Today I thought I’d pay homage to something that’s seen me through the best of times and the worst of times. In various assortments, settings and seasons, a good cup of tea has been there for me.
I grew up having teatime in my quasi-British household (one generation removed). We would slow the grind of Saturday dance lessons, grocery store trips and park outings to converge in the living room for tea. One of the parents would boil the water and line up four mugs on the counter, each containing a slight pour of milk. The tea would set in our blue teapot and cat-patterned tea cozy, waiting to warm our mugs and bellies. This is when mum would call us all from various corners of the house, away from building Barbie houses and dressing in police officer costumes.
“Sit still, don’t spill,” she’d tell me as she put a warm cup of tea into my little girl hands. My dad would take his spot on the couch, signaling to the cat that it was time to come and rest on his lap. My brother would whine that the cat never wanted to lie in his lap.
“Ahhh…” my dad would exhale after inhaling the first sip. “A good batch,” he’d review. Whether we sat quietly enjoying the first few sips of tea, or whether one of us kids would begin soliciting for attention, teatime was always enjoyed. Sometimes I dipped graham crackers into my tea, because it was too hot to drink right away. Mum would eye me carefully from her pink chair, watching to make sure my tea stayed in my cup as chucks of cracker fell into the brown abyss.
As I grew into an angry and sometimes rebellious teen, teatime accompanied “the talks” between my parents and I. A talk for me to beg for more allowance or a later curfew, a talk to tell me I’d have to start babysitting my baby sister more often. Tea was sipped and warmed our palms as we discussed how to arrange and control my growing up. As a reflective young adult, teatime has been my constant. It has been a continuous pattern that has carried through Saturdays and stretched out into after school and after work decompressing rituals. Visitors were always greeted with a warm hug and a warmer cup of tea. The boyfriend, foreign to our tea ritual, was slowly drawn in to the practice with me. Like a religion, tea has continued to be our cleansing ritual at day’s end, making our insides warm and our soul’s realigned to the sensations of peace.
Whenever guests visit me, whether you’re my lifelong best friend, my grandma or a friend’s parent, tea will be poured. No matter the time of year or the temperature out, there is always just cause for tea.
Tea has eased near-shot, frazzled nerves as I stare at a white computer screen, anxious to fill it with he words that will become a grade-A essay. Tea has joined me on the couch, warming my skin, letting the day’s frustrations seep out through my near-sweating skin. It joins me now, as I savour its ability to transport me to a more transcendental place than this cubicle.
I reflected this past weekend, while visiting my aunt and uncle at their log house in the middle of nowhere, surrounded by fresh breeze and green trees, that while in vino there may be veritas, but in tea, there is sublime peace and comfort.
Off to the ocean for the long weekend; leaving tomorrow for the beach at Ogunquit, Maine. Lobster rolls, waves, and sun kissed noses, here I come.
Last night I had the most peculiar dream...
I’m not sure if it’s a dream, but I get the feeling I’m on my way from one life to another. Maybe I died, but I don’t remember.
I find my self in an elevator with two other girls. The blond one looks my age, and she has her hand on the handle of what looks like a janitor’s cart, but it contains no cleaning agents. We all sense that we’re in the same metaphoric boat, which is a comfort unity, but we don’t recognize each other. The blond looks at the other girl, then over at me.
“Well, we have to pick where we’re going,” she said.
“Venus!” suggests the other girl. She seems to understand that we’ve died, that it is feasible to suggest taking an elevator to Venus. After all, we aren’t sure why we’re in this elevator; we may as well test its capabilities to transport us beyond the limits we’ve known on Earth. Whether she chooses Venus as a destination or not, I’m not sure, but the blond girl pushes a button that gets the elevator moving. Almost in a blink the doors open. We let the blond girl push the cart out first, following behind.
The scene is familiar. It appears to be a library. It is decorated in primary colours, which suggests maybe it is in a school or a community center, rather than an older city library with stone walls and silence. We file past the check-out desk. I accept a yellow paper that the lady at the desk hands over her counter. There are lines of black text that dispel instructions that are too detailed for me to understand without knowing more. But written on the line at the bottom is the name Hayley.
There are children that all appear to be around the same age as me, some younger. Some study quietly, some are stacking the shelves, but everyone seems to be working independently. The other girl I’m with tells me that she thinks this place is where people with terminal illnesses go. I look around for visual evidence and find none: No tubes, no wheelchairs, no bald heads or pale faces. But I understand that these people are waiting to die.
We navigate through different sections of the library looking for this girl named Hayley. In an attempt to better understand what this place is, the blond suggests we look into a room off to the right. The door is open, and we peak our heads in. The walls are a navy blue and there are decorated dinner tables everywhere. The people inside are oblivious to our presence. A pouty bride is sulking in the corner and heaving heavy breaths, surrounded by her identically dressed bridesmaids, who look equally disappointed. At an opposite corner, the bride’s cranky mother bosses around serving staff and corrects people’s etiquette faux-pas. I want to tell the mother that she is ruining her daughter’s day, but I hold back, thinking maybe I’m like Ebenezer Scrooge, maybe the actors in this scene can’t hear me. The bride’s face finally lights up, following a discussion with her bridesmaids that I have not heard. The group sashays over to the mother, and introduces her to the groom’s father. I realize they are both single parents. The mother starts dancing with this man, and eventually laughs, smiles and closes her eyes as he leads her in circles. The bride looks quite pleased. Instead of pouting about her mum’s antics, she has helped her mother to find true love, the cure to her crankiness. The other girl I came to this place with, not the blond one, has decided to sit and reflect on what she’s just seen. “Don’t worry, I’ll be fine here,” she said.
