1984

Heya,

Have you ever read No Exit by Jean-Paul Sartre? If you haven’t and you intend to, don’t read this post, because I’m going to spoil the plot. No Exit is a play with three characters in a room. It eventually transpires that they realize both that they have all died and that they can never leave the room. It’s famous line is, “Hell is other people.”

The prompt for today is: “You’re locked in a room with your greatest fear. Describe what’s in the room.”

I think my nightmare scenario would be to be locked in a room with two perfectly incompatible strangers, in perpetuity. No books, no television, nothing but those two other people.

It’s not that I’m socially awkward or anything like that, I just feel like even the two most interesting people in the world would inevitably, eventually, become boring to me. And boredom makes me anxious. And anxiety can make me panic. The lack of alternative external stimuli would be such that I don’t know that I could keep from becoming a lunatic. To constantly be watched, to have nowhere to really be alone to gather myself, to have to choose between an endless performance for others or the raw vulnerability of being completely myself in front of others…terrifying. And I don’t know that we are ever completely ourselves, but our ourselves in reference to others. Facets of our personality are illuminated in reference to others. Self-hood is not a stable construct but shifts relative to our relationships to others.

Or, at least, that’s how I feel about it. I think you reach a certain point in your life and you change less, become less adaptable, but that human interaction is akin to chemical reactions that goes well or poorly or just produces a null result. Whatever the case, I think an eternity with two perfectly incompatible people would produce reactions on both sides of the spectrum. Which, when balanced over that eternity, would ultimately balance to an infinity of zero. Which would eventually drive a person crazy. So maybe what I’m really afraid of is losing my mind, and I think that this scenario would inevitably lead me there.

Or a room filled with wasps. But I feel like I would either become envenomed and die, or else dethrone and take the place of their queen. Like Sarah Kerrigan in StarCraft. And then I would conquer the wasps, then the world, then the universe. Though that might also drive me insane…

Well, this was a fun prompt. Fun fun fun.

Love,

B

Definitely Not Teacher’s Pet

Heya,

I did not like my kindergarten teacher and she did not like me. She was one year away from retirement (the classic “cop who gets shot in an eighties movie” refrain), and not especially interested in dealing with the trouble I presented.

It’s not that I was really a troublemaker. It was that I went in knowing how to read and write (not a lot, but at least kindergarten level). I knew the alphabet. I could count to a hundred. Basically anything she would have to teach me.

Worse, I would finish my work before the other kids and then want to play. Which would have been disrupted, and therefore wasn’t allowed. But, wonder of wonders, a five year old forced to sit at a table with nothing to do is about as disruptive as a five year old playing while the other kids are working. Kindergarten was the only time I remember being sent to the corner.

I hated school. I hated my teacher. I pretended to be sick a lot in that year. In fact, if I hadn’t come in ahead of the game, I probably wouldn’t have “passed” kindergarten. I think, altogether, I missed just shy of a year of school.

My kindergarten teacher had a huge impact on my life. She taught me that learning could be done outside the classroom. She taught me patience, and how to bite my tongue. She taught me how to fake sick, which may be part of why I enjoy acting and telling stories. I learned how to entertain myself. It taught me not to blindly accept authority.

I was probably a bit of a shit, I don’t know. No other teacher or caretaker ever seemed to have the trouble this woman had with me. It’s definitely contributed to me being a bit combative in classroom debates. A little punchy. But never, I hope, a dick.

She taught me that while I had to go to school, if I really wanted to learn I couldn’t make it my sole source of education.

Probably not the things parent wants their kid to learn when they go off to kindergarten for the first time, but it is what it is.

Do you have any teachers who, for better or worse, have greatly influenced you?

Love,
B

Fate and fatality

Heya,

Are you a fatalist? I’m not sure if I am.

I read an article a few days ago; I can’t remember what the actual topic was, but the part that stuck with me was a bit talking about fate. The author made the argument that being fatalistic was dangerous because if you accepted that something was going to happen anyway, even if it was a bad or unpleasant thing, you would let it happen and in some instances even help it happen.

