This is an unflattering post about Jian Ghomeshi because he is an abusive dirtbag.

I was supposed to do work tonight but I can’t. I can’t work because I’m mad. I’m mad because of that Jian Ghomeshi essay. I’m mad because I’m just tired of men abusing their power… and then thinking that they deserve pity when shit goes sideways. I don’t care for empty public apologies or expressions of remorse. Do these men really need to take up any more space with their words? With their selves?

I don’t think so.

I don’t know why the New York Review of Books decided to publish that essay, but I can hazard a guess that it has something to do with their bottom line. There’s that saying: there’s no such thing as bad publicity. It seems to hold more true today than ever. The only reason I heard about the essay was because my Twitter feed was full of it. Not praising it–denouncing it. But still, it was there.

It had been a while since I thought about Ghomeshi–like, really thought about him. It’s been two years since he was acquitted and fell out of the spotlight, and I’ve been busy. His is a name that has come up since then in wake of other disclosures, but it wasn’t until I saw the tweets about him that I wondered what the heck he’d even been up to. I was unpleasantly surprised to learn that he had written a 3400 word essay about, well, himself. One that was to be published in an American magazine (online today and in print next month).

Ghomeshi was a man with significant clout. He had social standing and a successful media career. And although he may no longer have that standing or that career, his name is just as recognizable. His name has a different kind of weight now, one that might make it more distinct.

This has been said before by others, but I think it fits here too. What are the names of any women who have disclosed abuse from men? Women don’t bring their stories forward because it will gain them recognition. In fact, it does the opposite.

There are a variety of reasons why we may not know these names, not the least of which is that the survivors don’t want their information made public. But I wonder what would happen if we gave power to those names instead? What if we offered a cover story to those names? What if those were the names that would sell magazines? What then? I would much rather live in a world like that.

I haven’t read the essay. I read an article about the essay. I started to read the essay. But I stopped. I stopped for a few reasons: it was boring, it was bullshit, and it just didn’t seem important.

Ghomeshi’s side of the story isn’t important to me. His side of the story isn’t news to me. His side of the story is one that has already been told, over and over and over again. His story is a story that all women already know: the story of I didn’t mean it that way. I’m sorry you feel that way. It’s a misunderstanding. It’s the story of you’re taking this out of context. You’re blowing this way out of proportion. It’s the story of you can’t prove what happened enough for allegations to be true and therefore you are a liar.

I don’t want to give Ghomeshi the space to talk himself out of it. I don’t want to hear his side, especially when his side seems like the only side. That essay isn’t about remorse. It’s not an apology (why would he apologize when he doesn’t think he’s done anything wrong?). It’s a 3400-word pity party held under the ruse of regret.

If he were truly remorseful, he wouldn’t have written the essay in the first place. But instead of taking the opportunity to repent, he took the opportunity to make things about himself. Because that’s what abusers do. They trick you into thinking it’s about you, when really it will always be about them. Ghomeshi doesn’t regret what he did. He regrets getting caught. He regrets losing what he lost. And he thinks he deserves to get it back.

Advertisements

How about that fat-shaming Netflix series?

I was brushing my teeth today and I look in the mirror and my face was caught between two panes of glass, a section of my forehead and most of my nose had been swallowed in the crack where the tri-fold doors of my medicine cabinet met.

It reminded me of that thing I used to do when I was a teenager. I’d stand in front of the mirrored closet doors, arranging myself so that my body was spliced in half by the crack and put back together, thinner. I’d look at my body, the body I wished I had, and imagine the life I would have if I looked like that. My fat midsection sucked into the thin slice of darkness, erasing my shame. Erasing the parts of myself that I was convinced were holding me back.

I watched a lot of TV growing up. More than I probably should have. I watched Even Stevens and yearned for the thin leggy beauty of Ren. I watched Hilary Duff in Lizzie McGuire and wished I had the body of that petite blonde. I watched Boy Meets World and deciphered that even the nerdy girls like Topanga were supposed to be beautiful and, well, thin.

I was convinced I could have these bodies if I worked hard enough. If I ate less. Worked out more.

I could achieve the body in the mirror. And I needed to achieve that body in the mirror, because if I didn’t I was worthless. I was nothing if I wasn’t thin.

I told myself all the things I could do once I was in my right body. I could make friends. I could go out on dates. I could get a job and go to university and get my hair cut short. I could wear sneakers with skinny jeans. I had all these rules for my fat body that I could leave behind when I was finally thin.

