Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Signs of burnout

Hearing Christmas music at Home Depot while buying a tree makes you cry.

Someone walking too slowly in front of you on a sidewalk with no room to pass makes you cry.

A repeat of Modern Family when you were expecting a new episode makes you cry.

Homicidal internal dialogue because you're convinced everyone but you is a complete idiot.

Fast and Furious 5 seems like a good movie to watch.

Friday, October 14, 2011

When mortality stops by to shatter our illusions

Earlier this week, a 33-year-old female cyclist was killed in a traffic accident about three blocks from where I work. When I heard of the accident, I was immediately taken aback. It happened so close to my office, on a street I've cycled and walked on numerous times to someone who could have been me. A thirty-something woman on her way to work on a bike.

A "ghost-bike", painted entirely in white, was set up in her honour where the accident happened, and bouquets of flowers have piled up on and around it. I followed this story in the news, from the initial report of the accident, to the identification of the victim, to the notification of family members, to details of her funeral service. I felt compelled to walk down that street and see the memorial for myself. Upon approaching that ghostly, silent, white bike, I turned off my iPod, and suppressed tears. 

Why do I care so much about a stranger? Someone I didn't even know? Because on some fundamental level, we're all the same, in this human condition, experiencing life and facing death.

I struggled with the fact that someone died, on this busy city street, and now, life hums along, as if nothing had happened. I thought about her family, who had seen her just the day before her death, Thanksgiving Day, and who probably assumed they would see her again. 

I think of her, getting up that morning, getting ready for the day ahead, brimming with life and possibilities, not knowing what was about to befall her. None of us do. But somehow we think we'll know, that death won't surprise us, that we'll be ready, that it'll be expected. But we're just deluding ourselves. We don't know anything for sure.

I think of what must have been her last moments, lying face down on hard asphalt after having been hit by a car door that unexpectedly opened directly in her path, throwing her  into oncoming traffic, where she was run over by another vehicle. She was surrounded by strangers who tried to help, lifting the car under which she was pinned, calling 911. 

I think of the person who opened that car door, in a moment of carelessness, and of the driver of the car that hit her, and how their lives are also forever altered. Perhaps there are worse things than death, like figuring out how to continue living after having killed someone, how to get past deafening guilt, how to forgive oneself. 

In the blink of an eye, everything can change.

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Raging against the machine

You can only fake it for so long. Then, truth starts to seep out through small crevices or squeeze its way to the surface like a cheese bubble on freshly baked lasagna.

Sometimes, I just can't fake it anymore. I feel claustrophobic or bored senseless and I gotta break free. Free from the prison of repetition, narrow-mindedness, inane rules, someone else's control issues. Peculiarity breeds contempt, and contempt I have bred, all in the name of thinking outside the box.

Occasionally, my "wild" ideas clash with the status quo and the shit hits the fan. I want to scream. Others want to "keep me in line". I feel powerless, silenced, surrounded by incompetence and rigidity. What are people so f*cking afraid of?

It's all about balance, and in North America, we don't seem to get that concept. We worship at the altar of workaholism, our sense of self-worth wrapped up entirely in outward achievements and our ability to comply without asking for too much. 

We have a miriad of remote communication devices at our fingertips, yet some still perceive that we must be chained to desks, trapped within cubicle walls, seven or eight hours a day, five days a week. And if we have other ideas of what constitutes a well-balanced work day, we must be lazy or unmotivated. 

I don't mind being on the fringe and floating new concepts but I was reminded this week of what I'm up against: deeply entrenched, antiquated ideas of what managing people consists of and a complete lack of understanding of what generates productivity. 

But I stay the course because, for me, this isn't a sprint, it's a marathon. I know where I'm headed,  and I'm well on my way to getting there. This is just a stepping stone, and when you're thinking long-term, you gotta bear down when the shit storms hit, stay the course and play possum.

Friday, August 12, 2011

Time to wake up from our collective coma

It kinda feels like our world is coming apart at the seams, the "free market" showing its gaping flaws, the middle class getting restless and tired of being f*cked up the ass by corporations and governments. Across the globe, countries are buckling under the weight of their accumulated debt. Unfettered consumption, it seems, has a price.

