Tag Archives: my navel is awesome

The Space I’m In

We were asked to think about our writing practice in class the other day; what materials we use, what space we inhabit, and to think, too, about how to best use the spaces that are our most productive. I am used to obsessing about time but haven’t given much thought to space, until now.

Using this laptop on this table is sometimes productive. I am in our dining area, which rubs up against both our living area and our kitchen area. If no one is in either of those areas shouldered against mine, I can write quite well. The hum and thrash of the dishwasher in the kitchen is a nice, white noise. The clutter around me — the bulletin board covered in layers of KidArt, Kitchen Island and its permanent inhabitants, Pen Caddies One and Two, Catch-All Basket, Fruit Bowl, Giftcard Tin, Tissue Box — doesn’t affect me or stop me writing. I can create in disorder, even chaos, but not if there are other people around who might need something from me. Those people are all upstairs right now, getting ready for bed, so I can be here, doing this.

Plain table

Plain table

My other space for writing is my bedroom, where I excavated a corner a few years ago, and put my desk and chair. This year when I learned I’d be doing the writer’s studio, I cleaned up the desk and sorted out my drawers and got a sweet little lamp with a metal pull-chain to turn it on and off. That space is one of the best spaces for going deep and getting dirty. It’s very quiet upstairs, even though there is no door to our bedroom. The sound stops at the second floor, somehow. Physics, probably.

I have always wanted a light with a chain to pull

I have always wanted a light with a chain to pull


I write upstairs in the mornings, because it’s close to my bed, and because the quiet and privacy suits the stream of semi-consciousness that comes out at 5:30 am. When I get going it’s hard to stop, but the shower and my breakfast and the bus and work wait for me, so I have to stop.

I realized when I stopped to think about it that I rarely take the laptop upstairs to write. I prefer paper up there, maybe because I know there’s no one to look over my shoulder while I scribble. Privacy is not a real concern, as my family respects mine, generally. The kids are more interested in what I’m doing on the screen than what I’m writing on a page. The screen is all.

The problem of the laptop is not its surroundings or even its content and distractions. Those can be turned off. It’s that it’s too easy, on this machine, to type words that are pretty and admire them for that, without them having to do anything. On paper, the words are only as pretty as my handwriting. (My handwriting is not pretty.) They have to add up to something. On the screen, they can be moved around and manipulated, but pen on paper is etched. It’s in there, even when you scribble it out.

Handwritten words work harder. Point.
I have never written a blog post by hand. Counterpoint.

I write by hand on the Skytrain, too, most mornings when I get a spot to lean on so I can use my hands. Some mornings I don’t get that spot and I stand and look out the window. Some (rare) mornings I get to sit down and then I usually close my eyes and sleep/meditate. Sleepitate.

I could try writing on my phone on the Skytrain, or taking the laptop upstairs or spreading out papers and notebooks on this table. Thinking about doing those things makes me uneasy, like watching people drive on the wrong side of the road. Possibly this means I am too comfortable in my spaces and I need to shake things up.

Gonna keep sipping my ginger beer and ponder that one.

Love and Affection

Yesterday I was walking to the library after leaving Arlo at his soccer class and I passed two young teenagers, a boy and a girl, lanky and floppy, parting ways for the evening. It was possibly a first or second date, at that age and stage where “date” means “yanno, hanging out” and as the girl veered off towards her house (I presume), a goofy grin on her face, the boy said, “So thanks for, like, walking around with me or whatever…” and the girl said, “yeah, it was fun..” and they both trailed off like that, blushing, and it captured me entirely. Nostalgia and relief mingled in me; relief to not be *that* awkward, at least. But also a bit of sadness that there’s nowhere to go but down. I’ll never feel that first simple flush of boy/girl crush again. There will never be another first time.

Oh that reminds me.

And then this morning, there was a boy at the bus stop with me and when he got on the bus he found friends at the back, and when they got off, he and a girl were holding hands and that made me smile too because of course, teenagers meet up with each other on the bus before band practice. They can’t live with each other. It was comforting, that things are the same as they ever were, while still being very very different.