I starved myself into a size 4 dress for my prom and that’s when I felt like my life could finally start. My life didn’t start and so I decided I wasn’t thin enough. There was too much of me and that meant I wasn’t enough. I tried different diets, painfully measuring out honey and cayenne pepper and spending way too much money on fresh-squeezed lemon juice. I tortured myself. I weighed my body before and after bowel movements. I wondered how much my legs weighed my breasts weighed how much did the liver inside me weigh? I’d subtract these numbers, trying so hard to reach a point where I felt like a real person. I needed to take away pieces in order to pretend I was whole.

I gained all the weight back and then some when I started university. My first year of school I was thin but I didn’t know it. I was too focused on the way my thighs rubbed as I walked down the hallway. I participated in a study ran by a graduate student for extra credit in my intro-level psych class. She was brilliant, but the swell of her gut pushed against her cotton t, rolls of flesh swelled over the sides of her jeans. I told myself no matter how long I spent in academia I’d never let my body go, I wouldn’t get fat like her.

But I did. I gained and gained and gained and I hated my body, wishing I could chisel my true self free.

My fourth year of university, I took self-timed photos of me in my bathing suit in my poorly lit bathroom, counting every roll and dimple and stretch mark. My imperfections. This was my before. This was the body I would cast aside for my real body, my good body.

When I got into graduate school, I was still fat. And I told myself I didn’t deserve it because I was fat. I worried about moving to a new city, “How will I make friends if I’m fat?” I worried about teaching, “How will I teach if I’m fat?” I worried about sharing my ideas, “Who will listen to me if I am fat?” My body was something I despised. Something holding me back. I didn’t come up with these ideas on my own–this is what I had been fed my entire life.

Fat bodies are the before. Fat bodies are bad. Fat bodies aren’t actually bodies, they are flesh that needs to be peeled away to reveal the real body underneath. This is what I was taught. This is what I believed.

And I don’t believe this now. I know it’s not true. I’d been in the battle with my body for so long and I think I finally just got sick of it. I didn’t want to binge and purge. I didn’t want to weigh myself morning and night. I didn’t want to punish myself for not fitting into a pair of pants at a straight size store.

I stopped hating my body for being my body.

At least, some of the time.

When I’m sad. When I’m mad. When I’m alone and depressed, or dissatisfied, or scared, I remember that I’m fat and the idea creeps in that maybe I don’t deserve to be happy because I’m not thin. I don’t deserve to have a partner because I’m not thin. I don’t deserve ________ because I’m not thin.

Sometimes I catch a glimpse of my reflection, caught between two panes of glass, my mid-section swallowed by that little crack, and I think that’s perfection. Sometimes I can shake this thought out of my head, and step in front of a full pane of glass and know that what I see is good enough. Better than good enough.

But sometimes I can’t shake those thoughts.

And that’s why that Netflix series is harmful. Not only does it reinforce a harmful revenge body plot line and paint women’s bodies as objects, it supports my worst thoughts about myself.

It makes the awful things I thought about my body true.

This TV show takes the narrative from the shows I watched as a teenager even further–it provides the schema for how to get thin. And I don’t think it can get much more damaging than that.

F*CK YOU

I want to write about what happened to me but I don’t know where to begin.

I start. Stop. Start. Stop. Start. Stop. Over and over again. I wonder is this right? Am I getting it right? And sometimes I wonder if I’m even allowed to say what happened, if that story even belongs to me… because, to be honest, I’m not sure what parts of myself I even own anymore.

I guess I’ve always been a giver. I give a lot. And I like to do it. I like to be the soft person I am, the one people trust with their secrets, the one who people rely on for help, the one who people run to when they need someone to lean on. I know that makes me vulnerable, sometimes, kind of, but I like that vulnerability because it makes me feel necessary. I know those parts of myself make me an easy target for predators, but I don’t ever want to feel like I need to change (become harder, more closed off) in order to protect myself from people who shouldn’t even be preying on me in the first place.

Right?

I’m reading Hunger right now. It’s great. I’m so glad Roxane Gay had the courage to write it because sometimes when I’m reading her words it feels like she’s held a mirror up to myself. And it makes me feel a little bit more okay about being the way that I am. About being a lot soft and a little afraid all the time. She was able to put words to her trauma and it made me think that maybe one day I’ll be able to put words to mine too. Not now, not soon even, but maybe eventually. The book is complex and I like that. It’s made me realize that I’m allowed to be complex, that I’m allowed to be conflicted, that I’m allowed to be a full human, a full woman, even when it seems like there are plenty of people in this world who would like to take that away from me. These are the people who use me for parts. Like stealing a car, stripping it down, leaving the useless chassis behind. These people are mostly men, but sometimes women too. Although I can’t blame these women because they are doing what they must to survive: behaving like men.

