer amidst it all. I believe I finally spouted out something like, “Of course I will!” and hugged and kissed and cried some more. When I slowed down a bit, he slid the ring on my finger and I haven’t stopped smiling since. We walked to Memories Café for pie, hand in hand, and it felt like I was floating. I was just beaming, and he told me I looked glowing, like I was on cloud nine. Over pie, he told me how everyone was in on it, that he’d had this ring for months and was waiting for the perfect moment. He’d even kept it where I could easily have seen it if I’d known where to look! I blurted out to our waiter that we had just gotten engaged. I needed to tell someone why I was smiling ridiculously! Then on the car ride home, it started to sink in and I thought to myself, “Wow, I’m going to marry him!” That excites me the most. We came home and visited my parents. I continued to smile goofily throughout these meetings and left the fiancé to do most of the talking. (Fiancé now! Wow!) I talked with my dad about his concerns, “Don’t give up your career, live a little before kids,” and went to bed a very happy Princess. It still feels a little like I’m playing dress up, but as I tell more people, with a shy, sheepish smile, it becomes more associated with actually being me that these stories are about. He’s glad it’s done because the secret was killing him and the nausea of the anxiety is over, he says. Wow!
People tell me, have always told me, I have ambition. On paper, I guess I do. I started a newspaper at my elementary school when I was 10. I headed the student council executive advertising department, while playing in the school play, jazz band, concert band, rugby team and after-school job. In university, I sought out a newspaper job after my first year. I got it. I freelanced to my city’s 2 newspapers. I now edit a newspaper section, before graduation. (Hmm…writing that all makes me feel very proud)
In real life, I never woke up and said, “I’m going to be ambitious today and do this…” I never opened my day planner and asked, “How many things can I possibly fit into this day to maximize its full use?” But it seems that is what has happened. For a while, I rode on this wave and loved it. Time management seemed to come easy. I saw enough of the boyfriend and friends to keep everyone, myself included, happy. My grades were pretty good, and in university, they, well, they got me through the deadlines of a harrowing journalism program.
Whenever I’m feeling down and the boyfriend tells me why I’m not a wiener or a loser, I feel a renewed sense of pride, thinking, “Yeah, you’re right- I did do all that, and I am actually going somewhere.”
But as graduation deadline looms I’m scared: I will no longer be able to get student jobs. I won’t be able to use grades and academic internships as my proof that I am doing something, moving forward. My accomplishments from that point on won’t be impressive in a “wow, and she’s still a student” kind of way. I will be a grown up then, and standing on my own two feet to get jobs. I will have to work hard, but balanced with the things that I need to stay sane: Me time, boyfriend time, friend time and yoga!
I recently added another entry to my resume that instills in me the confidence that even in the big, wide, world, I’ll be OK. [I was selected to work for a rather famous blogger on her upcoming book. Shh, that’s all I’m saying.] It excites me to be part of a new project again. To learn more as I help other people to learn more. To be immersed in what sometimes feels like a members-only club. The media. I love it all.
I guess what I’m trying to say is, that while some people like myself look really ambitious and confident on paper, we may stand behind with knees shaking and foreheads perspiring at the thought of what comes next. But, as I always say, this is my Carpe Diem blog, and my philosophy remains. Today, I have an editing job, and a new reporting/research job that excite me.
The Perfect Day
I grew up thinking the best day of my life was a sunny Saturday afternoon I’d spent with my Grama when I was 10. We went swimming at the indoor wave pool for hours, sliding down the water slide, taking Slush puppy breaks and cannon balling until our fingers were wrinkly. Later, we got McDonalds for lunch, made cheese and crackers for snack, and saw a movie together. I remember being so happy all day to get the treats I was always asking mum for. I knew it was the greatest day as it was happening, so I committed it all to memory, and included an entry about that day in my diary.
Now, my definition of what my favourite day would include has changed a bit. While I haven’t lived this day yet, here’s what I imagine it looking like:
Dawn: Wake up in time to see the sun rise and breathe in the crisp, fresh air of morning, sitting on my roof. I didn’t get tired from waking up so early because it is the perfect day. I eat white Oreo or 6.
Real Breakfast: I eat a waffle covered in custard, strawberry coulis and fresh strawberries, like from Cora’s. Then I take a shower, but it’s not my shower. It’s a rainfall shower with a showerhead as wide as a dinner plate and the warm water falls on me from the ceiling. I don’t get any shampoo in my eyes, and when I emerge, my skin is as soft and smooth as a baby’s.
Morning: After taking enough time in the shower to digest my breakfast, I do an hour of yoga. I do this in a wide, clean room with a temperature of about 22 with fans on, to mimic the weather of a perfect day at the beach. I move through the poses breathing deeply and slowly and when I am done my final meditation poses, I feel completely invigorated and refreshed.
Lunch: I meet up with my best girl friends at a great patio restaurant, maybe Metropolitan on Sussex. We feats on delicious food, fruity boozy drinks, and we laugh until I’m afraid I might pee. After the waiter tells us it’s on the house and we all give him kisses on the cheek, we decide to go to my house.
Afternoon: We arrive in my living room after a brisk but not armpit-sweat inducing stroll. Miraculously, the room has been transformed into an urban himam, draped with taffeta at the ceilings and throw pillows in colourful silks thrown about the floor. It’s the perfect setting to relax in. As we watch classic movies like “Empire Records” and “Now and Then,” some spa people come in and treat us to facials, manicures and massages, of course.
As we reach the peak of relaxation and bliss, we all call it a day and return home. I shower a nice cool lavender rinse to remove the massage oil, and listen to The Fray’s “How to Save a Life” album as I get read. My hair, skin, makeup and outfit come together in a way they never have before. I have another cup of hibiscus tea as I wait for my man to come.
