Wednesday, February 28, 2007

Brownies For Broken Hearts

I am sad to say that the world has lost a tender heart.

His name was Michael, he was 31 years old, and he was a resident at the group home where I volunteer. He had Down Syndrome, but that wasn't what defined him. He was great with a glue stick. He adored macaroni. He was enthusiastic about exercise. And he was a volunteer himself - I would often take him down to the animal shelter where we walked some of the dogs.

But this is not a post about Michael. This is a post about the people he left behind.

When you work at a residence like this, you always know in the back of your mind that this is what can happen. A genetic disorder such as Down Syndrome has not just mental defects, but physical ones as well. In the end, it wasn't his mind that failed Michael, it was his heart. And his heart had been giving him trouble for some time. But when I kissed him goodbye as they loaded him into the ambulance last week, I didn't let the thought in. If I had, I might have hugged him harder, longer. If I had, my last words to him probably wouldn't have been "See you on taco night."

Three days later, he was dead.

And we, the staff, were devastated. But we had more important things to do than grieve: we had to help the other residents not just come to terms with death, but understand what it means.

The lovely and talented Queen of Spain just wrote a great post about explaining death to kids, but these aren't children. Developmentally, they may be a lot like children, but in terms of life experience, they're like wizened octogenarians. They've fought wars of discrimination, they live in institutions, they're in and out of hospitals, they've watched friends and family disappear from their lives, they've been denied what others might consider the fundamentals of life. They are old souls in naive bodies.

And when their friend disappears suddenly, they want to know why.

But death is one of those slippery subjects. I have a degree in psychology and took several courses in death and dying, but I still don't know what to say to them.

The mood in the house is eerie; there are no tears, but there is quiet, all-encompassing quiet.

I go to the kitchen and get to work. I am making brownies because brownies are the best comfort I know how to give.

Soon the residents join me. They are still quiet, but inquisitive.

Annie says to me Michael is not coming back. We took the sheets off his bed.

I know, I tell her. Does that make you sad?

Well, she says, I think he should still keep a bed because maybe he'll still be tired.

Michael is dead, Annie. Do you know what that means?

And then Antwone, a new resident, chimes in with When you get dead, you don't ever come back because you go in the ground and you don't need to sleep anymore because your eyes are always closed anyway.

Oh, says Annie, and I don't know if this has helped her or not. Are the brownies for us?

I thought it would be nice if we made brownies to bring to Michael's funeral. Do you want to help me?

I'll help you, says Peter, and he arms himself with a wooden spoon.

So...we're not going to eat the brownies? Annie has a sweet tooth.

Not yet, I tell her. When somebody dies their friends and family are very sad because they miss them so much. To help them feel better, sometimes people give them good food.

But Michael loves tacos, not brownies!

The brownies are not for Michael, they're for the people at Michael's funeral. When people are dead, they don't eat or sleep anymore.

Not even Pringles? (Peter loves Pringles).

Not even Pringles. When you're dead, your body stops working. When we go to the funeral, we will see Michael's body, but it won't be working. He won't be talking or eating or watching TV. We have to say goodbye to his body because after the funeral we won't ever see it again. That's why he won't need his bed. But do you know where Michael will still exist?

In pictures! someone shouted.

Yes, in pictures, I say, and also in our memories. We can remember Michael because we loved him so much.

So we made our brownies, and all agreed that they looked yummy and that they would make Michael's Mom feel loved.

And then we had subdued craft time, and we all made flowers out of tissue paper and drew memories of Michael on the petals. We had a lot of hugs.

Later, at home with bags of tissue-paper flowers, I cried over the pictures: Michael watching Canadian Idol, Michael playing Twister, Michael watering the plants, Michael helping Peter to make his bed. Grief is different for these people, but they have clearly illustrated that the loss of Michael leaves a big hole in their lives, and I don't know how to heal it.

The next day, seeing Michael's coffin overflow with our flowers, I thought about what his loss meant to me. I thought how sad it was that such a good person was taken so early. I thought how sad it was how none of had the chance to say goodbye, and how he had slipped away quietly, and alone. I thought about never hearing his greeting again, never admiring his leaf collection again, never listening to him sing Aerosmith songs as we did the dishes again. Ever, ever again.

Yes, a hole. A definite hole in my heart. Our society would not call his a "tragic" death - he didn't leave behind small children, he wasn't a hero, he didn't contribute in the normal way that people do. But let me tell you - Michael was a special person, and he made a difference in a lot of lives. He made a difference in mine.

