Coming out of the dark…

‘Coming out of the dark’ was the title I gave the first chapter of a book I started to write nearly 8 or 9 years ago…I only got about half a page down when I abandoned the idea.  Perhaps it’s in the cards for me still…

There are (many) days when I wake up and think to myself, how am I going to get everything done?  I have a list that’s at least as long as my driveway (the longest in the City of Toronto – just saying, not actually…or perhaps?) and I’m just not sure where – or how – to begin.  This is a conundrum.  For example, writing this very entry is on that driveway-long-list, and I haven’t even really decided what I will write about.

Should it be about the fact that I’m sitting at my desk for the fifth-to-last time?  And that the lights in my office keep flickering on and off like torture – I’m sure to get a headache from all the flickering which really won’t be fair as the Bachelor is on tonight and I swear I’m going to lose it if he says, just one more time, to a blubbering girl with his Spanish accent, “Look at me.  Pliss.  Look at me.  Me.  Yes.  Look.  I no wanna see you cry.  That hurt me.  Pliss.  Don cry.”  The headache will just make me want to whip off my slipper and toss it at the TV screen…the TV screen that is, in just a few days, going to be my lifeline to civilization.

clare-the-bachelor-crying-juan-pablo

Come to think of it, tossing that slipper won’t be so bad considering that every time I wear those slippers, I get little electrical shocks when I open a drawer/hug my 3 year old/reach out for a napkin you name it!  I mean, last night I spent a good 10 minutes that I don’t have Googling, “What to do when there’s too much static electricity in the house” and “How to train yourself to become immune to static electricity” and finally “Harnessing the power of static electricity.”  After all, on any given day there is an energy crisis and quite frankly, since we’ve looked into alternative sources such as solar, wind and geothermal, why not static electricity?

If an entire monster town can be powered by a child’s screams or laughter, then why not think about static electricity?

Incidentally, I did read about an attempt to charge a cellphone with static electricity…

Ridiculous.  About as ridiculous as this flickering light…which has now stopped flickering.  And so I’m sitting in the dark, in my inner office with a view of three walls and a hallway…who actually thought that this kind of muted taupe-grey and faux wood would actually promote productivity?  I am at least fortunate enough to have a mildly interesting print hanging on the wall of the ocean…at least I’ve always thought it was an ocean…or is it a lake?  Perhaps it’s just a puddle…I don’t know.  But now that I look at it, all it is, is a series of more shades of taupe and grey.  Hummpphh.

I wonder if it’s grey outside…perhaps a quick glance out the window…right…just another wall.  No matter, what I do know, is that it’s cold.  Cold and windy.  On a more positive note, over lunch I thought it would be a good idea to shop for a bathing suit cover-all…I’m really willing the warm weather to return…HAAAAAAAAAPSHOOOOOOOOO!!!!  What was that?  HAAAAAAPSHOOOOOOOOOOOOOO!!!  Oh no!  A sneeze!  Two!  I knew it!  This morning on the subway a young buck-wishes-himself-next-titan-of-industry (aka a man who fancies himself a highly important corporate person) was sucking on a cough lozenge and I must have caught this cold from him!  He kept breathing on me and I could smell his cough lozenge and it drove me crazy the way he kept rolling that huge lozenge in his mouth for EIGHT subway stops such that I could hear it clicking and clanking against his teeth – I wanted to shrink and just disappear – oh my skin is crawling just thinking about it…

WHY IS THE LIGHT STILL OFF????  DID MY GLOBAL PROFESSIONAL SERVICE FIRM FORGET TO PAY THE BILL????  Sheesh.  Must be because I resigned…YES!  I resigned.  About a month ago (I was nice and sweet and gave a month’s notice in order to transition properly and because, well, it seemed like the thing to do given I’ve been here for over a decade.)  But seriously…would I really be singled out like that?  And the thing is…it’s not like I’m just sitting here writing this entry.  No.  I’ve had some very important work to do all morning – and it’s all happened in the dark.  Ironic.  I have to smile.  I’ve often wondered if a lot of the time while doing my job here I was “in the dark” – be it the dark side or really “in the dark” and not realizing that there was so much more out there for someone like me…

Weird…the light just went on.  Like a light bulb in my brain.  And oddly enough, I’ve just tackled one more thing off my list…actually two (hint: this article and my little announcement). Time for something more.

