Like Putting an Octopus to Bed

This is going to be a stream of consciousness and probably won’t wrap up properly, so buckle up.

I’ve gone ahead and started a blog that I had the best intentions of writing for every day. That hasn’t happened and for three reasons:

1 – I’ve been embroidering almost every day.

2 – I’ve been writing what might be a short story or might be a novel.

3 – I quit my job.

I’ve had some trouble with coming back to the blog since I wasn’t sure how to tie it all together. All three are things I want to write about and figure out my feelings, but they were all things that were important and information I didn’t feel like spacing out over many posts.

I’ve been reading this book called “Bird By Bird” written by a woman named Anne Lamott. It was gifted to me by a friend at work for our gift exchange at Christmas and it was one of the things that gave me the most confidence about leaving a job I hated: there was something else out there for me. I’m still not really sure what it is, and it probably isn’t writing (hardly anybody makes it as a writer, don’t you know?), but it was a symbol that someone else knew I could do other things and wanted to support me in that. Thank you, Jesse.

He also gave me a whoopee cushion and an air horn, to help me express when I’m feeling like shit and when I’m feeling LIT. I’ll let you decide which one is for what.

Funnily enough, Bird by Bird has also given me the perfect metaphor for how I’m feeling about my life right now.

There’s an image I’ve heard people in recovery use – that getting all of one’s addictions under control is a little like putting an octopus to bed. You get a bunch of the octopus’s arms tucked under the covers, but two arms are still flailing around. But you finally get those arms under the sheets, too, and are about to turn off the lights when another long sucking arm breaks free.

I’m not an addict, but I’m definitely in recovery. Recovering from being manipulated and mentally abused and exploited (I’m still unsure if this was all on purpose or completely unintentional), while also trying to figure out this whole writing thing and what it means and also putting a lot of time and effort into building my artistic skills. I’m working part-time at two new jobs and also trying to get my health back on track. I’m trying to see more friends and also keep my apartment clean, laundry under control and at least some eggs in the fridge.

I suppose a lot of this is what many people deal with in everyday life. But I swear, I’m so scarred by my experience leaving my job, it’s going to take me a long time to trust anybody professionally ever again. Maybe I never will and maybe you’re not actually supposed to trust people. We’ll find out.

This all sounds like I’m really overwhelmed, but I’ve mostly just done a lot of thinking. And I still have a lot of thinking to do. But it’s nice to reflect and come to terms with where I’m at in my life. I didn’t think I’d be here.

I’m happy that I’m not at that job anymore and I’m trying my best to not be bitter about how things ended and send them positive thoughts since it’s a tough business and everyone deserves a little positivity sent their way.

I’m happy that I have time to focus on things that are important to me and do things on my terms again. I’m a little lost but much more empowered.

I read somewhere recently that life’s purpose isn’t to be happy since there’s no equation for that and you’ll never know how you feel about the same thing on different days. It’s unpredictable. But what is predictable is that you can be useful. You can control how useful you are and how much effort you put in. Life’s purpose is to find purpose, and happiness is a by-product of usefulness.  

So I’m just going to be useful in some way. To be productive at whatever I’m doing, no matter how small, and I’ll continue tucking the octopus’s arms under the sheets not before throwing him a high five or two (or eight).

We knew each other once.

We met at a restaurant. Later I’d learn that it was your mother’s restaurant and you’d never been a server before. It was one of your first weeks. You’re actually a much better cook.

I’d seen you serving the patio as I walked in, you looked at first exactly like Bradly Cooper. Now in my mind, you are definitely not Bradly Cooper. You’re just you.

I was wearing a romper that I still have and I can’t put it on without thinking about you, because that night shifted my entire life. 

I can picture you talking to me and teaching me about things you’re interested in. You blew my mind with the wonders you were learning about the universe and planets and stars. You even had a telescope. Wait, have. You definitely still own it.

Once you took me on a hike and taught me about mushrooms and then got mad when I touched a toadstool because stuff like that is poisonous and then laughed when you saw the look of shame and horror on my face. We chased each other out of the woods and hopped into the car where our skin stuck to the leather seats and our faces became numb against the wind coming in through the windows. 

