January 4th, 2013
One of my New Year’s Revolutions is to ramp up a sense of healthy living now that the terror of the complications from my pregnancy and the massive disease attack has subsided. It’s only taken two and a half years! Each month, like I said, I’m going to try and tackle an aspect of my life, not that I’d like to fix per se, but that I’d like to evolve a la AJ Jacobs. I’ve decided that January is the month I’m going to think about stress.
It’s an all encompassing term, sort of like “depressed” that people toss around left and right without really taking a moment to consider what it actually means either literally or figuratively. For me, stress, and worry in particular, is the number one reason the disease becomes active in the first place. When I am too busy, too stretched, worrying all the time, freaking out, panicked, upset, terrified–it ramps up my immune system which is a signal for the disease to jump into action. This is not scientific, this is just me living with Wegener’s for the better part of two decades.
The weekend before I came back to work, I was at a spa with my darling friend Heather. I was looking forward to it immensely after the hustle and bustle of the holiday season, of cooking two giant meals, of intense days spent with a two-year-old. And it was amazing, except for one small thing–I have absolutely no idea how to relax. Oh sure, I know how to be comatose in front of the television after a long day. But I don’t honestly know how not be so go-go-go all the time and laying down for a straight 24-hour period of people rubbing oils and lotions etc into my body was amazing but perhaps a little lost on me. We did a chakra realignment treatment–it was incredible–except every single one of my chakras are blocked. The therapist kept telling me to visualize a colour associated with a particular chakra and in my mind I got it wrong every single time. This was not the fault of the therapist. This is all me. I can’t quiet my mind. And since I’m too busy for restorative yoga these days, I don’t even have that hour space in the week where I could meditate and rest.
There’s a viable difference between being still and simply not moving. Being still incorporates a mindful, healthy essence–it’s breathing, it’s contemplation, it’s restoration. Not moving is just that–it’s sitting, mind whirring, iPad still on, spelling game in check, bad TV on full and putting in the time before bed. You’re too tired to do anything else. Being still takes work. Not moving, not so much. It’s a subtle difference, but I’m not being very still these days. Sure, there are stretches of time where I’m not moving but my brain buzzes over lists and things that I need to do the next day and moving forward and keeping on keeping on and work and RRBB and this and that and that and this and all of a sudden it’s 3AM and I haven’t slept for the fourth time this week and my kid’s going to wake up in an hour and wow I’m flapjacking tired.
There was an hour when we attended a yoga meditation session. I did pranayama breathing and for the first time in months I was still. It was the best part of the time I spent at the spa. The treatments were amazing but they aren’t something I can afford or realistically do regularly (except massage is covered by my benefits at work). But the meditation, well, that’s something I can try. My friend Kat has written a great introductory ebook (published in March), that has some terrific tips in it, and I’ve decided the book I’m going to read this month is When the Body Says No by Gabor Maté. I’m also looking for any bits and kernals of information anyone out there would like to share about how they deal with stress, about what else I might read, what other things I could do… About what really causes it and what it truly is. I’m embarking on stillness. That’s my goal for January.
February 4th, 2010
This morning I went with my work colleague, Steve Osgoode (@sosgoode) to Centennial to speak to publishing students about online and, specifically, online marketing. It’s invigorating and exciting to speak to kids (or students; they’re not all youngsters) who are starting out in their careers. I can see how/why teachers find their jobs so fulfilling. Bright eyes and bushy tails and all that…
Then, this afternoon I sat on a panel for Social MediaWeek Toronto headed up by writer Arjun Basu (@arjunbasu) with Julie Wilson (@bookmadam) and Erin Balser (booksin140). It was an odd experience. Usually I am terrified of speaking in front of a large group, but because there were three of us, the pressure was off — the same with earlier today, with Steve. The biggest problem I have, and will continue to have, is simply talking too much. Anyway, I’m going to spew some thoughts right now that came from my day today:
1. Miscommunication throughout companies can be deadly. It’s no wonder that people don’t know how to communicate or use social media when the basic fundamentals of getting proper, informed, well, information out to the people at the front lines of your business sometimes isn’t even possible. Does Twitter change this fact? Not necessarily but it certainly amplifies it when there’s a problem.
