Thursday, 31 March 2011

Just One More Distraction...

This blog is supposed to be about finding one's self among the plethora of options available to our generation.  Of all the things that I am passionate about, which one am I meant to be doing?  Not necessarily which one will pay me to survive...but that does always help.

Somehow, though, my blog has become about love and romance.  I feel bad.  Romantic woes have become a distraction from my search for a living, like so many other things in my life.  I feel pressure to find my purpose.  To find my way. To work towards improving my financial situation through something that I am passionate about. ... until it hit me this morning.

Last fall, my last "begining," I fell into a relationship.  It allowed me to realize my path - the next chapter of my life - and I felt empowered to make drastic changes for my happiness, and my health.  Did he "complete" me?  No.  He inspired me.  He empowered me.  Knowing there was some one there who supported me however much I was about to screw up my life allowed me to let go of my fears, forget the "what if"s and start pouring my work ethic into something that I actually loved.

And then he broke my heart. ... Or I let my heart get broken, however you want to see it.

This week, I had lunch with an older, wiser friend.  I brought up the topic of relationships and my anger with this concept that women are brainwashed into needing to be "rescued" by love.  She shown a great light on this concept for me.  It's not that women aren't strong enough to save themselves, but they're so busy solving the day-to-day problems, taking care of life's smaller details and rescuing the children (or people in this state) that they can't rescue themselves.  This is why women desire somebody not to "rescue" them, but to protect them from the larger threats out there, such as bankruptcy, homelessness, or loneliness.  This is why we really don't want to go through life alone.

So, here I am.... following what I love without that one protective person beneath me, encouraging and supporting me to follow my dreams.  Instead, I have many people offering their words of encouragement, belief in the fact that I can do it, and room to let me make my mistakes, fumble around for a few months, few years, or however long this is going to take... By then, I'll probably be so toughened by the world, that I won't need the protection...but it might be nice to cuddle...

Saturday, 26 March 2011

Give Love A Chance...

I began listening to Bright Eyes again this week, and found myself listening to random youtube videos of his. This was among the mix I was using for background music while working on writing today. It made me cry in the first's just that good!

What I really love about the video is the first conversation between the two passengers. There are complete strangers until they realize that they are both about to die... Why can't we truly live like we are about to die? Try it - for even just a day - at least in the aspect of loving that stranger next to you, whether its on the bus, the street, or waiting in line for something you can't stand waiting much longer for! Give love a chance!

Friday, 18 March 2011

Little Red Riding Hood

The latter half of my university career continues to have a major impact on my life.  I believe the upper level years of university should be formative for anyone with a degree.  The upper level courses take you from a level of understanding to a level of thinking for yourself.  Looking back on it, I feel as if I didn't quite understand how to do this at that point, but the seeds were planted then.  Now, I can look back at many of the seeds planted by professors, my reading, and even my choices in courses taken to understand life on a deeper level.

One of the courses I randomly took was Children's Literature.  Some friends from my program thoroughly enjoyed children's literature and would often refer to books from their childhood as "high-art" books.  As I had never read most of them growing up, I felt left out, and like I would gain something from reading them even as an adult.  And so, I took a Children's Lit class hoping to gain a better childhood... It didn't change what happened to me as a child, but it did help me understand my world at the time.  For my first example, let's take Little Red Riding Hood, a classic fairy-tale derived from the oral Story of a Grandmother:

There was once a woman who had some bread, and she said to her daughter: "You are going to carry a hot loaf and a bottle of milk to your grandmother."
The little girl departed.  At the crossroads she met the bzou, who said to her: "Where are you going?
I'm taking a hot loaf and a bottle of milk to my grandmother."
"What road are you taking," said the bzou, "the Needles Road or the Pins Road?"...

Thus began my own journey to Grandmother's House...

The most popular (and feminist) analysis of this oral tale revolves around these two paths.  It is assumed that this path represents a woman's maturity.  During the popularity of this tale, it was customary for young women to spend a year working for a seamstress.  Although cloaked as a year of apprenticeship, the intention was more for refining one's self, or "maturing." Just another name for a Quarter Life Crisis?  Of course, if it were a real apprenticeship, the woman would find herself sewing clothes for the rest of her life, which always sounds like a dream come true! If the woman was business oriented, of course, this would have been.  And, during this time, "business oriented" meant that you would spend the rest of your life as a spinster. This time of "maturing" is represented by the path of the Pins, objects the young women would spend their time collecting as apprentices.  The other path, that of Needles, is suggestive of Prostitution.  In many European areas, during the height of this tale's popularity, prostitutes would wear a needle on their blouse to indicate their profession.

