Monday, December 21, 2009

Merry Monday

Today is Monday. Today is the one Monday of the year I will celebrate. Today is Monday and today my good mood is indestructable.

Today is the first day of Christmas week. No need to follow that last word with an asterix meant to correct it as a typo. If New Years, a holiday not even in a category comparable to Christmas, gets two days, then I demand that Christmas gets at least a week. (And let's face it, it gets almost two months anyways) Today is day one of the merriest week on the calender. I put aside as much energy I can in advance, store it in a vault, in a labeled shoebox, so I have an abundant amount to enjoy this week as much as I can, to find any excuse in the book to bring out the child in me that skims so close to the surface all year round just waiting for the right time to break through.What will you do to ring in the holidays? How do you prepare?

Here I have compiled a short list of all things Christmas, all things I find necessary to get done this week. If your schedule is lacking that cheesy holiday cheer it should be crammed with, than this list was made for you...from me...because if I'm ever gonna share, this week has gotta be the best time to do it.

-make a Christmas CD--first and foremost, as it will serve as the soundtrack of your X-Mas week and should be played at all and any time possible (a quality selection should really include Betty Boop's Santa Baby, Home Alone's Carol of the Bells, Trans Siberian Orchestra's Christmas Canon and Manheim Steamroller's anything)
-bake something--ANYTHING--gingerbread houses are preferable, if you're feeling really ris-kay, a gingerbread mansion is ideal, but there's nothing wrong with starting off slow...a gingerbread man, or two...and don't forget a wo-man, for politic's sake...(sugar or shortbread cookies cut into shapes of candy canes and santa are perfect--top them off with heaps of red and green sparkles, silver baker's balls and candy christmas trees all available in your local Fortino's bulk aisle)
-slot ample time for TV Christmas classics--Home Alone's been on loop since November 1st so I expect that one to be crossed off your list already, but no Christmas week is complete without Jack Frost, any one of the three Santa Claus', JTT's I'll be Home for Christmas, The Family Man, either version of Miracle on 34th Street, It's a Wonderful Life and most definitely Dr. Suess' How the Grinch Stole Christmas....for those who aren't satisfied with this year's screenings or whose schedule doesn't allow them to catch em should think themselves stores have late hours and a much greater selection without the hassle of commercial breaks
-if it's a white Christmas Week where you are, a tobogganing session, Snow Man making project or friendly/competitive neighbourhood snowball fight (complete with forts) should not be skipped--who knows how many other opportunities we may get for these with all this global warming mumbo jumbo they talk about
-save at least one gift for Christmas eve--admit it--despite the overwhelming fury and aggrivation the malls give you at this time, if there is one place where the spirit is most alive, it is definitely in the shops. There's nothing quite like the endless loops of Christmas carols, the cheery yet exhausted sales people, the crowds of people rushing to find that perfect gift, and, of course, the mall Santa's and their increasingly intricate workshops that give you that festive feel.
-if your not the primary chef of the house, accompany whoever is on every shopping and preparation experience possible--build up the meal in your mind so you can drool over it in your dreams and savor and appreciate every bite. The spirit is definitely alive in every grocery store you walk through, you can feel it from the jam-packed parking lots. And don't miss out on the trip to the markets--namely the fish market where I will (with overwhelming excitement) make my first visit too later this week
-wear as much red and green as you can--and don't forget about the ugly Christmas sweaters stuffed in your bottom drawer that you just haven't had the heart to give away just yet
-make sure you host as many pre-Christmas coffee and dessert dates as you can afford--remember its not quite Christmas Day yet and you're gonna need a place to put all those things you've been baking
-hit up Wal Mart to stock up on some sweet chocolate deals--nothing fills up the table better or gives the perfect sweet finish to an already full belly (my faves? well, anything chocolate is a friend of mind but Toblerones (try out the white chocolate if you haven't already yet), Guylians, Lindts, Ferreros are all dancing in my head)...and one box of assorted won't kill you...but drift away from Quality Street and Pot of Gold to a much more tasty world of Laura Secord
-and one more thing--save all your wrapping for this week--make an afternoon of it of course with your CD on repeat and your chocolates close by for extra energy. There was nothing like a stuffed Christmas tree that made me happier as a kid--and don't judge me on my took nothing more than a pair of gloves to make me happy and I have it on tape as proof!

