This week, I am home.
I grew up in a largish but sleepy city on the Canadian prairies. Suburbs, car culture, indoor shopping malls, long cold winters with plenty of snow and sunshine, lots of festivals and a tight-knit arts scene, large university.
But for the last 12 years I’ve lived in Toronto – one of the three biggest cities in Canada (Vancouver and Montreal are the others).
I remember being amazed by the number of pedestrians when I first moved there. You don’t nod and smile as you pass, you avert your eyes, because there are just too many people for it to make sense to nod and smile at everyone. The sheer number of restaurants, of full subway cars and buses, that Toronto can support still astounds me. And the diversity — half of all Torontonians were born outside Canada. It’s hectic and vibrant and wonderful.
When I come back to the place where I grew up, it feels like home and not home. Familiar and strange – and stranger every time. The infrastructure is always changing – big box stores and suburbs continue to sprout up, and other businesses I remember have closed. There’s now an LRT (surface-level rapid transit) running down the nearest major artery to the house where I grew up. The streets look wider than I remember, even though they mostly aren’t. The downtown core doesn’t shut down at 6 PM anymore — people actually live there now, and the whole …
If you’re a Doctor Who fan, you will probably have heard by now that the Thirteenth Doctor will be played by a woman, Jodie Whittaker (British, of course). You may also have Opinions about this.
Well, so do I. But first I need to tell you a story…
I didn’t grow up reading Marvel or DC comics, but I do enjoy superhero movies, and this decade has had lots of them to enjoy. I loved parts of the Christopher Nolan/Christian Bale Batman trilogy. I particularly loved Tobey Maguire’s Spider-Man. And at first I was quite excited about the whole Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU), especially once Joss Whedon got on board.
But…who are the women in these movies? The love interests. The sexed-up Russian super-spies (come on, I like Natasha, but she’s clearly written and dressed for the male gaze). The dead mothers. The side characters. Look, I have no problem identifying with male leads (see above), but I was really feeling the lack. (Though The Force Awakens and Rogue One helped. I tried Supergirl, too, but the tone of the series isn’t quite my thing.) I was drifting away from the superheroes, back to books, where I knew I could find as many female leads as I needed.
Then came Wonder Woman.
And the tone was pitch-perfect all the way through. The filmmakers took her seriously, as a character and as a woman. They put her in armour and that’s when I knew…this movie wasn’t about the male gaze. …
Since releasing Ever Touched, I’ve been at loose ends. Sure, I have a few books in the hopper, and editing jobs (shameless plug: anyone need an editor? My rates are reasonable and I am crazy meticulous!) and the day job but….my brain has been fried. Releasing a book takes so much out of me. It’s awesome, and fun, but it’s also a lot of work. And I learned that after releasing Fey Touched in 2012 – I had rewritten the entire second half in 2 weeks (~60k), my wrists were shot, and my brain was mush. I didn’t write a word of fiction for 2 months. Sure, I felt the urge, but that was it. I couldn’t contemplate it. My brain just did one of these every time I thought about it: huh? Whatcha talking about, Willis?
Yeah. So I accepted that I needed the break. That was…tough.
Now that I’ve done it three times, I know the pattern. I have actually been writing, but nothing fixed and definitely not thousands of words (well, fiction-wise. I have a nonfiction book I’m writing that’s 15k in. I guess my brain feels nonfiction isn’t so taxing?). It’s a miracle if I even write anything these days.
I have some stress going on. Some of it I can’t talk about yet, and some of it is the trigeminal neuralgia. And…other things. Not fun things. So I’m sure that enters into the equation.
But then Camp NaNoWriMo started July 1st, and a writer friend of mine in …
I’ve always been one of those people who has believed that there’s always time for creativity, that no matter how much life throws at you you can always eke a little bit in, here or there, that as long as you schedule and try, you can reach your goals.
And now I know better.
I’m not really ready–nor am I sure I ever shall be–to talk about my current stressors, but let me say that now I understand what people mean when there’s just no more spoons left, when you physically, emotionally, mentally just have nothing left to give.
And on one hand, it’s agonizing, to have creative goals and not be able to make any headway on them, especially when I have managed to do so many times before. But on the other, I know that this happens sometimes, that it’s temporary, that life is everchanging and even if I’m only getting to write twice a week it’s still something. And it’s okay. It’s okay. I’m okay. Sometimes this happens, and you just have to roll with it.
I am not a failure just because other things in my life have taken precedence.
And even the smallest burst of creativity feels so good now. Last week I patched some holes on the smaller, mobile one’s sock monkey (he now has matching bracelets) and it felt amazing even though it took me 15 minutes and is not the cleanest sewing job I’ve ever done.
(In related news, I cannot find …
Surprise! It’s me again. Siri Paulson is taking a well-deserved wrist break, so we’re switching spots.
Last week, I posted about my wonderful grandfather. I would talk about him more, but I don’t need another cry right now. So I’ll talk about the fun he and Grammy (they plotted the inheritance together) gave me.
Friends, for the first time since I lived in a studio apartment where my bedroom was my living room, I have a TV in my bedroom. I bought a TV and a blu-ray player, a new keyboard (because my other new one is driving me up the wall and round the corner) and a new set of PC speakers because only the right one works of the current pair.
I also bought my daughter a TV for her room. She can now play videogames in her room and stop rearranging the furniture in the living room which she never then puts back so no one else can use it! I mean seriously, when you walk into the living room and the couch is a foot from the entertainment center…!
Ahem. TV in my room. It sits on top of the hutch of my desk, so I won’t be terribly tempted to watch it when I am trying to work. My neck would start hurting pretty quickly, I imagine. It sits perfectly for me to watch it from my comfy, awesome new bed, though. Last night I snuggled up with my eighteen-year-old cranky teenager and watched Moana.