We've been good little consumers, brainwashed, distracted and molded into walking corporate advertisements. And we willingly continue to do so. Until the shit hits our own, personal fan. Then we start to question, to re-evaluate. Do I really need that second car, that 27th pair of shoes, that 10th pair of jeans? Whose "ideal" am I trying to live up to? Mine? Or someone else's marketing ploy? 

If you buy this, you'll be "cool". Can't afford it? Use your credit card! You don't need to save anymore! Saving's for suckers. Buy it now! You know you want it. 

The question is: who's determining what's "cool"? Why can't we each have our own individual ideals of what constitutes the "cool" factor? I heard somewhere once that true fashion is each individual's expression of themselves. Pure fashion is not "trendy", it is unique to each individual. Trends have a homogeneous effect on us which is exactly what corporations want. Don't think for yourselves! Let someone else tell you how to dress and eat and behave. 

When did we give up our originality? Our independence? Our creativity? When did we start to believe that we weren't inherently enough, by our very existence? That we needed "stuff" to feel good about ourselves? That we had a right to judge or ridicule those who didn't have the "right" stuff?

We've become corporate automatons, sipping our Starbucks latté, oblivious to the destruction of the natural world and sound, democratic political systems. We're in a trance, and judging from the current climate of international financial affairs, we'll be forced to wake up soon.

Friday, July 8, 2011

The divine in me salutes the divine in you, unless you piss me off

I've written previously on my sister blog Sassy Stylings about my views on yogic/spiritual wisdom. I'm kind of on the fence about a lot of the concepts presented in yogic philosophy and what I learned during my teacher training.

I've read quite a few books on spirituality and I don't really know that they've made any difference in my life. I can actually recall some really great novels that had more impact. When I started practicing yoga, I was all gung ho and shit, wanting to go to every workshop and read every book, and balance every chakra. However, I wasn't about to give up eating meat, or drinking coffee or alcohol. I mean, I want to enjoy life.

These days, I'm very picky about which workshops I'll attend because frankly, most of the ones I've attended in the past were disappointing. There was no new knowledge or wisdom shared. It was actually kinda bogus. 

I've pretty much given up on "searching" for spiritual wisdom. When I go to a yoga workshop these days, I simply expect a great physical workout and some new ideas for my own classes. Anything beyond that is a bonus. Besides, spiritual "A-ha!" moments usually happen when I least expect them to, sometimes during a yoga practice, sometimes when I'm drunk. You just never know.

All this to say, click here to read a fabulously irreverent blog post about "spiritual wisdom" and its commodification. The videos at the end of the post are priceless. Do yourself a favour and don't skip over them.

Peace out.

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

I hate it when I'm right

So... It's been a few days since I've taken a break from playwriting and lo and behold, the shit wave has arrived and just keeps on coming. I've got some rage, people. Rage over my seemingly lost twenties where I wandered about, not sure what the hell to do with my life, working crap jobs, pursuing the odd theatre gig, and falling into a depression at age 29 that required therapeutic intervention. 

And now, I'm surrounded by incredibly focused, high-achieving youths who seem to know exactly what they want to do and exactly how to get there. If only I had had even a modicum of this kind of clarity at that age. 

I knew I was an artist very early on and my passion was, and still is, theatre. However, I totally lacked the self-confidence back then to continue pursuing this passion and did what we artists call "selling out".

And boy, did I pay the price. I dated the wrong people, worked jobs I loathed and was constantly ill. I hated my life. Now, my biggest enemy is regret. Having teenage stepchildren reminds me of my own youth, and when compared to theirs, mine was a train wreck. 

I mean, I was a high achiever academically speaking. I graduated with honours from both high school and university. But my professional life since then has been less than stellar, a constant underestimation on my part of what I'm truly capable of and now I'm stuck with the byproducts of mediocrity.

