Reality in Small Doses

Open Letters

I feel like it’s fair and helpful, when I’m entrusted with the job I have – to educate kids and prepare them for the real world – to actually be honest with them. Sometimes it’s hard, because they’re brittle. They’re babies (comparatively). And sometimes they are so grown-up that it’s scary.

I include tons of media and social justice, current events, character building, resilience and anti-shame education. Not what is ‘required’ to pass, but what I think is essential for living (and maybe even being a kind, empathetic person).

I feel like sometimes you just have to say (when you catch a subtle eye roll, and a face that says ‘here she goes again… trying to make us better humans, can we please just talk about Iambic Pentameter?)

‘Hey, I’m not going to name names here, but I notice the face you’re making. You know… the one I just described.

I don’t know if you’re aware of it, but I am. It’s saying, ‘please shut up. I don’t find what you’re saying to be interesting or relevant. I didn’t sign up for this. I would rather be on Snapchat right now.’

So, on one hand, I’m really happy you’re comfortable enough to have real reactions and facial expressions, but on the other – if that’s not the impression you want to give someone who is up here, taking a risk, standing in front of an audience of 15-year-olds, being themself and caring about what you are feeling – you should tell your face.

But also, realistically, you need to get a grip on your eyes, eyebrows, lips and nostrils… because you have a life ahead of you, full of meetings, training sessions, arguments with friends, long-winded explanations and complaints from people you are dating, stories told by people you sort of know, discussions and briefings led by the people who pay your salary… and all of them will be watching you – so your face needs to be ready.

You need to show up, but also look engaged. And if you’re not engaged, what can YOU do to fix that? Only boring people get bored.

But, this is also advice from someone whose candid eyebrow reactions used to get her into lots of trouble (Sorry, Mom, former teachers, co-workers). Until I Botoxed the shit out of them. Kidding. Sort of.

However, I have been known to rebel. I coined the expression: “I can’t help it if my face finds you ridiculous.”

So, if you actually can bring yourself to listen graciously and attentively, do so. If not… work on that. Making people feel heard is a skill.

 

Alone, but not really

Open Letters

Sometimes I get to feeling sad – perseverating on the lack,

the absence of people who used to be so central to every moment and thought.

I will be in the middle of some mindless task, steering through the day, and I think about someone/the someones I no longer have in my life – maybe it’s a street sign with your name on it. A balcony where we looked out over the city. A miniature collie. A piece of braided grass that I find in a small container, tucked in a drawer. Or a conversation with myself that I keep pushing back into a corner.

inevitable as you get older

people fall by the wayside

sometimes by choice

often not

I start to feel bad for myself, a bit abandoned

I start to wonder what’s wrong with me

that people I feel so much for

don’t need me in their life

in some capacity. or other.

then… I’ll get a message from someone

full of eagerness and excitement

just to see me. Someone who is genuinely excited to hear my voice, to see each other face to face;

and I’m reminded that I’m lucky to have an abundance of people who feel this way.

You can’t keep everybody.

But it is hard to let go.

Especially when the letting go isn’t mutual.

But then, even though on a good (or bad) day I mostly believe that our technology

is killing our joy, our social capacity, our connection and empathy – or

as research suggests, and Ted Talks expostulate – we connect in order to feel, not because we do feel – that our desire for connection fuels our connectivity but breeds emptiness;

and I believe this

until, through that same conduit, someone reaches out and I do feel that touch.

Fan-tucking-tabulous. That’s how she feels about hanging out with me. And the sincerity of that expletive feels as real as seeing a face light up and the hug I know I’ll get when I see her.

Why do some people care. And some people not?

If you remember what real interactions feel like, maybe this internet-media-hyperspeed life isn’t so bad. Maybe you only notice this when you take a night off, to take stock, to start a week long vacation, by pulling every\thing off the hangers, to fold, re-fold, hang, smooth and air out all the tissue and fabric of the year. Of years. It still fits. So you keep it.

