Thursday, June 20, 2013

losing my religion

valuable advice from parental figures: "there's no going back, so all you can do is move forward."

moving forward.

so i was asked recently what i believe in -- as in, if i prescribe to any type of religion or organized belief system. it wasn't a confrontational question - more curious than anything - but it still got me thinking. the general answer i give to that question is "i don't buy into it" -- it being the big mass religions like christianity or catholicism. i'm not intolerant of the religious beliefs of others - you do what you do, yo - but it's never been my thing. for me, it's too problematic, and there's just too much i can't square up or make sense of.

i was born protestant but not raised with any sort of religion in my house (and neither were my parents, as far as i know). no church, no prayers before meals, nothing. i had a very secular upbringing, which i never really questioned because why would i? so, religion had no firm impact on my life, and it still doesn't. my stepmother is a baptist, and so there's pre-meal prayers at her and my father's house, but i never bow my head or close my eyes. it feels awkward and weird coming from me, a nonbeliever.

i have never prayed. not once in my life, or at least not on any occasion i can recall. oh, sure, i've sent up wishes and hopes and pleas to the universe and whatever higher power's out there, but i hesitate to call it "praying". to me, that brings up the uncomfortable mental image of getting on my knees and asking good ol' j.c. for a favour. and it's not that i don't believe that something's listening -- it's just not what so many people claim, and what those people want to impress upon others as their belief being the one and only correct belief.

i called myself an atheist when i was a teenager, just to be a shit-disturber. i read a lot of the german philosophers in those days, because who doesn't want to read depressing nihilistic takes on the human condition when you're an angry hormonal adolescent? nietzsche and fromm were great, great stuff to me when i was sixteen. for my major philosophy essay in oac/grade thirteen, i chose the hardest topic from the list: "debate this claim -- 'there is no free will.'" seriously, when you're eighteen and writing a 10+ page essay on free will versus determinism, things get pretty deep.

i came to more close identify with agnosticism as i got older -- it's sort of easier to say that you don't believe in anything in particular, really. i know that's a cop-out, but agnosticism also means you stay open to questioning everything as well, which i do on a frequent basis. these days, i prescribe to signs and premonitions, and intuition. seen too much weird shit not to believe a little bit in that stuff.

i believe in the universe. not even in an ilya bryzgalov way (though universe is humongous big), and although i clearly don't believe in an old man up in the clouds, i do believe that there's some kind of force behind everything. i can't answer whether or not i believe everything is preordained; i think it is, to an extent (again, see note above about weird shit i've experienced). i really do believe that everything works out the way that it's supposed to, even if it sometimes takes years for you to realize it. everybody needs some kind of faith to cling to in the dark times; that's mine.

i believe in intuition -- if something deep inside you tells you to do something, you follow it. (i mean, short of murdering somebody, i suppose. don't listen to your intuition if it tells you to murder somebody. that's not good.)

i believe that there's something up there that watches out for me and guides me, and i try to be grateful for that at every chance i get. i do believe in karma, to an extent. (it's come back to bite me in the ass a few times in my life for the things that i've done, so that's a given.)

i don't believe in luck; i believe that things only change because you make them change. (consequently, i believe in recognizing certain situations as conduits for change. i don't usually believe in coincidences -- again, i think things happen for a reason, even if that reason isn't apparent at the time.)

i believe in art, and love. foolhardy and cheesy concepts to some, i'm sure, and easily confused if you're me (you can love art, but once you love artists it's a whole different ballgame), but i absolutely believe in the power of both. some people believe that organized religion is a cornerstone of the human race; not me. in my opinion, humanity would be nowhere without art and love. those are the two things that endure, and that i will place my faith in any day of the goddamn week.

i believe that everything's going to be alright, in the end.

and i move forward.

[ music | none ]

Monday, June 17, 2013

weight of the world

hello there.

