This Is Why I Don’t Like Being Hugged.

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This is not a new phenom for me. It’s been this way since… probably before middle school. Because, it was never just a hug. It was political. Or sexual. Or forced. Or unwanted. Or fake. But worse than that, for me, it pretty much always turned into being sick. And besides all that, I’m tall, so whoever is hugging me feels the need to reach up and get the crook of their arm around my neck and drag me down to their level! Or curl their shoulder cap up under my throat, strangling me.

Hugging, to me, is VERY INTIMATE. Yes, I needed to shout that. I don’t care for this “touchy, feely” part of society I’m apparently a part of. A lot of it seems so forced, so fake. Like it’s just what we do now. Even in primate packs, physical affection/grooming is reserved to members that are known to each other, comfortable with each other.

I say, “NO!”

As a member of a 12-step group, I would consistently sneak in through the kitchen at the meeting room, rather than endure the gauntlet of “Greeter” hugs that awaited me should I go through the front doors. And it always turned into a competition of who could grab me before I protested. “BUT WE LOVE YOU!” Like somehow if you just exposed me to the same uncomfortable behavior I would give up and accept. Capitulate. Just go with the flow. Resistance is futile.

My Western Civ teacher in college told us how he thought we shouldn’t say “I love you” too much. His belief was that by saying it over and over and over, at any time, for any reason, diminished its meaning. I kinda agree. On the flipside, I don’t think you should be stingy with saying “I love you” to those you really DO love. Especially children. They do need to hear it, and when you say it, you need to look in their eyes and mean it. I feel the same way about hugging.

And then there are the conversations that people had about my dislike of hugging.

“Oh, she’ll learn, one day.”

“It may take a long time, until she likes herself more.”

“When she sees what she’s missing.”

As an adult, I make sure that I get permission if by some crack in the cosmos I feel like hugging at that particular moment. Even I am struck by sentimental thoughts sometimes. At a party at our house one Christmas, my friend and her family were saying goodnight, and I leaned down to her oldest, to get on his level (who must have been 10 or 11 at the time), said how glad I was that he had come, and could I give him a hug? He immediately said “No!” and I said, “Fair enough! Would it be OK to shake your hand then?” And he gave a little smile, and we shook.

This is MY body. No one else’s. I have never had autonomy over it, never felt comfortable to say “no.” Didn’t feel I ever had the right to not let someone touch me, or put me on their knee, pick me up, stroke my hair, “you’re such a pretty little girl!”

As if that makes it OK. Oh, I’m pretty! OK, then, I guess I am just an object for you to do with as you wish.

Maybe then, pal. Now, it’s over my dead fucking body.

When I hug you, I really mean it. If I hug you, it’s real. Like my husband’s hugs. Pure magic. But they are borne out of trust, respect, love, consideration, and time. They are intimate.

Last week, someone hugged me (I couldn’t cut it off at the pass) and held on. It was nice, fine, they told me they missed me, etc., and then let go. Then ten seconds later, mentioned, “I’m not feeling great tonight.”

Fuck. Literally, just fuck. Cue up 36 hours later, my nose is stuffed, throat scratchy and coughing, headache.

FIVE DAYS OF THAT CRAP. For one ten-second hug.

I ask you, is it really worth it? To me, it is not. I know you like me. You care about me. Then hold out your hands. Chances are, I’ll let you take my hands. Squeeze them. Look into my eyes and tell me what you have to tell me, and I’ll return the sentiment. We can smile, maybe I can touch your upper arm gently, or you can touch mine.

And then, if it’s cold and flu season, I can go wash my hands. Please don’t take it personally.

There’s Power in Aging Ungracefully

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I get Miley Cyrus, in some ways.  I truly do.  Discovering the power of your sexuality, and trying that out, not caring about the consequences – we’ve all been there.  Women are powerful, and not just sexually, at all ages, but unfortunately it’s been stamped on and shamed on and controlled for so long that we have no clue how to just… be, most times.  Unless we make ourselves attractive and have a powerful man standing beside us we feel naked, incomplete, irrelevant.  Unless we act the way that society says women should, the way that men say we should, we are labeled – feminists, ballbusters, lesbians, bitches.  I understand, I truly do, why youth is so appealing, why we celebrate it, worship it and try to hold on to it as much as we can – younger spouses, cosmetic surgery, staying current on trends.  But where does that leave the rest of us?  I’m not in my 20s or 30s anymore, and I feel a bit like I’ve been cast aside, that my opinion and my person no longer matter.  And most especially, now that my uterus is no longer fertile and I don’t want to spend endless hours preening and slaving to fashion and makeup, I feel… dead, sexually. Undesirable, in every definition of the word.