Promise to provide a more “Spincycle-ish” entry next week…but then, this qualifies…doesn’t it?  Promises, promises…

In the dark

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Marriage. That blessed arrangement…that dream within a dream…

One of my favourite aunties, though I can just barely call her that as she’s really so much more, recently sent me an article published in the New York times (perhaps Spincycle Diaries will one day grace its high brow pages…) about marriage.  Fitting, really, given the time of year what with Valentine’s Day, Family Day and spring being in the air…

???????????????????????????Marriage, as an institution, was not one that I entered in too lightly…though perhaps, I didn’t think too deeply about it either.  I mean, as soon as I’d laid eyes on Mr. Niceguy for the eighth or ninth time, I knew I wanted him to ask me.  Let’s digress for a moment…with Mr. Niceguy it was not love at first sight – no lightning or thunderbolt city (I borrow that statement from Tom, a favourite character in the movie, Four Weddings and a Funeral).  But apparently, for Mr. Niceguy, the moment he saw me, it was thunderbolt city for him (yay!)  He knew he would marry me…and so he very cunningly began his campaign to do just that.  So when he finally did get me to notice him, notice him I did.  And I knew that I was so intrigued and beguiled that I had to have him ask me to marry him.

But having a boyfriend, getting engaged and then even planning a wedding – these are not the real precursors to a happy marriage.  In fact, they are not at all related…though choice, now that certainly goes a long way.  I think of the wedding scene in Princess Bride.  Had the wedding to Prince Humperdink actually occurred, I think Princess Buttercup surely would have committed suicide eventually.

With nearly half of all marriages ending up in divorce, is marriage an institution that we should aspire to be in?

The only way I can think of to answer this question is as follows: it depends.  While marriage is not for everyone, for those who feel they have found the right person, it may very well be.  According to the New York Times article, The All-or-Nothing Marriage by Eli J. Finkel, marriages in general have become less satisfying…because of an “all or nothing” proposition.  In that, our expectations are just too high and so the institution of marriage is at a disadvantage when it comes to meeting our “needs.”  Cited as perhaps one of the bigger reasons for the decline in marital satisfaction is the lack of time spouses spend with one another; spouses, who spend time alone with each other, talking or sharing an activity, are likely to be happier.  While the institution of marriage may have initially served a basic need (protection, security, maintaining title, and accumulation of wealth) Finkel states that since around 1965, the self-expressive marriage emerged:  marriage as a means of self-discovery, self-esteem and personal growth.

So in keeping the “Self-Expressive Marriage” in mind…here’s what happened a few days ago…

Me:  So…ummm….it’s Valentine’s Day tomorrow.  Uh…well, where are you taking me for dinner?

Mr. Niceguy:  *shrug* Huh?  What?  I didn’t make any plans.

Me:  *incensed* What?  Why?  Don’t you know me?  I love surprises and a chance to partake in such an important, albeit manufactured, holiday…why, how else will you express how much I mean to you?  (Self-discovery)

Mr. Niceguy:  *annoyed* Are you serious?  Do you really think that?  The kids have Kung Fu…

Me:  SCREW KUNG FU!!  I’m not showing up to Kung Fu with you – like ‘oh look at us, we didn’t even bother to make plans for Valentine’s Day’ oh no!  I DESERVE one day a year.  In fact, I get TWO days:  Valentine’s and my birthday.**  That’s just two out of 365 days – just 0.5% of the year – even less in a leap year.  You know I love it when you make plans to show me that you love me and you do things for me all the time, but this is a special day and, well, I want it.  Please?  (Self-esteem)

Mr. Niceguy:  Okay, okay.  I’ll see what I can do… (personal growth)

WesleyandButtercupThere you have it.  I couldn’t agree more with Finkel.  Such insight.  But I will add the following: overcoming adversity – kind of like the adversity overcome by Wesley and Buttercup (or like another fun favourite, like Ryan Reynolds and Sandra Bullock’s characters in the movie, The Proposal).  Perhaps that’s a part of personal growth…but I think it should be a category of its own.  This may be a little mushy…so I’m warning you readers.

