Tuesday, December 15, 2015

Write Something I'm Giving Up On You

Sometimes it just doesn't come out. It's like the tap has run dry, and the river of creativity and ideas has disappeared and all that is left is a canyon of self-loathing and doubt.

A notification popped up, so I clicked on it. "You suck," it said in bold, capital letters. Another one flew in, this time it says, "And everyone knows it."

Why this constant barrage of abuse? Just because I have forgotten how to write? Because I have used up all of my funny? Because this is the end of it all, I had a good run for 11 months, but that is all there is.

It's a week before my period, and The Doom has set down upon me. Some women cry more. Some women bloat and treat themselves to their favourite snacks, or start cathartic fights with their partners. Mine comes in the form of self-doubt. Loathing. Sheer panic and depression. I get anxious. I have trouble writing because everything I write is simply not good enough. I want to drown myself in a bottle of wine and sleep it off, but my day job doesn't allow for it. Not even once a month.  Exercise helps sometimes, and it is my fault that I haven't gone this week. Or this month.

Another notification pops up in my head. "No one likes you." Thanks, Me. That helps. I have left my document for this Friday's show untouched on my tablet - I will not be viewing that until the morning when this storm has passed. It's always only about 12 hours, and I'm going on hour 8 and hopefully will sleep off the rest before making any serious life decisions like cutting off all of my hair or buying a new car. Or new pet. Or making another baby (NOT THAT I AM CURRENTLY ATTRACTIVE ENOUGH TO BANG.)

Another notification. "You can't even end this post. It'll sit in drafts for years like your other bombs." SHUT UP, it totally won't. I'll publish it and deeply hate myself for it.

Friday, December 11, 2015

Don't Kick The Box

I remember it was early in the morning when my sister and I were packed into our mum's new red Chevy, our favourite toys and blankets tucked in around us, our other belongings and clothes packed up and covered in the truck's box along with our labrador, Buddy.

I had the back seat to myself,  my legs carefully arranged around my stuff and a small oak box.

Don't kick the box.

Our move was from Saskatchewan to Ontario, a small family of three that was once four. My mother's sister lived in Ontario, my mum was ready to leave our house and start new. My sister and I were less than enthused, but didn't really want to stay in our house anymore anyway. We had said goodbye to our friends and family, sold my dad's vehicles, the house and most things in it. We left our garden, the flower bed with the decorative water pump and burial ground of our beloved budgie and numerous insects that I insisted on burying, Because that's what you do.

Don't kick the box.

I was worried about making new friends. My mum assured me that my long, pretty hair would gain me new friendships. We would be going to the school that she went to as a child, and some of her friends had children our age, so we were excited to meet them.  We could have our own rooms and decorate them how we liked. It would be ok.

Don't kick the box.

As the landscape began to change from stark, brown plains to blue lakes and grey rocks and the road had more curves and hills I began to look forward to seeing our family. Halloween was coming and we were bringing with us a giant pumpkin we grew in our garden to carve with our cousins.  We were going to stay with our aunt for a little bit, but soon our own place would be ready for us.

And after that, the oak box would have a place ready for it. A service and a tombstone in Ontario, ashes that would be safe and face no risk of being accidentally kicked ever again.

I didn't kick the box.

Wednesday, May 21, 2014

An apology, from a raging Feminist

A few years ago, idiotically, I wrote on a forum that I was a feminist but not a raging feminist. A woman asked politely (far more politely than I deserved) what I meant by that remark and I went on to post more about my ideologies - which, when examined closely, meant absolute nonsense. I believed a raging feminist was one that strove too hard for equality, knocking down people in her way, spray-painting big Xs over the men on WOMEN toilets signs. I envisioned a raging feminist to be a woman that pounced on opportunities to point out sexist flaws in movies, books, political speeches, bus stop signs...I believed in something that just doesn't exist.

Not only that, but I was careful not to succumb to this mythological personality trait by spending more time enlightening myself on the social emasculating of the depiction of men on television and in modern media, being portrayed as slobbering, drooling Neanderthals with teeny wives that do everything for them.

To excuse myself a tiny bit (and only a tiny bit, this is still a proper apology) at the time I did have a young son and was his primary influence and was very mindful of his rights as a person and as a male. However, to completely ignore the pressing stereotype of those television wives who are forced to remain attractive, are constantly shown cleaning and tidying, and manage to spend season after season dithering over only two choices that women on television seem to be faced with - staying home or working -  I needed to pull my head of my ass and realise that what I was seeing was enraging.

am a raging feminist. Feminists want equality for humans, and that's what I want.