I don’t have much else to say right now. The skytrain was down for much of the day, and navigating crowds of seating, angry people in an enclosed space has left me pretty exhausted at this point. Maybe I’ll talk to you more about this at a later date.

Love,

B

Exhausting days

Heya,

There are people fighting in a street somewhere near my friend’s apartment (where I’m staying this weekend while I’m manning a booth for work at a festival). It’s fascinating. I’m only hearing parts of it, but some guy is very angry with some girl and there’s a cat involved somehow. It’s probably much less interesting in full than it is in pieces. It’s like Mad Libs–filling in the blanks is what makes it fun.

Today was an exhausting day. The last two days have been exhausting days. I got up at 6am on Friday. Maybe I told you this already. I have no idea, and it’s already late and I’m not going to check my last post for repetitions. I got up at 5am today, actually, and had an early morning panic attack because for some reason my friend’s clock is twelve hours off, so it was telling me that it was 5pm. I legit thought that I had slept all day. I woke up, saw the clock and went, “Shit, what time is it?!” And my friend half-woke up and looked at the clock and was briefly equally confused. Then she woke up enough to remember the vagaries of her own clock, and said, “It’s 5am, not pm.”

I dozed off and on for the next couple hours. This morning I spent a good chunk of time trying to figure out how to get my work done while in an area without wifi. Other volunteers were late. And I was just generally very anxious all day. There are too many people at the event I’m at. Too many conflicting noises. I don’t know why I’m being coy about the event that I’m working, I’m sure you don’t care and that, besides, that it would be easy enough to sort out if anyone felt like trying. I’m working a table at the Vancouver Folk Music Festival. My friend who lives in the city is helping me out and I’m staying at hers because I don’t live in the city, I live in the shifty suburbs.

People were late. I hate lateness. I get super stressed out when I am even five minutes late. I would rather not show up than show up ten minutes late. Lateness shows a disrespect for the other person’s time. During my undergrad, there was a girl who was chronically late, whose parents were professors at the university. None of the other professors ever called her on being late. And it pissed me off so much. How can you always be late? I mean, I understand once or twice, but she always came in to class at least fifteen minutes late. Drove me insane. Drove a lot of us insane.

Anyway, going back a bit, we were working at a booth at Folk Fest. I was a quasi-organizer. I was not told that we needed to bring our own tent/pavilion/thing and it was set to rain today. My friend had a tarp, and awesome Boy Scouts tarp skills, which were put to good use. At some point some other volunteers took over and I, suffering from sensory overload, left with my friend to get dinner in a place with fewer people and conflicting sounds. We went to a Greek restaurant. When we came back to help the other volunteers pack up, we sorted shit out and they left. And I realized, after they were gone that my cell phone was nowhere to be found.

Earlier that day I had watched another person’s booth while they tried to find their keys. I felt what they probably felt looking for those keys. Like the bottom had dropped out of my stomach. Angry and freaked out and tense all at once. I’ve come to the conclusion that I would rather lose my wallet than my phone. I can cancel my credit cards, I can get new ID, all for less than it costs to get a new phone. It turned out that one of the volunteers had picked it up at some point and put it in her bag so that it wouldn’t be out on the table where anyone might grab it, and had forgotten to give it back to me. I got it, we left the festival, all good.

Except that I am so damn tired, and I still have shit to do. Among them this blog post, which I know I’m not going to have time to write during the daylight hours tomorrow. So … hi.

Do you find people exhausting? I do. I feel really bad for my friend, because with the phone fiasco and my general too-many-people anxiety, I think she spent most of the day trying to keep me calm. Which, I know from experience, is an exhausting job to undertake.

Love,

B

On alarms and obsession

Heya,

“Take the first sentence from your favourite book and make it the first sentence of your post.”

I don’t really have a favourite book. The book I’m reading right now is California by Edan Lepucki. I don’t remember what the first sentence of that book is. My favourite first sentence of a book is, “The man in black fled across the desert, and the gunslinger follower.” There’s just so much there. A weight to the way the words follow one another. A foreshadowing that is too light to even be termed such. A shading of words in a desolate space.