When I did enter the institution of marriage, it was on the heels of one of the biggest parties I’d ever attended, much less thrown.  But all of that pomp and circumstance, the sheer joy and bliss, would give way quickly as there was a lot going on for both of our families and for each of us – which I won’t get into here – but things that really tested our bond and our commitment to one another.  Many times I found myself thinking, can I do this?  And over the years, our bond has been challenged, time and again, for many reasons notwithstanding professional baggage or the trials and tribulations that come with having children.  In fact all of the kinds of things that cause one to “grow up”…

Yet…it is this adversity that has brought us closer together…me and my Mr. Niceguy.  While I wish we didn’t have to go through some of them, I am grateful that we’ve navigated through together.  This marriage thing is definitely for me.  Happy Valentine’s Day…

**Note…subsequent to the writing of this entry, we discovered that there are, in fact, THREE days a year that I get – the third being the wedding anniversary I share with Mr. Niceguy.  *GUSH*

the_proposal19

Field trip through the ages…

Recently I had the distinct pleasure of accompanying the 7 year old’s class on a school field trip to the new Ripley’s Aquarium in downtown Toronto as a parent volunteer.  I was responsible for my son and two other boys from his class – together, Les Trois Mousquetaires, and with Athos, Porthos and Aramis to my d’Artagnan, we set off on our adventure:  all for one, and one for all!  The shenanigans these muskateers pulled were absolute classic from insisting that they knew more than the guides, to suggesting the existence of extinct mega-sharks (megaladon shark – more deadly than the T-Rex!) in the tanks to passersby – but these were no match to their absolute glee, exhilaration and delight over their adventure.  This got me thinking…

During my elementary school years, I remember looking forward to field trips with such excitement that I would lose sleep at night or continuously ask my parents “how much longer ‘til I go?” and prepare, redo and refine lists of things to bring, what to wear and weigh decisions about who to sit next to or pair up with.  Ahhh…the field trip.  So many wonderful things would happen on the field trip…

sea cucumberIn the early years, it was all about getting out of the routine of being in a classroom and – for the über nerd in me – the opportunity to learn by doing instead of by reading.  Growing up in Saudi Arabia had its advantages and I will never forget the one field trip that our school was able to organize (at the time, field trips were generally tricky for expats in Saudi for a number of reasons).  Aside from extracurricular activities at school that consisted of ballet, computers (which in the early 80s were a real treat) and survival swimming (I would swear that I could hold my breath for a full two minutes underwater and tread water for over 15 minutes fully clothed, shoes and all) this field trip supplemented my regular classroom learning and shaped me in a very profound way.  I was taken to the Red Sea where I was able to swim with many exotic species and was even given a sea cucumber to hold which in its frightened state, defecated on my hand.  True story.  And despite that one event, it was on that field trip that a love of adventure (and the sea) really took hold.

Years later in high school, field trips provided the opportunity to find the courage to sit next to the boy I had a crush on and was otherwise too shy to approach.  Somehow field trips broke barriers and allowed for the transcending between classes – and by that I don’t mean grades or levels.  There were the mean girls, the jocks, the nerds, the Italians, the preps, the headbangers, and so on and so forth.  I fell into none of these categories as my three very close friends and I were drifters and spoke to people in all groups regardless of boundaries – though that didn’t mean we belonged.  Again, I attributed this to my sense of adventure – never wanting to set roots or belong to any one group or place, instead experiencing as much as possible.

One particular field trip to watch a production of Shakespeare’s MacBeth led me to an on-again-off-again boyfriend and a relationship that would last throughout most of high school; a relationship that may never have been possible otherwise.  He ran with a pack that socialized only with a certain group, but it was on field trip day that I got noticed, as barriers came down and I was viewed through more objective lenses.

Years later, it would be the corporate retreat or holiday party that replaced the school field trip.  Call it what you will:  teambuilding, leadership training, soft skill building workshops, blah-blah-blah training.  The reality is that these corporate retreats are just adult field trips – nothing more than boondoggles and opportunities for hookups and scandal!  Though I never partook in the hookup and scandal part (for most of my corporate life I have been spoken for and have had enough wherewithal to not jeopardize things with my Mr. Niceguy), I certainly was not above the gossip, rumour or conjecture and it was amazing to see how a change from the routine, once again, would result in many a lapse in judgement, atypical behavior and regret.  And the holiday parties or socials were no different – just a retreat packed into a few hours rather than a few days.