I was side-tracked by sexual conformity, and confused by how feminism and still being likable worked.  Now I know that I am sexy. I am strong. I am not to be ignored. I want my son and my daughter to be equals, and I don't care if that makes someone not like me. Being nice, a mantra repeated to me over and over by caregivers, teachers, employers and everyone else that had an influence over me meant that I was scared of NOT being nice. Of saying no. Of not sharing, stepping back, holding my tongue, hoping I'd always manage to say the right thing at exactly the right time. Little girls are told to be nice too often. We develop a fear of not being seen as nice. A fear of being called a bitch. A fear of being referred to as a raging feminist.

Men are assertive. Women are catty. Men know what they want. Women are being difficult. Men cry on television to appear genuine and appealing. Women who cry on television are hormonal and out of control, emotionally unstable and incapable of maintaining composure. A good man stays home with his kids. A bad mother goes out without leaving supper for them all.

I face sexism every day, whether it is subtle social conformity subtext like being expected to pick out cards and gifts for my husband's family because that is seen as the wife's job, or not so subtle like being whistled at on the street for daring to brush my hair that day. Rather than being annoyed at Homer Simpson on behalf of men, I'm annoyed at big boobs on billboards (not breastfeeding, though, GOD HELP US ALL IF THAT TIT IS LACTATING) and magazines aimed at tweens that tell them how to satisfy their men 365 ways a year.  Yes, I know men feel pressure to look good/smell good, etc. That doesn't erase, vindicate, minimise or reduce the pressure women and young girls are faced with. If anything it might lead to the smallest amount of empathy, but usually when a man states that he's under the same pressure it's not to acknowledge what a woman goes through but to insist she look at others instead of herself. That she be nice and realise it isn't all about her.

So, I apologise for being so dumb and uninformed all of those years ago, and hope I'm allowed to start over. I can start now:

I am a raging feminist. It is one of my best qualities.

Saturday, April 12, 2014

Just Generally Anxiety Disordered

I've always envisioned the worst possible scenario in most situations. I don't find it particularly morbid, it's always felt quite clever and logical to be prepared for something - anything - that could result in a public tragedy that I may need to escape from. Having a plan seemed sane. Having a plan was reassuring. If I was stuck on a bridge during rush hour I would look around the inside of my car and see what could be used as a survival tool were the bridge to collapse into the river. If I was sitting in a busy theatre I would always check out the nearest exits and create a path to take in my mind that would secure my safety were a fire to break out, or the roof cave in (obviously, the roof would have to cave in above other people or my plan wouldn't work, but I would have alternate routes in place.)

Once, when Matthew was very small, I put a big bag of flour in his Jolly Jumper and dangled it off my 2nd story balcony to see if it would make a viable escape pod for him in case of a fire. It did, for those who are curious. I never had to use it, thankfully, but felt immeasurably better having pulled a Michael Jackson with an innocent bag of flour.

There's nothing to be done in case of a plane crash over the ocean, which is why I loathe planes. They are plan-free, escape-proof cans of sure and certain death and I cannot out-prepare them once in the sky. So, I fight back with lorazepam in those instances of necessary travel.

This constant planning and visualisation does take it's toll on a person, though. Once I started experiencing sleeplessness, irritability, heart palpitations, lack of concentration/focus and night-sweats I went to the doctor thinking my thyroid was being a dink again. She suggested anxiety, I said I was sure that wasn't it - I'm not anxious. I don't clutch at my chest and cry, "Think of the children!" because Ariel the mermaid has tits. I don't call all of the hospitals when my husband is late (although, I have picked out a dress for his hypothetical funeral that makes me look vulnerable, pretty, and most importantly thin) so obviously I don't have anxiety. She humoured me with a thyroid test while I wandered off for a week to be indignant about her anxiety diagnosis.

I decided to humour her and looked up generalised anxiety disorder.  I was shocked - I've been like this my WHOLE life, and it's a thing? Being scared of the dark and basements was just something I've always lived with - Graham does the laundry because it's in the basement and I don't like the basement so that's his job. Every precaution I've taken with my kids, every routine I've made for us, all of it has been based around what I felt was rational worry. I used to be irritated with Graham for not knowing the best way to do things, not realising there isn't always a best way, there's just the way that I worry the least about. The realisation was staggering. I was overwhelmed, I didn't know where to start as living a different way seemed unfathomable. What other way?

