What I’ve Been Up To: For My Future Self

Hello, Future Self.

It’s been a long time since I’ve written; months, in fact. Sometimes life (and a laptop with a missing charger) get in the way of writing and progress. And in those instances, one must patiently wait for updates, for self-indulgent blog posts that are germinating for months in the head of amateur writers.

It has been a long spring/summer. Within the last five months there have been: leg injuries, mouth surgeries, toothaches, camping trips in the rain, camping trips in the sun, successful half marathons, unsuccessful half marathon training, new albums from favourite artists, concerts from Canadian rock bands, snow, rain, spring runoff, forest fires, job fires, job hires, moves, pets, vets, packing, kids, adults… it’s been a loaded five months.

I am on the verge of change.

For the first time this summer, I am freelancing. For the first time, I am doing a run I shouldn’t be doing because of a lack of training and a lack of inhibitions. I am seeking alternative therapy for an injury that has prevented me from doing the best I can do at the best hope I have of achieving a natural high. I am moving to a house in the suburbs. I am quite drastically changing my vocation. Within the next three weeks, everything as I know it will be different. I am reading thirty books this year. I am running 42 km this year. Change is rising like the smoke-impacted sunrise.

But in those drastic changes, there are constants: a love of theatre. A drive to succeed at a full marathon, which I have never done before and will maybe never do again. A love of my life who is constantly influencing my desire to be a better, more active, more ambitious version of myself. A pet that I have had for a decade who I am moving into my seventh residence with. Family. Friends. An increasing love of what I do for a living. Desire. Dreams.

Have I been ignoring the insistent need for emotive musings on this brick wall of the internet on which I have severely decreased in writing my own graffiti? Yes. But with so many other goals, routines, dreams and ambitions being slowly realized in the last five months, a significant five months in my life – I will continue to strive to update, so that I know the part of me who started writing my way out of heartbreak, in public, on a blog, a decade ago, continues to show how far she has come from being an overweight, awkward, shy, jilted woman with no knowledge of real love she was in 2008.

So that’s wassup now.

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March Snow.

I see snow in March, the sugar dusting everything until everything is covered in white glittering sheen, and it serves as a reminder of that night ten years ago.

That night brings me back here.

When I haven’t been here in a very long time.

It was the least lonely night of my life then, but one of the lonelist nights of my life when I look back. And when I look back, I can’t believe that so much time has passed, and so much has happened.

But March, snow, cold nights, seeing my own breath, vintage t-shirts, the knowing that something magical would happen on one of the last snowfalls of the season. It was coming, just like the impending storm. And then it came, and love collected like drifts of thick white wet snow, the kind that you can make snowballs with and pack with your mitt-clad hands while it collects in cold icy pompoms on the knitted wool.

It was that night that changed everything. I wouldn’t have what I have, I wouldn’t have lost the people I’ve lost in life, or re-gained and re-discovered the people I do have, and I wouldn’t have the love that truly does light a fire in my eyes, if not for that night, without him, who has become an innately-woven thread in the tapestry of my life. I hate you, and I love you. And mostly, I’m indifferent about you, now. Which I never thought possible.

The lesson here is, March snow brings magic, but that magic will turn you back into a pumpkin, and then the  fairytale ends after midnight.

5 Thoughts I Have Had Re-Watching Seasons 1 & 2 of Game of Thrones

  1. I felt so badly for Theon when he was ‘Reek’ that I forgot what a completely idiotic treasonous dick he was.
  2. So many of the women in the first two seasons use their sexual prowess to get what they want, exact revenge and violence, and manipulate others.
  3. Wow there was a lot of sex and nudity in Seasons 1 and 2 — it seems the show has really toned this down. Is it still rated 18A?
  4. God, I hate Joffrey. I hate hate hate hate hate him. I hate him. I hate him so much. Not having him around anymore was almost worth having Ramsay be a thing. This show creates the most savage villains ever.
  5. How cute were Ygritte and Jon? The banter, her fun/playfulness/wit mixed with his brooding honorableness… adorbz. And on that note, remember when Jon Snow used to smile and laugh in Season 1?

