Tag Archives: slow life

Finding My Words

I’ve been enjoying the reclusive life and doing a lot of solo exploring in small chunks since I’ve moved. It can’t, and won’t, continue for much longer but it’s been a brilliant choice on my end.

It’s only now, clearly, that my desire to write is returning. I was sure this would happen sooner, and part of the Being Antisocial Plan was so that I’d reconnect with my words. Well, yeah. It’s taken time but it’s happening.

Sunset off Clover Point in Victoria. Par moi.

I’ll embrace antisocial behaviour for a little longer — a week, maybe two — to let my wordy seeds grow. Then, I’d like to start meeting people and think it will be easy to do so. Optimism helps, kids!

If I’m in the right mood, people generally like me. Or, people I like tend to like me. That’s not cockiness or anything, because being liked just isn’t hard — be nice, be interested, be interesting, be kind, be authentic. It’s much easier, of course, when you actually talk to people and make an effort. So, until I do that, I shall remain anonymous and lifeless. Yay?

As we both might know, I’m no dummy. I’m the thinky-thinky type, like all geeky writer girls tend to be, and all my cerebral wheels have spun something fierce in the months leading to this moment.

See, I know what small towns are like, and at 1/9th the size of Vancouver and my living in a very small neighbourhood within that, I know anonymity evaporates in a hurry once you start fitting into the community. And that’s great, it’s nice to feel noticed and like you belong, but once you have THAT, you never have THIS again.

I talk to people, I’m chatty, I smile a lot, and most people enjoy bantering with me, so I expect to start knowing more people than I don’t. One day, I’ll be able to recall this 8- or 10-week period where I saw no one but strangers, did nothing beyond shop browsing, and never got greeted by name.

Kinda awesome. For a while. Life and its contrasts are fantastic. People should enjoy their weird life phases a bit more. The start of a relationship, the awkwardness of being new… Newness is fantastic and fleeting. Everything gets old so quickly.

It’s common that we get so caught up in wanting the future to happen now that we forget we can never come back, we’ll never have THIS moment again. We’re the impatient fast-food, flash-cooking society, and it shows in our lifestyles.

I don’t own a microwave. I am in no hurry, friends. Anymore, anyhow. Namaste.

There’s nothing to regret about holding off on joining the Locals Club. I know I’ll get there, and when I do, I’ll absolutely adore being a part of this community. It’ll be great living in a place where I can walk all the way home after 2 or 3 drinks, where I can casually go meet people at the city’s most popular parks and beaches, since they’re all a short walk away. I’m under no illusions of a) what my life can be like here, and b) what it’ll take for me to connect with others.

But, for now, I’ve more literary aspirations in mind.

For that, it’s nice, this anonymous wanderer schtick of mine. A rewarding way to burn off the rat race hangover I’ve had since I escaped the faster, bustling drone of big city life.

I’m still in the headspace where I feel like I have so much I need to do, and that’s all part of the necessary efforts in transition. It’s catching up on work, finishing projects around my home, and other little things. But now I’ve found time for writing (and even blogging) each day for a week.

The change I’ve sought is officially afoot, it seems. Oh, writing, how I’ve missed wanting to do you.

Longtime readers know I’m a big believer in writing being a muscle. The more one does it, the more one taps into the rhythm and grind of what makes writing great.

But if you’re living a life where nothing inspires you, nothing sets you free, it’s hard to tap into that. In fact, it’s damned near impossible. I should know, because that’s how I was feeling for much of the last two years. Trapped and frustrated.

That’s changing, quickly. I’m becoming fascinated and intrigued often. I’m becoming inspired and recharged from time to time. I need more. More, more, more!

Creativity requires much in life but it mostly requires focus and awareness. Stimulation, too. And we can trick ourselves into thinking the city is what we need for stimulation, but, for some, cities are built for distraction, not stimulation.

I’ve been so distracted so long that this silence and quietude in my new life is overwhelming at times. I’m so undistracted I’m confused.