We proceed on to the back of this first section, unsure of how many more there may be. Sunlight streams through the windows’ white blinds and onto the round tables. More people work independently, flipping through books, making notes. A guy who looks to be just exiting the acne phase of his teenage years sits at a table with no books in front of him. He just looks at the birch finish. He is wearing an enormous navy blue T-shirt that draped his smooth, round body. He looks to be about 400 pounds, I guess, large enough to make fashionable clothes shopping difficult. His hair is greasy and his odour indicates that personal hygiene may not rank high on his list of priorities. He looks up at the blond one, and without saying hello or introducing himself, he starts speaking as if she has asked him what was wrong.
“I just want to be able to wake up, and not think about all the bad memories,” he said. I immediately want to comfort him, and tell him not to worry, that he’ll make new ones, but the blond girl puts her hand on his shoulder. She looked at him and began speaking with him, and I can tell that she relates, presumably plagued by her own troubling memories. I nod to her to tell her I’ll leave her be, but she is looking intently in his eyes, through his unattractive exterior, seeing something I can’t.
I walk a few feet from them, figuring I better get on with finding this Hayley girl, for whatever reason. I look down at the yellow sheet to make sure I have her name right. I ask a redheaded girl on the other side of a bookshelf if she knows anyone named Hayley. Before she can answer, another redheaded girl pops up beside her from a kneeling position.
“I’m Haley,” she said.
“Why don’t you come with me Hayley, I think we have some work to do together,” I said. She exhales deeply and looks away, then returns to looking at my eyes, with a look of annoyance and hesitation.
“OK,” she said, “But first, I have to…” whatever she has to do, her voice has trailed off, or else become to quiet for me to hear. We walk down another corridor between book shelves, not too fast, but with a purpose. We turn left down another corridor and approach a supermarket-style pyramid display of beer cans. As we pass by it, she notices my mischievous smile, or maybe she just felt it pass through to her through our held hands.
“Oh no,” she said. “I don’t do things that get me in trouble.”
I smiled. I remember thinking to myself in eighth grade how easy life would be if I stuck to the rules. No one could get mad at me, I’d surely work hard and get good grades, good scholarships, and I could devote my time to all things good. Being good would inevitably lead to good things. Right? But then I did something bad, and then something else, and looking back now, some of my best memories have been breaking the rules. And I got good grades anyway, right?
I kept walking hand in hand with this girl, preparing to tell her all of this. I knew that I had to teach her how to seize the day, and follow instincts before rules. I felt comfortable, knowing what this was all about now.
What a cuckoo dream! It was so vivid, and followed a logical flow, for a change. I’m not sure what it all means just yet, but I thought it important enough to write down while it was still fresh.
Ode to C
Tonight I’m going out for tea with my friend C. I admire her in so many ways because she does the things I would never have the courage to actually do, I just like to dream that maybe one day I would. Last summer, she traveled to Ghana to teach village children English. She wrote home emails of how she cried the first week she was there, became accustomed to showering with cold water buckets and being hit up for money even by friends because she was white. She stayed the whole summer and came home with cool knick-knacks, photos and willpower. I have other friends that have traveled to Africa on exchanges and to work. I have even added Johannesburg to my growing list of places to visit. But that’s as close as I get to being courageous enough to venture out into the unknown. Because I don’t trust my own independence to stand the test of travel in a remote Africa village for three months, I admire my friend more.
This summer, while we crashed her pool, drank our weekends away and went camping, she was committed to be chained to her calculator. She recently resolved that she’d like to be an architect. Not just in a “That would be cool” way, that’s not her style. Instead she signed herself up for challenging math course over the summer so she would have the requisite admission qualifications to architecture school. We watched her cry, miss out on road trips and cut the swimming short (while we continued to bask in her own backyard oasis) so she could study and be tutored in calculus. Dedication I can only dream to possess.
And tonight, I am going out to tea with her, less than twelve hours before she boards a plane that will take her to South Korea, where she will live and teach for a year. All by herself, laptop and meager (OK, stuffed), suitcases in tow. (I won’t romanticize her any more than necessary, she is impressive enough on her own) She will be teaching and making some money to pay for architecture school next fall. A world away, for a whole year. I can’t imagine how isolating that is, nor how inviting she says the opportunity is for her. Communication with her will most certainly be written, though maybe we’ll all wake up at 2 a.m. or something to talk to her. (I just re-read that and thought, “C’mon, you’re writing about a girl who is moving to Korea to further her life dreams. You can surely muster up the energy to talk to her at an inconvenient hour.”)
So, I dedicate this post to my globetrotting, perpetually self-improving, ultra-ambitious girlfriend of mine. Happy travels, C.
Living with my fiancé would be wonderful. We would enjoy sipping tea as we sat on the porch and talked about things we’d heard in the news that day. We would awake in the morning with a smile and an affection embrace, following a night of comfortable spooning. I would lean over and kiss him while I cooked dinner and he cleaned up the leftover beer cans, without my asking.
