Tag Archives: growing up

End-of-Coffee Ponderings

The sun is shining. It’s disconcerting. A tease. More rain lands on Sunday, if not before.

Vancouver’s in the throes of one of its wettest, coldest, greyest springs in recent history. I’ve not worn shorts once this year. I haven’t even entertained the thought of planting basil yet.

Today, most of the tech community will convene at Northern Voice 2011, at UBC, and I’m now realising how disappointed I am to not be going, given the recent turn of events and the loss of Derek K. Miller. Perspective took a turn of late.

I’ve always caught on in the end, but I’m often a late addition to reason.

Then, eventually, whomp, it hits me: The lesson.

Even if I had tickets, my financial situation would require that I work through the conference. That’s the way the dollar-cookie crumbles. It’s “meant to be” and in a way is providing mental spark-power on ideas I’m churning through.

It’s the end of the world as we know it & I feel “meh”

It feels as though life as a whole has been a struggle his year. Maybe the Doomsdayists and their “May 21,2011” end-of-times prognostications have a little oomph behind them. All the “end-of-times” prep I’m doing is holding off on my Costco visit until May 22. Why die with full cupboards?

For now, a man is mowing the lawn, sunlight is streaming in, and distant tires patter up busy roadways.

That’s the world. Beyond that, something else awaits. That’s for me, a train, and a bike to discover.

I have a pretty short list of what I want in life right now. One is to have the joy of regular paycheque-after-paycheque comfort, and to feel good in body and mind whilst pursuing steady, fulfilling work. The other is, a little sunshine. Everything else in life, that’s bonus.

In a way, my friend’s death has been giving me clarity about what’s important. I knew, once.

Keep it simple, stupid

There’s nothing like somersaulting off a scooter at 45 km/hr or so, landing on your head, and surviving with only silly things like a head injury for waking you up to what’s important in life.

So, for a while there, I had it figured out.

Live for today. Enjoy the moment. Celebrate friends. Be a part of it. Whatever “it” is to you, be a part of it. Celebrate what you have, try to get more, but don’t pin your happiness on that which isn’t in your hands, because then you’ll never have happiness. See how that works?

I had it figured out.

But life is like a vacuum.

Far enough away, you’re fine, unaffected. Get too close, unsettled, you may get sucked up into that vacuum. Caught inside too long, you can suffocate.

I’ve never been good at vacuum-proximity. My life balance, well, it’s like a bad day on a boat sometimes.

Cause/Effect: The Long Game?

Today, I’d like to do Northern Voice. If I did, it’d hurt my bank account, stress me out on the time-management-money-making fronts, and would probably be hard on my back. I’d overdo things, wouldn’t prioritize myself, and the fallout would probably continue for another couple weeks.

Not doing Northern Voice, I earn money, get exercise I need daily, can do all the right things for my back, will get the sunshine my soul desperately requires, will be freed up for my friend’s memorial Sunday, get to earn me a soul-day Monday, and will have balance I need throughout my week so I can spend important time with my family next weekend, before my dad and stepmom do a gruelling six-week cross-country roadtrip — the last of which didn’t end particularly well when my father wound up in critical care 2,000 kilometres from home.

It reminds me of a favourite flick about writing, The Wonder Boys, based on Michael Chabon’s novel. It’s not a perfect movie but it’s far better than the box-office, and title, suggests. In it, Michael Douglas plays a writing/English professor, and he teaches that “writers make choices.”

Choices, they’re harder than we think. It means acknowledging we can’t have it both ways. The heart wants what it wants and sometimes it wants both.

Years ago, I stopped writing fiction for my inability to create tenable conflict that had a beginning/middle/end. A friend surmised I’d had enough conflict in my life, that generating more in my recreational time was probably not what my soul had in mind.

Do whatcha gotta so you can do whatcha wanna

Days like these, where I’m torn between what my heart wants (to spend time with awesome people talking about fascinating things) and what my soul needs (head down, steady progress in work and rehab, daily balance so I can have the summer I want), I try hard to make the right choice.