And that too is part of the life transition. Slowing down. It’s the emotional and mental equivalent to the way solid ground feels after an afternoon of being at sea or a day spent 4x4ing. The sudden stop is jarring to our equilibrium.

Well, I feel the same these days. It’s almost panic-inducing at times, because I’m still waiting for that day when I don’t wake up thinking my vacation’s over and I need to return to the city soon. Because I don’t. I live here now.

That’s something I have to remind myself of, daily. There is no rush, there’s no return, there’s just me, here, now.

So, that’s where I am today. Still anonymous, still wandering, still transitioning… but a writer once again.

On The Quieting of the Self

I don’t think I’ve blogged regularly in months, but that’s the nature of lifechange for me.

I don’t deal well with change, and it’s possibly why I resist it so hard for so long.

That said, there’s a book on ADHD called The Unquiet Mind, and that phrase aptly describes my mental state of the last several weeks/months.

In asking how I was acclimatizing to my new life/world/routine over here in Victoria, a friend replied to my flustered response with “Change is good, and often overdue.”

I began thinking how overdue my change has been, and it’s too far back to get into, but a couple years anyhow, if not longer. But the delays in undertaking the change resulted in my descending further and further into my funk before I got out. I suppose that makes me more ordinary than I’d like to admit, since most of us don’t adopt change particularly well before it becomes mandatory.

Photo by me. Shot on Victoria's Clover Point.

As the days bleed one into another over here and I slowly become A Local, it occurs to me that just making the choice to move here was only the start of my change, and many of the things I hope to introduce in my life will take a long time to make a reality. It harkens to the cliche “Rome was not built in a day.”

No. I guess it wasn’t. Nor will be my new life.

It’s been seven weeks, and I’m only now reaching the point where my apartment is beginning to feel like a home. Just a week or so ago, I had my first instance of being late for an appointment, missing my bus, and solving it like a local would — via another bus on a nearby route. I felt smart and shiny, like I’d inherited some pretty new Big-Girl Pants.

But, in those seven passing weeks came a lot of problems with my body — one adjustment after another causing upheaval for my fucked-up skeleton, and it’s also only now that these things are settling.

It got scary for a bit as New Badness kept occurring, since my back and body are big reasons I’ve moved to Victoria — where it seemed easier to get around, geared to the walking lifestyle, and more fitness-oriented in a ways I would be able to incorporate into my days. But when you make that move and things go in the opposite direction from what you’d hoped, yeah, it’s a hair-raising segment of change that isn’t what you’re ready to receive.

For weeks, people kept asking if I was “loving” my new life, and I tried to put the Smiley Face on, but the truth was, I was scared, hurting, and hoping I hadn’t made a Big Scary Mistake.

But transition takes time, both mentally and physically. Knowing that, I just kept my head down, kept my goals ahead of me, and tried to keep my head in the game.

That worked, and my transition’s easing into a better normal now, with a mo’ better normal yet to come.

With my home nearing completion, it’s time to turn the transitional focus onto me — my body, my health, my mind — and really reap the rewards of making this big change in my world.

Last fall, when I would imagine life in Victoria, I was off on a number of points, but that includes underestimating the amazing surroundings, the quiet, and the pace of life around me. I know now that it’s a place I belong.

When I imagine my future today, I see myself embracing more walks on the ocean, finding a better sense of balance time-wise, learning to meditate regularly, photographing/writing daily, and falling back in love with reading.

Because, the thing is, this Unquiet Mind conundrum of mine, it’s been the status quo for me since about 2009 or so. Seldom have I found peace or quiet in a way that resonates for me. I think I’ve found it here. I think I’m learning now that, while I was born and raised in Vancouver, and love it on some level that’ll never change, I think I’m not built for life in the big city. I suspect one day this place, too, will outgrow my soul.

It’s funny how much I can surprise myself, how much I still have to learn about who I am and where my place is in the world, but I suppose it’s all part of the EverBecoming of being human. If you stop growing, you may as well push up daisies.