Despite the last hundred and fifty years, I have found that these two paths for women have not changed that much.  We may be able to run companies, fly planes, stay at home with our children, or choose whatever career we want, but we still have to fit in one of two sexual categories: spinster or prostitute.

So, what's wrong with being a spinster?, let me think: 
  • The occasional case of the Lonelies: a dipildating disorder often accompanied with depression, the drinking of red wine, alone, in your apartment, while searching through the most recent on-line dating service to catch your attention.
  • The constant feeling of inadequacy because you don't begin every story with "we," "my boyfriend says," or "while waiting for ____ to get home..."
  • Quietly grinding your teeth in agony when people laugh at the movie, "40-Year-Old Virgin" as you fear you may awkwardly become one.
  • Having new friends look at you in awe when you reveal your curse of singledom since "You're so outgoing! How did that happen?"
  • Feeling ridiculous about beginning every story with "my cat," although he's the only male who has the capacity to love you (...because you feed him and he has to).
  • Cheating at the "Have You Ever" game so that people don't realize you really are that innocent...and still being the most sober person at the end of the night...
  • And above all that, despite the short flings you've had with random men over the years, a friend mistakes you for a lesbian and you begin to believe that's why your relationships have never lasted longer than a month... You then begin to regale her with tales of your most recent heterosexual "conquests."
Oh, now, wait...that last one is not really the life of a "spinster." Having short meaningless relationships with men does not mean a woman will end up alone for the rest of her life.  No, not at all.  In fact, it means she fits on the other path.  She's a slut!

What's wrong with being a slut?
  • Winning the "Have You Ever" drinking game...even by ignoring the few items brought up because "what you don't remember, didn't really happen." 
  • The nickname of "BJ" for all the work you do in the men's washroom...and never being able to wear pigtails again.
  • Having the condom fall out in the hostel's communal washroom and trying to remember the man's first name, let alone hoping to find his phone number.
  • Your best friend from high school looks you up on Facebook after spotting you on the latest edition of "Girls Gone Wild." 
  • Being drugged by a friend of a friend because you wore a mini-skirt to the party when everybody else was wearing jeans.  Believing that you deserved it: "It's not rape if you giggle..."
  • Knowing that the scariest thing to come from a one-night-stand is not a pregnancy, but allowing your coworkers to believe that's why you need to leave before the clinic closes for the night...
Is this really where the Sexual Revolution got us?  Option A: miserable and alone. Option B: abused and diseased? Yes, in the World of Pessimism.  I've only provided one side of the story.  Can't these two options have their silver linings?  Maybe...

Being A Slut Is Not That Bad...

Have you ever watched Sex and The City (SATC)? If not...well, do me a favour and watch an episode of it.  Here you will find the BEST example of a sexually confident woman, Samantha Jones.  And, despite Ariel Levy's rant against Girls Gone Wild, this ideal of a sexual confident woman existed BEFORE the show gained its notoriety for allowing women to expose their bare chests in order to win a free T-shirt.  In fact, I have a memory from grade school (of all places) where we discussed the loss of one's "V-card" based on how an older girl walked.  Later, I would realize that losing one's virginity does not change one's posture.  Being confident with one's body, on the other hand, does.  Are the two intrinsically linked?

Being A Spinster Ain't That Bad Either...

No.  Confidence is superfluous to sexual activity...or maybe that's the other way around.  Just think about those women you know who are so very focused on their careers.  Climbing to the top of the company has had NOTHING to do with their level of sexual activity.  That's right - smart women don't have to sleep their way to the top.  And that young woman "saving herself" for marriage has some of the most amazing confidence I've seen in somebody that young!  People mock them, people judge them, but spinsters by choice are the most wonderful peopl I know...if only because they never seem to get all wrapped up in this whole concept of the two different paths laid out in front of us.


A few weeks ago, on a similarly sunny afternoon, I found myself reading old women's magazines in a library I used to frequent during the beginning of this Crisis.  I'm not even sure what it was I was looking for, but what I found was one of the most helpful articles I have ever found in a women's magazine.  And I've read a lot of magazines since university - specifically searching for the kind of inspiration and confidence that this article was able to provide me.