Then I remember that my friend was diagnosed with terminal colorectal cancer at the exact age I am now, and would be dead before his 42nd birthday, and I get confused: What’s the right choice again?

Fortunately, my body seems to think it knows, so I can ignore my brain and heart, and listen to my bones, which seem to long for a seaside bike ride and a quiet day of not carrying a backpack and bustling from uncomfortable seat to uncomfortable seat, followed by ungainly bus rides.

And that’s all we can do. Guess. Listen to something, anything, and interpret. Among Derek’s last words were a cautioning that we can make plans but they often will never come to pass, and all we can do is be in the moment.

I thought I’d be at Northern Voice this year. Instead, I have the gift of getting well enough that I can return to something I love, sunny day cycling.

That’s a moment I can be in, that I must be in, because it’s the only moment I have available to me, the best this day has to offer.

Sounds like the right choice after all.

The New Aging Gracefully

I think it’s oddly intriguing I was inspired to write about aging gracefully on International Women’s Day, since there ain’t exactly a lot of women modelling how to age gracefully these days. Liposuction and tucks and Botox, oh my! But there you have it. Get over yourselves, girls.

I like getting older. I like it even better when I get told all the time that people think I’m 6-10 years younger than I am.

Probably from spending all those years protecting myself from the elements — sheltered on cushy sofas. No wind-battered face here, friends!

And now that I live much better than I did for a decade there, I guess that shows too.

Hallmark card character I LOVE.

But, aging? Yeah. I like it.

The big four-oh is still 2.4 years away, but I’m looking forward to aging and letting go of even more of the bullshit that mires one’s younger life.

I’m in a strange position in my life right now. Five years ago, I’d have been having a borderline nervous breakdown. Now I’m planning a dinner party for tomorrow, chilling, and erring on the side of faith.

There’s the old saying, “This too shall pass,” and I think around 40 is when we start really believing in what we can overcome and/or achieve. It varies, of course, depending on the crash-course life’s had each of us on.

Me, I got the lesson of “life’s tough, get a helmet” in the last decade, and now I feel like I’ve had the dress rehearsal, and I simply know at my core that every hard time I face is on a limited-life plan, and I’m more than likely to be the victor at the end of it.

“Face-palm and carry on,” as the new saying goes — the NEW Guide to Aging Gracefully.

It really comes down, I guess, to whether or not we’re willing to examine each lame-ass time for its growth lessons. I do. I can’t possibly imagine going through ALL that shit for NOTHING, man. If I’ve learned from it? Fucking A. I’ll take THAT for a dollar, Alex.

I still have more Zen Master schoolin’ to do. After all, I’m not even 40. I’m not nearly as chill as I’d like to be, but I’m surprising myself. Sure, I occasionally want to kill asshats on transit, but that’s not really indicative of me being high-stress, it’s more indicative of the erosion of intelligent life on Earth. I’m tryin’, man.

Honestly, I’m glad I was laid-off long-term. I’m glad I went through a lot of the shit in the last year that I have. I’m glad I had pneumonia. I’ve learned SO much about myself in the last year.

Was it hard? Yes. I even became depressed in the fall. (Not anymore.) I’m sort of back where I started, in a lot of ways, but as a completely different person. It grew a quiet confidence in me, and things I’m doing now will really amp that up. It’s confidence I had none of last spring, considering I was already in a depression and a financial hole before I even lost my job.

If the whole Malcolm Gladwell 10,000-hours-to-master thing is for real, then the 5 years since my last unemployment has been mind-bogglingly insightful. My god, the lessons we learn through our trials.

Staying employed and stable and never taking risks, well, that might make for a nice comfortable life, but I guarantee you, you’ll be learning a fraction of what it is you’re capable of in life.

Age. With it comes that experience you just can’t buy. And when you’re 20 and you think “OH! Why don’t they take me seriously? Why don’t they think I understand?” well, it’s because they feel exactly like I do — that you can’t possibly know all the things that’ll bloom in you over the next two decades.

I like to sit back sometimes and reflect on who I was at specific ages, how full of shit I was, compared to me now.