I have a new co-worker, who is twenty-two but delightfully old for his age; he sings Cher and Journey in the office with me, complains that his iPhone 4 is so old it doesn’t even have wifi. I love him, because he reminds me of me.

I love all the things that remind me of me. Don’t you? Love the things that remind you of you, I mean. Not me. I mean, you can love me if you want. But love yourself more.

I checked back in with the Internet this week and there was Outrage and Scandal and much disgusted staring at people who disgust us, their names start with D, all 19 of them, and I remembered reading once in one of my hippie books something like “Whatever you give your attention to will grow.” Do we want people who are famous for having children to be more famous? Do we want them to grow? No. Stop looking at them. What if we could all look away. Look at something else. Take the spotlight off the undeserving and look at the melting ice caps. And not the Tim Hortons kind, either.

Here are some rabbit-faced jalapenos as a palate-cleanser:

IMG_20150518_160712590

The other night I was on a coffee shop patio and a woman sat down with her small dog on her lap. She fed the dog some muffin, and tilted some water into its mouth and then she took a series of photos of herself and the dog with her cell phone. At first I was scornful but then thought better of it. Have a date with your dog. You love your dog, your dog loves you. If I had a dog I loved that fit on my lap, I would take selfies with that dog and probably post them on twitter. I take pictures on my cell phone with my children. I take pictures on my phone just of me. Just to see what I look like because sometimes mirrors can’t be trusted.

IMG_20150518_184303457

In the office we were talking about animals and a co-worker related a story about her neighbour who took home a baby raccoon whose mother was hit by a car. The neighbour’s cat adopted the baby raccoon and the raccoon grew up thinking the tabby was its mother. One day the raccoon moved out and the cat was deeply saddened, lying around mournfully for weeks.

I wonder what would happen if a cat and a raccoon stood next to each other in front of a mirror. To each, the other looks normal and relatable; small-ish and fuzzy. They have no idea they bear only a passing resemblence to each other. They have in common that they want to be friends and co-habitate and snuggle and eat cat food.

lolraccoon

This week I’m practicing wilful acceptance of all the people I encounter. So, if you see someone aggressively accepting you on public transit, even while you quietly fart and scroll through news stories on your phone, it might be me.

2014-05-03-194316

Bee Firmly Fixed in Bonnet

It started out OK, this day, but the list of things — stupid things — that were irritating me just collected and collected like a layer of dust until it was impossible to see the road ahead of me, so dusty was my windshield.

How Dusty My Windshield: Collected Stories.

A list, in no particular order, of the stupid things that somehow were impossibly irritating today:

— The smell of flatulence in a certain area of the office and before you suggest it was me, it wasn’t. I even, at one point, considered that I MIGHT be farting, that maybe my sphincter is LOOSE and farts are escaping my person without me noticing? And then I thought no, that is ridiculous, you would also then be pooping in your own shoes, surely, it is merely that someone in this office, or possibly everyone, needs to eat less junk food and get outside for a walk.

— This dude on the skytrain this morning had a baseball cap that said something stupid. I know. I don’t even remember what it was but it pissed me off.

— Whenever I take an escalator I think about a tweet I saw once; this person said “one thing that really bugs me is when people stand rather than walk on an escalator.” Now I do not give a shit what you do on the escalator as long as you keep right if you’re standing and walk left if you’re walking. But what the hell is wrong with standing on an escalator? It’s a MOVING STAIRCASE. If you want to WALK, take the STAIRS. I think about this tweet almost every time I take an escalator. I imagine that people who walk on the escalator are judging me, and then I get mad about them judging me.

Guess what, they are not judging me. Also can we take a real minute to appreciate my hypocricy, in taking someone’s stupid annoyed statement and making my own annoyed statement about how annoying it is.

Thanks.