I know that, by delaying the needed change in my life, I fell further into a horrible rut, and undid much good I’d struggled to accomplish in life, but something tells me the grief of my relocation, the bodily aches and pains that came with, and the turmoil I’d felt during it all will result in some amazing days to come.

It’s good to be on the other side. Now, where will I be in a few months? I don’t know, but I think I’m gonna love getting there.

Overbooking Ourselves To Death

Every now and then I hit this mode of sheer panic.

It’s that crushing realization that I have a virgin’s chance in hell of surviving my scheduled week. Not a chance. Well, a slim chance if the wind’s at my back, the cosmos aligns, and the sea parts before me. Then, maybe.

Somehow we always get it all done, and if we don’t, still no one loses an eye. It`s not like we’re some hero in the movies, racing against the clock to save the innocents before slaughter or anything. It’s drycleaning or a doctor’s appointment or something.

Chill, yo.

But, yeah, I freak out. Then I’m all jackrabbit-in-headlights as I figure it out. Maybe if I channel Flash Gordon and develop a need for speed. Make it so!

Another rainy night on Vancouver buses, by me.

This morning I’ve had a delayed moment of genius in which I’ve realized I’m having dinner a block from where I was to get my hair cut today. Okay, now I’m not going out of my way today — instead I’ll get my hair cut Monday, and do dinner, all in the same block.

Sounds logical, right? No NASA engineer was injured in the making of this epiphany. I mean, I’d booked both appointments 2 weeks apart from each other initially, so it wasn’t something that occurred to me.

I bet smarter bears analyze their schedules all the time. Yay, you, you smarties!

Me, I’m just getting the fuck out of the rat race so I can stop the stupid, since having daily appointments that get me out of the house will be what keeps me sane over in the island life. The idea of my being locked up 24/7 captioning my little TV shows or writing makes my head go spinny. Well, after a month of isolation so I can do my Rat Race Detox, that is.

But this is what my life has been reduced to in recent weeks. Small moments of victory when the only real win I’ve had is shaving 30 minutes of time wasting from my week.

I know there are the hours I spend just chilling or recharging, but I won’t apologize for that, and I don’t feel that’s the problem. Why shouldn’t I want more time to enjoy my home or whatever pointlessness I feel like accomplishing? It’s MY fucking life. Screw appointments and work and whatever YOU think add values to life. Mine comes from doing things I want that recharge my brain so I can be the wordy girl I love to be.

As a writer, part of the writing process is long hours of doing what to others is “nothing.” Really, what does one accomplish sitting at a keyboard tapping away? The dishes go undone, dust starts holding conventions on your bookshelves, while appointments loom like some evil curtain to be drawn on a great idea, enforcing an end to writing efforts by actually standing up and walking away from the words all because you have to see some guy about a thing.

As far as time management goes, writing is the worst crime to inflict on anyone.

So, you can imagine my loathing of a world that revolves around deadlines, starting points, and any kind of chronological order at all.

It’s a wonder I even believe in being punctual, and even crazier that I’m a Deadline Slayer. Must be the Recovering Catholic thing.

It seems extreme, picking up and moving from a town just for the sake of time management, but that’s a large part of what I’m doing. I’m forcibly excising my endless aneurysms due to bus commutes, soul-sucking scheduling of rehab with work commutes and micro-planning the things I need to do, all because some 10+% of my life evaporates weekly just for the to/from of my job. Even if I worked from home in Vancouver, I’d still spend my life in long commutes, because it’s the nature of this city.

If moving is what it takes to stop overbooking myself to death and losing countless hours sitting on public transit staring at strangers I don’t give a shit about and will never break bread with, as a world locked behind water-streaked dirty windows passes me by, then so be it.

There are moments when sheer panic hits me and it’s not about the time scheduling. Sometimes it’s about what a 180 my life will be when I hit the brakes and start working from home in a place that’s walking distance from the ocean, 30% the size of my present town, and knowing that I can’t afford to undo the decision if it doesn’t turn out to be the smartest thing I’ve ever done in my life.

