Balancing Act

I have got an absolute fuck-load of stuff going on in my life right now, and unfortunately it’s been getting in the way of my beloved blogging time. I only managed to write one post during February. One paltry post! That is unacceptable. If it weren’t for a couple of timely re-blogs, my blog might have slipped into a coma altogether and I’d be having a very difficult discussion with its doctor on the pros/cons of pulling the plug. But I’m still here, and I’m still trying to have it all.

It’s hard though, you know? I’m consumed by work, clocking around 50 hours on a good week, that is, when my workload isn’t paralyzing. I’m trying to plan my dream wedding, but keep getting thwarted by craziness and heartbreak. I just got some devastating news yesterday that derailed my whole weekend, and I spent all of Saturday night sobbing instead of relaxing, which I clearly need more of. I’m trying to maintain a semblance of a social life. I just renewed my dusty old gym membership so I can get all svelte and stunning in the hope that I don’t look like a sack of oranges for sale on the side of the freeway while wearing my wedding dress. And I’m trying to save some of my time for D, too. So he doesn’t feel like he’s getting hitched to the invisible woman. I gotta save some of my time for blogging, but at this point it’s cutting into the few hours I have left, hours that should be saved for sleep. But that doesn’t seem to matter anyways, because I just wind up spending a third of the allotted sleeping hours laying awake and thinking about all of this shit.

Deep breaths, girl. You’re starting to get carried away. That’s better.

To be fair though, I did waste an exorbitant amount of free time watching all of Parks and Recreation on Netflix because another part of the problem is that work is so draining right now that it’s difficult for me to do more than stare at the TV and drool when I get home. My brain is so overloaded, it might implode.

Even though I wasn’t able to post much last month, there were some bright spots to be had. I may seem a tad ranty and distraught now, but I did manage to find some fun and count a few blessings.

I got to catch up with my homies for a good, old-fashioned bust up at the local bar. We tried to go to two other bars first though, before we were finally let into The Rose and Crown. The first place we tried to go, we were rejected by the bouncer because “there’s too many jeans”. That is exactly how he put it.  Apparently, we’re all out of the sartorial loop. Screw that guy though, you’re supposed to wear jeans to the bar. He’s clearly an idiot on a power trip.

My drinking buddies

My drinking buddies

That’s not a very good picture of us, but this one of my buddy Clark bumping into the disco ball because he is ridiculously tall is pretty great.

disco ball

Disco Party Clark

I slipped and fell drunkenly in the street on the walk home, though. I ripped my new dress and messed up my foot something awful. Pulled some bullshit little ligament that I didn’t even know existed. But sometimes, you’ve just gotta get drunk and fall down. As long as you don’t go to sleep in the street, it’s all good.

Valentine’s Day was pretty great, too. I usually don’t care for it, but I think D recognized an opportunity for us to just forget everything for a couple of hours and spend some time together. He surprised me with roses when I got home from work, which never fails to impress me. Harvey was also impressed.

My other Valentine

My other Valentine

We had an incredible dinner at this Thai place in our neighbourhood. I felt special and loved. D is a marvel and I’m a lucky girl. Even though he just came in and interrupted my writing to tell me that we only have two packets of instant gravy and they are both mis-matched, one brown and one chicken, which for some reason sparked a bout of snippy bickering. But I digress.

I also ate the gooiest, most outrageously cheesy sandwich of all time. Another resounding pizza grilled-cheese success!

Another one for the history books.

Another one for the history books.

We’ve switched breads in our household. We’re now eating a kind called “Ancient Grains” instead of that bleached atrocity that I used to love, white as the driven snow Wonderbread. It wasn’t as cataclysmic a change as I had anticipated. The ancient grains bread is actually quite delicious.

My friend The Magpie had a baby. She’s away from work on her maternity leave, which sucks. But she’s living her dreams, so that totally outweighs any of the sucking. I can’t wait to meet her new little friend, although in a weird way, I feel like I already know her. I spent the bulk of The Magpie’s pregnancy calling her bump Scooter and encouraging her to stay in there a while longer.

So even though I haven’t had much time for blogging, I’m still out there trying to wedge awesome things into my hectic life wherever they will fit. No matter how insane it all feels at times, I haven’t been completely stripped of my positivity.

