Waste not, want more

No variations on a theme.

The Spark of Passion Smells like Death

As a glamour-puss in training, I was using my vacation day to vacuum my home and contemplate life when a series of thoughts about recent writing, shelved writing, teenage writing, books that fascinate me, what I want to do with my blog, my future, and my life culminated in a realization: I am dedicatedly fascinated by death. In particular, how people process the deaths of loved ones, stars, arch enemies, and world villains.

My teen writing was filled with death, but I thought that was an age-related affliction. In those days, I just loved to read fictional tales of teens with cancer or kids who lost parents. Later Stephen King gripped me for a good couple of years before I turned my eye to more literary sources.  My new favourites became books where well-developed characters deal with a death or the dark aspects of their relationship with someone now dead.

On the other hand, adding to the list of things I’ve always attributed to “being Portuguese”, I grew up in a home where death was perhaps the most normal of conversations, perfectly child appropriate and fun for the whole family. There was talk of who died, why they died, the extent to which that person’s death was a tristiza (sad event) or a desgraça (tragedy) or não foi uma surpresa (not a surprise). Likewise, talking about somebody’s illness, diminishing health, or imminent demise was never seen as disrespectful or downright offensive. Like taboo-free gossip. But there’s an up side. I adapted well to the notion that my parents would die, my friends would die, and that I would probably die, too, maybe even sooner than one would assume. AND, I can talk pretty comfortably about death.

Finally, I have never had a particularly dramatic response to a death – one that lasted a culturally appropriate amount of time and is followed by normalcy. For me, initial shock has been followed only by moments of missing someone, or noting their absence. These moments rise and fall as everything else in our life does. My lack of reaction has, in some ways, been of some concern to me. Is my otherwise sensitive heart cold to death? Do I see death as good? Do I just not care enough about those that have died? Sure, there’s no normal grief, but there is healthy grief.

And now my mind is awash with ways I can attack death or show death some love. It’s a marketer’s dream!

Advertisements

August 2, 2012 Posted by | Childhood Complaints, Death, Portuguese-ness?, Self-reflection, Writing | , , | 6 Comments

The Second Person Sin

There are days where the world stops.

And   it    stops    hard.

At least it does for you. Everyone and everything else, generally, marches on. You can almost feel them marching on. And you may keep in step, or look in step. But you’re much, much further away. At a distance that you just can’t recover.

It’s an affront. A powerful aftershock. Don’t they know? Isn’t it written on your face that you will never forget this date? That it is etched into you as few things can be?

(But it’s just another day. There’s humility in that, when it hits.)

On those days, relatively rare, there’s a drop of happiness in the sad. A sense of taking stock. A feeling of truly living. Without the distraction of gossip, advertisements, or fried chicken.  Just you, your thoughts, and those you are most inextricably linked to. If you’re lucky. But even then, lost in yourself, there is great solitude.

That drop of happiness makes it bearable. That tiny hope of better days that can well up from almost nowhere. Somehow, it may just be okay that you will re-enter the world behind. Changed.

They are big, heady days.

July 30, 2012 Posted by | Hypotheticals, Mr. Lonely, Photography, Self-reflection, Writing | , , , , | 6 Comments

Getting Blogged Down

I believe I’ve written before about my blogging woes. Not the ‘howcome I can’t spend my whole life blogging?’ woes, but the ‘ack, people I actually know might be/could be/are reading this,’ ‘might be/could be/are ridiculing my dorky/lack of discretion/boring/lack of ingenuity’ woes. I’ve worried about school people, family people, hypothetical people. Coming in a close second are the ‘this could have consequences in my personal and professional life’ woes. They aren’t much better.

This is part of a blogger’s struggle. I realize. Once again, I don’t feel as though I’m being very creative here. I have friends who have written much more eloquently about this than I ever could. [Two that stand out in my mind this minute are Dana’s A Visit from the Overshare Fairy and Kathy’s Muted No More: How Memoir Complicates the Notion of Privacy.] So while I won’t say this well, or uniquely, I’d like to get the troubling thoughts off my chest.

