With perfect timing as usual, the universe had this line float into my world today, and I smiled.
“I used to believe, although I don’t now, that growing and growing up are analogous, that both are inevitable and uncontrollable processes. Now it seems to me that growing up is governed by the will, that one can choose to become an adult, but only at given moments.” –Nick Hornby
I think I’m becoming part of the club no one wants to believe in. I don’t want to be in it, and I certainly grew up affirming to myself that I’d never be a member. But, therein lies the problem: I grew up.
I was once five years old, playing house with my Cabbage Patch baby, feeding her invisible food from a plastic pink spoon and cradling her on walks with my own mum to the mailbox.
“I can’t wait to grow up, then you can do whatever you want!” I looked up past her shoulders to her curly blond hair.
“Oh no,” explained my mum. “In fact, there are many things you can’t do. And many more grown up things you don’t want to do, like pay bills, go to boring dinners, and read books with no pictures.” That certainly did not appeal to me. Nonetheless, I was driven, perhaps by an instinctive independence, perhaps by virtue of being an oldest child with big aspirations, and I grew up.
I pay bills by budgeting my meager pay cheques, I sign contracts that bind me and become the perimeters of my actions a year or two, or seemingly forever. I buy clothes that will be grown up appropriate, as opposed to what will make for comfy couch surfing attire or fun hanging out with friends apparel.
I can go to Sugar Mountain and spend all my allowance on Lemon Heads if I want to, but a voice inside my head has become my grown up reasoning, reminding me that I have other obligations. I can fake sick, stay home and watch Price is Right if I want to, but I have to sacrifice a day’s pay or go in and make it up.
I can cry on the phone to my Daddy and tell him to make all the bad stuff go away, but now he tells me that I’m a member of the grownup club, and part of that means making the decisions that are not fun. He says it means having to do the tough stuff. I know it means that I can’t work my way out of situations by saying I’m sorry and giving someone a hug.
There are definitely perks they advertise about being a grownup, and for the most part they’re true. But, as with any membership, there are unwritten codes and slowly revealed small print terms, and they wait until you’re in to show you. Like a cult, I guess, there’s no backing out, the only way out is, well, the Kool Aid cocktail. (In one final act attempting to return to childhood, I guess).
Now is one of those times where I think it sucks to be an adult, and so I defiantly use my 10-year-old lexicon to describe it so.
Behind the veneer
Now I know all of you have done this, so don’t even pretend otherwise. I just totally cried watching Oprah. Not the ugly kind of heaving cry, but the can’t stop the tears welling, rolling down cheeks cry. Oh, goodness if you watched today especially, you know.
The guest that made me cry could not do so himself. He was born without eyes and grew up to be an accomplished musician who currently plays for his university marching band with the help of his father. Now, I won’t get this verbatim, but this is what he said to Oprah:
“I really think the people who can see have the disability. I can’t see people’s hair, I can’t see their clothes, and I can’t see their skin. To me, black or white isn’t something I can see, all I can see is the love that comes from inside them.”
Can you imagine how liberating that would be, not to mention the impressive glass-half-full perspective this young man has? It’s made a particular impression on me, relating to the ’disability’ he mentions. Maybe it is a hindrance to see what people look like. He likened it to a barrier to discovering what is inside. I had just been reflecting today how facades, physical and perpetuated, become impediments to getting to know someone, from getting to the place where we can truly appreciate who a person is.
Too many times, have we not become friends with people based upon looks, relatable socioeconomic status, the frequency at which we appear at the same parties? How would it be to be blind to precociousness and to see a person for who they really are? Or else to stop wasting time testing the waters, bragging, checking our hair, and just get right to the good stuff: the confessions, the goofiness, the shared loves and laughs. I believe the people I love today would be equally as beautiful to me if I had never seen their faces.
Thanks cable TV and the wonders the Oprah show brings me. I swear, people, if that show doesn’t make you cry a little once in awhile, you’ve got your heart behind concrete walls.
In light of my new year, no drama revolution (yes, it’s more, I believe, than a resolution), I have already begun compiling a mental list of what this entails. Through trial and decreasing error, I have discovered the best way to evade drama and all the life-blah it entails was to simply leave it with the silly people where it belongs.
But let’s be honest here. I have never, in my twentysomething years, been one to back down, hold my tongue and let bullying personalities walk all over me. Teenage years taught me much about how to keep this in check, but my dominant personality traits have proved difficult to keep in line in the 2007 year of no drama. I have had to compromise my almost light-switch need to say something with my desire to be more of the Merryl Streep among a crowd dotted with Anna Nicole’s: I’d rather keep it classy with wine than spend my days whining without class.