I drove home the short way a few weeks ago, which I rarely, if ever do, because of situations like I’m going to recount.  It was a lovely Southern California day, the windows were down, and the sun was going down, angling low across the sky, making it a backlit canopy.  On the two-lane stretch of Woodbury where I was driving, the speed limit was 40 mph.  People were going slower than that, and it did annoy me, only because I had to be somewhere, but I wasn’t driving like a jerk.  Trust me; I know when I’m driving like a jerk.  I’ve done it for a long time and I am UBER-aware of myself tailgating, getting frustrated…this was not one of those times. (I have tried to curb my aggressive driving tendencies, and I think for the most part, I have succeeded.  LA is a difficult town to practice Zen driving in, believe me.)

I changed lanes to the far left and fell in behind an old, red Honda.  He was a couple of miles below the speed limit, and I crossed over Washington behind him, as he zigged into the right lane, I followed, and had to stifle a chuckle when he passed a fire truck on his left and stuck his hand out the window to wave and give a solid “thumbs-up” to the riders. The fireman on the passenger side raised his hand slightly and gave him the smallest, briefest of waves.  The red Honda then pulled ahead into the left lane, and I followed.  At the next light, he slowed to get into the far left turn lane. And I mean, really slowed. Trying to piss me off slowed. The light was still green and I braked, turned my wheel hard to the right to get around him, and then hard again to the left to straighten out, but missed the light.  He crawled up beside me to my left, rolled down his window and tossed the opening salvo – “You’d better be careful there, girl, tailgating like that!”

Where do I even begin. Do I feel flattered that thinks I’m a “girl,” not a woman? (He was under 60, therefore not old enough to play the age card) Do I mention the tortoise-like (read: controlling) maneuver of his that precipitated the event? Do I laugh it off and ignore him, turning my music louder?  Well, unfortunately, the answer is d) none of the above.  I was so annoyed with him a) being distracted and waving at a fire truck like a 5 year old, b) purposely slowing down and trying to control others (namely, me), but mostly… mostly, I was hot that he had called me, “girl.”

Listen, I’ve had a great fucking life so far. I really do not have anything I can complain about that I wouldn’t feel ashamed complaining about.  I did what I wanted to do, for the most part, and made a life for myself in another country, even while being illegal there; I was gorgeous in my young womanhood, and I knew it.  I drank and smoked and cursed and fucked with the best of them, and men loved it (well, most men anyway, the kind of men I liked back then). It’s looked on a lot more favorably when you are 25 than when you are 45 (and quite a few pounds heavier than you were then as well). I know now that some of my affections, and my actions, may have been misplaced, but I really do believe that particular truth is given to us at a time when we are most open to receiving it.

So, in that bohemian, independent spirit of my youth, I laughed under my breath, turned to face ahead of me again, and muttered, “Fuck off.”  To which he looked taken aback, and said, “What did you say?!?!”  God, will this light never turn green???? Is what was going through my head, but, not turning to him, I responded, without malice, or intonation at all, “you heard me.”  There was silence, except for Def Leppard vaguely playing in the background.  Then, after a few moments, came the kicker.  The retort that comes only when you can’t think of anything else to say and are pissed off enough to want to hurt.

“You’re a fat pig… aren’t you!?”  The last bastion of the witless.  Although it’s probably true to some extent, I’m heavier than I’ve been in a long time and certainly not the looker I once was, but how does someone even know that, seeing you from the shoulder up?  Are my jowls really giving me away? (I’ve got to look into that Lifestyle Lift.)  And really, there were so many adjectives that flew into my head to counter with (balding, ginger, pockmarked, to name a few), it could have gotten much uglier.

The light finally, FINALLY turned green, and I stuck my long, manicured hand out the window and flipped him off hard, like Jennifer Aniston showing her boss her “flair” in Office Space.  I gently pressed the accelerator in my Prius and silently headed home.  Oh, it hurt.  Believe me, it hurt.  I’m no longer as adept as I once was at sloughing off the slings and arrows sent my way, back when I was gorgeous and didn’t care, about authority or much else.

