Chrysalis Life, Day One (Morning)

Bailey's Winter Coat

I drifted in and out of sleep, waking only once with the panic of feeling like I was having a bad dream (and that dream was in fact my own reality). Instead of being woken by my step-children, I was greeted with a tiny dog that looks like Samuel L. Jackson crash-landing on my sternum. In a flurry of slimy dog kisses and the faint aroma of corn chips I regained my bearings and rubbed the sleep from my eyes.

I quickly realized that my low-carb, high protein lifestyle does not match my parent’s peanut butter and jam toast for breakfast routine. At least coffee is universal and the grocery store is on the corner.

As I woke up slowly, instead of packing tiny lunches, I opened email after email from concerned friends. Some who I’ve known for years and who really are my family, some who I barely know at all who wanted me to know that I was loved. This made it possible to imagine the next few steps in my day with some measure of lightness in my heart.

My parents insist on keeping their home like a meat locker. Thankfully, it’s a cozy home, despite this sub-zero climate. I donned my fingerless mitts to hunch over my computer like some red-headed lady Bob Cratchet.

Cooking is path that leads to happiness. There will be cooking in my future, and I’ll be diligent about sharing recipes here. We can call it the “Broken Hearted Feast”. Then I’ll publish it like a cookbook and make millions of dollars. Don’t steal that.

(LATER MORNING)

I’ve just done some actual Coquettes work to set a client up with everything she needs to convince her board to let us show our tatas in Owen Sound. Fingers crossed.

Before that, I took my mom’s ridiculous little dog for a walk around my old hood. He has a new winter coat which he seems to be terrified of. I think with firm patience I’ve broken him of this paralyzing fear, because his little legs finally got moving and he was able to make a poop. Tiny victories.

This simple stroll around the block was a snapshot of my entire life in The Hammer. My parents have had the same house since 1975. I think their refusal to move had less to do with economics and more to do with their desire to give my brother and I the stable home that neither of them really had as children. They live in a complex of townhouses, and I think they are one of three original homeowners who remain here from the glory days.

When they bought the house it was a promising little suburb surrounded by orchards and farm fields. Now, it’s The Hood. Two clusters of low-income apartment buildings sprung up, and the neighbourhood deteriorated accordingly. This place went from a sea of kids who were similar in age to a land with few children who could speak the same language, blue collar workers, and immigrants who are trying to get a foothold in their new life.

As I grew older, the parks and playgrounds got meaner. Used condoms, hypodermic needles, shifty, greasy men in dark corners, strangers with slow-moving cars, crack dealing public school thugs and angry girls with babies in their tummies became more and more common.

The family-minded neighbourhood die-hards stood their ground. There is a handful of home owners who insist on maintaining pristine gardens that they tend with love (my mother is one of these). One of the low-income housing buildings even takes up a tenant fund to create a glorious landscape of hollyhocks and snapdragons each summer. Some of the people in this neighbourhood have real pride in where they live, and a great number of our neighbours are one welfare cheque away from having nowhere to live at all.

Welfare cheque days were the most dangerous in this neighbourhood growing up. From what my parents have told me, the new immigrant population has now outnumbered the white trash conglomerate, so things aren’t as exciting as they used to be. I clearly recall Friday evenings spent dodging beer bottles soaring from balconies across the street, parties that lasted two days with the strains of Waylon Jennings floating from open screenless windows, and the police here, in multiples of three from 9pm until way past my bed time.

And yet, my mom and dad managed to carve out a little oasis.

Now, my old school is an adult learning centre. The public school next door to where my school was shares it’s massive field with a recreation centre and fully-loaded playground, and there’s a cricket field, soccer field, and cluster of benches under a group of trees where the Sikh gentlemen sit conversing and sharing food year-round when the weather permits.

Bailey wore his powder blue and silver coat, and I floated along my route to school and my usual trick or treat route in a cream-coloured Calvin Klein coat, a brown Valentino scarf, my Coach sunglasses and a vintage fur hat. The men I encountered were ruddy-faced middle aged white men who seemed to have nowhere to go, and the women I saw were scale tipping ladies and girls who poured themselves into jogging pants with words written across the bum. And of course the Sikh gentlemen.

My point here is not to establish status. My designer articles are things I loved that are the product of my extraordinary ability to source mad bargains. I don’t spend insane amounts of money on clothes and accessories. My point is to illustrate that in this place, since I was six, I have always felt like a stranger in a strange land. How many other twelve year olds have had a collection of signature scarves?

