Boston strong

I will be taking a short hiatus from the blog while I pack up my things, cross the border and start fresh in a new place. My soundtrack is Augustana and I’m literally working off caffeine and adrenaline.  The whole experience of packing up my books has made me even more resolved to go digital.  Knowledge is literally and figuratively heavy.

Once I get the wifi sorted and the household settled I will be back.  Much love and see you on the other side.

xoxo, Gossip Girl

79bb6738fb6e49926b5b93b74ac42f04

The path

I picked up Cheryl Strayed’s memoir “Wild” precisely because she does the exact opposite of what I would do if I was having a tough time: she takes a hike.  No, literally she hikes the Pacific Crest trail.  God, I wouldn’t do it voluntarily much less when I’m trying to sort through some issues.  But this was Strayed’s path to reemerging from her destructive engagements with drugs and toxic relationships.  After losing her mother suddenly to cancer and having her personal life fall apart, those tactics of heroin and meaningless sex were an attempt to numb the pain.  “Wild” is how she found her way back.

There has been so much praise and press over this work but I was reluctant to commit to reading it.  Perhaps it’s because she takes on a task that is both daunting and completely unappealing to me.  Sometimes I don’t post certain images onto my Tumblr account because even though they’re pretty I know that I wouldn’t actually enjoy it.  You know those really grey pictures with cliffs and the ocean?  I know that in real life I would want to look at it for a total of 2 minutes, be cold and want to get back into the car to drive back to the inn.  If I needed the space to regroup I would either overcommit to work or be somewhere warm and uncomplicated.  In both scenarios I would be comfortable.  Even after forcing myself to give the book a shot there were sections where my eyes glazed over.  Really, it’s meaningless to me what material her sleeping bag is made of or what type of purifying salts she used.  But then as her story progressed I completely understood why she was providing her detailed shopping list.  She took on such a goal to return to the very basics.  Her life had become so full of distractions she needed to only focus on survival and keeping herself alive.  And those very material goods were what kept her from falling off an edge and disappearing for good.  By saving herself numerous times she was ashamed of her reckless behaviour previously.  She begins to respect her body again.

The hike itself is a metaphor for her personal journey and the plot twists make you wonder how it will all end.  In grade 11 we had to fit the life a famous person into the hero’s journey.  The whole purpose of this exercise was to teach you the elements of this type of narrative to incorporate into your own original work.  But tropes become that way for a reason: we all like to think that we are on a hero’s journey, that we will triumph in the end.  The pattern was pretty straightforward: there’s the beginning and childhood that’s fairly uneventful, a calling or talent that brings fame and notoriety, happiness, a setback and then the triumph.  I chose Billie Holliday and it was really difficult to fit her life into this design because she had had so many problems, the resolutions were not definite victories and her last few years weren’t exactly a triumph.  Then again, her art is her triumph and that will always remain right?  But still, this assignment taught me more about the ambiguities in life rather than how to write a good story.

Many of us hope for a long and happy life where at the end there will be a lot clarity.  Perhaps in our last years we’ll have so much time to reflect on how our life resembled the hero’s journey.  We’ll also be at the life stage where we’re more forgiving of ourselves and can rebrand mistakes as simply tests along the way.  Even if tragedy strikes and you don’t get this type of ending, those who loved you most will see your story in this way.  They will remember all of the good.  But if we all took on the attitude that it all gets sorted in the end would we have taken more chances along the way to live a bigger or grander life?  Perhaps we would chase after more of those dreams.  Maybe we wouldn’t give up so easily.  And that’s the best part of Cheryl Strayed’s story, she has the skill to use words and phrases to properly butcher people’s hearts.  She is raw, honest and forthcoming of all the ways she diverged and digressed.  But the best thing she teaches us is to keep on walking.  That we all end up somewhere.

tumblr_mtaoh74PCz1rzk7gpo1_1280

One Lovely Blog award

lovelyblogaward

Thank you so much to Melody at Life’s Daily Dose for nominating me for the One Lovely Blog award.  I started this site to practice my writing voice but after becoming more active in the recent months I’ve found my passion for it again.  I cannot express how grateful I am to all of you for your support, comments and especially for reading and listening.  Much love.