It has always been difficult for me to write or act in most circumstances without wondering what others could think, which is both a blessing and surprisingly inconvenient. On the one hand, this makes me a born communicator. I have my audience in mind. I can anticipate communication gaps or difference in style. I write and behave according to the situation at hand. This probably also helped my acting abilities back in the day. On the other hand, I unconsciously, and sometimes more consciously, self-censor pretty extensively. Though it is very habitual and not a thing I set out to do everyday, it can be very frustrating in hindsight, and exhausting. I have a very hard time with more explosive people. My mind runs a marathon every minute thinking about how to avoid nuclear war. At worst, I worry that this “flexibility” makes me a shape shifter – a fakey-fakerson that just “acts” depending on who she’s around. Only upon reflection do I worry. But I digress. The point is I’m very conscious of others. This can make me sensitive but can also make me silent or different than I would otherwise be.

I’m slowly coming to sense that part of my reticence can be attributed to my, er, upbringin’. I come from a family that is and was about as publicly or politically active as a cotton ball. I can think of only one publicly vocal member of my family – an actual card carrying party member. This family of mine is the opposite of radical or staunchly ___ or anything that you could point a finger at and name. It would be fun to blame it on my parents’ growing up in an era of dictatorship and repression. In reality, I think it comes down to humble people living their lives and keeping their heads down. I don’t know that anyone else would see it that way. However, like my family, I am not prone to public displays, conflicts, or embarrassment of myself or others.

As it turns out anything I say or do can display, conflict with or embarrass someone, me included. I don’t kid myself. I know that I’ve probably cheesed off a good number of people in my day, both on and off the blog. But I like to keep that sort of thing to a minimum. These concerns have for the longest time kept me from intentionally expanding my readership. I have been quite comfortable limiting the readers who know where I live to a couple of friends that I might cheese off occasionally but that I suspect will accept me anyway. Only very recently have I highlighted blog posts on Facebook, though in passive fashion I’ve listed my blog as my website from Day 1.

My most recent bout of anxiety came when two of my school friends, Jess and Racquel (hi, ladies!) subscribed to my blog. While I was in no way concerned about these particular superstars of telling it like it is following along, their appearance served as a stark reminder that people I know in life might also read my desperate attempts at whatever this is. It was scary.

And thus I marvel at those of you in blog-land who dish it out, take it, talk about your families, spank your friends or otherwise deal with life. I know some of you sweat it more than others. Some of you have very difficult and painful reasons for sharing, or not sharing. For others it’s merely a practical matter. Many of you rage at censorship in all its forms. Some would perhaps tell me to strap on a pair and start living.

Admittedly, some of my boundaries are imposed by others. Some I’ve assumed on behalf of people who know nothing about this “secret” of mine. I haven’t really sorted this out much. Nor am I facing a particular dilemma. Frankly, I think it’s hard to blog the way I’d really like to without being self-employed and completely orphaned – for me. I’m not prepared to deal with the consequences. I imagine there are creative solutions I haven’t yet grasped.

In the meantime, a friend recently wrote to me that she enjoyed blog intimacy, referring to mine to some extent. I was stunned. In the vast expanse of all that I haven’t written, I’ve managed to evoke intimacy in one valued person’s opinion? I’ll take it for now.

Happy Friday the 13th – I promise it’s still the 13th here. You’ll be pleased or disgruntled to know there are three F – the – 13s this year!

January 14, 2012 Posted by | Community, Self-reflection, Writing | , , , , , , | 17 Comments

Celebrating a Few Little Things

I’m very tired but imagine I will have even less energy in future evenings. I’m aiming to post twice a week for the foreseeable future. With that in mind, I wanted to host a mini-celebration of things that are pleasing me, before things fall off the rails and I beat myself up for not being able to feel superwomanly.

  • Tomorrow’s dinner is complete in crock pot in fridge, awaiting the morning.
  • There’s a salt chocolate bar with my name on it on the desk. I don’t even have to eat any of it. The fact that it is there is so pleasing.
  • I survived my first day. I’m not mortified to return.
  • I can wear something tomorrow that does not require ironing.
  • My legs hurt in a good way. Even though I’m not sure when I’m going to use them again. I will enjoy that.
  • The shower will be back up and running tomorrow morning. This is something for which everyone the world over should be thankful.
  • The dishwasher is doing its thing.
  • The kitchen doesn’t look like someone was sick. I am always happier when the kitchen is presentable. Sad, but true.
  • I have two upcoming weekends of fun and adventure/relaxation planned.
  • Time for bed!