And then I like to think of how I’ll feel about the same question in another two decades. How I’ll chuckle dryly at the age of 57 — the same age my mother was at her death — and think how I couldn’t possibly have known all that would come my way, how much life could pack in an hour, a day, a week, never mind a decade, and how much I’d learn about myself and the world around me as I lived through all of that.

That’s the beauty of the unknown.

And the beauty of aging is, we better know the vastness of that unknown, but we also come to learn the vastness of human potential. We see more. We understand.

Or, some of us do.

A Stitch in Time

I sold a sewing machine last night, for far less than I’d wanted to, and found myself ever so emotional after the fact.

I remember the day my mother bought that 1917 Singer (Model 027) oak-cabinet sewing machine, some 30 years ago. We’d had a yard sale, with my parents constantly on their “reduce the clutter and make some bucks for the mortgage” kick. An old lady came by to browse, admiring a couple of the antiques my mother was trying to unload so she could obsessively pick up more antiques, feeding her  new passion.

They got gabbing, as yard-salers are so likely to do. Naturally the old woman started talking about this old sewing machine. In the end, Mom took a walk, bought the thing, and Dad got stuck not only cleaning up the yard sale, but taking all their earnings over to pay off the old woman and tote the heavy damn machine home.

I’m sad. I’ll miss the machine and what it represented. Memories of Mom hunched over and pumping the treadle, stitching together my clothes and bedding. A rolling shadow across a winter night’s living room wall: Mom and her mission to clothe us all.

The last time she ever sewed on it was sometime in ’98, making a fleece jacket for my almost-a-toddler nephew then, hunter-green with teddy-bears all over it. I found the patterns in the bottom of the machine yesterday, then decided to recycle those, too.

The woman who bought it was a new grandmother, moving into a smaller apartment and excited about the life ahead of her as she’s about to turn 60.

My mother never hit 60.

It was a bitter-sweet night. I fought some tears as I imagined how much my mother would approve of that woman taking possession of the machine. I remembered sadly the excitement she had for being a grandmother herself, the oath she made me give her about how good an aunt I’d always be after she died.

Our lives don’t go how we want them to, they never do. Little things around us can remind us of that. As much as I loved that machine, I think it made me remember sadness more than happiness. Never a good thing.

***

I’m 37 in about 6 weeks now. Sometime before then, I have to arrange for a windsurfing lesson. My mother did windsurfing only once, and I still remember it.

She went with my brother — it wasn’t my kinda thing (read: meant actually using energy and burning calories) — but I remember how the next few years began to be of rapid change for her, as if doing the windsurfing was her way of saying I’m Changed, I’m Tough, I Want More.

She then learned to sail, got her real estate license, separated from my father, climbed mountains in China, raced boats in the Mediterranean, and had an affair with a sailor who lived on his yacht, all in the decade before her death.

I would very much like to become my mother’s daughter, and look to be on schedule to do so 10 years earlier than she did. It makes me laugh that I now see what role her windsurfing may have played in her life, since I didn’t think of that connection when I seized the “70%-off” Groupon deal for a $15, 2-hour lesson — mostly because my goal had been to learn to surf this year, but becoming unemployed meant that couldn’t happen for financial reasons, and I thought “Windsurfing’s a good consolation prize.”

It’s funny how life works. I can surmise it was the windsurfing that threw open her threshold of change. I’ll never know for sure, but I’d like to believe so, as my lesson looms in the next two weeks.

I’m in this place of late where I’m thinking of where I’m going next — the long-term future I face in life, and what all might entail with that. My mother was in this place in the months before her death, before she even knew she was sick.

It’s a very weird place to be now. They say that the mid-30s are when a young woman misses her dead mother the most — because she’s now becoming the woman she saw her mother as being, a woman she never saw the “after” phase for, because her mother died too young. The loss, they say, can become more core-shattering and filled with a deeper longing than she’s ever experienced before, even years after thinking she’s done “mourning,” just because of that experiential transition between ages that we all go through. Without the corresponding parental figure there, it’s sort of a more bump-in-the-night experience, one of loss and wonderment.

