Nómada

What cross do you bear? Knowing that is half its weight. At least. I know mine, and for that I am grateful. For with this awareness, I can choose how I handle its heavy load. My entire life, I have always felt like the outsider, the visitor, the one tagging on, arriving late, joining in to an already established circle of friends. There are varying amounts of room left for me, both truly and perceived. I moved around a lot as a kid. I went to three different elementary schools and five different high schools. Although lonely and isolating, the outsider identity is what I know best and thus am most comfortable with. Perhaps that is why I perpetuate this status as an adult. Never in one place long, always leaving for the next quest, either alone or with newfound friends.

But perhaps being forced to face the daunting challenge of leaving old friends behind and starting fresh in a new and foreign environment gave me the insight that this can be done, fairly easily, and that it brings new learning and stadiums of fascination that nourish the young soul. Perhaps it gave me the taste for adventure that so fully fashions my lifestyle. Perhaps it opened my eyes to all the other worlds that exist not just across the map but in the next city over. I vote this interpretation; the visionary adventurer over the left-out loner. I love my life, I love the exploration and voyage. I crave the fear of the unknown and thrive there.

So perhaps my role is, indeed, the outsider, the visitor. The older I become, the more comfortable, happy, and proud I feel in a role that once made me feel strange, odd, alone. Anyway, there are much worse things than being lonely. Some do not realize the cross they carry and become buried and broken beneath its weight. Not me; I’ve become strong and the cross my raft. Perhaps there will be love. Perhaps there already is. Of course there already is. I’m overflowing with it. One week until Mexico…

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Stages of winter

Oh, the winter. Longer than a season. From clocks back to clocks forward. Eighteen weeks of cold darkness. The inspiration of summer hastily extinguishes and I rush home to escape the cold; to an empty apartment where I do nothing but go to bed way too early and feel longing and guilt for all the things I could be using all this shut-in time for. I am hard-wired to move and all this rest is weighing fearfully on a frail consciousness revealed without the distractions of doing and going and seeing and adventures. I am wasting away, every year, more than a quarter of my life. I have too much time to lament my thinning hair, my face that is cracking, my vision that is blurring. I still have my body and when I can’t use it, I am lost.

Last night was the same. I came home, poured myself a glass of wine, and settled in watching « Camille Claudel 1915. » Then I put on « La Bolduc » but fell asleep half-way through, somewhere around 9:30 p.m..

Of course I could be doing things, exercising at the gym, running up the stairs of my thirty-floor apartment building, going to the rock climbing gym, and in the beginning of this cold condemnation, I do. But quite quickly my mind disallows it. What’s the use? The dark makes me feel hidden away, the coldness makes me feel buried and my step heavy. I turn in toward myself. Leaving the house is impossible. A forced hibernation I find long and painful to endure.

Some mornings, though, have somehow eluded the deathly grasp of winter’s suffocating depression. My sacred mornings! How I love to rise before the Sun, make an espresso and bathe in the peace of a new day, free from anxiety and over-thinking. When the world is still asleep and I am awake, I feel motivated, like I am getting a head start, like today might be different. Look at this morning, after all. Here I am, writing.

Perhaps there are simply stages of surviving this curse. Stage one, I ride on the life and enthusiasm of summer’s bliss. Stage two, depression. I wallow in and am flattened by the stark contrast between the boundless energy and inspiration I know in warm weather and sunshine and the lethargy and discouragement I know in the numbing, black winter. I let it defeat me.

But today feels different.

Perhaps it is the wisdom of age, not that wisdom automatically comes with getting older but it can if you are humble and open to learning. That, I am! How I want to learn how to deal with this eighteen week sentence! Perhaps it is the lesson of being receptive rather than combative when life brings you things you do not like or understand. The Camino de Santiago taught me this last summer. Had I forgotten already? Hard-wired recidivist, I also am! Or perhaps it is remembering that, yes, I still have my body. But I also still have my mind.

