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?
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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.

What does it mean to “love yourself”?

I just read this article about Demi Lovato getting flack for promoting detox tea and claiming that ‘getting rid of the bloat for summer’ isn’t “loving yourself”. Which led me to ask this question about what exactly that means.

I’ve dieted on and off for years. At my tiniest ever, I was 116 lb. To be honest, I can’t believe I ever weighed that much. When I walked down the street dudes honked at me, I got attention in bars, I could wear size 2 jeans, all for a few glorious months before I realized I like food and craft beer way too much to maintain being this tiny. And eventually all of that faded away. Not that “guys honking at you” is any indication of hotness, or that you should glean confidence from that. But I can say, those same guys who honked at me when I was a size 2 were teasing and bullying me when I was a size 18 and weighed 200lb. I was the same person. This says more about society than it does about me, or even the guys.

I dieted, not because I wanted that kind of attention from men. I dieted because I wanted to be the best version of myself. Because I wanted to look in the mirror and for once, not see someone out of control she’s unable to regain, not someone who floats through life just doing the same old shit all the time, but someone who bothered to try to be someone else, even if just for a while. I became that person. For the first time, I did feel confident. In a lot of ways, I attribute finding my first and second careers, meeting the love of my life, ditching old ‘friends’ that were toxic influences on my ability to be a good person and look for the best in others, and running 2 half-marathons with another coming up in 3 weeks, all to my initial weight loss (thank you, Weight Watchers, for this – I will always be grateful for it). I dieted to prove wrong an ex that I somehow believed then, needed to be proven wrong. And I did prove him wrong, in my own way.

Now, I’m ‘dieting’ again (Weight Watchers, and the current program I’m on, refer to this not as a “diet” but a “lifestyle change” – this is somewhat true too, I suppose). I’m dieting this time, and on a very strict and actually very painful fitness regimen, not because I ‘hated myself’ before and this was the only way out. But because I remembered those long ago days where I felt confident, I felt like the best version of me, I felt like the world was at my fingertips and I had so much possibility just based on this radiant confidence alone. I’m dieting because I want to work harder to reach a personal best and achieve personal goals, now that some of my career goals have been met, and I have the time and energy to work on these goals. I’m ‘dieting’ because I want to learn more about how to be a better version of me.

Having said that — am I being ‘body-negative’? Would you or could you argue that I’m changing myself in order to become more attractive to men? That I’m submitting to a patriarchal standard of beauty that must be crushed? Should I have protected what I so believe to be true about body positivity and being and doing what you want without feeling a guilt about not conforming what magazine standards of beauty suggest is the most important way to be? Am I being a negative role model to young girls I teach by dieting and exercising 5-6 times a week? It’s a conundrum.

Some people believe “loving yourself” means eating cleanly and making positive changes. Others believe that eating what you want and not caring what you look like, dress like, or come across like to others is the way to be the best version of yourself you can be and that is what it means to ‘love yourself’.

Both of these ‘theories’, are bullshit.

Loving yourself means being and doing what you are comfortable with without giving a fuck what other people want or expect from you. If Demi wants to get rid of her bloat for summer, that means she is entitled to that. To me, what is slimy about the post was the promo code – advertising to your younger followers is the only “wrong” thing she did with that post, if anything – but really, reaching a personal best in anything – an eating contest, a triathalon, a gaming marathon, the highest score in Frogger – is truly an important part of loving yourself. I’ve been on both sides of the coin – overweight and desperate for body-positive validation to avoid that patriarchal guilt feeling; fit and working my ass off because I felt like I needed to be that version of myself. And both have made me happy or satisfied at different times of my life for different reasons. We all have our own thresholds. Understanding and realizing our own selves is what helps us to truly LOVE ourselves in all facets of life.

Listen to Demi, or don’t. Loving yourself means that choice is up to you.

Eleven Years Ago.

Eleven years ago I (regrettably, without camera) witnessed with my own two eyes, a win in the final series of the Stanley Cup Playoffs versus my Edmonton Oilers and the Carolina Hurricanes (the latter who, as we all know, ended up winning the cup that year and breaking thousands of hearts in the process).

I can’t believe what a different place the world was then. On a big scale, absolutely — look at Edmonton’s downtown core now; look at the way we communicate – with smartphones and apps and text messaging as a primary mode of chit chat; look at silly things like the look of the team uniforms, the way we can watch on HD television, how you can now sit on a patio and watch a game mounted on a wall somewhere.

But I’ve changed, too. My friend group, my life, the fact that I was still in university and had no idea what I would be, the fact that back then I could barely face watching a game because the anxiety of watching your plucky underdog team at that level of competition was too much and it washed over me like a wave of nerves and fears. One thing about me hasn’t changed in that respect: I still don’t like what’s not certain. What’s not certain still evokes in me anxiety and tremors that are uncontrollable or desirable whatsoever.

I keep thinking about that night. How it feels the same, but different, from the last few games I’ve been to at the bars in today’s Edmonton. How everyone then seemed sure of themselves and doubtless, and now everyone, after eleven years of heartache, seems reproachful and drowning in their own oceans of nerves.

Eleven years passes when you’re not even noticing it’s gone. the world is strange like that. Time flies when you’re busy spending the time that’s flying away. It’s like grasping onto a balloon for as long as you can until you let it go just to see what it looks like as it soars out into the atmosphere.

I hope my team wins again. I hope we can re-experience that confidence, that collective glory, that belief in ourselves as fans, a team, a city. It sounds so ridiculous but it means so much. Eleven years of time means so much, too.