Maybe the reason I can’t write about it is because it’s not one thing but a series of things. Dominoes. If I push over one I push over them all and if I push over them all and they topple and fall then I will just be left with a pile, disorganized, on the floor of my brain and I won’t know how to clean it up.

That’s the thing, I guess. These experiences accumulate. Like a snowfall in spring and you think it’s not going to be so bad, that it will melt when it hits the ground, and some of it does. The snow turns to water on cement but it clings to the branches of trees and the brown brittle grass and you go to bed and the next morning everywhere is slippery and frozen and white. And if you back out of your driveway a little too slow you’ll get stuck and if you back out a little too fast you’ll slide into your neighbours garbage cans, and both those options suck. So you better be perfect.

That’s what it’s like when you’ve been abused. The first time it’s awful and you might not even realize how bad it is because you’re just a kid and you’re with an adult you trust. Then it’s a few years later and you’re a few years older and you learned that your body is nobody’s body but yours and you’re supposed to tell someone you trust if you’re being touched but what if the person you trust is the one doing the touching? Then it’s a few years later again and you’re in high school now and you don’t know how to connect with men unless you’re naked and they are too. And then more time passes and more things happen and a dating app tricks you into thinking that you’ve got all the power and it is your body and you’re doing what you want with it but you know it’s not actually your body when you’re drinking warm root beer Schnapps just so you can handle a thick tongue jammed between your dry lips and clumsy hands fumbling in the dark for the clasp on a bra you decided not to wear and the awkward stumble from couch to bed. And afterwards you cry driving home when you shouldn’t be driving home but you can’t stay there. And more time passes. And you meet a man at a club and he invites you back to his place and says you can sleep in his bed and you do (but you don’t sleep, really) and the next morning he tells you he has a girlfriend and you sit behind the steering wheel of your car and you cry because you don’t understand why nobody loves you but everybody uses you. More time passes again. And you meet someone and he seems interested in you and you decide you can be interested in him too. And you start dating him and decide that he is supposed to be safe but one night when you’re tired and he isn’t he rolls you over and grabs you and pushes against you and takes something that I guess you gave so freely that he just assumes it belongs to him now. And you wonder if that’s what a relationship is supposed to be like because you have no idea what it means to be with someone. And more time passes and you move away and think you can leave everything behind. You learn to protect yourself. You gain weight. You insulate yourself. You wish that you could rip off all your skin and be someone completely different, someone stronger. You surround yourself with safe people. You try very hard to disappear (and you almost succeed). You avoid straight men, because you’ve learned those are dangerous men.  And this means you’re almost surprised when you get groped in public by a man, when his meaty palm pushes against your round bum and the slippery slide-y fabric of your slacks feels too thin against the peach lace panties you decided to wear that day because you thought it’d be nice to feel special. You want to scream or throw up or both but you don’t because you’re a professional. So instead of surprise you feel shame that you let your guard down, and then you’re reminded of all the times that all those men took those pieces of you and neglected to give them back. And you’re angry because that’s not the way you’re supposed to feel and that makes you a bad woman and a worse feminist and why can’t these men just keep their goddamn hands to their goddamn selves?

I’ll sum up those experiences in one neat stack of words. Men have hurt me. Over and over again. And I wish they’d fucking stop it.

Happy (belated) New Year!

I realize at this point we are well into the New Year, but I figure it’s never too late to talk about resolutions and reflections and all things NYE.

If you know me, you know I love New Year’s Eve. It’s my favourite night of the year–I never want it to end, actually. There’s something about ending one year and launching into another that is whimsical and terrifying and for some reason I like it. No, not for some reason–I think I may have finally figured out what it is about this time of year that I love so much. It’s the way that I sense the closing of one chapter as an accomplishment. And it is–making it through a whole year is something to celebrate. And I never expect to celebrate another New Year’s… because life is fragile like that. I might not be here or the people I love might not be here or anything in the world could happen to upset the life I’ve constructed and so why not celebrate the fact that I’m here and I’m happy by counting backwards and drinking cheap champagne?

At least, that’s what I think.

New Year’s Eve is a liminal space between something finishing and something beginning. I like to reside in these in-betweens sometimes because it’s there that I can pause and actually enjoy life. I think I’m always projecting into the future or reflecting on the past–a byproduct of being a writer, perhaps. But on New Year’s Eve I let myself live in the present because that’s the only thing that exists. It’s weird–I can rationalize January 1 as the future and tell myself the future doesn’t exist yet so all I have is now. December 31. And I may as well make the most of it.