It is the ukulele and the piano. It is the books and the writing, too. It is the good company I have been so fortunate to find. It is the French films I have so long been meaning to see. It is the learning to cook and how creative and fulfilling that is. It is being still for a change and not hating it but embracing it; switching gears consciously rather than begrudgingly.

Stage three, acceptance.

Six weeks down, twelve to go. Perhaps it won’t be so bad after all.

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Cages

I am mourning the loss of a loved one.

This person is not dead, it’s worse.

This person is alive and hates me.

 

Quitting smoking is never a done deal.

It is a daily victory, one I have not won yet.

 

I remember showing up to my first year of university. I had taken a year off before going.

Upon arriving I saw some familiar faces from high school whom I greeted excitedly.

“Wow,” one boy said to me.

“Wow, what?” I asked, confused.

“You were such a snob in high school.” He responded, surprised at my happiness to see him.

I was struck with a moment of relieved revelation, realizing that while I thought I had appeared so weak and insecure through those adolescent days, I had actually appeared tougher; arrogant or condescending. And I would rather that they thought that unflattering thing than know the truth of my flaws and feebleness. Though perhaps still losing the game of popularity or popular opinion, I felt some dignity restore.

They never knew, they never knew.

 

I think of this little moment from my past now as I sit with the hate of this person.

It doesn’t make it feel any better, but

I understand that hate lives in this person.

It is not me this person hates but a part of their self that I manifest and they lack.

It’s a threat, it’s a jealousy, it’s that person’s own deficiency, and the burden of all that feels much worse than being hated.

 

I have learned the difference between loneliness and being alone.

Loneliness is accompanied by sadness and a lack of control;

a feeling that you ended up there despite your plans or self-worth.

Being alone is a place you find yourself through a clear path of your own choosing.

It is quiet and solitary and can even feel hollow at moments,

but you understand that this is your will, and sadness is replaced with acceptance.

 

Today seems like the absolutely perfect day to quit smoking.

It’s April Fools’ Day, and smoking is for fools.

I have been noticing for weeks, maybe months, how much I am not even enjoying it.

Noticing, telling myself, letting logic subconsciously massage my mind…

It has been like a ritual I continue simply because I am a very patterned person.

The package of cigarettes that sits in the freezer has but one cigarette left inside.

It’s the wish cigarette, first one touched from the pack, turned upside down, smoked last.

I won’t smoke it, but I will wish on it.

I’ll wish and I’ll put into action my ardent desire to cease stupid smoking.

The Sun pours in my window and I stand facing it.

I hold up my arms and my prone palms and say aloud my plan of action like a prayer,

like a promise.

No god to seek help from, I am god, I hold the power.

And so this challenge is not daunting but empowering.

I say the words aloud, an auditory actualization stirs the Earth’s energy into the direction I want it to go.

Giving sound to thought provides a reality and a life and changes desire into fact.

 

The fact is that hate is a cage of confused anger and I won’t step into it with that person.

The fact is that loneliness is a cage of sadness and helplessness and I shall not enter there.

The fact is that smoking is a cage of stupidity and weakness and today I step out.

 

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La tigresse

The mighty Sun spills in with quiet power through my frosted, dirty window and open blinds. I can feel a radiant beauty envelope me; I am alight, energizing, eyes closed. I stop marking my students’ work, I stop worrying about my book launch party that will happen tonight. I just receive. Though mostly mild, but not today, it has been a drab and dismal winter, cloudy, no Sun. My skin has never been drier or whiter. But on this special day, the Sun has come to say hello, to kiss my face with shiny tiger stripes, to wish me luck and give me its blessing. Dear Sun, I promise. I will continue to roar. I will continue to let my fear dictate my path. My light is unique and needs to shine, like these radiant ribbons you paint on me with energy and fire this cuttingly cold morning. I am a flame, I am a tiger, according to lineage and the Chinese calendar, respectively. Indeed, Universe. Indeed, Sacred Sun! Thank you for your beautiful benediction. Now, if you’ll excuse me, I have positive and important things to do…Tiger.jpg

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Pupa

Already, I don’t even remember what I wrote in that damn book. My memory is wonderfully weak that way. It’s why I wrote it, after all. To remember at all that extraordinary thing that I did. And what a gift a frail memory is. Then everything is eternally somewhat new and like a little adventure, again, and again. “You can tell Christina the same joke every week,” he said of me. Yet I can remember him saying that, already ten years ago!