— Also transit related: when people line up for the bus and then slowly shift forward in the line, even though the bus has not yet arrived. Holy shit. I am about to start swinging a baseball bat at the bus stop, people. If the bus is not at the stop, you don’t need to keep moving. Just stay put. Why are you moving? Do you think moving will make the bus come sooner? It will not come sooner. It’s the same as people in cars who are at stop lights and they can SEE that the cross-light is nowhere near ready to change but they still inch up, up, up, until their dumb car noses are in the intersection and for what? Two seconds of lead time? You don’t even GET that lead time in the bus line up because you get on right after the person in front of you and right before the person behind you. So I stand still. The person in front of me can inch, I will not inch. Today the person behind me was nearly licking my earlobes, so close to me was she, because when the person in front of me moved up an inch, the person behind me did too. I WILL NOT MOVE.

— The lady in front of me in the bus line up was wearing tights of the panty-hose variety, not the footless tights that are like exercise pants variety, and I could see the dimples in her butt cheeks and I did not want to see that.

— There was this kid on the bus who wanted to hold a bouquet of dandelions and his mom said no, your hands are too dirty and he was whining like whoa about this so I had to put on my headphones. YOUR HANDS ARE TOO DIRTY TO HOLD DANDELIONS THE MOST PRISTINE FLOWER IN ALL THE LAND AND ALSO RARE, WHAT? Sorry little dude, I feel you, but your voice is like a knife on a wine glass.

— This stupid computer program at work that makes me do extra clicking and is full of bugs and no one cares. It’s like an addled co-worker that you have to check up on all the time, to make sure it’s not breaking or losing things. Which is pretty much the OPPOSITE of a good computer program, can I just say.

— My music player was on shuffle and it kept playing PJ Harvey and the Pixies, as though it knew I needed to be pushed into a dark, cranky space and then forced to explode my way out. So I turned it off.

I left the headphones on, though, because of the dandelion kid & etc.

Yeah I think that about covers it.

If you have any irrational irritations feel free to share. No irritation too small, that’s my motto. Even the tiniest chafe can make a blister. Etc.

Treats!

In the eternal battle of Sugar Vs. Salt I come down on the salty side every time. Give me chips, mixed nuts, crackers coated with mysterious “seasoning,” popcorn. Put salt on my dark chocolate. Make it so.

There are two historical exceptions to my preferences. The first is after a nap. I rarely nap, for various reasons, but when I do, I wake up craving sugar. This is probably because I am thirsty. I read somewhere that when you’re dehydrated, you crave sugar. Instead of a cookie, have a glass of water. OK.

Because I don’t have a problem overindulging in sugar, as in, I will not eat a whole box of cookies in one sitting, I don’t worry about the cookie. I just eat the cookie. And then I need some water (not milk, nope) to wash it down and lo and behold I feel better.

The other exception was during both of my pregnancies. More so the first, I think, although I’d have to search my own blog archives and not right now, thanks. I wanted sugar when pregnant, I thought, because I had given up alcohol and alcohol is made of sugar. Also, alcohol gives you a little buzz and so does sugar. Also pregnant people are prone to dehydration.

Everyone! Go drink some water right now!

I have a third exception now. The third exception is that at work, I want sugar. It can be a reward for boring work (one gummy bear after each successful file transfer!), a way to spike up the general energy level of the day, something for my tongue to work on while I’m data entering or waiting for my computer to reboot for the fourteenth time. Today when I discovered there was no chocolate in my desk I was appalled. I ate the sour gummies, but where I would once have had one sour gummy and then moved on, I found my left hand reaching for the package as my right hand moved the mouse around, like ‘oh just totally working here, not thinking about candy at all’, and then I ate a second, a third, then a fourth. I was..consuming candy like someone who had a PROBLEM with candy.

It doesn’t help that there is a 7-11 downstairs and around the corner from the office and you can get a little container of assorted used-to-be-penny-candy-now-costs-two-dollars for two dollars. Those marshmallow strawberries! Cola bottles! SOUR SOOTHERS.

You would think that the portion of my life being a stay-at-home-parent to small children who love candy would have been the portion of my life during which I had to suddenly discipline my candy intake but no. I have made it through several Halloween/Christmas/Valentine/Easter cycles without giving a good goddamn about all the candy in the house. It is the artificial environment of the modern office, combined with the proximity of the junk food, combined with the endorphin-less work I am doing (sometimes I find a file I’ve been looking for for a long time and I get a jolt of excitement that makes me mistrust my own integrity) that makes us all want something sweet. It’s not just me. I saw my co-worker’s drawer today and it was practically a corner store.