It’s in the trivial pursuits, if you’ll allow my shallow reference to the popular board game (that I sometimes play by just reading through the cards, though who doesn’t?) I don’t like to make judgments, so for lack of a better word, I regret I am confined to using a judgmental dialect to describe my hurdles. There have been juvenile people, blame-game people, head cases, drama queens of drama monarchies, pitifully miserable and petty people, all of whom have graced the pages of my life these last few months. List items numbers one, two and three of “no drama 101” include:
1. Not arguing the more trivial points of a silly argument. It is so much more fun to step back, grace forward and leave you be with your terrifically trivial contentions.
2. Not needing the last word. I’ll let you have it, so you can feel empowered to move forward and perhaps bully other people.
3. Acknowledging that I have enough great friends and people in my life that I do not need to pay any mind to the not-so-good friends. They can find other not-so-great people to be not-so-great with or decide to one day maybe grow as a person.
4. Letting people be what they want to be, and not pouring my energy and time into trying to reason with illogical people.
As a discretionary post-warning, I must express I distaste labels and judgments generally. I prefer to surround myself with encouraging, merry, clever and genuine people is all. I’ll keep it simple, look at it big picture style and use my carpe diem skills to instead be exciting, have fun and love as opposed to being menial, trivial, petty and childish, thankyouverymuch.
Cheers to the ladies out there who’ve got the smarts to win word wars, the skills to outwit the dim, but who choose, instead, to be kind, elegant and classy.
Little rebels at girl guide camp
I was nine, the summer before fourth grade, a one-hour bus ride away from my TV and kiddie pool at home.
I was at Girl Guide camp, in a tent with three other girls, and only one who shared my dispassion for sewing and other badge-earning activities, Nikkia.
While the other girls delighted in safety-pinning beaded crafts and patches onto their bright blue bucket hats, we made holes in ours and threw them in the mud, hoping that would be an ample enough excuse not to wear them. (No such luck, we found).
At our turn to direct campfire songs, we picked Alanis Morrisette’s “You Oughta Know”, and did skits from Saved by the Bell when we were supposed to have adhered to our original theme of forgiveness, not to mention the approved list of camp songs in the Girl Guides camping bible.
We cut our own hair in our canvas beige tent during free time and came out laughing at each other’s botched mops. (Mum was not so impressed when we had a wedding to attend the day after my return). The leaders nearly burst out of their pooch-enhancing mom jeans wondering what they’d tell our parents. At our turn for dishes, we ran water over everything and then ran around the campfire, waving plates, flinging water droplets on all the well-behaved girl guides, before returning the still-dirty plates and cups to everyone’s ditty bags.
During hide and go seek in the dark after dinner one night, we ran into the forest beyond the boundaries the leaders took 20 minutes explaining. We nearly peed laughing as we heard them yell our names and saw their flashlight beams dancing.
“We just thought you couldn’t find us, it was in the boundary, wasn’t it?” Back then I was a good liar.
Our pièce de resistance was when we decided we would pierce our own ears. We had a safety pin we’d run through hot water and the flames of a burnt s’more the night before. We bit on rolled up undershirts as we took turns shoving the pin through the top of each other’s right ear. I remember squinching my eyes shut and using another girl’s red flannel nightie to clean up the blood. Maybe that wasn’t the best idea, but I have a cool scar, and cool scar stories are fun at grown-up campfires.
Girl guide camp solidified my distaste for nature-related crafts, baby-talking, and morality-related activities best suited for an after-school special. I also learned from my decision not to pack my own snacks, as Girl Guide meals left me perpetually hungry for something of the junk food variety.
Nikkia and I wrote each other one letter each upon our return from camp, but after that lost touch as we both giggled and ran around our own neighbourhoods. I’m glad for my partner in crime, and happier still to be one of two girls at that camp with real memories, fun stories beyond, “This one time, at girl guide camp, I stayed up late past 10!”
He called! And I feel so much better! Now I can stop doing a pee-pee dance in front of my phone waiting for it to ring from him. Phew! Now I feel very much like, “OK, let’s move on.” I still love his phone calls, but I’ve resolved not to spend my days wallowing in self-pity. Really now, I am so lucky to have an awesome fiancé who’s coming back for me, and amazing super fun silly girl friends that I will increasingly harass in the meantime.
At the same time, best friend said something that got me thinking the other day. As I sat slumped over on her couch, lower lip protruding, voice whining about my loneliness, I whined further, “What am I going to do with my time now?”