The writer went through her own journey through the troublesome "single" twenties...and thirties.  Her embarassment came from always having to tell new dates how long her last serious relationship had been, rather than the non-existence of one.  She went through stacks of books on "how to catch 'the one,'" be the "perfect girlfriend," or even just how to "pick up men."  All of them said the same thing: change yourself - be perfect - and he'll find you.  "Bullpucky!" she said.  Many of her friends in relationships were complete and utter messes, yet they'd found somebody to spend the rest of their disastrous lives with.  How? She realized they had just been lucky.  It had been magic that finally worked for her friends...not some miracel book, cream, or a set of rules that they had followed...

So, she waited.  She focussed on her career, and her life, and may not have made herself "perfect," but was happy enough with who she was, as most women in their forties finally become.  And then "magic" happened.  She started dating a divorcee who eventually asked the inevitable question, "how long since your last long-term relationship?"  Her response of the last fifteen years of dating disasters did not scare this "magical" man awy... "Hmmm, their bad luck, I guess, and my good luck..."

And Other Fairy Tales We Create For Ourselves....

So, it's not the girls of the 21st century who need the fairy tale stories anymore, but the single women.  Here we are in a society where the average age of one's first marriage is 27 and we begin to worry about getting there by 19.  We need all the stories of "magic" to get us through those next eight to twenty years if we have any hope of remaining sane throughout it all...

We're not alone, though.  I realize that this whole discussion of heterosexual dating choices has been entirely based on the woman's perspective, but men struggle with it, too.  And that's the real aftermath of the sexual revolution.  We've gotten the vote, we've gotten the position of CEO, and then we threw out the wolf with the big bad heart ("all the more to love you with, my dear") just to avoid ever having to walk down those two paths again.

Maybe that's why I have such a problem with "progress"...

Thursday, 10 March 2011

Tuesday, 8 March 2011

The Tenth Donation

There is a lesson in each day...
and somedays many...

"Excuse me!"
The woman in the red shirt keeps walking.
"Excuse me," I try a second time.
My eyes dart around the room, hoping to catch somebody's attention. Nobody is looking in my direction. Noses are in clipboards, conversations are being held, but nobody looks over. I feel a knot forming in my throat.
I catch the flutter of a nurse's shirt out of the corner of my eye. I turn my head quickly. "Excuse me," I try once more and the ice pack on my arm falls into my lap. I grimace at the shock.
Finally, I have help and I begin to explain what I need when her supervisor ends her conversation and rushes to my other side. She makes a quick joke with the nurse, and I begin to cry. I can't hold it back any more. I don't know why the tears are there, but the supervisor assumes it's from the joke. She tells me they do this all the time, she doesn't mean anything by it. I try to tell her its not the joke, but I can't. How can I explain to somebody that I'm crying because I just realized my biggest fear?

I donate blood weekly. If you've ever donated blood, you're probably thinking, "How on earth can you do that? Isn't there a 56-day waiting period between donations." You're right, there is. If you donate whole blood. I donate plasma, which your amazing body has the capacity to replenish every six days.

I was explaining this to a coworker this morning, and her reaction made me smile on the inside. "I stopped donating blood for a few years after a nurse in Vancouver told me that I couldn't get iron from anything other than animal flesh," I explained to her...

I finally decided to try it again this fall, after my last grandparent and my best friend's first grandparent died within two weeks of one another. She felt this overwhelming urge to give back to the community of health-care providers who had been there for her family during the last few weeks of her grandfather's life. We were leaving work one day when the Canadian Blood Services blood drive team stopped us and asked if we wanted to make appointments. We made a date two weeks into the future, and it helped both of us recover from our grief.

The evening that we donated, as I went through my first screening in six years, I was almost scared of the outcome after everything that has happened in my life since then. However, the only phrase used in the screening room that will forever stick out in my mind was "Your blood can be used on babies!"

... As a child, I never had a certain strain of a cold, or flu, or some sort of illness. As such, my blood is code "6201" - without the antibodies to that illness - and can be used on babies, who, in my opinion, need it most. They haven't seen the world, taken their first step, or even learned to talk (or complain!). They might know how to smile; they might cry a lot now, but they'll soon learn how to laugh, and how to play. They're still innocent - they haven't made a single mistake. They need my blood! They need the opportunity to enjoy the beauty of this world.

