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!

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!

Will Power?

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It’s Canadian Thanksgiving weekend! I’m not entirely sure what the deal with this holiday is, but I’m certain it’s not quite as entrenched in revisionist history as is the Thanksgiving of my childhood, a.k.a. American Thanksgiving. That being said, it is still a great opportunity for remembering to be grateful, spending time with family or friends, and best of all, eating until muscular failure.

The only problem here, of course, is that I’m trying to lose weight.

For the record, I’m always trying to lose weight. I think I was born on a diet. The last time I was in my healthy weight range was probably when I was 17, for about a day, and that was after a summer of life guarding and right before the Freshman 15 (40). Sadly, a semester or two of cheap Molson Ex and takeout chicken souvlaki with cheesy garlic bread made short work of my perfect figure, turning me into the squeezable (but lovable?) person some of you know me as today.

Last night we ate dinner with Hubby’s family, forgoing the traditional turkey and opting instead for some gorgeous Lebanese fare. I piously ate some tabouleh and other veggies, but only to balance out all the shish taouk, kefta, pita bread, wine, baklava, and mango flip I inhaled, not to mention about a metric tonne (Canada doesn’t do the Imperial system) of salmon mousse and crackers before dinner. I left their house feeling incredibly stuffed, sleepy, and full of goodwill towards my fellow beings.

Until this morning, when I stepped on the scale.

Up until yesterday I had been making such progress, slowly but surely getting back to a point where I was comfortable in my own skin. This morning’s numbers threw me off, making me want to give up, ditch the salads and stock up on dirty ol’ Pop Tarts. Why was I so incapable of controlling myself? Why did I make such bad decisions? Why was I born into a skinny family as its only round member? I felt like a failure.

Fortunately, this feeling only lasted a little while. I reminded myself that a) most of that weight gain was water, salt, and poop, and b) I am an active, human-shaped person who generally eats healthily but loves to discover the world through the food it produces. I’ll probably have to remind myself of this 100 more times before bed, but it’s what I’m hanging onto to get me through, and for now, it’s working.

Does this mean I suddenly love my body and feel great about myself? Of course not. I wish I were thinner, prettier, stronger, less ravaged by gravity and gravy, and more like the beautiful people of the world. But I also know that wishing and comparing get me nowhere.

There will always be people who eat better than I do, who choose to work out instead of veg out, who skip dessert but not the gym, and as a result have the abs and arms I only dream of. I admire these people, and though I will try not to compare myself to them, I’ll definitely look to them for inspiration the next time I’m faced with the choice between kettlebells and kettle chips.

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I might even make the right choice.

 

Serenity Now

TNT

When I was a teen, and even into my 20s, going through heartbreak or disappointment, having dumb arguments, hearing about social injustices, witnessing tragedies, or any other sort of negative emotional expenditure, while not fun, made me feel strangely alive. Part of me equated the rawness of the pain, the flush of anger, or the self-indulgent wallowing with being real, deep, and, I suppose, artistic. As a closet wannabe goth, being profound was a life goal, and Robert Smith was my idea of emotional perfection.

Unfortunately, when I got mad, I’d lose my ability to speak in full sentences. I was reduced to saying things like, “Oh, yeah? Well, you suck, you…you sucky suck.” I know some people whose eloquence increases tenfold when they are cussing someone out, and while you don’t want to be on the receiving end, their blistering diatribes are nothing short of genius to behold.

I’ve gotten better at arguing since then, but I do it much less than I used to (though some of you may think otherwise!), even though there is no shortage of upsetting information out there. It’s pretty much impossible, unless you’ve reached a state of zen incomprehensible to me, to read the news, Facebook, anything, without regretting not having clicked on the cat videos instead.

We get angry at the news. We get angry at people responding to the news. We get angry at the way others cope with responses to the news. Then maybe we get angry with ourselves for the rabbit hole of anger and fear we allowed ourselves to go down. It’s exhausting, so an eloquent argument, while now is something of which I’m more than capable, is the last thing I feel like having.

Today has been a hell of a day, news-wise. I’ve been angered and saddened by what I’ve read and seen, and frustrated by things that make no sense and I feel powerless to change. I’ve thought about tuning everything out and living in blissful ignorance for the rest of my days until the world blows up. Would it be such a terrible thing to be out of touch with current events? I’d have fewer distractions and would be able to devote my finite emotional energy to my family, my friends, and the little world I live in. After all, my kids are already a lot to deal with, and I have a back porch that needs defending from a billion spiders.

Alas, my need for mental peace is at war with what I feel like is my responsibility to know what’s going on.  I’ve taken mini-breaks from news and social media (which I highly recommend), but ultimately my desire to not be a total self-centered ignoramus brings me back.

So how do I successfully keep from going crazy?

I’m not entirely sure that I do.

Maybe I’ll spend quality time with my loved ones or take a walk. My general go-tos are prayer, exercise, distraction, denial, volunteering, and escape. All of these have worked some of the time, but none have worked for me all the time. (Or maybe a better way of saying it is:

60%

I had to throw this in there- it’s been in my head for weeks. Totally inappropriate, I know.)

But I persevere, because, for example, if I pray long enough, I find peace of mind, until the next time I lose it. Then I’ll pray again. Or I’ll binge-watch Netflix until I run out of episodes, then I’ll find a new show. Repeat.

I don’t think there’s a permanent fix for it, just a whole lot of trial and error.

I’m not the greatest at seeing hope through the fog of despair, but I’m working on it. Maybe it’s normal to have to balance our tenuous happiness with joy-stealing realities. If there is a remedy for “the world is a cluster-eff” depression, it probably involves helping other people and keeping on keeping on. In the meantime, tonight I’m going to play with the kids, watch TV, eat some chocolate, have a glass of wine, and then pray like the dickens that tomorrow is a better day.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Confession Time

Parenting can be rewarding, sure, but it’s also really hard. Today I wanted to encourage those of us who are parents, want to be parents, or don’t want to be parents, with some words of wisdom to get us through the tough times.