The plan was to attend the reception after the funeral, but we never did make it. The gang was restless after the funeral. Annie cried because she'd tried to shake Michael awake and Michael hadn't woken. It was finally sinking in: Michael is dead.

The brownies never made it to the reception either, but that's okay. The brownies were made to make Michael's family feel better, and that's what they did. We were Michael's family. So we sat, one big family, in a van in the funeral home's parking lot, and ate brownies, and remembered our friend and brother.

Thursday, February 22, 2007

You Rock My World

There was a U.P.O.S. between two benches of the subway (an unidentified pile of "something") so all the passengers were sitting rather intimately as far away from it as possible, myself included. It would have been kind of romantic, in a polygamist kind of way, had it not been for the fact that the woman beside me had obviously been bathing in french onion soup and brushing her teeth with hummus, and the man beside her thought that pants were optional, and the sexless person beside him was blowing bubbles with his spit and then trying to catch them in a piece of tupperware, and of course, there was the stench of the abandoned pile of probable-vomit. Despite the obvious stinking attraction of this pile, the riders were all looking at me, and I thought, Great, so it's written on my forehead. Everyone knows that I am riding this train toward my death.

So right off the bat, you gotta be thinking: death, vomit, polygamy...this can only mean that Date Night lives again. And you know what? You're right!

Although, for the record, any date spent clinging to a wall instead of a man is not much of a date, in my opinion.

We went rockclimbing. Actually, we went indoor wall climbing, but they paint the wall grey and make it kind of craggly, which doesn't convince you it's a rock, but you're supposed to want to climb it anyway.

I'm not sure why rock climbing is supposed to be fun. I mean, it's hard to get to the top and there's not even a payoff. If they wanted to make rock climbing a more rational, rewarding experience, they'd put a steakhouse on top, or at least one of those vibrating arm chairs where you could rest your aching muscles.

But no. You get to the top, and then they just want you to come down again.

I'm getting ahead of myself here.

We had made reservations at Joe Rockhead's, but in the few days between making the reservation and actually showing up, I had rethunk my position on life, and ending said life after falling head-first to the concrete floor below. I wanted to live.

As a couple of virgin climbers, we had hired a seasoned climbing whore to show us the ropes. But as it turns out, the rope was the least of our worries, because first comes The Harness. The Harness is is the ugliest piece of lingerie you'll ever see, and to make matters worse, you wear it outside your clothes.

"Haha!" I said, pointing to Jason's crotch. "It frames your package!"
"Haha!" he said, pointing to my ass. "It frames your cellulite!"

Just kidding. Jason couldn't tell cellulite from a bowl or raisins. He still thinks they're "cute booty dimples".

Then it was time for our lesson in belaying. Belaying means that one person controls the ropes while the other person dangles from a crevice smaller than half a banana - and between you and me, I wouldn't trust half a banana with my life. And for that matter, I'm not sure I trust Jason's belaying with my life, either. I mean, this is the guy who often washes his right armpit twice and his left not at all. Now, belaying would make me a lot happier if it prevented you from falling, but in fact, it only prevents you from falling to your death, hopefully. And trust me - in that split second between falling and not falling, the heart in your throat can barely distinguish the two.

So, being the chivalrous girl that I am, I let Jason go first. I wasn't necessarily hoping he'd die. I figured that even if he just bruised a couple of vertebrae, I'd still get to ride in the ambulance with him to the hospital and thus, miss my turn.

But stupid Jason managed to scale the whole wall in like 26 seconds. The dude is strong. He says he's strong from all those mornings he had to drag me out of bed before noon. Grumpy Jamie is great resistance training.

And then it was my turn. I was nervous, but not too nervous because I'd updated my will before leaving the house. I decided to make friends with the faux-rock wall. After all, the tiny toeholds and fingerholds that would allow me to preserve life were painted in bright primary colours to lull me into a (false) sense of security. So I climbed. And I climbed. And I climbed and I climbed and I climbed. And when I looked down, I realized I was still only 6 inches off the ground. Turns out, I'm not a vertical climber, I'm a horizontal one. I kept going sideways when I should have been going up.