Evening: He arrives and picks me up for a nice dinner. Not too fancy, maybe even Montana’s Steakhouse. We’re together and that’s what counts. We eat wonderfully greasy foods and laugh and never stop looking at each other because we’re just so happy to be together. Eventually, we tire of the restaurant and return home for some alone time.
Night: Not to be described in detail here. But it is thrilling.
See? It’s nothing involving global trips or decadent expenses that couldn’t be recovered in a few months’ budgeting. Maybe I’ll actually take to it and do it one day. But don’t worry, every day I have here has something in it that’s the best. Today, I bet, will be the best father-daughter moment we have in awhile, as we’re going on a movie date.
Alice left me in Wonderland
There are many things that fascinate me to no end. I read up on them, watch A&E documentaries on them, and theorize about them. I am fascinated with life beyond earth, with conspiracy theories (like the JFK assassination, the Skull and Bones Society, all things Da Vinci Code), with addiction, with Black history, with financial advice, the Holocaust and with pregnancy, to name a few. It’s as though I couldn’t possible learn enough about those things.
When I was maybe 11 or 12 I read, “Go Ask Alice,” by an anonymous teenager who chronicles her spiraling life of drugs. Whenever Oprah or Dr. Phil feature an episode on drug addiction, I have to watch. I can’t explain the draw. I have never been addicted to anything. While I had dabbled in stupid high school drugs, I never ever felt addicted, nor did I want “more” of any drug, Tylenol 3 included. In fact, on my worst hallucinogenic experience, I was scared at having lost control. It certainly wasn’t fun. I’ve had moments that I have wanted to escape from so bad, but never have I walked down to the shady corners of Rideau Street for a fix to forget.
But I love trying to understand why people use drugs, why they continue, why they fall off the wagon, why they ruin everything else in their lives. Why rehab can work, why it sometimes doesn’t, why people make track marks, why people snuff. Whenever a character tries drugs, it is always my favourite part of the book or movie. I have never known anybody to become addicted to drugs, though I of course have known of such people, as must of us do.
Sometimes when I wonder about addiction, I wonder about what rock bottom is. My mum explained the concept of rock bottom to me when trying to tell me about an alcohol-addicted relative. James Frey wrote that it was waking up in a hospital after falling down an elevator shaft in a drug-induced haze. Trainspotting’s Mark Renton famously chose life. The woman on Dr. Phil yesterday found her son was addicted to the same drug she was and wanted to change, finally.
Then you have to go through withdrawal. I think going through withdrawal would be one of the hardest things to do. It sounds like it is, anyways. Your body is addicted; it runs on a foreign and damaging fuel. It sends messages to your brain that nothing else matters, nothing, just get it get it.
I’m really glad to have never been addicted, and I don’t plan on it ever. But I can’t explain this desire to want to know more about it. Maybe Hunter S Thompson and Anonymous planted a seed in my young, formative years. Maybe it’s the continuing mystery that no one can ever really know why people become addicted, and so I forever search to get closer to a non-answer. Maybe it’s because I’ve been warned about a genetic predisposition, so by knowing and understanding and researching, I am armed, should the situation arise.
"It will be OK," he says
I’m starting to see what Freud may have meant. He says we all seek a mate who mirrors our opposite sex parents. I don’t believe in the full-fledged Oedipus complex theory (I don’t romantically seek to date my actual father or anything remotely creepy).
When I was a little girl, I could always count on my Dad to comfort me when I was sad or in trouble. Even when I stole a chocolate bar, and when I threatened to beat up a girl in my grade two class, he gave me a hug, pressing my head into his belly or armpit (as I grew) and kiss the top of my head. When a girl was picking on me in grade seven and I finally told him about it, he held me while I cried and rocked me back and forth in a tight hug. I know that even today, if I really needed to, I could go to him with anything and he’d hug me and tell me it’d be all right. He’d mean it too. I had a strained relationship with my mum in my teenage years, which retrospect has allowed me to see is fairly typical. During all that though, my Dad was always on my side. He wrote back to the teenage angst- notes I’d leave him, telling me it would be OK.
Now, I feel like no matter what, I could go to boyfriend and he always knows just what to say, and just how to hug me, to make me feel better. Last night, for instance, I was upset and down and mad and sad. He took me and buried my face on his shoulder and held me tight and told me it’d be OK. He kissed the top of my head, and let me collapse my arms, shoulders and head on top of his shoulders and chest. I even thought to myself how glad I was to have a man who knew how to make me feel better the way my Dad used to when I was little.
It’s a nice feeling, a comfort, to know that no matter how bad I screw up, or how miserable I am, I always have a shoulder and a set of arms to wrap me up and tell me it will be OK. It’s more than faith in the universe and belief that everything truly will be OK, because there’s only so much I can believe in when left on my own and when it seems things couldn’t get worse. I’m supported, and that makes everything OK.
Close your eyes and move
At the beginning of the night, the plan was to go to a basement party at a high school friend’s house. I knew that the Caribbean heat outside my Canadian door and the intoxicating dark rum in my cup from the islands called for a much more adventurous evening. We adorned skirts and dresses that moved with our hips and went to Calienté’s, the local Latin dance club.
“So, do you dance?” asked the latte-skinned bouncer. He had to talk-yell at me over the brassy Latin music that covered the club. “Do I dance? Yeah, I dance.” It was the first thing that came to my head and thus my lips, proving that I indeed do watch too many dance movies. Truth was, I took a few basic Mamba and Merengue classes with the boyfriend. But confidance is is all you need, right?
“So, are you going to dance with me?” Immediate reaction is to gauge whether doing so would anger boyfriend. Ladies, I live my own life, but there’s no sense doing something that hurts the boy that makes me happiest. Well, I was in a Latin club. My flock of friends had all paired off into the busy kaleidoscope of dancers. “Sure.”