January 9, 2012 Posted by | Excessive organization, Self-reflection, Uncategorized | | 4 Comments

Breaking up with Studenthood – Politely

Dear Studenthood,

We’ve had a long run, Studenthood. There were those early, confident years where I basked in your educational sunshine. I’d never known a more comforting embrace than yours. Math races, Canada’s capitals, weather patterns, silent reading, story time, poster contests, school plays, and in-class performances – I could not get enough. You fostered long-lasting friendships, too. Sports day was always awkward but we powered through. The next day we were thick as thieves, seeking scholastic achievement again. Those were the glory days, SH; the spring of our relationship.

Things got a little tougher in high school. Do you remember, SH? The jerks were a little scarier and a lot bigger. They’d throw pennies occasionally. But even they couldn’t take the shine off of many classroom moments. There was poetry and science, the intricacy of the atom and the shameful history of Catholicism. As long as we avoided the topic of physics, there remained much love between us. You showed me greater freedom and student service. You gave me my weekends to do as I pleased. You respected my autonomy. The dog days of summer could be hard, but it was a great time.

Come to think of it, we’ve had a good run, you and me. As summer turned to fall and I began my university life, we remained close. I was poorer and had to work much harder, but I still loved you then. You woke my passion for knowledge; you inspired me. You drew connections in the world I had no idea existed. I added a degree thinking I could not get enough of you. But our energies waned. You grew demanding. I grew depressed and lazy. We couldn’t be everything to each other; it wasn’t sustainable. We closed out just shy of the Dean’s list. I was angry then. And exhausted. We barely said goodbye. I fled the country soon after knowing it would be years before I saw you again, if at all. I never thanked you.

For a few years I didn’t give you much thought. It was like a long, still winter without your glow. Then, one day, I took a test – a “likes” test of all things. You were drawing me back but I didn’t know it at the time. I accepted the challenge, studied and wrote yet another test. I remembered the comfort of tests. Just me, the stress, and the page. Writing. Insular. I applied for school, unsure whether you’d be there to pick up the pieces. It was months before I knew if we’d meet again. I didn’t know if I would take up the call. Should I work? Live life? Let you go? But when the call came I couldn’t let it be. The opportunity, and the risk of regret, seemed too great. I accepted.

We had found a new spring. I was passionate again, excited, electrified by the privilege of your educational embrace. The material, the ideas and the understanding all seemed to fit. But self-doubt crept in far too quickly. I couldn’t trust you as before. Am I good enough? Can I do this? How on earth will I survive once it’s time to let you go? And that’s the perennial problem between you and me: Studenthood, you are my comfort zone, my four-month cycle of self-loathing. You make room for my linearity but also my quest for change. You’ve become my crutch, SH. I am deathly afraid to leave you behind. It can’t be healthy, this fear, this sense that I am a square peg in an ever-narrowing round hole. I used to think I could do, now I’m not so sure. You have me convinced that I can only survive in your arms. I think about making organic baby food more often than not now. The blossoms are wilting before they bloom.

It’s not right, SH, and I must move on. I’m not sure where I’ll turn in times to come. I may look for you again in that space between life and dreams, but I need time. So I say goodbye to your flexible schedules, your always predictable cycle of stress, your grades, your affirmation and your rejection. I will draw a wage, I will get two weeks of vacation, I will learn on the job. I will do. Wish me luck, Studenthood. It’s for the best.

Gratefully Yours,

Rose

January 7, 2012 Posted by | Books, Childhood Complaints, Photography, Self-reflection, Writing | , , | 10 Comments

7 Ways to Leave Your Lover Wondering What You’ve Been Doing with Your Time

Way back in 2011, just as the days could get no shorter and the music at the mall could get no more annoying in my corner of the world, Dana from zona pellucida found enough light in her day to nominate me for the Seven Links Blog Award. While it is inevitable to be occasionally slapped with blog love of some kind or another, this particular honour excites me because, aside from the fact that I think Dana is awesome and her reading my blog still blows my mind occasionally, it motivates me to really look back at my blog and my best posts.

