Sunday, October 26, 2014

facing forward

I took myself on a little get-away this weekend with the intention to clear my head and heart a little. And while I did accomplish that to some degree, it was definitely not with the grace for myself and others that I would have liked.

I had fun. I pushed myself. I dove in fully (actually fell backwards into the water fully). I also hid out and watched atrocious TV in my hotel room, ate chips for supper and texted Freckles, Shiney and Diva Moe - my trifecta of saving graces.

I am not expecting that it's possible to lay dreams old and young to rest without some pain, but I wish I saw a way to not have my reaction to pain be anger and a hard heart. Then again, maybe that's the appropriate response for now. I did come to Jamaica to learn more about boundaries and taking care of myself so I can take better care of others. I suppose I shouldn't expect to be perfect at it right off the bat. 

On a related note, I'm just going to leave this right here. Freckles said it to me last night and when my big sister tells me something, I generally believe it. Feel free to borrow/adapt it as needed:

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Julie & Julia: a book club review

NB: I first reviewed Julie and Julia when I read it in 2009. This update is because it was the book club selection for October. 
 _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _

So I read Julie and Julia in the last 36 hours. When I first heard of the movie I couldn't WAIT to see it, and then when I realised there had been a book, not just a blog, well that just sounded even better. And Tuesday I stopped by Book Warehouse on the way to Dj's for dinner - and let me just pause here to mention what a very very good thing it is that there isn't a Book Warehouse in Victoria as I haven't time or money or space enough for all the books I'd then buy - and there it was, strategically placed and bargain basement priced for impulse purchases. I started reading on the ferry on the way home yesterday, and ... done.

View on Amazon
Done. And entertained, inspired and with a slight sense of 'hello self.' Not to mention utterly disgusted by classic French cooking (all that offal and marrow and aspic - PLEASE, people that's just sick!). I used to routinely find ways to simultaneously cook and read, clean and read, bath and read, do my makeup and read. I shushed Cowboy on the ferry and read. I sat in my room for 4 hours uninterrupted and read. I took an actual lunch break and sat in our actual break room and read for an actual hour. It's been a while since I did that - read - no RELISHED - a book almost non-stop in just a day - but really it's not that huge an accomplishment in this case.

Yes, Julie and Julia was utterly un-put-downable, but it wasn't really a heavy-weight (no, Mom, it was no Schindler's Ark. ;-) But it was oh so good Julie Powell is an unflinching fun, entertaining writer. Actually, now that I think about it, there's a slightly annoying self-absorption and whining tone to the whole thing - the project, the book, and likely the movie.

But self-absorbed and whiney and oh so very very funny. And, based on the excerpts she shares from Mastering the Art of French Cooking, Julia Childs was a similarly personable and inspiring writer, even of multi-page recipes. There's also, though, a lingering longing. Julie Powell began her cook/blog project out of a sense that her life was missing a centre - she had a great husband, a crap job, a looming 30th birthday, poly-cystic ovarian syndrome and no clear plan or sense of who she really was in the world. And along the way - in 365 days and 500+ recipes - she found purpose, meaning, money and ... best of all JOY!

One of the things I always look for when I read about other writers writing is a clue, a roadmap, a hint as to what I can do that would get me where they are. Especially if that writer has a multi-book deal with a respectable publisher. So it was slightly disheartening for me to read Powell's assertion that there is no road map. There is no formula. There's no working hard. There's just doing something you love - or maybe just something challenging - and being brave. And sticking it out. And, just to reinforce the point, I read an interview with two of my favourite bloggers today - the Fug Girls - and they pretty much said the same thing:
JESSICA: We’ve been so lucky to find some measure of success doing something we really enjoy, but it really started as a hobby. I guess my best piece of advice is to try to find some time in your life to work on something you feel really passionate about, even for just a few hours. You never know what it’ll lead to. HEATHER: Yep, I agree. Scrap the roadmap. Be open to anything, because the best things are the ones you didn’t see coming.
Sometimes I think I don't know what I love. Or what I'm passionate about. Or what really lights me up. And I have to say, that's some pretty solid bullshit. I know. I've just not been brave enough to do it. Yet. This is not my usual book review. And in many ways this was not a usual book. This is a line in the sand book - I can't unlearn what I learned here about being really alive. I leave you with this nugget of wisdom from Julia Child:
By the time you have completed half of this, the carcass frame, dangling legs, wings and skin will appear to be an unrecognizable mass of confusion and you will wonder how in the world any sense can be made of it all. But just continue cutting against the bone, and not slitting any skin, and all will come out as it should. "How to Bone a Duck, Turkey or Chicken" - Julia Child, How to Master the Art of French Cooking, Vol. 1