The music was fast and the people around us moved acutely as they spun, dipped and shimmied. This was so my kind of place. I am difficult to lead, my boyfriend and dance instructor tell me, so I took this into consideration. Luckily, so did he as I miscounted beats and even stepped on his shoes once or twice. I cringed inside. Luckily the dark rum I’d been ingesting all night helepd me quickly forget how dorky I must have looked. After figuring out the beats, the song and the steps, I followed. I followed so easily that moving my right when he moved his left felt like nothing at all. I spun, he spun, He merengued, I merengued.
One song was enough, as he had to return to his bouncing duties. My feet killed, but my hips were in their Graceland. I desperately dragged my ladies out to dance with me, leading them through what I did know of Latin dancing. We all shimmied, we all dipped, spun and slow-quick-cha-cha-cha’d. The bottom layer of my hair was sticky and moist when we stepped out onto the pavement. The nigth air was about the same temperature as the dance floor. My skin was covered in dew and my flowing skirt threatened to fall off my hips under the weight of moisture. My calves told me they were tired, and my hips finally concurred.
We assembled and decided it was time to retire our lower halves to rest on my couch. I made an excuse to stay back and inhale, absorb the horns, the beats and the spilled drinks for another moment. It was like being on vacation down south where no one knew me, and the music was foreign to the usual drinking holes that offer beer and blast Rihanna. I bid adieu to my dance partner who, it turned out, was from Peru and invited me back again. We’ll see…
When I was maybe 15, at least at an awkward and influential teen age, I attended a power yoga class at the local community center with my best friend. The instructor, Wendy, looked like a cross between an aging Barbie and those aliens in Mars attacks: Bulging, black-framed eyelids with sharp, protruding cheekbones and a mop of chemically dead bleached hair. I have always been blessed with flexibility, so it was easy in that respect. But I could not hold myself in a pushup position for longer than an acute inhale.
Since that first class, I sporadically attended Wendy’s power yoga class whenever my friend could sneak me in without paying, then more frequently as I got a job lifeguarding at the center’s pool. I got a little stronger and made it through most of the classes without giving up too easily in the more challenging positions. At some point I inherited a yoga DVD from the boyfriend’s mum, so I took to using that in my bedroom.
In second year university, I signed up for an ashtanga class before my intermediate reporting class. What a beautiful experience. Our incredibly well-educated instructor eased us and gently challenged us through an introductory ashtanga practice. Every week was the same series of poses, but every week I got better at centering my awareness, and controlling my breath as I bent over, kept my back straight and even learnt to do yogic handstands. I think it was the third class that he asked us all to smile through the poses. You know I felt stupid doing it, but before long it was the cherry on top of how good the postures left me feeling. My flexibility was stretched to new lengths and as I controlled my postures with deep breaths that sounded like a train whistle during the exhales, I fell deeply in love with yoga. I loved how wonderfully lost and absent-minded I was after each class (except for the time I was so loopy I left my new Nikes behind). I adopted the ‘live for this moment’ philosophy he taught us. If we anticipated the next pose and began it too early, we were chastised for not living in he current posture fully. I became more aware of what I ate, because a breakfast of sugary cereal left me famished and yearning for a more substantial energy source by the class’ end. An early lunch burrito filled with processed cheeses left me feeling bloated and empty. I became comfortable with sticking my butt in someone’s face as we all performed a wide-angle forward bend.
The class’ price went up in third year, so I couldn’t take it anymore. And besides, my instructor had opened up his own school (that of course charged even more). But I bought a few more yoga DVDs and a proper mat, so a few times a week (I try) to put on my spandies, tie back my hair, remove my makeup and begin a sweaty yoga session. (Everything’s sweaty in our apartment. But it turns out ‘hot room’ or Bikram yoga actually costs more per class than regular yoga, so there!) I have gently pushed some more of my limits and relished in the chance to be guided through a series of postures without thinking, without worrying, just doing the poses, breathing and being completely in the moment. It is something I look forward to doing when I am stressed, or when I have 45 minutes and some floor space to spare.
It may seem daunting, but I highly recommend the practice that comes with so many benefits. It helps prevent injuries in other sports by increasing flexibility, posture and the strength of supporting muscle groups. It helps de-stress after any kind of harrowed day, as long as you breathe deeply and in a controlled manner. It helps strengthen the body in ways no swimming, running or leaping sport could. Most importantly, it has the ability to be an individual practice. And I will continue loving my yoga practice until the day I die. (Which is likely to be later rather than sooner because the calming and strengthening benefits of yoga prolong lifespans)
I like imagining things visually when they are said. This makes for a quite amusing exercise when hearing certain sayings, like, “Cat got your tongue” and “Those who live in glass houses shouldn’t throw stones.”
Last night I was taking a bath (in freezing cold water to combat my apartment heat. But I sipped tea, as well), and continued reading “A Short History of Nearly Everything” by Bill Bryson. He made reference again to, “the world beyond your window,” and that got me to thinking. This past year, I have spent many a moment at my desk in my bedroom, staring at my computer screen. More often than not, this turns into staring out my window. Staring at the Dalmatian in the next backyard over. Staring at the people on the street walking their dogs, walking with their top halves almost bent over to combat fierce winter winds, people stumbling drunkenly after leaving the bars. Looking out my bedroom window has come to be one of my favourite past times. Of course, not always. There was the time I had the misfortune of being treated to a fat, hairy nude men show from the window one floor down and opposite me. Or the time I looked out just in time to catch a pale girl with messy hair vomiting into our trashcan as she held onto its rim for dear life.
I am lucky enough to have a sprawling tree outside my window. In the spring and summer I am treated to a close-up view of the squirrels and birds that make it home. As a tenant, I especially enjoy the falling red leaves of fall, because I do not have to rake them. In the winter, I am able to see through to its other side, as it is naked. I can see the spot at its trunk base where my sister and I made a memorial for my beta fish Prince who died this spring. (My sister assembled some sparkly confetti, some fish food, marbles and beads to place behind a notch in the roots).