I have a whopping 80 something blog posts to my name and yet this task of mine is stunningly difficult. What posts do I want to highlight? Which of my mangled moments are my favourite? How can I possibly find controversy and helpfulness in such a quiet blog? But I’m working on doing things despite being unable to -also why you’ll find way more than seven links- so here I go:

1. Most Beautiful

A most beautiful post? Yikes. I don’t generally go for beautiful, nor am I mega-comfortable calling what I do beautiful. But if I must, *batting eyelashes*, my Thanksgiving weekend post Meandering through life keeping fed and watered, about higher education and reuniting with Calgary after 7 years takes the prize. Woman Recovers in Vegas from Assault by Arizona Desert, about my near-death experience,  and Not quite speechless, about finishing school, come in a close second.

2. Most Popular

I’ve written about this before. My post, Words (and other things resembling words) that warm my cockles: #6, about anemones – really the word anemone – is far and away my most popular. This kills me since the post is not exactly a piece of brilliance. It has almost no personal significance. However, it also serves as a reminder that what sells most isn’t always what’s best. Sometimes, people are just confused about sea creatures. Happy to help.

My second and third most popular posts, are Grad School: Deep and Delicious and A Considerate Person’s Guide to Riding the Bus, or Don’t be an Ass, respectively. The first I would find just as perplexing except that consumer products seem to win the google hunt every time and the second makes sense because it had the one-two-three punch of humour, lists, and being the only post I’ve ever put up on Facebook.

3. Most Controversial

While statements I’ve made against James Bond and Malcolm Gladwell could be seen as controversial if anyone had cared/commented I hazard a guess that my most controversial post may be the one in which I question our western, self-affirming, just believe and you will have everything you’ve ever wanted perspective. In Anything I set my mind to – Part 1 I wrote about whether we can get there just because our mommy or mentor said that we could.

4. Most Helpful

It occurs to me that the most helpful post on my blog should be one that gives others something: information, inspiration, perspiration… something. Unfortunately, such posts are few and far between. Vindication for Foot Sufferers Everywhere may prove helpful to those with evil, evil feet and Just Overshoot Me, which tries to explore and explain the issue of ecological overshoot, may provide solace to those who feel alone in a world where we’re constantly striving to use bigger, better, more.

5. Most Surprisingly Successful

As I’ve said, I remain astonished by my top post. But looking a little further along the list, I am most pleasantly surprised that I Prefer My “Maiden” Name and You Can Too (or Not) has achieved relative success in views and comments. It is exactly the sort of post of mine that doesn’t usually receive much attention. It was very fun to write and I’m still excited about the name change. I must admit that I’m pleased this one struck a chord.

6.Most Underrated

Underrated posts are often “underrated” for reasons that have nothing to do with the  posts themselves. It’s a holiday weekend. You published it at two in the morning. Everyone and their dog posted in that period and people are simply fatigued. But sometimes, the post just isn’t that great, or just doesn’t evoke any particular interest are reaction at the time its published. Either way, the flops can be frustrating. Especially the flops you like the most. My first flop, It’s Not Me, It’s Him, was also my very first post, so no big surprise there. It was about a (purely fictional – ha) loss of a developing friendship. This loss may have occurred for any number of reasons but I’ve decided to blame hypothetical people. The second flop I’ve chosen to highlight is my rant about language and generalizations, Warning! Lecture Zone: Generalize at your own risk. I am persnickety about language at the best of times but when it’s hurtful I really get going. I didn’t manage to get many others going with this post.

7. Most Worthy of Pride

Finally, as proof that things really can come full circle, my proudest post is a response my first blog award, also from Dana, where she gave me the once in a lifetime chance to reject an award: Who me? Well if you insist. No, thanks. That post was incredibly fun to write. The fact that it occurred to Dana to fulfill my dream was absolutely priceless!

Once again, this post has meant much more to me than it could to someone else. But I’m grateful for this time down memory lane and the wonderful bloggers that have encouraged and inspired me. For some of my favourite bloggers, cruise my very limited blog roll. [Hi, blog world. I’m trying to keep myself under control. It’s tough. Forgive me.]

