On Wednesday I forced myself to go to the YMCA. My exercise schedule has degenerated in this past month. The move– and lack of having a gym for some days, then lack of having a personal trainer and program– left me with enough excuses to sufficiently lower my muscle-mass. Also, there has been an influx of social engagements, alcohol consumption, and gazing at the sparkly ocean, lush forest, and vast mountain skyline. Then, two weeks ago, I got a debilitating cold that knocked me flat on my back. I was mired in a sea of kleenex and mucous. The perfect excuse not to exercise. So yesterday, with guilt and fear in tow, I took the bus to my beloved YMCA for a Cardio Kick-box class.
It rocked me red-faced and tired. I never sleep so well as after expending so much energy.
With all these experiences under my belt in just over a month, I’m starting to realize the other effect of making a major change (like moving). Something akin to the domino effect, but perhaps better described as a rock dropping into the lake, and all the concentric circles that radiate from this one, dense plunge.
Moving to Vancouver has changed the food I eat, the people I talk to, the lifestyle I lead, and even my relationship to my job. Two months ago I would NEVER have a attended a Cardio Kick-box class just because it would have intimidated me. Now that I have left Montreal, I can see the limitations that I inadvertently placed on myself. I blamed my fears about how I would be accepted in the Montreal dating scene on linguistic and cultural differences. I started to bow out of public life, not so much out of fear, but by the mental walls that I built.
Moving was an uncomfortable, anxious leap of faith. Confucius said:
Wherever you go there you are.
It’s true. But with this one big move, I have eliminated my own excuses of “why I can’t.” I’m here now, with myself, but I have no one to blame. It wasn’t Montreal’s fault that I made these roadblocks in my mind. But they were there.
It’s the same with people who go through big breakups. Or huge career changes. Or suffer an unthinkable loss. Sometimes big changes (self-designed or not) uncover veils of illusion that you didn’t even know were there. Definitely out of comfort zone.
But then it’s not just that you made that move/ break-up/ career choice. Then you discover that the little organic store near your house always have good deals on tomatoes and avocados, and then all of sudden you are the Salad Queen. You go to your local wine store so you can chat with the handsome dude you’ve been eyeing, and then discover that he remembers you from working together 13 years ago. Despite your distaste for MMA culture, you kind of enjoyed some of the kickboxing moves at Cardio Kick-box. New directions, influences, and excitements. Just because you have a new area code.
Two weeks ago I felt dragged down and spit out by my own psyche. I had visited both parents and experienced all ranges of emotions that one feels in the presence of people whom you both love and feel the need to rebel from. I also felt daunted by my my new 6am start time for work. Working from home helped me realize how much stress I was carrying related to my job, and that awareness made me want to baulk. I wasn’t getting enough sleep, I was overwhelmed, and I was resisting the inevitable changes that change presents. Which is how I invoked my brutal cold.
Then on Canada Day, despite a full dance card of projects and initiatives, and not-completely-mended lungs, my friend invited me to Wreck Beach– a clothing-optional beach and huge bohemian hangout– to celebrate our day off. I packed a bag, my hula hoop, and set off down the long wooden staircase into through the forest with hundreds of other revellers. I arrived at our spot, parked against the log, and I scanned the looming pastel mountains in the distance. The lush foliage protected us from the gawking eyes of civilization. People in various states of undress and national pride played in the ocean. Picnics, drum circles, polo matches, and all-round good times populated the seascape. I was so happy. I snuck sips of Kim Crawford Sauv. B. from my water bottle and felt the sun like a warm hand, reminding me how lucky, happy, and excited I was.
I wrote a note to myself, so I wouldn’t forget.
Sitting quietly in my power.
A lot of my trepidation in coming to Vancouver was the fear of making an epic mistake. Or even worse, returning back to find that I was still the same black sheep that I was when I left. After ten years out East, I seem to have broken that spell. Every single thing that I dreamed of and set out to do seems to be falling into place like some magical puzzle that I don’t even have to touch to put together. But only since I stopped fighting it.
Whoever tagged this has done it all over my neighbourhood. I find it quite funny.
The airport lost one of my bags. My nerves were frayed from the last hour and half of the flight when Phyllis’s drugs wore off and she tried to break out of the cat carrier. I waffled on a continuuem of guilt at having moved her from her happy life, and fear that she would break free and run around the airplane. With my bag in the netherworld, I didn’t have any fight left. James drove us to our new home. A little garden suite in Kerrisdale. It was nighttime once we arrived but I could already smell the sweet fragrant freshness of Vancouver air. It smelled like home.
In true James-y fashion, he had an array of WASP snacks ready for me. Wine. Cheese. Gourmet crackers. Phyllis hesitated as she poked around with a new mistrust for all inanimate objects. The compounded pressure of the last few months started to pop up in several forms. I had a fresh round of rash forming under my face– fortunately under my chin and upper neck instead of my full on mug. I felt mega-tired. My thoughts were fuzzy. As much as I wanted to blog the blow-by-blow, I barely knew my own name.
The next day I made the 4 hour trek to the Victoria for Queen-Bee’s stagette. It was a lot of fun. I used to live in Victoria, and the people I ended up seeing there were friends that I see roughly once a year, when we all meet up at festival in the desert. Getting dressed up and going for cocktails is a contrasting activity to moving. Also, I got to see Nick so soon after our respective moves. He was already set up with a job, apartment, furniture and friends.