But The Gunslinger by Stephen King is also not my favourite book. It’s up there, but it’s not my favourite. Especially given the progression of the series.

But that’s verging into spoiler-ific territory, so I won’t continue. Except to say that The Dark Tower series is among Stephen King’s best work, cumulatively, and that you should read it if you haven’t.

All my favourite books are sci-fi fantasy, and I don’t have any of them with me right now.

I’m currently in my best friend’s apartment. I have been awake for … eighteen hours. Which is far from the longest I’ve been awake, but probably longer than I should be awake. It has been a stressful day. I am an organizer for a music festival event thing, and … well, if you’ve ever been involved in anything like that, you understand, and if you haven’t, I probably can’t explain it. Certainly not when I’m as tired as I am right now.

My friend has fallen asleep, but I have other work to chip away at before I can crash. I’m also waiting for another friend to text me so that I can let her up into the apartment. Which, who knows when that will be.

Tomorrow should be better. More helpers, less hassle. Everyone a little more settled in, including me.

I said that I don’t have a favourite book at the start of this post, and that’s true. I don’t have a favourite book. Like so many things that I like, I reach a point with most books where I enjoy them but don’t feel that fervent devotion to them that I feel characterizes a favourite. For a span of time my favourite movie was Memento. Now, whenever anyone asks, I either say that it’s Princess Bride or The Nightmare Before Christmas. There are certainly other movies that I’m enamored off, that I find more stimulating, but those two movies have been such a lovely part of my life for such a length of time that, even if I’m not in love with them in a kind of wanna-fuck-you way that I think characterizes infatuation and adoration even in the mental sphere, they add up to being my favourite.

I don’t have that with music. I went through a massive Doors phase when I was about thirteen (I know, weird time to go through your Doors phase, right?), but now the only song by them I can listen to in it’s entirety is “The Crystal Ship.”

I regularly become obsessed with things. Right now, I’m vaguely obsessed with Chambord. Particularly the Gin and Tonic and Chambord that I discovered the other day and am drinking right this moment. While exhausted and waiting for the text that will let me sleep.

I say discovered. It’s the simplest thing. Get a tumbler. Put some ice in it. Add an ounce of gin (Bombay Sapphire), an ounce of Chambord (I don’t know if there are varieties of Chambord or if some family in France holds the patent), and the fill with tonic (Schweppes. Any other tonic is just sugar and nonsense). Add a lime if you have one (I didn’t). Drink. Feel at one with the universe. Finish you drink and feel really fucking tired. Repeat.

Or something like that. Kind of obsessed with Chambord right now. And peacocks, though that’s super recent. And with making my friend watch Orphan Black.

Speaking of my friend, she set an alarm for herself because she was going to take a “power nap” and then go out while I did some work, and her alarm has been going off for about five minutes now. “A Kiss with a Fist” by Florence and the Machine. For the last two and a half minutes, I’ve been going through all of the alarms available on my phone and playing them at high volume next to her ear. She has not woken up to any of them, not even the classic iPhone “Alarm” alarm that sounds like the nuclear plant is melting down. I didn’t think anyone could sleep through the nuclear plant melting down.

So that wasn’t a response to the prompt, really. But it kind of was. A little, tiny bit.

Love,

B

P.S. She just turned her alarm off.

P.P.S. Her alarm went off again, and she turned it off again.

Why I don’t have any tattoos

Heya,

I like tattoos. I enjoy the idea of wearing something that matters to you printed on your body. Like a lucky charm that you never take off.

That being said, I don’t have any tattoos, and I probably never will. Because I am fickle, really, but it’s more than that. It’s because, of all the ideas of had for tattoos that I liked or thought I would like, I haven’t stayed enamoured with any of them for more than a month. And that’s the bar I’ve set for myself. If I like an idea for more than a month, I’ll get the tattoo. And I’ve had a lot of ideas, but none of them have stood that test.