As quaint and romantic as the idea of moving in with the love of my life seemed to be, the bags under my eyes say otherwise, and our irritated, shot nerves say otherwise. Sleep has been the number one most contentious issue in the first week of Operation: Domesticity. I have been waking up at quarter after seven to eat, dress, makeup my face and head out the door to catch the bus to work. He works overnights on weekends, and so he stays up late, allowing his body to adjust to the timings of shift work. Heading to bed close to midnight has been something of a compromise, where he might stay up later on his own, and I try and tiptoe around our bedroom in the morning while I ready myself. This twentysomething needs her beauty sleep in quality amounts, so I have come to dread my radio alarm clock with a fury it hath never before known. It’s a good thing it’s across the room, or surely I would have rolled over, shotputted it into the wall, and continued sleeping. I pine for the weekend morning I can sleep endlessly. Until then, I cake on the yellow-based undereye concealer, load myself full of caffeine and tell my man I love him as I stumble out the door in a half-awake stupour.
Later that morning at work, I get a call from him telling me his plans to sleep in late (but also to get the requisite amount of sleep before his weekend overnights) was thwarted by the 8:30 am bass pounding of the music in the apartment above ours.
We are both tired, and on the verge of exploding sickness sure to incapacitate us and drive our shared misery to new depths. IKEA furniture still left to assemble, a few boxes to unpack, constant cleaning up after ourselves (with a few “helpful” reminders from me to him on that subject) and irritated snipes directed at each other; thus is the evidence of our shaky beginning to our Operation.
I don’t doubt it will get easier as we adjust to each other’s habits and ways, and as we both resolve to get good sleep, even if it means not “spending time” together before sleep every night. Maybe one day we’ll even chuckle at our shaky first week. But for now, all my over-tired mind can process is how much I want sleep, not disturbed by bass music, an alarm clock, or the blanket being stolen as he rolls over.
Having to carpe diem
Could I go with L to the fair this weekend? Sure! Out for drinks Friday night with a visiting friend? OK! It’s summer, those lazy, hazy, crazy days. I’m carefree, enjoying the breeze and the ease of loose plans. Maybe next weekend the girls and I will mozy up to K’s cottage to round things out.
Crap. I forgot. This weekend I’m going to visit my Aunt (in the middle of capital N Nowhere) from Friday to Sunday. Oh, well that leaves… Labour Day weekend, the last weekend of summer. Wasn’t that supposed to be like really far away? Oh no! That’s next weekend! And I have plans to vacation in Maine with the fam for that too! Where have you gone summer?
In light of this startling revelation I had this morning on the bus ride into work, I realized I must grasp on to all those carpe diem moments of summer I hold so dear. I resolved early on to do something different or at least markedly “summer-ish” every day. I enjoyed campfires, sleepovers, barbeques, I tanned, and um, got proposed to! So I can’t lament that I wasted the summer away. But still…it’s fading so fast!
So here’s a list of some of my favourite carpe diem-ish things to do:
1. Smiling AND saying hi, making small chat with the people who typically get ignored, like cleaners, the mail guy, the guy who empties my recycling bin, etc.
2. Dancing when a sweet song comes onto my iPod. I know I put it on there cuz it’s a rockin beat, so it deserves the homage of a hip shake, even if I’m on the escalator.
3. Singing when I do the dishes.
4. Calling up my grama or Boompa to see what’s going on in their old-people worlds.
5. Going for that extra sprint at the end of a run that has already tuckered me out.
6. Deciding to wear matching underwear.
7. Opening the blinds really fast in the morning to get the full effect of how wonderfully bright and sunny mornings are.
8. Making a delectable fancy meal. It tastes good AND I get to pretend I’m good at it!
9. Reading and writing every day.
10. Filling an otherwise boring moment (like studying, or reading work emails) with a wonderfully warming cup of good tea.
11. Feeding the ducks the crusty pieces of bred at the end of the loaf.
12. Giving blood
13. Painting my toenails pink
14. Staying up late talking to my brother/sister/friend/parent/fiancé to make sure everything’s OK with them.
15. Petting my cat.
Twentysomething vs Thirtysomething on the issue of love
“Do you believe in love?”
“Love? Oh, yes. Above all things, I believe in love.”
This conversation between Toulouse-Lautrec and Christian in Moulin Rouge says it all. You can believe in any number of gods (or whatever you wish to call them), you can believe in Santa, you can believe your favourite item at Crabtree & Evelyn will one day go on sale. But underneath it all, do you believe in love?
I truly believe that even if I were a crack-addicted prostitute who wore garbage bags and had no teeth, I would still have love. I believe that in the most desperate of situations, someone teetering on the edge of survival could be saved by love. I believe that if I was asked to move to the most despicable corner on the other side of the world, but for love, then that should be a reasonable enough cause to explain myself.
I believe that love should always be given a fighting chance. Don’t know if you should agree to go on the date? Well, I’ve told my single girlfriends, if your heart says yes, you should always go for it. Should you give up on a relationship before it starts because you’ve been hurt before? As the old adage goes, “It is better to have loved and lost then never to have loved at all.”
I write this today as a response to some people (unmentioned) who think that being a thirtysomething allows them the right to tell me, a self-proclaimed twentysomething that I am naïve, I don’t really know what it’s like. I told someone that a man who said such wonderfully nice things and who surprised her with his honesty was a lead worth following up on. I was excited for her. Then it was, “A difference of 20something and 30something... just because a man says complimentary things, it does not make him automatically nice. Even Ted Bundy was described as "charming". Maybe you have a decade on me, but age ain’t nothing but a number: I believe in love, and it’ll take a catastrophic, universal force to shake me, not some cynical thirtysomething scorned by lovers past.