We’d smoke weed and eat whole pizzas and one time we watched that weird movie about that monster that I can’t remember the name of. We talked a lot. You were so honest about everything, so blunt and open. I really like that about you. I hope the memory of our conversations will travel through time nestled deep in your belly like they will mine. 

This writing is terrible, and it’s not giving our weird little friendship the description it deserves. I can’t seem to type words out that convey how you made me feel about myself. Maybe because I can’t remember details exactly, I just remember being really overwhelmed by you. I had mistaken this feeling as love at first sight, but I don’t think I ever loved you. It had just been my conscience knowing that the moment I realized I needed to be near you marked the point where I knew I wasn’t in love with my then-boyfriend any longer. You taught me that I’m really beautiful the way I am and that I deserved to be told so over and over again. No one had ever flattered me so genuinely.

I think about how you might be a bigger part of my life if I wasn’t so eager to make you a big part of my life. 

I know if I texted you now you would respond, but I’m not in a place where I need you anymore. Maybe one day we’ll meet in the street and catch a beer and enjoy each other’s company all over again. I’d like to hear you sing again one day. 

I’ve thought about you a lot lately and hope you’re doing okay. 

“No.” is a complete sentence.

I fully expected that having time off would call for a reevaluation of where I am in my life, where I’d like to be and how I’m really feeling about it.

I had a difficult time going from work mode to vacation mode.

I’m not the type of person who can just hand over responsibility and be unphased by the possibility of everything falling apart while I’m gone. I kept thinking, “If something goes wrong, it’s my fault. It was my job to set it up properly before I left.”.

This is the one disease I’ve gained by working for a small business. Growth in a small business means someone is in charge of implementing systems that will help the whole thing work smoothly. I’m one of those people in my workplace.

My need to prove myself, the things I tell myself about how I’m a quitter (that this has made me a failure in the past), and my loyalty to people I respect (wanting to make sure they’re comfortable and everyone is taken care of) have made for the perfect storm for self-deprecation and guilt if I’m not pulling 3x my weight and working an insane amount of hours.

At the other end of that, I end up thinking, “This is not efficient, it shouldn’t take me 50 hours a week to do this. This must mean I’m not doing a good job.”.

For the past few months, I’ve struggled. A lot. And I can’t seem to stop talking about it or thinking about it or writing about it, or worrying what people think and stressing that I don’t have anything to fall back on if I fail at this job.

Towards the end of this week, something clicked. And, unexpectedly, two random people have changed my life.

One is Jane Fonda. The other is Thomas Edison.

I was watching the Netflix documentary called Feminists: What Were They Thinking?, and Jane Fonda was talking about the opening titles she had to pose nude in for the Sci-Fi movie BarbarellaShe notes that she hated being naked but she trusted the director’s vision. In the end, she said, she just didn’t know how to say no. And here’s where my heart dropped. She said (and I paraphrase),

“It wasn’t up until ten years ago that I learned “No.” is a complete sentence.

No.

No explanation, no beating around the bush (so to speak). Just. No. If Jane Fonda can say it, I can say it.

As I’ve said, I have a hard time with failure. This has been the theme of my thoughts during and after sessions with a therapist. And I don’t know what brought it on. It’s not like I was heavily pushed to succeed as a child. No one punished me if I didn’t do well in school or in sports. I’m just naturally hard on myself when I can’t do something better than others or feel like I’m moving forward when I’m trying my best.

Here’s where Edison comes in.

Thomas Edison tried somewhere between one thousand and ten thousand times before creating the light bulb.

Along the way, he realized he was experimenting and not failing. It’s the same motion, but a different outlook.

Aha! I’m experimenting.

Being part of a small business has given me the platform to experiment without being 100% responsible for the outcome. Because I’m not. I’m part of a team who is supposed to support me and work with me.

Is it time to move forward and conduct new experiments? I’m not sure.