2. Not a single person thinks the same thing about the future of publishing. The question came up, “where do we think it’s all headed,” and I was flippant, said something about how we should wait for the iPad before making any prognostications. What I didn’t say is that the moment that Apple device hits shelves, it’s a different game. There are few moments when you’re in an industry that has such momentous change. For the music industry it was Napster, file sharing and the collapse of the old models — they melted like icebergs, for publishing folks, it’s a bit different. We have the knowledge and the need to move things forward in ways that maybe the music business didn’t have; it’ll just be interesting to see where we end up. Hopefully, we’ll empower authors, instill a sense of urgency in how our business needs to change, and step up to the plate. We’re in the moment. It’s inspiring.
3. Summing up your life in a bio is never satisfying. My professional bio reads so boring: [she] worked at Alliance Atlantis [read: was Executive Producer of many major branded web sites], Random House [was given a chance by someone who saw potential in me; that changed my life]; and ended up at HarperCollins [has a love/hate relationship with her current job; left the House simply because she couldn’t stand the commute; read nothing more into it]. Here’s what they didn’t mention: has completed one solid draft of her first novel, has written many, many abridged classics for kids, is a published poet, has written tonnes of movie reviews, is married to an independent musician, blogs, reads and blogs some more, has a crazy-ass disease that almost killed her twice and ruined her health forever, but she survived just to almost die again this summer when her appendix ruptured. Somehow, that can’t be captured in either 140 characters or a work-related bio.
4. People want to be noticed. They want to be heard. This doesn’t change because you’re in a public forum or not in a public forum. This is the power of social media. Now I suppose all that matters is whether or not you care if people are listening. For a long time, I’ve struggled with this — shy, with little confidence, happy to type, not so happy to talk — trying to find a balance between the need to be a public person in a very public world and to want to shrink back into the corner and hide, waiting for the popular boy to ask me to dance (he never did, by the way; I’m the better for it, don’t you think). How much personality can one internet handle?
5. I love books. I have ever since I was small and winning Read-A-Thons at school and devouring everything with words written on them, cereal boxes, billboards, planes dragging signs, none of this has changed by working in publishing. The sense of wonder I lost by doing two English degrees was reclaimed by seeing Salman Rushdie walk the halls of Random House and spending the day with Curtis Sittenfeld. Today made me happy that other people feel this way too, we stand together far more than we stand apart, us book lovers, high fives and high kicks to that.
December 31st, 2008
Last year I had 5 New Year’s Revolutions (thus named because it’s so easy to break a “resolution”, natch) and a few of them I actually managed to integrate into my life.
Revisiting 2008 and 2007
I did finish an entire draft of my first novel, much to my surprise. I have lost weight, about 14 pounds so far, and know that it was the methotrexate contributing to my being unable to lose it. Now that I’m back on prednisone, I’ll have to work even harder to try and keep it off. And while I’m not sure if I’m less judgmental, I have learned from my mistakes, am more positive, and my life is certainly is better for it. Again this year I failed to watch less TV, and I did cut down on my celebrity gossip (with a few slacker “internet coma” days where I relapsed), but the budgeting has gone haywire over the past few months. I am still saving, though.
New Years Revolutions for 2009
I think I’ll do a top 10 list this year just for fun:
1. Try to Live with Less Clutter
I’ve spent the past few days gutting my house of clutter. Our ENTIRE giant recycling bin is full of stuff I have purged — from old credit card statements to useless office accoutrements (why did I hang on to those strange mesh-like inboxes from Shift magazine when the office closed, oh, 10 YEARS AGO?). My bedroom closet is clean and organized. My drawers have all been vacuumed and neatly organized. I know where things are and plan to keep it that way. As my RRHB says, “the problem starts when you bring all that stuff INTO the house.” I am a packrat with a sentimental streak; it’s in my nature, but I simply can’t live with all the junk anymore. Something has to give. There’s a great article here on Style at Home that’s already helped me in terms of decluttering.
2. Be Zen About Work
One of the greatest lessons I’ve had in my life came in the form of being let go from a job that I hated in the first place. I spent a lot of time being angry about it. I spent a lot of energy despising the woman who was once my boss. I spent a lot of time worrying about what I’d do differently. In the end, all it did was make me sick, all the stress from that situation kicked off fighting the disease for another five years, and I vowed I’d not make that mistake again. But here we are, all these years later and the week that my job imploded happily corresponded with the death of my mother and my father-in-law’s heart attack. It was one of the hardest weeks of my life.