Merry Monday and Merry Christmas week! Don't limit your activities my list (it's slightly incomplete at best, anyways) but try and indulge yourself in at least one corny, cliche, totally typical event of your choice!

Saturday, December 19, 2009

Today is Groundhog's Day

Warning warning. Do not get your hopes up. I'm not talking about the real groundhog's day. No, I'm sorry you did not sleep through an entire season. I apologize but, no, Wiarton Willie did not leave his burrow and no, spring is not only six weeks away. No, I am terribly sorry, but  it is not even officially winter yet. What I'm referring to is a Bill Murray kinda Groundhog's Day. It's the day when we wake up and our lives feel like clockwork. The day when our same futile routine starts anew and we spend its entirety searching for ways to make it different from yesterday.

Everyday is Groundhog's Day for me. Every morning I roll out of bed with the same thought in mind--why can't I just sleep in? And where is my breakfast? Okay...maybe two [conflicting] thoughts, every morning they are the same and every morning they are followed by the same challenge I face every time I open the fridge...hmmm what am I craving this morning? It is only after the initial thrill of indulgence in either savory cheeses or sweet cereals that the painful reminder hits me--time to gear up for another session at the gym. Yes, here is when the reality of Groundhog's Day sets in the most--when I realize all I have in my near future is another one of the identical workouts I have been having for the past ten years, even despite my progress, even despite how different my workouts are from this week compared to last.

My dismal attitude is only temporary, I'm glad to say. It only takes a short (well, it feels much longer) 1.5-2 hours to turn it all around. Every morning I drag my feet onto the treadmill. Every mid-morning I bounce back to my car and sing my way home with the morning radio countdowns. Now I am free--now, today can be whatever I want it to be.

What do you do that makes your day that much better? For me, there is no hesitation in my answer, no doubt in my mind, nothing turns my day around like a good workout. I can wake up in any mood and in any state and nothing else can quite make things right like it does. There is something about its healing power that is quite different from all the consolation or sympathy that the world has to offer--it is different in that you are healing your self, by your own will, through your own strength. When I am battling my self--my weaknesses, my insecurities--I am running past my flaws, breaking through my skin with each step, with each mile into a newer body, a stronger me. When I feel bullied I picture myself running alongside my aggressor, as he huffs and puffs on the dust I leave in my wake. When my anger threatens my sanity, I erase it from my thoughts with a motivating song and drain it from my body through my dripping sweat. There is nothing better than a good run to get you through any rut, to push you past any obstacle, to make your today a day to celebrate instead of another groundhog day to dread.

What do you do that gives you that feeling? That out-of-body, out-of-mind experience. That one thing that pushes you to your limit, if not even a little bit further. When you're drowning, what brings you to the surface? When you're losing the game, what gives you the strength to tie the score? When you've been beat, when you've been taken advantage of, when you've been wronged, how do you get revenge? What fuels your fire? Pick one thing that has the power to take you to another world, if even for an hour, if even for a few minutes. Choose anything that makes you feel invinsible, unbreakable. You hold the keys to unlock your mind from its own, sometimes self-defeating, confinements and unleash it into a world of strength, of guiltless, deserving self servitude, of true independence in every sense of the word. Find something that can make your day not just any other Groundhog's Day.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Christmas is nine days away and I can literally feel it. Maybe it's the endless loops of Christmas carols I wake up to every morning and likewise fall alseep to every night. Or maybe it's the cup of Starbuck's Christmas blend I just finished sipping on. Whatever it is, it's got me feeling good. And with no real work scheduled from now till then, besides picking up the odd shift here and there, I am officially in celebration mode. Holiday wine again tonight? Or is it the season to bake some brownies and savour some chocolate?

I saw the sign...or did I?

At the end of it all, where does the real challenge lie? I guess you can say that everyone is different--one person will handle one thing with stride and grace while the next person will simply flop on their face. I truly believe that in this thing we call life, the biggest challenge is not what we do, how we do it, who we do it with but merely the decision we need to make before we do anything at all. When facing a crossroad, a fork in the road, two opportunities, three opportunities, or no opportunities at all, the only thing that will get us from position A to position B is a choice.