When this book popped up for Our Book Club's October read, I emitted a sigh of relief. I was unsure what life would look like in Jamaica, and having a book I had already read come up took the pressure of making sure I had time to read.

As it happens, I have plenty of time to read but have not brought along enough books, and Jamaican bookstores tend to specialise in Bibles, Christian self-help and school books. Lesson learned. Perhaps NL can bring me more books when he visits at Christmas.

Although I missed our meeting in August, this feels like my first month away because I am so removed. And when I heard that our fabulous hostess of the month was attempting Julia Child's  Beouf Bourguignon I was even more sorry to be missing out.

I had thought about Skyping in, at least for the book chat (which is always the briefest part of the evening) but apparently that wasn't workable on the other end. And so I read the updates on our Facebook group with a smile, hope someone took and will share pictures, and remember the good humour and good food that is the hallmark both of this month's book and of our group. 


I had a thought today that is so crazy it just might be true. I had written an old old friend and shared, in my apparently unstoppable way, what my adventure in Jamaica has been like thus far, but also the grey cloud that has loomed over it. 

I wrote one particular sentence that is absolutely true, yet not the truth. I said that '[He] gave me something I'd never experienced in a relationship before - I was young, and feminine, and fun, and lovely with him.' It hurt to write it, in that poking at a bruise to see how it's healing sort of way. It hurt to have it flash through my mind throughout the afternoon. It reverberated there like a rattle in the dashboard that needs fixing, and so I examined it a bit more. And suddenly, on my walk home, I realised what the untruth in that truth was. 

I remember her.
It is true that I was my best self - at least intermittently and retrospectively - in that relationship. But the deeper truth is that nobody bestowed beauty, or laughter, or gentleness on me. I decided myself that that was who I was - in his eyes, and in my own

I miss him. Absolutely. But I miss feeling like that woman even more. The fear that keeps my heart in my throat is that that woman is never coming back. I suspect that perhaps she can, now that I know where she came from. 

Thursday, October 16, 2014

what's behind door number 3?

I woke up the other morning with a question: is cynicism an easier load to bear than the pain of hoping/believing and having a dream shatter? In the moment perhaps but in the end I'd rather die having had my heart bruised over and over again and having played full out than give in to the burst of cynicism that follows each loss.

I can't remember a time growing up when I believed in true and forever love - at least not for myself. I'm sure I did at some point. I hoped and I dreamed, often stupidly. As little girls do, I suppose, I drew wedding dresses and imagined my handsome prince, though those fantasies were always more about a pretty dress and a party, and seldom about the prince and the happily ever after. I had many crushes, but little else. So I don't remember when I actually believed. Or when it stopped.

Any belief that love was my fate certainly didn't survive past the age of 12, after being taller than most, and more outspoken than most. After being publicly shamed by my elementary school 'boyfriend.' After going through all of highschool being asked out only by a terrible bully and a weirdo.

 I thought relationships were probably a good idea, at least on paper, but in the way that I thought being all around 'less' was a good idea - a way to not feel so different. Though really, the best I could hope for was to like someone who ticked most of the boxes on a human grocery list and who could stand being with me. Armed with those low expectations I sallied forth and stumbled upon my paper knight.

When I got married at the ripe old age of 20, it was not for love. I thought I could tough it out - that by sheer force of will & stubbornness I could make something work, and that while that was happening love would grow. After all, people in arranged marriages sometimes fall in love, so why not me? I figured I might as well marry someone who checked off most of the list - shared values (I thought); hard-working; close-knit family; cute. I'd work the rest out.  And, for a long while I did. And then I didn't.