If not. Let go. My life and my body are done changing size. Aspiring to a shape I used to inhabit. I will never be 21 again. But I remember what it feels like. I remember it.

I think about the conversations I would have. As my hands move over the fabric and remember times that are captured in photographs, from back when we used real film and we borrowed a friend’s digital camera to take pictures one night. I don’t know her anymore. But I see her sometimes on Facebook.

Drifting in and out of each others’ news feed. I thought about you, until real life reminded me that a decade has gone by and the things I would have said might not make sense anymore.

But if you’re listening, and you miss me too, I’d still love not to be far away

from the people long gone, but still on the periphery of this web. You were important, and like so many of these ill-fitting things, that still hold tactile meaning, I don’t know where to store you.

Hello, Goodbye 

Love, Open Letters

It has been an amazing year, undoubtedly. On the horizon there are so many things to look forward to. But, in retrospect, it has been a pretty tough year.

With some miscarriages and struggles to make our own family grow, the death of one of my students, and having to put our lovely boy, Felix, to sleep, I’m a little relieved to say goodbye 2016. So, this year will be all about appreciating. 


This is our little family, with Chester, who doesn’t mind being the only cat in the house. 

Looking forward, though I don’t believe in ultimatum-style resolutions, I certainty think that there are lots of things to lay out as a plan that might make the year amazing.

First, gratitude. Every day I will try to find one thing I am sincerely grateful for. Today, it’s on the homefront: I have a bed that I get to sleep in with my wife each night. It has clean, beautiful sheets, a warm duvet, it feels like heaven every time we lie down. 

And, second, I’ll be embracing acting like a grown-up:

  1. I’ll invest in myself. More sleep. More downtime. Going to the gym. Keep doing my awesome pole fit classes. I’m getting stronger by the day, and it feels good. Eating well. All the foods I love, all in moderation. 
  2.  Learn more. Try new recipes. Read more books. Write things down that I’d like to try or do, right away, and then make an effort to do them. For example, I’d like to make my own textile wallhangings. I’m also going to keep up with the fantastic app, meal lime, which has us eating such tasty, easy meals.
  3. Communicate with the people I love. Send cards. And keep up my habit of calling as soon as it occurs to me that I’d like to talk to someone…instead of calling them later. My granny just celebrated her 100th.  She loves me, despite what her face is telling you. 
  4. Shop less.
  5. Be a grown-up. Or at least look like one. Wear beautiful pajamas, while avoiding clothes that encourage me to feel lazy. No bumming around clothes. The better I feel, the happier I will be. This doesn’t mean no comfortable clothes, it just means getting rid of the stuff that doesn’t look or feel good. This is the perfect excuse for a clothing swap. This includes decluttering and paring down on ‘stuff’. 
  6. Stop procrastinating. See list above. And this especially goes for schoolwork and marking. Divide and conquer it.
  7. Plan better so that we can use our money on cool experiences. This year I’m going to try the money challenge.
  8. Keep doing the things that make me feel youthful. Even if I feel tired the next day… work hard, play hard. 
  9. Shower my friends and family with love. 
  10. Remember to be less critical of myself. I will never be more young, with more of my life ahead of me than I am today. That’s a message I wish I could go back and tell myself at 15. Twenty years later, I’m more confident than ever and capable of making life exactly what I want it to be – and what I can’t change, I’m strong enough to handle. I may be two decades older. But from where I’m sitting…life is pretty sweet. No filter needed. 

America, How Could You?

Open Letters

My lament takes a dark turn. Nothing brings reality into sharper focus then I brush with mortality. Life-and-death situations tend to bring things into sharp sharp contrast.

I thought the worst thing that could happen today had already happened: and accused sexual predator. A racist. A misogynist. A man whose many many public gaffes should have been enough individually to disqualify him from even the consideration of running for student government, let alone running a sovereign nation… Has managed to convince 50% of millions of people that he is fit to be president.