To which she replied, “Welcome to our lives.” My friends are all single (at varying levels of non-serious involvement, we’ll say) and it hit me: I was a huge giant brat to complain about being bored and lonely. Hello! I’m not even single! I have always listened as they complained about the negatives of being single, and been a teensy bit jealous (in a healthy way, promise) every time they celebrated it. I understand how hard it must be to feel like I do and NOT have that guaranteed lovely man at the end. I know that my wonderful girlfriends will all find amazing men who will sweep them off their feet (if they haven’t already) and that one day they too will have that security I have from fiancé. But as best friend said in another conversation, “We’re all like two steps behind you.”
I wasn’t sure what to say to that. On the one hand, I don’t want any of these girls, the most important people in my life, to feel I’m leaving them behind, that I’m somehow beyond them in some regards. On the other hand, I certainly can’t relate and become single with them for the sake of levels, you know? Maybe over the next few months I’ll really appreciate what I have, now that I’m able to experience, on a more daily basis, what it is to be man-less. The good, the bad, and the horny.
My man is gone. For six months. That’s 24 weeks or 180 days. I think if I count down 180 days it won’t seem so bad. But when I think about all the things that happen in six month timeframes, how much will happen, be experienced and conspired, I am almost overwhelmed. Through none of it will he be there at the end of the day in my bed with me. It felt so big, quiet and lonely without his super loud deep breathing and sporadic shifting and sheet pulling. The worst is that I can’t call him; I’m at the mercy of whenever I can hear from him. I’m going bananas trying to remember all the stored up thoughts I have in my head that I want to tell him. Even then I can imagine I’ll be so overwhelmed with joy to hear he’s OK that I’ll forget anything in my brain and rely on the desire to jump through the phone line and attack him with hugs and kisses.
I’m trying to hold on to remembering what it feels like to rub his back with a T-shirt over it, what it feels like to have whiskers rub my cheek and to put my face into that perfectly-shaped crevice between his neck and shoulder.
I even had a dream that January had passed and it was already February. And I wasn’t even sad that I missed a month of my life, just that it meant I was closer to seeing him again. Yikes! Not carpe diem-ish at all of me! Please keep me on track with that, and don’t let me wallow in thoughts of days, weeks, months left. It will be a challenge for sure, but I bet I can still have a blast and make something awesome come out of every one of the next 180 days.
"Honestly won't someone stop this train?"
I love the musical West Side Story and have probably watched it ten times. I can
look any one of my girlfriends in the eye, recite a line from a West Side Story
song, and receive the next line sung in return. In ninth grade, my girlfriends
and I even copied the "America" dance to perform at our high school talent show.
(PS we rocked the difficult Broadway choreography, thankyouverymuch). There's
only one song I never really liked, and that was "Something's Coming." Tony
sings it and at that point we don't know how truly badass he is. It's always
made me feel like, "uh-huh, let's get on with this."
But I think I get it now. The anticipation of change is colouring my world so
much, it'd be hard not to sing about it if my life were a musical production.
Knowing something's coming and still trying to carry on with ordinary days and
schedules is like knowing your friend has a secret to tell you, but will only
say after school's out. Waiting is agony! It's hard to seize my days like this!
It's waiting for the inevitable-that fiancé is leaving this weekend for six
months of police officer training far, far away. Knowing that this change is
coming has left me wondering about what it'll be like without him, what I'll be
doing, making it so hard to realize that the moments were sharing now will be
our last for awhile. I keep treating our goodnights and goodmornings as typical,
but they're among the last. I should be treasuring them and milking them for all
Also a new roommate is coming in the day after he leaves. This has left me
wondering as well. What will she be like? Will we be the best of best friends?
Will we be just roommates who have nothing in common? After the betrayal and
hurt caused by a couple of past friends I'd invested a lot of time and, more
importantly, trust into, I feel weary sticking my toes into new water, let alone
jumping right in.
Beyond the changes of the next couple of weeks, there are the even bigger
changes over the hill. I'm climbing uphill towards graduation from school into
the big wide world of self-sufficiency and adulthood. After that, I know fiancé
and I will be moving to some unknown corner of the country, so I think I'm
trying to mentally detach and recommitment myself from Ottawa, like a lover who
knows she's to be scorned and thus detaches to protect herself.
So much is gonna change! It's harder to bring myself back to the here and now
and savour these moments. I know you're supposed to eat food slowly and savour
all it's flavours, but sometimes I'm just so excited or rushed, I just gobble it
up. Then it usually hurts my esophagus. But you get my metaphor. Time to sllooww
down...before it all starts speeding up crazy time.
When I began doing yoga and stuff like that in my teen years, one mental calming exercise asked me to conjure up an imagined retreat. It was my ideal house. It had a yoga room with meditation mats and ornate Hindu décor in vibrant reds and mustard yellows. It had a sitting room for sipping tea, and through the windows, I could see the pale sandy beach with water that matched the sky.