It doesn’t take long for the brain to associate the rush of sugar with a reward. About half a doughnut. We reward ourselves and each other with sugar all the time. Office people bring doughnuts to work and share them around. I’ve done it. We bake for each other. We share our chocolate. We never offer around celery. We’re all trying to say — to each other, to ourselves — ‘you’re doing great, considering the circumstances. For someone whose gifts are nearly totally unused 7.5 hours a day, you’re making do remarkably well. Because no one ever praises another human for making-do, accept this Twizzler as a token of my appreciation. Then you will feel a little jolt of happiness and you will like me, and this job, and making-do, that much more. It’s not that bad, you will say. Sometimes it even feels good. That’s not the making-do! That’s the Twizzler! You could do a job that made you feel good just by you having done it, and then you wouldn’t need the Twizzler. But this is not that job.’

That makes the workplace sound more depressing and hopeless than I intend. It really is a good place, for what it is. And for what it isn’t, there’s compensation. And with compensation I can buy more SOUR SOOTHERS.

Plus, the water is free.
(We should all drink more water)

Happy Last Day!

Back in March, Canadian Finance Minister Jim Flaherty quit his job. It was biggish news. I saw it on twitter and I saw this photo with the tweet and I said to myself, That is a happy man. That is a happy man who just quit his job and dammit, I want to have that happy face too.

After I saw the photo I declared my last planned day of work — October 10th, 2014 — to be Flaherty Day and wrote it in my work day-planner, taking great pleasure in the secret of it.

A month later he died, which saddened me, not because I knew JF at all but because people should get to enjoy their retirements. I don’t want to call today Flaherty Day anymore, as it seems somehow disrespectful.

And, as it turned out, my last day of work was back in July and I have been slacking and/or parenting since then, but this week and its significance is still on my mind.

This week last year I went back to work for the first time since Eli was born. I was excited and nervous, in a healthy way. I had found a job that was half time — five work days for every ten week days — and I had sorted out child care and it was time!

Time to “…put a foot back in the door to see how I could edge the rest of my body through.”

(I’m quoting from a document of roughly eighteen pages that I’ve been adding to since last November. The document is entitled “I Call It Progress: An Account of One Year in A Horrible Job.” [That’s a working title.] <--That's a terrible pun. As you were.) I started work and it was okay for a few weeks. Then, the woman whose job it was to train me to do her job started training me. She had issues. The issues were nothing I could do anything about, but I am a FIXER and a PLEASER and I tried to fix and please for a long time before I realized, sometime in February, that it was never going to happen. We didn't click. She tried to train me and I couldn't learn from her. So I sucked at the job, and our boss took sides against me because, fair enough, I was new. No one could understand why I was so unable to do the job and I couldn't find a way to explain myself that wouldn't start an office war. How do you walk in to an office where someone has run the show for six years, including training lots of temps (first clue), and say, "you're bad at teaching people things and also very grumpy and disrespectful." I couldn't and didn't. That's where we started. It got worse from there. *waves eighteen typed pages* Oh but those are just details, things I wrote down because I knew once it was over I'd forget how awful it had been and try to excuse everyone at my own expense. The important part of the story is that I eventually got better at the job and also stronger and better at being a human being. Having never worked in such an emotionally poisonous environment, I tried to make it better and when that failed, I at least wanted to enjoy my days off, not spend them fretting about work. So I exercised more. I wrote in my journal more. I drank more alcohol. I bought more things because if the job is so bad, but the money is good, use the money! (Spoiler alert: it doesn't really work.) I read books like "One Minute Meditations to Calm Your Anxious Mind." I chanted mantras as I drove to work. I ate Rescue Remedy lozenges. I engaged in magical thinking around the songs I heard on the radio on the way to work. I tried to focus on the things I brought to the job, like pleasantries and positive energy, despite it all. I celebrated my persistence. I celebrated my professionalism; that I did not complain or gossip at work, that I continued to GO to work every week and bring my best game, that I saved my bitterness and misery for after hours. By breathing deeply and reminding myself that eventually I would leave, that other peoples' perceptions of me did not change who I was, that though I never received any positive feedback, the (eventual) absence of NEGATIVE feedback probably meant I was doing better, I eventually got to a place where I did not have panic attacks at my desk when I had to approach my unpleasant co-worker for the answer to a question. It never got fun. But I could eventually draw a clear line in my head between my issues and hers, and stay on my own side. It was June when I decided I would not stay on past my term ending in October, even if they asked me to, which was doubtful but you never know. A few days later, I was called in for a meeting and laid off because of financial constraints. That last month of work contained the most splendid of all the days. There was cake. There were other co-workers saying nice things to me and offering references. There was an absence of unpleasant co-worker, because she'd had a death in the family near the end of the month. Having come through it and feeling competent, finally, days before I left the job forever brought home to me that I deserve more, and better, and more better. We all do. Why do a job that suffocates you when you walk in the door?

