Oh Adele, we could have had it all… but then Monday joined the party

June 27, 2011

“There’s a fire starting…”

The last snooze timed out and Adele’s ‘Rolling in the Deep’ jolted me out of doze mode. The beat found me under the covers and grabbed me by the foot. Next thing I knew I was rocking out an impromptu Rolling Stone photo shoot. I went for it with full-on Lindsay Lohan abandon – sheets flying back arching hair tossing lips pouting hands on hips…etc. For my glorious finale I swept back my hair, flashed a dashing smile to the invisible camera, and swung my legs (toes pointed) gracefully over the side of the bed – my left ankle bone lining up perfectly with the corner of the bedside table…

<SMACK>”… you played it to the beat…”

I spent the last few bars of the song curled up in fetal position nursing my injury. Thank you Monday, thank you very much.

What do you do when Monday steals your glamour? You take it back! When I got to work I found Adele’s song online, shut my office door, and proceeded to rock out hard core, with full-on Cymbria abandon – arms flailing hips swinging hair flying knees bobbing face grinning…etc. Even tethered to the computer by headphones, I gave it my all. Was anyone watching from behind the half-closed retirement home blinds outside my window? Who cares! You know what, I hope they were watching! And I hope they felt my joy. We only get one life, may as well live it dancing!

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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!


Who says Groundhog Day is a corny holiday?

February 2, 2011

I was rooting through my stalk of picks (and apparently puns), looking for the photo I’d taken to accent a vaguely philosophical post about a shower curtain (don’t ask), when I came face to cob with ultimate summer bliss. Suddenly, I was aching for spring… aching. Groundhog Day may not be the most noble of holidays, but is it so wrong to want a little bit of hope? Even if it’s from a rodent? Even if said rodent lives in a place called Gobbler’s Knob? Who needs dignity when the today’s prediction tasted so darn gooood.


Burning The Ugly Pants: Join a 2010 personal style makeover (Part Seven)

November 2, 2010

This Halloween's 'Canadian Girl' costume also included: knee-high lumberjack socks, two mini hockey sticks, one snow shovel, and one cute schoolgirl!

As 21st century women, we have the freedom to adjust our attractiveness across a broad spectrum through our choices of hairstyle, makeup, clothing, and even surgery. Our physical selves can be adapted according to our moods, purposes, funds, and expertise. There is power at both ends of the spectrum. At one end, we find a natural dominance and conspicuous, immediate, validation; at the other, we find the power of the observer, an invisibility through which knowledge and experience can filter unchallenged. Our internal attributes can exercise themselves more freely on the ‘less glam’ end, but our egos can’t help but delight in the easy gratification of turning heads and opinions at the opposite pole.

Need to catch up on this Saving Cymbria blog serial?

The danger of setting one’s baseline appearance too high on the spectrum is that as looks slowly (but surely) trade off for wisdom (we hope), many women find themselves lost, having never developed confidence in their other sources of power and identity. The resulting desperation can be as paralyzing as botox, and equally toxic. Ideally, one should settle comfortably somewhere around the middle, and travel to both poles for exciting expeditions in anthropological experimentation. For example: Halloween glamazoning and other pantless adventures.

Equally Canadian... but a little less 'glam'

Our Canadian winters encourage experimentation on the other end of the spectrum. Just yesterday, I was all bundled up (scarf, baseball cap, hair covered by hood) by the river when a pickup truck pulled up beside me.

“Hey you,” the burly driver called out, “you need a partner?”

I, still mentally dressed in my Halloween fishnets from two nights before, gave him the ol’ ‘dude, as if’ look of polite disdain.

“Hey YOU” he shouted, his enunciation brutally clear this time, “YOU THE GARDENER??”

Turning around, I saw a tall scruffy man standing directly behind me. He was nodding at the man in the truck.

I know I was just rhapsodizing about the joys of invisibility a few sentences ago, but darn it, there’s nothing rhapsodic about getting caught in between!


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)


How (not) to leave a tip for your office cleaning staff!

May 24, 2010

I used to laugh at those stories about girls in the 1970s needing pliers to do up their jeans – not anymore! Turns out there’s a reason why fashion’s perennial pariah, pleats, were welcomed back as the prodigal pants of the 80s. The hippies thought they’d put an end to war too, but then along came 9/11 and the skinny jean trend, and we’re right back in the dark ages.

There I was, wedged into a cramped stall in our office washroom, enmeshed in an epic struggle with two stonewashed denim sausage casings – the kind of jeans you have to peel rather than pull. They’d been almost bearable when I’d ratcheted them on in the morning, but by our 4:27pm duel, my thighs had set stiff like a couple of cement filled foundation tubes. Ever been so claustrophobic you started fantasizing about jerry-rigging some primitive form of culotte out of old recycling bags and packing tape?

I’d just flushed (sorry TMI), and was jumping up and down, heaving on the waistband, when an odd thing happened. One quarter, one dime, and two pennies, popped free of my front pocket and dropped into the – still flushing – toilet. I watched the water swirl, then settle, leaving my small collection of coins adrift in the bottom of the bowl. I ask you this… What, pray tell, is the etiquette in this sort of situation?

I made an executive decision; I left a tip. I thought of sticking a post-it on the seat to explain, but what would I really say? That I my pants were too tight? That I think another woman’s dignity can be bought for a measly 37 cents? The office cleaning woman and I wear the clothes of different cultures, and now my jeans have driven another wedge between us. It’s no wonder the hippies were wrong about war – just think of all those stems and seeds they left for the rest of the world to clean up.


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)