Tag Archives: reading

In Vino Veritas: Of Writing, Reading, and Travelling

Television. I’m loving it. It’s a limited-time offer, so act now! I’ve paused during an American Masters biography about Alice Walker. Man, she kicks more ass than I thought. I love a smart, confrontational woman.

These lazy nights with movies and TV, they’re an indulgence I know I’ll be foregoing within the year. When I’m travelling, I won’t be watching much TV or film. I’m really seeking a “writer’s life” abroad. I’ll be hopefully working about 30% fewer hours in my editing dayjob, down about 50% overall since a decade ago, and that may help with reading.

There are two things I want to do more — be still, and read. Being still is self-explanatory. Put down the phone, be in the moment. Stare at whatever’s ahead of me.

Reading’s another beast altogether. My dayjob really gets in the way of wanting to read. I edit and read all day long. Between reading the day’s news on the web (which I do a lot of) and work, I don’t have books left in me.

The whole point of going abroad is that I want to try to live well for $2000 a month, not the $3000 or so it can be here. While I want to save more, I also want to work less. Work for for other people less, that is. Read more, write more for myself on projects of interest to me. As I said, the latter isn’t “work.”

The Unreading Writer

snoopy-writing1I have a lot of ideas. A murder mystery. Short fiction. Non-fiction series ideas on food and terroir. But mostly I want to journal and write about life and the people and experiences that come with. In another lifetime, they’d have called me a diarist. In this, I’m a “blogger,” for good or ill.

When I was a Duthie’s bookseller (RIP), I used to read probably three books a week and four newspapers a day. Nothing quite like the joy of a job that lets you read while you work, right?

I don’t read now. That’s not oversimplifying it. The things with pages? They don’t happen here. Every now and then that scene flashes across my brain, where Matt Damon rants at Robin Williams that he doesn’t “understand” the people who surround themselves with all these books, and they’re “the wrong fucking books.”

I have the right fucking books but they’re going unread in lieu of digital media. I used to be the kind of writer/reader who always said profound and snazzily-worded things at engagements and now I’ve become the type who needs to drink a couple glasses of water just to be sure I don’t mumble like some anti-social reject.

Ahh, the old days of being literate as a matter of course. Good times!

On the Clock

So I’ll be abroad, where I’m sure there will be many who bedazzle me with their command of English as a second language, but then there will be many who make my soul weep as the ancient language of my peoples gets bludgeoned into oblivion. I’ve taught ESL. I already know this feeling.

As an antidote to the bludgeoned lingo, I will forego filmed entertainment much more, and turn to words, words, words.

It’s pretty enthralling to think of writing abroad. I think some people travel so they’ll have something to write about later, but I’ll push “pause” and fulfill my promise of writing daily.

I have no illusions of how lucky I am to be able to do this. And by “be able to do this,” I mean simply choosing to do so. I’m not the only person who works from home, isn’t in love, and doesn’t have kids. Others could do this, they just don’t. Or it hasn’t occurred to them.

But I can. I am. I recognize that the only thing holding me back is people I see maybe a handful of times a year and some material belongings. There’s an entire planet full of amazing opportunities, cultures that are changing by the minute, landscapes that are here today maybe gone tomorrow, and my clock is ticking. My mother had 16 years left in her life when she was my age. 16 years. That’s it, man.

Aging Like a Bad-Ass

I’m a first date and a driver’s license away from her death. That’s not a lot of time. Of course, my granny died at 88, so those are the genes I’m hoping I scored. Piss, vinegar, a great smile, and persistence, my granny Mae in a nutshell.

I’d like to be one of those old ladies owning her white hair, great glasses, a caftan, and smoking a bong, laughing with similar-minded old writers and artists in some secluded community, like I’ve seen in documentaries. I love those old artist types. “Fuck you, I’ll say what I want! I’m an artist at 80. My friends are all dead and I’ve earned the right to speak for us all.”