Friendship and Forgiveness.

I am currently reading “His Whole Life” by Elizabeth Hay, a novel that pits childhood coming-of-age against itself in a fury of horrible difficulties and rosy memories, exactly what a truly good coming-of-age novel should do.

In the novel, Nan, the protagonist’s mother, has a few secret shames, one involving a former friend who abandoned her when she was 11 for another girl and the two began teasing and taunting her. It is a shame that Nan never lets go of in the novel, still referring to her former friend Janet as ‘the Jerk’, still thinking back to that time with immense difficulty, still leaving out moments in her memory of pining for Janet’s attention and fruitnless invites that were never attended. Of these shames, Hay as a writer is in Nan’s shoes, saying:

Forgiveness, she was thinking, was in some terrible, overeager way a lack of curiosity. It was a big powerful hose that washed everything away… As eager to reconcile as she had been in the schoolyard and in her first marriage too. Only to think now that she should not have been so hasty. Forgiveness was the premature end to the story. She had skipped to the last page instead of reading the book through.

It’s the oddest definition of ‘forgiveness’ I’ve ever read, particularly because the word is most often painted in an extremely brazenly positive light; the idea that we can’t move on unless we forgive, that forgiveness is mercy, mercy is Christian, that you forgive for your own self so that you can move forward in life without holding onto pain or grudges. The even odder thing about this definition is it is attached to a middle-aged woman’s feelings about a ‘friend’ who had abandoned her when was 11. Eleven. An age where immaturity is expected, an age so far into this character’s past that the question becomes not about forgiveness, but about the mark such a silly incident left upon this woman’s life at all.

It does, though.

The things that friends – the people we love the most and feel closest to – do, positively or negatively, can shape the outcomes of our lives one way or another. We often don’t see it this way because we abandon friends for boyfriends and they are the first people we let go of when life gets busy or we fall into a rut or we get married or have children. We look around in these moments of drastic change and see family, spouse, partner, and not a friend in sight.

I’m a teacher. And I look at kids I have taught in junior high and high school, and they are at an age where friendship means EVERYTHING to them. Their relationships are silly and without love for the most part, and last maybe a month or two. Their parents are the enemy suddenly, as if overnight some lightning struck a space in between parent and child. But that person they shared a locker with, that person they sit with in math class, who they ride the bus with, who they tried alcohol and cigarettes with for the first time, is their soulmate. Nothing and nobody else matters really, except an over-emotional attachment to their friends. This changes when life becomes more complicated.

As I write this, I think of the former friends who I am in what I like to call ‘mutual abandonment’ with. The people who betrayed me the way Nan was betrayed in the novel; the people who robbed me of certain shreds of my own self-respect. I don’t know or care what they’re up to. I’ve opted to pull myself out of a life of cyber-stalking and jeering because to open old wounds is like false forgiveness, and it will never propel you forward. I think of a future encounter with one of those people and wonder if or how I would bother approaching such difficulties, without regrets either for doing too much, too little, or not enough.

As it stands, forgiveness is a barrier that I cannot cross, and I am unsure if I want to. Because what friends do or don’t do, is a barrier in itself. It matters. It mattered. Betrayal is something that simply does not go away overnight – the ways you betrayed as well as the ways you have been betrayed by others. There is a glorification in life and literature of ‘bffs’ – the idea that you have the same friends forever and ever and those long-standing friendships mean more than new or surfaced friendships. In some ways maybe this is true. But if the nature of those friendships is steeped in constant secrets, constant needs to apologize, constant needs to ‘forgive’ falsely or otherwise, constant needs to bury facts and feel deeply the pains of moments where someone acted outside of how they should have acted – then those friendships are not worth having at all.

I wish them well before drawing them onto parchment and burning them with a two-ended candle and throwing the ashes onto the lawn.

Rest in Peace, Chester Bennington.

I haven’t written in a while, because a lack of work and an influx of relaxation spells a decrease in inspiration to write.