(it never fails to confuse me how i look all of seventeen years old in current photos, when i'm actually turning thirty this year. oh well, no complaints.)

yep, this past weekend was north by northeast, and it was the first time in about ten years that i didn't work it as a music journalist. (which was sort of okay with me; i don't quite have the same stamina i did when i was a young'un. i was twenty the year i reviewed 19 bands plus a full concert, filing all my reviews at 2-3 a.m. and then getting up at 9 a.m. every day to attend the conference portion as well. i nearly died, but goddamn was i ever proud of myself.) and though i'd bemoaned the fact that i wouldn't have the omnipresent media pass around my neck, i was fortunate enough to win a pair of wristbands from porter airlines (giving me more reason to love them, aside from the free wine!), so i had no excuse to miss toronto's annual music love-in. wheeee!

so awesome. yay porter!

the best of the shows i caught was my very first sloan concert (yes, i know, i am a terrible fan of canadian music for having not seen them before now, but okay i'll own that):

the whole experience was made even better by attending with sloan maniacs allegra and ruhee. it's always extra fun to go see a show with people who are superfans; also, it was really cute to see the similarities between all of our band-following pasts. sloan is to them what moist & david usher's band are to me, and while musicians are my people, fans are my people too. it's such a fun little slice of subculture.

oh yeah, and speaking of the above, it turns out that moist is indeed reuniting, touring again and writing new music. if you read the entry i wrote last month, you can rightly guess that my head exploded. excuse me while i start banking all my vacation days at work so i can take off and follow them when they tour in the fall. that band and their music still mean the world to me, now more than ever. (i guess maybe i am still seventeen after all.)

in between all this music madness, there was a lovely get-together to celebrate former coworker/current buddy alison's birthday, complete with many beers, very loud dance music, lots of new and old acquaintances, and uh, this cake:

champion. (i don't think anybody ate any of it though, for obvious reasons.)

best photo of the night, though -- kitchen dance party:

otherwise, summertime is almost in full bloom here, so i've been keeping busy by roaming the city, killing myself at crossfit twice a week and the gym the rest of the time (it's short shorts season, and when your dumb legs make up three-quarters of your body like mine do, it's good to spend time working on them), and hanging out with good friends (soooo many balcony/patio parties). also, i've gotten a start on putting up boozy preserves for summer 2013:

raspberry-cocoa jam with frangelico (second batch of the year so far; this one had a much better set than the first, which was surprising given that i'd had to divide the recipe by a third in order to get just two jars for myself)

strawberry champagne jam (turns out a halved batch only makes one single jar)

between jam-making and baking goodies for the aforementioned parties and friend hangs, my kitchen is back to getting a decent workout. probably not the best thing with the weather warming up (and my apartment having precisely zero air conditioning), but it makes me/my friends/my coworkers happy, so a bit of sweaty, aproned discomfort is an alright sacrifice to make.

so, everything is more or less okay -- but yeah, i did find myself in a situation recently.

it was the kind where the universe laid everything out just so perfectly that i was slightly staggered by it. it was such a case of here, we're gonna throw this at you and see how you deal with it -- the most current hurdle, the latest endurance test of my weary heart and already-threadbare willpower. what are you gonna do?

what could i even do, really? this is the way my life works.

so i spent that night - a night where all my hapless, reckless, wonderful mistakes were colliding, and my continued self-exile meant that i would not be there to see it - at a birthday party, and then a bar, and then another bar, and finally home alone to smoke three cigarettes on my balcony before going to bed.

....look, if you happen to be reading this, i want you to know that i wish things were better, and i wish i knew how to fix it. but i don't know how to make it better, and i don't know how to fix any of it.

but i wish i did.

[ music | ellie goulding, "anything can happen" ]

Sunday, June 9, 2013

one foot in front of the other

so i've been thinking a lot about this lately:

i should have put an asterisk there, because there's one source of dissatisfaction that i've never been able to give up quite so easily: people who aren't good for me. (okay, fine. male people.)

it should be easy enough to discard people in your life who aren't doing you any good, i know. but me, i get stuck on the past, like a feedback loop. i get stuck on ideas of guilt and forgiveness and possible amends, and i become unable to move on. sometimes i actually manage to make the big step of cutting the deadwood out of my life -- deleting, unfriending, unfollowing, removing myself from the equation. but sometimes, when my resistance is really low, i do something dumb like attempt to re-establish a lost connection. sometimes i'm fortunate enough to realize what i'm doing, and to reach out to somebody before i embarrass myself. it's kind of like a junkie relapsing, but without the mess. (other than my usual tears, that is. i'm a messy fucking crier.)

that was the situation i found myself in on wednesday night. to be as vague as i can - because as i said before, i don't completely know who reads this blog, but i do have some ideas - i'd had a pretty crummy couple of days, and i was feeling low, and i was having stirrings of nostalgic feelings and -- i guess a compulsive need to bring people back into my life, when i'd long since pretty much let them go. because at that time, everything was becoming so fucking cliche, and i was feeling dumb and pathetic and holy fuck, i am just not twenty-three anymore.

but anyway, i suddenly wanted to reach out, and tried to rationalize with myself about how a text message would go over. was that a thing i could reasonably do? or was that just stupid? i mean, it'd been a long time now, and there had been nothing but silence. would attempting to re-open a connection do any harm? and what exactly did i think would happen? what were my motivations here, anyway?

after two drinks and three cigarettes, i decided to call my mother instead.

she was perplexed. "well, it's been a long time, and i think it's over, really. i don't know why you'd waste time and energy on people who don't deserve it when you could be putting it towards people who do."