I hear the calls of my friends as they yell up for me to open the door, because our doorbell is broken. My window brings in the sounds of cars and city busses, the loud motorcycle belonging to the man two houses down, the late-night sailor songs of drunken men, the construction on the new building beside me as I wake up, sometimes a bird, sometimes the ruffling plastic of homeless people sorting through my trash.
I can look out from behind my clear mesh curtains at my backyard visitors without them seeing me, which can be a fun sort of spy game. I can look out my window and see the sky turn from blue to pink to navy blue to black over the rooftops of apartments, salons and embassies. When I open my eyes in the morning, they are first drawn to the window to evaluate the weather: gray or sunny?
My window is tall and wide enough for me to cross my arms and tilt my head upon. I will miss it when I move, but that’s not for another month or so.
State of the Friend Union
One of the many benefits to having a small, close group of forever friends is that I have a large resource of others to go to when something’s the matter with another. For instance, when concerned with a friend’s sad disposition, I am able to consult one of the other bests to discuss why this may be and what we agree should be done. This way, we are all equipped to approach her in our own unique ways to broach the subject and hopefully, improve each other. This tactic has been met with success many a time before; I can’t even remember a time when it didn’t. It’s not gossiping in the pop culture sense because we don’t stoop to judgments or name-calling aimed at making ourselves feel better. Rather it is like getting a second opinion when we feel something is troubling another. It’s reassuring to know our concerns are shared and that we aren’t over-analyzing (a terrible female affliction).
Last evening, after a truly femme night of pedicures, dinner and a chick lit flick (Devil Wears Prada), conversation turned to what happens at 21 to the girl who flourished and exceeded in school, but who has been stumped as to what comes next. She continues to exceed at what she does, and has enough talent to light a city (were it measured in volts) though she finds herself unsure of what to do with it, and de-motivated at how to get there. She is a wonderful singer and songwriter, and though she has set out to take vocal training in the fall, she is not sure whether this is the talent to take her through the rest of her life. She is artistically very creative in every sense of the word- from paint-on-canvas to room décor to photography. (I often wish she were able to follow me throughout my projects and tasks to infuse a little artistic advise) She is not sure if this should be translated into starting an artistically-catering small business, so for now she is enrolled in small business management courses in the fall as well. She is an avid biker (though resting her injured knee now). She has succeeded at biology, math, dramatic performance, makeup application, and essay writing on any topic. On paper, as you see, she is the offspring any parent would be proud of. She has been historically plagued by a negatively distorted view of her outer appearance and is a hopeless romantic I fear may be running out of hope. In short, she is a mass of extraordinary talent capable of exploding in a Big Bang of success or of fizzling out like a distant star, too afraid of what could happen instead.
Theories circulating last evening included the idea that maybe, because she has always been so gifted and smart, she has come to subconsciously expect things to come easy to her, as everything has before, (Skills-wise, that is) and now that it is time to put in the grunt work, she misinterprets his discord for a sign it is a wrong path. Or that her compendium of talent is so huge that it is a heavy responsibility and burden because she knows she must do something with it all, but what’s the right move? Maybe she has an inner dialogue that, in spite of what is obvious to us her friends, tells her she will never make it, quit now and cut your losses, why bother? I hope for the sake of the world that could benefit from her presence and gifts that the latter is not true. But as her friends, we are ready to be her cheerleading team. If wishes were granted in the literal sense, then I would wish for her to, “Go Confidently in the direction of your dreams. Live the life you've imagined,” (as Thoreau so nicely put it).
For now it is summer, time to omit what happens in the fall and winter, and embrace what is offered to us by sunny weather.
As I lay me down to sleep
I grew up going to Catholic school so, for better or for worse, that meant I grew up with a Catholic faith/belief system. Some adjustments have been made to this system as I have grown and, as previously mentioned, adopted some other customs into my own quasi-Catholic faith within myself. One of the things that has remained is my nighttime prayers.
I’ve left the daily Hail Mary’s and Our Fathers that we recited in class behind. But every night, while I transform my bed from my study and reading nook into my enveloping cucoon, I invisibly perfrom a ritual started when my age was in the single digits. You can’t tell by looking, because I say it in my head, and while lying down. But sometimes I smile.
Every night I talk to God, or the Creator, or sometimes the Universe. My definitions of what this being is may differ from yours, but that’s the gist of it. It starts off like this: “Thank you very much for today and everything that happened.” This can be a hurdle after a craptastic day, but here I remind myself that hey—I’m not suffering in the Sudan or something so get over it. “Thank you for my mum, and I pray she can move beyond her sadness and anger because she so deserves it. Thank you for picking me to be her daughter.” Cuz when I think about it, maybe our birthing order is a randoom draw, but maybe it’s selected, I don’t know. What I do know is I am so lucky to be here with her for a mum. Again, it could always be so much worse, even if she drives me crazy one day. I am thankful for my Dad and usually wish for him to be happy on his own two feet. I’m glad that he is always fun to hang out with. I then am thankful for my brother, and am so proud of who he is, what he is capable of giving to this world. I am thankful for my little sister who, at this awkward junior high school phase, I wish confidence in herself and her abilities. I am then thankful for my grama and Boompa who, at 80 and 93 respectively, are still going storng. I wish that for me too!
“Thank you so, so, so much for ___.” (Insert boyfriend’s name there). “Thank you so much that we have each other to make sense of it all, thank you for how me makes me feel and thank you for what we share.” I also ask for help celebrating the good times and working through the tough ones. I have a deep-rooted belief that sometimes fate, as in the case of he and I, is so powerful it is hard to ignore. I know we’re forever, and I’m so thankful. I’m also thankful for his family. I know if they weren’t so welcoming, warm and quirky, ours would be a very different story.
