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Finding my red dress

28 May

Have you read Jenny’s (aka The Bloggess) post about her red dress? Maybe you already have. Maybe you haven’t (but definitely should). I read it the other day whilst I was meandering about my favourite blogs and, I’ve gotta say, it kind of hit home.

The post, and the whole idea about the red dress, encourages readers to let ourselves have or do the things we want but have been too afraid to go for because of impracticality. Jenny says go for it anyway, because you and I, all of us, deserve it:

So today, think about what it is you need and were too embarrassed to ask for. And then go fucking do it. Wear a ball gown to the grocery store. Invite the neighbors to have a picnic on the front lawn. Get that novel out of your sock drawer and publish it yourself. Stand on a bus stop bench and belt out a song for the waiting strangers. Find a playground swing and remember how it felt to fly. Find your red dress. And wear the hell out of it.”

It all made me sit back and think – What have I been denying myself that I want? Where in life am I holding back? What can I do to make myself feel like the “dynamic and vibrant” person that I am? What, basically, is my ‘red dress’?

In life, I don’t want for much by way of things. Part of this is because I worry almost to the point of being obsessive over the impact consumerism is having on the environment (basically it’s a whole lot of OH MY GOD WE’RE ALL GOING TO DIE). Part of is also the fact that I’ve done a pretty good job (after a lot of training, weaning and financial instability) of being content with what I have. Which isn’t necessarily a bad thing, but I’m definitely that person who finds something in a store that I absolutely LOVE but instead of buying it I carry it around the store with me until I convince myself that I don’t need it anymore and I end up putting it back.

What I want in life, what I’m working towards, is my independence. I want to move out of my parents’ house and start standing on my own two feet. I want to pay off my student-related debt and live comfortably with my dog. Is that really so much to ask?

In order to make this happen, I’ve had to be very frugal with my money. This means that pleasure buying is a great big no-no. Again, not that bad of a thing but sometimes I miss the thrill of doing something just for me, you know? Like the other day, I was browsing around looking at purses. Ladies, I know it might be hard to believe but I actually have only one at any given time. I don’t switch it up to match my outfits or the occasion or the phases of the moon. One. As you can well imagine, it’s starting to get a little frayed and I’m ALWAYS losing stuff in it (I can’t remember the last time I was able to pick catch a call on my cell the first time). But just as I was starting to fall in love with a new one, strutting around the store like some big deal with it hanging off my shoulder, I remembered that my car is due for an oil change.

So I put the purse back. I put it back and saved my money for the oil change because that is the practical thing to do.

Better luck next month/season/year.

So when I read Jenny’s post, I was inspired. Maybe it was time to get or do something that would make me feel like I was worth the extra splurge. And as luck would have it, I just happened to have an extra $100 to dedicate to the cause.

Every year my quasi-estranged father sends me $100 for my birthday. There’s no animosity between us, but we aren’t as close as we were when I was little and he had yet to make a series of poor life choices that would ultimately drive us apart (stop me if you’ve heard this one like a MILLION TIMES ALREADY). Still, we remain in greeting card contact and every year he sends that $100 and every year he tells me to buy myself something nice and EVERY YEAR I put it into savings instead.

Well not this year. THIS year, I would finally spend that money the way he always told me to. THIS year, that $100 would go to help me get my own red dress.

Except that I didn’t want a red dress per say…

It took a bit of soul searching and wrestling with that guilty little monster in me that was, as always, trying to talk me out of it, but I finally figured out what I wanted.

And so yesterday I ordered my very first pair of long-coveted <a href="http://www.toms.comTOMS Shoes.

Yeah, I know, it may not seem like much but to me? They’re everything. For years I’ve been hearing from friends how TOMS are pretty much the greatest shoes ever – they’re ridiculously comfortable, fun and best of all? For every pair you purchase, TOMS donates a pair of shoes to a child doing without in some of the most poverty stricken places in the world.