I probably would have gotten one anyway, and possibly-probably regretted it, if it weren’t for the fact that, when I first thought about it I wasn’t legally old enough to get a tattoo, and when I fell out of love with the idea I’d had for one, the relief I felt was so strong. And when I thought, “What if I had gotten that tattoo?” I felt a kind of panic. Like being trapped in a turtleneck sweater in a public change room (which is, by the way, how one of my best friend describes anxiety). The idea of something on my skin that I couldn’t take off made me feel intensely claustrophobic, as though I would have been trapping myself in my own skin. I’m also prone to writing notes to myself on my arms, so I would also have been depriving myself of canvas.

Most of the ideas that have struck me have been quotes. I love this quote by Albert Camus:

In the depth of winter I finally learned that there was in me an invincible summer.
Maybe too long for a tattoo, though? Maybe just “infinite summer”? Still, I love that quote.
I also liked the idea of “I must not fear”–part of a longer Litany Against Fear from Frank Herbert’s Dune:
I must not fear. Fear is the mind-killer. Fear is the little-death that brings total obliteration. I will face my fear. I will permit it to pass over me and through me. And when it has gone past I will turn the inner eye to see its path. Where the fear has gone there will be nothing…only I will remain.
The last quote I never actually thought about getting, but did contemplate when I briefly contemplated a dragon tattoo–I think this idea lasted for a day and was because I really liked this Rilke quote:
Perhaps all the dragons in our lives are princesses who are only waiting to see us act, just once, with beauty and courage. Perhaps everything that frightens us is, in its deepest essence, something helpless that wants our love.
And I still love that quote. But I can’t think of any part of it that I want to put on my body.
Do you have a favourite quote? A tattoo? A tattoo idea that you never actually got because you’re a fickle bastard like me?
Love,
B

Non-bucket list

Heya,

Do you have a bucket list? I both do and don’t. I approve of the concept. I enjoy lists in general. But I’ve never really gotten into bucket lists. I tried to make one once or twice, but I always end up going a little bit crazy and just listing cools things that I could do rather than cool things I want to do.

The thing is, I think of a bucket list as being a list of things you’d regret not doing on your deathbed. And while there are things that I think would be cool to do, most of them are not things that I would regret if I died without doing them. I think there are really only a handful of things that I really want to do before I die, and it’s hard to tell what is wishlist stuff and what stuff is just … planning for your future. I want to write books. I want to have children. But those aren’t bucket list things. Those are things. Those are life. I guess the idea of a bucket list is to get people to think of life as more than just a grind. I don’t know. I’m pretty happy. I don’t mind travel, but I don’t have wanderlust, really. Going to a place is more about who’s with me than the place itself. Unless there are scorpions there. I don’t want to go to a place with scorpions. Does Istanbul have scorpions? Because I do kind of want to go to Istanbul…I’ll just have to remember to check my shoes.

What follows is a list of eleven things, in no particular order, of odd and whimsical things that I’d do if I got the chance but I wouldn’t be terribly put-out about if I didn’t get to do them:

  • Sing karaoke in Japan
  • Swim in the largest swimming pool in the world
  • Stand in the windiest place in the world and see if I can get some air
  • Be a translator at a foreign consolate
  • Pet a tiger and not get eaten
  • Swim in the Devil’s Pool
  • Learn how to actually speak Spanish, not just say my name and ask where the library is
  • Drive from one end of Canada to the other
  • Be self-sufficient (food-wise, mostly)
  • Take an ice dip in Finland
  • Cliff dive in Jamaica

Lots of water stuff on here. That’s surprising, actually, I didn’t realize I liked water that much.

I was also stretching a little to come up with all of those. They didn’t spring to mind easily.

Do you have a bucket list? What’s item number one on it?

Love,

B

Resolved

Heya,

The prompt for today was, “Have you ever made a New Years resolution that you kept?”

No, I don’t really make New Years resolutions. I do regularly make mid-month resolutions, which is how this whole 365 Days of Blogging thing happened.