But, can I continue to strip myself of my energy and sanity for another person’s project?

No.

 

 

Photo by Green Chameleon on Unsplash

Time

It must have been the mid 1990’s.

I was just old enough to know to ask my mom “How long?” but just young enough to not really understand what that meant.

I was definitely getting impatient, but she was on the phone in her bedroom. The windows at the back of the house are West facing, and the sun was going down. Little slits of light were coming through the shades.

There was carpet in there at the time, I think it was beige. Or maybe it was burgundy.

I don’t remember a whole lot from when I was very young. Just little bits – like the view from my treehouse – you could see my neighbour’s farm truck from the very top, a little dent on the right front bumper. Or the ceramic balloons that hung on the wall of my bedroom, before that same room became my sister’s. That room definitely had burgundy carpet.

I know she was on the phone because I can envision the black phone cord coming from the bedside table. That phone was black. The kitchen phone was white.

“Mom, how long?”

“You’re supposed to say, ‘Excuse me” when you interrupt someone.”

“Excuse me.”

“Yes?”

“How long?”

“Ten minutes”

“Is that a long time?”

“No, it’s not.”

I remember being confused about the concept of ten minutes. Ten was a big number. It was two numbers.

I don’t think the basement was finished at that time, because otherwise, I would have gone down to watch the digital clock on the face of our VHS player. But I think the only other digital clock in the house was on the kitchen phone.

I must have pushed one of the dining room chairs up to the island to sit on the counter and watch that one. I didn’t know what I was looking at, but I knew how to count to ten.

I remember very distinctly how slowly it went. It seemed like the numbers only moved when I got bored of staring. I was frustrated that my mom had told me ten minutes would be quick.

Here’s the part of the story when I’m supposed to come to a conclusion that ties the whole thing together. But I don’t really have one. I think maybe it’s about how we don’t get to choose the memories we keep. Or maybe about how if we don’t want time to move so quickly, we should watch it more closely.

All I know is that when I started typing, I didn’t expect to miss the view from my treehouse quite so acutely.

I read an article

entitled “The Most Important Thing Nobody Taught You”. It starts,

…we can’t help but run from the problems of our emotions into the false comforts of the mind.

When I read this, I exhaled a deep whistle in response. I can relate.

It goes on to talk about how solitude doesn’t mean you have to feel alone.

How we spend so much time in the act of distracting ourselves and trying to be inspired, that we forget the most inspiring and stimulating experiences happen when we’re alone.

Boredom should become a place to discover self-knowledge, do some reflecting and experience the world around us in greater, slower detail. To feel more alive and connected.

Interestingly, the main culprit isn’t our obsession with any particular worldly stimulation. It’s the fear of nothingness — our addiction to a state of not-being-bored. We have an instinctive aversion to simply being.

Even if you’ve considered this before, or attended a yoga class or have done some meditation, we can all benefit from a repeated revisitation of the idea.

I think part of it is that people don’t realize there is a possibility to simply be. That there is something that exists beyond the realm of our real world melodramas.

I’m attempting to not sound like a preacher here, but to communicate thoughts and also do some reflecting of my own:

Why do I keep losing sight of myself? Well, idiot, it’s because you’re not paying attention. You’re not looking at yourself. Step back, try to be alone from time to time and carry a mirror.

Here’s the article. You know, if you’re interested.

Let’s compare embroidery to life

Because who doesn’t love a good reach for a metaphor?

If you don’t already know, I spend a lot of my downtime putting a needle and thread through the fabric in an embroidery hoop. It’s not something I ever saw myself doing, but I love it. I believe I’ve finally started to grasp a couple key things about this craft that I think I can also turn into a cool life lesson moment.

Because you know, I’m an expert and know how to navigate life like a pro (read: I have no idea what I’m doing but I’m going to try and be wise here for the sake of the metaphor and try to follow my own advice).

Here’s a fun list:

1. First of all, f*ck what all of the “experts” and tutorials tell you. The only way you’re going to figure it out is if you figure it out.