But, like I said, we’re well into 2018 now. And, boy oh boy, do I feel that crushing pressure of moving through time. I am already too busy and it’s only going to get busier as the year progresses. This year is set to be a real whirlwind. There’s a lot going on–I am hoping to finish university and get my life started, finally. And according to my horoscope I’m set to fall in love (also finally). Personally and professionally I get the sense that this year is going to be pivotal in setting the tone for the rest of my life. And that’s exciting but also really, really scary. But regardless of whether or not I’m ready for what’s coming, it’s coming… and no matter what it is, I’m excited to experience it.

This is all to say… Happy New Year! Better buckle up because no matter who you are or what you want, 2018 is going to be a wild one.

Taylor Swift’s reputation

It’s been a couple weeks since T-Swift’s newest album was made available on streaming services and I can’t stop listening to it. I’m not sure why. I trash-talked the singles non-stop, and my first listen of the album had me laughing out LOUD, but here I am, listening to it on repeat, singing along, and kind of liking it. Taylor Swift reputation cover art The most ratchet album art of the 2010s.

Now, I’m not a diehard Swiftie. But I came up on Taylor Swift. I remember the first time I heard “Tim McGraw” and “Teardrops on my Guitar” and how it felt like she was talking directly to me. Her experiences were my experiences. I was fifteen when she released “Fifteen”. I was 22 when she released “22”. When she was heartbroken, I was heartbroken (at least, it felt that way). I followed her from country to pop and now I’ve followed her to whatever she’s doing now. And I don’t know what I expected from this album but I do know that whatever this is doesn’t cut it for me.

I know most of the words to most of the songs, and I belt out the lyrics when I’m cooking or showering or walking down the hallway. I dream in these lyrics. And some of the tunes have grown on me–“This is Why We Can’t Have Nice Things” is an unexpected banger and the Hozier-sounding “Don’t Blame Me” is surprising and good–but I guess that’s what will happen if you listen to it enough. Proximity plays into what we like more than we give it credit for (I’m remembering the huge crush I had on the guy I worked with a few years ago. He had a mushroom cut and never ironed his shirts. I found it all very endearing.). The point is, if you spend enough time with something… it’ll grow on you. Like mold.

I wanted from this album what I’ve got from every other Taylor Swift album. Just two things. The first? A song to belt out when I’m heartbroken. Give me a tune to crank up in my car and drive around at night, chain-smoking cheap cigarettes and crying and singing off key. The second? A dance bop. Something to jump up and down to and drink champagne to and scream the lyrics to with my gal pals in the club (as I’m re-reading this, I realize I no longer own a car or go to the clubs… and it makes me wonder, have I outgrown Taylor Swift?). This album half-fulfills half those needs. I’m left wanting something more.

The back half of the album is actually okay. (And the front half is growing on me, too. Proximity, mold, see above). Lots of those songs were co-written with Jack Antonoff (if you don’t know who he is, you better find out because he’s amazing) and you can hear his influence on songs like “Getaway Car” and “Dress” (two songs I’m low-key obsessed with). The bouncy pre-chorus in “Getaway Car” is particularly Bleachers-esque. I immediately liked this song and I think it’s ’cause Antonoff’s sound is such a clear influence.

In most of these songs it seems like Taylor Swift is trying to sound like just about anyone but herself (sometimes this works but most of the time it fails in a big way). And yeah, I know, I know: the old Taylor is “dead”. But, geez, when I listen to songs like “End Game” and “Ready for it…” do I ever want her back. And don’t even get me started on “So it Goes”. I can’t believe that song made it on the album because it’s an absolute auditory assault. Tunes that bad should be illegal.

Honestly, it seems like Taylor Swift was too damn happy when she made this album. I’m not the type of person who romanticizes the misery of artists. I don’t think you need to be sad to make good art. But maybe you need to be sad to make good pop music. Even in the semi-sad song “Dress” things turn out alright and that’s just not the Taylor I’m used to (and that’s definitely not the life that I’m used to). T-Swift’s music is supposed to speak to my soul and reputation has left me dissatisfied. Like, I look at my favourite Swift song of all time (possibly her best song… ever) “All Too Well” and it’s just perfect. It speaks to the longing and loss and other soul-crushing aspects of almost-love. That’s Taylor Swift’s wheelhouse. And I’m not saying she has to recreate “All Too Well” over and over and over again… but I feel like thematically that’s what her fanbase (me, myself, and I) is jonesing for. And seeing as I never get what I want romantically (most of the reason why I’m obsessed with Taylor Swift’s music in the first place, let’s be honest) the least she could do would be to give me some crappy sad pop music to ugly-cry to.

reputation is fun. But I wouldn’t say it’s good. I can’t help but compare it to 1989 or RED, both albums that showed her pushing against her comfort zone and breaking through. Those albums rock. This one won’t have that lasting power. It’s fun, but it’s going to be fleeting.

