Public washroom cell phone etiquette – Lesson #1

April 1, 2011

RIIIIING~ RIIIIING~ RIIIIING~The woman answered her cell mid-flush. I listened in on the short conversation from the next stall – because you know the one thing classier than answering a phone on the toilet is eavesdropping in a Walmart public washroom.

After telling the caller she’d phone him/her back, she hung up and started carping to her real-time companion on the other side of my monkey-in-the-middle stall:

“I hate answering my phone when I’m on the can!”

“Ya, me too,” agreed the friend. “Who was that anyway?”

“I have no idea.”

Maybe I’m a luddite, or just a stubborn hold-out when it comes to that quaint little concept of personal privacy, but I can’t help wondering why any phone HAS to be answered the moment it starts ringing. I suppose, like new mothers, we’re all programmed to respond to the wailings of the people who need us, but what about the mystery? The anticipation? At least wait out the flush, people. At least the flush!


Harvard Medical School’s FIVE Keys To Happiness

January 13, 2011

What’s your New Year’s resolution? Whether you’re determined to shed that extra turkey weight or change careers, the end goal is always the same… to increase your happiness. One current scientific theory, substantiated by reams of research, is that we are all born with a genetic happiness ‘set point’. But just because you were a gnarly teen, or mopey twentysomething, it doesn’t mean you’re condemned to live out the rest of your life in emo purgatory. According to Ronald D. Siegel, Psy.D., assistant clinical professor of psychology at Harvard Medical School, there are five key lifestyle tweaks we all can make to maximize our happiness:

1. Practice using our strengths, particularly our virtues (ie: curiousity, compassion)

2. Practice internal and external gratitude for what we have, and towards the people who show us love and generousity

3. Savour the moment by practicing mindfulness (seriously, have you ever truly experienced an orange? Its intricacies of form and flavour will blow your mind)

4. Engage in the process (ie: feeling ‘in the zone’ while writing, or heck, even knitting)

5. Live meaningfully by serving others rather than our own egos (my own ego is pouting in a corner over this one, but no amount of whining can refute the piles of evidence supporting #5)

So go forth and be happy! Not buying it? Ok, ok, so go forth and be happier! I just can’t believe that Harvard hasn’t caught on to #6. But whatever path or key you choose, don’t forget that the rollercoaster is what drives the magic. So go forth and click out of this embarrassingly Oprah-atic post and get back to surfing this grand ol’ distraction from mortality we call the web. I suggest Youtube, because you never know when you’ll click your way into a wee spot of wisdom.

Concerning eyeglasses, mortality, and the miracles worked by a George Foreman Grill

November 9, 2010

George Foreman: boxer, spokesman, quiet champion for immortal truths

I answered the doorbell last Sunday wearing long johns and one of my husband’s giant sweaters. The dapper couple in the doorway looked past my fashion faux-pas and proceeded to expound on ‘why war happens’ and, if that wasn’t helpful enough, ‘where I’m going after I die’ – all with the help of a colourful brochure. The man looked like he’d just stepped off Ed Sullivan’s stage with a 60’s boy band, while his partner, a lovely earnest girl, was dressed in the prerequisite knee-length skirt and ‘sensible’ shoes.

But there was something about her that didn’t quite fit the cliché…

“Awesome glasses,” I said, “those have got to be the coolest frames I’ve ever seen.”

Her face lit up and her demeanor brightened right away. The moment served as further proof that however strong our faith, our souls are still driven to justify themselves within the social/material construct of our physical world. As I writer, I itch for validation and recognition as much as the next biped. My husband, on the other hand, has always been a rebel.

“So how do you deal with the pain of your mortality?” I asked the wise man sitting next to me on the couch.

“We live… we die.” He shrugged and turned back to the TV.

He was right, of course, and – philosophical crisis averted – my body relaxed into the warm beige faux-suede beside him. Though, I do think much of his Zen frame of mind could be attributed to the disturbingly huge slab of juicy grilled beef he’d just devoured. George Foreman may have been beaten by Mohammad Ali in 1974, but yesterday, in Calgary, Canada, the ex-boxer took on mortality itself – and knocked it flat.

(image source)

So THIS is what happens when women try to do it all…

June 7, 2010

It seemed like such a great idea at the time… A quick toilet scrub while running out the door to my full-time job. In pursuit of maximum efficiency, I squirted some cleaner in the bowl and went at it with a vengeance (quite literally). I attacked the chore with such violence, I must have looked like I was plunging some horrible clog. Until…

Exploring the delicious, pine-scented back woods of Quebec, one quickly learns to walk a few paces behind a partner. No, our dear French Canadians do not subscribe to some antiquated religious diktat – although the prevalence of front yard Virgin Mary ceramics do make one wonder. The gap is simply to prevent one of those prickly, dew laden, boughs from clocking you in the nose when it whips back across the path.

We lose so much in the time-clogged rush of being a modern woman; so many of life’s most beautiful lessons are forgotten in the mania of “having to do it all.” As the brush caught on the rim, and a heavy spray of yellowish, mucky, bleachy, ‘water’ splashed up into my face, I grabbed hold of the gentle quiet of those pine-lined trails to stop from screaming. No, life is not fair (especially before 7am), but it’s nice to know there’s still enough justice, somewhere out there, to make sure I was wearing my glasses!

(image source)

Cleaning In Character: Because there are ways of making life fun… even cleaning the bathroom

May 26, 2010

...because what could be more fun than sharing your struggles with a colour coordinated, early 20th century, Eastern European peasant girl?