Being able to do a little philanthropic good while spoiling myself is a really big added bonus (so is being able to spread the word about TOMS with all of you!). I’d rather donate my money to a good cause than spend it on myself in most cases ANYWAY, and before I was so strapped for cash I enjoyed making occasional donations to initiative I believe in.

It was really nice to be able to give back again, even if it was in a round-about way. It made me feel capable and in control of my own life again. That in itself was a great feeling.

I received notification that my shoes have been shipped. I’m giddy just thinking about it.

I’m giddy because these are so much than just shoes – They’re fabulous, glittering gold shoes that I WILL feel dynamic and vibrant in every time I wear them. I’ll wear them because I deserve them and when I look down at my sparkling feet I’ll be reminded of how hard I’m working to be able to stand on those two feet and I’ll KNOW that everything is going to be ok.

Oh, and I’ll wear the hell out of them while I’m at it 😉

Thanks, Jenny.

Adventures in eavesdropping

18 May

So, I’m sitting in a cafe, doing what it is that hip young people do in hip young(?) cafes and these three ladies sit down at the table next to me.

From the looks of things, they seem to be three generations of women from the same family – Grandma, Mama and Daughter. They seem tight I guess, I’m sure they’re nice.

Now, something you need to know about me now is that I am a shameless eavesdropper. Are you really having this conversation in public? Well then you’d better believe I’m listening. I’d apologize but, like I said, shameless.

Daughter looks to be a bit older than me but I’ve never been a good judge of those kinds of things so really, I might just be full of shit. She is also, as my cunning eavesdropping has deducted, in the midst of a significant personal crisis. Mama and Grandma seem to have brought her here to stage a bit of an intervention.

It’s not sex, drugs, or even, I’m sad to say, rock n’ roll that seem to be this young lady’s problem – it’s really just life. She bought a house before she was ready and without job security, she’s maxed out her credit cards and is swimming in debt and, from what I can glean without being too obvious, got involved with a man that left her high and dry. Oh, and it sounds like she’s in total denial about just how bad her situation is. Eeek.

My first reaction when I realized what was going on was “Fuck, this is AWKWARD”. Nothing like calling out all of a person’s poor choices right there in public. Like, every so often it sounds like she’s weeping and I’m all REALLY? Devastating.

But the more I listen in the more I can appreciate what Mama and Grandma are doing. Yeah, this might not be the best place but then again maybe it’s perfect – after all, she’s not going to blow up and start screaming in a crowded cafe, right? (Oh god, please don’t blow up and start screaming).

As much as Daughter is resisting, Mama and Grandma are really laying on the tough love. She might not like it right now, but it sounds like this girl really needs a couple of kind souls in her corner right now. She’s lucky to have them, I hope she lets them help her.

Remember when my boss told me I needed to get some perspective? Yeah. Yikes. Thanks cosmic forces, I’m picking up what you’re laying down, thanks.

Today’s blog post has been brought to you by: Other people’s poor choices

17 May

Themes.

Sometimes, life has them. Maybe not on purpose, but there certainly are days that feel like they’ve been scripted by the good people that bring us Glee every week – slamming morals and over-arching elements down our throats until we bleed inspirational quotes like those damned motivational posters.

Graphic, I know.

If today had a theme I believe it would have something to do with, at least according to some of the stories gracing today’s Toronto Star, owning up to and taking responsibility for your mistakes. There’s probably something a little more streamlined to be gleaned from all this but I don’t have the time nor the mental capacity to hammer out the finer details on a Monday.

So, dear reader, without further adieu, I give you: The Path to Deliverance According to the Toronto Star, May 17th 2010 Edition (a.k.a. What You Should and Should Not Do When You Fuck Up Big Time).

Headline #1: Robert Munsch admits cocaine, alcohol addiction

No, I'll love YOU forever, Robert Munsch

Heartbreaking.