Unfortunately, none came to me, so all I have is this list of confessions for your consideration. After all, confessing is good for the soul.

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  • I have used the fridge door to hide behind while flipping my kids the bird. (Hopefully they don’t look at my feet when I do this- otherwise they’d see the silent but aggressive stomping that goes along with it.)
  • I have lied to their faces about toy stores being closed at 2:00 p.m. on a Saturday.
  • I’ve hidden their gadgets and pretended not to know where things went.
  • I’ve spent their birthday money from Grandma and Grandpa on wine and ice cream.
  • I’ve locked myself in the bathroom and let them fight while I played Candy Crush on my phone.
  • I’ve stolen their chocolate and blamed it on their dad.
  • I’ve talked about them behind their backs, sworn at them under my breath, and secretly laughed at their screaming when a spider fell on them.

There are many more confessions that I dare not put in writing, lest child protection services finds out, but needless to say, there’s some room for improvement.

I know that each day I manage to keep the kids alive and somewhat hygienic is technically a win, but as they get older and more complicated as individuals, I want to get better at not just coping as a parent, but thriving as one, and helping them thrive as well. Sometimes it’s easy, like when they play peacefully together and tell me they love me. Other times I want to run far, far away where no one under 18 can ever follow.

But I do love them, ultimately, and I want to do right by them. They are amazing and have enriched my life immeasurably. I just need to remember this during the next tantrum. Or even right now, as Thing 1 came up to me and farted on my leg as I wrote this. No joke.

One last confession- I just sat on him and returned the favour.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Rage Cooking

I’m on the floor. It’s been unseasonably warm, and the kitchen tiles are cool, if somewhat gritty, against my skin. I probably should have swept before starting to write this, but I’m lying here in the hopes that 1) I will stop sweating, and 2) this new perspective on my kitchen will somehow inspire me to start cooking dinner.

I love eating. It is my favourite activity in the whole universe. However, preparing food more complicated than a bowl of cereal triggers a toxic combination of anxiety, stress, anger, and resentment in me, the source of which to this day I can’t pinpoint.

Last weekend I watched a friend make dinner, which I was then lucky enough to eat: delicious zucchini, potatoes, grilled lamb with home-made aioli, and apple crumble for dessert. I compare the beauty, grace, and confidence with which the food was prepared to a ballet, but one that I’d actually enjoy.

It was incredibly satisfying to watch the deft chopping, casual yet deliberate measuring of ingredients to find that elusive “to taste” sweet spot, and the sensual drizzling of olive oil from a bottle half-stoppered by a knowing thumb. What’s more, everything was made while engaging in relaxed conversation, between sips of wine and several parenting breaks. (Oh, and somehow in the middle of all that, a cheese and crudité plate miraculously appeared.)

That all seems impossible to me. I can’t make a sandwich without having to leave the room and count to 10. I know some folks claim that cooking relaxes them, but, much like women who say pregnancy was easy and made them feel beautiful, they’re crazy. Or lying. Or both.

Yet clearly it happens, because these happy chefs continue to conjure edible magic that I greedily stuff into my face hole. Naturally, I wish I could cook as well as they do. I wish I could do anything with such instinctive expertise. What I envy the most is the enjoyment they get from doing something so well they don’t even have to think about it.

If I’m honest, the only thing I’m THAT good at doing is eating.

So now it’s time to start dinner, regardless of how much I’ve tried to put it off. Maybe if I see it as a game, or an art project, I’ll realize how much fun it can be. Then perhaps it’ll be me one day, preparing an exquisite banquet and loving every minute of it.

But not today. Right now, I can already taste the rage.

Rage cooking

The New 30

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I just turned 40.

Maybe it’s a big deal, maybe it’s just a number. I’m feeling pretty good about it, except for one thing-

I don’t know what I want to be when I grow up.

I ask my kids this question sometimes, hoping the answer is “a doctor” or “accountant” or anything that leads to financial security and them moving out of the house one day. The last time I asked, Thing 1 said “Michael Jackson”, and Thing 2 ignored the question completely, opting instead to painfully squirm his way out of my straight-jacket embrace. (I let him go, mostly because he accidentally elbowed me in the bladder, but I’m pretty sure he was going to say “brain surgeon.”)

I’ve taken personality tests, hoping that I fit into a category that was easy to define and easier to employ. Apparently I am everything and nothing, introverted and extroverted, right in the gray area of the Meyers-Briggs test. I have a friend who’s a psychologist, and even she said she couldn’t figure me out. Psychologically, I am plasma.

Many of my fellow parents have gone back to school for event planning, interior design, nursing, or even med school (!!), which is incredibly admirable. The problem is there’s nothing I’m interested in enough, that I’m aware of, for which I’d be willing to suffer through another degree.

I’ve made lists of my interests and strengths, and have sought advice from people much wiser and more experienced than me, all of which led to the following conclusions:

  • As a freelance English editor, I already get paid to watch TV shows and movies, and I don’t find it particularly gratifying.
  • Sudoku solving isn’t a career.
  • Neither is annoying my husband. Or my kids.
  • Crochet can only be lucrative if I actually finish something.
  • I can’t charge people for praying for them.
  • I’d have to master more than just the corpse pose to teach yoga.
  • Snark is hard to monetize.

So I guess I’m writing this until I figure out what I’m supposed to be doing with my life. If it helps you in any way at all, this will have been more than worth it. At the very least, I hope that reading about my awkward blundering through adulthood makes you feel better about your own journey.

🙂