I’m not as good of a writer I can be. I believe writing is an ever-improving craft and it’s not just about the words. It’s about all the stuff that bubbles under my skin and whether I have the guts to go in there and pop the bubbles. The stuff that scares us and provokes us and enrages us, that’s what we need to tap into. Not just _____ character in ______ setting. It’s that inner-battle that makes anything worth reading about. Give me pathos and passion.

The School of Travel

I suppose that’s what my travel plans are. Pulling back all the safety nets, distilling life down to a few tech gadgets and a single suitcase, going full-on “no fixed address,” it’s all a way to really see what lurks within. I can’t wait to see what comes out of my head when I’m in 24/7 newness, with cultures confronting my own preconceptions of the way things be. I want to see what overcoming fears, adapting to new situations, meeting people I couldn’t have imagined, and busting through personal barriers results in as a writer.

I can’t know. You can’t know. That shit’s like alchemy. You put it in the pot, melt it down, and wait. You get lucky or you don’t. I personally don’t see how this could make me a worse writer, though. That shit doesn’t compute at all. It’s not a factor. Not possible.

That’s not cockiness, that’s just reality. There isn’t a person on this planet I don’t think could benefit from travelling through other cultures and trashing their prejudices. It makes us all better — writers included.

My Not-So-Secret Life as a Recluse

It’s funny, because in some ways, it’s like I moved to Victoria in 2012 and pressed the “pause” button on life. I haven’t sought out new friends, I’ve barely lived beyond a five-square-kilometre area here.

But I mean, seriously, if you asked me five years ago how I would feel about living a life where I didn’t have to see anyone, didn’t have to go anywhere, and didn’t have to work in an office, while having the freedom to walk to a beach, downtown, or to a world-class park, all while avoiding buses and not owning a car, I would’ve laughed at you and said it was a no-brainer, sign me up.

This life I’ve led of virtually no one, no events, no obligations, no belonging — it’s been a kind of dream come true too. I may never, ever have this opportunity again. I’m sure other people would go “But how much did you miss out on? What have you NOT seen?”

I’ve seen hundreds of sunsets or sunrises. I’ve eaten great food. I’ve heard silence often, and for long stretches. I refound my love for writing. I rediscovered photography. I’ve learned more in cooking. I doubled my income. In a year where I wrote under 50 things, one was read by 200,000 people. It’s been a great ride here. It’s been the ride I needed to have.

I can’t begin to tell you how much I’ve grown here, how much wisdom I’ve gained, how much I’ve lowered my expectations on what I need back from life — in a way that makes happiness easier to have and enjoy.

No, I’m not “happy.” Not yet. I work too much, I’m tired, I long to travel, but I’ve found a creative solution to that, haven’t I? I want to “work” as much as I do, but I don’t consider writing like this to be work. This is more like waking up and being myself. That’s personal time spent in a way I love to spend it.

There’s a whole planet out there that I’ve only seen two-dimensionally. I feel like my life’s about to go from black-and-white to Technicolor.

As a writer, man… phew. That’s got me wound right up. It’s not often in life that we have the privilege of knowing when fast-paced personal growth is ahead of us, let alone what the catalyst for all of it is. Even more seldom is when our whole life becomes something that’s more play than work, for years.

I’m going to travel the world, bitches. For years. I’m going to flip the switch, become one of the most social people you’ve ever seen, and be a true woman of words on the road. I just cannot wait to see the other side of who I can be. What a fun ride is ahead.

And now, back to my scheduled program.

My Culture of Disconnect

I don’t want to read the news today.

Or have conversations of consequence with friends.

Or watch TV or movies that require braincells.

I sure as hell don’t want to read.

I want to drift away and disconnect. Be anywhere but here.

Heavy shit’s coming down, again. Dad’s lined up for serious surgery three provinces away. For anyone else, it’d be a major-but-fine surgery. For him, much risk comes with.

I mean, hey, cancer, diabetes, heart disease — which one do you think offers the best chance of surgical complications?

Sometimes, there’s only so much space you’ve got for matters outside the personal realm. Sometimes, thinking about things in the world just gets overwhelming in the face of the struggles you’re wading through on a daily basis.

Sometimes.

I don’t think I’m at that point. Not about this. I’ve been to the sick-dad rodeo one time too many. Sad as I am, weary as I am, I’m pretty much prepared for whatever comes.

