100%?

I’ve been thinking a lot about effort these days. I am naturally okay at some stuff, acceptably decent at other things, and for the most part can skate by without too much worry. So when I tell my kids they should try their best, regardless of the outcome, I have to admit I feel like a hypocrite.

When I was in university, I barely studied. There were a few classes I pretty much skipped for whole semesters and I still managed to swing average marks, thanks to multiple choice exams and lucky guessing. I graduated with a lackluster GPA, but I was fine with that, since at least I graduated.

At work it was much the same. The boredom, in addition to being systematically underpaid, gave me the perfect excuse to only exert the bare minimum. Promotions weren’t really a priority since the workload doubled but the money didn’t. It was just a job, I said, not my calling, and my particular profession wasn’t about to risk or save lives.

Looking back, I can’t really remember a time where I gave 100% of my energy and effort to anything. I recently told a friend that the only time I’d ever given all of myself to something was when I was in labor with Thing 1 (Thing 2’s birth was much easier), and to be fair, I didn’t really have any choice since the baby had to get out of there somehow. I probably give about 40% in my daily life, 60% when I feel somewhat accomplished.

It’s a gray, dusty feeling.

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I think about people who excel in their fields, who give everything they have to what they do until there’s nothing left, and then they get up the next day and do it again. I marvel at their passion to strive for greatness, their determination to improve, and their endurance that sees them through. Perhaps they exhaust themselves and are never satisfied with the results, but it’s definitely not from lack of trying.

Could I ever do the same, or has the remainder of my effort, unused for so long, atrophied to the point where 40% is all I have left to give? I see where my “good enough” attitude has brought me thus far in life, and while I have nothing to complain about, I also have nothing that burns within me besides fleeting infatuations with hobbies, ideas, or people whom I don’t really ever have to know.

Yes, I am held back by fear of failure. I am held back by laziness. I am held back by my love of comfort and hatred of conflict. But perhaps my dissatisfaction with my own mediocrity has finally grown greater than my fear and laziness and comfort. I know I should make a move, do something completely, even if I fall on my face doing it. The idea is terrifying but not entirely unwelcome. What happens after that could be bright and amazing, or it could be dark and terrible. Either way, it will be better than dusty gray.

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Beyond The Scene

I’ve rewritten this blog entry about six times. Each time I have tried to approach it in an intelligent, culturally enlightening, perhaps even moving way, but these attempts have felt false and deviate from what I want to express.

I am currently experiencing a strange sort of happiness that has nothing to do with the state of the world, my job situation, my marriage, my family, my friends, or anything particularly significant in my life. I’m not on medication, I haven’t had any self-realizations, nor have I won the lottery or had any spiritual visitations.

My friends, I have recently become head-over-heels obsessed with the K-pop group BTS.

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I’ve finally fully embraced my Korean roots, though probably not the way my parents would have chosen. 20-year-old, even 30-year-old me would never have believed it, but at 40, I’m fangirling over BTS like I’ve never fangirled before. It is juvenile, it is ridiculous, and it is extremely refreshing. Judge me if you want- I really don’t care. It’s that intense.

I’ll spare you the pages and pages of gushing I could produce about how much I love BTS. I will say that listening to their music has had all sorts of beneficial side effects in my life. I’m fairly sure it’s triggering dopamine release in my brain because I’m in a good mood, I have stopped boredom-snacking, I have a ton of energy, I’m exercising more regularly, and most unexpectedly, it’s even pushed me to write. The majority of my writing has been motivated by dissatisfaction, a deep-seated need to complain, incredible alarm and then depression about the world at large, and more often than not, anger. I don’t necessarily show this in my writing all the time (and yeah, it’s been a while, so I haven’t shown it at all recently), but the fuel that feeds my words is generally of a darker variety. The fact that I’m even writing anything right now is weird to me.

I should mention that I’m driving my husband up the wall a little bit. BTS plays all day, everyday, in the car, in the kitchen, while I’m working, while I’m exercising- everywhere. He’s kept his complaints to a minimum, though, because BTS also gives me the energy to deep-clean all the grossest parts of the house. We both win.

Am I saying you should listen to BTS, too? Well, sure, but that’s not exactly my point. What works for me might not work for you. Besides, the novelty of this will wear off eventually, I’m certain, and the woes of the world will find their way back on my radar. However, this emotional oasis that I’m currently experiencing is most welcome, and I guess it’s a reminder to me that I still have the ability to be happy. However fleeting, and however it manifests, happiness can find its way anywhere. Even through K-pop.