And, so, I explained to my coworker, "I try to donate once a week. When I get really busy, I make it every two weeks. It's better if I do it every week, though - keep it consistent."

"My respect for you just jumped," she said. "It used to be about here," she held her hand around nose level, "but now it's way up here," her second hand extended above her head.  With that, I smiled, and thanked her. I don't donate to receive praise from other people. It's always nice to leave people in awe, though. I like to think of those moments as my opportunity to inspire them. My life is lived in such a way as to change the world through example, moreso than preaching about how we all need to be better people. I'm not perfect, and I'm upfront with people about that. My self-deprecating humour is what makes me approachable, I think. Alas, this coworker is inspiring to me, so its nice to know that she feels the same way.

I realized, on my way to the clinic, that this week would be my tenth donation. I had forgotten about it over the last week. It came up, once again, as the first nurse took my iron sample. As the centrifuge worked its magic on my iron-rich red blood, she got up from the table and walked away. At first, I began to feel ignored, but soon realized that she was searching through a box of pins, looking for one to give to me. I took it with pride from her as we talked about how quickly these things add up. Small talk about the weather ensued. Today was turning into a fantastically optimistic day, and it was only noon!

The rest of my screening went smoothly, if somewhat delayed. I settled in nicely to my vegan magazines, and made myself cozy in my favourite bed. As per usual, I tried to lower the arm rest to a comfortable position for myself when my first nurse stopped me and lowered it herself. The second nurse came by and made sure I was the right person - I corrected her pronunciation of my name, telling her that I get "Judy" enough that it's okay - and then began to set up the machine. This was my eighth time donating plasma, and so I no longer felt the urge to watch the set-up as I did on my first visit. I continued to settle into my vegan magazine, thinking about which recipe I might want to try out next...

Then my luck changed. Trying to get comfortable with my arm rest, I shifted my weight further back in the bed. "Oh no," the nurse stopped me. "Now I have to sterilize you again!"

With my cuff on, I had become aware of the fact that the arm rest was still too high. When I moved, the cuff touched the centre of my elbow that she had to rub for a minute before inserting the needle.

"Do you mind, if we lowered this arm rest?" I asked as she tightened the cuff around my bicep and searched for another sterility pad.

"I was actually going to raise it," she said. "If it's too low, your shoulder will be too low. Your elbow needs to be supported by the arm rest."

After eight donations with a lower arm rest, I was pretty sure this was not true. She straightened the arm rest so that it was at a slightly better angle for my arm, but still too high. "I can still work on your arm at this height, too," she continued, trying to be chipper about it all.

I avoid confrontations whenever possible.
Lesson Number One - Stand Up For Yourself

The tension between the two of us was such that I didn't want to talk to her any more than necessary. Sadly, she took my silence as an opportunity to eleviate the tension with questions.

"Are you looking for recipes there?"

"Yeah, kinda," I was trying to figure out which Ayurveda type I was, actually.

"So, what do you do?" she continued to interrupt my reading.

"I have about five jobs." I tried to keep my answers short, so that she would get the hint that I didn't want to talk. "But I'm focusing on getting more into writing."

"Oh." She didn't get the hints. "What do you write about?"

"A bunch of things, really. I have some blogs." This was not the right mood for selling my work. And, of all the staff I have talked to at the clinic, she struck me as one who would probably say something insulting about writing or veganism or even a quarter life crisis rather than being genuinely inquisitive, like everybody else.

Now it came time for the needle, and I could politely look away. There are varying opinions on whether it is better to watch the needle going in or not. ( I can't even watch the first nurse prick my finger for the iron sample.) The best needles are the one I never feel, and I thus always compliment the nurses that do this with ease. It makes donating so much easier!

She hesitated. She was concentrating too much on finding the vein. She hit a nerve almost immediately. A surge of pain shot through my arm. After a few of these, though, I've learned that its best to remain calm.

"It's touching a nerve," I told her as calmly as I could through clenched teeth. A blew out the breathe I had been keeping in.

"Oh, okay." She began to panic. "Just hold still." She adjusted the needle a little bit, then stared at the tube that was supposed to be filling with blood. "How's that?"

It still hurt, but I've been through worse pain this week...