(fair point. i'm now vaguely considering getting the words stop wasting time tattooed.)

my mother made some additional valid points, and i rambled for a while as i tried to get to the heart of how i was feeling, and just what was fuelling this weird sudden need to retract my own self-removal from the lives of others. and i thought about how it had been an unexpectedly bad week, and how a bunch of events were probable triggers in this whole situation, and i finally managed to admit that i missed having people around who were familiar with me. i wanted that safety blanket; the knowledge that i could still connect with someone who knew me, really knew me. i wanted the comfort zone of a male figure that cared about me -- i wanted their validation, for sure, and preferably the validation of someone familiar whom i'd got it from before. they'd always been the ones who mattered the most to me, anyway, as sad as that is.

i mumbled, "i guess just want someone who knows me to tell me i'm doing okay."

"you're doing okay."

messy crying time!

she went on: "also, honey, i think you need to give yourself a bit more credit. in the last year, you ended your relationship, you moved out, and you switched jobs. and some people never get there. some people stay in bad relationships, or keep living in bad places, or keep working at jobs they don't like. but you had enough motivation and strength to go through and change those things, and you did it for yourself."

i don't quite know if that counts, because i did those things because i had to, but i'll take it for now.

in the end, i didn't send that text message. i let the silence continue, and it still continues, and it likely will until/unless life puts us back in the same path. (which it might, because things run cyclical.) and so whenever i ever get to that point again, i have to ask myself the same question with a mental sigh: what does it even matter now?

it all reminded me of a couple weeks ago, when a friend asked me if i would make a different choice, if i had the chance to go back and do it all again. i only paused for a few seconds, then replied, "no. i wouldn't. there was nothing else i could have done."

because i already knew how the story went and, as i would say to my mother much earlier that summer, i know how the story ends. so maybe now, in the current day, i need to stop acting as though i didn't.

...i loved this song so much when i was sixteen. it means something very different to me at twenty-nine.

white teeth, a ticket to meet god and
be all that you envy

[ music | moist, "breathe" ]

Wednesday, June 5, 2013

lost connection

something else writing-related that i've been mulling over lately: the apparent death of the personal blog.

where the magic happens.

to be fair, i was always sort of confused by the appeal of the personal blog. i figured most people read personal blogs written by real-life acquaintances to see if their names come up, or else just get up to speed on what so-and-so is up to. to a certain extent, i'm sure this is still true (here with my blog, anyway). a few of my real-life friends have blogs - albeit sporadically updated ones in most cases - and i always read whatever they post, because they're my friends, and their lives interest me. again, i'm pretty sure that holds true here as well - hi, friends! - but i've always been a little stumped as to why other people read my blog. i'm not sure i really have a whole lot to share other than life insights and blather, but maybe that's what people want to read? i don't know, man.

niche blogs are a thing. subject blogs are a thing. these days, a lot of people blog about a particular subject - sports, movies, food, whatever - and that's where they get their audiences from. sure, they can weave in personal stories to frame the subject, but it's not the same as having an entire blog dedicated to the minutiae of one's life. (for me, nothing drives me up the fucking wall like having to scroll through page after page of personal stories before getting to the recipe on a food blog or whatever. get a personal blog! just give us the goddamn cookie recipe)

me, i've never felt like much of an authority or an expert on anything -- at least, nothing so much that i could write a focused blog on it. the only thing i know how to write about is myself, because i am a narcissist.

i can see how personal blogs have fallen off the radar, though. i suspect it was twitter that likely killed them by making us all personal bloggers in 140 characters or less. not to mention it's also shortened our attention spans -- who has time to read an entire blog post when you can get someone's life updates in brief little snippets? true enough, i update my twitter all day every day, but sometimes i want longer form, and something that will last longer.