I fucking hate that I feel that way. But I do. There’s only so many times you can stand peering over the edge and be terrified.

Sooner or later, you just get to knowing what it’s like, and the fear’s there, but it’s a fear you’ve metabolized now.

Sort of where I am with Dad. I’ve metabolized my terror. Don’t tell my shaking leg or queasy stomach that, but it’s true. I’m a pretty passionate girl. This is Stress-For-a-Loved-One Lite™.

Part of that is just me being older, wiser, more worn, jaded, and exposed. I done been around, man. Heart’s been broken more times than I need to count from life and its woes. That’s just my experience on planet earth.

It takes a lot to break me down, now. I take body blows like a heavyweight champ. With that shock-absorbing tendency comes the ability to not react much anymore.

As an example, the other day, this dude keeps cracking his little one liners at a pub. Eventually he’s all flustered because I’m not laughing at his jokes.

Well, I don’t laugh easily. I’m funny as hell, man, but making me laugh takes something unexpected or just flat-out smart. I’m a student of comedy. I’ve heard it ALL. I smile, or grin. Now and then? A full-on laugh.

But just because I don’t “react” doesn’t mean I’m not dialed in. I’m removed, but I’m listening. I’m probably thinking why your joke failed, where you went wrong with timing, or where I’ve heard a variation of it before, but, you know, I’m listening.

And we’re all sort of doing that these days. Most of us, anyhow. Dialed in but not. Listening but disconnected.

We’re sponges. Taking from society but never giving back. Surfacing.

My life of the last decade has been much like that.

One day, I stopped reading my three or so newspapers daily. Eventually, I fell away from reading books.

What came first, the head injury or my apathy? I don’t know, I don’t even remember anymore.

Things have changed.

Apathy isn’t enough. It’s not a meal that’s filling. Its price is too high. All the things it’s cost me, man…

I feel like a spectator in the intellectual world, and I’m more than that. I’m a smart woman with a unique world-view. I can’t just watch and not contribute.

To be a part of it requires I be of it, that I be immersed in it, be surrounded by it.

So, somewhere inside, I feel like the joke has been on me.

Sure, I’ve survived everything I’ve been through. But for what?

I fell out of touch and love with music. I stopped being clued into the political, cultural, and societal happenings, something I’d been very much in tune with since I had my first newspaper addiction at the age of 9. I stopped seeing movies. I mean, I’m the kind of girl who plans the music in advance for roadtrips — what works with what stretches of highway, what tracks tie into what scenery.

Or, I used to be.

What’s the fucking point in surviving if you’re not gonna thrive as who you are, right?

It’s what happens to a lot of us, I guess. I’ve got pretty good excuses, but they’re still just excuses, and I still feel like a cop-out.

It’s like the themes explored in Fight Club and American Beauty, the disappearing of identity and the cover-up of disconnect by way of commercialism and cluelessness.

We think we’re growing up as we fall away from our youthful passions of music and movies, politics and society, growing jaded and distant.

We’re not. We’re not “growing up”. We’re losing our leisure, thus losing our souls, as Virginia Woolf once wrote.

I want the happy medium between my savvy survivalist self, and the jazzed-up involved youth I was.

Some people I know still balance these things well, and maybe if life hadn’t gotten in the way, I might be the poster-girl for being a plugged-in hipster, too.

But I’m not.

I’m a part of the problem. I’ve joined the throngs of the Great Ignoring.

It’s not cool. It’s selfish. It’s not helping.

The disconnect isn’t working anymore. Not for me. Not for you. Sure as shit not for society.

It’s not really about “movies” and “music” and “news”.

It’s our soul as a society. Who are we if we’re just a bubble-gum-chewing collective dying to swallow the next reality show?

Art, culture, it was my soul, it was who I am. At my core, I’m an invested, impassioned, intelligent person, and living any way but that is antithetical to who I need to be.

My father’s disconnect has him at 350 pounds, with cancer, diabetes, heart disease, while awaiting major surgery. I’m pretty sure “disconnect” is not working for him, either.