Last month my mid-month resolution was to break my daily tasks into 90 minute chunks, because I read somewhere (probably 99U) that 90 minutes was the maximum amount of time that you could focus on one task before starting to suffer burnout and becoming less productive. I still think that breaking up  tasks into hour and half chunks is a good idea, and when I got started on it I was on vacation, so I can say that it does work (I got a LOT of writing done in that week). However, I think it’s easier to break your day up that way when you have control of your schedule. And I don’t. Time-sensitive things are regularly thrown at me in the middle of the day, the middle of the week, disrupting my schedule and fucking with the patterns I try to establish.

Or I’m just more tired when I get home from work than I thought I would be when I made my schedule.

I still think that it’s a good idea, but I have to work the kinks out in terms of sustaining it.

Another mid-month resolution that I made, which I got about a month of mileage out of, was exercising every day. Not actual exercising, but–okay, I have a neck thing that acts up every now and then. I used to get really bad headaches because of it. I was in a minor car accident that, despite being minor, twinged a nerve at the base of my skull-that area where your neck meets your head. I saw a physiotherapist for it for a while and he gave me exercises to do. And I was really shit at doing them, even though not doing them sometimes resulted in horrible shooting pains in my head. I was supposed to do them three times a day, but I’d forget how many times I’d done them, or think I’d done them when I hadn’t. And so on and so forth.

So I put different coloured elastic bands on my wrist and when I had done a set of exercises, I moved them over to my other wrist. And that worked for a while. But the thing is, I hate being encumbered. I don’t wear much jewelry, I don’t layer my clothing, I don’t like to carry my lunch in a separate bag and resent the fact that I kind of have to if I don’t want to risk food getting out of it’s container and damaging my computer. The problem became that I didn’t like having the elastic bands on my wrist, so I would take them off when they annoyed me and then, somewhere along the line, I forgot to put them back on.

I’ve also, at various times, resolved to make smoothies because I’m shit at eat breakfast in the morning. I’ve made a million different time-management resolutions in my life. I resolved not to buy The Last of Us until it cost less than $40 (and I kept that resolution and bought it last week for $35–small victories). I regularly resolve to stop tumbling down internet rabbit holes, or just tumbling through Tumblr, and fail.

This is really turning into a story of failure, isn’t it?

I guess you’ll bear witness to how this mid-month resolutions goes. I have posts scheduled until October (just the prompts, not any pre-writing beyond that, that would defeat the purpose, I think). I was briefly locked out of posting by WordPress because (FYI, in case you were planning on doing this) there can only be 100 scheduled posts at a time. But that’s sorted now, and I was surprised by how annoyed I was about it. I think possibly the prospect of my failures being witnessed made me more anxious about not keeping to my mid-month resolve.

I wonder how long that will last.

What about you? Are you a fan of the mid-month resolution? Or are you just a New Years person? It might be simpler to be a New Years resolution person, honestly. I feel like I’ve wasted a lot of paper and a lot of post-its with my mid-month kicks…

Love,

B

Retroactive Writing Prompts

Heya,

As you may or may not have noticed from my absence (has it been palpable? Can an absence be palpable?) from this blog over the last little while, I’ve been having trouble finding things to write for this blog. There are many blog writing prompts, and I’ve decided to go with the 365 Days of Writing Prompts from The Daily Post.

The book goes by day, starting with a prompt for January 1st that reads, “Where were you last night when 2013 turned into 2014? Is that where you’d wanted to be?” Conversely, the prompt for today’s date reads, “Tell us about the farthest you’ve ever traveled from home.”

And indecisiveness rears it’s ugly head. I don’t like to start things in the middle, so I think I’m going to go with the New Years one, despite the fact that it’s pretty fucking irrelevant at this point, so that I can work through the book one post at a time, as I’m sure it was intended. I’m also looking forward to the incongruity that is sure to occur with doing this in order at the wrong time.

New Years has never really mattered that much to me, other than the fact that there are always parties that day (and really expensive food and impossible to flag-down taxis, but let’s accentuate the positive). I don’t really make resolutions, I don’t really care about the ball dropping. I’m up until midnight most nights, so that lost it’s appeal long ago. Somehow, January 1st doesn’t feel like a big deal to me. I think the first time I was allowed to stay up for New Years until midnight it felt like a big deal, but it quickly lost its glamour for me.