But what gives him the right to say that to me? I’m a big fan of men, I love them, have always been around them; I feel their plight as they head into this brave new world of metrosexuality, 24/7 porn, and women fucking like men, and can understand their bafflement. I see that they too feel irrelevant, out of touch, unnecessary. But I also know the surest way for a man to control a woman is to make a dig about her appearance.  This jackass is one in a long line of social fuckwads that has said something blatantly ridiculous to me in the hopes of hurting and showing his power and control over me. Now that I’m older, I see them as sad, pathetic, lacking in confidence, no self-esteem – and I can have some compassion.

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The only good news that came from this encounter was that I’ve started taking the long way home again, even though it adds 5 minutes to my already ridiculously short 15-minute commute.  I didn’t fall into depression and hate the world for being so mean, as I would have years ago.  I didn’t carry it with me, because even though I may have been unwise to “poke the badger with a spoon” and tell him to “fuck off,” his response was completely irrational and uncalled for.  And one of these days, I’m going to really be able to say that I don’t care about what people think of me.  And I will believe it.  And the fucking roar that will issue forth from my mouth upon that happening… well, that will be something, won’t it?

Expansion Paige Bradley

(Expansion by Paige Bradley)

Hut! Hut! Life’s Little Lessons…Experienced Through Football.

I love football.  I just wanted to put that out there before I said anything more about it.  I’ve loved it since my Dad and I watched the Edmonton Eskimos from the “new” Commonwealth Stadium, in the late 70s.  He got season’s tickets and we would huff and puff up those cement stairs, to our seats, on the aisle, about three rows from the top.

“Geez, Dad, how come we can’t get tickets a little further down?” As I’d collapse into the seat (and take off my oxygen mask and crampons).

(Google Earth snapshot of the stadium, and where our seats were)

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He’d just smile, light up a cigarette (you could do that in the open air stadiums back then), and say, “No, hen, then you couldn’t see the PLAYS develop.  Up here you can see all of what’s going on.  I don’t need to see their faces, I’m interested in the big picture.”

So there it was. I learned to watch the Offensive Line shifts, the audibles, the shotgun, the fantastic way the CFL is that the Wide Receivers can be in motion towards the line of scrimmage before the play starts, and the intertwining of routes making their way down the field. It became more about the team, and their progress, than individual efforts.

Of course, the Canadian playing field is 10 yards longer and almost 12 yards wider.  It really does avail a more wide-open game.  And just 3 downs to get the job done?  Difficult.  Really difficult. 1st down, you get a few yards, 2nd down, you don’t quite make it, you’re a yard or two short? That’s it, you gotta punt or try for a field goal.  Your offense has to be a little more effective and on the ball (pardon the pun).  Even my husband has been brought over to the CFL side and marveled at its expansive, fast-paced beauty. (That is, when our provider actually decides to show the games on its Canadian affiliate).

And don’t hit the goal posts! They are positioned at the front of the end zone (which is 20 yards deep instead of the NFL 10).

Commonwealth Stadium is also where my Dad taught me about sportsmanship.  Like any eleven or twelve-year old, I had developed deep loyalty (read: crushes) on many of the players on the football team and would defend them to anyone.  One year, during the Labour Day (and yes, it IS spelled with a “u”, thank you) series between the Esks and bitter provincial rivals the Calgary Stampeders, on a glorious, prairie Fall Sunday afternoon, with a huge bright blue sky above, I nearly had smoke coming out of my ears at one of the more vociferous, and quite drunk, Stampeder supporters.

He must have been, maybe, eighteen (at least, because he was drinking a stadium beer and the legal age is eighteen), lithe, shirtless, hairless (his chest), with the feathered/banged dirty blonde shoulder-length hairdo popular then. He was tanned and had sun crinkle lines on his face that made me think he worked outdoors. His team jersey was tucked in to the back of his jeans, and the red shirt hung past his bum crack and down to his knees.

Any time, and I do mean ANY time, the Stamps made any kind of good play, he would stand up, beer in hand, and turn around to the crowd above him and just gloat, eyes narrowed, mouth set in a “mmm-hmmm!”, while his other hand displayed an index finger jutting skyward in a “#1” motion.

It was about all I could stand.  I wanted to throw my pop at him (pop being my Coke, in a big plastic cup).  My Dad saw the steam coming out of my ears and said, “What’s wrong?”  I answered, “That dumb guy is making me so MAD!  I just want to throw this at him and show him how WRONG he is!”