At this point my concentration was so bad I couldn't even get through a whole book. The busyness and flightiness I've had my whole life with multiple hobbies and activities to constantly stimulate and distract me was actually a symptom, but also meant this wouldn't be as simple as reading literature and changing my mindset. After bringing myself back to the doctor and admitting it was anxiety we decided on trying an anti-anxiety med just to bridge the gap between therapy and my current state of mind. It's too soon to know it's full-effect, but I did sit on a bridge yesterday and realised when driving away that I just sang along to the radio instead of running through my usual scenarios of escaping death.

I'm still coming to terms with it all, and trying to recognise what is normal and what is anxiety-produced measures of safety and mentalness. I do check fire exits when in a public place, but I'm pretty sure that's something we were taught to do as children so it doesn't count, but I no longer count the people on the bus to work out my rate of survival in case of a fiery crash - the formula for that being my distance from the nearest exit + number of people on the bus - the old/infirm/iPod wearing people that I can run faster than. No offense, non-survivors. Don't take it personally that I base my odds on survival on you not surviving, it's just anxiety.

Saturday, January 25, 2014

But, I just want to buy a dress?

It's Graham's Christmas party tonight (they do it in January every year, which I appreciate as December is really busy) and I needed/wanted a new dress so we hit the mall last night and after a couple of haircuts for Graham and Charlie we wandered into stores. There are some big sales on, but it is an in-between seasonal thing so the clothes and the sizes are cheap but also limited.

The first store I walked into had giant posters made to look like tags that said "70% off all stock!" Pretty straight forward, I thought. After the third salesperson walked by and asked me if I knew what their sale was I walked out of the store feeling harassed and badgered. The next store was more of the same, with two sales people (associates?) chirping "Hi!" at me, and one immediately coming right over and asking me if I was looking for anything special today. I said no, just browsing and she asked me if I knew what the sale promotion was. I read from the sign directly above me, "up to 60% off select merchandise, excluding newer stock?" and she replied, "Yes, so it's up to 60% off select stock but not including our newer merchandise near the front." No shit.

The third store was the same. "Have you been helped?" "Have you heard about our sale today?" "Are you looking for anything in particular today?" "Just in case you haven't heard, we're having a sale today which doesn't include the dress you're holding, but does include those shorts that no one wanted in the back, available in lime with red handprints and red with lime handprints. No? Not interested? Would you like to try them on? No? Ok, maybe next time?"

Charlie was in a stroller and quite happy to roll around looking at things, so the fourth store I felt confidant that she could manage sitting patiently while I tried on a dress. Except in this store I couldn't even locate a sales person to open a changing room for me, and when I finally did she huffily walked over, opened their smallest room and said, "There you go," and walked away. A stroller wouldn't fit in that room, I barely fit in that room. There was a room next to it with stroller capacity, but I couldn't find her again to help.

Feeling quite discombobulated by the overbearing attention/lavish ignoring I had just received I finally found another store with a wrap dress I quite liked. There was no aggressive salespeople nannering at me the second I got into the store and the music was quite nice - I like a store with good music. Charlie and I got a changing room to accommodate us both, the dress fit, finally a successful shopping excursion. Now came the part I hated - paying for the item.

It wasn't a pricey dress, at $38.00 it was a bargain. Parting with that money wasn't the hard part, it's the part where I can't pay for clothing without being asked to buy a membership, sign up for a free membership, get asked for my name and birthday and email for birthday promotions, get asked my postal code, get asked for my phone number, or any other ways the store feels I should be forever hassled for stupidly giving them money. Honestly, I just want to buy a fucking dress. I don't want email promotions, I don't buy that many clothes. I don't want a membership card that means absolutely nothing that I can't store up points on and can only use once a year for one article of clothing over $100.00. I just want to know the final price, pay using debit, and walk out.

I walked up to the front and put my dress on the counter. The sales person that helped me asked if I knew who helped me - always a good sign - and asked if it fit. I said no, just to see if she was paying attention, and she chirped, "Great. Would you like to sign up for our members rewards card? After your first year you receive 10% discounts every second time you come to our store." I shit you not, for $13 that was their *amazing* membership. Their store might not even be open in a year. I said I wasn't interested, and would just like to pay. She said, "Great. Can I have your name and email, please?" What? Come on, I just want to pay for the damned dress and leave! I said, "No, I just want to pay normally. No email, no name, no postal code...I just want to buy a dress and go home." She looked confused, like I was asking to wash the floor in exchange for the dress. I said, "I don't want to sign up for anything, I just want to pay." The line of people behind me was growing.