Everything does feel like such a disaster right now, yes. But these are all things that I wanted, I asked for this. Well, with the exception of the unstoppable flood of sobs that started yesterday and seem to have no end, obviously. But anyways… I guess I’m just going to have to find some balance. Is that why people do yoga? Seems like a lot of useless rolling around on the floor in spandex to me, but maybe I’m not looking at from the right angle.

All I know is that right now I have a whole bunch of feelings that I need to go and eat. Good or bad, it doesn’t matter, I’ll eat them. All feelings are ripe for the gobbling right now. So it’s a good thing I was able to spare 15 minutes of my time today for my good friend, Pillsbury.

Red velvet white chocolate chip cookies, I need you now more than ever.

Red velvet white chocolate chip cookies, I need you now more than ever.

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Another Year of Awesome!

Happy 2nd Birthday to my beloved blog, Smashing Through Life!

It's a snake in a party fez!

It’s a snake in a party fez!

First off, welcome back Vincent the Viper, who proudly celebrated last year’s blog birthday with me while wearing a more traditional party hat. This year, Vincent is sporting a decidedly flamboyant party fez instead and I think he looks fabulous. During more lackadaisical times, my friend The Magpie and I entertained the notion of starting a business manufacturing and selling one-of-a-kind hats for fake snakes, but then real life got a lot more interesting in a hurry and we’ve since shelved that idea for the time being. Maybe we’ll come back to it again, when we’ve got some decent seed money pulled together. But anyways, that’s not what we’re here for today.

IT’S MY BLOG BIRTHDAY AND I’M REALLY FUCKING EXCITED ABOUT IT!

That’s why we’re here. Keep yourself on point, girl.

A lot can happen in a year, and I’m not saying that to be cliché. A lot really did happen to me in this past year. Some good, some bad, and some ugly too. I made some stunning 3-pointers, but I also spent a lot of time warming the bench, too. I genuinely enjoy looking back over a specific period of time and reflecting on the things that have happened in my life. It’s good for me, and it motivates me to keep reaching ever higher. I believe that my personal and professional development should never reach a plateau; I won’t let that happen. Not while I’m at the helm. If I’m learning and challenging myself on a consistent basis, then I’m growing and becoming a better me all the time. There is always room for improvement, and I’ve got an insatiable hunger for more. I’m always so eager to keep forging ahead, so it helps to look back once in a while. I need to make sure that I’m cutting the right path. That I’m living the life I’ve always wanted.

This blog’s mission, initially, was to act as an outlet for my frustrations and disappointments. It was an exercise in perpetual positivity. It was a place of refuge, an altar of optimism at which I could worship when I needed it the most. I was in a very dark place when it began, and this blog was my lifeline. It was a connection to the trademark brightness within, the brightness I’ve always been known for, but which was dimming more and more every day at an alarming rate. But it has since evolved, the aim has shifted. I don’t need to search for the positives in my life quite so desperately anymore because I’m surrounded by them.

This blog is continually evolving, just like me, and I couldn’t be happier with the progress we’ve made together so far. It’s a place where I can chronicle my life, my adventures, and my many dreams in the most positive terms possible.

So, what have I done this year that’s so whoop-de-fucking-doo great, you ask? I’ll tell you!

Smash’s Top 5 Awesomes This Year

1.) I went on the vacation of a lifetime

I've never been this happy to be awake at 6:30am in my life

I’ve never been this happy to be awake at 6:30am in my life

D and I dropped everything and went on our first ever vacation together. And we made it memorable as hell by saving up the extra bucks and flying the extra miles to get ourselves a slice of Hawaii. It was unreal! The food, the adventures, the beach, the ocean, the people, the sites. We loved every minute of it. Going all out for our first trip together was definitely the right call.

2.) I Got Engaged (and set the date, too!)

 An old shot, from about 5 years ago

An old shot, from about 5 years ago. Super Retro Disco Party, obviously.

D and I have been together a long time. We’re coming up on eight years this summer, if you can believe it. I loved him from the first moment I drunkenly gazed into his sweet blue eyes, and there was never any doubt. But there was never any rush to get to the paperwork either, and he caught me completely unawares when he proposed during our aforementioned vacation. I tease him sometimes about being totally devoid of emotion, but he really surprised me that time. I don’t even question this decision at all. We go together.