My grandfather gave me my first car. It was 1990, and the car was a 1970 Ford Custom 500 Galaxie. It was seventeen feet long, and it had fins. It had over 200,000 miles on it. It was in pretty much perfect condition.
That was my grandfather. When you spend money on things, he believed, you take care of them. He had a truck that was older than my car. His car, the one he preferred to drive, was their “last new car” when my grandparents bought it in the eighties. It still looked in great shape when I parked in his driveway last month, paying what would be my last visit to a 94-year-old man.
My grandfather stormed the beach at Normandy. I can’t tell you much about that–I am learning now, as I knew I would one day but I was always meaning to do something about it “soon,” that I did not pay enough attention.
Grandpa worked at the Joy manufacturing plant in my hometown, building huge orange mining machines until he retired. He and Grammy ran a farm too, and raised four kids. Grammy worked sometimes, when it was convenient, so she would be able to get Social Security too. Then they moved from Pennsylvania to Arizona, and ran a four-trailer mobile home park in their retirement.
Historians call them “the Greatest Generation.” For my family at least, I know they certainly rose to the challenges of their lives.
I was there when my grandparents celebrated …
This is eerie, you guys. I posted my one-year update on June 21st of last year. And, like I said in that post, it was technically my eleven-month update, but one-year update sounded better. And kind of final. So this one is technically my one year, eleven month update. Close enough, right?
When I posted that glorious post, I had every reason to believe that while things may get bumpy here and there, I would remain pretty much pain free. I guess it was naive, and a lack of dealing in realism. I’ve always known that TN is a progressive condition and it gets worse over time. Most people end up having some sort of brain surgery done. Scary thing is, it’s not always successful. And that is scary in itself.
I guess I never wanted to truly believe that that would be me someday.
Today I have some crappy news.
My pain has returned to almost constant levels. I hit level 10 several times last week, and took four loopy pills (not all at once. One each day). I’ve been tracking everything since May 15th, in the hopes that I can figure out a pattern of some sort, and if my neurologist wants details. The problem with tracking is that you become so aware of the pain, more than ever.
Here’s a sample of one of my pain journal entries:
Eye pain level 5 at 2:14pm Duration: 2 hrs 45 mins
Left forehead pain level 4 at 4:55pm Duration: …
I could write you an introspective post on creativity, friends, but that sounds boring, so I’m going to talk about dinosaurs instead.
For a reason that will go unmentioned, I’m spending all week at either the zoo or the museum. In a few weeks, the zoo is going to be opening an exhibit of animatronic dinosaurs throughout. They’ve had a Carnotaurus for a few months advertising this fact.
He’s pretty scary, as far as robot dinosaurs go. Sure, he mostly just moves his head and growls, but I’ve spent a fair amount of time watching children come to a dead stop and stare at him with utter terror.
I get it. You’re not expecting a 9-foot tall carnivore to suddenly rear up out of nowhere. (He’s kind of hidden around a corner, and now they’ve planted palm trees to screen him.) Especially not one that moves and growls. And even after they’ve realized it’s not real (or their parents have explained that dinosaurs are extinct and that this is a robot), the kids still are skeptical.
They keep their distance. If they do get up close, it’s to giggle and run away a moment later, as if they’ve done something very brave.
(My question is: who decided to design its arms so that they tuck up backwards against its …
A couple of months ago, I blogged in this space about the “You Can’t Do It” voices (otherwise known as “imposter syndrome”). Things are looking up right now, so I wanted to share for posterity.
The Day Job
Four months ago, when I wrote the post linked above, I was temporarily covering for a retired co-worker. Now, a permanent replacement has been hired, and I’ve become a mentor figure to the new hire. Huh. I also have a new manager (the previous one retired), who seems to think I’m good at my job, including when I’m working with difficult people. I even keep getting compliments on my tact-over-email skills. Somehow I continue to be surprised by all these developments.
My Dance Community
In my dance community (contra dance), I’ve stood up in front of people to call a dance several times since I wrote this. Each time, it got easier. In fact, last time I had to deal with a hiccuping CD. This was bad because timing is very important in calling. But to my utter shock, it didn’t even faze me. (Though to be fair, it helped that the CD happened to be the same one I’d been practicing with!)
I’ve also started to see dances from an analytical perspective now that I’ve started calling them. As the volunteer newsletter writer for my community, I keep getting compliments on my writing skills (do I sense a pattern here?). And as a dancer, I’m polishing my spatial orientation skills …
I’ve heard it. You’ve heard it. Giving cash (or often, gift cards) shows you don’t care. You don’t feel like taking the time or trouble to pick out a “real” gift.
Let me tell you a thing.
Once, years ago, a friend had been trying to find something to give me for Christmas. I was in rough financial straits at the time. It seemed silly to give me something useless. I had bunches of books and movies already, and also he didn’t know what I might want. (This was in the days before Amazon wishlists. Or at least, before I had one.) I had just moved from a good-sized house to a tiny apartment, so I had no room for anything more than I had anyway.
Anyway, as the situation dragged into January and he got to feeling worse and worse about it, he finally handed me $50. He told me I couldn’t spend it on bills–I had to get something I wanted.
Friends, I went to a discount home store and bought myself some curtains. My little white box of a living room got curtains, and my new place became much more homelike. My daughter’s room got purple sheer curtains, and I got to stop worrying about how she never remembered to close the blinds before changing. My bedroom got bright red blackout curtains–so I had a pop of color AND some additional darkness for days I got to sleep in. I even bought a little curtain for the …