 

 

Writer’s Block

Hi. It’s been a few weeks since my last post. I’ll spare you the boring details, but things are changing a wee bit here and there, and basically I’ve been using these changes as an excuse to avoid this blog. Well, no more. At least, not today.

However, I will be upfront about why I haven’t written:

I don’t wanna.

Really, I love writing, finding amazing turns of phrases that evoke emotion, wit, puns, dumb jokes, and anything in between. It’s something that makes me feel complete, at least while I’m doing it, and though I edit and re-edit, fluctuating between feelings of self-loathing and genius, when I write I feel like I’m doing what I should be doing.

However…

While it’s what I should be doing, I fluctuate between feelings of genius and self-loathing, I edit and re-edit, and often while I’m doing it I feel completely dumb and I have no jokes, puns, or wit, all of it evoking emotions in me that are anything but amazing. I love writing? Really?

(Like my little idea palindrome? I do.)

The one good thing about trying to write when I don’t feel like it is that I’ve become a pro at coming up with lists, both practical and irrelevant. I know exactly what we need from the grocery store at any given moment, I can name the Beatles’ albums in chronological order, and of course I’ve detailed everything I’d do if I won the lottery. Along that line, here’s my latest list I’ve compiled in order to avoid writing.

Things I’d rather be doing other than writing at this very moment:

  • Eating
  • Sleeping
  • Sleep-eating
  • Crocheting
  • Watching Netflix
  • Learning how to build cabinets
  • Cleaning the toilets
  • Making a household budget
  • Working
  • Getting my kids to practice piano
  • Going to the dentist
  • Exercising (yes, even exercising!)

Thing I’d rather not be doing other than writing:

  • Cooking

(Too bad I can’t just publish a book of random lists. I’ve got material for days.)

This blog has reinforced in me the idea that, even if I never actually publish a novel or even a pamphlet, I need to write more. The practice is almost more important than the result. Also, I also need to remember why I started writing in the first place. As difficult as it is, writing is probably one the few things in my life from which I get a profound sense of satisfaction. The quality of what I write varies greatly, as all eight of you readers already know, but ultimately I gotta keep chugging away to keep these cerebral muscles from losing their tone. Use it or lose it, right?

At the very least, it’ll give me the chance to come up with some new lists.

Thanks for reading!

Here’s Mommy!

It’s a new year and a welcome opportunity to slough off the dead skin that was 2017. The holiday season was hectic for us, full of food, family, snowstorms, emotions, friends, chaos, a reasonable amount of fun, and a whooooole lot of togetherness.

We’re used to the cold in Canada, but it was so prohibitively chilly over the holidays that no snowmen were erected, nor was any sledding or snowshoeing attempted. We did manage to make a hot chocolate run at one point, but the warmth of the beverage was quickly cancelled out by the icy burning of my face and fingers in the frigid air.

The snow fort building and snowball fights we had planned for the kids got replaced by sofa fort building and a fistfight (Thing 1 gave Thing 2 a bloody nose), and aside from visiting other people’s houses, our activities were restricted to our open-concept home where it’s very hard to be alone. At the end of it all, I emerged with five extra pounds, a deeper appreciation for silence, and a serious case of cabin fever.

I love my kids. I do. I think, however, I love them even more when they aren’t underfoot. Recently Thing 2 decided that he’s afraid of being alone (even when he’s in our aforementioned open-concept living room and he can see me in the kitchen), and as much as I want to make him feel secure and unafraid, I also want to run away before I lose my mind and start chasing him with an axe. Without the routine of school over the holidays, I found myself with a constantly orbiting satellite that refused to brush his teeth by himself. I nearly lost it a few times, and I confess that Jack in The Shining suddenly made a lot more sense to me.

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Fortunately the kids went back to school yesterday, and it was glorious. But the whole experience made me want to be better prepared for the next time we’re trapped indoors with no end in sight. I guess a good place to start planning would be to figure out what we as parents are supposed to do after we’ve endured 1,000 rounds of Jenga, allowed six consecutive hours of Xbox, binge-watched three series of Teen Titans Go!, turned the living room into a Lego minefield, and bickered over Monopoly, and it’s only day one of a two-week winter break.

In the meantime, I’m grateful for the time I spent with my family, but even more for the start of the school semester. Here’s hoping the weather’s more accommodating over spring break.