3.) I Won Shitfest 2013: Fall

I fuckin' love this trophy!

I fuckin’ love this trophy!

Some of you will remember my graceful acceptance of the award from this wonderful post that our dear friend, The IPC, allowed me to share with you on his site. I don’t write a movie blog, but I love movies so I read a lot of movie blogs. And I love the movie blogging community that I’ve stumbled into on WordPress. I loved reading the posts that were entered in the first Shitfest, and when a fall fest was announced I knew I had to get involved this time. I knew a shitty movie that I could write about. A real fucking shitty movie. I just wanted to have some fun, and it proved to be an experience that I will cherish forever. I’ve got the trophy to prove it.

4.) I Started a New Blog

The Kingdom

I miss writing essays. I miss feeling scholarly. I long for my undergrad, on rainy days mostly. So I decided to start a blog to review the works of Stephen King, to sort of keep in touch with that part of myself that so loved turning in assignments. I’m just hanging out over there, doing book reports basically. But it’s a fun hobby, and I enjoy it. I’m not rolling out the reviews quite as quickly as when I first started the blog, but I am still trucking along and reviews get posted at least once a month. It’s a way for me to explore other facets of my writing, too, and that’s important to me.

And finally, saving the biggest for last…

5.) I Got Promoted

Always the consummate professional, jumping on the bed in my suite during a work trip 3 years ago

Always the consummate professional, that’s me jumping on the bed in my suite during a work trip 3 years ago

I’ve been waiting for this a long time. It was an exciting, albeit painful journey at times, but I’m finally moving in the direction that I want to go. I had never realized how deeply ambitious I was until I joined the workforce. Procrastination and indifference were my MO whenever I pondered that almighty “What are you going to do when you grow up?” question that seems to haunt us from birth. But once I started carving out my own way in the world, I found myself immediately hooked on ambition. It’s a heady device, man. I made the choice to significantly alter my career path a couple of years ago, and it’s all starting to come together now. The sky really is the limit, and I thoroughly enjoy reaching for it with all of my might. I’ve got plans and ideas aplenty, and I’m going to make a splash in a big way. Greatness abounds, when you’re willing to work hard for it. I love how it feels to earn my living, and being rewarded professionally for my efforts feels divine.

I’m not kidding around, you guys. I truly am kicking the shit out of life every day. And I hope to continue doing so, right here on this bizarre little blog of mine, for a long while yet.

Here’s to yet another year of awesome. Cheers!

Overcoming a Bad Day

I’m positive, in general. Always looking for a silver lining to wrap around the bullshit. It’s not often that I falter in doing so. I’m resilient and strong, I can overcome my obstacles.

But sometimes, I have bad days too. Days when my heart hurts too much to try because seeing the good is damn near impossible for all the shit obstructing my view. When it feels like nothing makes sense. When it feels like every option will result in a loss. When my gut does falter because the negativity is overwhelming.

What do you at a time like that? What can you do?

Well, this is what I do:

1. Vent or Wallow 

When the weight of something truly awful presses down on my heart, the first thing I do is react in one of these ways. Maybe I’m so frustrated that I need to scream until my lungs  feel like they’ll burst right out of my chest. Or launch a venomous tirade against whatever it was that sparked my ire. I might need to sob because too many mixed and mangled emotions are struggling to surface all at once. Venting is good for that, releasing all the mounted pressures. But maybe venting isn’t a good option in some instances though, because I’m scared that such an overt reaction will leave consequences in its wake. Revealing those raw emotions to anyone before I’ve worked through them could be dangerous. It could be damaging to a relationship that I value or to my own reputation. In that case, I might need to wallow instead. Run away, shut down, freeze out, isolate. I need to allow myself to feel intense feelings, alone. I have to wallow.

2. Identify

I have to concentrate on the why of it all. Why do I feel this way? What about this situation upsets me the most? I let myself get lost in my thoughts. If I can figure out what it is specifically that I find upsetting, then I can confront it. If I can’t see the hurdle, I can’t ever leap over it, and I’ll just keep stumbling into it. So I need to afford myself the luxury of introspection. What did I do to cause the problem? Does a particular situation that arose impact me directly or does it merely include me? I know what happened that upset me or pissed me off, but I have to understand why it does if I expect to work through it. I’ll replay what went down over and over in my head, trying to see it from multiple angles. From that process, I can decide if this is something that I should address or something that I should internalize for the time being.