I imagine my father would approve of my learning this lesson this week. I’m hoping he survives the week so we can have a talk about that.

Either way, it’s time I suck a little more cultural marrow out of life, because what I got ain’t sustaining much.

A Writer’s (Re)Reading Life

In a world with a million distractions and life that moves faster than ever, it’s easy to forget just how far we’ve come — and how many hard grades, sharp turns, trying twists were along the way.

The devil really is in the details.

This morning I’m facing the reality that I’ve gained five pounds in three weeks. I’m not surprised, I’m an emotional eater. I got laid off, then threw myself into the hardest project of my life. Five pounds? I’m surprised it wasn’t 10.

The hardest part of that hardest project is just opening the door — the door to my past and all those crazy fucking worlds I’ve travelled through.

I like my re-runs left on television, thanks.

But I’ve cracked that door this week and it’s been every bit as hard as I expected. Better than I expected, too. But it’s taking longer, which makes the “hard” part that much more insufferable. The last couple days have been spent poring over the months leading up to what was the hardest part of my life.

‘Cos, as much as I’ve had REALLY hard times in the past, that’s the only time when I truly was NOT myself and couldn’t find my strength and self inside. It was a chemical depression.

I’m rereading these passages and little cracks are appearing in my heart. My heart’s slowly breaking for myself because I can truly remember the pain and horror of going through that terrible, terrible depression. Fucking pharmaceuticals, man. Birth control pills sent me spiralling into the darkest place I’ve known. (I doubt I’ll ever take them again. The right choice for me, but not necessarily for you. Know your options and proceed carefully & judiciously.)

The depression is not there yet in full, but it’s starting to arrive. Bleakness, sorrow, a sense of loss about choices and the future.

I know why it cost me my readers. I understand and accept exactly why people walked away from the blog.

I probably would have, too.

When I write in a “normal” depression, I’m readable. I’m insightful, level-headed, never the victim. I’m determined, I try to be objective about the adversity.

But in a chemical depression? There was nothing to gain from me. I offered nothing.

I was a shapeless, meaningless cloud moving through a thick intimidating fog. Nothing in nothing, with nothing to define it.

That time period is just unfolding for me now in my archives. I’m plodding through, a heavy weight holding down my chest, gulping often.

You see, the thing is, it’s kind of worse than I remember.

Only now that I’m so far away from it can I  admit that I forgot how oppressive it was, how scared I was, how day after day after day after day the struggle to hang on to that last little bit of dignity and hope was so goddamned HARD.

In frequent postings, my desperation of reaching out is hitting me hard. I’m not that person anymore. But I was.

And while I’m re-reading all that, I’m “unpublishing” some of the posts. I’m making them private. They’re there. I’m not deleting them. I’m just being true to my original statement, that I write this blog for me, not you.

I overshared. I take it back.

At the beginning, I felt bad for changing a post’s status to “private”, but as I’ve progressed, it occurs to me: I’ve written about a lot of really important things. I’ve written some really good stuff. Not ALWAYS, probably not even that OFTEN. But I’ve got a lot of good content on this blog.

And I had so much BULLSHIT in between them. Needy, desperate, oversharing little blurbs that you don’t give a fuck about and I don’t give a fuck about, so why’s it there?

Probably because Twitter hadn’t been invented yet, really.

But this tweaking, slimming-down, and weeding-out of my blog is for the best. You’ll get the best of me, or just the most readable of the journalling (because, let’s face it, some of those journal posts are exactly the kind of thing we like to read in a blog — it just depends on the mood within).

Coming up? This weekend I’ll probably read through the darkest part of that chemical depression.

The part where suicide started seeming like maybe it might make more sense than this seemingly-endless waiting for something better. God help me, that’s going to be a hard time to wade through, too. But important to revisit, methinks.

Then it’s a year of reading through just holding on, just trying to stay alive.

Then I start reading about my journey to be 60 or so pounds lighter.

Then the rest of my blog is tagged and it’s the Post-Wordpress era, and I can probably avoid going there.