Christmas or Whatever

Christmas is nearly upon us! I have many friends who thrive during this season, immersing themselves in the decorations, gift preparations, card sending, and all the other behaviour we tend not to engage in during the rest of the year. Their houses are decked out, they’ve been playing holiday music since (American) Thanksgiving, and their Facebook feeds are filled with photos of strange little elves doing stuff that really no one, elf-kind or otherwise, should be doing.

Until relatively recently, I found Christmas and everything that went with it unbearable. When I was younger, the expectation-to-reality ratio was always extremely imbalanced, and in my teens I quickly came to see Christmas as the time of year for fights, terrible music, nasty fruitcake, and being forced to stay at home with no means of escape while the rest of the family slept all afternoon, leaving me by myself. To top it all off, it was expensive, and my after-school, minimum-wage job cleaning up dog turds at the veterinary clinic never quite covered all the gifts that I wanted to buy.

After I got married, I quickly found out that Hubby loooooooved Christmas. Being the stubborn person I am, I dug my heels in and made it clear that there would be no tree, no decorations, and definitely no holiday music in our place. The Grinch was my spirit animal, and he was alive and well in me. I was allergic to Christmas, I said, and Hubby needed to respect that. Yeah, in retrospect I see how selfish that was, but at the time I was absolutely not cool with yule.

Unsurprisingly, this took a lot of the fun out of Christmas for him. At first I didn’t mind because I got my way. But after having kids, I noticed that his enthusiasm for the holiday didn’t pick up the way I thought it would, and suddenly I was the one choosing the tree and the decorations and forcing myself to learn the lesser-known verses of “Jingle Bells” while mulling wine and baking rum cakes no one would actually eat.

This year we have no tree. Time just got away from us, and neither of us had the presence of mind or energy to bring one home. Things 1 and 2 don’t seem to mind, as Thing 1, ever the pragmatist, is fully aware of who Santa really is (himself, since he insisted on going shopping with me so he could choose what he wanted), and Thing 2’s teacher is giving him and his classmates the Elf-on-the-shelf treatment at school. Otherwise, the Christmas shopping is done, the dessert making has begun, and my one string of TARDIS tree lights hangs humbly in the living room.

While this would normally suit Grinch me just fine, I do feel like I’m missing something this year. It’s like when people really enjoy Scotch or licorice or polenta, and I just cannot get behind it, but I wish I could because they’re clearly finding it delicious, and that’s just one more joy in the world I can’t tap into. My friends who turn into grinning idiots every December are experiencing warm fuzzies that I cannot possibly understand, and for once, instead of thinly veiled disdain, I think I feel envy. It’s weird.

This does not mean that I’m going to turn into an overnight advocate for Christmas cheer. I still find 99% of holiday music annoying, I have never even seen A Christmas Story (nor do I have any plans to), and you’ll never catch me wearing an ugly Christmas sweater. I will, however, admit to liking one or two very cheesy Christmas songs (no, I won’t tell you which ones), and I’ll also concede that maybe this holiday isn’t as terrible as I used to feel it was. Perhaps Christmas, for me, is like Scotch, and it’s time I started acquiring a taste for it.

(Or I could just drink actual Scotch.)

Happy holidays.

REM

The past few weeks have been relatively stressful for me. Work has become highly unpredictable, and there are a few things coming up on the horizon in my personal life that I’m just not looking forward to. To top it all off, it’ll be the holidays very soon, and if you know me even a little bit, you’ll know that Christmas is my least favourite time of the year. I know loads of people revel in the decorations and the cards and gifts, so maybe I’m alone in my grinchiness, but regardless, for me, it adds an extra shadow to an already dark season.

An interesting side effect of all this stress, however, is that it’s brought to the forefront my hefty catalogue of recurring dreams and nightmares. While I don’t enjoy the restless nights and cold sweats they induce, I do find it kind of funny that my brain chooses these uncomfortable scenarios as go-tos to help me work through my issues. Some of them seem to be shared by most people I speak to, while others have made folks back away from me slowly. Today I present a few of the less disturbing ones to you in no particular order. Maybe you’ll recognize one or two from your own dreams.

1- Shouldn’t I be wearing pants?

I’m walking down a busy street, feeling pretty good about myself. Then suddenly something seems a bit… wrong. Not a lot, but just a bit. No one really notices that I’m dressed in a shirt and nothing else. At first, it doesn’t really bother me, but gradually my sense of embarrassment grows to the point where I’m grabbing dirty hamburger wrappers out of trash cans and fashioning them into greasy fig leaves, hiding behind park benches and large dogs as I try to get home.

