Thought Trafficking

November 14, 2009, 10:18 pm
Filed under: being selfish, between times, living | Tags: ,

My hair is once again long enough to hitch it up with a pencil or chopstick or the like. I will take the small milestones given me.

Shortbread in the oven and 10,000+ plus words in a document in front of me. The light in November is something I have not seen in a long time – something I remembered without really thinking about it specifically. I hope that every place I live has this, or that I remember to find it. Maybe what I have been missing are windows.

This made me start thinking about other things, mostly Brussels things: the time we each bought a package of cookies at the Del Haize and ate them all. The orange plastic patio furniture visible out of the kitchen window. The feeling of door handles, the variations of all the different kinds of stairs in that apartment, the time a friend tumbled down the stairs so hard that they left hideous bruises all over her elbows. Lighting a gas oven. What the terrain looked like flying into Norway. Things like that. These are the kinds of things that you think about when you are regrouping.

Later, I will thing about the treacherous first cement step leading down to the patio at the hot-water flat, and how Pantouffle purred while he was eating. Somewhere else again, and later, I will think of the sunlight in November through the thin branches of the lilac bush, and how it made them seem translucent.


Time to begin the long division
September 13, 2009, 12:18 am
Filed under: at fault, being selfish, living

Alberta takes me on physically. The water changes my hair; the air changes my skin; the space changes the way I want to move. These things I like. Living in different places we are full of possibilities, shedding snakes or moulting birds. We are free to rediscover old habits, if we choose. It isn’t a reinvention – the same beast is still underneath. Just re-decorating.

I have a problem with words. The cadence of English isn’t natural to me. As evidence: I mispronounce a great deal of words, words from biopic to archipelago (I say bi-AH-pic and arch-i-pel-AH-go), out loud, and even more in my head. Taxonomy, for instance, I think of as “taxi-NO-me”. Until I was in late elementary school, I thought that the word “item” was pronounced “in-team”. Don’t ask me where I got that from. It’s like there’s a rhythm there, but my heart is out of step. I feel like I’m skipping rope or playing to a metronome and I never quite make the entrance on time. Theories have been offered up – French immersion schooling at a young age or reading the word over and over again without saying it, but I don’t think that these are really adequate excuses. Plenty of others have cleared these same hurdles with enviable grace and style.

I am unable to pay attention to products, things produced, finished things, these days. My focus turns to the sound, the feeling of the instrument that produces. The weight of the piano keys, the Bb that won’t sound properly, the swish of the spinning wheel, scraping a wooden spoon on a bowl, listening to something over and over without being able to write about it. These things probably seem unconnected. Maybe this is paralysis; maybe not. I spent much of last year frustrated with the unending unraveling of a finished product, like an unhealthy obsession with one’s own digestive system. Now I’m trying to watch and listen, and it’s a terrible thing. The details are enough to crush you under their combined weight. Crush you lovingly, crush you with the sound of a clarinet against a voice or some fibre pulling away from your palm. Crush you under a word, the combination of two or three words, before you can turn them inside out to find out what they mean. Not that it isn’t valuable to be able to hold something up to a light, to learn to explain it. But to impose rhythm on what is raw, to pronounce awkward syllables with fluidity, to stitch it all up, it is also to be beholden to an expectation of sense, common or otherwise. Maybe I say all this to explain that I like the cookie dough better than the cookies.

Some days, I don’t want to know why it is I love what I love.

Some days, I don’t even want to finish my thought.

Predilection for fiction (an addiction, write me a prescription)
June 18, 2009, 2:33 am
Filed under: being selfish, living, Reading | Tags: ,

When it comes to things that I like, I can be obsessive. Junior high (all of it) was a vivid example of this. Generally, however, I like to think that now that I have reached a more mature stage in my life (don’t ask me how I know) I can keep my compulsions under control. There are two jarring exceptions to this perhaps fanciful perception. One is books, the other is knitting. When I am really involved in a project, be it a good yarn or the other kind of good yarn, it is upsetting if it stretches over more than two days. I want to know then ending! I want a finished product! Not everything affects me this way. I can have six books and two knitting projects on the go and not even think about them. But then there are the other times.

I think that what I’m here to confess is that I’ve been doing this recently more than I should: up until three in the morning, bleary-eyed and unsure of what reality really is. Reading over 500 pages in less than 24 hours, like someone who lined up all night to get the new Harry Potter book on the first day. Forgetting to move until my legs fall asleep and I’m forced to adjust. Eating whatever is in the fridge with little consideration for taste because grocery shopping means too much time away. These things aside, it isn’t the reading or the knitting that is the problem. It is the hangover, the recovery period. That is what I am currently mired in. When I resurface back in reality, it is difficult to get my bearings, uncramp my fingers, uncross my eyes. Also, I know that I don’t really want to be back in reality quite yet, so I go looking for another hit. Mercifully, I am relatively broke right now, so I’m not knitting as much as I would. Books, however, are another matter; I have a solid supply stored in my not-bookcase, in my office, on my dresser, and I also have many wonderful, trusting friends, ready to thrust their favourites between my cold little fingers. It hurts so good, but I’m really trying to finish a class and also a degree.