Eventually I found up, one tiny plastic hold at a time. Most people stay attached to the wall via fingers and toes, but as I found out the hard way, those little plastic knobs have no sense of decency. I was feeling pretty proud of myself when Jason yelled up "Hey Jamie, I think you have a harness wedgie!", which was about as helpful as you might imagine. It's hard to find a spare hand when you're using both of yours to stave off death, but I cozied up to the wall and picked away. Unfortunately, I leaned right into a pink plastic toehold, and it immediately found a very private place to call home.

Did I mention that I thought rock climbing to be a bit ridiculous? It's true. I can't imagine a scenario in which my new rock climbing skills will come in handy. I mean, when am I likely to be trapped on a large, sheer rock? Barring a pterodactyl picking me up and depositing me there, I doubt it'll come up. And frankly, after my "special" relationship with a certain toehold, I am not eager to make love to any more rocks. I mean, I think I showed that rock a pretty good time, and what did I get? Apart from the chapping in awkward places, not a whole lot. Rocks are very inconsiderate lovers.

Anyway, after our lesson in getting felt up by an inanimate object, we went out for a drink - at a juice bar. A juice bar! How yuppie is that? But I figured, hey, I'm already wearing yoga clothes in public, I may as well play the part - so I said yes to the wheatgrass and let Jason pour the stuff down my throat (my arms were dead - turns out, I'm heavy, and gravity's a bitch). I even lied and said it "wasn't completely gross".

Yes, it's true. I am a total romantic at heart.
Death be damned - I love dating my husband.

Wednesday, February 21, 2007

Why Science Fiction Sucks the Big One: An Expository Essay

Good lord I hate science fiction.

I tried to keep an open mind, I really did, but the first sentence that goes a little something like "and then we ate some freeze-dried meatloaf" or "you walk through this portal to get to the next planet" and my mind just slams firmly shut in a stunning display of superiority and snobbery.

I guess my main beef with stupid science fiction is that the authors' imaginations are always so limited. Space travel quickly becomes a bore: the aliens always look vaguely like humans, but maybe their skin is green, or their craniums are disproportionately large (as if all intelligent creatures are humanoid by default!); travel is quick, but somehow it's always done by a variation on the theme of rocket ship which is totally improbable (we move everything else virtually, or by fiber optics, but somehow for outer space, we like to travel by tin can); humans invariably start colonizing other planets, which are always conveniently similar to earth, even their atmospheres are amazingly not a problem for human lungs.

You can usually tell what decade a sci-fi story was written in. In the 70s, writers apparently believed that in the future, even centuries or millennia into the future, there would still be disco, but this disco would just have a lot more lasers and holograms to it, and the platform shoes would double as moon boots.


But science-fiction writers appear to be even less able to imagine the future than the average cat. In the eighteenth century, science fiction consisted of: we travel to places quite quickly with our new hover-horses, and we wear hoop skirts with many pockets in them, convenient for storing our super-cool gadgets, like the combination garlic press\candle stick that comes in handy ever so often and we have no idea how people used to live without them, and a loaf of bread costs a whole 90 cents these days! Science fiction today is pretty much the same crap, with different hover crafts, and slightly different gadgets, but never different by much, and slightly different spellings, like putting a K where a C belonged.


Science fiction writers seem to only be able to predict, say, the next 20 minutes or so. I just finished reading Snow Crash, for example, which was a pretty decent read, except the entire novel was discredited for me by its constant referral to videotape. I mean, this story was written in 1992, which means that videotape was obsolete about 46 days after publication. How can I possibly envision this future when I already know that tape is a relic of the past?


It's painful for me to read this crap. It's also painful that this stuff is labeled 'science fiction'. Better possible names for the genre:

stunted imaginations
nerd alert!
books that will make fools of their authors about 30 minutes after they're published

God I hate science fiction. of my all-time favourite books is The Handmaid's Tale, which seems misplaced to me in the science fiction section, but there it is. What's the difference?

Well, for one thing, it doesn't emphasize silver parachute pants as the major fashion statement of the year 3287. Gadget talk is kept to a minimum. The usual trappings that only serve to stem and date an author are cast aside for what's really interesting about the future - I mean, who cares how much storage my computer will have 15 minutes from now? Instead, Margaret Atwood tells us of the human experience, the psychology of the future, the moral implications of living in an ever-changing world. I was much, much less in love with Oryx and Crake. It hurts me to say that my favourite author may have fallen prey to the sci-fi formula that I find so repulsive.