Then I breathe again. And I remember: I’m also making this move because I often find myself having to remind myself to stop and breathe, and there’s something wrong with forgetting such integral parts of existence.

Soon, appointments will be a welcome diversion from my quiet life. An exciting reason to get out and see the world, and not this obligation or sense of burden I seem to see them with now.

Yes, 2012 is the year where I won’t have to fear finding myself under a tombstone that reads “Here lies Steff, whose head exploded when she had One Appointment Too Many on a Dark and Stormy Tuesday.”

I just have to survive overbooking myself to near-death for six more weeks, then my life will feel like the soft pneumatic whoomp you experience when an elevator suddenly aborts motion after 30 floors. And that will be something worth writing about.*

*It’s a personal blog, people. Of course I’ll blog about my life in Victoria. Might even start a whole nother blog too.

Making Plays in The Game of Life

I am in catch-up mode.

We get so ensconced in our lives that all need to remember the wise words of social genius/role model Ferris Bueller: “Life moves pretty fast. If you don’t stop and look around once in a while, you could miss it.”

So, when you’re like me and you’ve been out of the game for about six weeks with something stupid like pneumonia, you sort of realize some things:

1) Many happenings/obligations in life are unnecessary, yet we feel pressured to throw ’em on the calendar too.
2) When trying to get back to your old self, you need to pick your battles, and the one battle you can likely do without includes all the social and networking events that aren’t “real” time with friends you crave seeing, or lowkey happenings.
3) Those easy activities we fall into “autopilot” on really take a lot of discipline to develop routines around, and getting back to that is a real challenge after taking a necessary break from it.

I think part of my antisocial behaviour over the years stems from the fact that much of my years from 25-35 were filled with illness (was bronchitis-prone yearly) or severe injuries, and I just lost my ability to struggle through life and be Little Miss Lively.

From Guardian.co.uk: Gk Hart/Vikki Hart/Getty Images.

And I was always angry about it, too — my failure in my struggle to balance life during those times.

One day, I read Carl Honore’s In Praise of Slow (its Canadian title).

I learned about the Slow Food movement, and how it was spawning the “Slow” lifestyle. Talk about your lightbulb moments.

So, I learned what I could about these new-to-me ideas.

Slow Food was about getting back to the basics and using real ingredients, very little processed, and ensuring one had the time to enjoy it all. At least half the time, this is what I’m after in my kitchen: Slow.

“Slow Life”, in a nutshell, is about doing everything purposefully, mindfully, and without spreading yourself too thin. It’s about reading a paper and enjoying a quiet breakfast, not working on your laptop, watching Criminal Minds, and scarfing down a protein shake.

“Slow” is in not rushing to an event that’s only about shaking a few hands when you could stay home, re-centre yourself, eat healthily, do some fitness, and enjoy some mental-recharging in preparation for a great and full day tomorrow. Slow Life is even about Tantric sex and sleeping in.

Slow is essentially about making choices, and choosing to pare back on commitments, doing only what life and time dictate as good choices.

Carl Honore’s website defines “Slow” as:

It is a cultural revolution against the notion that faster is always better. The Slow philosophy is not about doing everything at a snail’s pace. It’s about seeking to do everything at the right speed. Savoring the hours and minutes rather than just counting them. Doing everything as well as possible, instead of as fast as possible. It’s about quality over quantity in everything from work to food to parenting.

There are people who thrive on social interaction, it completes them or feeds their ego or whatever it is it does for them, and maybe they need that component in life to really feel alive.

Many of these people, though, I see tweeting or Facebooking about how frantic they feel and their panic to get to the events on time, et cetera, leaving me to wonder just how much they’re “thriving” on these things after all.