Again the question of how I felt came up, but it was hard to say. I was happy. It was like I was on vacation! And yet my cat, my luggage, and bins were waiting for me in Vancouver. I was existing in the ether– not having fully moved, yet no longer living in Montreal. On vacation from moving, visiting another life, another time.
On the Sunday, we were having an outdoor spa and champagne day which ultimately resulted in me getting a severe sunburn. So used to the sticky heat of East, I forgot about the cool, dry sunshine of the west. The kind that sneaks up on painfully caucasian skin like mine. I had burnt over my face rash! Embarrassing because of how it looked and also because I should have known better.
When I finally returned back to Vancouver, I looked forward to simply staying put. I needed to get a bed and set up my room. It was finally time to begin my new life. Unfortunately, while I was smart enough to take the week off, I was stupid enough to fill most evenings with engagements while I was still in Montreal. My dance card was already full and I had just gotten there.
Let’s catch up!
I can’t wait to see you!
It’s going to be so fun!
I had forgotten just how daunting moving can be. Because it hadn’t been daunting when I accidentally moved to Montreal and was running away from my life in Vancouver. But now with a plan of execution, I realized that socializing with friends was putting the cart before the horse. I needed to unpack. Get set up for working from home. Get oriented in my new neighbourhood. Buy hangers. Learn my address by heart.
And yet there was wine to be drunk and bread to be broken…
This is one of the pretty views of our garden (no thanks to our gardening skills.)
On May 21st I stared at the dishes that I didn’t feel like doing with a lump in my throat. Why were there so many glasses? The counter was filthy, and there was a bowl half-full of dressed salad practically turning into compost before my eyes. It was the last salad; Nick and I had eaten lunch together. He had made me a tuna sandwich and a side salad, and I remember it as the best meal ever. The sprouted grain toast, the perfect ratio of tuna, onions, and veggies with enough-but-not-too-much mayo and thinly sliced cucumbers. All of it so tasty it nearly brought me to tears.
Normally I would have been at work on a Wednesday, but they had just given me my new work laptop and encouraged me to try it from home. A divine gesture from the cosmos, protecting me from my searing emotions in the workplace. So I thankfully went home to finish my workday, and to say a final goodbye.
A normal lunch, like any other day. But then he was gone. The dirty dishes, by dinner time, looked like relics from better days. I had to wash the dishes in order to cook because I have a “thing” about that. I popped some of the old salad into my mouth and stood there aimlessly staring at the mess.
Nick had left for Victoria. I had 10 more days in Montreal.
I had forseen the inevitable departure since we started planning the move. He would leave a week sooner than me. I would cry and have to let go. Then I would be alone to process the resolution of a long and loving chapter. There was no way to prepare for how it felt. We were still the best of friends, so it wasn’t like we wouldn’t see each other oftten. There was something special about living together. They portray it well in the movie Frances Ha.
So while I was excited (and anxious again) I was also sad. Sad that Nick and I would no longer live together. Sad that all my lunches and dinners, for the next 10 days, would be made or procured alone. Sad that I will no longer be be teased incessantly.
Over the next few days I sorted out items. A solitary task. There was a multitude of office pens, stationary, tools, and linens to give away or get rid of. Shoes that I loved but never wore because they were too uncomfortable. Pennies. Little items that seem like they could be useful to someone, somewhere, at sometime, but never were. Clothing. Luggage. Dishes. Desks. Lamps we had never used.
It started to become a desperate obsession to give away as much stuff as possible. I no longer cared about selling it; I was drowning in it. There was no end to the sorting of, compiling, throwing things away. I drank lots of wine. But I could not escape the scraps of the past.
The worst was the papers. Tax papers, writing crits, reciepts, tickets from movies or plays or museum shows that I am saving for a scrapbook that I’ve never gotten around to making. All of it demanding careful attention so that I didn’t pack something useless or throw away something important. It’s a lonely prospect to be reduced down to your stuff.
And then, the day arrived and I had to give Phyllis her pill and go to the airport. Even though she had been increasingly suspicious in those last days, she had had complete trust in me. Stuffing that pill down her throat was the most aggressive thing I’ve had to do to her. I was plagued with guilt as I gathered my things.
The air was humid and I was slick with sweat. The “lady upstairs” was anxious to get into the apartment and though I cleaned it, I didn’t have enough time to make it look as nice as I’d liked. Although I’d been preparing for that moment for over a year, everything felt like a rush. My friends had offered to drive me which, in hindsight, was not only nice, but likely another divine hand rushing in. I had raw fear at the idea of taking Phyllis through the maze of construction issues in a Montreal taxi.
When I got to the aiport, I had to wait in a special line because of I was travelling “with kitty.” For some reason, even though the line was incredibly long, there were only two people serving it. My stress mounted, even though I was an hour and a half early. Also, I had just sucked back a litre of sparkling water on the way to the airport, (humid, hot day) so I was hoping to “rest” a moment in the restroom before getting on the plane. No such luck. The security line was “Christmas-Eve” long. They made me take Phyllis out of her cat cage while going through the metal detector. They then told me that I had to take off my shoes while I clutched her drugged and bewildered body. My heart started to race. I had no idea what time it was but I started to sweat profusely and was having trouble breathing. Why don’t they turn up the $%$*#& air conditioner?!?!?! I thought.