I'm training for a 10km run in June right now, and came into some knee pain after Sunday's run - my longest run, yet. Knowing that I had this donation today, I avoided taking any painkillers for the searing pain I felt most of the day on my feet yesterday. Today, the pain had subsided, but I was still limping.

I could deal with a distraction for the next fifteen minutes. "I can handle it."

"Oh, well, I haven't hit the vein yet..."

Luckily, she went over to her supervisor right away. That needle came out, faster than the pain. The supervisor asked if I still wanted to donate. As soon as I agreed to it, she set up my right arm, my writing arm :-( 

I write with my computer; rarely by pen. 
Lesson Number Two - Donate With My Writing Arm

Within mere minutes, I couldn't feel the needle in my right arm, I had an ice pack numbing the pain in my left arm, and a tube of my blood taped to my chest.  The tube was taped in such a way that it was out of the way of the magazine I was still reading, but it reminded me of convicts strapped into electric chairs.  Had I not been trying to restrain myself from telling the nurse that "I told her" that the arm rest needed to be lower - like the one my right arm was now resting on - I would have made some joke about being crucified for reading vegan magazines in Alberta...

I could anticipate the problems of reading while this was happening.  Since I was reading magazines - articles about recipes - I knew that there would be many pages to flip during the next fifteen minutes.  Luckily, the supervisor flipped the current one I was on before setting the timer to five minutes.  At that time, she said, she would take away the ice pack.

This morning, I had a conversation with a fellow writer about my past blog entries.  Like my blogs, we covered everything from veganism to customer service to relationship issues. 

In regards to veg*nism, she painted this picture of society that I really liked.  (I apologise for the summarizing of the conversation.)  There are people in this world who will always live in a box of "this is how the world is and always will be." And then there are those of us who are unable to live in a box of any kind.  Sadly, the best plan of action for those of us on the outside of the box is to just remain quiet, be respectful of the people in the box, and (this is my addition) slowly keep the box moving into the future we want to see around us. 

In regards to customer service, she said that those people who lack respect for those of us in the industry of service have never been there themselves.

This thought ran through my head as I thought about the nurse's reaction to me needing a lower arm rest.  The thing about being a good customer when you're in the customer service industry is that you're also aware of how hard you try to be a good customer.  Having been in the industry of serving others for the last decade, I had sympathy for the nurse.  I didn't know her story.  She probably had a bad back.  Maybe she was having a hard day.  But, I was the one being served.  I was donating my time to save lives while she was giving her career to the same cause.  We were both in the same boat, but she was being paid to be there.  I selfishly feel like that should count for something...

And this brought me to my general reaction to the complaints of serving bad customers.  Yes, it is easy to just say they have never worked in the industry, and therefore don't understand.  But how do they treat their friends?  Their family?  Their doctor?  If they think it's acceptable to be that rude to a stranger?  It's less about having the empathy from having worked in the industry and more about just being a good person. (Can you tell that I dealt with a difficult customer today?  Does my ranting give it away too quickly?)

I am stubborn.
Lesson Number Three - 
Do you want to be "Right" or do you want to be Happy?

I was contemplating all of these things as I sat there, strapped into the bed.  It was bad enough, I thought, to be struggling with my knee, but now I can't even read to pass the time!

And that's when the panic began. That was the thought that started off a tangent in my mind filled with empathy, pain and fear like I've never contemplated.

At first, I tried to reason with myself: This is only temporary.  Many people in hospital beds have to deal with this for days, weeks, sometimes even the rest of their lives.  You are blessed to only be put through this immobility for a short period of ti-

But, what if this wasn't temporary?  What if my busted up knee was the beginning of the end?  Here I was, twenty-five and Finally able to do some of the things that I had never even conceived of doing before - like running!  What if I had to stop now?  What if my progress stopped and I started to slide backwards?  Maybe the reason I feel so driven to donate blood is because one day I'll need!  And the hypochondriac inside of me went berserk!

My Biggest Fear is the Loss of an Independence I Created Myself.
Lesson Number Four -???

I quit crying, eventually. And I never once let them know why I was really crying.  I let them assume that it was the pain.  And it was a pain I was crying about, but not the physical pain.  As I would later explain to a coworker, my health is weakest in my mind.  This helps, though.  And, like the physical health, every month I get a little bit healthier; a little bit stronger.