Then I am thankful for my friends. I am so thankful I have them to count, and I hope that I can be able to give them as much as they give to me. I am so lucky to have them. I usually go through them by name and pray they’ll pass their exams, get over that jerk-off guy and believe in themselves the way I believe in them. I’ve heard we can be lucky to have one best friend. Wow- am I ever lucky then to have all of them.
Then I usually say thanks for my health. I know that out of the billions of people on earth suffering, I have been chosen to be healthy, and given the ability to take good care of myself. I have been given gifts, talents and privileges that many others do not have. It is then that I pray I can fulfill my role here. That I can use what I have been given to make this a better place. This makes me very happy and gives me renewed hope. It reminds me that the broken photocopier and the looming hydro deadlines are inconsequential. Sometimes I hate journalism school, and sometimes I hate my family, but I have been given these skills and these people for a reason beyond myself. I hope I can do what I’m supposed to.
Then I usually say a little something to the people close to me who have died. Don’t know if they are listening, but it makes me happy to know they may have a hand in watching over me. I wish them peace.
If I make it this far without already falling asleep, I usually take a deep breath in and then out, content at all I have been blessed with and in spite of the things I have no right to complain about (except to boyfriend and girlfriends) like family and money trouble. (Because really, I am blessed). It’s not a Catholic-specific practice but it’s my own ritual I’ll keep on, even at the end of the worst of days.
A Nice Little Saturday
Saturday morning and waking up from a drunken birthday evening across downtown the night before. Time to switch from twentysomething student mode into playing grown-up suburban mode. Boyfriend and I had plans to go to the bank to join accounts, then maybe to Wal-Mart, maybe Ikea. Telling my friends my plans, I felt just like Frank the Tank in “Old School” telling the kids, “We’ll go to Home Depot, maybe Bed, Bath and Beyond, it’s shaping up to be a nice little Saturday.”
Boyfriend and I first went to Ikea. En route, I found out he had never been before. I was excited to accompany him on his first bout through the one-direction only Euro furniture store, but leery as to how enthused he would be about shopping, let alone furniture shopping. We had to pick out some furniture for our new place that wouldn’t rock our newly jointed bank accounts, but also wouldn’t look like it was a hand-me-down reject piece from an aunt.
As we circled round the model bedrooms, through the lighting and couches, I saw genuine happiness on his face. He was actually quite excited at the different faux-wood finishes on the bookshelves, and imagining his computer atop one of the $200-and under desks. We picked out kitchens we liked (for our future imaginary purposes) and found out what kind of furniture look each other liked. (He likes minimalist wood, I like dark and homey). He followed right behind me as I went back and forth in the bedding section between the blue striped and the orange patterned duvet cover (we went with orange, he has great taste). No “gawd, it’s just a blanket,” or exaggerated sighing, he was a willing participant in the shopping game! We found some economical and might I say wonderful bedside tables, a study desk, pasta jars, floor mats and picture frame. Remember, he’d never been there before, so as we rounded the corner following the blue arrows on the floor into the kids’ section, his blue eyes lit up. I could see the workings of his mind through his eyes as he imagined how cool it would be to have a room with a stuffed blue snake hanging from a bunk bed, a peephole like a submarine window, a frog floor rug. I have always wished I knew him as a young child because I imagine he would be quite fun. This was as close as I’ve ever got.
He excitedly pointed out an orange stuffed cartoon crab that is supposed to be a sit-upon for wood chairs. After negotiating how much fun it would be and how well it would of course accent our new duvet cover, we got only one (he pressed for two, haha).
We checked out the As-is section, loaded our cart with flat boxes that will one day become bedside tables and a desk and headed for the lines (which were not too daunting.) I realized then I had left my wallet somewhere in the store. I raced around and checked customer service while he held my hand and sympathized kindly. Defeated without success, we made our purchase and left, but got a call minutes after leaving the giant parking lot saying they’d found it. A good end to the trip!
We went home not tired from shopping, which for him typically is about as much fun as watching me paint my toes, but excited to one day soon put this stuff in “our” place. We capped off our nice little Saturday swimming at his aunt’s pool while she was away. (The temperatures in Ottawa have reached a staggering, consistent 40 degrees Celsius. Quel d’hommage).
Move in day is August 15, where we will first paint our bedroom a warm caramel colour, then move in what will become “our” stuff.
All Across the Universe
Have you ever done that mind awareness exercise where you close your eyes, and your drama teacher (or whoever) tells you to imagine yourself lying down, then in this building, then on this street, in this town, in this region, in this country, on this hemisphere, on this planet, in this galaxy…? Where you imagine yourself as a big camera looking down at you, then the balding, then like an aerial map of the street, the city, then as a map of the country, the hemisphere, then as a giant eye looking at planet earth in space?
I used to use that when I was having trouble falling asleep. It was comforting to think of myself being so small, amid so many other people, as something bigger. I guess it was like if I thought of how small I was in the large scale of the universe, it would be easier to put that little physical being to sleep. (For the record, it worked more than it didn’t).
Then recently I started reading this book, “A Short History of Nearly Everything” by Bill Bryson (as recommended by Markus). It has blown my cosmic mind. Really. It has put into great perspective how vast the universe is, and, consequently, how miniscule I am on this scale. For example, if you were to use computer-sized printer paper to draw out all the planets of our solar system in correct proportion to each other, and then lay them out to scale distance-wise, it would take 35,000 miles to accurately display. Crazy! No wonder it takes 25 years to get to Pluto by spacecraft!
That got me thinking a whole gamut of possibilities, of course. One: If that is how big our solar system is, and every star could possible be a sun to whole other solar system equally as large, then it would be impossible for humans to explore because it would take too long to get there (25,000 years). Two: With other potential systems so far away and in the millions, the possibility for life, even life that perfectly imitates life on Earth, rises significantly. But again, our ability to discover such places would be impossible.* That makes me feel curious. Like, maybe there’s another me out somewhere. Maybe there’s another person who is typing something like this as I do on a planet that would take me 15,000 years to fly to.