3. Confront

Now that I’ve gained some perspective, I have a more whole understanding of the problem and its causes. I can start to resolve it. I can talk to someone, maybe to explain my viewpoint or maybe to apologize for a wrong I’ve committed. I might just need to be heard and acknowledged. Or I might just need to have a moment of recognition for something I did and why it was bad. Denying my involvement in my own unhappiness is a disservice to myself. When I think about the greatest upsets I’ve experienced, most of which in the last three years have been in the work place, I recognize things that I could have or should have done differently to effect a more desirable end result. I can’t change the past, but I can prepare myself for tackling similar struggles more aptly in the future.

4. Accept

I’m very hard on myself. There are missteps I’ve made in my life that I still haven’t forgiven myself for. And it might take a very long time before I ever do. There’s no tongue lashing I could receive from another that would ever parallel the severity of the internal one that I will inevitably give myself when I fuck up. That’s because I expect so much from me. I have exacting standards for the kind of person I hope to be. I’m not hoping for perfection, that would be boring as hell. I’m just hoping that one day I can serve as an example for someone else. That my beliefs, actions, and experiences will be valued. I want to be valued as deeply as I value the core people in my life. This is the hardest step of the whole process, the one that trips me up the most because of how hard I am on myself. But I do my best to come out on the other side, making peace with myself and any current entanglement I face. I can forgive others, that’s easy. Forgiving myself is the hardest thing to do and I’m still learning how to do it.

5. Get Over It

Sometimes a bad day is just a bad day. An accumulation of crappy moments, conversations, interactions, and situations that just bring you down. Stubbed toes, rainy days, being belittled or insulted, having to eat salad, making a mistake on something important at work, jerks shoving me around on the subway, not getting along with D, Harvey ripping up my favourite shirt: if all of those things happened to me in one day I’d probably want to fling myself off the roof. But some days are going to be like that. So doing things that purge yourself of all the negativity helps. I like to laugh with D, or belt out my favourite tunes at maximum shitty singing volume while I jump on the bed, or down a few beers with my cronies. I try to find something wonderful about the right now that I can immerse myself in. Doing stuff like that reminds me that I’ll be on the upswing again in no time, because the bad can always be vanquished by the good. And I believe that, unequivocally, with ever fibre of my being.

I’m happy and positive most of the time, but shit pisses me off and upsets me too. I’m not perfect, and I don’t always shine as brightly as I’d like to. So, if it’s something serious then I need to deal with it. And if it’s just a bunch of crappy stuff that’s dimming my shine, then I need to get over it so I can shine through it. Shake it off and move on, girl! You can’t control everything that happens to you in this life. Good and bad things will happen, most assuredly. But you can figure out the best way for you to deal with the shit so you can move on.

I had a really bad couple of days this week, and I had to face down a very disheartening reality yesterday. Surprised and hurt by the unexpected, I’ve been letting the negativity I feel overpower me. But something much larger than me and my desires is in motion, something that can’t be stopped or changed. So I’ll do the work, following the steps outlined above, because it will help eventually. I’ll come out of this okay, albeit a little sad, because I know that I have the power to overcome the shittiest of days.

And I know that the sadness won’t last for long once I’ve found it within myself to shine again.

retro prom

Smash will shine this brightly again, in time.

Two Tickets to Paradise

I am so freaking excited, I barely got any sleep last night. After months of tireless planning and saving, we’re on the home stretch now. It’s so close it hurts!

D AND I ARE GOING TO HAWAII!!!!!!

These are our excited faces!

These are our excited faces!

That’s right kids. I gathered up all the extra awesomeness I had lying around and packed it securely in my suitcase (along with a gallon of sunblock for my pasty complexion). And now I’m hauling it across the planet so it can be shared with all of Oahu!

I’m going to swim in the ocean, bask in the sun, and party my ass off with the locals. I’m going to have adventures and make memories. I’m going to take an absurd amount of photos. A terribly ridiculous amount!