Please take a look at Melody’s blog which offers great lifestyle advice but mostly positivity.  Appreciating the simple pleasures in life is so important and she suggests some great steps on how to make it happen.

The rules of this award:

1. You must thank the person who nominated you and include a link to their blog.

2. You must list the rules and display the award.

3. You must add 7 facts about yourself.

4. You must nominate 15 other bloggers and comment on one of their posts to let them know they have been nominated.

5. You must display the award logo and follow the blogger who nominated you.

7 facts about myself:

1.  My husband is my best guy friend.

2.  My son is made fully of charm, wit and will.

3.  My best girl friend is K and we have lots of fun/trouble together.

4.  I’m going to be moving to the Greater Boston Area shortly.

5.  I hope to finish my PhD by the end of this year.

6.  I love fashion.

7.  I love books.

The great blogs I nominate for this award are: 

A Worried Student

Optimistic Kid

heartbeatapp

poemsandpeople

Raluca Stoica

projectlighttolife

The CoF

Kerry Hishon

lopeztiana

Hart Helps

TK

randomthoughtsofatwentysomething

clairabelle1991

quartervida

summersurprises

Sweetheart

I’ve been with my husband for such a long time that I sometimes forget that my thoughts aren’t automatically transmitted to him.  “What, you never told me that,” is a common phrase in our household and the level of exasperation varies depending on the severity of what I failed to communicate.  He is many things but a telepath is not one of them.  This is just one example of what happens to many longterm couples, when you become inextricably linked beyond the marriage certificate.  It’s also where the potential for push-back happens when one or both of you might want a different version of yourselves to try on for size.  Often the healthiest way to counter that is to have lives outside of your union, different interests and hobbies that allow you to bring something back to the table.  When you don’t exist solely for each other.

I can’t believe I’m actually about to write about figure skaters but whatever, it’s something that came to mind recently and I want to see the thoughts through.  The Sochi winter olympics has decreased my productivity precisely because a certain Canadian dance team piqued my interest.  If you don’t know whom I’m speaking of, they had a reality show, they are beautiful, talented and are mostly known for how they interact with each other.  It’s safe to say that in their sport they will be remembered far beyond their amateur or professional careers because of how they changed the game.  That and the fact that everyone and their mother wants them to be together.  I’m pretty sure that all of Canada would break into song and dance if that ever happened.  I get it.  They are two physically attractive individuals who clearly adore each other, however they deem to label their relationship.  We all want the rom-com ending of after knowing each other for seventeen years and being business partners, they end up falling in love.  I mean, Andrew and I have been romantically involved for fifteen and we get the same reaction when we tell people our story.  Their eyes light up as if our life is one long Nora Ephron script.  Shortly after marriage our friend M stated that we were proof that love lasts.  The fact that we’re high school sweethearts give us street cred.

But here’s the real deal.  That type of history makes it tricky and taking it to the next level either works or it doesn’t.  Even if you decide to try, it can be hard to maintain a spark amongst such familiarity.  For the said pair that I speak of, they met each other when they were babies, fine not infants but 7 and 9 are close enough.  After having to become adults at a young age by committing to being high performing athletes, they probably understand each other in a way that no one else can.  However, finishing each other’s sentences does not mean that you would work as a couple.  History cannot always hold its own against distinct socio-economic backgrounds and temperaments.  Sometimes stories like these are best left in the platonic zone, where you can be best buds forever.  That’s so much more sustainable.  So all those romantics, myself included, need to sit the hell down.  Because why muck up such a beautiful connection with messy feelings?  They and their story are far too pretty for that.

Also, no one knows what’s precisely going on with them so me and my gossip radar are calling it a day.

MILA KUNIS and Ashton Kutcher in New York

Wanderlust

When it comes to traveling I’ve always believed that you had to have been there.  How do feelings and “moveable feasts” become words?  Concepts of embodiment and experience are rarely express articulately.  That is why I always try to resist the temptation to go on and on about a trip.  This is one way, amongst others, that social media has enhanced our lives.  On Facebook you can skip through an album at your own pace without having to commit to a lengthy description of each meal or landmark.