I grew up on Robert Munsch books – they were a staple in every elementary school classroom and are the foundation for many fond childhood memories (I attribute a lot of my no-nonsense ball-busting to the lessons learned from “The Paper Bag Princess” and “Love You Forever” pretty much taught me how to feel. Only one of those statements is completely accurate but both books HAVE had significant impacts on my life.). So, perhaps I’m a bit biased. I find Munsch’s fall from grace far more touching than that of, say, Steven Page, formerly of Barenaked Ladies (and that IS saying something. I loves me some BNL.).

There’s the obvious tugging of the heartstrings – a childhood hero, who lived his life constructing fabulous stories for children around the world to enjoy has it all taken from him in one fell swoop, by no fault of his own. The article implies that the substance abuse was the result of the stroke that robbed him of his ability to create, and while that certainly doesn’t excuse it, it does at least provide some perspective.

Still! you might find yourself shouting, The man writes kids books! FOR KIDS! Yeah well, Eddie Murphy also got caught with a prostitute back in ’97, but does that stop you from letting your kids contribute to the bastardization of the Shrek franchise? No, of course not, so take it easy.

What is admirable in all of this is the fact that he is facing his demons head-on. His family and friends have been both aware of his situation and are helping him through it, and he has issued a message to the parents of his young fans that is up-front and honest. He didn’t wait for this to blow up in his face. And? He has turned this whole situation into a learning experience, stating that he hopes “everyone will talk to their kids honestly, listen to them, and help them do their best with their own challenges.”

Bonus points, Munsch. I wish you the best.

Headline #2:Toronto woman sues Rogers after her affair is exposed

When will we learn not to trust Rogers with our extramarital affairs? God damn!

Guys, I couldn’t make this shit up if I tried.

So this lady was banging some other dude and her husband found out when Rogers (her phone company, for all of my Yankee readers) decided to combine her cell phone bill (which was under her maiden name) with the family cable bill (which was under the husband’s name). Hubby noticed a number of long-ass phone calls to one number in particular, put two and two together and the rest, like their marriage, is history.

There is SO much wrong with this story. As a Rogers-hating hoard member, I am totally onboard with the belief that the company had no business combining the bills, especially without consent (whether they were under different last names or not). But, this IS Rogers we’re talking about, so I’m also not even sort of surprised.

But that’s not even the worst part of the story. Nor is, in my opinion, the fact that she was cheating on her husband (although for the record, this is not a round-about way of saying I condone it. Y’know, before y’all go burning me at the stake and such.)

What bothers me the MOST about this story is how her response to the fall out is to place the blame on THE PHONE COMPANY.

Because, y’know, Rogers totally held her at gun-point and forced her canoodle with a man who wasn’t her husband, risking her family and way of life and all that jazz.

Yeah.

To quote our damsel in distress in reference to the affair: “It was a mistake, but I didn’t deserve to lose my life over it.”

I’ll let you, dear reader, be the judge of that.

Trying to make sure Rogers gets their privacy concerns in check is one thing, but is suing them going to bring back her family? Nope. Is Rogers the reason her husband left her? Again, no – they may have exacerbated the situation but at the end of the day, no matter how the truth wound up coming out (and considering the juvenile reaction of the other man when she finally broke it off, it would have) it would have ended the same way. She needs to really own her part in all of this if she ever hopes to get on with her life.

So there you have it – two real life stories of taking responsibility (or not) for poor choices, and my unapologetic opinions of both.

What do you think? Am I being too harsh on our lady-about-town? Does our friend, Mr. Munsch, deserve to get off that easy? Do you agree with my rambles or do you think I’m full of shit? Let it all out, you know you wanna.

This post is full of angst, way too personal and exceptionally ranty. You’ve been warned.

13 May

You know what’s awkward?

Crying in front of your boss. This is especially true when said boss also happens to be a dude. A dud-boss, if you will. I don’t know about you, but crying in front of anyone is pretty high on my list of most awkward things ever, but crying in front of a dude-boss makes for a particularly special kind of torture.