To naysayers and cynics, to those bitten by former loves and those who never risked it to love, I say this: We aren’t here to live by a “One hurt, twice shy” regime. I believe in love. Ya, I’ve seen guys hurt friends of mine. I’ve seen my girls invest their hearts and souls in what turned out to be a lost cause. But I would much rather be a “naïve twentysomething” who believes in love, who sometimes gets hurt in the process (“Love is a battlefield”, yeah I quoted 80s pop), than a cynical thirtysomething who could pass up a Prince Charming for safety’s sake.
It's better in the Glebe
Whenever I travel, it usually takes my body a day or two to acclimatize to the new environment. It’s as if it has to breathe in this new oxygen from a new corner of the world for 24 hours, and have a good, long sleep, in order for me to fully blend in. This weekend, I was exhausted.
Fiancé and I moved into our new place from Friday morning until Sunday evening. We were ever so fortunate to have the help and gritted-teeth smiles of our parents and siblings as we shoved couches through narrow doors and moved dark wooden dressers down rickety stairwells. Not only that, but my future parents-in-law spoiled us, like veritable apartment fairy-godparents. They gave us a wonderful new bed and headboard, ceiling fan, barbeque, groceries, and a slew of other extras to make our house more of a home. Unless you’ve been a poor student with student loans and a budget tighter than Richard Simmons’ spandex, you don’t know how appreciative I am to be given such nice, NEW things. Things that otherwise would have been filed in my mental “to buy” list to grow longer each month, with both a mounting cost and mental worrisome toll.
While lifting tables and emptying a kajillion boxes is also a likely cause for the fatigue that hypnotized me at each day’s end, I also attribute it to my body’s need to absorb into a new niche. I needed to undergo a biological transformation from downtown market body to greeny Glebe body. No longer are my nostrils infiltrated with the hot, pungent odour of cigarettes when I exit my door. I do not have to train my ears to ignore the constant beeps, engine revs and sporadic drunken singsongs that glided in through my old bedroom window. In my, (nay, our) new place, I walk out my front door greeted by the extended family of sparrows that inhabit the tree and garden, and am easily guided to sleep to the sound of far-away cars that sound, to me, like ocean waves lapping the shore.
On Saturday, my Dad and I sat on the front step for hours, feeding the sparrow family and watching the world go by. We saw families walking past to go to the fair, Glebe-ites walking their pugs, old men with harrowed hair that looked as though they spent the entire day walking and thinking. Yesterday my mum, sister and I walked down the corner street and found some fantastic little shops that will no doubt pepper our future weekends with interesting finds, unique gift ideas, and an expanded mental repertoire of home decorations. We went to Purple Cow, where I got some peanut brittle, Mrs. Tiggy Winkles, where we spent almost an hour looking at things like “Freudian Slippers” and mugs with Van Gogh o the front, where his ear disappears when it’s filled with a hot liquid. We went to Britton’s, where I indulged and purchased the New York Times because my internal journalistic thirst lives for the wonderfully written columns and stories in the Sunday Times. I spent hours reading it, and have more to go today when I go home!
I am just thrilled to be living in this new part of town. I think waking up to the love of my life, preparing good food and eating it in my sunny sitting room, and watching the world go by a little more everyday will be the remedy to the increasing chaos and business that goes along with getting older.
I feel like the kids AREN'T all right
So now JonBenet’s alleged killer says he didn’t mean to kill her, but that he was in love with the young pageant queen.
I got an email yesterday called, “Funny photos that don’t need captions”, and the first one was of two incredibly obese children eating at McDonalds.
And wasn’t Melanie Griffiths being chastised last week for lighting her teenage daughter’s cigarette while they smoked together?
What I’m trying to say is that I’ve recently started picking up on how prevalent it is for parents to put their kids in danger. I find it disgustingly selfish. Maybe they feel like they truly love their kids, and maybe in their hearts they tell themselves that they’ll do anything to be the best parents ever and make their kids happy. But do they ever wonder what happens tomorrow? One of the things that makes me so sad happens in front of me just about every day. I’ll see parents, most often young ones who don’t look like they were ready to be parents. The guy who looks in his early twenties, wearing low riding, loose dark jeans and a sideways hate, pushing a pink stroller, telling the little girl inside, “No, we can’t, stop whining to me, I can’t take you anymore, I’m sick of you!” It makes me want to cry, and/or punch him in the face, scoop his little girl up and tell her everything is OK.
I’m not a parent myself, so I can definitely concur that I am in no place to judge parenting styles until I do it myself and see how hard it really is. But I’m not talking about spanking versus non-spanking. I’m talking about parents who put their five year old girls in makeup and pageants, and then are dumbfounded that some sick pervert sexually assaults and kills her. Why wasn’t it the kid next door, the parents ask? Well, it’s because you put your kid out there made up like a seductive twenty year old, that’s why. And maybe you’re not very proud of yourself for being overweight, and maybe you’ve got self esteem and self-worth issues, but you have to be incredibly selfish, in my eyes, to make your kids suffer right along with you. How can a four year old know that they’re eating themselves to an early grave if that’s the only eating pattern they know?
And the worst of all- so many “rebellious” teenagers smoking in the garage and getting wasted at 13, while the parents wonder why? Well, maybe they shouldn’t tell their kids not to do exactly what they’re doing.
Parents are role models; they’re the first fully-grown people from whom kids learn about life. What’s going to happen to them when their parents are selfish hoo-has who are killing their children with their own mega mistakes?