I understand why people love to share these images and anecdotes.  They want to relive these moments themselves.  There are few thrills more satisfying than the start of a journey when you’ve just placed the luggage on the scale, have the ticket in hand and you are off to someplace new.  The limitation lies in the fact that you can’t pack your friends or relatives into those duffle bags.  Even if you wanted to they probably have other things to do.  The best part of traveling draws from the nuances but I think everyone appreciates the bigger picture, the Coles notes versions.  Because really, even if you drew them a detailed map of your whole experience it would never capture it or do it justice.  And they probably still have those other things to do.

Not many of us can afford to indulge every whim or seat sale.  This is when travel accounts can fill that void, can feed that hunger to be someplace else.  There are so many books out there that you can pick one for every flight of fancy but they all vary in the quality of writing and how the narrative is presented.  But what draws us to them in the first place is the emotional trigger that sets these individuals off on their adventures.  Because we’ve probably all felt a familiar pull, many of us just bury it.  Traumas often lead us to seek solace where we are unknown and anonymous.  You know the Billie Holiday song about “seeing you in all the old familiar places?”  This is precisely the type of nightmare you try to avoid.  In the midst of a personal crisis, you don’t want to walk down the street past every restaurant or movie theatre that’s hosted your date nights.

There are a couple of travel books that take us on these types of journeys particularly well.  One of the most well-known is “Eat, Pray, Love” which is Elizabeth Gilbert’s attempt to come to terms with her divorce and temper her desire to always be in a relationship.  In all three sites of Italy, India and Bali she actively uses the surroundings to heal her heart in some shape or form.  Nothing is recognizable and so she is able to meditate on these major life changes and strategize where she wants to go from there.  My only critique is that ashrams and palm trees can only get you so far.  In the end you still have to face yourself in the mirror and be okay with your choices.  You need to draw from within, not the external environment.  Because you know, beauty can also wound the heart.

“The Lost Girls” by Baggett, Corbett and Pressner details the adventures of three friends quitting their jobs, leaving their significant others and taking off to “grow” as individuals abroad.  This is all great and good but somehow I feel that their stories are a bit different.  The best part of traveling is being taken out of your comfort zone and having to make new friends.  You don’t necessarily have to flex these muscles when you have your best friends right there with you and two other people to be your sounding boards.  But I love the intention behind it.  The bravest people are those who take those steps that everyone in their social circle deems to be a mistake.  It’s not an escape, it’s just a break from your life.  Living so that the mundane becomes beautiful again.

The last two books I’ll discuss both take place in Paris and their perspectives of the city differ precisely because of their varying realities and approaches.  In “Paris my sweet” by Amy Thomas she literally seems to wish that Paris would fit into her vision of what the city should be.  Needless to say she is often disappointed.  Places are to be adapted to, not changed.   They don’t exist to meet your expectations.  Comparatively in “Paris Letters” Janice Macleod wants to make her time there work, in spite of the inconveniences.  She also seems to be sassy and recognize that not everyone is inherently nice.  I do qualify all this by saying that one found love and the other didn’t.  Not that it matters but the author of “Paris my sweet” literally documents her many romantic frustrations so I feel like it plays a role in her perception of the place.  Sometimes I wondered, girl, are you eating all of those pastries because you want to or because you are sad?  I appreciated this vulnerability because travelling is not one long party.  There are instances when you are definitely lonely.  Sure, not giving a fuck gives you so much freedom.  But in turn no one really has to care about you either.  Well at least not at the depth that you’re probably used to.

I always reach my limit on a holiday when I’m tired of looking at beautiful things.  I cannot wait to get back to the daily routine when my purpose consisted of more than just enjoyment.  This is always my reminder that life is pretty damn good.  Because I want to return to it.

tumblr_n7qac7QAsU1qzcq51o1_1280

Lighthouse

You will be astounded by the kindness of others when you are expecting your first child.  They will throw you parties, knit you afghans and you wonder how you came to be so blessed with such good people in your life.  Trust me, you pinch yourself more than once.  What no one talks about at the baby shower is what I call the ‘fog.’  They don’t mention the fear and confusion that can dot the landscape of those first few months.  No one will bring up how absolutely shitty times can be.  Now, I’m not speaking of post-partum depression or those who only experience fairy tales and butterflies (really?) but that place in between where most of us end up.  When things aren’t bad but they aren’t good either.