I’ve decided that my job might not be perfect, it might not be everything I’d hoped it would be, but I’m going to give it a chance and not make all the same mistakes I did when I worked for the television empire. So far, it’s working: I’m calmer, I don’t react with my temper, I do my best, I do what’s asked of me, and I’ve started asking for things in return. By “zen” I don’t mean to debase anyone’s religion, it’s more the approach I want to take about work: I can’t change the fact that I have to work, I can only change my response to it. Taking more deep breaths, not getting worked up, thinking before I act and then acting responsibly — all in order to achieve a sense of balance, that’s my goal.
3. Watch Less TV
TV is the ultimate time waster, as much as I do adore it. I’ve only watched a little bit in the evenings this past week and have accomplished so much. I’m going to try and watch less TV on the weekends and try to limit weeknights to just a couple of hours.
4. Bring My Lunch
This one’s simple: we’re sitting on the edge of broke right now. We need to save more, spend less and one easy way of doing this is bringing my lunch more than once a month. I also want to eat more wholesome food, more soups, less bagels, more vegetables, less candy, and this is one way of eating better. That doesn’t mean I won’t go out once or twice a week, it just means I’ll stop running to the food court when I feel desperate.
5. Buy Less, Use What I Have, Create More
As above, we’re trying to finish the house so every penny is allocated and I need to break the bad online shopping habit. I know I won’t be able to NOT shop at all, but I can cut down on the amount I spend, buy things on sale, wait until I have more than just one item to purchase so that there are more bits and pieces in each packages (better for the environment). I’m also going to try to use things I already have: wear all the clothes in my closet; buy and then eat the groceries we have in the fridge and in the cupboard; fix things before throwing them out, etc. I also want to knit more — but that’s a separate entry. I’m also thinking of pulling out my sewing machine, getting it tuned up, and taking a course or two in dressmaking. I love skirts and wish that I could make some of my own. Maybe this is the year to try. I’m also including gardening in this revolution: it’ll be bigger, better and yummier this year, I’m already feeling positive — the photo for this entry is one of my bean plants from last year, and it just reminds me how much I enjoy eating, cooking, and growing my own vegetables (even if I hate gardening).
6. Stop The Internet Coma
I remember the heady days of my first internet usage where I surfed for literary magazines and sent off all kinds of submissions. I remember doing research for grad school and discovering great information. Fast forward 10 years and I can spend entire days reading celebrity gossip, hounding the IMDB for who knows what and chasing down obscure pop culture references. I’m not saying any of this is a bad thing; it’s who I am, a pop culture junkie, but when it takes over AN ENTIRE DAY of my life, it’s more of a symptom of boredom than anything else. It’s time that could be put to better use.
7. Get More Regular Exercise
I know, this is on everyone’s list. Over the past few years I’ve managed yoga, dance classes, biking, walking, swimming — but all sporadically. There’s a community centre around the corner from our house. My to-do list for this week includes stopping by and finding out the swim times, the gym times and membership-type stuff. My RRHB also had a wonderful suggestion to combat my winter blues: “get outside for winter activities.” He says that if we just did more winter-type stuff, ice skating, skiing, walking, we’d find it less depressing. He’s right.
8. No Fear
So much of my anxiety comes from being afraid of things, of what might happen, of the disease, of getting fired, of people thinking poorly of me, of my own self-imposed criticism — and it all contributes to a knot that sits in the middle of my chest on an almost daily basis. I don’t know what makes me so afraid and I don’t know how to change this part of my personality. But I do know that it’s a great part of where my stress comes from and I’m going to need to figure a way through it. I don’t want to live in fear anymore. I’m too young and too old to be dealing with such a basic nothing in terms of what really matters.
9. Finish What I Start
Another self-explanatory item, but it’s so true, I have half-done knitting projects, unfinished manuscripts, outstanding to do lists, and it’s never ending. 2009 is The Year of Finishing Dangerously. I need to complete projects before moving on to the next one.