I know what you're thinking--wow, very profound. Thank you buddha for enlightening us. We all already know this--choices were not made to be easy. The answer is not always in blinking lights or in  the cards that we have so carefully chosen from the deck in front of us. But it seems to me that there are those people who can make snap decisions so easily, so quickly. And they are the same people who never turn back, who never rethink if they were right or wrong or if they misjudged the situation or themselves. I envy those people. Mostly because I used to be able to do that. Yet now every choice is a hurdle to overcome--what job to choose, what future is best for me, what to do this weekend, what to wear to work, what to eat for dinner, should I really be buying this cereal?.... How do they do it? What is their strategy? Is their some sort of scientific formula I've been missing out on, some fool proof guide of how to make choices for dummies (like me)? Does it boil down to personality? Is it just a character trait that some people possess--to be strong willed in your decisions, to be perpetually clear headed and focused? Or do they look to something beyond themselves--are they just skilled at reading the signs not all of us can so easily see--the ones that are put on the side of our paths, directing us exactly where we need to go when we make an unknown turn on our mapless journey.

For someone like me, every coincidence has a meaning. Maybe that's why I look for signs everywhere whenever I'm stuck in a make-up-your-mind situation of pros vs cons which has so often been the case lately. Or maybe I look for signs so I can blame some sort of out of body, out of world source for choices gone awry. My excitement for my first downtown serving job was bombarded when an internship offer seemed to hold the keys to my future. Two of my wishes coming true--but simultaneously when they were supposed to happen consecutively. Admitting defeat, I decided to start again fresh, wipe the slate clean. Although fully equipped with a "thanks but no thanks" email in my draft box, the firmness in my selection wavered when I was prematurely greeted with a certain proposal in my inbox. How could I deny that this is no coincidence. And now, after a slight bout of anxiety-to-start-my-real-life had subsided, I was once again thrown off kilter by a message in my voicemail box from another part-time dream position in a venue which probably holds no sustainable future yet has been the recipient of dozens and dozens of my resumes for the past two years. What do you make of curve balls that come your way? Do they make you second guess for a reason--to tell you that you might not be as right as you think, your opinion not so sound, your preference not quite preferable?

How do you read your signs? But most importantly--does it even really matter? I mean, if there's one choice I've firmly made is to choose to believe that we never really know what we want. Case in point: Twenty years ago I had my heart set on being a butterfly. Twelve years later my love for the decorative colour on the insect's wings was expressed in a desire to bring colour and decoration to rooms and houses. Four years ago I was accepted to University of Toronto where I began my degree in Philosophy in anticipation of a career in law. Last May, I graduated with said degree. Law school here I come? Not quite. No, I was left with no aptitude or inclination towards law, or any other area or skill really, besides maybe the fine art of over-thinking (I'd like to shout out to philosophy for granting me this one) Last season I obsessed over the perfect pumpkin carving. This winter I fantasize about the North Pole. Yesterday I raved to my mother about my intense and exclusive desire for all things seafood--it's 10a.m today and I'm already thinking about the turkey and chicken sausage I have pre-made at home for dinner. One hour I want nothing else for my future but to usurp Peter & Paul's, the next I want to be Carrie Bradshaw.

I guess choices will always plague us--the best we can do is make as many of them as can. Never be indecisive, do not take your time, do not make a list or two or three and definitely do not check it twice. Say yes to everything and no to nothing. Experiment in every lab, play in every field, sign up for every team. Opportunities are finite, don't take them for granted.

Friday, December 11, 2009

Tis the season to be just a little teeny bit selfish...

If you'd like to know what I've been up to lately, my answer for you would be a lot of clearing--clearing up my schedule, clearing up my head, clearing up my future and, of course, clearing up the mantel to make room for the wreath and all the ceramic Santa Clauses. One thing I have not been doing, however, is clearing up the negativity.

The time is shortly upon us. Before we know it, we'll be (sadly) hauling out the boxes to pack up all the glitter and sparkle that has left my eyes twinkling for the past two weeks. In no time, we will have nothing ahead of us to look forward to besides a distant spring and another round of the brutalest of the winter months to battle. How are you using the little amount of festivity we have left on our calender? I'm using every free minute I have to celebrate the season--whether it be a Christmas tablecloth-shopping trip with my mom, or a catch up lunch with one friend followed by a catch up dinner with another, a girls' night in, a girls' night out, a gingerbread-house-building challenge, a baking session (or two, or three), Christmas-themed weekly chocolate surprises for my boyfriend, neighbourhood Christmas lights decoration gazing or anything else I come up with. But what I must say I have yet to done enough of is give back to someone who is extremely important, yet so often forgotten, so often looked down upon, so often punished and so often someone I find myself shaking my finger at, shaking my head at in disappointment--and that someone is me.