So I dressed for the occasion.

The End. I dressed for a day of mourning, and (ironically?) posed in front of an image of sheep plummeting off a cliff en masse – one lone sheep is going against the herd, bleating ‘excusez moi…’. And the day only got worse from there.


And we can all joke about how the Canadian immigration site crashed due to all the increased traffic, or how maybe this is all some horrible misunderstanding… But when I woke up and checked my phone, confirming what I thought must be a mistake as I went to bed, a deep discomfort set up residence in my gut. How did this happen?


The dread exploded with apropos responses, and I was shielded from many of the exuberant postings of joy from people who actually voted for this man, because Facebook at least can protect me from this reality through its ingenious filter settings. However, there’s a complicated reality being revealed… And what’s most disturbing is the sheer number of people who are willing to accept someone whose personality is vile, whose values are vile beyond comprehending, because these voters think he is somehow better than Hillary Clinton. Whatever your issues are with her, how can so many people have been duped into voting against their own best interest, for a man who has let workers take the fall for his financial losses, outsourced jobs within his own enterprises, degraded and humiliated his opponents, female and male, made so many blatantly racist comments that we hardly notice the subtle ones, like when he refers to ghettos and each time throws in the words Blacks and Latinos, as though these are the only people living below the poverty line, as though Black and Latino are synonymous with poor and unsuccessful, or that inner cities are homogeneously populated… The view from up here is unsettling.


And I thought it couldn’t get worse. But at 8 AM as I began teaching my first class of 17 and 18-year-olds, I got the news that one of our very own students bodies was found after he had been missing for several days. Shah Ruhk is who I’m thinking of today because his life is important, because I can’t stop thinking about his last moments, because he is Muslim, because the rhetoric across the border demonizes young people like him, because I have read his heart felt writing, where the ambition, love, and values of a young man are so clearly revealed and are so contrary to everything that Donald Trump claims to know about people like this young man who is so tragically lost to us. The last piece of school work that this boy wrote, praised his parents for providing him with opportunities to live and grow in this country, praised his faith for teaching him how to respect the opportunity to learn and to pursue a bright future; he wrote about the admiration he had for his teachers, the love and dedication he felt towards his family, the importance of treating children with kindness and respecting your elders. The last conversation I had with this quiet, sweet young man was about how he was continuing to encourage his brother to get back on track and take his studies seriously; he said to me, “I can’t give up on him he’s my brother and I need to look after him.”

Maybe this is the most profound statement that has come to mind today, because, for me, his words might also be applied to the way we view the current situation south of our border – we need to respond with love, and patience, and clear values, and lead the way, hoping that we will set our neighbour on a better path.

I don’t really know how I got through today, with the eyes of so many young people watching, and asking how to deal with this loss. By talking. By asking questions. By listening. And remembering what is important.

Words of Wisdom: Fashion Edition

Open Letters

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I read this on Refinery29 and smiled:

“Clothing Shopping Mistakes: “The Too-Small Thing (That Fits If You Haven’t Had Lunch Yet & As Long As You Don’t Breathe)”. News flash: You like lunch. And breathing. Buying clothes that don’t fit with the assumption that they may fit if you do a bunch of things that aren’t that fun is a terrible idea. There will always be another version of that item in your actual size. You can wait.”

On that note, as someone who loves clothes, I cringe a little as I recognize the traps we create in ‘justification land.’

I feel like I have this problem with coats … and shorts. I always envision myself being this kickass person with the perfect, polished winter coat. I usually buy a discounted version of the coat I really want and end up not loving it, while secretly envying other people’s amazing outerwear. I need to learn to hold off. I need to cull and then just wait for the perfect coat… not its kid sister.