So Happy Last Day to you all. I hope, if you are suffering in a terrible job/situation, that you can find your way out, or find something to redeem the experience, or some way to hang on until it ends. Let the happy face of Jim Flaherty — may he rest in peace — guide you towards finding that happy place for yourself.

Be happy! Like these happy people whose colons are also happy!

Be happy! Like these happy people whose colons are also happy!

On Staying in Your Lane

I have a car commute to work and back; about 25 minutes to get there and 35 minutes to get back in the afternoon, give or take fifteen minutes of local hijinkery on the home side. Like all semi-regular commuters, I know the ins and outs; when to get in the left lane to avoid having to merge at the last minute, when to get into the right to avoid those pesky left-hand-turners who hold up traffic. (Is there anything better than knowing a route so well you can navigate it like you’re playing a video game, shaving two whole minutes off your travel time? THERE IS SOMETIMES NOTHING BETTER THAN THIS.)

I go against rush hour traffic, which, next to the benefits and pay, is the best thing about my job. It puts a solid check in the PLUS column when you are always seeing people lined up, not moving, going the other way, and you’re doing 100 km in a 60 zone*. It’s a pathetic sort of winning, but it’s winning.

*It totally does not need to be a 60 zone.

Last Friday I was driving along, in the left lane because it was left-lane-time, a number of cars around me. Suddenly, a Jetta in the right lane went sweeervvve into my lane, in front of me. Not just a “whoops forgot to signal” move but a “I don’t even see other drivers because I am THE BEST!” move. I nearly hit it. I made a face at that Jetta and said,”You are VERY LUCKY I did not hit you.” I scolded it with my face.

At the next light, the guy driving the Jetta looked in his sideview mirror at me. He was kind of smirking or maybe smiling in an apologetic way. Hard to tell. I decided I would not give him the pleasure of my anger.

So, instead of following too close, glaring at him, and wishing him ill, I gave him lots of space and smiled.

I’ve been practising doing this, smiling at people when I want to kill them.

And not the sharky, I-will-eat-you smile, either. A real smile.

It works. Or, it worked in this situation. Maybe because it was Friday and I am very relaxed about work now that I don’t have to care any more, or because the sun was out and my parents had the kids so I didn’t have to worry. Maybe it worked because I was in a good space, or maybe it worked because I gave myself the space and then put myself in it, refusing to get into that guy’s space and be manipulated by his bad behaviour.

I stayed in my own lane.

Eventually he was gone, and I went back to my sweating and singing along to the radio.

This may seem obvious to some of you, but it is a reminder — much needed, repeatedly — that not everyone thinks the way I do, that I can only control my own reactions and behaviour, that I am only responsible for getting me from point a) to point b), and that I can do that by staying. in. my. mother.effing.lane.

Don’t swerve around and get up in peoples’ grills. Don’t shake your fist at them at the stoplight. Don’t waste time wondering why they are doing that cockamamie thing, because it’s none of your business. It works for the road, the Internet, conversations with strangers and acquaintances. It works for swimming laps! Stay in your lane.

Next to “I may not be a great CMA* but I’m a kickass human being,” “Stay in your lane” may be the best simple motto I’ve come up with in 2014.