Workin’ on my fitness

I’ve been in a battle with my body since I was 10 years old.

I looked down at my legs and saw my bulbous calves and thought “This is fat” and fat is bad and I am fat and I am bad. And that circular thinking has plagued me since then, eating away at self-esteem and body image and making me hate myself.

I used to look in the mirror and see a person staring back who wasn’t me. Who was like a caricature of me, like those ones artists in parks draw where your head is too big for your body and all of your flaws are over-emphasized. That’s what I saw, and that’s what I thought all of you saw too. All of the worst parts of me, front and centre. It didn’t matter if I was smart or kind or funny. What mattered was that I was fat.

I thought this way for a long long time, longer than I want to admit but I’m going to anyway. Up until about a month ago, I hated myself and my appearance so much it was all I could think about most days. The way that the waistband of my pants cut into my fleshy love handles, or my side boob squished out of my bra, or my thick arms rubbed against my thick core. And don’t get me started on my thighs–just gross. I thought about all my parts and the way that they didn’t fit together right. I was wrong, I was fat, I was ugly, I was awful. It was awful. It’s time consuming and depressing to think of yourself this way, trust me. And it’s hard to do anything when you can’t stop thinking about the sound your pants make when you walk and your thighs swish together.

I decided to do something about it. I’ve tried to “do something” about my weight countless times before. And I mean that. I’ve lost track of the fad diets and the workout plans and the weird smoothies I’ve drank. I’ve starved myself and I’ve binged and I’ve starved and I’ve binged so many times that it actually just felt like my normal diet. It’s strange now to eat three solid meals a day because for over half my life I just didn’t feed myself properly. It’s terrifying to consider.

I took charge of my body by hiring a personal trainer. Her name is Katelyn and she works at Studio 4 Fitness in downtown Victoria and she’s amazing. I talk about her all the time and I still don’t think I can do her justice here. She’s just, she’s great. People ask me what she does and the answer I usually give is “A lot of counting.” She keeps track of my exercises and counts my reps and makes sure I hinge at the hips and not the knees. She tells me to look at my form in the mirror and square my hips and keep my shoulders in the right position. She grabs mats for me to exercise on, she carries weights when they are too heavy for me to carry myself, but most importantly she tells me I’m strong. She tells me to keep going. And the other day she told me I was beautiful and you know what? I believed her. I felt beautiful for possibly the first time ever in my life. Drenched in my own sweat, glasses fogging up, frizzy hair pulled into a tight top knot, I thought “Damn, I do look good.”

Because I wasn’t thinking about what I wasn’t. I was thinking about what I was. Am.

I am strong. I have legs that are thick with muscle and that carry me from point A to point B to point C and back again. I have baby muscles in my arms, and when I flex I can kind of see them… but when I am carrying my groceries home I can definitely feel them. I have a core that is strong, and even though my stomach may never be flat and rippled with abs… my balance has improved so that I can walk up stairs without gripping the hand rail for support. I sleep better. I eat better. I am better.

I mean, it’s nice to fit into pants with a button and zipper again, but I think this is about more than just looking good in a pair of jeans. Honestly, that feels like a happy bonus. What it’s about is feeling like I belong in my body for the first time ever. Feeling like I can take up space. Feeling like I’m working with my body and not against it. Feeling like… just feeling happy to exist.

I know that you can’t buy yourself a body. That exercise is hard work. That loving yourself is hard work. And I know that I am a work-in-progress, always. And for the first time ever, I’m okay with that.

___________________________________________________

If you’re interested in working with Katelyn (or any of the other awesome PTs at Studio 4), you can contact the gym here. Or, if you just want to check out the facilities, you can check them out at 715 Yates St in Victoria, BC. Everyone who works there is so nice, and they offer all sorts of classes, and the gym is located in this great older building in the heart of downtown. I love everything about that place.

And just so you all know, this post is in no way sponsored by this gym or Katelyn, I’m just really, really, really happy and I needed to let that out.

National ice cream day

I love ice cream in all its forms. In a cone, in a cup, in a milkshake, in a float. Deep-fried. In sandwiches. On a stick. Dipped in chocolate. Whatever way you can conceive of serving ice cream, I’ve probably had it that way and I’ve probably really enjoyed it.