But as I think about it, I realize I have also read and enjoyed a lot of Isaac Asimov's work. Normally, the merest mention of 'robot' would have me running for the hills, but Asimov has more in common with Atwood than you might first think. While she writes about human morality (or lack thereof), he writes about machine morality (or lack thereof). These are equally compelling when done right, and equally appalling when done wrong, which it so, so often is.

Dan Simmons, I am sorry to say, you are a moron. Your "frightening alien" seemed more to me like the recycling of "swamp thing", only with sharper fingers.


Douglas Coupland, I am not sorry to say, I seriously doubt that the future consists solely of people getting gayer. Why are all the men of your future nerdy metrosexuals?


After you read a few of these books, you quickly get the impression that these guys live in mouldy basements with the same curling Star Wars posters on the wall, and tatty underwear in their drawers, and underused toothbrushes drying out by their sinks. Science Fiction is often paired with or synonymous with fantasy, which is ironic, isn't it? I mean, what kind of fantasy is pretty much like reality, except with slightly smaller cellphones with slightly better reception?

Dream bigger, boys!

I know, I know, I'm being awfully hard on science fiction novels here.
If it makes you feel any better, there is one thing I hate more than reading science fiction, and that's watching it. George Lucas, you'd better know you're on my shit list too. I'm coming for you, baby.

Tuesday, February 20, 2007

Funny things Jason says when he doesn't know he's being funny:

Jason had a charity dinner at a Chinese restaurant downtown this weekend.
When he came home, the first thing out of his mouth was "What is tallapia?"
"It's fish," I told him.
"Oh, thank god."


"I can't wash my face anymore."
"Can't? Why?"
"Well, maybe not can't. More like won't. I won't wash my face anymore."
"Why why why?"
"Well, if you stepped on a rat -"
"A rat? In the house?"
"In the shower!"
"In the shower?"
"Yes, in the shower. I was washing, and then I stepped on a rat, and it did this horrible squishing thing under my foot and I wanted to barf and it made this squeaking sound and it was the worst thing in the world."
"Oh my god, there was a rat in the shower and you didn't tell me! How did it get there?!?!?"
"Well, that's the thing. It wasn't really a rat. It turned out it was just the face scrub you gave me for Christmas. But it felt like a rat. And it spewed out all that exfoliant stuff and the whole bathroom smelled overwhelmingly of mango and I was really traumatized."
"Uh huh."
"So you see how I can't possibly wash my face anymore."
"Because all the face scrub went down the drain, or because of the trauma?"
"The trauma."


"Did you have a good day at work today, handsome?"
"Did I!" I must have went through 40, 50 rubbers. What a day!"

note: As I later found out, a "rubber" is a clever device that you stick on the end of a hanger so that slippery items like silk camis don't fall off of them.


"How'd you ever get to be such a bitch?"
"Oh, years and years of practise, mostly."
"Plus, it's pretty much the family business, right?"
"Well, there's that."


You made these just for me?"
"Yes sir."
"What was that?"
"Sorry. I was saying they look too good to eat."
"But you had 4 of them in your mouth."
"Well, I meant it metaphorically, obviously."
"Good one."
"Well, I meant it sarcastically, obviously."


"You look really yummy today, Jame."
"Is that they eyelet cami I brought home the other day?"
"The same."
"Hmm. I wouldn't have thought to layer it under green cashmere. Love the off-the-shoulder thing though."
"Yeah yeah yeah. You're late for work."


9ish hours later, I pick Jason up at his work.
There is a mannequin in the window looking awfully familiar. She's wearing my outfit.
And actually, the one beside her is dressed a lot like Jason.
The mannequins are touching hands.
"That's creepy. Why is that mannequin wearing my outfit?"
"I missed you today."
"And was she a good substitute?"
"Not really. I mean, the quiet was nice, but the kissing kind of sucked."
"Har har."
"You think I'm kidding?"
"Dear god I hope so."

Saturday, February 17, 2007

The Hardest Thing I've Ever Done

I made an important resolution for 2007, maybe not important to you, but very important to me.

It's not something I blog about, or talk about to my friends. I keep quiet about it because I'm embarrassed, I'm ashamed, I hate my weakness when I am strong, and I live in denial the rest of the time.

It's true what they say about the people in your life; some people will criticize you for your flaws, others will enable you. Some people have insisted that there is no problem, that I'm fine the way I am. But on the inside, I have been unhappy. I have felt insecure.