Months to go yet, though. Months to go.

*that’s my job title

HOW IS SUMMER WRITING CLUB GOING?

Here, in my lane, I am sticking to my fifteen minutes a day, which I’d been doing after dinner anyway so the kids being all up in my face, all over this place all day doesn’t change my schedule any. I would like to add a bit more time during the day and it seems likely that we will implement Summer Quiet Time (no stickers. Just do it.) in the afternoons. The children can and will read quietly and independently and I think fifteen minutes is not too much to ask.

Those of you who requested stickers, your stickers are in the mail.

Flux

Have I written this post before? Probably. If you’ve read it before, go look at the calming manatee. Come back tomorrow.

Maybe I’ll put that disclaimer everywhere.

Things are afoot. Arlo is turning 8. I am stopping working earlier than planned, on July 11th. Saint Aardvark is switching to a new job, around July 11th. School might already be out for summer, or it might not, because of ongoing strife between our government and our teachers.

Arlo hopes it is not; Eli hopes it is. I am hoping it is not because I wouldn’t mind a day off before September.

I signed up to participate in a study that trains women between 18-60 to run half marathons and does a biomechanical analysis of them before and after the training. I bought two pairs of running shoes. First, I bought two pairs of running shoes for $180 and then I went across the road and found a running shoe sale and bought two pairs of running shoes for $80 and took the other ones back across the road for a full refund.

I’ve decided I will not work full time at a government job. I need a career I believe in and want to do. I plan to use my unexpected two months of not-working to figure out what kind of work I ought to do. I still write every day. I plan to keep doing this.

I planted things this year and they are sort of growing. The lavender plant has one flower. My neighbour’s lavender plant has many flowers. The spinach is wee, but the bean plants are hardy. The rosebush had eight flowers. Spinach is supposed to be easy and roses are supposed to be hard and I exert the same amount of effort for everything.

Tomorrow I am getting a root canal.

My digestive system is behaving like a tornado during an apocalypse. (This is unrelated to the root canal. I’ve had one before, it was fine.)

Arlo has recently discovered bicycles and how great they are. He had no interest, only wanted to scooter, then my parents gave him a big bike two weeks ago and now he’s bike-mad. Driving home from their house today he said “I’m going to count all the bikes on the road!” There weren’t any. He was very disappointed.

I read a book of essays called The Empathy Exams and I can’t recommend it enough. The title essay is here and I Loved It So Much I looked the book up at the library, then placed a hold on it (the book had been ordered but was not yet at the library) and then rabidly ran up to get and read it and then renewed it and was a mixture of happy and sad feelings when it turned out I *could* renew it because no one else had requested it. People should request it.

Today was Father’s Day and holidays like this on social media make me tired. So much congratulating, so many people who are sad, so many hurt feelings vibrating through the world like soundwaves. Happy X Day becomes Happy X Day to those who celebrate and to those who don’t, you are loved, and to those who have only XY please know we consider you and to those with Y instead of X we acknowledge you and

Can we just say, whenever we feel like it: dear world full of people, you are doing great things? Yes. We can. Dear world full of people, I appreciate you and your feet that walk every day even when they are tired. I appreciate the brains of people who invent things and those that market those invented things. I love the hearts of the compassionate and the hearts of the bereft. Group hug, world. Goodnight, world.

Happy New Year My Pretties

I’m not sure if you noticed but it’s 2014 now. We’re three days in. The other day Arlo told me his favourite numbers are seventeen and twenty-two. Eli likes twenty-three and …I forget the other. I like nines and seventeens myself. Not fond of the number 4. That this year ends with a four and that it is also my fourtiesthhh birthday in a month makes me kind of cringe but then I was born in a year that ends with four so what the hell is my problem. At some point you have to make peace with the number you hate. #sobernod

There are a lot of lessons all around me, all the time. For seven years I was a mother (um, I still am) and that was full of lessons. Now I am a part-time worker in an environment that is challenging and if I tell you that it’s full of lessons imagine a small car crammed so full of balloons you can’t even drive and you just sit and laugh and laugh until the force of your laughter causes some of the balloons to pop and then you pull out of your parking spot and drive away. Every time I go to work I am challenged in some other part of my brain and personality. Mostly it is not challenging in an intellectual way any more; I have started to grasp the wheres and hows of the work.