I love it all. So in order to celebrate this glorious day I thought I’d share a few photos of me enjoying my favourite treat.

img_5361

Me, enjoying a couple of scoops at my own risk on the beach at Lake Koocanusa Campsite & Marina

 

Me, just before I dove into some delicious soft-serve from The Cone, an ice-cream-shaped food truck in Edmonton, AB.

Me, just prior to enjoying two scoops of goat cheese and fig from Kid Sister, a shop in Victoria’s Fan Tan Alley that sells locally made ice cream.

 

 

 

Me, teetering on the edge of the Pacific enjoying “The Danny”: soft-serve topped with a scoop of one of the sixteen flavours Jackson’s Ice Cream Float offers.

 

Me, just before cracking through the chocolate-y shell of this locally made drumstick from a teeny tiny gelato shack in Stanley Park.

 

Me, getting ready to devour my first dipped cone from Chocolats Favoris on Government Street in Victoria, BC (it was strawberry soft-serve dipped in cookies & cream–yum). 

 

Processed with VSCO with c6 preset

Me, about to try Victoria’s Cold Comfort vegan ice cream for the first time.

Processed with VSCO with c6 preset

Me, trying Cold Comfort ice cream.

Processed with VSCO with c6 preset

Me, pleased with Cold Comfort ice cream. I’ll definitely be buying a pint (or two or three) from this place in the future!

 

paradise found

A friend just recently came out to the island to visit me–I mean, I was a stop along the way as she road-tripped with her boyfriend for a romantic mini-vacation, so it wasn’t all about me, but the point is she came to Victoria and we all hung out and drank on the beach and watched for marine wildlife and just had an awesome time.

Live footage of us having an awesome time in Vancouver

Being this happy is great, but also terrifying. It reminds me that I’ve lived a long time without ever truly feeling it–at least, not for long periods of time. Or at least, it wasn’t that happiness that manifests from within. I’ve felt joy multiple times in my life. I’ve been happy. But it’s been a reactionary happiness; it’s as a result of a trip to Hawaii or a good grade or a night out with friends. It’s not the kind that is self-sustaining, one that bubbles up and lives somewhere inside you. I imagine it’s located just underneath your sternum… close to your heart.

I thought about my journey this past year. This past year is important–not the year 2016, but the minutes and hours and days between July of last year and now. A year ago, I hit rock bottom. Emotionally and physically I was despondent–I was stressed out, I was unhealthy, I was trapped in a fake relationship… I was trapped in myself. I’d convinced myself that this was okay. That this was the best it was going to get. That this was what being an adult was about–a little bit of happiness sprinkled over a whole bunch of shit. I was convinced I was still growing and changing. And I was still growing–as people we are always growing in some way. But like a plant that needs repotted, my roots were banging against the edges of myself, curling back in towards my centre… and never going anywhere.

img_5219

Our view from the beach, featuring the Pacific Ocean and setting sun.

So, I broke up with the boyfriend. I sold my car. I moved to Victoria. I started university (again). And once I was allowed the space to expand, it seems like I broke through the self-imposed barriers and became the best version of myself. Granted, I get to go to the beach every day. Yes, I am mostly unemployed. But it’s about more than that. It’s about giving myself the permission to be, to grow bigger than myself, and to just be happy. I know, I know… happiness is an intangible thing, how do you know you have it? I think it’s like that whole love thing where you know it when you feel it. But, there’s also been changes in myself physically that embody these emotional shifts.

I don’t wear foundation anymore (unless I want to). I used to be the girl who needed to have the perfect face and the perfect hair (there was one night I was almost in tears before going to the club because I thought my hairstyle made my head look square–it was a whole thing, I’m not proud of it) but now I put less pressure on myself to adhere to what I’d previously held up as the standard for perfection. This isn’t a knock against girls who do wear makeup, I still like to beat my face every once in a while, but it’s just something I’ve personally noticed and attribute to being more comfortable in my own skin.

I’m a heck of a lot more comfortable with the physical space I take up. I used to be self-conscious about my size–my big ass seems to always be getting in the way. And now, I’ve embraced my curvy physique in a way that is healthy for me. I mean, yeah I like to work out. And yeah, if I lose a few pounds that’s fine. But if I gain a few pounds that’s also fine. What’s most important is that I’m healthy–my heart is tick-tick-ticking, my lungs are inflating and deflating at an appropriate pace, and I can do like 60 push ups (in intervals of 15), so I feel pretty good about all that. Granted, I have my hang ups–like, there’s this pair of vintage Levi’s I thrifted about a month ago that I desperately want to get into, but I’m not going to let some old denim without any give make or break me, ya feel?