Finally through security, I started walking to my gate, for what seemed like forever. Of course it was at the very end of a very long wing! Then, I heard it– the last call for my flight. No bathroom break possible! I ran for it. I could hear my breath, which was not a pretty thing at that moment. I gasped like I had enphysema but was desperate to get on that plane. When I got to the ticket gate the woman gave me a look of concern. She asked me– in earnest– if I was ok.
I had just had a panic attack.
The back of my neck was dripping with sweat as I boarded the plane to my seat. Phyllis– thankfully stoned– said nothing, even though she had been jostled around and manhandled in the soft cat-carrier. The airline attendant took one look at me and asked if I was OK. I said yes out of habit, as sweat was dripping down my face. She then produced a cup of water.
So that was how I exited Montreal. Like a drama queen. Looking back it seems like whirlwind of anxieties, panic, and drudgery. And stuff. Way too much stuff. Only now in the aftermath am I starting to be able to understand what how this move has moved me. I’ll get into that in my next post.
I woke up late today, feeling exhausted because I stayed up drinking wine and watching RuPaul’s Drag Race. Once the lovely contestants were whittled down to the final three, I decided it would be a good idea to watch the latest episode of Game of Thrones, rather than get a good night’s sleep. My drunk self always sells out my morning self. And so it was that I started the day the way I’ve started many a day. Exhausted with no one to blame but myself.
Somehow my outfits always reflect this. I’ve always got one component “off,” and today I looked like a middle-aged woman who just got into Death Cab for Cutie or Blink 182. Thankfully no one said anything. I got to work only to find that my work email wasn’t working, and I sat there, coping, without enough energy to let my stress level climb up to panic-mode.
Somewhere around coffee number two, and some power-sneezing (allergy season!) I get a phone call from Nick.
“The landlord said he didn’t get your last month’s rent!” he said.
It totally annoys Nick that I pay my rent at the beginning of the month, almost a month early, rather than a day or two before the 1st. I do this because I have biting fear issues with money. I like to know certain bills are paid. But how on earth could the landlord not have managed his money properly enough to know that the rent was paid last month?
I was furious, annoyed, and in a panic. I started pouring through my “professional-sounding” Gmail account. I opened up my bank statements with righteousness coursing my blood. On a side note – I’m not a fan of my landlord. Well call him Gyro, because he does Gyrotonic Yoga, some form of yoga that requires you spend time on crazy-expensive machines. Yoga — without the messy spirituality.
What bugs me about Gyro is that he was very vocal about being in full support of Quebec’s Maple Spring (the student protests) and proselytizes with faux socialist rhetoric. Yet as a landlord, we complained about the mold issues, ceiling drips, not having a proper door on my room and instead a sliding one that kept falling off it’s tracks, our front steps that are held up with cinder blocks, stuff like that. All these requests were answered with a one-word email response. He wrote “Thank you.” Then never acknowledged the request again, even if we brought it up multiple times. Add to that his behaviour with not letting us out of our lease and then doubling back and denying the person that we got- Gyro isn’t my favourite dude.
I couldn’t wait to show him how wrong he was about the rent. Except that he wasn’t wrong. I was.
Despite my obsessive fear-driven payment of bills, and the smug memory I had of paying it, I had missed it completely. Not only that, but after paying it today, with an apology, I now have substantially less money than I thought I had.
The paradigm of which I viewed the world this morning changed dramatically. Now picking up fancy cat-food (for a treat!) for Phyllis and Squigit after work seemed frivolous. I started to scold myself for buying my meals at the work cafeteria instead of bringing my lunch. I need to stop sucking back wine, I thought. I need to buckle down, make a budget, stop going out, stop spending money.
Except that when I started to do my budget, things didn’t actually look as bad as I thought they did. I am not such a spendthrift as I thought I was. There are definite luxuries that I afford myself, there are places to cut, but I hadn’t bet the farm. I am, after all, a grownup.
Sometimes I don’t feel like a grownup – mainly because I have bad credit and I feel some semblance of shame about it. But I am good with money precisely because I have bad credit. And people – especially Nick – have helped me get around that.
I got an ironic email in my inbox today where Danielle Laporte was interviewing Kate Northrup about money. Something Kate Northrup said stuck with me.
Debt is neither good nor bad; it’s just how you feel about it.
To take it further, I realized that there’s no way for me to have money all under control. I have no idea what is coming up or what I’ll need or how much my team will sell or any of that. There are some circumstances that I take for granted but even when my future roomie, James, probed me:
“How much are you willing to pay for a desk?”
I clammed up. The unknown – money/ earnings/ new city/ fear of making mistakes – all of it is freaking me out. I guess that is normal except for that everything is working out better than I could of possibly imagined. So I’ve got to really kill the glass-half-empty attitude quick, or I’m going to have an empty glass.
All this to say that I’m totally scared and doubting myself. I’m overwhelmed and exhausted by the poor choices I tend to make when I’m overwhelmed. I have a pesky troublesome debt that I have to manoeuvre around to seem like a productive member of society. But if I take a step back and think about it, I’m crazy lucky.
Soon I will be working from home. Living in the city I want to with a dear friend that I love. With Nick close but not too close so we can both grow a bit on our own. With a job! A beautiful suite in a beautiful garden! Literally being caught with a web of arms of awesome friends!