My Dad’s eyes softened and he made that funny little noise he made when he was amused, that wasn’t quite a laugh, but a hard outward snort through the nose (I’m pretty sure it’s a distinctive Scottish trait, but I could be wrong), and said to me, “No, wee Neecy, he paid his money just like everyone else for his ticket, and he’s allowed to cheer for whoever he wants to. You’ve got to respect that, and don’t let it get to you.  Just enjoy the game, even if your team isn’t winning.”

I was a little too young to grasp the gratitude he was expressing for, again, the big picture.  The aforementioned beautiful day, spending time with his daughter, surrounded by people who were (mostly) on the same side cheering.  Glorious.  I was a lucky little girl.

The intent of this particular blog was to talk about how difficult it’s getting to watch American football every week – with the rage, the injuries after practically every play, and the poor sportsmanship shown a lot of times by the players – having to humiliate and subjugate the other player that they’ve tackled, or ended up on top of.  I find it really crude that after a play, the defensive guy will pretty much get up from the feet of the player he’s tackled, and walk OVER him to make sure that the player on the ground sees defensive guy as the Alpha Male, and gets a face-full (or facemask-full) of his obviously superior junk.  Why don’t you just pee on him too? (Would that be a penalty? How many yards?)

But, I will leave that rant for another day… I have too much of a good feeling going on now, thinking about those truly halcyon days of watching football with my Dad, the lessons I learned from him, and from the game, and strolling down memory lane.

To me, that’s what professional sports should do – unite the people of the City and show us how alike we all are, and not focus on the differences we have.  Go ahead, you may say I’m a dreamer.

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I Won’t Be Muzzled.

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I won’t be muzzled.  I won’t be leashed and held to heel.  Having spent the better part of my 20s and 30s thinking that I wasn’t a “nice” girl, having to swallow my anger so much that I blew up like a blimp, so that every time I experience the feeling of anger, I cannot even hold on to it, instead I dissolve into tears.  I no longer want to slowly kill myself with food and unfelt emotion.  I’m tired of watching life pass me, thinking how glorious and shiny everyone else’s life is as they achieve goals, try new things that frighten them, put themselves out on the line, while I sit in the corner and hope you don’t notice me.

It’s simple, but it’s a difficult concept to grasp.  I know.  If you don’t like me (and that’s OK), feel free to change the channel.  If you don’t like the words I write, don’t read them.  Believe me, they’re not about you, or trying to hurt you.  They are simply me, trying to understand, me.

I no longer have to be a people-pleaser and throw myself into despair knowing that you don’t like me.  I can’t grovel on the ground or hide under a quilt while you assert your dominance and superiority over me. I’m tired of putting my energy into trying to make you like me, rather than spend that energy on those who really do.  Those who, time after time, have been there for me.  Have opened their hearts, their homes, their lives, to me and mine; have never told me that I’m disgusting and that I should be ashamed of myself.

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This immense globe that is my home, I want to see as much of it as I can, with the person that means the most to me, my husband.  If that means that I’m flying away from the nest, be happy for me.  Wish me success and happiness and love as I traverse it, and don’t be sad or resentful that I’m away from you. My journey may not necessarily be your journey, or more likely, the journey that you wanted for me.  But it is distinctly and utterly mine.  I do not regret a millisecond of it.  All of it has made me who I am today, and you know what? It’s pretty amazing.  And, maybe, the choices I made have made it difficult to stay in touch, to know me, but instead of looking at that as a defect, why not look at it as an asset? An old Chinese proverb says that sorrow shared is sorrow halved; happiness shared is happiness doubled.

So, I’m different than you.  I believe different things.  I do different things.  They aren’t Canadian differences or Scottish differences, or American differences… they’re just differences.  Does that make me less of a human in your eyes?  Or less worthy of your love and your respect (if there ever was any there to begin with)?  Because I have not lived my life how you lived your life, or believed what you believed, there is no room for me in your consciousness?  I can’t live on crumbs any longer.  I am not satisfied to get what you give me and call it manna from heaven. I can’t be.  The world is beautiful, and huge, and ugly, and scary, and beautiful again, and I want to taste it all before I die.  And I will die, just as everything on this planet dies. What can I do in between now and then?  I can love. I can live. I can accept myself exactly how I am and where I am right now.  And then, if I want to change it, I can.  But I cannot change without first seeing myself as I really am.