2. Through trial and error, I’ve learned that any project is basically going to turn out pretty good if you treat each move like it means something.

3. Not every project will turn out well, and that’s okay. They’re hilarious to look back on and will remind you of how far you’ve come.

4. Sure, once you get some momentum, you’ll get to the end a lot faster, but the quality will suffer. Make sure you slow down and enjoy the process.

5. Don’t let other people guide your needle. That’s frickin’ dangerous and they probably suck at embroidery (read: don’t let other people guide your path, that’s frickin’ dangerous and they probably suck at embroidery).

It’s still art, and don’t let anybody tell you otherwise. You’re creating it, so find some way to take pride in it.

It’s still your life and don’t let anyone tell you otherwise. You’re creating it, so find some way to take pride in it.

I think I should try to write some stuff.

Not only because I like the physical act – writing in pen, pencil, hearing the satisfyingly soft tap of my fingers against a keyboard – but because I feel like my head has a lot to say. I have lots of weird questions, normal questions, stories I tell myself, stories I want to tell other people, good poetry, bad poetry, some jokes and a bunch of gibberish that might actually also make sense to someone other than myself.

My downfall is I can’t seem to organize everything. I can’t organize it in my head or on the page unless I already know what I’m supposed to be writing about: an email, a social media post, or creating content for a hand-out or a poster. It’s almost always been part of my job. But I cannot seem to sit down and write about things I like. Without a prompt. Without a purpose for it.

I’ve tried in the past. The pattern is ironic and embarrassing.

It always goes like this:

“So I can’t seem to sit down and write.”

This, I always feel, is kind of relatable and might catch someone’s attention. I already did this here. See? Ironic. Might also turn out slightly embarrassing. We’ve not quite reached that level, but standby.

“I feel like maybe me sitting down and writing will help someone, or inspire someone. Nah, who am I kidding, right? Chances are, there’s no one reading this. And if there is, you probably know me as I am, a 20 something college drop-out whose only skills are cake decorating, sarcasm and eating. Or, it’s just my mom reading this. Hi mom.”

Here’s where it starts to get embarrassing. I’m rambling and self-deprecating. Hi mom.

“I like embroidery, people, biking, yoga, design, art, entrepreneurship, zero waste, and cooking.”

It then starts to turn into something my 7-year-old self would write in that really widely spaced lined journal because my Grade 1 teacher Mrs. Friend (yes, that was her actual name) asked us to describe ourselves. There was also room at the top for a drawing – remember those notebooks? They were sick. Do they still sell those? I’d buy one.

I digress.

Somehow describing yourself at that age turns into either a list of your physical attributes, or what you’re into. Which was probably Pogs, Polly Pocket, mini sticks, Pokemon, or colouring. I HAVE HAZEL EYES AND BROWN HAIR. 

Now, I catch myself doing the same thing as if being so overwhelmed as an adult has caused me to revert back into that seven-year-old self when trying to communicate who I am and what I want. Further evidence: when I try to tell someone what I want, I start to cry.

If you know me, then you know this is the truth. I am always crying. If you don’t know me, you’re just going to have to trust me on this, and sooner or later, you’ll see it too.

All of this aside, somehow I’ve managed to land good jobs, climb a ladder or two, and accomplish some things.

I’ve waded my way through more than several men (hi mom) and they’ve waded through me. I’ve learned who’s good for me and who isn’t.

Somehow I’ve been able to hold onto someone who has their shit together and only wants me to get my shit together when I’m ready to get my shit together. Who likes me both because and despite everything listed above.

But here I am. Rambling on about crying, Mrs. Friend, and my hipster-esque range of interests.

If all of those things interest you too, including finding out why I’m crying and seeing me create some stuff, then I guess you’re in the right place.

I’m challenging myself to write a blog post every day for a year, and after that, we’ll see where it takes me. I’m hoping my writing will improve, I’ll feel motivated to create, and I’ll find some stuff to talk about.

I’m just trying to end the pattern, learn about who I am, ask for what I want, and find a way to keep it all together.

Hey world.