I certainly understand that these days. Some of my recent accomplishments have rung painfully hollow, leaving me emptier than I could have imagined, mostly because I know it was so important for my mother to find herself as a stronger, more independent woman than she felt she’d been, and that she would really enjoy watching the process I’ve been going through. I can imagine the things she’d say, and that hurts at times.

It hurts today.

There’s nothing a child wants more than to show their parents just how far they’ve come. I never had that chance with my mother, someone I admired more than most people I’ve ever met. To get robbed of that is a lifetime of loss and “something’s missing”.

I’m not feeling sorry for myself, it just is what my life is. I wouldn’t be who I am with my mother alive today, so I’m not really wishing she never died. I don’t know what I wish. I just know I feel this whirlwind around how full of “searching” she was at her death — like I am now — and how torn she was about her obligations.

And it was all tied up in that little sewing machine that’d been eating up a third of my storage space for the better part of the last decade.

And now it’s gone.

But here I am, still on this journey to take me someplace that I think my mother could tell me an awful lot about, from first-hard experience, if only she was still alive.

But she’s not.

So I get to experience it all, and find myself in quiet moments at the end of the night, when I get to think, “Gee, how would Mom have felt today? What would she have learned? What would she tell me?”

It’s been eleven years this week that she died.

I always worried I’d forget her face, her smell, the way her hands felt when she held mine to console me. And maybe there’s an aspect I forget, but somehow it’s more real to me than ever before, it hits me deeper than it ever has.

They say the first sign of true adulthood is when you really start understanding where your parents were coming from, what they had to endure to get where they were going.

Lately, I feel like I was a child until this year. Now I really get it. I get what kept my mother awake at night, what made her want for more.

When youngins in their 20s tell me how mature they are, I keep chuckling, because I remember how wise I thought I was (because everyone told me I was) at such a young age.

I didn’t know jack. Still likely don’t.

Funny, selling an old antique and getting a little cash for groceries proved to be one of the most emotional experiences of the last year for me, and one of the largest lessons in how I’m Not That Kid anymore.

I’m not that kid. Not a kid. I’m a woman pushing 40 who’s learning more and more of the simple truths that makes quiet everyday-days feel A Little Bit More Meaningful.

Goodbye, sewing machine. Hello, wisdom.

And please, don’t do the whole “Oh, I’m sure your mother is watching” blah-de-blah thing, okay? It just rings so hollow sometimes, regardless of how you intend it. I know. Trust me, I fuckin’ know. But thanks. Just don’t.

Yesterday or Yesteryear?

It’s all strange.

I’m slowly trying to get a life again after taking myself out of the equation for years. Looking for people more up than down, more smart than dumb, more communicative than un, more unmarried than married.

That part’s working, it’s fun, but it’s a strange ride, especially since everyone I’ve been meeting is 34 and younger. Even if I am young-at-heart, I tell ya. These “kids” think, “Well, it’s only 10 years.” Yeah. And 220,000 hours. Just shy of 14 billion potentially life-altering anything-can-happen seconds. I’ve changed so much this WINTER, let alone the last decade. Age isn’t just a number, it’s an entity. It’s just not a be-all end-all, but it can’t just be dismissed. That said, I like youth. I’m just bridging some mental gaps, is all. Continue reading

A Fondness for Figments

I’m feeling a little blue. I’m getting a stiff back, so I know my mattress needs flipping. I’ve just done that, and have changed my sheets besides. If anything reminds you you’re single, it’s changing the sheets.

You’re changing them because it’s been long enough. It’s time. Not because you got hot’n’sweaty and did wrong-but-so-right things.

It’s sorta sad, but not because I can’t handle being single. Been here, done this.

What makes me sad is having to remind myself that I’ve made the right move. We both decided to end the relationship, for somewhat different reasons. My reasons are not really ones I wanted to express to him, but that I’m sure he’s aware of. It’s kind of hard for me to admit it, though. I’m getting a little chokey just thinking of putting it down, because it feels like casting judgment, but the judgment’s long been done, so I might as well.

See, the guy I’ve broken up with isn’t good for me. In fact, he’s somewhat bad for me. He’s depressed, he’s self-obsessed, constantly distracted, and inattentive. It’s not good. It’s also not who he really is. But it’s who he is today. And I can’t begrudge it as I know what’s preceded it.