I have coping strategies. I try to hide it when I can, but it's hard, especially first thing in the morning. That's when I have the hardest time facing myself in the mirror.

Hello, my name is Jamie, and I'm an overplucker.

When I was a plucking virgin, I had a pair of hairy caterpillars squirming away across my brow, prompting complete strangers to ask whether I was a blood relation of Martin Scorsese. I felt this was not a flattering comparison, and so, one fateful night I allowed a friend of the family armed with tweezers, scissors, and a license to ill, to change my face forever.

Five pounds of eyebrow hair later, I was a changed woman. She took not only the stray hairs, but pieces of skin and nerve as well (I had a matching pair of black eyes for days). She did a lot of damage, and a lot of it was permanent. But I still somehow felt it was an improvement, and really, it was.

But instead of having oversized brows, I have sported undersized brows ever since. And though I always wished they were fuller, what could I do? Eyebrows do not grow in within days, or even weeks, and after the damage that was first inflicted, there are parts of my brows that just do not grow in at all.

But this year, I vowed to give myself a real gift - eyebrows. The first day was horrible. I stood in front of the mirror for 20 minutes willing myself to put down the tweezers. The hardest part is just to break the habit. Tweezing is my vice. I do it every day. I didn't know how to begin stopping, so I went to the pharmacy around the corner (with my toque pulled down real low), and though they have patches for almost everything else, there is no patch for tweezing. You have to quit cold turkey. There's not even a gum.

So I've been growing them. Every day I looked in the mirror and was horrified by the chaos above my baby blues. I wanted to hide in the house and keep my hairy secret to myself.

The first day I had the shakes. I sweated it out on the bathroom floor.

The second day I vomited until I hallucinated: Groucho Marx sang 'Moon River' to me until he was devoured slurpily by a caterpillar that crawled right off my face.

Withdrawal is a bitch.

But I think it's pretty much out of my system now. I only twitch a little when I see a pair of tweezers, but I JUST SAY NO, take it one day at a time, and all that crap. But I will probably always be an addict. I will always itch to tweeze. But I know now that I can beat this thing.

And you know what?
It's been two months, and I look totally hot.
Why in hell didn't I do this ages ago?

Friday, February 02, 2007

Piece of Shit Car

If you live in the western hemisphere, then chances are, you've heard us coming.

When we bought the old Buick, she was a bargain. She was used, but barely. The previous owners were old people (aka, my grandparents), and as we all know, old people take really good care of their cars. I'm talking about flawless maintenance records, never being more than 5 minutes late for an oil change, never braking hard, never exceeding 26km\hr....and the back window was pleasantly decorated with hand-crafted doilies and shuffle board awards, so who could resist?

We overlooked the fact that it was powder blue because the price was right, and we tended not to care that she was as big as a boat because frankly, I was a little bit sentimental about the old thing: this is the car that I took (and passed) my driver's test in. This was the car that my grandfather would pick me up in at 5 am to go fishing with him for perch on the St Lawrence river, and then drive home half a day later, sunburnt and smelly fishy, at 19km\hr while while he recounted memories of his childhood which I was pretty sure weren't true.

Like I said, when we first got her, she was old (she's 10 years now) and she was ugly, but her tenacious spirit meant that she got us to where we were going. But the poor thing quickly went into shock. She had spent years under the gentle care of senior citizens, those kindly old people who put her to bed in a cozy garage at night, and took her out into the sunshine for nice sudsy baths, and never asked any more from her than to cart home the odd grocery bag filled with geritol and metamucil. But then one day she was replaced by a younger, sleeker model, and she fell into the hands of...dunh, dunh, dunh: the evil twenty-somethings!!!

These crazy kids ripped out the beaded seat cushions faster than you could eat a bran muffin. They played their voodoo music to decibel-splitting levels and steamed up the windows doing god-knows-what. They took her out for late-night slushie\pizza runs, and made her carry enormous loads, such as 17 of their drunk friends, who sometimes left behind smelly reminders of their ride home.

But worst of all - yes, worst of all - was their shocking and utter lack of consideration. They did not keep up with the old girl's maintenance regime.

True, we often thought to ourselves: well, we could rotate the tires...or, we could buy 3 cases of beer.

Guess which won out.

Yeah, like you had to guess.

So now our car is falling apart.