So now I have three weeks of nothing but time on my hands. With such deeply burning aspirations to write, what a gift of a pocket of time to do so, right? Wrong. A void of time does not equal inspiration! I had wanted to write for years. But what to say, at such a young age and of so little venturing? I finally had something particular to write about. Unique, mine. So I did. It is done. Now what?

Shall I write about this minor elective surgery that has me cooped up and unmoving, lying about like a shut-in, watching movies and ordering food for delivery? Is this how people live? “Some people, some of the time,” he said. A lot of people, a lot of the time, I think. It’s a social experiment, that’s how I’ve framed it in my mind in order to survive. And I’ve kept quite lovely spirits through it all, I must say. Seven days down and fourteen to go.

I’ve watched “Lady in Gold” and “Big Eyes” and “Cezanne et moi” and “Violette.” I miss Paris, where every moment is poetic, every word spoken is lyrical, where nothing is mundane, and even the air I breathe is melodic and infused with inspiration. I wish I could go there and be poor and work as a waitress and never speak English again. I wish I could live in Bordeaux, a place I have never been, and Benjamin would be my neighbor. We would meet sometimes for dinner and get drunk and smoke one hundred cigarettes in an evening. He would encourage me and I would always be the foreigner, with the accent, who makes little mistakes with her grammar, and nothing could please me more than fulfilling this exact role.

The neglected blog, the scattered poems to sort through, the unwritten ones. Back to the couch, to waiting, to wasting, to incubating.

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David

One, two, three glasses of red wine as I sat alone and listened to the jazz band. It was a warm, October afternoon. Four glasses of red wine. Well, you know what’s next. A cigarette. But I don’t smoke in public. My cigarettes and my shame sit safely hidden in my freezer at home. I smoke one cigarette every morning on the balcony of my tiny, beloved rented flat with a double espresso. Then I have one more when I return from work in the evenings, and sometimes another later on, too. Some passers-by had stopped along the sidewalk to listen to the magic. I asked a gentleman who was smoking there if I could buy one. He shook his head no as he extended his pack of duMauriers. No charge; thank you. He gave me a light without a word, finished his own cigarette, then went inside. This was Poetry, a lounge in Kensington Market, quite perfectly named, as it was what the mystic moment felt like with the light buzz of alcohol and the sun shining and the spellbinding music and the grassroots, transcendental charm unique only to this part of Toronto. 

A fifth glass of wine. My friend, Josh, was running late. I didn’t mind at all. 

The gentleman who had given me the cigarette. I’d forgotten all about him. But as he passed me when exiting the lounge, he handed me a small square of folded note. Surprised and intrigued, I unfolded it. It read: 

« You are
quite beautiful,
and
alluring. 

I am
quite shy
and single. »

It was signed with his name, David, and his number. I looked down the crowded street in the direction he’d walked but could not spot him. I had hardly registered what he had looked like. Blond hair? Who was this charming poet who seized the moment despite his admitted timidness, and thinks that I, of all people, am beautiful? 

*

In fact, he has light, wispy, sandy-brown hair. And a sideward-facing ball cap. He has cutely crooked teeth and his face is boyish and adorable. He is five ten, quite slim. He is thirty-one, I am forty-two. My immediate, primal thought: could I ever fuck this young babe? I could just make sight of a very thick down on his chest. This excited me. I decided I probably could. And what is he making of me? 