Remember Puff The Magic Dragon? Remember how little Jackie Paper abandoned his best friend for “other toys,” and how heartbroken Puff “sadly slipped into his cave?” What a horrible lesson to teach kids! The idea that one outgrows one’s imagination is not only absurd, but cruel, and can even be crippling for certain personalities. Next time you’re in a long lineup, watch what happens… The children immediately evaluate their environment in terms of story possibilities and novel sensations, while the adults generally shuffle around getting bored and/or irritated. Which sounds like more fun to you?

National Geographic's next cover

What if we could protect our imaginations the same way we now wear sunscreen to prevent (or at least stave off) wrinkles? I, for one, refuse to compromise what continues to be my most powerful tool in how I interpret and interact with the world. Globalization has exposed us to so many differing cultural worldviews; why not explore the possibility of your own unique construct? Why not make life a little more fun?

Sure, I felt a bit silly cleaning in costume, but only at first. It was incredible how much more bearable (let’s not get carried away here) my chore became after I added the story. Try it for yourself! Your imagination is a whole lot closer to the surface than you’ve been led to believe…

Escaping The Joplin/Hendrix Birthday Curse

May 21, 2010

Headlong into twenty-eight...

Janis Joplin, Jimi Hendrix, Jean-Michel Basquiat, Kurt Cobain… the list goes on. At twenty seven, the creative brain must make a choice: to embrace its talents, or, through self-destruction and/or social conformity, escape them. The buoyancy of youthful idealism cannot be sustained. Once its intoxication, the powerful high of potential, begins to wane, it’s easy to see how a person could be drawn to the false grandeur of drugs. The latter would become even more of a temptation if the creative individual’s talents had been overindulged at a young age (ie: prodigies). Excess praise, however justified from an outside perspective, would have the dangerous effect of validating a child’s underdeveloped, self-centric understanding of reality. A child who has engaged with the world primarily through intelligent adaptation of her/his talents couldn’t help but develop an exaggerated sense of control over life. Combine this unreality with a lack of learned social empathy, and you’ve got a disaster waiting to happen.

There’s more to the curse, of course, such as exhaustion, overextension, disillusionment, and THE SHOCK. When creative production has been your currency, it comes as a terrible shock to discover how widely its value can vary on the global exchange. Turns out there are plenty of people who don’t need to “produce” to feel engaged and satisfied with life – lucky bastards! Some folks… wait for it… actually thrive primarily off human interactions. Weird, I know. But then again, I’d be lost without my circle (and my G!). Can you see the conflict?

At twenty-seven, the world comes crashing in. It is no longer possible to ignore alternative worldviews, and even the acknowledgement of differing motivations can be paralyzing to someone whose self-image, if not their entire self-worth (Joplin), has been dependent on narrow self expression. For authentic creative growth at this stage in life, the individual must be willing to integrate these new universalities into her/his work. Successful integration requires a compassionate understanding of these new value systems. But how do you prioritize/balance the demands of these new systems against one’s intrinsic creative independence?

Creativity is by nature self-indulgent, being, in essence, a personality’s violent rebuttal against the known (we’ll leave death for another essay). It doesn’t take long to discover how eager the world is to intrude on our self-direction. So how does one balance these new priorities and demands being made on our energies by the differing worldviews we’ve now gone and validated through successful integration into our creative work? Once you know how much your “No” will hurt someone, how do protect your creative time without feeling like a Jerk?

As someone who can relate (possibly more than I’d like to admit) to the struggles above, all I can say is this: you know who you need to love, so love them with everything they deserve. And, if you wake up to a dismal, snow laced, May Birthday, just grab a piece of office cardstock, some multicoloured highlighters, and go prove to the world that not only did you escape the curse, but… screw it… that not all of us were put on this earth to collect Royal Dalton figurines!

(Note: not that there’s anything wrong with that…um…vocation)

Motivated weight loss – The ultimate gender divide

March 5, 2010

Fitness magazines are as shameless as Playboys in their exploitation of our fantasies. But only fitness mags try to fool us into believing that we too can have a piece of the action. For men, the headlines promise power, authority, and not just more sex, but better sex.

According to dear hubby, this sort of motivation “works for most men.” He made this statement while looking down his nose with an air of superiority and a certain scientific detachment – as if he, out of billions, had somehow managed to cross that elusive evolutionary threshold into an existence governed by pure altruistic impulses and the Zen pursuit of self actualization. Of course, he also said this while watching NHL hockey on his specialty cable sports pack, but who am I to judge~wink.

As for us women, why should we be hitting the gym? The headlines are unanimous: get more energy, look younger, look (though not nesesarily ‘be’) sexier. Yesterday, as part of my project, I read through an entire issue of Shape Magazine. By the final page, I was far more tired and angry than any-kind-of motivated. To figure out why, I went back and read between the lines.

So this is it for us? We’re supposed to want to sweat, stretch, and strain just to become more efficient in our daily lives? Just so we can do more, more effectively, for the people asking things of us? Not only that, but we’re supposed to project a perfectly maintained body/mind/soul trinity if we want to advance our careers, let alone hang onto our men! Sure, all the Shape women claim to be so much “happier and healthier” than before, but there’s something off, something missing. Ever wonder why we’re not all munching on granola after 6am runs?

The back page of the magazine featured a profile of a thin blond Utah clothing designer who’s “can-do attitude and strong willpower help keep this Shape reader – and her family – healthy and happy.” There was a small text box in the bottom right corner for her “moments of calm.” On some nights, after the kids are in bed, she gets to curl up with her husband on the couch and watch a movie. “To make that time even sweeter,” she confesses, “I treat myself to a few pieces of licorice, like Red Vines.”

A few pieces of licorice? I’m sorry, but that’s just about the saddest things I’ve ever read.

Now I ask you, is it any wonder men are still running the world?