I’m so lucky. The biggest crime would be not to realize it. That said, tonight I’m going to bed early. Because everything is better with more sleep.
It was a Saturday in mid-October and I was invited to a “Rock star party.” I was still in “shut-in” mode and really didn’t want to go, even though the theme was pretty cool. We were all supposed to dress up as rock stars. Sometimes (many times) I find myself going to social events that I don’t really want to go to; out of obligation, or manners, or some other made-up reason. The idea of the party itself was awesome, and a bunch of friends were going to be there.
I dressed up as Courtney Love. It was an easy costume because I never completely grown out of my 90’s penchant for the kinder-whore look. I had the remains of that all-pervasive phase strewn around my room. A black slip and the torn fish nets: check. All I needed was a blonde wig. I arrived around 10pm, but Nick wasn’t going to make it until after closing the restaurant. He works nights. By the time he arrived at the party I was ready to go home, as I work office hours and get pretty tired by midnight. However, once Nick got there I got my second wind- he was dressed up as a banana which made his costume by far the best. I was, by then, into my second bottle of wine.
At some point, Nick and I decided to pitch in for more inebriants and handed money to a girl who I’d never met before. She was not dressed up. She had taken it upon herself to procure them. We were covering for several people and therefore gave her quite a sum. A little later, when we went to get our hands on some of the intoxicants, she acted as if we hadn’t given her any money. She flat-out denied it.
What ensued was story-arc of Nick freaking out, me yelling at her and accusing her of being a thief, other people at the party defending her because she was their friend, and finally- at the end of the night- she “discovered” that she did (indeed) have our money. It was in her purse which she had repeatedly refused to check- until the hostess located it and confronted her with it. We got our money back.
The following day I found out that people from her camp were angry with my behavior. This girl was a friend of a friend’s boyfriend and now “we won’t be able to be in the same room together.” I ended up sending apology emails out to the friend, the boyfriend, and to the girl who had our money.
This was a turning point for me.
You see, I am still convinced that the girl was trying to steal our money. Her behavior didn’t add up- refusing to check her purse, not “remembering” that she had taken the money in the first place, and then upon “discovering” that the money was in her purse she acted highly insulted and resentful that anyone would think that she was a thief. I couldn’t put myself in her shoes because the story didn’t make sense.
The reason I apologized was because I knew at that point, that I didn’t want to be that person again. Dramatically and drunkenly accusing someone of stealing (even if she was.) Getting mad about money, at a party I didn’t really want to be at. All over libations. Silly. I am leaving Montreal, I thought, but THIS is what I really want to leave. I need to grow up.
There was a time when this heavy drama was a larger part of my life and experience, but I knew at that moment that I didn’t want it any more. The “friend” who I apologized to wasn’t a close one. We never really hung out together alone, we only saw each other at parties. I was indifferent about her boyfriend too. Really it was no sacrifice to apologize for the greater good.
I’m not especially proud of my behavior that night, but it illuminated to me what I really needed to change.
I needed to stop spending time or committing to be in places I don’t want to be- especially when my obligations are extending to people I don’t particularly feel close to. I’m not doing anyone any favors by showing up anyways- a party is best enjoyed by people who want to be there. I need to trust my instincts. I have never before been at a party where anyone has stolen money. If I had followed my intuition, I still would have never had that experience.
Endings beget endings.
I felt funny after that all went down. I started taking stock of my relationships. I had to evaluate who I felt close to and who I didn’t. It was a little sad to find out that my list of close friends in Montreal was shockingly small. But it was clear-as-day who they were, and who was not.
I learned a lot about myself through this process. How lazy had I been with friendships, and how lazy had I been with my time? How many times had I tried to create connections that clearly were not there? How many times had I tried to rekindle a friendship that had long died out? Was I willing to continue to live this way or would I make a change?
I’m thankful that a physical move has caused such a profound succession of endings within me. There has been some melancholy to it all- endings are sad in a way, even when you’ve instigated them. I find it still so interesting that once you start changing one aspect of your life- you kick up all kinds of buried issues. I never considered that my friendships and relationships required examination and yet, I’ve realized that the people you surround yourself with are reflections of who you are. I want to be a better person.
So maybe it’s time to put my Courtney Love circa 1996 costume away. There are different ways to be a rock star.
Here are the top 10 things I’m looking forward to in starting my new life in Vancouver in June..
1) Acquiring better quality stuff.When I moved to Montreal, it was by accident. I stayed here to stop the perpetual, nomadic, lifestyle I was living. I never committed to staying. So everything I bought, or spent money on, was used, or from the Dollar Store, or given to me from someone else. Surprisingly, you can end up with a vast amount of stuff without even trying. However, I’m really looking forward to buying good quality stuff for my kitchen, and acquiring furniture I like, rather than “what was free.”
2) Committing to a place.
This move to Vancouver is about commitment. I’m committed to moving there, and living there- possibly forever- but maybe only for a few years. The difference being- even though I’ve lived in Montreal for 10 years (which is longer than I lived anywhere since I moved out of my parents’ house)- I never committed to living here. I always knew I was leaving, at some point, so never tried that hard to lay down roots. I can’t wait to commit and participate, and be part of a community in a place where I have both feet in the pool.