Others, these excessive commitments get in the way of our goals, they cut back on our time to be creative, they erode our sense of self, and they turn us into 5-to-6-hour-a-night sleepers instead of getting the 7 to 8 hours doctors recommend. For some, the overcommitting eats at savings, inspires bad behaviour, or leads to missed opportunities.

Not everyone’s suited for the Slow lifestyle.

But I am.

The older I get, the more I realize I’m a rural dweller living in a citylife.

I want the country house, the seclusion, the quiet at night that’s broken only by sounds in nature. I want to wander country paths and marvel over how light changes on the landscape. I want trees surrounding my home and a body of water a short walk away.

Unfortunately, right now, I can’t have that life. By the age of 45, I will.

For now, though, I can balance my life with being smarter. These days, I’m a “maybe” for all events until the final 24 hours hits. I’m tired of having to bail for reasons others don’t want to hear about and certainly don’t care about.

At this immediate time, I’m not making any social plans at all. My two birthday-weeks with only 3 social happenings in each proved Way Too Much for me. The pneumonia rebound is a hard one for me.

But the pneumonia is a wake-up call. I’ve worked far too hard on my life to be rewarded by being this sick. No more.

The frustrations I feel now, after being taken out of the game of life and trying to catch up, they’re reminding me of why I gravitated to the Slow Life a few years ago, and they’re making me wonder why I ever drifted away from it.

In order to be successful at Slow, it means I need to make a few more changes. Routine becomes more important — cleaning up after cooking, waking up with focus, committing to an active life but also being sure to actively rest, both in mind & body.

Starting this week, it looks like I have a personal trainer willing to take me on in exchange for my writing about my journey to fitness for her blog (and mine). More on that on Wednesday.

It scares the living shit out of me, honestly. A high-intensity personal trainer with a mission to kick my ass?

I’ve been there before. I know what working out with high intensity for 6 to 8 hours a week feels like. I know the price my body pays. I know what “leaving it on the floor” feels like the next morning.

I know what it takes, but I HAVE what it takes.

What I really know, though, is that being social goes right out the window for a month. At least.

That 6 to 8 hours of fitness, for me, requires at least 4 hours of stretching. And hot baths. And icing. Next thing you know, it’s 16 hours or so of my week. Physical hours, hours in which I’m often thinking about exactly how my body feels and what it can do. It also means I need 8 hours of healing rest per night.

That physical demand on me and my time also means I really have to focus on healthy eating, and since I can’t afford to buy the healthy prepared food (which are expensive, of course), I need to do the cooking myself. More time invested.

And, you know what? No problem. I can do that.

I just can’t do “social” during it too. Not much, anyhow. Not at first.

Not if I want to achieve everything I know I can achieve.

Me first, you last — that’s what losing 50 pounds takes.

If you can’t put yourself first in weight loss, you won’t succeed. Period. I know.

“Slow” living means making choices and choosing your battles. It means doing one thing and doing it to the best of your ability. So does weight loss.

There aren’t a lot of books that have really changed my attitude on life, but Honore’s In Praise of Slow really did. It’s time it changes my life again, and this is the best time of year to make that change.

Whether we like it or not, there are 10 weeks till Christmas. Manic just got more manic. Socializing will be through the roof.

For me, Christmas means people — it means warm drinks, kindness, small homemade gifts, toasting with wine, laughing in warm lighting, and generally just Being with Real People. It’s not about events with 200 folks, or even 100. It’s about being in places where I can actually talk to each person present.

As the invitations start pouring in, I’ll pick events that are most intimate — preferably home gatherings — with the greatest number of people I’d like to connect with. And maybe only one every week or two.

But that’s how “Slow” goes.

In the end, I’m finding pneumonia has been a gift to me on a few levels. Most importantly, it’s helped me clarify my goals and remember what’s important to me in my world.

Or, at least that’s what I’m choosing to take from the pneumonia experience: Reminders of who I can be.

Now comes the part that’s the hardest of all: Turning those reminders into my new reality.

And, in the spirit of Thanksgiving, I’m grateful I get to try at all.