As has always been the case, I felt everyone I encountered eyeballing me. Perhaps that’s why I’ve grown so comfortable in the spotlight in my adulthood? Embracing the attention has certainly been useful in my life.

Our therapist made a very astute observation yesterday that I hadn’t even arrived at yet. My experience of the relationship I was trying so hard at was that no matter what, I would always be the outsider. I’ve felt like an outsider for my entire life and have experienced some real pain and feelings of inadequacy as a result. My struggle to belong has shaped me as an individual, and the pain of struggling for acceptance in the context of my relationship was simply too great.

I regret deeply all the hurt my honesty has  caused. There are so many people who, when faced with their own difficult truths, can brush these aside and exist in a place of denial and trying to maintain status quo. I did this once, for four years, and I promised myself to never, ever do it again. It pains me to think of my loved ones feeling so sad. We tried to do something quite unique, and we discovered some amazing things about ourselves, the complexities of love and relationship dynamics, and each other as individuals. I don’t feel like it was a failure, but rather a very necessary journey for us all. I hope that through the pain we now face each of us can hold on to that. I hope that we can hang on to the love we’ve found, in the way that mature, open-hearted, self-aware individuals can do. I also hope we can shelter our children from the complicated nature of adult relationships and cushion them through these transitions with all of the love and security they deserve.

Sadness is like a deep well right now. I have to make sure to hang on to the bucket.

I’m making dinner tonight for my parents and my brother. Here’s the menu:

Roasted Sweet Potato

Sauteed Green Beans

Braised Red Cabbage

Pork Tenderloin with Pears and Shallots

Perhaps some time in the kitchen will make me feel a little bit better.

Updates to follow.

 

Country Schnoo, City Schnoo

This is day three in the country, and the first full day of work I’ve had since we’ve arrived. Of course, it is also the day when the sun is gloriously shining, so I’m sure at some point my work flow will be interrupted by a brisk walk in my rubber boots.

It’s beautiful here. If I could drive a car, I could spend a lot of time in a place like this. I feel so much more relaxed, and I’m incredibly inspired and focused. In a dream life, I’d have a place like this on a lake, and a modest place in the city. I’d spend more time at the lake, knowing me, and there would have to be a dog.

Things are humming along with my writing project. I’m enjoying it so much, and it’s really changing the way I look at myself and my own potential. I can DO this. This is something I could be really great at, and something that feels entirely natural to me. I’m also piecing together this romantic picture about who Schnoo the writer is. I have writing outfits, and I’ve imagined my ideal writing space down to the most minute detail. I can really picture this kind of life.

How lucky I am to have the love and support that I have. Every morning I wake up grateful for this, and don’t take it for granted for even one instant. Its amazing how I feel like I am finding my voice all over again, and that every moment of my life has pointed to this time and place, and this new experience of self.

The nature of my new work requires that I create an alter-ego, a nom de plume. Breathing life into her has been so much fun. I hope to discreetly introduce her through these pages when the time is right, so that any of you who are interested can help support this project, because a great deal of our marketing efforts will be viral.

Life is sweet like the country air, filled with hope and promise and the lilting sigh of the burgeoning spring breeze.

American Splendor

I watched a movie called ‘American Splendor’ last night after the kids went to bed, from my pile of pillows and blankets on the sofa.

This movie is an incredible bio pic about Harvey Pekar, who is the author of a comic book series by the same name. The film starred Paul Giamatti, who I think is brilliant, and mixed dramatic and documentary styles in a very clever way with Harvey Pekar appearing as himself, commenting on the movie, and on the various points in his life depicted there.

American Splendor was revolutionary because it was simply about Harvey’s life. Each new volume was like a snapshot of his day-to-day, and was brilliantly illustrated by some of the very best underground comic book artists, including Robert Crumb, of Fritz the Cat fame. The series touched on some very deeply personal experiences, including Pekar’s struggle with cancer, and involved his co-workers and friends as really vibrant characters, as our colleagues and loved ones are in our own daily existence.

It occurred to me that the reasons why this series is so appealing are the same reasons why we now enjoy blogs so much. We can cast ourselves as the hero in our own stories, and we can move people through the ways we articulate the mundane, everyday realities of our world.

Harvey Pekar was a file clerk in a veteran’s hospital in Cleveland. In fact, he worked at this job until he retired. He was more than a little somber, most definitely cynical, and at least a little crusty, but people love his work. He appeared as a regular guest on the David Letterman show, until he blasted NBC and GE on air. He even won an American Book Award for the series.