Ten minutes later, my pint of plasma had been separated out from my blood and I was finished making my donation.  One more nurse came over to help me.  As she cut the tubing that had laid on my chest, she gave me the usual run-down following a donation:

"So, no physical exercise for the next six to eight hours." Looking down at the tissue in my hand and the makeup smeared under my eyes, she went on, in a lighter tone. "No housework for a week.  Definitely no dishes.  And somebody special cooks supper for you tonight."

I smiled at her attempt to make me feel better.  It had worked - I knew my crying was for nothing - and I laughed at myself while resisting the urge to allow any more tears to fall.  If only, I thought, she had read my last blog entry..."

Saturday, 5 March 2011

How To Be Alone, Part Two: How To Be Lonely

I arrived ten minutes before the show began.  The theatre was only half full, with many seats still left in the section furthest from the stage.  I found an empty row, and sat, alone, staring up the aisle of the front section.  With this seat, I had a perfect view of the stage.  Every person who walked up that aisle, though, could see that I was there, by myself, at a concert.

While preparing for the evening, I was concerned about how I would feel in this situation.  It had been seven years since I had last went to a concert by myself.  The situation was much the same.  My favourite band of the time, Barenaked Ladies, was playing in the first city I lived in full-time: Vancouver.  At the time, I had many acquiantances and a few friends, but nobody else was interested in BNL like I was.  Of all the people I invited to come along with me, I was the only one willing to pay $65, as a student, to sit half a mile away from the artists who had kept me sane for the last four years.  Nobody I knew understood how I, the cheapest student they knew, could splurge on such a luxury.  But for me, BNL was worth it.

That was the one and only concert I went to in GM Place.  I arrived early, found my seat and ended up making small talk with the young woman sitting beside me.  Her affection for the band was clearly not the same as mine.  "This is my first concert," I explained. 

"BNL was my first concert, too," she shared, "when I was ten.  They`re more of my parents` favourite band."
It was like an arrow being shot through my ego. This was an exciting night for me.  I should be feeling special, not pathetic.  My older self would have brushed her comment aside and continued to enjoy the night, but my self doubt continued to grow.  There I was, just some country bumpkin, sitting in the largest arena of one of my country's largest cities, and I would never be like them.  I would always be different.  That is the story of my life...

This week, it was a half-choice to be there alone.  I had mentioned the concert to a friend of mine who has similar taste in music.  Our first dinner together, she brought out her entire cd collection, featuring four of the artist's cds.  The most recent dinner we shared together, I had brought up the concert and her interest were peaked.  It was still a month until the concert, but she thought her and her boyfriend could come along. 

"Oh, how my life has changed.  I'm no longer going to events alone, instead I'm going as a third wheel," is what I could have thought.  But I didn't.  I'm happy to be alone, now.  I'm happy to be a third wheel as well.  I enjoy my friends, and their boyfriends, too.  And it no longer makes me feel utterly alone in this world to be a third wheel.

The last time I had come to this theatre, I was with one of my best friends, and we had seen some amazing artists. We had arrived early and grabbed a seat closer to the stage. We could see the sweat on the musicians' foreheads. While enjoying the show, I had spent half the night texting my romantic other half. That was a different night...

I watched as the couples entered the theatre together.  Not only romantic couples, but friendship couples, too.  There were groups of friends.  And groups of couples.  Children, and the older crowd, as well.  The theatre was beginning to fill. 
I had only just bought my tickets that day.  My life right now is left half up to chance, half planned out, or "structured," as another writer put it.  It's working out well for me, and I try not to complain when plans don't turn out.  As I sat, writing frantically before the concert so that I had some work to show for the day, I suddenly remembered that my friend and her boyfriend had wanted to go to the concert with me.  I sent her a quick text, wondering if she remembered the night as well.

An hour later, when I received her text reply, I knew that it was really fate.  I needed to go to this concert alone.  I needed to be able to fully absorb the experience, not worry about other people enjoying it to the same extent as myself.  And, following Julia Cameron's Artist Way, it was my "Artist's Date" for the week.  My friend had to work that night, and so they wouldn't be coming.  I was off to see the show alone.

A blanket of peace covered me as the lights dimmed and the opening act stepped onto stage.  They were pretty amazing, and she was from Edmonton as well.  It must be a real treat to play for a hometown audience after touring over one's country.  We actually understood her remarks about where she grew up and the exact picture she painted of the river valley was fresh in the minds of the people who had seen it earlier that day.