2- I could have sworn I graduated already.

It’s final exam time, and I’ve aced all the classes I’ve attended. Unfortunately, I’ve somehow forgotten to go to Chemistry the entire year, and the test is in five minutes. If I don’t pass, I won’t graduate high school. Never mind that I have my diploma already and two Bachelor’s degrees- somehow they’ve all been nullified through dream bureaucracy. To add insult to injury, neither Thing 1 nor Thing 2 will let me copy any answers.

3- My face is a critter magnet.

The gigantic spider/snake/rabid raccoon hanging above the doorway ignores everyone else in the room, so no one else realizes the danger it poses. People laugh it off, say I’m over-reacting, and they walk out the door without a care in the world. I try to follow them, only to have the creature jump and attack me in the face. I manage to pull it off and throw it across the room, only to have it miraculously jump right back onto my face. I usually scream myself awake at this point, much to my relief and Hubby’s dismay.

4- 99 toilets, but I can’t use 1

I’m in a bathroom the size of a gymnasium. There are stalls everywhere, which is good because I’ve really gotta go. The problem is that the bathroom is doubling as the library, so most of the toilet bowls have books or papers in them. There are a few empty ones, but the doors on these stalls only give privacy from the waist up. Other toilets are overflowing, the seats are either missing or covered in filth, or they’re not really toilets at all, but normal plastic chairs. There’s always a fancy golden toilet somewhere in the middle of the room, but it’s already in use, and if I do finally end up on a throne of some sort, my body won’t let me do its thing (which is probably for the best, because I’ve been told that if you go in your dreams, you’re going in real life).

There are a few more that I’ve been revisiting these past few nights, mostly having to do with running frustratingly slowly, walking through labyrinthine subway tunnels, or being incapable of dialling the right telephone number. All of them are annoying and confusing, and I guess they’re indicative of what’s going on in my head at the moment. Hopefully life will work itself out soon and I can get a good night’s sleep without getting subconsciously attacked by a killer cat, driving off a bridge, or burping into Keanu Reeves’ face just as he’s about to kiss me. Actually, I think that’s the worst one of all.

Sweet dreams, everyone. 🙂

Wish

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For the past couple of years I’ve been rather spoiled professionally, working from home on interesting projects, with no commute, annoying coworkers, or even the need to put on pants. Recently, however, things have changed with my main client, and it’s causing me a fair amount of stress to the point where I’m seriously considering other options for viable employment. The idea of going back to the daily grind in an office seems grim and daunting, but unless things change for the better very soon, I may not have a choice.

So I’ve done some job hunting, a tiny bit of networking, resumé tweaking, and most importantly (and least productively), a whole lot of wishy thinking. At first I thought about my ideal work situation, salary, location, etc., but as that process started to depress me, I let my mind wander and I settled on a much more appealing mental exercise- if I could magically make three impossible wishes that I couldn’t use for world peace, helping others, or anything besides my own personal gratification, what would they be? Besides more money and more wishes, I narrowed it down to these:

1) to be able to eat whatever I wanted, however much I wanted, without negative consequence,
2) to have Doctor Who be real, and
3) to get paid well for doing any and all of my hobbies without the pressure of deadlines.

A typical impossible wish week would go something like this.

Monday: Client needs someone to help them finish a 1,000-piece jigsaw puzzle and the rest of their leftover Halloween candy. Accidentally lose five pounds due to eating too many peanut M&Ms.
Tuesday: Customer orders crochet elephant family. Spend day making bull elephant in tropical shirt while drinking daiquiris. Develop abs of steel by mistake.
Wednesday: Come up with toilet-humour rhyming puns for bilingual 8-year-olds. End up writing best-selling joke book for the ages. Lose six pounds while eating celebratory cronuts.
Thursday: Yoga. Lose another 10 pounds. Miraculously convert my sweat into diamonds and bitcoin.
Friday: Discover a real TARDIS in my living room while taking Lego photos. Try to convince the Doctor that I’m meant to be his companion. Get paid a million dollars (possibly to leave him alone).

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I think it sounds quite reasonable, actually.

Alas, back to real life. Please wish me luck in finding a solution that, while probably not as fun as my wish week, will be fulfilling nonetheless. If you’re also searching for something new, I hope you find exactly what you’re looking for. (Or if you do happen to know of an opportunity where I can make even one of these impossible wishes come true, please let me know. I’ll be able to pay you in crochet elephants. Or bitcoin sweat.)

Best wishes!