Well kind of. It is the government, which means nothing is what it seems and information is either from 2001 or hidden down rabbit holes that you can’t access from your computer because that website is forbidden.

But now I am dealing with the emotional or interpersonal challenges, such as the person I work with who is just really the opposite of me entirely, for which I can neither fault her nor embrace her. The lessons I’m learning are of this nature: you can’t change peoples’ minds about you, when you smile larger you look friendlier, be yourself no matter what they say, let it go, let it go, let it go. I have always had trouble letting things go, not all things but the things that bother me. Of course. Holding on to things is how we remember them and how we remember is how we know who we are. I guess. But holding on to things that are hurtful or mystifying or debilitating causes me stress. Going over and over and over things in my head only makes me feel more hamster-like, and that makes me not sleep, not want to go to work, not want to do anything but tear tissues to shreds and panic. And it makes me grumpy. And when I’m grumpy and stressed I can’t learn because my brain shuts off the part of it that learns, and then I make more mistakes which incurs the correction of the person I work with which makes me feel worse and then I keep replaying how I could have done it differently and look how long this sentence is YOU GUYS I am the poster-girl for letting go.

You know how people choose words for the year and then try to – I don’t know – focus? on the words or make themselves work around the words, well I’ve never really been able to do that (don’t fact-check me, I didn’t go looking and it wouldn’t entirely surprise me if I did in fact try to choose a word one year and then abandon it) because one word for a whole year feels kind of impossible. Yes, the newness of January makes it easy to focus on the word but what about when the norovirus hits and your family is out for three weeks and you don’t even remember what it is to have clean armpits, what of your word then? FORGOTTEN. Unless your word is forget.

Over the Christmas holidays I found myself tied up in knots about things and it occurred to me that my word, or guiding principle if you prefer, might need to be RELEASE. In part because LET GO is two words unless you write it LETGO which is good but kind of urgent and reminiscent of LEGO, whereas RELEASE has two meanings; verb and noun, and it just sounds nice. RELEASE. When I say it to myself I unclench my fists, I stretch out my jaw, I smile widely no matter how silly I look, I cast my mind to other places. I send the hamster wheel of ridiculous analysis off spinning into space where it can wheel and spin forever for all I care, and I think about something else instead. Like how much I like the sound of RELEASE. A new lease. Freedom from the perception that anything I do can make a difference to how another individual perceives me. I AM ME. And that is all.

Nine Secrets

1. Sometimes, at work, when I’m befuddled and feel quite moronic, I think about the nice things people said to me — not just nice, but totally over-the-top supportive and kind — when I despair-posted the other week and then I smile to myself and soldier on. I never said thank you to those people, so thank you. Your sweetness lives on in my brain heart place.

2. I channelled the real Santa and bought Arlo a ridiculous Nerf gun for Christmas. Because nothing says Christmas like a gun made to kill zombies. If foam darts could kill zombies we wouldn’t even be having this conversation, would we.

3. I was having a direct message conversation with my fabulous father-in-law the other day. We were talking about squirrels and their natural predators and he wrote, “It’s a tough world when you taste good & aren’t too bright” and I just keep seeing it at the top of my DMs in twitter and every time I see it I laugh and wonder if I could tattoo that somewhere on my person or if I should just put it on the blog and have it live forever here instead of on my skin, where it would take up rather a lot of space.

Well, now that’s done.

4. I walked into a pointy part of our banister last week and I have had a black eye for a whole week and I am really tired of people making domestic abuse jokes. I’m still participating in the conversations with people, because I know what kind of conversation they’re expecting to have and I’m too tired to crusade but I’m thinking percentage-wise at least one person who has been present for one of the many “oh did you REALLY walk into a banister?” conversations I’ve had this past week has actually been abused by a partner and that just makes me sad.