Do those thought pique your interest? I find it incredibly humbling. Like when I’m doing yoga, and I meditate on my connection to earth (through birth, through living and sustaining, etc.), it is very calming and spiritual to think, “I am here, part of this, which is part of this…” and so on. Not practicing yoga at this very minute, this thought process makes me realize, on a newly enlightened level, how truly important environmental sustenance is. But that’s another topic for another day.
Today I urge you all to reflect on your physical, geographic relation to the earth, the solar system, and the universe. (Though avoid this while using mind-expanding drugs. Could be dangerous).
*I know I wrote before about never saying never, but this really is impossible. No human has lived beyond 150 years, let alone 25,000.
Romanced by a Summer Night in my City
Whenever my sister comes to visit, we seek out adventure. I would feel bad parking her in front of a screen for our allotted togetherness hours, and so, with a fairly shallow coin purse, I try my best to find something of interest to captivate her 12-year-old enthusiasm.
Last evening, the plan was to eat, get gelato, do some facemasks and then finally watch some reality TV. We ate a delicious spaghetti Alfredo with wonderful bacon from Aubrey’s Meats and garlic bread on a baguette from the Boulangerie Français- a wonderful treat around the corner. We then scraped the dishes and set off to Sugar Mountain for some gelato, stopping in at a few of the small shops that make the market so hip and quaint. She picked up a rhinestone-encrusted “H” necklace at Sassy Bead, and I picked up some Apple tea at Teastore. Come arrival at our destination, she chose a chocolate Skor-flavoured gelato, and I went for what I thought was a more summery raspberry-kiwi. (Though on reflection, icy, rich chocolate is a quintessential summer taste too).
The sun was just creeping behind the restaurants and apartment buildings, enough light to still read a book, but certainly not enough to lie under on a blanket. My sister spotted one of her favourite homeless-person turned street busker attractions: the man with two impeccably trained Jack Russell terriers who wear sunglasses and goofy hats. He was on a street corner opposite the Beavertail stand, showing off the dogs’ impressive ability to pose with hotdog bits rested upon their noses for minutes at a time until given the command to eat them. She gladly deposited 50 cents into his colourful mug and we sat down at a table in front of Rocky Mountain chocolate factory to dig in to our gelato.
After what seemed like an appropriate amount of time eating gelato with the almost child-sized plastic spoons and laughing at all there is to laugh at in that area of the market, we decided to head to the park. I thought it might be nice to show her the courtyard, and I am so glad I did. As we passed through the cobblestone street, through the packed restaurant crowds, I heard the echo of loud, smooth music. We looked around to see if it came from speakers, and lucky for us it did not. We spotted a jazz trio playing, and luckier still there was an empty bench to sit upon. We did, and enjoyed the medium-paced jazz music of a guitarist, bassist (stand up not guitar) and percussionist. I couldn’t believe how wonderful it was to have stumbled upon a tucked-away, free musical treat like a jazz trio on a beautiful summer night, eating gelato.
We stayed a few songs before my sister’s chocolate mustache surrounded her mouth and her cup held a brown liquid, no longer gelato. I applauded the band, gave them my compliments and I left smiling the huge grin I can’t get rid of whenever I experience great live music. (It’s been with me at Jason Mraz, Coldplay and most recently, the Jamie Cullum concert).
We strolled lazily and happily back to my apartment, up the flight of back stairs into the oven-like heat trapped inside to watch Canada’s Next Top Model. We applied my Lush Seascrub to our faces and sat with a fan pointed at us each. At the end of the night, I melted happily into my bed, ready to see what song lasted until nighttime, stuck in my head, to carry me into sleep. It was not lyrical, but smooth, accented jazz music echoed by surrounding stone courtyard walls.
Truth? You can't handle the truth
They say the hardest things to write are the things that are the most true. The things that are raw, uncensored, blunt and open. I agree. In these postings, I often find myself stringing sentences together that I think are relatable, or effective, or entertaining. It is actually not often that I write the nitty-gritty raw honest thoughts in my head. I don’t want to open up my brain and heart to that extent for a sometimes foreign audience. It would scare me to think of the judgment that may befall me if I write every truth I know. (That’s not to say I don’t write truth either- just not necessarily the entire truth of how I feel. Its my blog and I make the rules!)
I have a few people with whom I can be completely honest. There’s the boyfriend, who I can break out into random goofy kid campfire songs, making scrunchy faces while smelling my armpit, and laugh back when he looks at me and says, “Gawd, you’re retarded.” There are my tried and true girlfriends who have been there since the awkward spandex and silk shirt days of third grade that I can approach out of the blue to ask if that “thing I have down there” is normal. Around my family, I still have to be something of a role model to the younger two, so I can’t be totally honest about my sexual explorings or intoxicating substance use. There are certainly my acquaintances that sashay to the bars with me that I can be goofy around, but could not approach with a terrible secret and cry on their shoulders forever. Those few people who get the entirely real deal are therefore sacred. Yesterday, officially, another was let in.
Future roommate A has always been a good friend, and nothing short of that. She follows through on promises, is a guaranteed fun time no matter what, is a good study buddy, motivator and confidant, having gone through similar life paths. I felt, over time, that I could divulge more of myself to her. Boundaries were expanded and I let more of myself out, but it wasn’t until yesterday where I decided to wipe off the boundaries entirely.
While she was away on exchange to Europe, I sent her an audio letter, using my very limited microphone computer recording skills. She told me how much she appreciated it. Yesterday, I received a CD letter in return, only hers was a series of video clips. (She’s always been more technologically adept than I). In it, she totally was herself. In some clips, she sat silent for minutes on end tearing and chewing bites of pizza and making her own unique facial expressions, and I wasn’t bored at all. It was comfortable, actually. In other clips, I felt like I was spying on her in her room when no one was around because she was no-hands-barred letting loose and being a total madwoman goofball. It was at that moment I thought, “Wow, this is complete and total honesty.” We’d shared many secrets before and spent many a day and night hanging out, but this was the clincher. It was as if now, suddenly, the final boundary of utter ridiculous silliness that makes no sense and is simply retarded has been wiped clean.