Truth be told- I never did very well in Montreal when it came to romance/love/etc. To be fair, I’ve always been awkward and somewhat shy when it came to sexy-time, but somehow in Montreal my river ran dry. There are many excuses I have blamed this on (my size, my lack of French, my being constantly surrounded by good-looking but gay men) but really all of those things were the norm before Montreal, and I’m sure there’s some good psychological reason I haven’t been able to get in the game. When I get back to the west I am determined to make up for lost time.
4) Finding new haunts.
There are 3 places I like to go for lunch near my work. Nick and I love the bakery on Wellington, and I love shopping at Branche d’Olivier. I go to the YMCA and can hit the SAQ and Chapters right afterwards. I’ve got my life mapped out in Montreal. There’s areas that I go a lot, and others not so much. Starting again in a new city (even if it’s an old one) means that I’ll get out of my comfort zone and try new things, eat new foods, and allow new influences to guide my tastes. It’s exciting to start from scratch- new hood, new restaurants, new gym, new grocery stores.
5) Starting new traditions & rituals.
The only traditions and rituals I have in Montreal centre around my friendship with Nick. There’s certain things we like to do together, and ways that we’ve grown together. We are the masters of the dinner party. I stay up late to catch up with him as he’s just getting home from working a dinner shift. As I get older and lacking children, I find myself hankering for some more rites. I want to do things like light candles for dinner, and embrace the existence of aperitif’s. Starting anew in a new city allows me to do such self-important things and I can’t wait!
6) Evolving my relationship with Nick.
Nick and I are the bestest of friends. We’ve never lived in different cities before and our friendship has blossomed into fake couple-dom. Friends without the benefits. Moving out on our own will change the nature of our friendship, and I think we are both hoping that it will add a new dimension as we pursue our lives without having each other so nearby. I’m looking forward to how this will manifest.
7) Changing my concept of “winter.”
Once upon a time, winter was a season of 60 days of rain. It required waterproof footwear and a jacket. It was not a time of ice and snow and below zero temperatures. I did not require toques, scarves, or winter boots. I’m excited to return to above-zero winters where rain is king, and galoshes make sense. I cant wait to wear a hoody as my winter uniform.
8) Watching my cat acclimatize to a new place.
Phyllis is one tough kitty. She was abandoned in an alley by her mother, and left to die. She was brought over to Nick and I at 5 weeks old, and has lived with us ever since. I do have a bit of guilt with transplanting her from her life here to Vancouver, but I happen to be secretly excited to watch her re-orient herself in her new home. Watching her experience snow for the first time was hilarious- I’m hoping to get as much entertainment from watching her in her new Vancouver garden-level apartment.
9) Forcing myself to be more purposeful with money.
I have been told that Vancouver isn’t just more expensive in terms of housing. Apparently it’s more expensive for everything. Groceries, transit- everything. While a bit terrifying, I’m trying to be more mindful with my money and stop wasting it on eating out, buying food that goes bad, or buying books that I never get around to reading. I am more wasteful than I should be, currently. Maybe it’s because of my perceived lack of time, coupled with my stress. I am looking forward to being more conscious with my spending, now that it will be a necessity.
10) The infinite potential of newness, with a little experience on the side.
I have this feeling that anything can happen, once I move. The potential is unlimited. I find this so exciting, especially since I have some life experience now that I didn’t have when I was younger and starting out. Really- I am so lucky to have the chance to do this. I don’t have any real commitments (children, mortgage, etc.) that prevent me from starting again. As scary as change can be, there’s also that exciting newness awaiting- the energy of the Fool. I’m excited to see how it all works out.
My birthday this year. Me and Nick.
It’s been quite a week. A girlfriend got laid off and we commiserated at the pub. Nick flew to Victoria to find a home and employment. I am home alone for the first time in as long as I can remember. And today, after quite a hiatus, book club was supposed to meet to discuss the 2nd agreement in the 4 Agreements book: Don’t Take Anything Personally. Circumstances made it so that we couldn’t meet after all. However, since re-reading the chapter, my propensity to assuming that things are happening to me rather than just happening, made me decide to think about this a little deeper.
If there was ever something that I do too much; it’s take things personally (drinking fizzy water would be a close second though.) I’m trying to reconcile the fact that outcomes and events- are for the most part- not individually aimed. I could see as clear as day when Sho got laid off; the crappy way it was executed was less about her and more about superiors feeling guilty and not wanting to be direct. But throw the ball in my court and consider actions from our landlord- who told us we couldn’t get out of our lease, then proceeded to block any attempts we made at finding someone to move in, then finally he got the “lady upstairs” to take the place- all of it felt aimed at me.
The thing about taking things subjectively, is that we are all the star of our own movie. Everything is individual to us because it happens to us- on an emotional level. Like it or not we also have expectations. They are assumptions we make about the way we should be treated or how people should behave. When people don’t meet our expectations, it hurts. Especially when it’s those we love.
But what about bullying? When people are deliberately mean or forceful in order to make a person feel bad. How can it not be personal? When the cab driver pretends to not-know where we are going and takes me around Montreal so that my bill is $60- how do I not take that as an attack to me, individually?
Because people who are mean, or deceptive, or opportunistic are the protagonists of their own movie, too. If we were to understand them fully, we would realize that these personal-feeling interchanges are part of a long, hellish continuum that is their movie. The cab driver who takes me on a wild, expensive goose-chase is trying to make more money for his family. The bully is trying to give them self importance and control where they feel as if they have none.