I call it ‘the fog’ because this phase is characterized by the struggle to form coherent thoughts and sentences.  When you’re in the midst of this haze you can forget about analyzing theoretical frameworks and writing it all down.  Now, I rely on critical thinking to complete my degree and this wasn’t exactly the best place to be.  Suffice it to say, I was discombobulated.  Feeling like you’re slowly losing parts of yourself is never pleasant.  I only resurfaced and reclaimed my brain precisely when childcare was sorted, when qualified and beautiful women helped to raise my son at daycare.  When these role models loved and kissed him so that I could work.  This post is for them and for my early childhood educator who played a vital role in forming the individual I am today.

My former nanny usually only stays with children till they are four years old.  This is strategically sound.  They don’t remember her too well but are old enough to occupy themselves after nursery school and to hang out with the housekeepers.  She stayed with me for two extra years and although they were wonderful, it added to the trauma when she walked away.  I still remember pushing desperately at the locked gate, when I kept calling her name.  She never turned around and only got further away.  Her name is Moe Moe, and she is a strong, brilliant, kind woman.  When she attended my second wedding reception in Yangon and I held her hand, I was happy and whole.

So all you politicians, help a sister out and invest in child care.  Help women recognize themselves again and contribute to society in a positive manner.  To all those North Toronto mothers, treat your Filipino nannies well.  Don’t yell at her on the street.  She’s a grown-ass woman and trust, it does not reflect well on you.  Give her respect, a home, a room with a view and remember that she left her children to help you.  That she’s a mother too.

5159a978537a9cb3e71252974468316a

New

I find that cliches become honest when they are spoken with such heart.  Especially when they are attached to earnest and articulate 22 year olds.  “I figure I was born alone, I’m not afraid to die alone either,” said a fellow commuter on why he wasn’t looking to enter another serious relationship, for now.  Who knew that riding the subway would provide such richness.  Wow, I certainly did not have this grounded sense of self in my early twenties.  The only thing of consequence I did at this age was get my essays in on time and even that was sometimes a challenge.

At the core of his contemplation is something that we all fear: to end up on our own.  There is such stigma attached to not following the normative timeline for life’s goals.  Having a hard time finding a partner to love and one to love you back is often deemed to be a huge misstep.  But what are we willing to sacrifice, what parts of ourselves are we willing to compromise to not look like a fool?  Which you aren’t by the way.  The reminders mostly come through social rituals of holiday dinners where you’re told to celebrate in packs.  The greetings arrive with matching sweaters, smiles and altered teeth.  These are the postcards that some long to send and are willing to commit to empty relationships to obtain that facade.  They long to put up the appearance of the perfect life.

Gwen Stefani in the song “New” begs, “don’t let it go away, this feeling has got to stay.”  The lyrics are relatable precisely because we all know that the electricity of discovering someone new will not remain.  All new things eventually become old.  I don’t think we could survive that form of excitement for the long run.  Passion becomes comfort to be more sustainable, to allow your heart to pace itself.  Wouldn’t we all end up in padded rooms otherwise?  How much fighting and make-up sex can one really take?

But asking the “what ifs” is perfectly common.  When the urgency wanes you wonder if someone else could help you reclaim and maintain that spark.  It’s the tail of the dragon that we continually chase.  That first hit.  Like the protagonist in the Italian film The Last Kiss realizes, the hard way I might add, that exploring those questions can make you end up with a wreckage where your life had been.  Kissing that young, reckless thing was not worth losing someone who actually understands you.  History builds the rapport and unconditional support and losing that hurts like hell.  You also ask yourself, who exactly is left “out there”?  Is there someone who you would actually want to devote yourself to?  Are you equally worthy of each other?  Maybe.  But I think that’s the gamble you take.  If you do decide to leave and make your own way, you know that there is the chance that you might end up alone.  That there might not be a whole lot of other people whom you want to take your clothes off for.  Cause really, if you don’t want to see each other naked what is the point?

tumblr_mf59yvNizb1rqh8wco1_500