Our dinner at Fresh on Eglinton was pleasant, conversation was lovely, he plays music and has a degree in philosophy. There is a depth and substance to this young man with an old soul that made it possible to think of more than his physical fuckability. He insisted on paying; a gentleman. We walked in the rain to the subway. It was a polite, slightly awkward goodbye. Though we certainly managed, I believe I am just as shy as he is. 

*

This morning I am forced to sit on a sideways-facing seat rather than a forward-facing seat on the subway. I wonder if hurtling my brain through the space and altitude of the subway tunnels at this different angle will have any effect at all on the mishmash that transpires there. Sitting this sideway direction is rare. People always want the two-seater facing the direction of travel and by golly they would prefer to keep both seats to themselves, the other seat for their belongings. I am one of these they. This is only possible during the pre-work rush hour if you are going out of the downtown core and not into it, where seats are usually plentiful. This is my particular situation, though not today. I am on my way to work and wondering about David, about Tinder, about ageing, about humans as commodities in today’s online social context, but mostly about David, I must conclude. The story of our chance and lyrical meeting, the interesting dynamic of our age difference, his poetry, which I guessed correctly he indeed writes, and our dinner last night. Did he write of me in his journal, I wonder?

*

I should be marking papers but instead I am staring out the bus window, allowing my night brain shenanigans to sort and settle and follow the whimsical paths of my morning thoughts. I had a very strange dream last night that I can’t remember ever having had before. It was this:  

I was on a long-distance bike ride; the one I have loosely planned from Toronto to Vancouver. I ran into some people quite early in the ride. I had forgotten all my panniers, I realized. Shit. As I was sitting there talking to the lovely people, I pooped my pants. 

I was shocked in my dream but was thankful to feel that it was solid poop. Incredibly, I was able to excuse myself and find a public washroom. Unbelievably, it happened to have a standup shower inside. I was able to clean up the whole mess without anybody noticing.

I looked up what the dream could possibly mean, online, purely out of curiosity. I was shocked to find, on the very first site that I clicked, an interpretation that included the specific scenario about pooping but being able to get to a public washroom and get cleaned up without anyone being the wiser. Apparently this means that positive changes are afoot. 

My personal school of thought is that most often dreams are nothing more than just a leftover medley of the day’s minutia; a sub-conscious unrolling into a non-sensical, often entertaining, drama, when we remember it. But sometimes, and since I did not poo my pants yesterday or anytime recently, yes, I think they can be symbolic and signify something meaningful. Is this one of those instances?

*

I walked around in absent-minded circles, turning left, left, left as I unconsciously unwound the spiral of energy within me created by running up the stairs of my high rise apartment building each morning, turning right, right, right, up and up. The air is pleasantly crisp as finally temperatures have dropped to where they should be for late October. It had been unseasonably warm until now. It is ten thirty on Sunday morning and David is late. Very late. 

Your lateness is my precious open window, David, as I breathe in the fresh air and take photos of naked mannequins in windows and graffiti and The CN Tower. I dare say your lateness is my pleasure, David, so long as you turn up shortly. Forty-five minutes of circling, watching, checking street, checking phone, but he never appears nor messages. My heart is curious but not troubled about my young philosopher friend. What has happened to you, David?

*

Even more rare, today I am sitting facing the opposite direction of travel on the subway. It’s my least favourite position, I outright don’t like it. Could this have any effect on my thought process whatsoever? Even just psychologically? But perhaps even physiologically? What a thing to wonder. 

A young man named Saturn begins chatting with me. He’s been up all night, and he is looking forward to getting home to effectuate some of his ideas. I recognize his demeanour; he’s been partying. He is unemployed but still does good and gets paid in other ways, in love, often overlooked, he explains. Hear, hear. Saturn is forty, I’d have never guessed. He is trying to do the right thing in life but he keeps getting pulled in other directions. Setbacks, always setbacks. Life will always be like that, don’t beat yourself up, I told him. No Utopia, he replied, just some utopian moments. Raves, ketamine, depression, MDMA, music, dancing, what we do to the water, the Earth, industrial agriculture. We spoke of it all between Eglinton and Shepard stations. 