January 5, 2012 Posted by | Community, Hypotheticals, Self-reflection, Waste, Writing | , , , | 6 Comments

Still Working on the End

I have been longing to do a well-considered, well-composed succinct and inspirational post of my hopes and dreams for 2012. I know you too have been waiting with bated breath. But, it’s not happening. My hopes and dreams for 2012 will remain unknown even to me and buried with hopes and dreams for other years passed. We spent a long week at home. It was busy, full of moments, fun and exhausting. Every day felt like a week. I got sick. I did little. I had fun. I talked with nephews. I didn’t sleep well. The reading and introspection that I somehow thought I would manage did not happen.

I’m still sick, which may be why I don’t feel renewed. I’m clinging to 2011. I want to close it off and start the new year now that I am at home, my way, but am not sure what that would be. The New Year bell has gone unrung. I’m standing in Times Square trying to figure out what to do when the ball drops unaware that life has marched ahead. Alas, the year has started without me. As always, I have about 300 things I want to do. Aside from eating and catching up on blogs, I am doing none of them. Look at me go.

And so, I have no beginning of year pearls of wisdom. I have no resolutions, themes or goals. I plan to survive. I hope that by the end of 2012 I know what I am working towards in the years to come. But I don’t expect to know. Mine is a winding road the next few years. The sort of road that has few signs, but occasionally provides veiled encouragement. A Sunday drive sort of road. I may be tempted to pull over and picnic, camping out in a spot of comfort while my body races. I may be entirely wrong.

In this puddle of doubt, I am unsure what to say about the upcoming year. Today, I’m thinking of a few things:

  • Health. This year may bring me either more or less time at a desk. I’m unsure and I may have little control over it. What I can control is what I do with that time away from the desk. I would like to get my lower back to a happier place.
  • Acceptance. I’d like to accept when things are not awesome, rather than blaming myself for failing to turn non-awesome into awesome and rather than telling myself that I’m just not trying hard enough to be awesome. I don’t understand what I mean by this yet.
  • Writing. My plans to interview my mom and aunt were somewhat derailed. I move into the next phase of life earlier than originally thought, my aunt was unwell, I was sick and did not have the energy. Blah, blah. I did manage some spontaneous recording of my mom on New Year’s Day though. A welcome gift. I gained some insight into her perspectives on dating and marriage that are rather hilarious. I left for the holidays thinking I would either gather a bunch of interview material that I would use to start this new writing project or that I would pick up on an old project. I’ve decided to pick up the old project. Step 1 is to reread what I have so far and set some goals. I’ll post once I’ve gotten that far.
  • Giving. I am constantly stunted about what I should do with my life because I am obsessed with the idea that my work has to be mainly about giving. All kinds of people see their work as giving work. I don’t consider them wrong. I have done giving work before in one way or another. But I have never felt like I am giving enough. Others give outside of their professional life, they donate, they give their time or expertise, they unite people. Me? I think about giving. This obsession is paralyzing. It deems everything inadequate. It leaves me drooling in a corner, satisfied by nothing. It is not a motivator.

Quite a barrelful of thoughts for the upcoming year.

January 3, 2012 Posted by | Hypotheticals, Self-reflection, Writing | , , | 8 Comments

Stewing Without the Beef

While painfully trying to complete my schoolwork without getting too sidetracked by tangential thoughts about everything that wasn’t what I was doing, I created a number of lists of things that would be fun to do when no longer trapped. Among them was a list of blog post ideas – the sort of thing that in days gone by (i.e. September to November, my only uber consistent blogging in history) would have resulted in an immediate, pithy draft about the matter at hand. I look at the list now and wonder, how on earth did I intend to come up with an interesting post about “What I love about the Christmas tree”? I’m sure it was brilliant, but I know not.