When change happens gradually it is often hard to see just how far you have come, just how much progress you have made. For me, that is my greatest challenge--it is something I struggle with everyday, every hour and especially at every meal time and snack time. I won't deny that I have done well--when I want to generalize--but on a daily basis I seem to find it easier and easier to overlook my triumphs and dwell on my slip-ups. Maybe it's the dreary weather, or the extra holiday treats I have been indulging in, but lately I can't seem to shake that icky gross feeling of insecurity that I have been plagued with for the majority of my past.

But today I am in clearing mode. And I am ready to clear away the ugly thoughts. And why shouldn't I? After almost ten years of sweat and tears, of good days and bad weeks, of losses and gains, of boredom slumps and reenergizing boosts, I can finally say I am happy where I have ended up. I have reached and exceeded so many goals. I am smarter now than ever before, wiser than I was, more educated and healthier as a result. Today I will not look over every imperfection with disgust. Tomorrow I will not punish myself for an extra chocolate square here or a well-deserved glass of wine there.

If the imminent holidays have caught you in a frenzy to finish crossing off your shopping list, your over-time work hours have robbed you of your free-time or exams have made you forfeit any attempts you may have made to reconnect with friends and family, than at the very least take some time to appreciate you. Do one thing a day that puts you at risk to be transferred off of a certain someone's good list. Don't harp on the piece of chocolate bark you secretly gobbled last night, or the extra slice of cheesecake you had at your work Christmas party. This year, take the glass of eggnog for yourself and leave Santa the 1%. Don't read the article that tells you 'which foods to avoid this holiday season'--instead only avoid the ones that don't leave your mouth watering and your stomach grumbling. Forget about portion control but don't forget that red wine is good for your heart. Keep in mind that the season is for generosity, for giving, for friends and family, but don't leave yourself in the dust.

Another year has almost come and gone. Think about how much you have done in these twelve short months. Remember every challenge you have faced--whether it be a seemingly impossible essay topic, a fight with a friend, recovering from a broken relationship or adapting to something new and foreign.  If your hectic schedule leaves you with only one minute to spare, this year, use it on you. You deserve it.

Monday, December 7, 2009

A dime, two nickels and two pennies-life-crisis

Have you ever felt like you were stuck in time? Trapped inside a frozen ice box of now and desperately scraping  from the inside to get out to later? You just don't know which direction you'd rather be going--you're overly anxious for your future, yet still nostalgic for your past.

I think (and yes, this is theory #132), that this may be the cause of my emotional instability and indecisiveness. I'm caught in a waiting room where it's never my turn, stuck in a purgatory brought to earth especially for me, racing to win the game of Life but hesitating whenever it's my turn to roll the dice. I'm swinging on the swings in the playground of my dreams while I build the picket fence around my ideal red-brick house. I'm wavering between leaping forward or turning around and running back.

How long will these clashing desires continue to plague me? Do I have the strength to make the right decision? Which path is easier anyways, when my choices include a mundane life of no challenge, or an unknown future of potentially overly-challenging learning hurdles? Or will I stay stuck in this insufferable limbo of fluctuation forever--essentially spending the rest of my life painfully deciding how to avoid the most pain?