The fifteenth of every month always feels like a big deal to me though. The fifteenth is always the moment when it strikes me that the month is half-over. It is usually when I make plans and schedules and try, just generally, to get all the chaos in my life neatly sorted.

Like New Years resolutions, those plans and schedules usually fall apart fairly quickly, but the point is that this is when my brain goes, “Shit, time is passing, I have stuff to do, I have to figure out how to do the stuff before more time passes!”

So, at midnight when July 14th became July 15th, I was sitting in a lazy boy recliner in the den, watching streaming video of season two of Orphan Black with Portuguese subtitles. I got the millionth alert that my Mac needs a system update. For the millionth time, I clicked the “Later-Remind me tomorrow” option. Then, because my mouse was right by the little alert which is right by the time, I realized that it was 12:00am and I should go to bed, because I had to get up for 6:00am for my carpool to work.

And then I had my usual, “Oh, shit, it’s July 15th, the month is half over, fuck fuck fuckity fuck!” moment and looked at my to-do list. Blog schedule was one of the first things (as it has been for about a month now). So, not being a half-measures kind of person, I decided that I would post every day, and then finished the episode of Orphan Black I was watching and went to bed, resolved to find a year’s worth of writing prompts for blogging.

And I did. I linked to it above, in case you missed it. And I’m going to preschedule all the prompts, so that my failure will be visible to all if I don’t post something with more than just a title. I might change the title, depending on what goes into the post, but the prompt will remain in the URL for … I don’t know, posterity. Unless I forget that that was my intention, in which case, I will change the URL and you will be SOL when it comes to figuring out the prompt.

Should I categorize these? I’m going to categorize these.

Oh, the second part of that question was, was I where I wanted to be. Yes. Yes, I was. Orphan Black is amazing, that chair is super fucking comfortable, and it was a Monday night so home is the best.

Love,

B

The Blue Pen Dilemma

Heya,

My pen died today. I use cheap black BIC pens, because every time I get a more expensive one it dies immediately. You know those Seven Year pens? Yeah, mine lasted seven days.

I went to my boss and asked if I could borrow a pen. But, more specifically, I asked if I could borrow a black pen. Because I hate blue pens.

She had to hunt around a bit for a black pen, which made me stop and think about why even the idea of writing with a blue pen was so repellant to me. Why couldn’t I just take one of the four blue pens she had found and go back to work?

Because of those stupid PaperMate erasable blue pens, that why.

My school sold back-to-school kits. I don’t know if this is a common thing or if this was just because I went to an inner city school, but I remember that every year my parents would buy a kit that contained all the school supplies I would need for that year from my primary school. It usually included a pencil case, glue, etc. And I think second grade was the first year that, instead of just pencils, we got pens.

But they weren’t really pens. They were half-assed erasable pens.

I hate doing things by half measures. I’m a “go big or go home” kind of person. I set my goals high, and either accomplish everything or nothing. Which is admittedly not always the best way of doing business, but it’s just how I am.

I hated those blue erasable pens, just like I hated training wheels. Maybe part of it was because they didn’t actually erase very well, so they were this weird, unpleasant thing that straddled the line between pencil and pen.

Whatever it was, it felt like I was almost-but-not-quite being trusted. I could almost be trusted to write in permanent ink, but I wasn’t quite there yet. Blue pen, for me, is childish. But not fun, scented-crayola-crayons childish. Being told to stay out of cupboards childish. “Don’t touch that” childish. “You’re so adorable for trying” childish. I fucking hated those pens. Those pens were condescension.

I don’t know if all of this was apparent to me at the time, but I do know that as soon as the option arrived to pick between black and blue permanent pens, I picked black. And I continue to pick black to this day for anything remotely serious. There was a brief window of time in university where I kept all of my notes in one notebook, when I used a different coloured pen for each subject, but my “to do” list was always written in black ink.

There’s no grand overarching point to this story, I just felt like offering you a glimpse of the neuroses with which I live every day.

Love,

B