My tendencies again, ingrained, once more would reveal themselves:  adventurous and fun loving and perhaps a little naïve.  I’ve written in the past about being emboldened by one such work party and ordering round after round of Kamikaze shots for “all my friends at the bar”, while standing next to the company president.  Though perhaps I haven’t written about my tendency to also have a couple of drinks, jump up on a bar (or any elevation really) and shake my groove thang!  Once again, I blame it on the field trip.  Regardless of my day-to-day self, field trips have a way of bringing out one’s hidden side…

So today, it was nice to see the beginnings of the “field trip persona” for my Trois Mousquataires…especially evident when Athos, or was it Porthos, or perhaps Aramis exclaimed, “this is the best day of my life so far.”  As a sort of d’Artagnan, or student to the ways of these 7 year olds, they reminded me of the simplicity of life and the ability to find pure joy in the everyday which triggered so many memories, flooding my brain.

It is a rare privilege to get a glimpse of people experiencing moments that will shape them forever – whether they’re moments of real learning, of overcoming, or even of regret.  In my case, I wonder…perhaps when these three musketeers are older, they will recall this field trip – with that same twinkle in their eyes – as the start of something…

Until the next field trip!!

three muskateers

Screw the weather…I’ll just make lemonade!

I AM SO SICK OF WINTER!  There, I said it.  And now I’ve joined the grumpy, bundled up masses just trying to get through the day without freezing off their a**es!   Generally, I love winter, love the snow, love the beauty of it…I even love the cold when I’m prepared for it as it utterly fascinates.  But today, at this time, I’m sick of it – let me explain…

Growing up in the desert (Saudi Arabia), has made me appreciate extremes.  For example, the heat in Saudi, is very similar to that of say, Vegas (if one makes it outside the casino) – unrelenting; like being a chicken cutlet in a 450 degree oven.  So for me, the arctic-like cold is also fascinating.  Without the appropriate protection, one can freeze to death.  And it is this danger that fascinates.  And this amazement that makes me realize that I’m so small – my problems, are so small – and that life is a precious and privileged thing.

Six_Emperor_PenguinsWhile I’ve reveled in these thoughts of puniness, and insignificance, and relished in the bigger picture (i.e. boys stop fighting don’t you realize that the climate outside is colder than where the penguins in that movie live?!  That shut them up…) I’m now completely in the present.  And my problems don’t seem puny or insignificant for I have discovered a hole in my boot.  Not a metaphor…but a real hole in my boot.  And NOT one that is obvious either. NO.  Just a tiny, small crack that for the past 2 weeks has been the source of perplexity…

It’s hard to think of the wonder, the greater, the bigger and the larger when you have a hole in your boot!  I bought these boots that are supposed to insulate and protect – to shield me from the cold.  And now that my defenses are down, my problems have become the wonder, the greater, the bigger and the larger.  The solution should be simple…buy a new pair of boots.  In February, however, every store window has succumbed that winter has overstayed its welcome and so I’m met with “oh, sorry ma’am, we sold out weeks ago” more times than I care to share and “did you check out our new cruise wear?”   Say what?!

I have an “I want it all” attitude.  And this attitude has fuelled many a decision – one in particular which I will divulge in the coming weeks (stay tuned!)  Just this past weekend, while having dinner with some friends I was asked, “Do you prefer it when your mascara fans out your lashes or makes them thicker?”  To which I responded, “Why can’t I have both?”

If I can’t have it all, why am I willing to write it all off?

As a self-defense mechanism, I frequently decide that something is just not worth having / pursuing / getting when that very thing is no longer exactly as envisioned.  For example – I covet a particular bag.  It’s absolutely fantastic in the window.  Then when I go to visit said bag, it has a funny zipper, or the hardware is silver (and not gold) or the cross-body strap does not adjust and is fit for an amazon instead of 5 foot, four-and-a-half-inches-on-a-good-day, me.  And instead of being upset about how things just didn’t work out, I toss it aside and move on.  So, if I can’t be insulated, well protected and shielded, am I prepared to just toss aside winter?

Here’s where my thinking has lead me:  it’s not worth the negativity.  I need to get over it as it’s not the end of the world.  It’s just winter – not the cause of all problems.  And it’s not going anywhere…at least not right now (especially according to the science that is Groundhog Day…wha?!)  While I’m not at all prepared for the 8 (or so) weeks of winter that remain, I may as well succumb – like Bill Murray in Groundhog Day – I need to move on.  So, snow boots or no snow boots, I will stop worrying about the little things and instead focus on what is possible – like a little more skiing and hanging out in the bright sunshine.  Like making lemonade out of lemons…a tasty delight…or perhaps a pink lemonade cocktail…now that would be more apropos!

Pink lemonade cocktail