I went through a very deep and very long depression in my late teens- early twenties. During this time I took everything personally, and life was hard. The person who takes everything personally constantly feels under attack. But how did I behave? It’s hard to know sometimes. Experience has taught me that the feeling of being attack likely made me act like a jerk.
A few years ago I started becoming friends with a woman we’ll call Sporty. In our first initial times getting together I found her to be considerate, kind, and fun. Over time, however, I began to notice cracks in the veneer. On my birthday we all met for Dim Sum. She did shift work so only decided to come last minute- she said she would be about half an hour. We were all hung-over and hungry. It’s all bustle at Kam Fung at 1pm on a Sunday. The minute we were seated carts of shrimp, noodles, chinese broccoli, and the like, arrived with direct motive. It’s not the kind of place you can just sit there without ordering.
Sporty took 45 minutes from the time that she announced that she could make it. By the time she got there, we had already eaten and were full, but there was still food left and plenty that could have been ordered. Unfortunately, she was pissed. I can tell you with certainty- she very much took it personally that we started- and finished- without her. Her behaviour was passive aggressive as she said she was really hungry but the food on the table was cold. We encouraged her to order and get her fill- this restaurant was not expensive and we were splitting amongst us- but she refused.
My dominant memory of that meal was of trying to deal with Sporty and her attitude on my birthday. To be honest, after enduring her for several hours, I couldn’t wait to part ways. In the end, behaviour like that ended our friendship- at least from my point of view. I seemingly managed to do something else wrong, and at this I am only guessing. I invited her to do a couple of things and she declined all invitations. I never invited her again, and no invitations came from her. Enough time has passed for me to safely call her a former-friend.
So I bring up Sporty to remind myself that “taking things too personally” can make you- the perceived victim- no fun at all. I don’t want to be around people whom I feel I have to walk on eggshells around, and I really don’t want to be “no-fun zone.”
So today when I tried to do my taxes, and the Revenue Canada site was down, I did not take things personally. When book club got cancelled, I did not take it to heart. The fact that I’m alone today facing my move in all its epic-ness- well, I’m proud of myself. This was all my idea, after all.
The snows are melting away and leaving trails of garbage, once hidden in the crunchy, white, coldness. The Cabane a Sucre’s are dusting off their menu’s and opening their cans of maple syrup over sliced hotdogs. Today, citizens of all walks of life will meander to schools, churches and community centres to cast their votes. Today is election day for the Province of Quebec.
It feels strange to cast a vote in a place you are leaving. I almost feel guilty for it. There has always been a tension for me and voting in the provincial elections seeing as I never planned on staying, and I don’t speak the language very well.
I’m in the linguistic minority. It changed my values, and my experience of Montreal. I came from a political family where politics were a part of everything we did. I had my political “awakening” at the Battle of Seattle in 1999. Politics became a part of everything I did for the next few years.
Everything changed when I moved to Quebec.
Despite my best intensions, my French never got good enough to listen to a debate or read pamphlets. I’d go to feminist marches, or indigenous rights symposiums, but began to notice separatists, or militant activists with dubious platforms amongst the rabble. I was plagued with the question:
What’s going on?
It was the same question I would ask when I was at the health clinic, or getting my license renewed. The same confusion. The same nervousness. It took the breath out of my fight and made me step back and re-evaluate. I couldn’t fight if I didn’t know anymore what I was fighting for. Or whom I was fighting with.
I am a believer in voting for the party that you think would do the best job. I told someone recently that I don’t do fear-based voting- the kind of voting that you do against a party rather than for it. It became a heated discussion because, around here, there is always the looming threat of separation.
I don’t think we can ever move forward if we vote with fear. Fear keeps us stuck with the same parties and platforms. Fear keeps us where we are.
That said, the process of democracy is about popularity. Popular ideas; common enemies; aligned objectives. You can get some momentum with some bad ideas. I cast my vote today for a party that I normally would never vote for. It just so happened that their party line reflected more of my beliefs in an array of choices where the majority don’t at all. My beliefs have changed since living here as an Anglophone. Part of the minority. The party I voted for definitely won’t win.
It makes me wonder if, when I go back to BC, I will carry this political uncertainty with me? I’ve become less of a political person because of the passionate political scene here. The high emotion, the fear, the anger that comes with the electoral process- I find it exhausting. Yet I strongly believe in participating in the election- as a citizen. If I can leave the people of Quebec one small thing, it’s my ballot, which I cast in all integrity. After ten years, I at least owe them that.
Me getting my first lap dance and taking it like a fool.
Last Saturday I had the pleasure of having nothing to do but wake up, socialize with my brother, and get dolled up. I made my way over to my friend Seb’s house where a party to celebrate my birthday was getting underway. There was all kinds of alcohol, a bunch of my friends, a long-lost cousin, and Sandy- the cutest dog in the world. There was also a stripper who started out as a “cop” investigating a noise complaint. It was a pretty substantial and magical birthday party. I ended up drinking too much, and then spent most of Sunday recovering with a lazy brunch and nap. There had been a blizzard overnight, so it only made sense to kick it up lazy-Montreal style.