I just wanted to quickly touch base about Chester Bennington’s sudden death.

It breaks my heart that there are people out there who suffer so greatly, that they feel removing themselves from lives they’ve built is their only out from the terrible debilitating pain they feel every day. Successful people, perhaps in the eyes of the every-person, ‘should’ be happy – they have everything, right? Money, success, a chance to do what they love every day and be paid handsomely for it – but the reality of depression is that if you are not happy, you are not happy, and that is that.

I have not been truly ‘depressed’ and pretending I have been is an insult to people everywhere who suffer from actual depressiion. But I have some problems with the way I see myself and how I come across to others. I have a problem internalizing painful things that have happened in my life – so often, they’re road blocks I can’t let go of. I think about them every day. I miss the past. I can’t reclaim or do anything about the past except try my best to move forward from it and erase the ghosts that are there. I will openly admit to being dumped with a high five by the first person I was ever in love with, suffering abuse as a child, failing several times at career searches and being horrible with money – a very lethal combination that has consistently gotten me in trouble and caused stress, been sexually assaulted on a Tinder date just prior to meeting my extremely loving, wonderful boyfriend and being bullied in high school for my race, my weight, my clothes, my taste in music, and anything else you can imagine. All of these things have messed me up quite a bit. I don’t consider myself someone with a mental illness (again, doing so demeans and diminishes the experiences of those who actually live with mental illness). But I’ve been through stuff.

What gets you through difficult times is whatever you choose to get you through. The support of family and friends is number 1 but it is often not enough, especially if the people who will make you feel better are far away. What has gotten me through my own struggles, has always been music. Music and writing, together or separately. Evidently, I don’t always write. But music is my constant. It is to me, what religious faith is to others.

I find it saddening that someone like Bennington, 41, has chosen to end his life early, particularly because the messages in his songs (I am most familiar with Hybrid Theory) resonate so much with people of all ages, particularly young people, who may have contemplated ending theirs. As adults, we often laugh at the angsty music we listened to as kids – I’ve in the past, made fun of Hybrid Theory and albums like it because of their dated nu-metal sound and overwrought messages and lyrics. But as a teenager, those albums are your life. They demand repeated listens because you have an outlet for the emotions you feel so deeply but are barred from expressing because of this notion that it is uncool, un-invincible, to let out what you’re feeling and truly be who you are through open doors.

Chester Bennington is a figure in music that we always took for granted would be there, that people my age have fond memories of, and who has gotten many through their own troubled times and crushing blows and depression. His was the kind of music that helped people found light because of its darkness. While yes, some of what they have done was a bit cheesy and dated and dramatic, but teenagers need that kind of music. They always have, and they always will.

So rest peacefully, Chester Bennington. And know you, nor almost anyone else on this earth, are not, and never will be alone in the world.

My Summer To-Do List

Summer, ever since I became a teacher, gives me enormous freedom to do so many things that I want to do. It’s almost overwhelming. This summer my goals are surrounding a few things: experiences, running, and taking advantage of the sheer joy of extra guilt-free time. Here is my list (if they are in bold, it means I’ve already done them since drafting this list):

  1. Run a 10 km race
  2. Go camping for a weekend; prepare amazing food and prepare barbecue-worthy food to make whilst camping for a weekend
  3. Visit several breweries
  4. Continue strength training throughout June
  5. Go on a hike in Elk Island National Park; take advantage of the Discovery Pass as well as taking advantage of the fact that there is a day trip-distance-away national park near Edmonton
  6. Try 3-5 new restaurants in Edmonton; but not all at once
  7. Run two half-marathons (including the Rocky Mountain Soap Company marathon that I completed May 27)
  8. Visit friends, and wineries (I’m fortunate enough in my life that I can do both of these things at the same time)
  9. Read 10 books (bonus points for more than 10 books)
  10. Decorate my new classroom so it shines with educational fervor and some kind of permanence (shelves of books displayed cover-out, calendar with birthdays, posters, pictures, a lamp for ambience… I have big plans!)
  11. Write a short story
  12. Make something I’ve never made before

CBC’s Anne: A Fantastic Portrayal of 21st Century Young Women in the late 19th Century.