When I think of the hope and excitement for the future inherent in the university experience, it saddens me to feel rage at this point in my life over a patchwork career path that has failed miserably to live up to my expectations. However, I have no one to blame but myself. My current situation is a product of choices I made and if I'm not where I want to be, it's my own damn fault.

Unfortunately, that still doesn't make this bitter pill any easier to swallow. I guess I'm a late bloomer. I finally decided, I mean really dedicated myself, in my early thirties, to pursuing goals I'm truly passionate about. I'm trying to tell myself that becoming a professional artist will be easy despite the commonly held belief that it's excruciatingly difficult. I have to tell myself that. Otherwise, I'll go mad.

I must be ripe for spiritual growth because I'm sitting in a big, steaming pile of my own mental shit and choosing to stay for a while, even though it's thoroughly unpleasant. What's that saying we use all the time in yoga? Learning to sit with sensation. I'm sittin' all right.

Friday, May 6, 2011

Staring at a big, gaping abyss. I need a drink...

So... it's come to my attention that I'm creatively burned out. You see, I'm a playwright, and for the past few years, I've been writing non-stop but lately, I've had to admit to myself that I'm tired and I need a break. It's not like it would disrupt my income or anything since I'm still an emerging playwright looking to have my scripts produced and I do have other sources of income because I'm not writing full-time.

The caveat here is that my whole sense of self worth is wrapped up in my writing. If I take a break, what will happen to me? Will I become "ordinary"? And in becoming ordinary, will I simply disappear into the crowd, unnoticeable? 

My spiritual teacher pointed out to me that those assumptions are very arrogant, that I'm basically assuming that "ordinary" people aren't lovable. Taking that one step further, "ordinary" is simply a judgment I'm projecting onto others. As she put it, "there are no ordinary people". I just "think" there are and I don't want to be one of them for fear of not being loved and adored.

This is somewhat tragic because it means I'm constantly striving to stand out. Do you know how much energy that sucks up? And for what? What would happen if I just allowed myself to go with the flow, to coast for a while and enjoy the everyday little joys my life brings me instead of constantly hungering for and grasping for what will set me apart from others? Life would be so much easier if I could just "be". 

But I see an opportunity in my creative fatigue. I certainly won't stop blogging since that's fun and demands a different kind of creative energy, one I pretty much always have on hand. But writing plays, that's a little bit different, and sometimes the soil must lie fallow and I need to respect that. 

I must also remove "ordinary" from my vocabulary. It's a purely subjective notion that serves only to deter me from the immediate present. 

In my quest to avoid "ordinariness", I'm constantly projecting into the future. I mean, it's good to have goals and visualize what you want but it has to be balanced with a strong sense of "presence", of showing up for your actual life instead of disconnecting from it in favour of a fantasy self that may or may not come to pass.

I'm actually looking forward to this period of rest, of emptiness since it will leave room for other "stuff" to come up, perhaps some long held, negative beliefs keeping me from my own happiness. It's time for me to get out of my own way, and chill.

Friday, April 8, 2011

Evolving is f*cking hard work!

"Envy is hating what you want."

That's what my therapist/spiritual advisor told me a couple days ago when I went to see her about my nasty habit of comparing myself to others, feeling I always come up short, and descending into the depths of despair and uneasiness in my own skin. 

So I had to come to terms with the fact that what I envy in other people, what irritates me about them, are the very things I wish I had, some of which are characteristics that would contribute to my personal evolution if only I would allow myself to admit that I could learn from someone else instead of always having to "be right" or to blame. 

It was also pointed out to me that we keep engaging in hurtful thought patterns because, on some level, there's a payoff, we're addicted to it. It feeds some kind of need we have to shield ourselves from the heart of the matter, from change, from moving towards our higher selves. Because this would imply letting go of our ego and its needs. And that bitch is HUNGRY. If we don't feed the ego, it gets nasty, fast. 