Happy girl, post-dip-in-the-ocean at English Bay.

I’m not all caught up on what men think about me. This is one of the best things about being happy, to be honest. Even though I’m aware of the male gaze and all the crap that comes with it, I still couldn’t help but be effected by it. I wanted to be “hot” and I put a lot of energy into doing things I thought would achieve the desired “hotness”. Now I know the hottest thing to be… is myself. I’ve always been a total babe, now I’m just letting myself realize it.

Me eating an ice cream and living my best life in front of Munro’s in Victoria.

And my relationship with food has taken a total turn for the best. It’s one of the largest manifestations of my newly uncovered happiness. As someone who will always be in recovery from disordered eating, the way I eat is always gonna be about more than just food. It’s an emotional relationship, one based around more than energy and calories and health. I mean, this is a girl who didn’t eat anything with flour or sugar in it for over a year because I’d convinced myself those were bad foods. I still feel guilty when I eat bread sometimes. I’ve noticed a shift, though, in my thinking. Food is no longer a product of shame (at least, not all the time). Food is energy. Food is also joy. Yeah, sure, I’m still a binger (I did eat an entire Black Forest Cake not too long ago and I’ve been known to chow down a whole bag of chips in a single sitting) but it comes with a different level of guilt. It’s never like “I ate all this food and now I’m fat and no one will love me!” it’s more like “Wow, what is going on with me that I felt the need to binge?” and I examine my emotional state and I try to re-connect the pieces of myself that have fallen apart. I no longer worry as much about fitting in to last summer’s shorts; I worry about fat encasing my internal organs and shutting them down, or getting diabetes, or not being able to walk up a set of stairs.

It’s not about being thin… it’s about being happy.

Every time I make a wish, I wish for the same thing. Each time I blow out birthday candles or find an eyelash on my cheek or see the clock strike 11:11 or catch a shooting star smearing across the night sky, I make the same wish. I wish for happiness. It’s a wish I’ve been making since I was a little girl. I know, I know, you’re not supposed to spill the wish–that makes it lose its magic. But this time around, I think it’s okay. Because it might have finally come true.

One last shot of paradise. The view from the top of Mount Doug aka PKOLS in Victoria.

 

Adjusting expectations.

I started this summer break the same way I’ve started all summer breaks–with a bang. And a whole lot of ambition. I’ve always had a tendency to bite off more than I can chew (literally and figuratively) so of course I wanted to do it all this summer. Explore every inch of my new city. Get in shape (finally). Write 1000 words a day. Eat a healthy and sustainable diet. Put a dent in my reading list. And things started off well enough… but then that thing happens that always seems to happen when I pile my plate far too full: I burnt out.

I had a very productive three weeks–I was working out EVERY day. I was getting up before 10 AM (that’s early for this girl). I was eating all of the food groups. I was writing. I was reading. And I think I was happy. But about 10 days ago it all came to a very abrupt halt.

One morning, when my alarm clock went off I just couldn’t get up. I hit snooze once twice three times before turning it off. I slept half the day away every day for about a week. I didn’t go to the grocery store except to buy a black forest cake which I promptly polished off in three sittings (dinner, midnight snack, and breakfast). I stopped exercising and even though I was forcing myself to write… I don’t know that I created anything that doesn’t completely suck. It’s unsettling to go from one extreme to the other like that. It pissed me off, to be truthful. And I spent a couple days eating cake and beating myself up (for eating the cake, for sleeping in, for sucking, for just being me). It’s a brand of negative self-talk that I’m unfortunately very familiar with, but after a full 48 hours of treating my brain and my body like a trash can–I stopped it. I realized that I might not have had the ability to take myself for a run or to do my dishes or to wash my sheets or to buy groceries… but there was nothing wrong with that.

I mean, was I living in filth? Yes. Did I die? No.

I realized that I needed to adjust my expectations. I was trying to do too much at once. And there’s nothing wrong with that… It actually was working for me, I thought. I was feelin’ fit and writing stuff and eating good meals. But it wasn’t sustainable. At least, not for me. Now might be a good place to point out that even though I might be mostly unemployed, I’m taking this summer to write the first draft of my Master’s thesis project… and that’s no joke. I’m also TA-ing for a spring course. And I’m in a workshop group that meets once a month. So, there’s more going on in my life than might be seen on my Instagram.

So, I decided to prioritize. What is important to me? What’s most important to accomplish this summer?

First, I needed to give myself a break. Second, I needed to clean my apartment. Third, I needed to write.

So I did.