These are the very best and very worst kinds of friends. The other kind of friends I like are the kind with aspirin.

May 25, 2009, 3:36 am
Filed under: being selfish | Tags: , ,

Two posts in a day seems extravagant, but humour me. I mentioned my recent househunting in Calgary in my last post, and I wanted to expand on that whole venture.  

The process of looking for apartments and roommates used to seem like more of an adventure than it does now. I just feel tired, now, scrolling through ad after ad, roommates selling themselves, people calling their unfinished basements “spacious,” all of the language, full of verve and synergy, used to sell people on living spaces. I like to think that we (people, that is) can live on less space than we often take; front lawns that never get used and suck up water are just ridiculous, and one or two people living in a huge home seems strange and lonely. We, as a society, can afford to downsize. Me, personally, I can afford to downsize. Also, we don’t always get to choose our financial situation, our area, the state of the housing market. All this to say that I am feeling torn: I am considering going into debt (not a lot of debt, but more than I have before) in order to live by myself. I have never taken on debt before, nor have I ever specifically attempted to live alone. Novel, yes, but for some reason I am cringing.

The last year has been a temporary year, a fortunate year and troublesome year. At the beginning of the summer, my Dad drove over from Edmonton and helped me pack up almost everything that I own. Most of my stuff is currently living in my parents’ garage, in my old closet. I lived with Jane for half the summer and started housesitting for the second half, where I stayed rent-free until December. In January, I moved in with what was supposed to be two roommates but turned into a fiasco. Happily enough, after only two months, one of the roommates (a fantastic person) invited me to move with her at the beginning of March. The location was much better and because of the room that I am living in and her good heart, she is charging me a fraction of the usual rent. On top of that, I was offered another month or so housesitting for May and the beginning of June, giving me lots of space and a sunny place to work for a few weeks.

I can do nothing but be grateful for all of this, but it has created a very strange sense of belonging, a rethinking of how I place myself. Along with this gratitude comes a sense of being scrutinized. I wonder if I am doing things as I ought to, if I washed the pan the way that they would. You watch people that you trust like hawks, feeling like a mother while you do, because these are not your dishes to break, not your tableclothes to spill on. You are yourself and another person.  

In many ways, this is a model of how I’d like to think more often: with someone else in mind, with more thankfulness for what is available, with the idea that accumulating things is pointless, because where would you put them? It has the effect of distilling your presence. Even my presence in my parents’ home is dwindling; when I come to visit these days, I sleep in the guest room. Parts of my old room are still intact, but they are relocated or culled (by me) with each subsequent visit. I am ambivalent about moving to Calgary because all of my old “things” will accompany me. My current wardrobe, where I am housesitting, is a pair of pyjamas, short pants, long pants, about three shirts, a warm fleece, sock and underwear. They live on a chair. The possibility of a closet and a dresser (in the same room!), of dishes that are mine to break if I am clumsy, of bookshelves and not piles, this seems at once extravagant and desireable.  Along with this is the idea of coming home to a place that smells like home, knowing where to find the mop, the idea of dwelling somewhere without knowing that you will leave it in 2 or 3 months – I don’t know what to call that feeling. I could fit myself into a place, put things away, not store them in the corner of my room in boxes. It almost seems like a heavy existence, with so much invested in one place. 

On top of this ambivalence, I selfishly don’t want to live with a whole new person again. People are wonderful, people are beautiful, simply in that they are, and there are several acquaintances that I credit with helping me to see this. But, as Regina Spektor says, people are just people. And while that shouldn’t make you nervous, it should at least make you a little wary. We are all freaks. We have all cried in our rooms, left nigh-intolerable messes in the kitchen, let the bathroom turn into a science experiment. But in the pas-de-deux that is being a roommate, things can get hairy (especially if you live with me, as I shed like a cat). Learning someone else’s habits takes months, learning to be friends takes even longer; getting comfortable is a process. And then there’s this voice in my head that just wants to play guitar any time of day she likes and break her own dishes, please-and-thank-you.

My thought process is disintegrating, as it tends to at this point. There are benefits to living with people and I ought not to complain so much. There are benefits to living alone and I recognize that. Life is complicated, and I do like it that way. Otherwise, what would I ever have to talk about?

Any recommendations or ideas? Anyone looking for a roommate in Calgary this September?