The girl looked at her computer, and looked at the associate next to her and said, "How do I put through a sale with no email address?" The associate said, "Doesn't her email address work?"

Girl: "No, she doesn't want to give her email address."

The associate (to me): "We won't give your email address out to anyone."

Me: "No, I understand that. I don't want to sign up for anything."

The associate: "Oh, you're not signing up. We just send emails about future sales."

Me: "Yes, but that's signing up for emails."

*line grows longer*

The associate: "But, it's free."

Me: "I understand. But, I don't want emails about your sale."

Girl and Associate twitch with confusion.

Me: "Can I just pay please?"

Girl: "How do I override this for payment with no email address?"

Associate: "Just run it through the debit machine, we'll have to fix it after."

And a woman behind me coughed in an irritated way. Finally my dress was put in a bag and I walked out with a line of customers staring at me for holding them up.

When did this become the norm? Why can't I just buy a goddamned article of clothing without looking like a conspiracy theorist trying to live off the grid?

Sunday, January 19, 2014

I'm not 19 anymore; OR the night aliens had a picnic on my sleeping bag.

I'm hungover. Like, desperately hungover. Last night I went out with Susie, my incredibly fun friend with a love of dancing and pin-up girl style, and drank like I was 19 again. But, I'm not 19 so today has been one of the roughest days I've had in my 6 years of marriage. I've managed a bit of rice, some coffee, water and Pepsi Max...I'm struggling with moving quickly or even looking up. Some hangovers aren't too bad, you wake up a little stiff and sore and get your day going with an Advil and a coffee. And then there's hangover like I had this morning, where you feel like you're an ant at a park under a bright sun, deafening sounds of traffic and children screaming, sand in your eye, shit in your mouth, and then a toddler wanders over and squashes your head under her sandal.

Today I am a squashed ant.

I forced myself to make some soup for tomorrow, and used up the old bananas for muffins so today wasn't a total write-off but mostly to suck up to my incredibly tolerant husband who allowed me to lay around moaning all day and only called me stupid a few times. It was so bad that at one point I even wondered if people go to the ER for exceptionally bad hangovers, and wondered if doctors or nurses hook themselves up to an IV to rehydrate and fight the nastiness of an over-indulged night out - because if they do that's a fairly awesome idea.

I don't drink overly often, and not usually to this extent. I don't bound out of bed like I used to as a younger adult, shake off a hangover in a shower and eat a massive breakfast. It's like hangovers are getting worse and worse as I age, like gravity is taking its toll not only on my right eyebrow but also my ability to expel alcohol from my system and rehydrate. I'm amazed by people that can do this every weekend, every Friday and again on Saturday. I'm not going to feel 100% until Wednesday, I'm sure.

Today has been a learning experience, and I do think it'll be likely that I won't indulge again as I did last night. I do learn, there's been a few experiences in life  that I have actually been capable of learning from. I don't do hallucinogens despite having gone out with friends on shrooms and such, because I did have a nasty experience once that made me never want to repeat that adventure.

Oddly, I was only 8 years old.

My great-grandmother was very ill and my mother had taken my sister and I with her for a visit and to help our grandmother. To keep us busy and quiet while family things were going on, my mum got us StickerFun Books. If anyone remembers those, they were colouring books with a page of stickers, and you'd place the stickers on the coordinating pages and then colour around them. We still have those books around today, but in the 80s they weren't peel-off stickers, you had to lick them. So we sat and licked our books to death for an hour or so at the table before bedtime, and I started goofing off. Mum lost her patience with me when I went full Stooges and started banging into things around the kitchen, and sent us to bed. We were staying in my great-grandmother's apartment so my sister shared my mum's bed and I was on the floor with a sleeping bag. We giggled and farted around until our mother came in and threatened 80s violence against us, and finally settled in to sleep. But, I couldn't sleep. There were aliens having a picnic on my sleeping bag.

Actually, they were aliens that looked like tiny people. Little families here and there, like a church picnic. Tiny tables and teeny food, but when I tried to participate they would snarl and bite me. I had to stay perfectly still or incur their wrath on my toes and fingers. I couldn't stay still, though, because I was 8 and high as a kite so eventually one turned on me and I had to squash it in my hand - it burst and covered me in slime. I ran from the room screaming at my mother to wipe the slime off of my hands, at which point she decided I must be having some sort of nervous breakdown and brought me down the street to the hospital (one of the perks of staying at a retirement home is the emergency services nearby for when your 8 year old drops her basket.)