I was told that to be truly free, thus happy, I had to let go of blame and of needing to be right, forever. It was acknowledged that this is no small task but one that can last a lifetime. I asked: "Well, how do I do this without becoming a doormat?" "You can still have boundaries" my therapist replies. "Instead of saying "You're wrong" or lashing out, say "When you do/say that, it makes me feel (insert appropriate word here)." 

And if someone is asserting, whether directly or indirectly, that they know more than we do, better than we do, etc..., let them be right. What do we care who's right or wrong if we're truly grounded in our core. Often, when we're asserting our "rightness", we're overcompensating for our own sense of insecurity. It's about us, not them. We stop listening and we're disconnected from the actual situation, interpreting it through our faulty filters.

So, I asked "How do I stop comparing myself to others? How do I stop hurting myself this way?" Her answer: "You're too focused inward. Start to focus outward; really listen to people. Get the facts." Be present. That way my "story" of not being good enough doesn't colour every interaction I have, thus creating space for me to learn from those around me how to be a better person, all the while knowing that I'm perfectly ok, right now.

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Are chicks too busy navel gazing to have any real impact?

"We don't shape history by shaping our thighs." This fabulous quote was taken from the equally fabulous book Kiss My Tiara: How to Rule the World as a SmartMouth Goddess by Susan Jane Gilman. I decided to re-read this little gem over my holiday in Jamaica, and was glad I did. 

It was a reminder, a punch in the face of sorts, to get my head out of my ass, and not get caught up in the "beauty" race. At times, I have a tendency to obsessively compare myself to other women, always finding I come up short (I'm fat, I'm ugly, etc, etc...). Why do I expend vast amounts of energy in a vicious and never-ending cycle of envy instead of trying to figure out how to make a difference in the world?

The obvious answer is that I've been conditioned that way - to see other women as "competition" for "scarce" suitable male mates. Advertisers throw us in the ring against each other, knowing we'll buy whatever they're selling if it gets us a leg up on our sisters. 

I don't want to discount that men probably worry about this stuff too but not to the extent that we women fret about it. And what are men doing in the meantime? Ruling the world. They've got us so distracted with the latest anti-aging cream and Jimmy Choo shoes, we can't see the forest for the trees.

Our very identity has been constructed around being able to attract the opposite sex, as have large segments of the economy. Surely, there's more to us than that. 

Have we really taken any steps forward in this post-feminist era? American television is still littered with size zero actresses who bare no resemblance to the average American woman.

Carbohydrates have been vilified. 

Plastic surgery is rampant and only seems to be getting more and more popular. Sure, we laugh at Heidi Montag, but the real question is: why did a beautiful girl think she needed to completely alter her appearance to further her career?

Whose standards are we living by? Certainly not your average male's. Ask a man what he thinks is sexy, and you'll be surprised by his answer. It's usually the opposite of what's portrayed in the media.

What's really attractive to guys, in many cases, is a self-assured woman who can make them laugh. They want a best bud that they also get to f*ck, not some preening princess trying tirelessly to live up to impossible standards.

What is beauty if not the sound of laughter, the warmth of intimacy, the elation of achievement and a hair out of place now and then.

Monday, March 7, 2011

The "Charlie Sheen" phenomenon only exists because there's an audience to receive it

Charlie Sheen garnered 1 million Twitter followers in 24 hours. WTF? Then again, I watch The Bachelor. WTF? I'm fully aware there is some dark undertow to reality TV and yet, I can't stop myself from watching. I guess it's a bit like the collective "us" and Charlie Sheen. Dude is having a very public meltdown of epic proportions and we're watching, amused, creating merchandise, cashing in on someone else's crazy. 

Why are we so attracted to the repugnant, low brow antics of celebrities? Think Britney Spears flashing her cooch to photogs, shaving her head, and being mercilessly pursued by the paparazzi as she was being loaded onto an ambulance after a, what's that?, oh, a meltdown. Hmm...

Why do we not celebrate the constructive, positive actions taken by celebrities? The works of charity and volunteerism? The lending of their name recognition to draw attention to worthy causes? Is it because we're so envious of their lifestyle that when something goes wrong for them we want to lap it up, we want to roll in it, we want to snort every last morsel of their dysfunction to fill the gaps in our own self-esteem?