We all have stories to tell, but not all of us know how to tell them with such simple grace and poignancy. I don’t think it’s a coincidence that I plucked this DVD off the shelf last night, as I start to embark on a whole new relationship with my writing. How would you tell your own stories if given the chance?

Too Much. Of What, I’m Not Sure

Each morning this week, I’ve woken up with a sore throat. By the time I have to hit the gym, it’s usually gone. Today it was not.

As I type this, my eyes are streaming with tears, and my tonsils are bright red and I feel like I’m swallowing razor blades. I still went to the gym though. I put in decent effort, but every single exercise made me want to burst into tears because I was feeling so lousy, and then feeling sorry for myself.

I’ll go tomorrow too. Just because I have to see the week through. Because I am committed to this bikini idea, and to being the best I can be. But I feel like caca.

Writing time today was replaced with nap time, and I can only hope that I can make use of having to miss choir practice tonight. I have zero energy though, and I feel like an absolute baby.

Perhaps you really aren’t interested in reading my whining?

I’ve become addicted to Violet Blue. I so enjoy her blog Tiny Nibbles, and I’m about to start reading one of her many books. She’s a personal hero of sorts. Between her blog, and Dooce, I have enough fuel for my own fire, and when you also consider that I’m not being drained by the demands of a day job, I’m in great form. If only I could get better at feeling well, and at writing.

Writer friends, how do you stay nimble? What are your tips and tricks for keeping up the flow? I have a head filled with ideas, but the execution seems a little daunting sometimes.

Perhaps another round of ginger lemon tea and my girlfriend’s homemade chicken soup will fix me.

Deboning my Duck

I rented Julie and Julia the other night, and it made me want to do two things:

1. Eat a lot of food cooked in a lot of butter

2. Write here

The movie was cute, but I would have rather watched the Meryl Streep action than the whiny narcissistic blogging girl. In true narcissistic fashion, it made me wonder if I am as narcissistic as this girl, consumed with her musings and driving her husband right out of the house. Then I realized that I haven’t written here in a very long time, and I have no husband. Legal documents may dictate otherwise, but the only ring on my hand is my feisty Nana’s wedding band which I wear proudly on my middle finger.

Here’s what’s happening in Schnooville:

1. I’ve given up on 9-5 forever. Seriously. I mean it. This last stint was the straw that broke this obnoxious, proud, ego-maniacal lion’s back once and for all. I am hell bent on being the boss of me, and am fortunate enough to be in such a position

2. I’m doing a lot of research about one of my favourite topics – sex. There is A LOT of crap out there, written by pathetic jerks looking to make a buck by proclaiming themselves master lovers. I’m sorry for everyone who is buying into this shite.

3. I’m creating an alter-ego. I almost spelled that “altar” and I think there is some significance to such a type o. This is to facilitate my new adventures as a writer and professional master lover. Ha! Just kidding. Sort of.

4. My relationship is awesome. Not perfect, but settling into this awesome place where I don’t have to worry so much about my relationship. I can just kind of be in it, and enjoy it.

5. Anxiety seems to be vastly diminished. I’m sure this is directly linked to my lack of 9-5 job. I really don’t know what I was thinking, trying to go back to that world. I kept telling myself “this time it will be different”, but like all bad pairings, the outcome was the same.

6. I am convinced that my lack of writing here has my mother convinced that something is wrong with me. Mom, nothing is wrong. Everything is actually amazing. You should know by now (my teenage years being the finest example) that I write more when I’m unsettled, anxious, depressed and/or frustrated. I guess it’s like venting.

7. Every female friend I have is now either a mom, or about to be a mom. I’m thinking through this list, and yep. All of ’em. The closest I have to my own “last unicorn” status is my girlfriend who is a step-mom. Amazingly, all maternal yearnings have been subdued by the recent focus on my writing. I am birthing a new career, I guess. I was actually marveling about this today, but then I ended up minding my pal’s five-month-old little dude and I think I have an achy ovary now. I think I’m reassured that my maternal cravings still exist somewhere.

8. Every morning I wake up happy, but realize I desperately, desperately need a bigger bed. Seriously. It’s actually ridiculous now. Am considering moonlighting as an exotic dancer, because I’m fairly convinced I could buy a larger bed after two nights of work. Ha. Kidding. Sort of.

9. My dreams are back. Intense, vivid, grabbing me by the throat and shaking me to my sub-basement. Deep dark childhood fears, feelings of insignificance and self-loathing from high school, terrifying scenarios involving total strangers. I blame therapy.