10. Read Even More
Books are glorious things. There are so many I want to read so again I’m setting the goal at 100 books that I can blog. I think I probably hit about 90 this year with Harlequin and books I read for work and didn’t blog. I guess we’ll see if I hit the goal this year!
So that’s about it — 2009 New Year’s Revolutions. Any suggestions for how I can get there?
December 28th, 2008
Yesterday morning I went with my aunt and nephew to the new AGO. The cost of admission is quite steep at $18.00 for an adult, and considering you could become a member for under $100.00, I’m guessing they’re keeping the costs high to encourage people to spend in that way. The new Gehry building is breathtaking from the outside, the oblong exterior, the brushed concrete, it’s open and inviting as well as stoic. But the interior honestly took my breath away. The new second floor, with the blond wood and natural light just adds warmth to the collection. I remember going to the AGO back in grade school — it was dark, gloomy and crowded. Not a single of these adjectives apply anymore. The new building is simply spectacular.
We went with a toddler, who was very good at sitting in his stroller and looking (not touching, I was told many times, “not touching Auntie Deanna, not touching!” He was particularly impressed with the ship’s models in the lower floor, as well as the kids’ space, where we spent some time too. We didn’t see enough of the collection, but enough to make me honestly consider becoming a member so I could stop by after work sometimes and simply wander around. Another part of that “becoming a tourist in my own city” new year’s resolution from way back.
October 25th, 2008
I wonder if I need to make New Year’s Revolutions for 2009 Beta, which we’re starting soon (I think), if I haven’t already missed it (props to K for the reminder).
Regardless, some photos of our trip out west on Flickr.
August 11th, 2008
I wish I could explain my melancholy mood these days. But there’s absolutely nothing wrong with me, physically or mentally. If I had to wager a guess, I think it’s because I miss the week or two that we usually spend up at the cottage full stop. The racing back and forth from weekend to weekday splits you in half, and it’s not as if I don’t appreciate the gift my grandparents gave me by hanging on to the cottage after all they went through, it’s more that I feel out of myself when I don’t spend enough time there.
You can never escape your childhood, I suppose. It lingers there in the back of your mind like a smoky room where cigarettes are now banned, hollowed out and aching in ways that make you wonder. There’s also so very much going on right now: work, freelance, Classic Starts, reading challenges, writing, and it’s all got to fit into one 24-hour day. The traffic jam of the modern everyday existence.
But behold, a little bit of a miracle in the backyard — beans! Five delicious, crunchy, yummy yellow bush beans. We were out in the back where my RRHB was showing me our soon-to-be new front door (fabulous!) that he got today (to be installed tomorrow) and he said something about the beans needing stakes, that he didn’t think they were growing well enough, and then he said, “Oh look, you’ve got beans!” Indeed, we did. We each ate one out in the garden and they were delicious. I pulled three more off, came upstairs, took their portraits, washed them off, and crunched them right before dinner. They made my day. I’ve been surviving on our cucumbers for snacks and now I’m glad I can add beans to the mix. But tell me, can I eat the purple ones too?
July 4th, 2008
My forays into gardening have been semi-documented here. Mainly it’s been me saying over and over again how much I hate gardening. But then we went away for a few days, it rained like mad, and things have started to grow! Like: the beans, the squash and the pumpkin! I still haven’t seen any trace of the rapini, the corn, the spinach or the basil, but I still have hope that they’ll sprout soon. It’s a wonder anything grew at all the way I just pushed the seeds into the ground and preyed.
March 5th, 2008
Or, An Exercise In Writing Dialogue
My dad was going to come down and have lunch with me tomorrow, but as the weather’s supposed to take a turn for the worse, we’ve postponed until next week. He did, however, have this to say, “Did you see that article in the Toronto Star about people like you? Do you read that paper at all?”
“Not usually. Like me how?”
[I am thinking: writers, readers, RRHB-lovers, bloggers, workers, women, any myriad of words that could be used to describe my interests]
“You know, left-handed.”
[Ohhhhh] “What did it say?”
“That you’re all pretty intelligent. And there’s not very many of you.”
“My smarts have never been in question Daddy, just what I do with them.”
Chuckle. More conversation about when he will come down for lunch. Sounds of him eating dinner. Me teasing him about being an old man eating at old man times. Hanging up.