I shook his hand before he left. It was grimy. I left the grit on my hand a moment, my heart swelled, and I wished goodness and clarity for Saturn. I envisioned his filth, infused with the love emanating from my pores, lifting up into the air, floating, dissipating, dissolving into providence and lucidity. Will I ever cross paths with Saturn again? 

Last night at five thirty, seven and a half hours after we were supposed to meet, I finally heard from David. Apologetic and forthright, he told me how he’d stressed all night about our meeting, how he’d thus slept in, how he awoke in a panic. He has an anxiety disorder and he simply didn’t know what to say to me. I told him:

« No problem. I wish you’d shared that with me. I totally understand and sometimes have anxiety attacks myself. I had a nice day, so don’t worry. I went to the Guillermo del Toro exhibit at The AGO. I don’t bite, if you want to try hanging out again another time, I’m into it. 

So David will come to my house on Thursday evening for dinner. Hopefully. The dynamic keeps changing. What is David’s role in my life? Perhaps it is my role in his that is most important?

*

Once someone called me impulsive and I really reacted, was offended, found it insulting. It’s not insulting, and nothing could be more true when describing me. It brings many adventures! Adventures thwarted and left unborn, dead, by those who think too much. This morning I suddenly bought tickets to a concert tonight, Thursday night. So I invited David to join instead of doing dinner but he was hesitant, and I fed his hesitance with promotions of rescheduling which my heart wasn’t in. Moments pass, tides turn, seasons change. I wonder…will I ever read the poem he told me he wrote me? 

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While you were sleeping…

On the verge of selling my car almost four years ago, I said to myself: « You won’t be able to act like a little asshole anymore. » No more late nights, no more sleeping in until the very, very last minute, rushing out the door at seven or quarter after. I’d have to be more responsible, and instantly. It is the best thing I ever did for myself. 

I sold my car, I started going to bed earlier, ten, eleven, getting up earlier, a very fresh five thirty, taking the subway. Suddenly I had hours of extra time in the morning, time to myself: the hour on public transit, then the extra time after arriving to school, the cushion time built in (and left over) just in case there was an issue in the subway (there never is). I read thirteen novels in the first two months of taking public transit to work. I was in disbelief, amazed, I’d found a hidden treasure, a huge pocket of « me » time, and the glory of the still, silent mornings. Instead of the first order of business of the day being about work, the first order of business was me. 

After making this change, I took it one step further. Instead of getting up at 5:30 to shower and leave for 6:30, I started going to bed at nine or ten and getting up at 4:30 to exercise for an hour. In the winter I’d run up the thirty flights of stairs of the apartment building where I live. I could do that eight times in the allotted hour without feeling too rushed. 

But. Then. 

Waking up and starting to exercise right away began to feel rushed, too. I decided I needed an hour of slow, relaxed, snooze, coffee, podcast, wake up time first. And. So. I began going to bed at eight or nine and waking up at three thirty. 

Three thirty. There’s not a sound in the city, so much room to breathe. 

What a wonderful way to start the day: a slow hour of peace and reflection, an hour of hard work, using my able muscles, releasing endorphins, an hour to prepare for the day, un-rushed, I am ready, I have taken care of my insides, now ample time to primp the outside, then another whole hour in public transit, reading or writing; four whole hours focusing on my interests, passions, feasting on my soul food, as the first order of business, the priority of the day. Like this, I am well-fed and have so much positive energy to give to my day. 

Partying and acting like a mischievous little turd was fun. It was. But I’m glad it ended. My subconscious was ready to move on and my conscious readily complied. Or was it my conscious that was ready for betterment and my subconscious that complied? Hmm. Either way, this is so much more fulfilling, evolved, healthy, it’s progress. I am in love with my early mornings. When do you think I write these posts, after all?

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