5. The other day I cried walking home from taking the kids to school because this woman was taking her grade-one-aged daughter to school and they were very late and the girl didn’t want to go and the mom was dragging her up the hill and there was crying and yelling and the daughter dropped to the snow and wouldn’t get up and I just couldn’t take it. Sometimes I just can’t take it.

6. All the clear, cold, snowy weather we were having made me a bit panicky. As Eli put it two days ago, “I wish all this snowing would just stop.” (he was cold)(I’m just a creature of habit who needs rain to survive, apparently.)(Don’t get me wrong, if I could pick what kind of weather I’d prefer to have for thirty days straight I would pick sunshine and cold over dark and rainy, but I’m USED to dark and rainy and we fears change we does.)

7. If I had to work more than two or three days a week I would be typing this from the psychiatric ward. Picking a part time job was the smartest thing I ever did.

8. It’s exactly two months until my fortieth birthday!

9. I don’t have a ninth thing but I can’t leave it at eight because I detest the number eight and the number nine is automatically more powerful.

Here is a photo to compensate.(?)

Eli, practising for his first Facebook profile picture, which will be taken at his first Kings of Leon show.

Eli, practising for his first Facebook profile picture, which will be taken at his first Kings of Leon show.

Ninety-Nine — Failer

It’s exhausting to be bad at something.

Like, really bad. So bad someone corrects you every fifteen minutes. So bad you second guess every move because you want to avoid being corrected but your second guessing turns to third guessing and then you never make the right call and end up being corrected anyway.

Friday I asked the woman at work who is training me if I had done something correctly, bracing myself for the “No you forgot X Y AND Z, AGAIN,” but instead she nodded and said, “yup,” and it was such a relief. I have been realizing that in general I am quite accustomed to being right, correct, and good at things. And this job where I am not right, correct, or good at things is taking its toll on me.

I am tough and have a lifetime of being right, correct, and good at things standing behind me to back me up. I can give myself bathroom and driving-to-work pep-talks, but the glow from them only lasts fifteen minutes at best because, well, I am bad at my job.

Can I remember the last time I failed? Let’s see. We don’t count stories rejected, because that’s part of the writer’s life. We don’t count parenthood because we can’t really know until, well ever. There are blog posts — many of them — without comments. That counts for failure in my world.

I can forgive myself all minor failures because in the greater world I feel like a success. And this is a gift; from my heritage to me. From me as a middle-class white girl whose parents stayed together and didn’t do drugs, to me.

Coincidentally — serendipitously? — at work I move around the files of people who have not had these gifts given to them. They were set up for failure from conception. Then, when they failed, they were berated. Their lives stacked failure upon failure like Lego bricks. Over time they have come to believe they are incompetent, incapable of anything but robbing a gas station, beating a girlfriend. Offered a chance to do something hard, to make something of themselves, with the backdrop of failure behind them, they take it, fail, do it again. Whereas I, coming from a place of reward and love, luxury and privilege, balk and tire at the first signs of difficulty. My eyes are tired. I complain. I’m so tired of being bad at this job.

I could quit. All the stress would vanish. We could go back to our old budget, our old lives. I could choose that path. I could have five luxurious days off a week again.

But I won’t.

I am lucky to be here, lucky to be me. I have a job, when many do not. I have a brain, as rusty as it is. I have supportive family, understanding kids, a car that runs.

Having been built up my whole life, I can afford to fail.

It is as important to be resilient as it is to be competent. It is good for me to fuck up, day after day, to have someone following me around checking up on me, telling me where I went wrong. It shows me how my kids must feel, sometimes. It will help me be a better parent, a better person, more forgiving and patient.

Oh it sucks. It sucks so hard to be 39 and 3/4s and be incompetent at something. Truly, panic-inducingly incompetent.

But after weekend one (the one with the kids) and weekend two (the two days where I am blessedly alone), I will start to feel like I might be ready to give it another try. I will be ready to walk into work again, strong and tall, with my many competencies to help keep me upright as I am slammed by waves of “you did this wrong” and “you put this thing here instead of there” and “don’t you remember? the ponies go in the UPPER mail slot.”

(Really. Ponies. Who knew.)

Someday I’ll look back at this and laugh. Maybe even next week? Probably not. But someday.