On April 1st, my actual birthday, I took the day off and planned to have just a dinner with friends. Nick and I went shopping to buy him a suit at Simons. We had coffee, then a fabulous lunch at Mesa 14. On the way home, I got a phone call from work. It was my assistant.
“Eli, I called you because it turned out that there was a fraudulent order..”
He started this way and then regaled me of the tale of what had happened. My company was out a significant amount of money from the fraudulent order I processed. At first it didn’t bother me, but then, like a virus, the anxiousness set in. Will I be blamed? How will this affect my commissions? Will I look bad?
Shortly after that, the candidate we had found for our apartment let Nick know that our landlord had told her he had somebody else. I got more stressed even though Nick kept telling me that it let us off the hook for getting someone. It was if my stress was looking for more things to be stressed about.
I took off April 2nd too, with dreams of writing more posts about all the awesome things that I was going to do in April. I was unable to write, or do much besides stew in my own dread. Plus I didn’t want to write yet another post about how I was full of anxiety. But there I was, simply coping, being crazy and watching shows.
My week hit these intense notes while I entered my 37th year. Over March as my stress increased, my healthy food intake decreased. My posts decreased. My wine intake shot up. I stopped juicing. I started missing some gym days. But the really weird thing is: I stopped planning.
I haven’t thought about my core desired feelings, or my meal plan, or anything like that in quite a while. I’ve been swimming through the fog of stress, unable to commit to a plan. Anyone who knows me, knows that I’m a big nerd for my agenda. I absolutely LOVE planning, almost as much as I love writing, and it brings me extreme pleasure to schedule things, or reschedule things or use a highlighter and post-it notes inside. I don’t plan my life so that nothing can be spontaneous; I plan my life to allow for ANYTHING to happen. There’s room for everything, and everyone who is important to me.
I haven’t looked in my agenda in a good month. I haven’t been filling it with gym days or or lucky days or period days or anything.
So what came first? The uneasiness or the lack of planning? Are they interconnected?
Yesterday, my friend Sho took me to a yoga with Bram Levinson, who teaches kick-ass yoga classes. Each class is vigorous, but what is really remarkable are his talks. He doesn’t get all “yogi” in them and really gives you practical real-world meditations. We were learning about Hindu deities and myths and their corresponding poses. A big theme was the feminine and masculine dualities, and how both are always present in the hindu myths. Then we went into the yoga- trying poses that arose from the different myths we had just studied. Sho and I were both respectively on edge after our week. When he displayed the picture of Shiva dancing, it was especially meaningful to us. Shiva is depicted as dancing on top of a dwarf. The dwarf is supposed to symbolize the trivial things in life.
We talked at great length about this afterward. Both of us suffer from angst that grabs a hold of us so tight it feels like we are being dragged behind a car.
“Have you ever heard of the belly-brain?” Sho asked me.
“I think so, somewhere, but maybe not.” I sort-of answered.
You see, I’ve got cursory knowledge of the tummy and how it is the seat of emotion. In acting we were always taught to find our emotions in our stomach. Also, I’m highly interested in Ayurveda and have done some chakra work. But I’d never really heard of the belly brain.
“They’ve scientifically proven that there are neurons in your stomach that not only get messages from your brain, but that they send them too.”
Your stomach is the seat of the emotions, or the “feminine” energy. Your mind is the masculine. Extreme anxiety is felt there in the belly brain. But maybe instead of conquering anxiety, or band-aiding it with binge watching TV shows- maybe we should be listening to it.
There was nothing I could do about the fraud-call I got, but maybe I did the wrong thing by trying to forget about it, or obliterate the anxious feeling. Maybe the anxiety was my body saying:
“Pay attention to this. Get right with it. Stop and take care of yourself.”
I did quite the opposite when the anxiety started coming, about a month and half ago. I wanted the anxiety gone, and tried to cure it with action, wine, herbs, and food.
I’m turning the corner on this uncertainty. After some moments of petrified inaction, I’m ready to move forward. So ready that I bought my plane ticket today. I’m ready to spend a couple of hours planning. My dance card is already filling up for June and I’ve got stuff to do every weekend- in BC.
As I work my way out of this teeth-grinding, jaw-tightened, scared-shitless state, the one thing I’ve decided to decide is that I’m not going to act like the disquiet doesn’t need to be there. I am going to thank my anxiety, and pretend she is my worry-wart mother, just making sure that I’m ok. I will even thank her.
So we are back to planning, perhaps not so much and not so rigidly for now, seeing as I am moving across the country and all. We are back to seeking impeccability with our words, book clubs, 3 days at the gym, and taking better care. I’m 37 now. Practically a grown up.
After my Sunday of doing-nothing-but-nursing-an-anxiety-attack, I was ready to turn things around on Monday.
I never wanted to have an easy, comfortable life.
I had to remind myself of this, even though I was still a little stressed over having no one to take our apartment.
I want to have A Life. Not an easy-peasy life, but a challenging, rewarding, crazy, unexpected, joyful, interesting life.
Believe it or not, this thought really helped me as I started to make a Craigslist ad, and focus on the task at hand, after returning home from a busy day at work. I felt like I had gotten my stamina back. I was ready to DO this. Nick brought in the mail and told me that there was something for me from the Ministry of Justice and Corrections of Quebec. Not really a letter anyone wants to find addressed to them. I’ve been called for jury duty with only two months left of residing here.