I am now more excited than ever to move out with her (and boyfriend) in the fall. It is comforting to know that if I fart while watching TV, all I hafta do is lean over and go, “Aw, I farted! It stinks. My bad.” And laugh it off. Or that if boyfriend and I have an argument and I decide for 15 minutes that he is the worst person jerk ever, I can run to her and tell her my side and she’ll tell me back that maybe I’m being selfish again (as is usually the case). Honesty—The best gift a friend can ever give or get.
I’m usually reserved when it comes to discussing religion, but I’ll gladly dabble in it when I feel I’m in safe territory.
In grade 10 I took a world religions course where a bunch of Catholic suburban kids finally learned about what “else” is out there in terms of faith communities. I remember being immediately fascinated with Hinduism and Buddhism the most. They didn’t guilt-trip you with sins, but instead encouraged inner peace, self-improvement through patience and nobility. I have since found a nice “me” way to incorporate some aspects of each faith into my own life. One of the teachings I was particularly taken with is the Hindu concept of Maya. For those who may not be familiar with it, I will share my understanding of it with you.
Maya is the “stuff” of our lives that is purely material, and is said to distract us from our personal truths. It’s the extra stuff we pine over in our teen years and lust for in our adult years of keeping up with the Joneses. It is personal decorations like faboo earrings and fancy shoes. It is our luxuries, like couches and television. It is all that is extra to love, life, and survival essentials—basically the stuff that can be bought.
Hindus believe that to rid one’s self of Maya brings one closer to truth. Some call this state nirvana, some call it enlightenment but basically it means, “Get rid of your crap and live off what you’re mama gave you.” Not prostitution, oh no.
Of course, I write this at my computer wearing designer label clothing and undies, decorated with jewelry, sipping fine hibiscus tea and surrounded by Maya. I know that I have not achieved anything close to a Maya-free existence. But I can tell you that being limited in how much Maya I can afford has shown me that maybe there’s something to this belief.
I thought that living in the market would financially be the end of me. How could I walk by fabulous house wares and clothing stores without buying something? Before I moved out, I don’t think that I’d ever walked through a mall without buying something. Now I do that twice a day, live by my budget, and have grown accustomed to dressing myself off secondhand stores and the Old Navy sale rack. I am actually happier this way. I took my self out of the keeping up with the Joneses race, and so there is no way to lose it. I buy only what I can afford and what I need to live. I indulge by buying admission and drinks to bars and clubs with my friends—which even then involves excessive pre-drinking and then actually going out on the mega cheap.
I thought moving out would be a swift kick in my formerly suburban, protected butt, and that I would cry and max out my card and have huge obstacles to overcome. While it was certainly an adjustment in lifestyle, I have transitioned with relative ease into a Maya-minimized life. I am happier, I am healthier, and my relationships are great. I have no regrets, and if I were to make a list of things I’d like to change or improve in my life, none of them would involve Maya.
I will still eat cow and wear shoes when I engage in spiritual practice, so I can’t call myself a Hindu by any stretch. But if I may, I’d like to take this belief in Maya and tuck it into my own “spirituality” pouch, with Buddhist inner peace and Jewish chutzpah. I’ll let you know how I did when I’m old and gray and shriveled. For now, I’m happy. Namaste.
Family vacation: Sarcastic yay
Sorry, I was gone. I went camping with my mom, brother and sister. I dreaded it Wednesday morning. My mum does this thing where she speaks in a high-pitched voice and throws her hands a lot before an event happens. It's her way of preparing. She can't roll and pack the beach towels without heaving heavily and slamming them. When I offered help and reminded her we were going on vacation, ergo, time of rest and calm, she accused me of attacking her and huffed off again. I looked at my sister, shrugged my shoulders and put in my iPod, nice and drowning-out loud.
I slept the drive up, except for the last bit because my mum cursed at the yellow home hardware store truck behind us that wanted to pass. "Jeezus, buddy, I'm not going to speed just for you." Middle of the country, no cops in sight, and yes, my mum was the driver with 20 cars behind her on a one-lane highway.
We arrived at our site and unpacked. I had resolved not to argue anything because I would rather keep my blood pressure at a reasonable level than fight for a tent that is perfectly straight. My mum wanted to drive everywhere. It was Bon Echo provincial park. Trails everywhere. Nature, mum. Let's walk. It'll do us some good. No, that's too hard and far. Fine.
The next day I slept in and finally caught up with the sleep hours my body had put on reserve following many 6 and 7 hours sleep nights. (I needed my beauty sleep). Once we all had a good long, guilt-free sleep, things got better. I did my yogic breathing and sipped cool water. She had her mandatory 2 cups of coffee and used the energy to swim and make breakfast, not heave and flail her arms in stress. Like my sister and I wading into Lake Mazinaw's cool waters, the trip slowly became soaked in calm and peace after a shocking and agitated beginning. I had some good older sister to younger brother chats and worked my tan into a deep gold, without burning. We hiked a beautiful clifftop opposite the beach and saw some native pictographs from thousands of years ago. It was spiritual, being surrounded by vibrant greens, cool, crisp waterside air and birds of every colour. It was a nice excuse to pause, reflect and most importantly, cohabitate in peace with my family. Monday's back to work but Monday's two days away. Tonight, I celebrate my twentysomething year old summer nights out back in thecity on the bar scene in summer clothes with summer hair and a summer pulse rate: Slow and sexy.