Why must you seek to rein me in, like I am some thunderous wild Appaloosa who just needs a tighter bit to champ at in her mouth and the spurs dug in a little deeper to her sides?

Do you think I do what I do for spite?  To hurt you?  Do you really think it’s about you?

That couldn’t be farther from the truth.

A junior high teacher wrote as a comment on a paper I had turned in, “Why settle for the Moon, when you can reach the stars?” I’ll tell you why: because the Moon is closer, and all the people I know are there, and it’s safe, and known, and most of all… it’s not as lonely as being in the stars is.

But there comes a time when you know you must leave your Moon home and head off to your rightful place among those points of light.  The journey’s beginning is easier that second time, because the pull of the Moon is nowhere near as strong as the pull of the Earth.

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Weekly Photo Challenge: Change

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As hard as we try not to change, we are doing so every minute, every second of our lives here on the planet.  Trying NOT to change is the worst feeling in the world.  Change is natural.  It might as well be a synonym to evolution (oh wait, it is).

This is a picture of my hometown.   Edmonton, Alberta, Canada.  Coming up Connors Road, past the Muttart Conservatory, toward Strathearn and Bonnie Doon.

It’s in my rear view through a mirror, because Edmonton is forever changed for me now.  This picture was taken in September 2012.  I was home visiting my parents, the third such trip that year, because I was worried sick about my Dad.  It’s the last time I saw him.

Edmonton is a great city.  It was an amazing place to grow up – safe, comfortable, expanding, a little hick, a little slick. Living there requires a certain inner strength – particularly to get through the winters.

That last trip there, I borrowed my Dad’s Chrysler and filled up the tank, and just drove.  I remembered all the places I used to drive with him – Jasper Ave. to pick up my Mum after work; 17th Street where he worked; 109th Street where Grama used to live; my sister from the CN tower, where she worked.  I’d go everywhere with him. He had a little bit of the Traveler in him, and thank God I inherited it.

Dad taught me to drive – again in a Chrysler, this time a burgundy LeBaron – after getting me set up with Driver Training the summer I turned 16, I would be anxious to go with him, and this time get behind the wheel.  Dad was an assertive driver – some would say otherwise, in not so nice terms, but I am forever grateful to him for helping me with learning the privilege of driving. And learning how to do it well.  In thirty years of driving I’ve had two infractions – one for pulling a u-turn trying to get out of traffic on the way to my Dr’s office when I miscarried and was bleeding so badly I had to be hospitalized; the other, driving my husband’s car, and being behind a jerk who was texting and talking on his phone, and when I briefly honked to get him to go (as the light had been green for a few seconds), he went, then stopped short again, and not knowing this car as well as my own, I slammed on the brakes but couldn’t stop, and barely tapped his bumper (even though he harangued me and was verbally abusive, and got a whole new bumper and paint job out of it).

Lots of people are intimidated in the car with me.  I do admit, I’ve had some anger issues, and swore a lot, and maneuvered my Mazda as if it were a Porsche, but I don’t think I was ever reckless. I’ve been in cars with drivers who are worse – not confident, unsure, so scared of getting into an accident that they’re actually a liability on the road – and I’d rather be a passenger with my Dad.  I don’t think I was ever frightened when he drove.

Anyway, I got in Dad’s car, and I eased onto the roads I had once known like the back of my hand.  Edmonton is a growing city, and the vast open fields and spaces, on the roads into it, from my childhood were virtually non-existent anymore.  Yes, it was from growth, but also a little from that weird realization that everything was bigger, farther away, took longer to get to, as a child.  I remember my Western Civ teacher telling us the one way to really realize how much time had passed and how we’d grown was to reach for the doorknobs in our childhood home.  That perspective of eye level triggering memories was the harbinger of seeing how old you were.

So, with the car as my eye and the rest of the city as my doorknobs, I set out to see how much I’d grown. And how much it had changed; but mostly, how much I had changed.

The trees were so much taller.  I’d been around when a lot of them were being planted, slim trunks roped to iron bars to help keep them upright – now towering above me and their canopies full and lush.

The Walterdale bridge, close to the river and the water plant, still hummed as your tires went across it, but it was much quicker than I remembered.