Nick and I went out for dinner and wine as we mentally prepared ourselves to deal with a week of showing the apartment. We are both getting anxieties. He told me about how he psyches himself out about his fear of death, and will find signs and evidence that he has a disease, or has premonitions that make it increasingly hard to sleep. He doesn’t worry about day to day stuff, like I do. I got him to listen to a talk about death, by Abraham-Hicks. Nick knows I’m into this Law of Attraction stuff, but he’s never listened to it. He’s very skeptical.
“There are times that she is circle-talking,” he says.
“But it doesn’t matter if it’s real or not,” I say.
“The point is that it makes me feel better.”
I’m starting to even doubt the things I turn to to get me out of doubt.
On Tuesday Nick let me know, in one distracted phone call, that an exterminator would be setting traps in our apartment. March is end-of-quarter. An extremely busy month in my industry. There are no moments to read Huffington Post, or answer personal emails, or even to take lunch breaks during the crazy sales frenzy. But I was managing the Craigslist thing, while texting or emailing the responses-en francais- to Nick. I was a little worse-for-wear having indulged in too much wine and too little sleep.
“Why do we need an exterminator?”
“There are mice upstairs.”
“I don’t know, around the house I guess.”
“Where are they setting the traps? What about the cats?!”
My anxiety started to rise. Since I am trying to be impeccable with my word, I won’t describe my feelings about my landlord. In the past, he has come into our house and left a trail of insulation and rat poison packets all over the floor with our cats indoors. Somewhere within visions of my poisoned cats, and the idea of mice hotels, Nick kicked it up a notch while I was haphazardly processing a PO and typing an email simultaneously. The landlord would also be showing the apartment to “the lady upstairs.”
Visions of my unmade bed, dirty underwear, and tax papers askew ran through my head. The thought of the “lady” upstairs peering into my book titles and nail-polish colours bothered me. I do not have impeccable thoughts about her either. Nick and I have forged a bit of a friendship with her three kids, but the truth is, I didn’t necessarily ever want their mother in my home.
My anxiousness started to double over on itself and my interactions with people got terser and worser. Incidents occurred and I had to get to the gym to do my penance for missing Sunday. The entire time I wondered if I would either die of anxiety or burst into tears. I felt broken by the time I got home. Exhausted from the high RPM of the day, only to notice that someone had taken all the stuff out of my closet (clothing, shoes, my fan for summer) and moved it onto my bed.
clothes on bed make Elisabeth go CRAZY.
Enter my shadow.
In a moment of rage, and imagining my ______ landlord going through my stuff; I write an accusatory asking him to “provide an explanation on why he’s going through my stuff.” I CC Nick to keep myself from saying anything threatening or “Ministry-of-Corrections-worthy.” In the subject line I write: Please Explain.
Nick writes back to let me know it was the exterminator, who had to put traps in remote locations like my closet. It all made sense. In my fit of anxiety, I had been ready to take down anyone. I was vibrating with fight. As I began to feel less violated, I realized that I would have to apologize to my landlord. And I did, even though I don’t really like him.
By Wednesday, I felt a little embarrassed and exposed by the appearance of my shadow the night before. I sheepishly extracted more information from my boss about my move. It’s all on track but somehow doesn’t feel like it. I had no idea how to lighten up. Then I tried to call in and get my new access card to my new ING account going only to be told that I need signatures by a professional, like a lawyer or doctor, to get access to my money.
Bad credit strikes again. My shadow came back for another round of unbridled fear and anger as I my face ran hot. They weren’t letting me have access to my own money! I felt humiliated and angry, and definitely was not impeccable with my word.
In retaliation, I tried to buy my ticket out west, something that I knew would feel good. A definite move. But because I’ll be taking Phyllis with me, I had to call in to book the ticket instead of doing it online. I was on hold for 20 minutes with Air Canada before I hung up. There were cancellations because of storms across Canada. I wouldn’t get through anytime soon.
When I get home from the gym, Nick had made me a fabulous green-bean, feta, walnut salad and noodle casserole. I love coming home to dinner, and Nick. Everything felt ok for a moment until I realized that Phyllis has an eye infection.
I told my friend the other day that I was tired of writing posts about my anxiety. BOR-ING. I want to write savvy posts about new things I’m doing, or trying, or about how I’m so zen about moving across the country. I want to be evolved and cool, like Gloria Steinem, who is an idol of mine, and is on my mind because it happened to be her birthday yesterday. I want to be relevant, and contribute. Potent. Abundant. Interconnected. Magnificent. Bright.
Sigh. I’m just not there yet. Instead I pace around the house listening to lectures on Youtube. I try to get right with the sharp, intensity of emotion that I feel as I stress-eat rye crackers with brewers yeast and olive oil on top. It’s good- I swear. I haven’t been as impeccable with my word as I hoped I could be nor have I rocked any goal or project or way of being. This “changing your life” thing is uncomfortable and I’d hoped I’d be better at it. Yesterday Phyllis’s eye looked better and Nick told me that we might have someone to take our place, but I’m still on edge.
All I got right now is hope. Hope that the apartment thing will work out, that Phyllis is ok, that moving will work out, that winter will eventually go away. Just need to keep reminding myself:
I want to have A Life. Not an easy-peasy life, but a challenging, rewarding, crazy, unexpected, joyful, interesting life.
Despite it all, that’s exactly what I’ve got.