We were seen to immediately, and theories ranged from me having an allergic reaction to all the glue I licked off of the stickers to someone deciding to play a prank and putting LSD in one of the books while it was at the shop. Either way it wasn't wearing off for awhile, so they kept me in and one of the nurses had the interesting job of keeping me in bed and stopping me from flapping all night at the birds flying around my head.

I had come down by morning. This was confirmed by me walking in a straight line and having some oatmeal.

There's not much else to the tale, aside from it being proof that I am capable of learning...and have a strong distrust of tiny people.

Sunday, January 12, 2014

Why do we hate Hippies so much?

I've decided this year is the year of budgeting, saving cash, eating healthy, exercising and enjoying it, and minimalism - well, as much as my clutterbug dvd/cd/book hoarder husband I live with will allow. Along with that goes more exploratory cooking, and with a gift card I received for Christmas I purchased two vegan cookbooks.

And a kit for learning knitting. I really like yarn, it would be great to learn how to use it.

Anyway, I've used the cookbooks and recipes online to dip into the world of lentils, quinoa, tofu (which I have a bit of a history with) and coconut oil. I've been cooking with coconut oil for some time now, and prefer it to butter for scrambling eggs and browning meat. Lentils are the cheapest things around and make lovely soups, and now that I have a realistic expectation of tofu I am beginning to come to an understanding with it. Tofu will not taste great, no matter what you do to/with it. No one has ever said, "Hey, I'm really craving some tofu. Honey, can we get tofu tonight?" All you can do with tofu is make it taste less like tofu and more like the rest of the food or sauce you're cooking it in, and swallow it down with smugness and the satisfaction that you just ate tofu and are probably better than 80% of people you'll meet that day.

But, why does eating tofu create that social elitism?  Where does it come from? Is this why we hate Hippies so much?

We all have an inner line in the sand, the one we won't cross because we'll become 'those people.' For some it's the family cloth (an alternative to toilet paper, some families opt for keeping a pail for dirty, reuseable cloths in the bathroom - I do not know how this works for houseguests) and for others it is elimination communication (the concept that babies don't need diapers, and if you stare at your newborn's face long enough you'll be able to read his/her toilet cues and simply be able to run them to a toilet and dangle them over, surely making you the most amazing parent on the face of the planet.) I had a homebirth, which was too much for some people to wrap their heads around, but unlike others I didn't eat the placenta or wait for it to drop off (tote it around while it rot off) my newborn naturally several days after the birth.

And thus comes the persistent one-upmanship that we are constantly faced with on a daily basis. Your kid eats organic raisins? Well, mine eats organic raisins that as grapes just fell off the vine and were picked up by workers paid as well as doctors, dusted off with free-range kittens, kissed by Mother Sunshine herself, and packaged in recycled fabric with a sewing pattern on the inside that you can then use the fabric to make a shirt to send to a starving child in Africa to wear while they are starving. Don't you feel like a giant piece of uninformed shit now, you planet sodomiser? Did you just blow your nose in a Kleenex? Why aren't you using a cloth made from hemp fibers and saving the trees, and saving all of the cold and flu germs while you're at it? Wait, your bed isn't made out of upcycled fence posting you bought in an auction to benefit a local no-kill shelter? HOW DO YOU SLEEP AT NIGHT IN A BED ONLY YOU HAVE USED, YOU CONSUMERIST BASTARD WITH NO CONSCIENCE!

I'm finding it difficult to navigate through the changes I'm making and incorporating them in every day life without stepping on toes and without living completely in the closet. I'm not ready to wear head-to-toe hemp, and I realised in a store yesterday that I wasn't even ready to announce my new way of eating to a checkout line of strangers when I was purchasing a strainer. Graham asked me what it was for, and suddenly aware of how bloody close a woman was behind me (why were you so up my ass, Lady?) I said in a low voice, "I need it to rinse my lentils. Our sieve is too big." Graham snickered and said, "What?" "We need it to rinse our lentils. Lentils have small stones sometimes and dirt and dust, and they need to be rinsed." All of this was true, but I felt like such a wang saying it aloud for others to hear. I felt like a target - both a hated hippie, and worried that a true hippie would notice I forgot my re-useable bags and had to use a plastic store one.

Maybe someday I will take the true plunge and go full Hippie. Maybe, when I can give up my face creams and my car and my steaks. For now I have to be happy with pissing off both groups, eating my non-locally sourced lentils (sorry.)