And as a bonus I’ve been going to the beach everyday–it’s been proven that being next to large bodies of water boosts your mood AND your creativity, so I think of it as therapy, almost.

Working on a large project has changed the way I look at my writing and at my life. I used to be very conscious of perfection. Anything less than perfect was a fail… and failing was bad. But creating such a thin line between success and failure is limiting, both personally and creatively. Art is not the pursuit of perfection. And the end product isn’t more important than the process of making it. I will have ups and downs in my creative process, but one doesn’t negate the other. Both will contribute to my eventual success.

Failure is not a bad thing. It’s just another opportunity to try. And that’s all part of the process.

Me at the beach being a big fat failure and loving it.

The Oilers and the Playoffs and Me

Very few people seem to care about hockey on the West Coast. It’s not like at home where hockey is a lifestyle, woven in to the Edmonton identity alongside cold weather and seasonal road construction. In Edmonton, you see people wearing hockey jerseys year round. I’ve seen people transporting hockey gear on public transit and I mean even I’ve shot a puck at a net before (I’m the athletic equivalent of a pylon). Hockey is important.

Things are different on the island though. People here like baseball and soccer and recycling. I’m sure there are fair-weather Canucks fans who’d jump on the bandwagon if that team ever gets good again, and Victoria does have a WHL team that made the playoffs this year (Go Royals!), but still, nobody seems very excited about the ol’ game of stick-puck. So when the Oilers made it to the post-season this year and I was really excited about it, that excitement fell on mostly-deaf ears.

It was weird.

I’m used to hockey being a point of conversation. You know? Kind of like the weather. Even if everyone isn’t watching the games everyone usually has an idea of how the team’s doing. It’s plastered all over the city in different ways by different people. Edmonton loves the Oilers. Like, really loves them (even when we hate them, we still love them). I don’t know if there’s a group of fans who loves their team more than Edmonton’s fans love the Oilers. Even at the ugliest points in the club’s history, the arena was selling out. Heck, during this year’s playoff run the arena was selling out when the team was playing AWAY games. Like I said, hockey is important.

I’m sad that I couldn’t be home to experience this playoff run firsthand, but luckily for me this time around Twitter and Instagram and Snapchat exist so I was able to experience it all vicariously. And I cried, oh how I cried, at each post and tweet and short video. They were tears of longing and joy. It made me miss my city. It made me miss belonging and being a part of something larger than just myself sitting in my den drinking too much and shouting at the Sportsnet panel. So, I booked a flight home for June. I couldn’t get away sooner than that and I had faith that my team would go all the way. Because I always think they’re going to win, every game. And sometimes I’m right and sometimes I’m wrong, but regardless I believe it every single time they play. I was wrong last Wednesday when the Oilers dropped Game 7 to the Anaheim Ducks, 2-1. And it bummed me out, I’m not going to lie. I didn’t want this season to end–I don’t think any Oilers’ fan did.

I know you might be thinking that it’s just a game, it’s just hockey. And you’re right–it is a game, and it is hockey. But it became more than that to me. It’s been almost nine months since I moved to Victoria and it’s been a hard nine months. I’ve had to make all new friends and learn how to function alone and get used to a brand new city. These are all exciting things but they’re terrifying things too. Sometimes it was all too much to handle and I really missed home and I was sad and I was lonely and I just needed that feeling of belonging. And in those moments I could turn to hockey. I could turn on Sportsnet. Or I could listen to 630CHED online. Or I could turn to Twitter and read tweets from the Edmonton Oilers and the fans. I sometimes would just watch the video–you know the video? The one that they play before the games on the jumbotron? Yeah, that one. I’d just watch it and cry because I missed home so much. Hockey made me feel like I was still connected to my hometown and the people in it.

So, last Wednesday, when that final horn honked and the game was over, I was sad. I was selfishly sad. Because the thing is, watching the playoffs was the most fun I’d had watching hockey in a long time. And the Oilers had a great season. And it was refreshing to watch meaningful hockey again. But I didn’t want it to end before I made it home in June. Because I wasn’t ready to let go of hockey… because it felt like letting go of home.

I also just really, really, really wanted us to beat the Ducks and wipe that smirk off Getzlaf’s face. But hey, there’s always next year!

I feel better about it now–it still stings a bit, but the pain has mostly faded. And I still have my trip home to look forward to in June and I’ve realized that even if there won’t be hockey to watch, there will still be plenty of people talking about the Oilers online and that might be just enough to fill the void. At least, it’ll hold me over ’til the pre-season.

I might not have hockey to plan my life around anymore, but I’m glad that the Oilers let me hold on to hockey for a little bit longer at a time when I needed hockey the most.