It started with the shaking. It shakes, constantly. For a while I was getting motion sickness while we were stopped at red lights, but this has been going on for so long that Jason has worked out a "solution." No, the solution does not involve spending money on fixing the car. It involves him keeping his foot on the gas while his other foot is on the brake. It doesn't stop the shaking altogether, but I've been biting my tongue a lot less.

Then the squirty part of the windshield wipers stopped working. They wipe, but they don't squirt fluid, so we can no longer drive behind trucks, on dirt roads, during springtime, or the fall.

And then Jason's (the driver's) power window stopped working. All the others are still fine, but Jason's is the one where we conduct all our best drive-thru business: the bank, the pharmacy, the cleaners...and for god's sake, don't forget the coffee! So now we have to stop and get out to do these things, which wouldn't be so awful except for the fact that whatever causes the car to shake also causes the battery to not get properly charged, which means either stalling at inappropriate times, or not starting at all, which is never appropriate. But if we take the chance and roll down that window, we have to drive an additional 25 minutes to get it back up. And we know now from experience that on the nights that we had to leave it open a crack, it WILL rain, the car seat WILL soak up the equivalent of an ocean (well, a small ocean, like maybe the Indian), and Jason WILL have to drive to work on top of 14 towels and 3 garbage bags just to keep his pants dry (however, it WILL be the wet seatbelt that leaves the dirty mark across his new shirt and tie).

Then my door (the passenger door) stopped opening from the inside. This has forced Jason to be chivalrous and open it for me from the outside, so perhaps this is just the car's way of getting back to her old-fashioned roots (emphasis on old).

Then the dashboard vents starting squirting anti-freeze into the car, upwards onto the windshield, and downwards onto my shoes, and all the other valuables, like my purse, mp3 player, laptop, and cellphone, that I keep there. We could probably deal with the weird fog that pools at my feet (and the fact that I have to keep all belongings on my lap). And we could probably deal with the noxious anti-freeze fumes that now give the car a "distinctive" scent that 678 tree-shaped air fresheners have so far failed to mask. What is harder to deal with is the film of anti-freeze that has accumulated on the inside of the windshield, which gives the world a dewy, hazy, bleary tinge that would reek of reduced visibility had not Jason come up with another of his patented "solutions": he bravely sacrificed (or stupidly ruined, whichever) one of his nicest shirts, which is now living a second life as a rag, one that gets rubbed on all the windows at least 8 kabillion times per trip (note: anti-freeze and cleaner are like oil and water, nothing cuts through this stuff, nothing gets rid of it...the best we can hope for is just to wipe it out of the way for small amounts of time).

And now the heater doesn't work. I told Jason not to despair, we had extra mittens, sure it would be cold, but we'd survive. But he said that actually, we might not survive, because on the coldest days, ice would freeze on the inside as well as out, and would be next to impossible to get off if the car wasn't warming, and driving in freezing rain would be extra hazardous, and then on the milder days, our breath would fog the windshield, and breath fog on top of anti-freeze fog would basically be like trying to see out the bottom of a mayonnaise jar, but with the mayonnaise still in it. Okay, so that was a better simile in my head. You get the point. But the good news is, now that we have no heater, the heater doesn't make that loud mating-call that it's been making for the past 2 months, which is good, because I'm tired of getting humped by geese.

So, to make a long story short (well, if you're reading this, then you've already read the long version...haha, I tricked you!) the car is almost not a car anymore.

So we have to decide whether to keep setting our money on fire (aka, fixing a car that just isn't ever going to be fixed) or just junking the thing completely. Because the way she drives now, we couldn't sell her for a box of donuts. She's not even worth much as scrap metal because one of these days I'll look in the driveway and see only a pile of rust dust where our car once was (you can tell, because our parking spot is the one with all the oil stains on it).

In the last year, we have invested in a new battery, new tires, new brakes, and other things that have names and functions I don't understand, and I feel like we're prolonging a life that has already run it's course. Time to pull the plug. Time to put her down. Time to get a bus pass.

But for now, she hobbles on her last legs because Jason knows I don't want to get a new car. Having this car has convinced me that we are terrible, irresponsible people who deserve to be pedestrians for the rest of our lives. We haven't earned the right to complain because we abused our poor car who only wanted to bring us the joy of getting places while obeying all posted traffic signs. We've been selfish. In the immortal words of Adam Sandler:

What the fuck did I do
What the fuck did I do
To get stuck with you
You're too wide for drive-thru
And you smell like the shoe
But I'm too broke to buy something new
Oh fuck me

I've got a piece of shit car.