The High Level Bridge, by the Legislative grounds, sucked the car in to its narrow two-lane tunnel, and dumped me out right where I had my first kiss from the man I went to Boston for – the High Level Diner. Wistfulness and sentiment washed over me.  I turned east onto Whyte Ave., and had to pull over.  The tears were streaming down my cheeks.  On my left was Gordon Price music – a favorite hangout of mine while at Grant MacEwan in the Theatre Program – I would spend many a Saturday afternoon flipping through sheet music there.

It’s also the last place I saw my Grama.  We had spent the morning together, shopping, doing errands for her.  I told her I wanted to go to the music store and look around, and would she mind waiting?  She said, no, you go on, I’m close enough to home, I will just walk back.  I didn’t want her to, but she insisted.  So I hugged her tightly and gave her a little kiss, and went off to search the aisles.  A few minutes later, I saw her, putting her face up to the plate glass front window, her hand shielding her eyes so she could see in, and I waved to her.  She saw me, waved, and smiled that wonderful smile she had, and blew a kiss, and walked with her little boots and mink coat, home.

If I had known…

How many times do we have to say that to ourselves before we learn?  Before we say “I love you” so they know. Before we look one last glance at them so we’ll remember them.

So that’s it.  Edmonton’s changed.  I’ve changed. Life’s changed.  It’s forever colored with the memories of all these lasts.  Yes, there were a lot of firsts, too, which I do remember, but it’s the lasts that are breaking my heart, that have so much of me tied there.  When did it change to that?  From the place of all my firsts, now just a place of my lasts?  It’s painful. Maybe that will change too.

The Executive Car Wash – A Symptom of…Something Else

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Have I told you lately how glad I don’t work in the private sector of the business world?  Where expense accounts and car allowances and business lunches are the everyday?  Where strip clubs are put through as “entertainment” and buying a pack of cigarettes counts as a business meal? Where bosses think nothing of dropping $60 a day on Lattes and Cappucinos and Espressos from Starbucks for their team, but give you a card at Christmas with “you’re wonderful!” and nothing more (even when you know they’re part of the “bonus pool” and got a huge check – something that, as an assistant, you are not allowed to be part of, even though you’re part of “the team”).

It seems that the more money you make, the more perks you are given, the worse your behavior for most of those who get the big bucks/have the power.  That doesn’t mean to say that there aren’t great, generous, humble people working for Fortune 500 companies, but they are, from experience, few and far between.

I would hope, that if I ever got into such a powerful position, and was a beneficiary of a “bonus pool” and knew the most important member of my team was not part of it, that I would give them a percentage of what I got.  Even if it was negligible, it’s the point of the thing.  I’ve heard it said that that is how rich people stay rich – they don’t give if there isn’t a tax write-off, or some way to get some of it back.

This hoarding – of funds, of love, of information, of ANYTHING… just makes you poorer.  Maybe not financially, but where the real truth of life lies… in our relationships with each other. A generous person is a person confident of where they fit in the world, and is unafraid to let things go, knowing that whatever you put out into the universe, you will reap threefold.  It’s hard not to be afraid, and it’s hard not to just want to keep it all, in case of, for maybe, the rainy day, it might happen… all of those are valid, but there’s a difference between preparing for later and living in fear.

Here’s something I’ve learned – there’s enough.  Of whatever you need. That’s it.  I may not be talking cash, but I mean everything else.  Cash is just a tool to help you get things. We give it way more power than it has the right to have.

Maybe it’s all about control, and not behavior. Maybe letting go of that modicum of power (in your own eyes) is the line in the sand.  I don’t know.  All I know is that when you’re getting paid to do the Big Job, you should spread the wealth, and let your little elves and pixies take care of the small stuff. They’re usually pretty good at it, and it makes them feel good when you actually LET them do their jobs, instead of doing it for them.

Here’s an example of what I’m talking about:

9:00 AM

<ring ring>

M:          Hi John.

J:            Mary, could you please call the car wash and ask how many executive washes I have left this month?

M:          Sure John.

<ring ring> (goes on for about 2 minutes)

FD:         Front Desk.

M:          Oh, hello, I was trying to reach the car wash?

FD:         Yes, they are already all out of the office doing their jobs washing.  Can I help?

M:          Yes, my boss John would like to know how many executive washes he has left this month.

FD:         <pause> Uhh… OK, I will see if I can find this out for you.

M:          Thank you.

9:25 AM

<ring ring>

M:          John’s Office.

CW:       Hi Mary, John has four car washes left this month.  He is entitled to one fill up and one wash per week, as I’ve told him before.