If aliens were to descend on our planet today and judge us on the values held by our predominant cultural icons, they would deem us an unevolved civilization of idiots. 

I'm not claiming to be above all this - I'm certainly guilty of pangs of joy when celebrities get hit with "real life" shit like divorce and arrests. It reminds me that they're not immune to life, they weren't given a free pass; on some level, they're like the rest of us. They're just as f*cked up, if not more so, than we are. 

Living under the spotlight would be like living under a microscope, with someone watching your every move and deducing some theory from your every action. No wonder celebrities have a warped sense of reality. We don't let them live like real people. We are, in large part, to blame for overinflated egos and a faulty belief in one's own supremacy.

Until we stop glorifying the idiotic and licentious, we will continue to collectively create creatures like Charlie Sheen, trapped in delusions of grandeur and a belief in their exemption from natural laws.

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Franzen's Freedom elates, then deflates

I finished reading Jonathan Franzen's latest novel, Freedom, last night. If you've never heard of him or the book, a quick Google search will suffice. The book is practically on every top ten list, made Oprah's book club list, blah, blah, blah... you get the picture. It's highly regarded modern literature.

I thoroughly enjoyed the book, a sweeping tale of modern love and loss, family relationships coloured by dysfunction, politics gone awry, and people struggling with "how" to live. It was completely engrossing until I reached the very end. 


To spend an entire book, indeed hundreds of pages, demonstrating that the couple at the center of the story, Walter and Patty, are basically poison for each other, only to have them get back together at the end makes no sense to me. Dear Mr. Franzen: WTF? Is there something my sophomoric mind isn't grasping?

This story deserved a better ending, not some nauseatingly schleppy Hollywood denouement. Frankly, I expected more from you. I was sorely disappointed. What was the meaning of this? That it's better to settle than to spend your life alone? That Walter and Patty were able to rise above it all and forgive each other? That we must learn to forgive or we simply can't move on with our lives?

All these are interesting themes but somehow don't fit with this story. It felt more like some form of Deus ex machina, an unnatural end to a seemingly organic tale. It celebrates dysfunction, it supports a relationship based on lies and abandonment of the self. I don't get it. 

Unless your point is that most relationships today are based on these things rather than built on truth, respect for self and others, and veritable compatibility. If that's the case, then you've succeeded. 

However, it still doesn't soften my disappointment. I can't quite shake the feeling that the ending was a cop-out of some sort. 

But hey, that's just my opinion.

Friday, February 4, 2011

Live theatre doesn't have to suck

Last night was another evening of "shitty theatre in Ottawa". As a playwright, this hurts me, and nights of shitty theatre in Ottawa happen way too often. Last night, the spotlight shone on the "I'm gay and I'm therefore a lifelong victim" theme. Yawn. To all the self-pitying gays out there, check out Will & Grace - a celebration of homosexuality instead of a total f*cking "poor me" downer. The folks at NBC got it right - watch and learn.

I'm also sick to death of the one-person show. It's so pervasive in Canadian theatre right now I'm beginning to wonder if we're creating art based solely on the financing that's available, i.e. practically none from the looks of things. 

This may not be a purely objective opinion since I'm a playwright and two of my latest scripts are written for what, in Canada, are considered "large" casts - 8 and 9 actors. Ooohhhh. Aaaahhhh. No, I didn't take into consideration whether  the money to produce them would be available. I just wrote, from the gut, unencumbered by how these projects may eventually be produced.

Sure, I have days when I think I'm crazy and none of my scripts will see the light of day. Ok, most days I feel this way, but I keep writing what I want to write. I don't limit myself with the "how's". Am I crazy? Probably. 

I take comfort, however, in the fact that most great thinkers and artists were considered "crazy" in their time. I'm not speaking of insanity, that's another matter entirely - I'm speaking of following a vision, despite our perceptions of what "reality" may dictate is possible. That's why we have airplanes and skyscrapers and computers - so why can't we think past the bottom line when it comes to theatre?