I knew that I wanted to go on a trip with D this year. We’ve never gone on a real vacation together, so I think we were due for one. Initially, we were thinking of Mexico or the Dominican. Which I’m sure would have been a lot of fun too. But I wanted to do something spectacular, extraordinary. D was taken aback, worried that it would be too expensive. But the more we looked into it, the more realistic it became. Instead of going away in February like we’d wanted to, we would just save for a couple more months and go in April instead. We found a great deal and we jumped on it. We had to. It’s our time now, just us, and we can do whatever we want.

We want Hawaii.

Honestly though, April feels like it’s on steroids. The next two weeks are going to be jam-packed with amazingness. Tomorrow is going to be my 1 year work-i-versary at my job. And I know, it’s only a year, it’s not that big of a deal. Some people, like my mom, have been at their jobs for 30 years! That’s really incredible. But, this last year has been so meaningful to me, work-wise. So, I do consider it important. To celebrate that night we’re going to the Muse concert. I bought tickets for the concert long before thoughts of Hawaii had even sprouted in my brain. So awesome! We are going to rock our faces right off! We’ll barely get any sleep after the concert before flying to Hawaii the morning after, where will spend ten glorious days. And when we get back, it will be my 26th birthday!

I’m excited and exhausted just thinking about it… April has got a lock on best month of 2013.

But I’m ready for it. Even though I’m going to throw myself head-first into this vacation of mine, I do anticipate having some time for a couple of quick updates from paradise. Because really, what’s a trip to Hawaii without a little boastful pride and envy inducing photos? An incomplete one, if you ask me!

Plus, I don’t want to be wholly disconnected from life back home. I gotta have time to keep doing me. So stay tuned lovely readers, the next couple of weeks are about to get nuts!

We’re totally going all Doug and Deacon on this bitch:

New Notebook

No matter how drastically our every day lives are changed by new technological advancements, there is one thing that I will always take comfort in. Writing. On a piece of paper.

There’s something mystical and rhythmic about physically writing something down. Watching the words as they form on the page, taking shape, coming to life. Flowing forth from the tip of a divinely fine felt-tip pen. Ink blacker than the darkest, scariest place on earth, under the bed.

Sometimes I take my time. Forming each letter methodically, in the most perfect cursive I can muster. Afterwards, staring lovingly at the words on the page. Extraordinary, I think to myself, taking pride in my exquisite penmanship. An exemplary work of art!

Other times I dash out an illegible jumble of marks on the page, haphazardly. Of the two, this method is far more common. And I am consistently confounded by these paltry scratches, that I don’t dare deem writing, when I need to refer to them later. What is that? An h or an x? A phone number or a serial number? Dammit, if you’d just take your time once in a while we wouldn’t be in this mess!

Every morning at the office, after I’ve checked and prioritized all of my emails, I take the time to write down my daily To-Do List. I smooth out the page. I give the list a date and a title. Both masterfully underlined in ink so red that, if he ever saw it, Rudolph would even say it glows.

Every entry on the list is numbered. Orderly. Organized. Powerful. Once this list is writ, I am unstoppable.

Computers break. Paper is infallible. This is a universal truth by which I live. You can always trust in paper. If the whole electronic system on which our company faithfully relies were to spontaneously forfeit its will to live, then at least I’d still have a grip on things. An ironclad, kung-fu grip on the reality of it all. Because I have my list. The list that I wrote out so meticulously.

The only thing I love more than writing my daily list, is writing my daily list in a brand new notebook. Oh the sheer ecstasy!

I spoiled myself absolutely rotten when I bought the new notebook. It’s delightfully thick. Cream coloured. With an intricate pattern of leaves imprinted onto the exterior covers. It’s got a bookmark, a ribbon, sewn into the spine. To drape purposefully across the current page.

And what a steal too, 75% off! From the ashes of the bargain bin at Indigo, a majestic phoenix arose. Those are some savings that a frugal gal of my ilk can really appreciate.

On Tuesday I filled in the last page of the old, terrible, used up notebook. Wednesday morning, I was ecstatic. I was going to take my new notebook on its maiden voyage. Giddy. Giddy giddy giddy!

I opened the cover. Inhaling slowly, savouring the smell of the fresh, unmarred pages. Oh yes, she will be mine. That was a weird thing say… possessive and weird. But it was an organic thought, occurring naturally. So it stays.