And what, I ask, is more awkward than crying in front of your dude-boss when you already hate crying in front of anyone in the first place? Crying in front of said dude-boss for the reasons I did today.

When it comes to the nadirs of life, there are two things I’m big on: 1) Fixing problems instead of riding them out (which sucks when the only thing that can fix a problem is to ride it out. Patience: Not a virtue I possess), and 2) Pretending things don’t bother me nearly as much as they do (which, if not stymied in some sort of healthy fashion can lead to, among other things, crying in front of people like my dude-boss). I like to think that this blog will be a good creative outlet for the latter but in the grand scheme of life I really just need to work on my fight-or-flight reactions to problems.

Life has been handing me lemons faster than I can make lemonade lately. Some of these problems are petty, some of them are serious. None of them are the end of the world and I KNOW that everything will work itself out in the end. But let’s be real here – who the fuck actually finds that little piece zen useful when they’re in the midst of personal angst? C’MON.

But anyway.

I think it was just too much at once and not enough venting. I was like a bottle of champagne bursting my cork (I love how inappropriate that sounds), minus the bubbly good times. I hate feeling helpless and feeling like I have no one to turn to, but that was where I was at. I just didn’t expect dude-boss to be the one who would get to hear my (literal) sob story.

I had a lot on my mind when dude-boss pulled me aside to tell me that he was disappointed in me for opting out of some office social event.

And that was it. I just started to cry. I started to cry like a fucking child and told HIM what was bothering me. I didn’t tell him all of it, but I told him more than I had told anyone else up until that point. And, how pathetic is that? How pathetic is it that I didn’t feel like I could tell anyone about this stuff, only to tell my dude-boss instead? Uhg.

I told him about my recession-ravaged parents and how my mom, who has worked so hard for so long, finally broke down and had to ask my brother and I for money just to get her and my dad through until the next payday because they had nothing left. I told him about how I just had to decimate my savings account in order to pay off some debt just so I could start getting ahead. As good as it feels to be rid of the burden, I am devastated at being right back to where I started after so much hard work. I would have to be totally helpless at the worst possible time.

I told him about the guilt I felt about wanting, needing, so desperately to move out on my own, both for my own sanity and to relieve some of the burden from my parents. But I can’t even afford a deposit on some shitty apartment now, and fuck if it doesn’t sting to know that I was so close to not even have to go that route in the first place.

I didn’t tell him about my ungrateful youngest brother and the horrible, hateful things he wrote to my mom, damning her and our family for not helping him more when they can’t even help themselves. I also didn’t tell him about my boyfriend, who had told me he wanted to move in together and got my hopes up and everything only to decide that he wasn’t financially ready for it. Two weeks later he told me that he was moving into a new, more expensive apartment and the beginning of next month. He told me this as if we had never talked about moving in together, as if I should be excited for him. I didn’t tell dude-boss these things, but I did tell him how horrible it feels to feel betrayed by people I thought I could rely on.

He told me I need to get some perspective. I told him I’m sick of getting fucking perspective. I get it – there are people in Nashville who have lost their homes to rampant floods, the ocean is being poisoned thanks to a bunch of greedy dipshit bastards and in the grand scheme of things, my problems aren’t that bad. But right now, they’re bad enough.

And then he told me to stop.

“You can’t help anyone if you can’t help yourself,” he said. “A starving man feeds no one.”

Have you ever noticed how, sometimes, you just need someone else to tell you what you’ve already been thinking before you can believe it? I’ve felt so unbelievably guilty about wanting (needing) to move out when my family is going through such a rough time. I felt like that would be fleeing when the real answer to the problem would be to fight.

Except that this is one fight that I’m just not cut out for. He is so, SO right about that. I just needed to hear it to be able to accept it.

Once I finished building a sculpture of snot-tissue on his conference table, he hugged me and made me go home. For all the shame and guilt I felt for having bawled my eyes out like that to someone like him, I also felt a lot better for the first time in a long time.