Thursday, February 01, 2007

Meant To Be

Right this very minute, are you, in your life, doing the thing you were meant to be doing?

How do you know?

When I was a little kid, I wanted to be a teacher. My mom kept one of those "school days" scrap books, and every year I wrote teacher as my life's big goal. Which is funny, because the only thing that I wouldn't hate about teaching is the chalk (except not the chalk handprints that all teachers have on their butts). A list of things I would rather do than teach:

1. Scoop rhinoceros poop out of zoo enclosures

2. Make hotdogs out of ground snouts and hooves

3. Edit James Joyce

4. Be Teen Abstinence Captain

So I really wonder where my 5-year old mind ever got the notion that I should be a teacher. When I was 7, we had "career day", and we were all compelled to draw a picture of what we wanted to be when we grew up.

I drew this lovely picture of a no-necked nurse. On the back, it says: Jamie wanted to draw a teacher but she didn't know how, so she drew a nurse instead. So while I may have been confused about what I was going to be, I certainly knew what I would never be: an artist.

By the time I was 13, the whole teacher thing had completely disappeared. I was suffering greatly from the big fish, little pond syndrome. I was at the top of my class without any effort, so I started finding other ways to pass the hours between 9 and 3...and writing just happened to fit the bill. For every writing contest I entered, I was excused from the classroom so that I could copy out my essays on carbon paper whilst sitting on a cot in the sick room (incidentally, this is the same room where the priest would come to hear our confessions...we had mixed feelings about this room). The more I wrote, the less time I spent in class. And the more I wrote, the more I won. In fact, I didn't lose. I never lost. Which probably means that I would have quickly become bored with writing, except for some serendipitous good fortune:

1. Although some people mistakenly called me shy as a child, I was actually a lot more extroverted than most. At family functions I often performed for the adults. I remember at one anniversary party, my sister, cousin and I donned matching skorts, tie-dyed slouchie socks, and Vuarnet t-shirts and dazzled with our dancing. But then I started penning plays, even writing musicals with original songs, and once I went so far as to put on an adapted version of Joseph and the Amazing Technicolour Dreamcoat.

2. I started writing really bad poetry, and even worse, people indulged me. One particularly horrifying piece was even printed in the newspaper, in the "Poet's Corner" section. Apparently it was a slow news week.

3. It won me lots of cool stuff (although sometimes all I got was a trophy with a little golden man on know, because my name is Jamie, people assumed I was a boy, and then got a worried look when I stood up to accept it). Once, I won my mother Mother of the Year - she got picked up in a limo, showered with roses and jewelry, treated to dinner and a night in a hotel. Another time I was invited to a banquet at the legion - I had written a poem about losing a grandfather to the war, which they loved. But during the dinner they kept telling the room how brave I was for writing about my grandfather, and I realized something about war veterans: they have no concept of "fiction." And also, 12 year old girls are loathe to explain it to them.

All of these things combined led to an inflated sense of ego, and soon my goal went from teacher to psychologist\prime minister\ "famous author" (note: even at the age of 13 I must have known the difference between 'famous author' and 'writer', the latter perhaps meaning a life as a starving artist, penniless in Paris).

And so a monster was created.

High school was much the same. I was bored to tears, but I wrote and I wrote and I wrote. When I graduated, I won 27 different scholarships, not counting the ones offered by all the schools I applied to. I went back and forth between psychology and medicine. And that's when I started having nothing in common with my family.

All I know is that the single greatest moment of my life was when Jason emailed me after reading a rough draft of mine, and said "Don't ever stop writing, you made me cry with this one." And from time to time, someone will write that they were touched by some of the drivel that gets posted here. I print out every single one, and tack them to the walls of my office. It's the steam that keeps me going; I've learned to take support where I can get it because it's not always easy to come by. Not everyone in your life will believe in you.

What are we meant to be, anyway?

Are we meant to follow in our parents' footsteps?

Are we meant to follow our own bliss?

Are we meant to try, even when it means poverty, even when it means disappointment?

And in 10 years, if my only accomplishment is to be a 2007 Bloggie Award finalist, what then? Does that mean my mother was right? When am I meant to give up?

How do you know what you are meant to be?

And what the hell kind of kid wants to scoop rhinoceros poop when they grow up anyway?