The peace continued to cover me for the next two and half hours.  It spanned intermission, which I spent writing notes to myself in the book I always carry with me, and settled into my bones as the main attraction walked onto stage.  I allowed my mind to wander as I listened, and found myself focusing on the happiness of the moment.

My contentment lasted for the next twenty-two hours.  How amazing was life!  How very precious was every moment we had to appreciate the little things happening in our life?  I was in a good mood, and my good mood was contagious.  It was also exhausting...

I walked into my dark apartment, after a good shift at work, a few drinks during happy hour with my coworker, and some sobering up at the cafe.  "I still have work to do, tonight!" I told them as I downed four shots of espresso, some water and steamed milk.  But I knew I wouldn`t be able to accomplish everything I wanted to get down before falling into a coma for the night.

The espresso helped.  The people in the cafe helped.  I was sober as I looked up the street for the next bus to carry me home.  Although the day was warmer than the one before, I couldn`t walk for the next twenty minutes.  The weariness from my week began to settle in.  And in that weariness, that little shard I keep trying to hide from began to work its way out.  That little shard that made coming home to a dark, empty apartment cluttered with only my things the worst imaginable moment in my life.

This week, I gave advice to a friend on how to be alone.  Not just alone, but okay with being alone.  Content at being alone.  Ironically, this was mere hours before attending the concert by myself - something I was afraid to do on my own.  I did it, though, and even enjoyed my solitude.  I basked in the joy of enjoying something by myself, without any social crutch.  So, how could I, within twenty-four hours have hit this slump of loneliness again?

I fill my life with activities.  I give myself physical tasks to accomplish and structure to fit all of the errands around.  I push myself to accomplish the things I have always wanted to do but was too afraid to do before.  I rattle on and on to colleagues, people I serve at work, and the many friends I have collected.  I encourage only positive talk and flip around the negative comments people around me say.  But, at the end of the day, when all is said and done, is it really enough?  Am I truly happy?  Would I still find joy in solitude if fifty years from now, I came home to a dark apartment, worked for one hour more, then collapsed alone in bed?

Our emotions run the entire spectrum: from utter joy to utter misery.  Isn`t it amazing that within twenty-four hours I could come full circle through that spectrum, and both sides be inspired by the same situation?  And that, dear friends, is how you come to realize that you`re not just`re lonely...

"I`ve learned that the greater part of our happiness or misery depends on our dispositions and not on our circumstances." - Martha Washington

What`s wrong with being lonely?

Thursday, 3 March 2011

Weird Sisters

"See, we love each other. 
We just don't happen to like each other very much."

~ from the cover of The Weird Sisters  by Eleanor Brown

I am taking care of three finches currently.  When I entered the apartment to check on them last Tuesday, I found two lying on the bottom of the cage.  My heart leapt into my throat and I began to panic.  After so many weeks of looking after them, in this my final week intrusted to care for them, two of them are sick!  No sooner had I thought it then the one fluttered away to the top of the cage, absolutely fine.

I checked the resources I had on a finch illnesses and found a few cures for what may be ailing the small bird unable to flutter more than three inches on his own.  As I prepared what I hoped would be the solution, the two other healthy birds returned to the care they had been taking of the sick one before I entered their home.  They flew close to him, chirping soft sounds of healing, trying to help him however they could.  Most days, I would find the three chasing one another, chirping loudly at one another and fluttering all over the place.  I was pretty concerned about the health of the bird considering the behavior of the other two.

The next day, I returned early in the day, hoping for the best but prepared to find him even worse off.  Luckily, the former had occurred and I found the sick bird in the top cage, chirping normally.  I was so happy that the cures had worked!  But, I was more amazed by the change in the birds' interactions with one another.  The previously sick bird was still weak and nestled into one of the two nests in the top corners of the cage.  The white bird, who I had first discovered nursing the sick bird on the bottom of the cage, was guarding that nest from the other bird, who had suddenly returned to their old behaviour.

As relieved as I was to see the bird recovering, I missed the peace that had existed between the birds when the one needed it the most.  It interested me to, as I am one of three sisters.  As it goes, I suppose, we have each other's backs when we need it most, but we won't always be peaceful with one another when life has returned to normal.