I took my time, writing. Filling up the lines with my graceful, sweeping cursive. Feeling powerful. Confident. Ready to take on the world. One list item at a time.

notebook

September

Do you remember the 21st night of September?

It’s that time of year again. You know, when summer fades into fall. The goose bumps that populate your arms as you step out the door on a dubiously sunny morning are telling you to ditch the flip-flops and sundresses in favour of something warmer. It’s the time of year for apple orchards, puffy outdoorsy vests, plaid of all sorts, knit hats, new backpacks, and most importantly, it’s a time for change.

There’s something afoot during the last couple of weeks of September that always makes me feel wistful. Especially when I hear that old Earth Wind & Fire song, aptly titled September. Hearing this song actually happens more often than you might think, because of my proclivity for 70’s internet radio when I’m hungover.

September is the most significant month of the year for me. My personal calendar year begins in September. January doesn’t mean a thing to me. Resolutions and all the crap, whatever. It’s still winter, it’s still freezing and dark out. But September brings with it a drastic change in seasons, and has often wrought drastic changes in my life.

All of my most precious memories are captives of September. When I hear this song a little movie of all those wonderful things starts playing in my mind. I’m transported back in time, and I remember…

I remember meeting two of the most important people in my life:

Then a year later, being lucky enough to add another wonderful person into our fold:

I remember living alone, completely unsupervised for the first time in my life:

And all the excellent keggers we were able to have, unfettered by parents and rules:

I remember my first lifetime ban from a bar after I draught ‘n’ dashed with Joce-force. Then laughing uncontrollably while hiding out from “the po po” in the bushes:

There were two roomie birthdays at the end of the month, both Jenna and Whit:

And how epic all of our celebrations were when the last roomie finally turned 19 and could ditch the fake I.D.

I remember shotgunning beers at 9:00am for homecoming!

I remember having school spirit:

Discovering that Bigfoot truly does exist, and how bold his hands were:

I remember falling in love…

After graduation, when it was time to grow up, I remember getting my first job. A real crack at a career:

I remember that I’m brave:

I took my very first flight, all the way to the Middle East! Completely on my own in a new country, with no prior travelling experience.

And I remember feeling complete fulfillment in my job and being humbled by the realization that I was making a difference in the lives of others:

And most importantly of all, I remember…

Dancing in September!

Oh the memories, so sweet! Such an amazing thing to have when you’re not having the brightest of days…

I love that song, and I love the flood of memories it brings. It  is my reassurance that I’m doing a real kick-ass job at this “living” thing. No matter what changes and where this life takes me, I will always have: the most spectacular friends, my darling D, and a deep-seated passion to live a remarkable life.

And if all this is what’s behind me, then I can’t wait to see what else is coming my way. It can only get better from here.

Subway Games

I have been living in the city for a couple of months now, and I feel like I’ve adapted very well. I’m a duck to water. I love the pace of the city. There’s always something happening, someone to meet up with, new events and friends around every corner.

There’s also a lot of shit that you need to get used to, such as not being able to get to whatever your preferred grocery store is. We used to love going to Loblaws but now we’re in Metro hell every sunday. There’s also the city stink on really hot days. Mmmm, sewage filling your nostrils as you try to enjoy a nice stroll in the sunshine. Crazy crackheads eating a jar of Nutella with their fingers right beside you in a restaurant. That really happened by the way, saw it with my own eyes.

There’s also the matter of the subway. I take the subway to and from work everyday, and for the most part I quite enjoy it. It’s so much better than the fucking Go Train. I will take the subway over the fucking Go Train any day. Delays seem to be a routine thing for the subway, but the longest I’ve been held up so far is 15 minutes. You also have to get used to the sardine sensation when taking the subway during rush hour. You literally cram you way onto the train and have people touching or brushing up against you on all sides. It’s a sweaty, cramped, awkward mess. And people are ruthless! They don’t make any attempt to play nice when they think they might miss out on a spot on the train. I’ve had ladies mow me down with strollers, dudes basically use me for piggyback rides onto the train, and bitches stiletto stomp me on a rough turn then have the gall to act like it’s my fault they can’t balance themselves. I’ve also seen people do horrible things to each other in order to snag a recently freed up seat. It basically a jungle.