I’m not sure from where this mood has sprung. It just makes me sad, I guess because I can’t do something about the father who verbally abuses his kids at the mall, or the drugged out mother who whores out her twelve year old. Things that I can’t fix or impact, things that I can’t “carpe diem” to make me sad, I guess.
PS- I’ll try not to be a crochety old “complain about things” lady in my next post.
Man to the rescue
Yesterday I was sick. I went into work thinking everything would be OK, but after 45 minutes my forehead felt like lead, and I had to prop my head up with my hand. I was just run down, my energy-ometer on low. So I went home. The walk home felt like I do when I wake up in the middle of the night to go to the bathroom. I stumbled, tried to minimize the intake of light and moved forward on autopilot rather than deliberately took steps. I hate feeling yucky and I hated that I had to leave work when I already planned a day off this week, but what is there to really like when you’re sick? The comfort of a man, that’s what! Even though it was 9:30 and I knew he’d still be sleeping, I called him.
“Hey babe, it’s me. Sorry to wake you up.”
“I’m just calling cuz I’m going home from work cuz I feel awful.”
“Mmm-hmm. You’re going home? Are you OK?”
Am I OK? Oh, hearing him ask those words almost made me feel a tiny bit better. The comfort.
I did go home and sleep in his T-shirt and my AE girl boxers, so the effort was definitely put in to cure myself. But after lying in bed awake for approximately 40 seconds, I called him again. I really thought he’d be awake at that point.
“Hey babe. I was just thinking. If you have today off, do you think you could come get me?”
“Let me like get up and brush my teeth and stuff and I’ll call you back.”
I knew it was his day off, and one of his last days off with time to himself before we spend our free time moving, and assembling IKEA furniture. But I was sick, and sick me could only process one thought: I needed him.
He picked up on this and did the Prince Charming thing, coming to rescue me. I feel bad today, but sick me yesterday would not have understood this logic if today me explained it to her.
While yesterday was by all accounts uneventful and boring (as I slept most of it away), what meant the most to me was the effort he took to come and be with sick me. It’s one of the most important things in the world. Feeling the love for sure!
My life-- it's in the bag
I read an interesting opinions piece in today’s Globe and Mail that has inspired me to do my own version. I call it, “My life- it's in the bag.”
I have had many bags, or purses. I usually have one core bag that travels around with me everywhere I go until it breaks or gets stained or becomes not as useful as the new bag I see in the store window.
I have had the pleasure of carrying a beautiful blue silk bag with bamboo handles that fiancé’s mum brought back from Costa Rica. I have had a canvas bag with a French movie poster on it. I have had the large faux leather tote and most recently the red shoulder bag that I received on Valentine’s Day. Now, I am using a boho oversized slouch bag from Old Navy, though by its appearance I could get away with lying that I received it shipped over from a street vendor in Mumbai, India.
That’s what everyone sees and has seen, slung over my shoulder, squished in my elbow, and/or hanging desperately from a few fingers as I try to balance other things on my minimal number of limbs.
Inside, only very few have ventured. It holds the supplies that I have come to rely on as necessary components of a fully functioning me. There is always, ALWAYS lip gloss. The Lip Smackers kind, usually a strawberry or raspberry. Something reddish. I also have my reading glasses and sunglasses, each in their own case to protect them from my bag being squished, sat on or between two bus doors as they close. I always have my keys, and I applaud myself for never having lost them or forgotten them, leaving my stranded on my apartment steps, (knock on wood). I always have my cell phone, and no matter what kind of fancy cell phone compartment the bag has, I can never find the vibrating pink contraption until just when the ringing stops to tell me I have missed a call. I always have my agenda, because without a daily list of what’s going on, the ability to look ahead a few days and to record important dates, I would be lost. I have forgotten that from time to time, and I immediately resort to writing down everything I remember for that day on a loose piece of paper as a wannabe agenda stand-in.
Lately, I have taken to keeping a stick of deodorant in there. Not that I find myself an especially sweaty or smelly gal, but it just feels better to know that after walking on my lunch break in a shirt with especially tight armpits, I don’t have to sit near people I know smelling as bad as I think I might.
There are usually some hair elastics tossed inside, sometimes some bobby pins and maybe even a coloured Rimmel lip gloss. And I always take my iPod along, to add a pre-selected soundtrack to my carpe diem journey. It’s nice to feel like I’m in a movie sometimes.
If someone were to find my lost bag, should that horrible and dreadful occasion ever come to pass, I’m sure they’d peep inside and find it to be just what they expected of a twentysomething urbanite. Or if they happened to be a male, they might look in, not understand the contents as if they were words being spoken to him in another language, and ditch it. But it’s my bag, my saving grace, and now you know what’s in it.
So much is changing and preparing to change, just this week even, that I’ve been savouring a lot more about the little things that I know will be different soon.
I am excited to move in with fiancé and A next week, to move into a beautiful new neighbourhood and to decorate a nice, bigger, new place. But I’ll miss days like yesterday. I was packing up boxes and nursing a hangover when I got a call from best friend A. “My mum and I are just going to eat at Saigon, this Vietnamese place by Meditheo, you want to come?” I’ll miss random calls to meet people who are down in the market and think to call me. Saigon was like what I know of Chinese food, but expanded. I loved my spring rolls and my friend’s sweet and sour soup was an interesting but too sweet blend of sauces, herbs noodles and pineapples. I’lll miss the market’s restaurants: No chain restaurants, just wonderfully kitschy and unique eateries representing food choices from everywhere. (I think my favourite new food I’ve tried this year is pad Thai). I ate a croissant from La Boulangerie Français, which bakes the best croissants to ever pass through my lips. I’ll miss walking by that bakery’s doors, smelling the buttered pastry every day. Best friend and then came back to the apartment to drink blueberry and orange pekoe tea, and I continued packing my dishes, my picture frames, my DVDs and the other ingredients to this past year’s adventures in my first apartment. But now it’s time to move onward and upwards. I understand a little of how Wendy felt, but also how Peter Pan did as well.