So many “strong female protagonists” are written, created, and adapted by men. While of course it is possible and certainly fantastic for men to work towards writing a strong female lead, the female leads written by and about women are truly special. Sometimes it just takes a woman to write a woman’s story. Hermione Granger is a good example of a heroine who has so many, if not all the faculties of a clever, strong female lead. Created by JK Rowling, we have someone who is lauded and celebrated for her intelligence and as the story of Harry Potter progresses, Hermione develops and hones skills of strength, deception, and fist-wielding of her male peers.

Anne of Green Gables was originally published in 1908 by Lucy Maud Montgomery. While I don’t know much about Montgomery, I know her upbringing was lonely and she relied on her imagination during times of solitude; I know that she was attractive and had many suitors in the Cavendish area and led a very romantic life, much like the beautiful and clever female characters in her books; I know that she suffered through bouts of depression which, like many people who live with depression, used her imagination and gift to make millions of people happy and wistful, and write about colourful, happy-go-lucky images, places, and people. What I don’t know about Lucy was what she believed to be important about women’s agency, whether she believed in women’s suffrage, whether she cared (or believed) her version of Anne was a “strong female lead.”

CBC has re-adapted Anne of Green Gables, entitled “Anne” in Canada and “Anne with an E” on American Netflix. The series is wonderful. Amybeth McNulty is a wonderful actress who brings agency, depth, pathos and vibrancy to an already classic and well-drawn character. The stories are adapted from the novel but bring a certain modern edge to the character; we get a glimpse of how/why she relies so fervently on her imagination and we get a glimpse of where she obtained her strong mindedness, temper and maturity.

What is very noticeable about the show though is how amazing it is at representing strong females.

There is a scene in Anne when the girls at the school are privately discussing their ‘womanly flowering time’ and Diana tells Anne that women should never talk about it because it’s a “shameful thing”. Anne, who was not brought up in so-called ‘propiety’ doesn’t understand why this is an issue.

Furthermore, there is a scene where Marilla insists the male hired hand, Jerry, accompany her on a journey into town and Anne insists going alone because she believes it to be a “heroic journey” that she must complete by herself. We the viewers know that Anne can, and will, accomplish this journey on her own; however, it is society that disallows this. Later, it is Jerry that becomes the ‘victim’ in the town adventure. And Anne must be the ‘rescuer’ of sorts.

In one episode, Anne refers to Diana’s spinster aunt as someone she looks up to; an idol or hero of sorts. While she debates leaving school due to bullying and her own personal troubles, she realizes after speaking with a priest that she wants to follow her own path; and sees herself in the future as so much more than someone who will be a wife and a homemaker.

In this new version of the story, Anne feels like the modern heroine and the rest of Avonlea society comes across as the ones who are backwards, hold onto old ideas, and place women in boxes. It is them who must adapt to Anne.

In addition to the beautiful and heroic qualities Anne possesses as a character, the show does a beautiful job at representing all women of all sizes and ages, each one with an important role to play in a society within the school and the community, which makes the fictional 1890s Avonlea very real and believable.

When one reads the credits, you will see mostly women’s names – everyone from the directors, to producers, to the writer/creator Moira Walley-Beckett, has contributed to creating a female-centric story not just about the friendships, struggles, yearnings and world of women,  but for women as well. This is no surprise. A show like this is something of a treasure for progressive women. It is a show that adults and young women can watch and feel inspired to embrace female strength as they may have before they were aware of the ways society crushes such spirit in young women.

Does Anne have romance and romantic wishes in her life? Is she vain? Yes, she is. Much like the Anne from the original novel. However, these are qualities that well-rounded women are entitled to have as well. There is a myth that strong female leads cannot have romance. To me, the difference is that strong female leads want but don’t need romance to look or feel whole and complete; but, weak traditional female leads solely exist for the purpose of male desire.

This a fantastic series. And all young women should watch it.