as i've said before, i've only ever written this blog for me myself - to stand as a life history for me to look back on, and occasionally slap my forehead over - and if someone else is interested enough to read, well hey, okay. (fair point that my life used to be way more interesting, and i used to be far more candid. yes, even more than i already am.) so i guess it's only weird to me when strangers become constant readers. i mean, it's not like i'm doing tits for clicks or anything. (not that i have much in the way of tits to show off, anyway. hahahahaha sigh.)

i've only recently become aware that this blog can serve as my portfolio, as a body of work, and that still sort of blows my mind a little bit. i'm forever fixated on the notion that a blog is nothing more than an online diary, and who the fuck monetizes/publicizes their diary? it's especially hard and/or weird to do so when you're not a niche blogger. i don't really think my life is a good brand representation of anything. i'm me. i'm not a brand fit.

i guess at the end of the day, i'm a storyteller of my own semi-cautionary tale. they say to write about what you know, and what i know is me, the things i've done and the way i live my life. of course, i also hint at a lot of things, and i'm vague about many others. which is intentional. i've always said - and this is one of the truest things about me - that i don't lie in my blog posts, but i never tell the whole story either. but i know where the full story is, and my future self is the one i'm writing all this for, anyway.

but some of you? i know you, and that's alright. i know you're reading; i know you still read.

and to you, whichever of you there are: you know where to find me -- say hi sometime. it's a safe bet that i miss you.

(i'm a sentimental bag of fluff, you know.)

[ music | our lady peace, "one man army" ]

Tuesday, June 4, 2013

don't give in

it's hard to write sometimes.

i'm not sure if it's the typical writer's block i suffer from on occasion; i'm never really at a lack of things to write about. it's more a matter of what i can write about. i'm always aware that this is a public forum that i'm putting my missives out into, and although i don't widely advertise my blog, i really don't have an idea of just who from my "real life" is reading this. and it's that thought that concerns me, especially when it comes to writing about any personal troubles. some things are better kept to oneself -- which is kind of a foreign concept when you're me and tend to have no filter.

but it's kind of been a maelstrom of ups and downs in my life right now, really. there's been stuff in the news that's gotten me upset; my self-esteem and body positivity isn't quite where i want it to be; i'm a few weeks away from the one-year anniversary of the end of my relationship and i'm still single. basically, a lot of times lately i've felt like i'm not where i want to be in my life right now. i'm aware that this is a common feeling among people of all ages, not just those like me who are about to exit their twenties, but sometimes it's hard not to feel alone in the universe. etc., etc.

(okay, not the same sentiment, but the same title at least.)

and yeah, it's easy to get bogged down by the negative. i know that. i had my annual physical last week, and though my health checked out fine - even if i'm expecting my bloodwork to indicate that i'm anemic because holy shit i will be anemic for the rest of my life - my doctor asked if i wanted a referral to a therapist. (i'd mentioned having a few "black days" in the last couple of months, because i can admit i've been dealing with a low-grade depression for a while now, but hey, side effect of living.) i squirmed uncomfortably at the thought and said no, i'd be okay. and i really think i will be. the down days - the ones where i can't even write - come and go, but never anything dire or serious. i cope. we all do.

i do want to keep writing, though. if anything, i've realized lately that my identity is "writer" -- it's not only one of my few bankable skills, but it's also what i want to do with my life in some capacity. one of the few bright spots in my life right now is that i'm slowly starting to piece together just what i want to do with myself in the time that i've got; if you know me, you know that this is sort of a big deal. i've never really known what i want to do with my life in terms of a career, and it's been a huge stumbling block for me. pretty hard to have long-term life goals when you have no fucking clue what you want. but i'm beginning to get a better sense of where i want to be and what i want to be doing, and that's a medium-scale victory that i need to keep in mind. i'm never so laser-focused than when i have something to work towards.

so yes, writing. gotta keep it up, and gotta start sorting out my courage of convictions when it comes to being a writer. as i mentioned towards the end of this post, it's tough when you don't feel right about telling someone else's story alongside your own. it's too easy to second-guess your viewpoints and impressions about others (because you can never control how you're viewed by someone else, and once you're conscious of this, you can easily worry about misinterpreting others the same way), and you don't want to misrepresent someone else's motivations for their choices. but when you come down to it, all of life is a fucking venn diagram. you can't help the connections you make. but you can be delicate and selective in your portrayals of others, and until i sort that out for me personally, then i won't be coming out with a book anytime soon, sorry.

but i always have to remember that, writer's block or not, the words are gonna be there for me no matter what, whenever i need them.

[ music | the libertines, "up the bracket" ]