But it’s been a heavy fucking few days. It’s probably why I got so worked up in my posting from yesterday, because I went from the girl I was before EVERYTHING went horrible in my life to being that kind of woman who needs to respect herself and know her value isn’t in a man — and that’s the part I’ve been re-reading recently.

All the pain and the little moments and the stupidity of that year, it’s just a little too much to take in at once. I’ve been trying to slowly digest it, but it’s still a mighty big meal. I should be through the worst of it in the next few days.

I’m really, really happy I’m doing this, though.

We need to be reminded of how much we’ve really done. As time slips past us and the years blur together more and more, we forget just how hard the day-to-day once was, and how much an accomplishment just getting through that really, really was.

I’m patting myself on the back. Rightfully so.

But I’ll still be happy when this part of my project is dead and buried.*

*Well. Until I dig it up again. Part of this tagging/SEO/editing project is so I’m not as intimidated with researching my archives for my book. Now I’ll be able to just search a “depression” tag or “money” tag and get what I need, and just skim through relevant areas, instead of reading the whole blog post-to-post and trying to figure out what’s worth saving & for where in a herky-jerky by-the-post method. Hey, it’s a book. This shit’s slow going! But it’s going. And I like this method, because I’m thinking a lot of how the pieces all unfold one to another, and the in-the-head stuff’s helpful too. Also… some writing. Just not for you.

Of Readers and Stalkers

Dear Readers–

I love your comments (when you bother to leave them – grr, lazy days of summer!–typical in blogland) and I love your emails. I love that you trust me with deep, dark secrets, and that you feel some kind of connection strong enough to make you return. It’s awesome.

Now and then, though, someone comes along who gets a little too attached. Emails get too revelatory, proffers of drinks become repetitive, that sort of thing. I doubt any harm is ever meant, and in fact, it’s likely the opposite. It’s flattering, really, but it can be a little troubling.

Now, this applies to maybe one out of a hundred readers who outs themselves to me, so, please, don’t think this is a general rule of thumb!

There’s a tendency at times to forget that you know me (and other bloggers) only through the plug in your wall or your ISP. We’re names, personas, images, and beyond that, we are indeed enigmas to you. Most of us would rather remain that way.

I’m searchable. Hell, you can find my photo if you know where to look. It doesn’t take rocket science. My phone number is unlisted for a reason, though.

I love flattery. I love comments. I love people trusting me. But, don’t forget, I’m a literary chick. I can read. If you offer me drinks, or you invite me out when you’re in town, and you don’t hear from me, the odds are pretty good I’m either not in the mood, or just don’t want to bother. And that’s the prerogative, you know? Sometimes life’s too fucking chaotic to send a note.

Every now and then I surprise myself and say yes and have a drink with a reader. It’s always weird. I always enjoy myself. I seldom would ever do it if I knew it was a single guy hoping he had a chance with me, though, because that just gets bizarre.

But, I’m single now, so who knows.

Am I saying never ask me to do anything? Nah. Don’t take it personally if I’m not interested, though. It’s all whim on my end, and when you’re the person being read, and you’re the person being, well, pursued, it only makes good sense to be skeptical and apprehensive. And, believe me, I can be.

While I like getting emails, and don’t mind at all being offered tough questions that do need resolutions, I cannot be anyone’s mailbox shrink right now. Keep sending Q’s and dilemmas, though. Just keep it within reason. (One email, not five, etc.)

I’ve been hesitant to post anything like this ‘cos I don’t want to ruin a good thing, but what the hell. Let’s say it:

Like me, love me, just don’t expect a lifelong friendship. Blogging is very masturbatory. Without you, it’d be exactly that. With you, it becomes more interactive. I enjoy that. Just know that I just don’t have enough of me to give a little to everyone. And right now, I don’t think I have enough of me to give anyone.

Still, I love my audience, love my comments, love my readers, love my email, but just want to keep these things real. Be like Phil, man, keep it real.

Depress-o-meter: Ah, I plummeted. Closer to a 7.5 or 8 out of 10, with 10 sucking hard, tonight. Just a bunch of stuff in my mind. Read the Ditch if you want more on that.