You really do see it all on the morning and evening commute. But this is my life now for the foreseeable future, so I’ve gotta make the best of it. I see people rocking their iPods, readers, magazines etc. to make the commute less boring. I have another strategy for making the commute fun…

I play my own little subway games. With a vivid imagination and a plethora of people surrounding me I’m all set. Let the people be my amusement and entertainment! I can’t control who gets on the same car as me or how they will comport themselves, but I can control my perception of them. Here are some of my favourite subway games to play:

Life Story

This one is easy enough, all I do is observe someone who captures my interest and then concoct an elaborate life story for them. The life story is rich with drama and emotion, uncontrollable circumstance and choices. I like to imagine what kind of childhood they had and how it has shaped who they are today. For instance, the dude in his late 20’s suited up all sharp and shit with designer duds. Privileged upbringing, nuclear family, beautiful arm-candy girlfriend right? Wrong. Instead, I see that dude suffering from uncontrollable pyromania! He set his little sister’s dollhouse on fire when he was 8, then when he was 15 burnt his math teacher’s house to the ground and had to do him some juvie or something. He’s gotten his life back on track, finished school and got a sweet gig downtown where nobody suspects the fire monster that lurks within. Just wait til he gets denied that big promotion he’s been working for, burn baby burn! See, I just made my way through 5 stops before I even knew it!

Which Animal?

Again, this game relies heavily on me observing someone with a particular look and deciding on what sort of animal they would be. There’s a woman cackling obnoxiously to her friend at 8:30am and despite what she may think, the rest of us don’t find her laugh to be particularly enchanting or bewitching. It’s just fucking annoying. That girl is definitely a hyena. There’s a chubby, sleepy 40-something taking up almost two whole seats, that guy is a hippo fo sho. A lanky, toothy, sly looking motherfucker with a backpack full of shrooms, he’s a ferret. I don’t really know if he’s got shrooms in his backpack, it’s just part of his image I guess.

What Station?

This one I’m not very experienced in yet, but I like to think that in a couple of years when I’ve ridden the rails from end to end countless times, I’ll have better judgement. But I like to size someone up and decide what stop they’re getting off at. It’s also hard because my commute isn’t from one end to another, it’s a good chunk of the Yonge line but not the whole thing. But there are certain neighbourhoods in Toronto that correspond with subway stations and I like to guess what station I think a person is going to, especially on the evening commute. That’s the most likely time that people are heading home, so it’s a little easier. For example, my neighbourhood Yonge and Eglinton is often called Young and Eligible by my co-workers because it’s heavily populated with yuppies. So it’s usually safe to assume that young, shiny, polished, designer clad men and women are headed that way. There’s also the Finchers. People who are commuting into the city everyday and connect to buses at Finch station. They can’t stand their surroundings. You just know that the subway is the worst part of their day, they hate crowds, and they change into comfortable shoes at the end of the day.

Okay, so I know this is sounding like I’m pretty much the most judgemental and awful person on the planet, but I don’t do this out of a mean-spirit. I simply try to pass the time on the train in the morning, and mentally escape the nasty armpit stink in my face. I think that I’m very unexpected. I’ve been sized up and judged my whole life, pigeonholed and stereotyped. And I honestly hope that all the people I play my subway games with are unexpected too and would prove me wrong given a 5 minute chat. Sometimes people surprise you, sometimes they turn out to be exactly what you expected… that’s the fun of subway games, what you see in others has a lot to do with what you yourself are bringing to the table.

Hot Hot Harp

It’s a long weekend this week, so lots of good things to take stock of, but there is one thing this week that hands down made my day most of all and has earned a spot in the blog.

I’m working with the Magpie again, which has been truly wonderful. She cites moving to Toronto as the best decision she’s ever made in her life, and since I’ve known her has been incredibly encouraging (if not blatantly overpowering) in her suggestion that I move here too. A most fruitful decision indeed.

Moving to Toronto has been so refreshing and rewarding! There’s always something to do, someplace to be, and  someone to catch up with. One of the best things about it has been getting out during my lunch hour and exploring. At my old job our office was located in an area dominated by other office buildings. There was absolutely nothing worthwhile within walking distance of the office. If you wanted to go get lunch you had to have a car, and sadly I do not. On occasion I would grab lunch out with the other girls, but it was always a scramble to get food and bring it back in time to scarf down quickly at your desk. You weren’t really allowed to take a leisurely lunch.