I have the same problem with shorts and leg-revealing items, but worse. I trick myself into thinking that if I just buy the right pair of shorts,.. I will be a person who likes to wear/looks good in shorts. Buying the right pair of shorts will not change my legs. Only eating less cheesecake, drinking less wine and working out more will change them; and I’m not sure that the sacrifices I’d have to make to get those legs (ie. living without the joys of eating delicious desserts) would actually be worth having those model-esque legs… or make me the kind of person I’d enjoy being around. So, rather than envision and be tormented by clothes that fit a “better” version of me – a deluded, unrealistic version – I should focus on wearing the clothes that make me feel great NOW. I’ve been going to Polefit (more on that another time) and it has totally changed my relationship with my thighs; I can now go to the gym in shorts and be proud of how hard my legs work for me. Win.

Although it would be kind of nice if just buying the shorts Shay Mitchell is wearing on Instagram made me look like Shay Mitchell…

But clothes, for me, are like a superhero costume – items that send a message out into the world, transforming and arming the wearer, concealing tiny weaknesses (our personal kryptonite) and letting us putting on a braver face to the world. It’s not quite an ‘I woke up like this,’ as much as a ‘I created the me before you. Good work, me!’

If I spend too long living in fashion ‘future’, I will miss fun present. I have a great collection of well-worn faves, vintage, hand-me-downs, handmade items and a mish-mash of pieces from contemporary stores, and making good with what I have has been the focus of this past year.

I want to be focused on enjoying my slice of life (and cake), while relishing the great assets that might I might be overlooking while considering my (mostly) shorts-averse pear shape. Also, when I do wear shorts, I ought to consider that the strength in these legs is what lets me do all the things I love, like dancing in the kitchen, walking the streets of foreign places, and shaking it to music out on the stage, or on the dance floor.

It’s a fashion mindfulness moment: be present. be happy.  and eat that cake.

TBT – Toronto Pride 

Love, Open Letters

In Toronto we love our pride. We live it. I’ve been attending pride for 15 years, only missing one year because I was celebrating a friend’s marriage in Greece. 

Highlight time: 

   
 Orange is The New Black was making dreams come true. On a parade float    

    
  From start to finish the weekend was full of love and firsts…  
Shout it from the rooftop. 
    
    
    
    
   
    
    
Vag Halen performs. And sends a powerful message to people about First Nations rights, trans rights and  Black Lives Matter.    
    
Pride is about being together. With friends and loves. 
    
    
 Canada Day grilling. 

  
    
Brewery time with a glass raised to Canada’s birthday. 

  
The Drake party.     
    
    
When the P gets away. 

 

Summer to-do: day 17 – take a stand

Open Letters

Make a step towards progress by getting involved in something you believe in. Raising awareness about the homophobic laws in Jamaica and asking for a review of these antiquated laws is a cause I can get behind (especially since it’s my wife’s home country and I haven’t been there yet). 

British laws from the colonial past target gay men, specifically with buggery laws that criminalize gay-ness or gay ‘acts’ (though I doubt any straight people are being arrested for their participation in anal play); these laws can be widely interpreted to catch any act that alludes to a person being non-heterosexual as ‘obscenity’ or indecency. So, tucking your partner’s hair behind their ear, putting on his or her sunscreen, or living together are cause enough to substantiate a claim of ‘homosexuality’ and the attending violence; the result is that LGBTQ people who are victims of violence are seen as criminals and face discrimination from the officers they report to, and even reporting can put them at increased risk because acknowledging that they have been victimized makes them more vulnerable.   
    
   
   
Jamaica has one hell of a track record. When a recent murder, of two known gay men, occurred – the news paper quoted neighbours sneeringly referring to the homicide as a “fish fry.”  People have been stabbed. Raped. Set on fire. Run over multiple times. And police have treated the  victims as the criminals. 

It’s shameful that violence of any kind is supported, especially when the targets are a marginalized group with no legal recourse. Before meaningful change can happen, legislation has to change… To protect victims of violence from behind labelled as criminals.