It feels like the same drivel, over and over again. Most of the plays I've seen in the Capital region lately, with a few rare exceptions, are uninspired, tepid crap. English Canadian theatre is becoming what reality TV is to real TV - a debasement of a once great art form. 

This is truly discouraging as an emerging playwright. At least if the stuff that was getting produced was good, I wouldn't feel so bad about my script not getting chosen. On the contrary, I would be inspired to step up my game. But when I see work on the stage that is, frankly, inferior to my own, it's a slap in the face.

Sure, art is a very subjective thing, and yes, my judgment is totally clouded by my own pre-conceived notions of what constitutes good theatre and my personal aims as a playwright. However, I'd like to think I have some modicum of objectivity left that allows me to discern quality from crap. 

So please, English theatre community in Ottawa, enough with the one-person shows. And would it be too much to ask to think outside the box once in a while? To move away from bland form and cringe-inducing over-acting?

I'm aware that you may simply interpret this as the lament of a disgruntled playwright. I'd like to think I'm saying what others are thinking but don't have the cahones to say out loud.

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Glee, how could you?

You know what really gets under my skin? Once good TV shows that are now so crass in their quest for ratings, so overtly milking the political "causes" du jour, they basically turn said causes into a farce.

Glee is one such TV program, and was rewarded for its overt pandering at the recent Golden Globe awards. 

Chris Colfer, who portrays a gay student on the show, was awarded the Best Actor in a Supporting Role award. Chris was up against far superior competition but I have a sneaking suspicion the Hollywood Foreign Press also wants to be seen as politically correct. 

You see, in the current season of Glee, Colfer's character gets bullied by a secretly gay jock. Sound familiar? I'm sure you're all aware of the spate of suicides of gay teens last fall due to bullying, and the strong media backlash. 

I'm all for raising awareness of such an important issue. I am not, however, in favor of said "hot" issue being exploited to make a buck, and frankly, being portrayed by Colfer in such a poor manner, as a whiny victim for whom it is very difficult to have any sympathy.

I am by no means belittling the truly devastating effects of bullying. It is a real issue and it needs to stop. So does discrimination based on sexual orientation. These are fear-based behaviours, fueled by completely irrational beliefs, and they should remain at the forefront of our collective consciousness as long as necessary.

I'm sure Glee producers see themselves as the defenders of the ever popular message: "Be who you are, and don't be ashamed of it". At its root, this is a very positive message. 

Unfortunately, Glee, especially where Colfer's story line is concerned, falls into the basest "Movie of the Week" stereotypes about bullies and the bullied, and assumes its young audience has the intellectual quotient of a vegetable. 

Glee has managed to pander on many levels in its second season; each episode, with rare exceptions, sullied by a distasteful undercurrent of obvious exploitation.

Friday, January 7, 2011

What the f*ck was I thinking?

So, those were some pretty bold declarations in my last post, and I find myself humbled by the loftiness of my 2011 objectives. Mostly because, at this very moment, I feel like the kid who didn't get invited to the party, like a bit of an outsider. Yep, I'm stuck on wanting attention and being popular. Back to square one. Craving the validation of my peers, and being hurt by its absence. 

I could continue to rant on the reasons why I think I'm all that and the world should act accordingly, but what good would that do? No, I'm trying desperately to resist having a pity party although, given my current emotional state, I'm failing. I'm stuck on numbers people. This deprogramming project I've so wantonly handed myself over to this year is not easy, and not going so well today. 

It sucks feeling like you're on the fringes, somewhat invisible. I'd like to say I don't really care and it doesn't really bother me but it does. Some things seem so easy, effortless for others but not for me. It's like there's some kind of obscure language I can't decipher. I'm trying desperately to unearth the secret but can never quite find it. 

But hey, a lofty goal must be lofty because it's not easy to attain, because it requires some serious self-examination and letting go of deeply ingrained beliefs. 

So, perhaps today is not so much a failure as it is a cultivating of consciousness, a budding awareness of where the starting point is, of where surrender must take place.