The trouble is, I’m trying to keep alive a memory of who he was before all that shit. A guy who was an upbeat skeptic with weird quirks and a cute smile, who won my trust and a bit of my faith for a while there.

The latter guy’s still around in ever-so-brief flashes, but they’re not the present. They’re animated flashbacks, maybe (hopefully) flash-forwards.

Keeping that memory alive is fucking with my resolve that the right choice has been made. The guy I just broke up with, well, he’s not really good enough for me. I’m a caring, attentive, loving woman, and I need that back. For his own reasons, he couldn’t provide that. I may understand, but I can’t live with that. No one really ought to have to.

I really, really hate having to choose between who a person is versus who they once were, but we all have to make those choices. I don’t believe in staying in a relationship longer than I have to, because if I do, it eats away at me. I’me constantly reminded I’m less attractive to them, for one reason or another, than I used to be. I’m forever wishing we could talk like we did in the old days. A whole lot of thoughts run rampant, all the time. I find when I’m unhappy in a relationship, I don’t live in the present. I get analytical and think of anything but that moment.

At this moment, I hope that old guy makes a return and when we revisit things, it’s a hit. That’s what I hope today. Do I expect it? Um. Hope ain’t faith, ‘nuff said. Get it?

Six months from now, who knows where the fuck I am. Six months from now, what if I’ve landed the job of a lifetime after what is, inarguably, the most challenging time I’ve ever faced? Who is THAT woman, huh? Who’s she? How’d she get there from here? That’s what I wanna know. I ain’t got no answers, and they’re a damned long time in coming.

I just don’t think this shit’s going to keep me down. Nothing’s ever done so before, but I’ve never stood all the way up after a fall-down, you know? I’ve never WANTED it this bad before.

How do I go from who I am today to who I am then, to wanting someone I was with a year before? I don’t know. I don’t know the path to take for that journey, and I don’t know what my life holds.

I know that I feel sad. I mourn for what mighta been, and what now might never be. At the moment, I hope I feel like I can go there again. It was a comfortable relationship when it worked. It was funny, irreverent, open, playful, and good. Then it changed. Sigh. I digress.

Now I’ve gone way off point, so let’s just get out that big ol’ hammer and nail this one down.

If your relationship is shit, and you spend more time thinking about then than you do of tomorrow, then maybe it’s time to admit that the person you’re with isn’t the person you fell for. Put on them boots and walk the fuck on. Life’s too short to live in the past. Don’t be scared of your future. Respect it, cherish it, ‘cos soon it’s gonna be your past. Futures, you can change. Pasts, well, they become baggage or cocktail-party stories. If you’re in love with a memory, you’re making a mistake.

Simple.

I saw my mom die at 57, and the last thing I need to forget is just how short life is. Why spend it doing the wrong things, right? That’s my motto. (I’m also opposed to doing the right things wrong.)

So, this I need to remind myself every time I’m sad I’m alone again: Beats the shit out of hanging out with an almost-boyfriend who’s depressed and can’t let me in. As a friend, I’ll cherish him. As a boyfriend, I was sometimes wanting to smack him good. And the future, well, who knows. I think, either way, some good stuff’s on the road and is headed to me. I’m just gonna keep up the good fight and hang on to the faith. Cogito ergo sum.

Unleashing Your Vixen: Some Serious Thoughts

Do you ever have those moments when clarity comes up behind you with a baseball bat and beats the hell out of you?

You get up, groggy, woozy, disoriented, but shit, you know better now, man.

I’ve been avoiding getting into this Vixen thing. The problem with procrastination is that you avoid things so much that you fail to even become aware of why the avoidance is there in the first place.

But then clarity comes along with that fucking bat and, sooner or later, you clue the hell in. Like I did about 30 minutes ago. For some reason, today I feel like I’m Frodo walking across that marshland with all the corpses under the surface of the pondwater. I feel like I’m about to go under, like there’s some kinda tether wrapped around my heart and strung to the reeds below the surface, tugging me down and trying to seduce me into the dark.