M:          Thanks so much, I appreciate it.

<ring ring>

J:            Hello?

M:          Hi John, you have four car washes left this month.

J:            Great.  Can you call them back and ask if they can wash my car today? I have a hard out at 4, so it would need to be back by then.

M:          Of course.

<ring ring>

FD:         Front Desk.

M:          Hello, I’m trying to reach the car wash again.

FD:         I’ll have them call you; it may take a while, they are out doing their jobs.

M:          I totally understand. Thank you!

9:40 AM

<ring ring>

M:          John’s Office.

CW:       Mary? Seriously, what is it he needs now? We’re very busy.

M:          I know, sorry.  He would like the car washed today, but he has a hard out at 4, can it be back by then?

CW:       Yes, not a problem.

M:          Thanks so much.

11:30 AM

<ring ring>

M:          Hi, John.

J:            Mary, can you check and make sure the car has been picked up to be washed?

M:          <pause>…Sure, John.

<ring ring>

CW:       Car wash.

M:          Hi, has John’s car been picked up to be washed?

CW:       <pause> Matter of fact, I was on my way to do it when I came back to answer this call.

M:          Sorry.  Thank you so much.

<ring ring>

J:            Hello?

M:          John, your car has been picked up to be washed.

J:            Great. Thanks.

1:15 PM

<ring ring>

M:          Hi, John.

J:            Mary, can you call the car wash and see if the car is ready?  I have a hard out at 4 and I’m worried it won’t be ready.

M:          John, I did tell them it had to be back specifically by 4.

J:            I know but I have to leave right at 4, so it needs to be back before then, I think.

ME:        <pause>…Sure, John. I will call them.

<ring ring>

CW:       CAR WASH!

M:          Hello, I’ve been asked to remind you John needs to leave AT 4, so he would like his car to be there prior to that, if possible.

CW:       Mary, we get it. He needs the car by 4.

M:          (sheepishly) I know you know… Just doing what John is asking.

CW:       <sighs heavily> Yes, we know.

<ring ring>

J:            Hello?

M:          Car wash will have your car back prior to 4.

J:            Great!

3:10 PM

<ring ring>

M:          Hi, John.

J:            Mary, can you make sure the car is back?

M:          John, they said they would have it back before 4, they are very good about it.

J:            I would really like to know that it’s back, for my own peace of mind.  I’d appreciate you not giving me attitude about it.

M:          <pause>…Of course.  I will call and check for…

J:            <click>

<ring ring>

CW:       Car wash.

M:          <clears throat> Hi, just checking to see if John’s car is ready?

CW:       <pause> Seriously?

M:          Yup.

CW:       Yes, Mary.  The car is back in its parking spot, all shiny and clean.

M:          I really appreciate it.  Sorry for all the trouble.

CW:       You’re not the trouble, Mary.

<ring ring>

J:            Hello?

M:          Car’s back and ready to go, John.

J:            Great! You just have to keep on top of these people to make sure they do their jobs!

Did they fill it up?

M:          <pause> Really?

There are so many things going on in these exchanges, I don’t even know where to begin.

Let’s not try.  Let’s just leave it with this:

f,,k,idiot,,,funny,humour,quotes-b2ac9a3b8dcf6b7805c23de106119132_h

I’m Your Biggest Fan…

Franz-Bischoff-Arroyo-Seco-Pasadena-Oil-Painting

(Franz Bischoff painting of the Arroyo Seco)

Early evening.  This is my favorite time of day.  It’s also my favorite time of year.

In California.

Early April, not too hot, the green starting to explode on the hills… Jasmine, that fragrant, heady harbinger of Spring.  The quick, look-fast-or-you-miss-them sunsets.

Those smells in the air, the light getting longer.  Better than the straight up hot spotlight that daytime and noontime give you – it burns me, more than just my skin.  It’s so bright, nothing is hidden – it wants in, and I don’t let it.  I haven’t let it.  California has not been my home for 15 years.

I’ve just lived here; it’s never felt like “home.”  Mostly because i didn’t want it to – I loved Canada, and as much as I loved Canada, I loved Boston a hundred times more – my heart broke leaving it, but now, fifteen years on, the heartbreak has lessened ever so slightly, and I am OK that I did.  I’ve grown up in California, in more ways than one.