In the (ever-stretching) years since, I've dated. I've had some good times and some terrible times. I've edited and re-written and update and finally abandoned the checklist with each passing lesson. I feel a bit like the little bird in
Are You My Mother - ever searching for an increasingly ludicrous match.

But I haven't really truly believed in love - lust, like, romance, deep friendship, and the ability to choose to be with someone or not were the new 'best it gets.' Aside from one bright and shining light - distant as the north star - there were a lot of dim bulbs.

And then it happened. Me and my sturdy tree trunk legs somehow got weak in the knees. As in actually weak in the knees the first time he kissed me - I had to lean against him for support. That was new. He was kind and funny and gentle and could literally sweep me off my feet. That was also new. Initially it seemed he had enough belief for both of us. Eventually, that belief got worn down.

Three and a half years on, we are negotiating the frigid sometimes turbulent waters of friendship. Like the NorthWest Passage, it's sometimes hard to see a way ahead. We bob along wondering how to get through this when the person we're each used to turning to is the person being grieved.

And I am awake with the question - is the cynicism that accompanies disappointed hopes and dreams worse than the half-life of never loving and being loved? Obviously no - and curse hope ifor being so damnably irrepressible. I just pray that someday I discover there really is a third option.

Thursday, October 9, 2014

one need not be a chamber ...

I just came across this poem via Twitter today. Not being much of a Dickinson scholar, I haven't read it before. Or maybe it just never spoke to me before as it does now.

One need not be a chamber to be haunted
by Emily Dickinson, 1924

One need not be a chamber to be haunted,
One need not be a house;
The brain has corridors surpassing
Material place.

Far safer, of a midnight meeting
External ghost,
Than an interior confronting
That whiter host.

Far safer through an Abbey gallop,
The stones achase,
Than, moonless, one’s own self encounter
In lonesome place.

Ourself, behind ourself concealed,
Should startle most;
Assassin, hid in our apartment,
Be horror’s least.

The prudent carries a revolver,
He bolts the door,
O’erlooking a superior spectre
More near.

Saturday, October 4, 2014

Wide Sargasso Sea - a review

Little Miss Horner presented me with her copy of Jean Rhys' Wide Sargasso Sea at my going away dinner, clarifying that it was a going away loan - I can see why. I had seen and seen referenced Jean Rhys' book many times, but had somehow forgotten that it is a prequel to Jane Eyre, an old favourite. I was also unaware that the titular sea is the name applied to the area of the Atlantic between the Azores and the West Indies - a treacherous section of the route colonizers and slave traders used. It's a region choked with massive weeds and bordered by strong currents. It's an area of doldrums.

Reading this book on my deck in Kingston, Jamaica - as I'm certain Miss H anticipated - greatly heightened my reading of it. Lines like "Our garden was large and beautiful as that garden in the Bible - the tree of life grew there. But it had gone wild" play out on the page and all around me. Taking in the words while listening to the morning sing of birds and tree frogs was akin to a reader's IMAX theatre - my internal and external worlds fully melding.

This is a beautifully written and disturbing book. It splits the narrative between Mr. Rochester and his first wife - the eventual mad woman in the attic. Full of references to zombi, obeah, and ancient 'magick,' not to mention the wickedness people bring upon one another, this is a book I read in full daylight. It fascinated me, but I needed to break from it now and then.

Maybe if I wasn't also smelling oleander. Maybe if the eerie feeling of ancient lives destroyed didn't somewhat pervade this island, it would have been less real to me. I highly recommend this book - just make sure your ghouls and ghosts are far away when you read it.

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Friday, October 3, 2014


She waited for the steady sinus breathing pattern that let her know he was asleep, and slid gently out of bed and into her solace-filled housecoat. This was not the greatest betrayal possible in a relationship, but in this house it ranked high on the list. After all, the delight she slurped in the darkened kitchen was mint chocolate chip.

No one should expect her to share that.
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