I also realized that in this new place, I’m going to have to resolve to put some things in boxes. Things that will likely not see the light of day until the faraway day I want to reminisce by going through boxes with my name written on them. Maybe I’ll have kids to show the boxes’ contents to, or maybe I’ll just need to open it and smell the smell of my past. I understand that in a bedroom I share with my fiancé, I cannot hang homemade frames that hold pictures of my girlfriends and me in grade eight. I can’t hang the pink baby girl who sleeps on a silk cloud with stuffed, pastel-coloured stars. I certainly can’t put the homemade pillow from my best friends on my newly shared bed—it has a picture of their faces on a pink flowered background. It’s all a part of growing up. I know I can’t have Mardi Gras beads hang from my doorknob forever. But the act of physically moving on from my teenage décor is another reminder that this time, the changes are for good. Some things will be packed in boxes and sent to my mum’s, not the new apartment. I’m not sure if it’s sad or just an opportunity to bid adieu to one chapter while I excitedly turn the page to the next.
I think my energy is bright blue
So, we’re all made up of atoms, just like everything else. Technically, when we sit on a chair we are not directly contacting our bottoms with the chair, but we are floating above it on densely compressed air atoms. Or, another blow-my-mind atom behaviour point: When I feel warm sunlight beaming down on my back, it is the rapid movement of atoms warmed up by the sun’s heat that are causing the warm feeling on my skin. When I turn all the lights off and wear silk pajamas under cotton sheets, I can see atoms repelling each other in the little lightning shocks that dance as I move under the covers. Atoms are busy little guys in an astounding population size. (They say on a pinpoint millions of atoms bounce around.) I like to acknowledge their presence once in awhile, and I usually get to thinking about energy.
If atoms are little teeny tiny balls of energy, and they make up everything, then technically everything has energy. When I look up the energy that comes with eating a leaf of lettuce (in nutritional info sheets), I am seeing what the atoms on that piece of lettuce will turn into inside of me: energy. I’ve taken this into account too, and so I try my best to ingest high-energy foods (that are healthy too, though the occasional Lemonheads candy spree is in order). If you’re really into energy like I am, there are ways to see the energy you have inside you. Some people can see colours around other people, like purple, or orange. This is said to be a person’s energy colour. I like to imagine energy as a blue light that flows through my veins. I inhale it all in through my nose, let it circulate to all the parts of my body feeding them energy, and then exhaling what’s left back out my nose and into the atmosphere, to meet up with other atoms and give energy to more sources.
One of the coolest ways I’ve seen my own energy in action was when I had an ultrasound of my heart. That muscle can really move! It’s so fast and pumps so much so far, I was astounded to look at the screen and see something inside of me operating like the big machines I’ve seen at factories. Only this machine is the size of my palm and operates on energy. Energy from atoms. It was pretty mind-blowing.
Energy is our fuel, it is all those tiny atoms running around and bumping into each other in a universally calculated way that keeps us alive. Thanks for energy, and let’s all make the most of it. Go running! Sing loud! Twirl around really fast! Energy from atoms, man it’s great.
Yesterday was the day after payday, and so after the metaphorical work whistle blew (read: After I got sick of playing solitaire) I trotted home, picked up my black canvas grocery cart and began my walk to Loblaw’s for groceries. I put in my iPod, and rarely skipped over any songs. It was like a pleasant, me-created radio station without commercials and with songs that make me think, “Oh yeah, I love that song!” (Like Hootie and the Blowfish songs) I walk down my street, past the hotels and shawarma shops, the bars and the patio restaurants. Then I turn the corner after the Chinese tea and coffee shops and suddenly the story’s atmosphere changes. Old men and women sit with their backs supported by beer store and bank walls. Their skin is tanned and the lines across their face hold crevices of dirt. Their eyes are often half-opened or dramatically wide and animated. Some are surrounded by plastic shopping bags stuffed with what I only notice to be rags. I don’t stare at the contents long enough to be sure.
Some have torn pieces of cardboard in front of them, some with witty sayings, some pleading for my money.
It only gets worse as I walk by the beer and liquor stores, where harrowed-looking, old men and women with long hair, torn clothes and a pushy act ask me for money. They are increasingly desperate as compared to those who sit along the wall when I first turn onto the street. Some are in wheelchairs, some have the appearance that they suffer from mental disorders. Some yell, as if in conversation with an invisible person. Some smile, hoping, I suppose, to charm me into opening my bag, then my wallet and then sifting through it to find something for them.
I pass the worst, the scariest of the bunch as I cross the old movie theatre that now shows independent movies. This part of the street seems to be where drug dealers and wannabe (or perhaps legitimate) gangstas hang out, under the blue shade of the theatre. They have shaves heads or cornrows, they look sideways with their red eyes that all seem halfway closed. Their ears sparkle, either with real diamonds or other stones that are supposed to make them look rich. Some talk on cell phones in loud, obnoxious voices, some pace nervously, as if waiting for someone, or more likely, some substance.