Oh this is a story all about how my life got flipped turned upside down…

11 May

Sort of. Except that I didn’t become the prince of some upper class neighbourhood at the end. Dammit.

If you had asked me 10 years ago what I thought my life would look like in my twenties, I probably would have rambled on some blather about working my (high-paying) dream job, living in some wicked pad and starting a family with Mr. Right. I probably would have been pretty confident about this too. And, really, why not? After all, I was a straight-A high school student who had everything going for her. I was going to go to a good university and study hard and do great things. And because I was raised to be a tough and independent young woman, I was going to be able to perform this circus-grade balancing act between being a kick-ass professional (doing what I wasn’t really sure. I figured it would come to me eventually) and being super mom AND wife and not take any shit off of anyone.

I, like so many of my peers, was raised to trust in this magical formula for success and to believe in the “good life” that following through with said formula would lead to.

How aghast would my younger self be if I could tell her what I know now?

I did study hard and I went to a great university. But that magical moment where I suddenly knew what I wanted to do with the rest of my life never came. Instead of setting my sights on becoming a doctor or a lawyer, I studied what interested me, not what was going to get me the job. I spent some time overseas and realized that maybe, juuuust maybe, I was missing out on a great big world with a lot more to offer than I had ever thought.

Enter, Real Life.

Poverty and disenchantment in a post graduation world eventually led to the devastating break-up between me and the big city. My parents, bless their hearts, welcomed me back into the (much more rural) family home until I could get back on my feet. I was suddenly, and still am, a teenager all over again (angst included! In fact, possibly more so! Having your best laid plans dashed will do that I hear. Sorry, mom – it’s not you, it’s definitely me.).

And as for happily ever after with Mr. Right? Ha ha, yeah right.

I’m not down on love, I’m just not as convinced as I once was that latching on to a man is something I really need (I am seeing someone so it’s not like I’ve committed myself to cat-lady status yet). The institution of marriage has lost its sparkle as I realize more and more that it isn’t what most of us really want it to be. The tough and independent woman I was raised to be just doesn’t see the point in attaching myself to a man just because it’s what we’re supposed to do. And kids? I have a dog and that is all the selflessness I can muster (word to all you mothers out there; I don’t know how you do it).

So, here I am: In my twenties, living with my parents, no dream job, no house, and decidedly uninterested in traditional family life at present. My younger self would probably be hyperventilating at this point our little heart-to-heart

After handing her a paper bag, I’d tell said younger self not to worry so damn much. Truth be told, I probably wouldn’t change much of anything given the chance. I’m not where I thought I’d be by now (or even necessarily where I want to be for that matter). But is taking a little longer to sort your shit out worse than dedicating yourself to a career that you aren’t passionate about just for the money and getting roped into family-life before your ready?

And so, dear readers, I imagine that at this point some of you may find yourselves irritated at my babble, possibly swearing at your monitors with something akin to, “Whiny little bitch, who DOESN’T find themselves caught adrift in an ocean of never-ending existential crisis? Fuck this shit!” To which I reply with, “I know, right? Fuck this shit indeed”.

My situation isn’t unique. I know that I’m not the only one still feeling dazed, confused, and maybe even a little ripped off in the wake of this “real life” business. But admit it: it kind of helps to know that you aren’t the only one lost at sea in the same make-shift boat. The semi-directionless masses take comfort in their massy-ness as they lumber about in search of purpose and self-justification, amirite?

Anyway.

So, here I am, picking myself up and dusting myself off and hacking my way through the underbrush of the “off road of life”, carving out a new path. Sure, I’m a little more bitter that my sweet, unassuming younger self, but I’m determined gosh darn it. Plus? Bitterness also makes for snarky self reflection and witty social commentary. Blogging is fun!

See, aren’t you glad you came? We’re friends already!

Are you picking up what I’m putting down? Tell me your story. We’ll laugh about it in a few years anyway. Quarter-life angst! Ha!