I first visited when I was ten or eleven, some tween age.  My parents and I drove down from Canada to visit relatives here.  It was July, I do remember that – we were trying to get there for my birthday but didn’t quite make it.  We stopped off in Utah or Oregon somewhere; Mum and Dad bought a cake and surprised me with it at the hotel pool, where strangers and newly-formed friends sang to me.  We drove for hours and hours, and made it the next day, and then, when my Aunt scooted me out of the kitchen that night, my feelings were hurt, I didn’t know what was going on.  Then came the cake out of the darkness, half-eaten, the writing smooshed, “Hap Birthd Ber” only visible, with candles on it, and I felt special. Two nights of birthday cake and two nights of singing. Another relative made me feel like a princess – “I’ve got a special gift for you!” My eyes lit up and I smiled… “What? What is it?”  She pulled out a little velvet bag and said softly, “Make-up!” It was Clinique – a boatload of samples and “specials with purchase” that you get when you buy a certain amount.

I couldn’t breathe.  I spent the rest of the night, and the subsequent days we were there, highlighting, bronzing, glossing… I was in heaven.  Best tween girl present… ever.

My Aunt got me a powder blue lunchbox, with Vinnie Barbarino on it.  The rest of the Sweathogs were on the inside, plastered round the thermos, with their stock sayings next to them, grinning out at me.   But there Vinnie was, with his long, feathered dark hair, that goofy smile… and what did I say? “I HATE Barbarino!!”  Ugh.  Ten year old kids can be brutal.  I did go up to her afterwards and thank her and gave her a big hug.  She was smart – she knew that thing would be a collectible in a few years… too bad I don’t still have it, I might be a gazillionaire!!

The place where we stayed is less than a mile from where I live now.  Same town, one major street down the hill.  I pass by that house every day on the way home from work.  The big palm tree out front is gone, and the ivy’s been replaced with some grass and some terracing, but I still remember it.  Their house was so beautiful – it had a pool, and a cabana, a big patio, huge flowers, ivy everywhere.  When we went to Busch Gardens the day after arriving, I snipped a flower off the huge bush (were they peonies?) and my Aunt put it in my hair for me, in a beautiful big bun.  This place seemed unbelievable.  The sun was shining all the time.  There was so much to do, and everyone seemed happy and casual.  Shorts, tees, flip-flops.  My cousin had a yellow VW Beetle and she drove me around, telling me about the enormous tortoise at Knott’s Berry Farm (or the Zoo, one of the two), that was so huge, you could sit on him and he’d walk around.  I’m pretty sure my eyes popped out of my head.

Anyway… I’ve gone off on a tangent.  What i really meant to write about, was that for the first time since I’ve been here, I feel at home.  Is it because I’m a homeowner now?  Or the fantastic job?  The sense of not having to do everything the way other people do things here?  Yes, there are lots of fun things to do, and be, and see.  But, the one thing that California does promise, is that there is something for everyone.  Literally. I’m 25 miles from the ocean, maybe less, and I haven’t been to the beach in years.  And that’s OK.  I love the ocean, but not the Pacific.  I can’t smell it when I wake up, like I did the Atlantic in Boston. It’s different.  And that’s OK.

You all know I’m soft on Joni Mitchell.  Have been since I was a young teen.  “Blue” of course, was a seminal album of the 70s.  Like “Frampton Comes Alive” was standard issue to rockin’ teenagers in the suburbs all over, “Blue” was standard issue to the emo teens of my day (how cool IS it, really, that artists and their works are used as measuring sticks in the passing of time? A lot of other great stuff happened, but music and the arts help break it down for us, in ways we don’t even consciously comprehend.  That’s why I loved theatre so much, especially as a teenager.  I loved going to those amazing architectured halls and seeing that immediacy, that intimacy, feeling and seeing people having those forbidden things – emotions – and feeling them along with those on stage, and being able to take the lesson, without the horrible consquences.  What magic.  It’s still like that for me today too, but I’m so annoyed with the cell phones, the candy wrappers, the nose blowing…).

Joni talked about Paris, France.  Reading the news and it sure looks bad (it always looks bad in the news, don’t it?)

That was just a dream some of us had
Still a lot of lands to see
But I wouldn’t want to stay here
It’s too old and cold and settled in its ways here
Oh but California

Oh…but California… indeed.  Will you take me as I am?  Will you take me…as I am? Will you?

I hope so.  I’m taking you as you are… and you’re lovely.

California, coming home…