Interruption: I should stop here to acknowledge that I am in fact done that school-like thing that I was doing for the last few years. My post-exam elation was followed by a tremendous kick in painful places that brought me crashing down to Realityville. Nothing tragic, just a closer look at the paper I had yet to finish and the many useful, intelligent, utterly overwhelming comments on a draft. That was 40 agonizing pages of my life that I will never get back. I do not regret it, but it was tough. And anti-climactic. I finished just in time to recover it (with help) from the nether-regions of MS Word evil, email it, praise the universe and get to the shower for a real live theatre production (so much fun) that only extended my feeling of floating in between window panes, seeing everything but unable to escape. The point is, I am happy, but I am many other things too. And I’m giving myself time to feel those other things and not be upset with myself about it. Let the morbid me be for now. [It strikes me that I’ve made it sound as though there was a real live theatre performance in my shower. Sadly, it was just me cleaning my greasy self. The real life theatre performance was a splendid staging of Jitters, a three act Canadian play about egos, reviews, stage fright, “making it” in Canada, playing it up for producers and getting along.] Digression is a magical thing…

I’m still stewing on a number of the topics, including a new one presented to me today thanks to Dana. But one topic I need to deal with now for ritualistic purposes: at the top of my blog to be list, or almost at the top, is “Goodby Studenthood” (either I didn’t have the time to correct my spelling or I was being too brilliant about something else to notice at the time). It’s time dear friends, for me to go post-student.

Step #1: The dreaded sweatband featured here is a relic of my undergrad days. I bought it in first year for a Richard Simmons Halloween costume (so sad that I don’t have a scanner). It somehow morphed into my study band, only to be worn once things got desperate, always upside down (damn the man and all that). The sweatband is being ritually burned this week. I would post pictures but my camera is still languishing sadly in Calgary. Documented or not, the burning will happen.

Step #2: I have to change my about page to reflect this new post-student life. It will take skill and determination, but I will do my best. I should also change my avatar since it too features the sweatband [I suppose once this is published these matters will no longer be in evidence].

Step #3: I have to organize all of my binders, course packs and other student paraphernalia into two categories: the limited number of things I am keeping and everything else. The everything else then gets given away, sold, or calendarized (seriously, it’s happening) to be sold at some relevant time when people might actually want to buy Remedies: the Law of Damages.

Step #4: I must post a damning eff you to studenthood, despite the fact that I am still for many purposes considered a student for the next year. Me oh my. Can you feel the anticipation?

December 20, 2011 Posted by | Brackets, Law, Self-reflection | , , , , | 9 Comments

Not quite speechless

I wanted to capture this. This moment. This confusion. The pounding, shaking, reverberating pulse of my body. The sense of impending tears. The excitement,  anxiety and fatigue all culminating in this mass of jello on this god-forsaken doctor’s office chair. My outward battle has not been particularly violent, but the inward battle has been protracted, painful, bloody and probably, in all seriousness, taken years off my ticker.

I’m wide-eyed. Trying to make lists and pretend that life is normal. Then making fun of myself inwardly for thinking even for a moment that life might be less than normal. People end things every day.

Today I point heartily at the mean one, the self-critic that has her place but is a little too comfortable at centre stage. Let others take the role for a change. I point at her, I call her out and I tell her to shut up. It feels good.

I will damn well celebrate because I feel like it. The day is mine, the week really, as I’m actually not done. I have not sorted out that whole war, poverty, hunger thing; cured cancer or developed the newest

I happily think of my dad today. I know that he never would have guessed. I know he would cry. I don’t find my accomplishments amazing. But I know my biased father would have. I know that I come by my crying honestly. Today I’ll let that ride.

December 9, 2011 Posted by | Law, Self-reflection | , , | 11 Comments

Unsettled and other Tales of YIKES

Things are a little unsettled over here in my neck of the woods. Good news, weird goings on, and the usual impending doom mean I’m all a flutter, quivering like butter. The wind mocks my inward state.

 

When every utterance makes your heart jump

but not with romance

and when your stomach sinks

at the sight of entrance

is it selfless concern

or self-preservation?

when your imagination runs wild

and you question your safety

are these unfair assumptions

or animal responses?

when it’s not about you

but you is all you know

the fear of tongue-lashing raises tension so high

collective avoidance

or unified support?

Watch the plaster come off

let it crumble

patch it back hastily, deficiently

or turn away

… hope it stops.

November 24, 2011 Posted by | Mr. Lonely, Self-reflection, Writing | , , , | 6 Comments