Saturday, December 5, 2009

Real life is for phonies

My mother always praised me for being a realist. Really? Try reading my blogs, mama. Reality to me is just so passe. Who wants to live in reality when you can live in a world where sugar plum fairies don't have to dance only in your head. My ideal job--event planning. Well, that's what I tell people. My real ideal job? Being Jack the Pumpkin King. I never understood why people gave the Grinch such a hard time, who doesn't want to steal Christmas? So you can swim in eggnog, make it rain gumdrops, have all the gingerbread in the world, park reindeer in your garage and have Santa's workshop in your shed. I definitely am not a realist. Common sense is not my thing. I'm most certain I live a life of a neverending childhood, where fantasy has trickled into reality, where talking bunnies send me on chocolate hunts and I get my spending money from underneath my pillow. When people ask me for the time, I take out my giant watch and stuff it back magically into my tiny interior jacket pocket. When I throw my unbirthday party, we drink tea not wine, you must come in your purple top hat and don't sit too close to the cat if you're no good at riddles. In December it is always snowing, Christmas lights are always glowing and sleigh bells ring to the tune of the carol of the bells. I've been visited by three ghosts, I've taken a walk up a hill to fetch a pail of water and ended up in the gingerbread house of my dreams with Smarties door handles and gummy bear couches. My fairy godmother dressed me for prom. On  March break, I vacationed to the North Pole and on Christmas eve I left out the double sets of my pictures for Santa beside his cookies and milk. I don't  call cabs, I call golden chariots. My mermaid tale was a perfectly suitable substitute for water wings. Hungry? I always have green eggs and ham.

Come into my world with me, whenever you need a break from your own. Come to a land where music is always playing, children are always laughing and nutcrackers are always doing ballet. Come to a place where we get stuck in dragon-guarded towers, not in traffic. Yes, I'm sending you an open invitation to my world--where you can go everywhere and anything goes. Where when I close my eyes, I can live in a chateau in France when I think of Paris, I can feel the sand on my skin when I remember Italy, where I am playing cards on the deck of the beach cottage in Wasaga when I miss my past. Where the whole world is at your doorstep and every other world is only a Polar Express ride away. Where a window of opportunity is quite literally a door from one magic to the next--from the land of all hallows' eve to the kingdom of Old Saint Nick.

No I don't think I'm a realist at all. Why should I be? When everyday can be an adventure instead.

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Where everybody knows your name

If I hadn't already made my decision regarding my current employment status (do I stay or do I go?), then I definitely cemented it yesterday. A necessary meeting with a friend/past coworker/my first ever bride client led me back to Moxies for an early lunch. In typical me fashion, I arrived early--early as in doors-just-got-unlocked-early. And thank god I did so--reminiscing with friends meant I couldn't make it past the host stand for 15 minutes, didn't order my lunch for another 10, and took another 2 hours to chew and talk my way through it. And I loved every minute of it. I loved the familiar faces and the warm energy, I loved the where have you beens, the let's do drinks, and the how much do you miss us? from the managers. I loved every interruption, I loved that conversations seemed to pick up and continue as if I never left and I loved being made fun of with the same jokes by the same people. I loved to hear the recent gossip and even loved to hear the complaints just because it gave me comfort to know that some things never change and that, despite it all, these people haven't left.

Why is it that as we work our way through our young adult life we feel like it is necessary for us to upgrade our jobs? To move to something more professional, more advanced, more sophisticated? At least I've always felt that way. If there's one thing that this experience has taught me is that there really is no better or worse job. There is only what works for you, what ultimately makes you the most happy. When we look forward to our future, we typically envision a life of drudgingly dragging ourselves to work everyday, painstakingly punching in and joyously punching out, miserably dealing with demanding bosses and competitive coworkers. But why? I refuse to settle for a future that only pays the bills and puts the food on the table. Likewise, I refuse to have a future that can afford all the luxuries in the world if it means a life of miserable weeks followed by too-short weekends and lacking sufficient time with family, friends, and myself. I refuse to believe that we can't find the perfect medium--where work leaves you fulfilled without stealing your soul just to fill your pockets with money you have no time to enjoy.

It is for these reasons that I have decided to go back to my past. Yes, the same past I ran so quickly from, was so quick to criticize, was so miserable living in. Because I realized that sometimes, you just don't know what you got till its gone. That sometimes, you set your standards higher than you'd actually like them to be. That sometimes no matter how convinced you are that something is perfect, that it is not, and that if it doesn't work, it doesn't work and now its time to move on and get over it. But despite my decision to return to my most recent roots, I will  not give up on my pursuit. I will find harmony with work and play. I will find the perfect place for me, the right job, an enjoyable schedule. Even if it means I have to create from scratch, work from the bottom up, build it on my own. And until then, I will use the "life is too short" card to make sure I never have to endure anything that doesn't make me happy for any longer than I absolutely need to.