Given the choice and means, I think I would choose to live on a nice warm beach. I feel happy visiting them on vacation, hearing the waves, and letting the salty air curl my hair. If not for the looming threat of killer tidal waves and flooding, I think living at the beach would be ideal.
I groan every April and my brain is locked in anticipation doing a dance like a kid who has to pee as I wait for summer to come back. I find new ways to celebrate the disappearance of snow and return of warm temperatures a different way each year, whether that be a sunny run, tanning in the yard, or drinks on a patio. I have welcomed the effects of global warming that have meant warmer winters, fewer days of oh-my-goodness freezing that leaves your eyelashes as homes to icicles. I can remember walking home on the last day of elementary school before winter break with four-foot high snow banks on the front lawn. It was fun when I was eight to run onto our front lawn and do a snow angel and make snow tunnels with my Dad. Now that I’m older and don’t even have a front lawn, I haven’t the need for large snow banks and ice.
But I must say I was disappointed that this Christmas was green. It was like a rehearsal, like the real Christmas would happen when the snow finally came. Here I am in early January in Ottawa, Canada, and it is warm enough to wear a fleece pullover outside. They say this weekend will be warm enough to even forego a second layer. Every February we have Winterlude, a giant festival on our giant canal where people skate. Yesterday as I ran my canal route, I looked to my left shoulder and saw a slushy, grey mush that in no way will be ready to host the world’s largest skating party. It was a little sad.
I can’t help but wonder if at this rate, the warm beach paradise I dream of isn’t too far away from migrating up here to Canada. It’s not as fun that way. I’m happy to imagine the prospect that the summer weather will eventually outlast the winter weather of a 12-month cycle. But I’m not sure what I feel if that mean’s green Christmases, the end of tobogganing and no longer having the need for hot chocolate.
No more drama
Last year, my new year’s resolution (revolution if you ask my little sister) was to learn to cook a new meal every 2 weeks. This went very well and I’m proud to say I kept it, and my favourite thing to make is jerk chicken with pineapple chutney.
This year will be a big change-filled year, so I decided to make a resolution that I could adapt to wherever I live, no matter what legal binding I have to whatever fiancé, one that would carry through regardless of circumstance.
The latter bit of 2006 had me experiencing an accumulated amount of drama. There has always been a part of me that wants to have the last word, to say what I mean, and to speak my mind. I have since learned that sometimes you have to just zip it. I think that when you grow up, you lose the license to act rashly, and fight to the “being right” death. At least, that’s what I’m learning. Sometimes it’s better, truly, to say nothing at all. For an extrovert oldest child and former theatre actor, this is difficult! In a group dynamic too, it is too easy to get caught up in the he said she said, the analyzation, the assumptions, the drama. So this year, it’s out with the drama.
The year that I am to plan a wedding and move and graduate may be a recipe for drama, but the good, exciting kind. I am banning the bad kind. I am banning myself from getting caught up in it. You want to be a silly girl? That’s your prerogative, and I’ll have no part in it. I may still go to sleep with thoughts of what I could have said, finding holes in people’s silly arguments, but when I wake up in the morning, I want to hold my head high, and not have it bogged down with ego, any superiority complex or otherwise.
Twentysomething is kind of a zigzag growing period. We aren’t like infants and toddlers who follow a prescribed growth chart, all finding their toes and learning to crawl at approximately the same time. At twentysomething, we are all finding our way at different paces. Some are bogged down by their own family dramas, some have self esteem that is still catching up with them after tumultuous teen years. Some have been socialized in a way that does not agree with the world around them. Variety, they say, is the spice of life. But the spice that gives you the runs and leaves you feeling crappy-- well, I say thank you very much but no thanks.
I have great friends- girls that have been buddies since the spandex days of third grade, and others who have woven themselves into my fabric along the way. I do not need to keep friends for the sake of numbers. Those who take more than they can give, or who may expect me to be a doormat to their bullying will find that I am no longer into the drama. I have a great family, great friends, and a great fiancé. I have great health, great prospects and a yellow brick road ahead of me that looks to take me to great places. I don’t need your drama weighing me down. I will always be a shoulder to cry on, and I will gladly help out where I can. (Karma, baby). But in no way can you expect to run me down with you.
So with 2007, I signed up for some yoga classes, made some quiet decisions in my head about what I will put into my body in all varieties of nourishment, and realigned some priorities. “You can always make more money,” says a friend of mine. So I will go into 2007 with great people around me and take the other stuff as it comes.