It sounds really intense, but it’s not as bad as it sounds. Sure, it feels like that, but it’s a really surreal feeling, like there’s a bubble around me, like there’s all these dead little faces floating around me of people who think they’re alive, but really just aren’t. That I’m sitting around in utter silence on a freezing day in February might be adding to those Dali-esque proportions, so maybe I’ll just browse my iTunes here and stoke up a change of pace. When in doubt, go with the Butthole Surfers, that’s my policy.

This week, the week that follows Valentine’s Day, is the least favourite of my year. In a span of six days falls the anniversary of when the docs found a grapefruit-sized tumour in my mother’s belly and her birthday. Yes, that’s been on my mind. She has been on my mind an awful lot, particularly in relation to this topic. I, more than anything else in her life, am my mother’s legacy, and that’s not arrogance, that’s the admiration of a daughter who had a mother deserving of it. I am my mother’s daughter – in most ways.

If you met me in real life, you’d see a lot of similarities to the person on these pages. I’m boisterous, brazen, demure, open, scathing — whatever you want to call me, I’m an awful lot of those things. But my mother blazed that trail, baby. She was a model in her youth, she was hot when she died, didn’t look over 50. She had red hair, green eyes, and she was a risk-taker and a daredevil. She sold real estate, raced yachts, and wasn’t afraid of a fucking thing (most of the time).

She was never open about sex. I doubt she ever became a vixen. I bet she never trusted a man enough. I don’t think she ever got past the shame of what sex symbolized in her demented little worldview on the subject. My father and I were recently talking, musing about whether she had been sexually assaulted at age 12. My father grew up in her neighbourhood, they were friends all their lives, and he remembered when she changed, as if she just broke. He said something was never the same after she was 12, that day they came home to find her scantily clad, rocking barefoot under the farm’s kitchen table, shaking and sobbing.

This Vixen thing… it’s a personal mission for me, really. I’ve been the legacy of dysfunctional views on sex. I’ve seen what a loveless marriage does not only to the participants but the children involved. I’ve seen what happens to men (including my father) who get neglected and taken for granted, what happens to women forgotten by their lovers, and it all breaks my heart. It’s a really sad thing to behold, the loss of someone’s sexual side.

When I was young, I fell for that fascist Ayn Rand, and one quote stands out after all these years, that “avoiding death does not equal living life.” We’ve somehow fallen into this trap of “surviving” life. Yeah, you go right ahead. Survive. I’m gonna live, thanks.

And that’s the problem, most of us are content to merely survive our jobs, survive our relationships, whatever it takes to make it to the other side with the least resistance.

Being a vixen, or in the case of the men out there, an attentive, daring, open lover who’s receptive to his lover’s needs, takes guts. It doesn’t happen from just thinking it’d be nice to go there. It’s about actively pushing your fears and apprehensions. It’s about saying you’re not scared about being judged. But mostly, it’s about trusting this lover of yours you claim you trust. It’s about putting your money where your mouth is, baby.

It’s too late for my mother, and I caught the bus last decade, man, so I’m good, but there are a lot of folks out there who must learn how much more fun life is when they learn that being vulnerable doesn’t necessarily mean becoming hurt*, it means sucking the marrow out of life and taking the chances you’ve been resisting.

Mostly, though, it’s about really having great new experiences. So, you know, like they says, you better get busy livin’ or get busy dyin’, but make your fucking choices and stop just letting life happen to you. Being a dead fish is simply the personification of all those other little fears you have inside. Confront them.

Me, being a vixen underlies EVERYTHING I do in my life. I take chances, I go with the moment, and I may not have the fancy car and the retirement package some of my conservative friends have, but I’ve got experiences. Very cool experiences. So far, dying tomorrow, I’d have few, if any regrets, and knowing that is the greatest thing I can say about who I am.

*And even if you get hurt occasionally by becoming vulnerable, I’ve discovered firsthand that the richness of everyday experiences far outweighs those occasional bumps and bruises along the way. Like mountain biking or something, sometimes you fall, sure, but at least you’re out there having the experience most of the time… and hurts always heal. I take my lumps and go again.