First off, I’m leery knowing she may read this, but I need to vent. On the positive side of things, we have lived together ten months without fighting or arguing or anything like that. Everyone had warned me we’d fight, but as time went on and their hypotheses were proved wrong, I thought, “Well, maybe we are just too chill and balanced to be angry.” We have fun, laugh frustrations off (like the incredible heat or accidentally setting off fire alarm), we tell each other if something’s not cool (like burning pots or naked yoga—haha kidding). I really enjoy living with her, and am even sad that come end of August, I will be moving out- onwards and upwards.
But this weekend was a hair-puller-outer. Exhibit A: I made an elaborate dinner (with damn expensive mascarpone cheese, too!) last Thursday. Generally, we have agreed that when I make a big dinner and she gets to eat it, she does the dishes. I therefore soaked them in water and left them that night. Come Sunday, they sat still in the sink with new, dirty dishes on top. When I walked into the apartment to pick up the Jamie Cullum tickets I asked, “What smells like puke in here?” To which she replied, “Oh, that’s the dishes. So I lit a candle.” I took a deep breath to avoid looking like a cartoon who turns bright red and then blows out steam like a train. My first thought was, “Well then why didn’t you clean them?” Oh, frustration. Was it that she put her foot down and refused to do them in a roommate dishes standoff? Or did she simply not want to do them and assume I would? Well, I got home last and couldn’t stand the smell so I Febreezed a little and did the stupid dishes.
I know she had a busy weekend, as it was one of the 2 busiest bar weekends of the year. So perhaps her anger towards our mutual friend wanting to sleep in her bed with her Friday night is excusable. It went like this: Me and the girls (4 of them) went out to a new Euro-martini dance lounge club called Touché. We crashed at the apartment, as per usual. One in my double bed with me, two on the couch/floor and one in roommate’s double bed to share with her. Well, when she arrived home after the shift with older drunk brother in tow, he took up my friend’s floor mattress spot (and said some creepy/inappropriate things to them), and she yelled at our mutual friend to get out of her bed. As I said though, we are all entitled to random anger spurts because sometimes this crazy life can be too much.
There were other things that I heard from other people that add fuel to the fire, but as I learned in journalism school, you never go with secondhand sources alone.
Thank you for letting me vent, and of course, any solutions are welcome. In other news, boyfriend and I found an adorably cute apartment in the Glebe, a beautiful canal-side neighbourhood closer to the university. I applied for it this morning and am so pumped to live with him, and my other girlfriend, A.
And if by chance you are roommate and you are reading this, know that I am a writer by nature and this is my venting system that I use so I don’t go bananas with roommate, boyfriend an any other life frustrations I encounter.
Cullum in the park = Amazing
Last night was, to put it the best way my lexicon allows, a perfect summer night. Joined by my two forever best friends, we set up our soccer mom lawn chairs in Confederation park with poutines, pogos and popsicles in our hands. We were there to see English piano crooner/musical fuser Jaime Cullum perform in the park, and the idea alone sounded way too good to forego a $25 ticket purchase price. Was I ever right...
Opener Sonya Kitchell surprised me this morning when the newspaper review revealed she was 17. Last evening, she sang with the emotional rawness and sadness of a late twentysomething whose heart had been broken too many times to count. Her vocals seemed flawless and were perfect for the evening: A nice mix of Norah Jones in "Turn me on" and Jewel. I highly recommend downloading her for some grade-A chill music. I thought to myself, "Hmmm..after a performance like that, Jaime better bring his A-game."
Did he ever. Most concerts go for about an hour and a half, and the featured artist bookends with his biggest hits, mixed with the songs that reflect the diversity of the album being promoted. What you would expect. Last evening, under the stars on a beautiful summer night, Jaime Cullum played a 3-hour set that featured his hits, his impromptu solo jams and his made-up-on-the-spot wonders. Each song ran about 10 minutes long, but I only came up with that number this morning, his piano solos showed how truly prodigal his talents are. His voice was consistently sexy, as in all his recorded songs. His lyrics were so simple and beautiful...he makes truth seem so easy to convey! He repeatedly told the audience were one of his best ever, and he would never forget us. I feel the same. He turned slow love ballads into bursting Brazilian samba beats, he turned the White Stripes' "Seven Nation Army" into a hip-hop piano and vocals masterpiece.
I don't know if this post conveys at all how wonderful last night was, so hopefully my enthusiasm will be enough. But I know this morning that a night like last night will be a long time returning. I'm so glad I had it. Thanks Jaime Cullum because it was such a treat. To pay tribute to last night, here are the lyrics to his song, "Twentysomething":
Twnetysomething by Jaime Cullum
After years of expensive education
A car full of books and anticipation
I'm an expert on Shakespeare and that's a hell of a lot
But the world don't need scholars as much as I thought
Maybe I'll go travelling for a year
Finding myself, or start a career
Could work the poor, though I'm hungry for fame
We all seem so different but we're just the same
Maybe I'll go to the gym, so I don't get fat
Aren't things more easy, with a tight six pack
Who knows the answers, who do you trust
I can't even seperate love from lust
Maybe I'll move back home and pay off my loans
Working nine to five, answering phones
But don't make me live for Friday nights
Drinking eight pints and getting in fights
Maybe I'll just fall in love
That could solve it all
Philosophers say that that's enough
There surely must be more
Love ain't the answer, nor is work
The truth elludes me so much it hurts
But I'm still having fun and I guess that's the key
I'm a twentysomething and I'll keep being me
THESE ARE THE DAYS
These are the days that I've been missing
Give me the taste give me the joy of summer wine
These are the days that bring new meaning
I feel the stillness of the sun and I feel fine
Sometimes when the nights are closing early
I remember you and I start to smile
Even though now you don't want to know me
I get on by, and I go the extra mile
These are the times of love and meaning
Ice of the heart has melted away and found the light
These are the days of endless dreaming
Troubles of life are floating away like a bird in flight
These are the days that I've been missing
Give me the taste give me the joy of summer wine
These are the days that bring new meaning
I feel the stillness of the sun and I feel fine