Eventually I step back into the sunlight (or so it seems) and go into the grocery store. It plays happy 60’s music and the fluorescent lighting almost mimics morning light. Eventually, though, I must complete my purchases, and exit this time with a full canvas grocery cart, to make the same trip home. I don’t dare take anther route, because that would mean walking in front of the homeless shelter, down the alleys behind the likely stolen material pawnshop, or worse yet, into parking lots without cars, surrounded by building walls and filled with still more tanned-skin, dirty-faced people.
I have never been sure what my role is, what I should do. Should I continue being the passerby girl with a purse and a cart full of groceries that offers only a smile, or worse yet, who passes by without looking, ignoring what’s right in front of her? Should I stop for one, or all, to dispense a few coins here and there? Can they see on my face that I feel vulnerable and defenceless as I make this walk? I haven’t given out any money since I began having to make this walk when I moved into my current habitat last August. I feel like taking the time to take out wallet, unzip change compartment and pick out change leaves too much time of me standing in front of a potentially volatile, mentally ill street person who could easily run off with my stuff while I search through my wallet. Or worse, that they will take my money and buy intoxicants to further deplete their progress. It’s a mixed up bunch of feelings I have in this situation. Regardless of the scenery, I don’t dread these walks any more than I do others, because in the end, I get food (a major plus!), but also I’m reminded to think about life at the other end of the spectrum, and that’s not so bad.
Back to Zen me
I’m back into the me I re-invented on January 1st of this year. That girl was going to not care about school grades (so much); she was going to learn to prepare a different food dish every other week (or as often as she bought the requisite groceries/ingredients). She was going to do yoga three times a week, read a book a month and light lavender-scented candles during her baths. 2006 me is essentially Zen me. Well, about February I began caring about grades again after nervously wondering what would actually happen if I did get put on academic probation or –worse—kicked out of journalism school. I actually have stuck to my culinary expansion vow, and so far my favourite dish to prepare is jerk chicken with pineapple salsa. Tonight I am making vegetable quesadillas from Jamie Oliver’s cookbook. I haven’t done yoga in the longest time, justifying to myself that if I stretch after each run, I am essentially negating the reason to do yoga. I am still in the middle of reading the book I started at the beginning of summer, and my wine tasting guide sits with a bookmark halfway though on my bedside table, as it has since, uh, January. Baths were also hard to come by in my apartment, as it was rare to have enough hot water pour through the tap to have an enjoyable soak.
Since I vowed all those Zen resolutions at the year’s beginning, I like to think I have tried to keep most. But now, as summer nears an end, the heat wave ends, summer specials at the mall end and the summer fruits are sparse at the market, I realize, again, that time goes by with or without me. So, I took a fabulously long weekend, stopped worrying about the money I didn’t have, the pressing deadlines hanging over my head, the seeming urgency to find a wedding place and reception and have decided, once again, to just be Zen about it.
I was goofy with my little sister during out movie date, in which we watched 1994’s Matilda, wearing mud masks and sipping blue Gatorade from martini glasses. I thoroughly enjoyed each minute of my movie date with fiancé last night (saw Talladega Nights, and I feel it is due more credit than it may receive), I savoured the feeling of my head on his shoulder, our laughs and looks afterwards, and the calm that spread over my chest as I lay in bed afterwards with a lavender candle burning. It was a feeling I hadn’t met with for weeks.
After a week’s break I went for a run again today, made a grocery list, booked a wedding date and church (November 2007), and have managed still to breathe in and out without a pressing feeling of anxiety over my chest. It’s nice!
Unless you know her already, you need to hear about my future mother-in-law. She is such a character, it’s almost too good for primetime. She never ceases to entertain me, and usually everyone around me.
My first encounter with her was when my new boyfriend yelled from the couch if she could bring him some of the cookies she’d just baked. I was shocked, visibly, as I looked at him with mouth open and a questioning expression. At my house, if we wanted something, we got up off the couch and got it ourselves. I expected her to come in with a defeated, sad look on her face, answering to his beck and call. Instead, she came in smiling and laughing at how lazy he was.
Things like this became common in his house. The most extreme instance of her voluntary servitude was at one of boyfriend’s high school basement parties, when he yelled up the stairs about 11 o’clock at night, “Hey mu-um? Can you make us some brownies?” She did! I couldn’t believe it!
Eventually, I have come to realize that when she laughs things off, she generally means it. Of course, I have seen other household members cross the line and berate her, and that makes me sad. Her as well, probably. But after years of visiting there, interviewing her for high school assignments, and talking with her on the phone (and over tea, dinner, projects, etc.) I have come to understand that she is who she is.
She talks to people all day long, although it beats me how she understands them as they reply with their mouths open and filled with dental cleaning tools, because she is a dental hygienist. I have had people come up to me at the mall, the gym, everywhere to ask, “Oh are you ___? My dental hygienist talks about you all the time!” She is quite petite and is just finishing up her second attempt at the L.A. fitness weight loss plan, which unfortunately seems to involve eating lots of lettuce, and drinking lots of water. She wears her curly red hair tied back in a ponytail and has the girl version of fiancé’s eyes. She’s a great baker and cook, a tireless launderer, cleaner and organizer, and like me, she makes good use of each day’s 24 hours. Saturdays, you can usually find her perusing the aisles of Costco or out on a trek to 12 different stores to compare prices on a new lamp before she buys it.
I’ve seen her nearly keel over laughing, talk to the dogs and seemingly hear them reply when she thinks I can’t hear her, cry during family tragedies, come in sweating after a long walk in the ravine behind her house, and fall asleep on the floor at 9 o’clock in the middle of a movie.