10. Therapy is AWESOME. Despite the unbelievable dreams, I am realizing exactly how to articulate what I need, and want. I’m also able to really relax into my life and my love, knowing how successfully my needs are being satisfied. My life may be non-traditional, but it works really well for me when I stop worrying so much. I am so in love, and feel so loved, and have faith that we really can make this work. I can’t imagine any other reality.

11. I’m back at the gym. I have a really sexy trainer. My goal is to be confidant in a bikini this summer. I haven’t worn a bikini since I was about six because I still have the exact pot belly I had then, and not the sexy Pulp Fiction kind. As I type this, I notice it actually hurts to rest my chin in my hands. Tomorrow should be awesome.

I’d best make more of an effort to write here. I have no idea how many people are still reading this, but I think about you often. Whenever I have a moment in my day that I consider remarkable, I think “That would make a good blog post, I think my readers would like that.” How fucking pretentious of me, no?

The truth is friends, I had my privacy pretty seriously invaded through this blog, and it hurt me more than I realized. Because of people’s narrow thinking, I’ve had to cut some significant parts out of my day-to-day accounts, and I really resented that for a while. Now, I think I’ve come out the other end.

Writing here challenges me to seek out the little bits of magic that happen every day, for the sake of having something to share. Without my regular posting, I felt like the magic dried up a little, but then, watching that kind of cheesy movie, it all clicked. I missed you, and remembered why I fell in love with you in the first place.

So, I’m back. I’m re-focused and ready to make a fresh commitment. If not for the sake of reaching out and examining, I will write more frequently in the hopes that I can squeeze a moderately entertaining chick flick out of this.

Ha. Kidding. Sort of.

The Trouble with Hump Day

Photo by Kyle Andrew (I like to call it "Mid-Wife Crisis")

Another show is put to bed. I worry that I can’t keep everyone happy, and that the reasons I continue to do these shows with little financial return is not enough for the others. There is so much that needs to happen, so little time to focus, and so few free hands.

What happened to the days of wealthy patrons who would sponsor artists so they were free to create? How I would love a simple, casual job that was fun to do so that the rest of my working energy and efforts could be directed at this enterprise we’ve created that means the world to me.

If I can direct this company towards greater growth and opportunity, who will come along for the ride? I sense so much frustration and exhaustion sometimes, and I wonder how much of it is a result of things moving slowly here, or if it’s a product of the general frustration all artists feel in such a difficult time for performers.

Today, I will devote my time to a clear work plan. List-making has always been such an effective tool for laying out the state of things in a clear manner, and for dividing tasks in a way that makes them feel so much less overwhelming.

It’s been a long time since I’ve set personal goals too. I’ve been waiting so long to land, and for the dust to settle, and now that I feel it has (in most ways) I think it’s time to hatch a plan.

My brother completely inspired me today, and his photography is amazing. I’d link to his website, but it isn’t up to date. Here’s a link to a Facebook gallery of his photos.

I’m tempted to really just say “no” to working full-time, and just see what happens.

Universe, I’m blowing on your fuzzy dice!

Reading, Writing…

I have a couple more resolutions. I hope you will permit me this sounding board.

In 2010 I want to read more, and I want to write more, and I want to create a special place where both of those things can happen.

Right now, I’m tucked away on a vinyl couch in Starbucks, looking out on the snow falling at the corner of Church and Shuter. St. Michael’s looks particularly pretty today, and my solution to some serious restlessness was to change up my atmosphere. The music is a bit too loud, but at least it’s good. Ray LaMontagne. Perfect, actually. I love the snow, and I love winter, and I love feeling entirely alone in a room full of people. Strange, non?

The desire to write more has been here for awhile, but I’m always bogged down by the question of what to write. Snapshots of the inside of my head are interesting only for so long.

When I was in grade nine, my love of writing was kick-started by an awesome teacher named Mrs. Fabris (oohh, now Starbucks is playing Nick Drake. Purr…). One of the awesome exercises she did was make a huge pile of pictures she’d collected from old calendars, magazines, and books. We had to close our eyes and pick an image, or sometimes study them and select one, and then we had to write a short story about the picture. I’d like to start this again, somehow. It took all of the second-guessing out of the scenario. Perhaps random itunes suggestions would work too (Lucinda Williams. Seriously, I could stay here all day.) or random people who catch my eye on the streets.

Also, I’m sad to say that I barely read anymore. I miss this incredibly, but I have rarely had the time to dig my claws into a good book. I’d also like a good reading list, so please feel free to share any recommendations.

I miss my  TTC commute, which was at least thirty minutes of guaranteed reading time. Audrey Niffeneger has a new book. Perhaps I’ll ease into my reading plan with that.