She is quite the funny lady, of a breed I had never met before. I have never had any qualms or hesitations about entering their family because she is just so funny, and definitely the rock holding everyone together. From the moment she wakes up early to prepare he husband and son’s lunches, to the wee hours of the morning she spends baking pies before a family get together, she has proven herself a matriarch worth respecting.
Everything's coming up roses! Yeah!
At about the same time I learned about maya (see earlier post) I learned about karma. The traditional beliefs say karma is an effect that follows each person’s life, that if you are mean in one life you will be punished in the next, making the path to Nirvana that much further. In this 2006 fast-fast world, and with me being a twentysomething carpe diem-er, I like to think that karma makes an appearance in our own lives, in more real time. For instance, I like to think that when I return someone’s twenty-dollar bill they’ve dropped, that someone would to the same for me one day. I also expect that if I’m a total beeyotch at the transit lady because I’m having a bad day, then I may be on the receiving end one day as well. Do you agree?
Anyway, I have had a few days with wonderful events I must share with you, to promote the idea that karma just might be a relevant universal force to reckon with. Obviously, the proposal and engagement were stellar. That was one of the best, happiest things to ever happen to me! As I had also mentioned before, I was granted a wonderful opportunity through an internship. Sunday I got a letter in the mail saying that my university was giving me a scholarship, specifically because I was an upper-year student with great promise I the field of newspaper journalism. Nice! What a confidence booster and tuition helper! Yesterday when I checked up on some journalism classes I wanted to get into (but that were full and had been for 5 weeks), it turned out there was one spot in my first choice class on public relations. Double nice! I also wrote one of my former profs an email, because I wanted to get into her online publishing class, though it was full. But encouraged by the fortune of the earlier class opening, I thought it worth a shot. She e-mailed back saying what impeccable timing I had, as she had just been given an extra spot, and it would go to me! Yay universe! I also was given an interview time with someone I’d been chasing for a week, which makes my looming deadline seem less daunting as I navigate through agents and other red tape. The ridiculous heat wave seems to be calming down, the long weekend is here, and I feel like the universe is giving me a nice, warm, hug. Rather than answer back to it with, “Thanks universe!” I understand my karmic obligations to pay it forward. So I resolve not be bitchy, snarky or know-it-all ish. I will smile at people, I will talk to people, and I’ll definitely do what I can to help people.
“Nothin’ but blue skies…do I see…”
Goodbye to twentysomething?
With the ring on my finger and talk of weddings and setting dates, I wonder: Will it mark the end to my stereotypical twentysomething days and nights?
Will I still have a bare refrigerator and a tolerance for the cheap stuff, not the brand names? Will I still dance in my underwear when my fave song comes on? Will I still drink and dance at the bar wearing cotton shirts, jeans, and a beer in my hand? Will I still need my hair held back from time to time? Will I still want to go see teen movies, and watch MTV? Will I still wear brightly coloured eye makeup? Will I still read Cosmo? Will I still like shots called “porn star”, Jagerbombs and tequila sunrises? Will I still wear pink pajama pants with Old Navy cartoons on them when I’m just running next door? Will I still pay for a bagel with nickels and dimes on the day before payday? Will I still think my tattoo is cool? Will I still call my girlfriends everyday just to chat? Will my girlfriends still call me with boy troubles? Will I make them feel left behind? Will my Dad still give me care packages when I visit? Will my mum still let me do my laundry at her house? Will I become a bridezilla?
I have so many questions, so many more dancing around in my head. Will this engagement and marriage be a separation between my carefree twentysomething days, my friends? My initial reaction is no, and I will do everything I consciously can to hold onto the things I love about being a carefree twentysomething. But there is always the seed of doubt planted in the mind of me and all other Type-A planner personalities. I know I’ll have to do grown up things like finances, visiting Home Depot, mortgages and retirement savings plans. But I don’t foresee myself being truly happy if I can’t go on benders on Saturday nights and do facemasks with my girls at sleepover pool parties. How much does marriage change a person? A lifestyle?
*Despite the anxious undertone to this post, understand these are just some questions. I am overwhelmingly happy and taking two steps forward at a time on this path. I am truly, truly, pumped for “forever” with my fiancé!
These little piggies
“I want to take a picture of our feet,” said best friend A. Her bright red toes were inside of bright orange kid flip-flops. My neon pink ones inside coral pink Old Navy flip-flops. We were walking home from swimming last evening. It was immensely humid yesterday: heavy air, thick with moisture; so much so that we couldn’t air-dry ourselves after the pool. It was our friend C’s pool, but she was at a class, her parents were out of town, and it was too hot not to invite ourselves into her pool. We swam for an hour, letting the cool water absorb into our pores and then make them stick up like chicken skin. So we walked back to her house and looked at our colourfully adorned feet. We didn’t have a camera, but I stored the image away in my own memory.
“Let’s never let our feet grow up,” I said. I had remarked earlier, while we sat on the side of the pool with our feet hanging in the water by the jets, that feet are generally pretty ugly. She agreed. Unlike kid feet, ours now have thick soles having walked so much further than our seven-year-old feet could. Mine were particularly unattractive, as they were covered in mosquito bites from a weekend camping trip. Maybe we can’t prevent our feet from aging, but we can mask it with polish and flip-flops, right? Like a 50-something woman who cakes on the makeup, thick eyeliner with clean lines to mask (or try to mask) her own age.