Now, I can stumble out the office door and there are hundreds of options at my fingertips! I literally cross the street and encounter tons of choices. It’s so wicked! Because I had conditioned myself to work through lunch and not find any enjoyment in it at my old job I had these lingering pangs of guilt about getting out during lunch hour at the new job. A few weeks have gone by and I’ve gotten more used to popping out the door and not feverishly watching each second tick by on my watch, stressing that I’ve got to get back to my desk and not selfishly pilfer company time.

Case in point, this week. Everything is still very new to me, so I get pumped up over the littlest thing. I think it’s been fun for the Magpie because my shiny, wide-eyed, virginal view of the city mirrors back everything about it that she fell in love with too. This week, she decided that we could afford to take our time and head to Kensington market for lunch. We hopped on the street car, sailed through Chinatown (loved it!) and then strolled the streets of the market.

So colourful and wonderful! Amazing treasures to be found! This place is an explorer’s dream come true to be sure.

We had lunch at a place called Grilled Cheese, as you may have guessed serving up delicious grilled cheese sandwiches. Picture it, fluffy texas toast crisped to perfection with a melty, gooey cheddar middle about an inch thick. Golden brown and laden with rippled chips and a crunchy dill pickle, we had found euphoria on the workday lunch hour. We sat outside on a picnic table in the sun chatting and laughing.

After lunch we walked back through the market, and there I beheld the most pleasant sight of all the day’s outing: the hot harpist.

It’s very common to walk the streets and see people playing guitar and singing their dirges for a buck or two from friendly passersby. It is not common to see a gorgeous specimen of a man plucking tenderly at a harp in the noonday sun. That is something remarkable. Naturally I started drooling, what is a girl to do?

The best part about it was as I was gawking and walking, the Magpie was laughing heartily, as is her way. When I asked her what was funny she said “oh that guy behind us was saying to his friends ‘Who knew that the harp was such a good way to get chicks!’ What a Beavis thing to say!”

We had been a bit too leisurely and hastened our pace to get back to the office, but when we got back not a single person seemed to notice or even care that we’d whiled away a solid hour and then some at the market. This was the most glorious moment of all this week: the wonder of exploring the market, feeling the noonday sun on our faces, and oogling the hunky harpist had finally helped me let go of my guilt over enjoying my lunch hour.

I’ve shed the last vestiges of conditioning from my old job. I’m no longer hindered by guilt about living my fucking life. Work can wait for me, I won’t be rushing my lunches anytime soon.

Last Page

I spend a lot of free time reading, which has always been one of my favourite things. But with so much going on lately, I haven’t had as much time for reading as I’d like. This is why it took me about four months to finish 11/22/63 by Stephen King. In true King fashion, the book is enormous. It’s an 800+ page behemoth that worked ardently at turning me into a hunchback every time it was deposited into my backpack. I seriously started to feel that if this book was to become part of my daily arsenal then maybe I was going to need a back brace.

This is the book in my hand. It’s a hard cover, which puts it at about 2.5 to 3 lbs by my rough, and probably very wrong estimate.

And this is the book dwarfing my 14lb cat. He’s not impressed by the size of it either.

When I started this book in January, I was still at my old job. I was working 11 hour days because of the bus strike. The YRT went on strike mid-October 2011 and didn’t come back to service until February 2012, which is beyond ridiculous. I would have to get a ride into work at 630am every morning, and work until 6pm when my boyfriend was able to come get me. He would drop me off at the office, drive to the train station and commute downtown for his job in the morning. Then after the commute home in the evening, he would hop in the car and pick me up from work. This absurd arrangement persisted for about three months and was taking quite the toll on both of us.

The days were impossibly long, and I started out thinking that it was a good thing to work longer hours because I was so busy. But of course, after 3 months of working like this it got old. In January, when I got fed up with the ridiculous hours and realized that nobody was taking notice anyways, I thought “fuck it” and I started leaving when my 8 hours was up. I’d walk to the local coffee shop and enjoy my book for an hour or so every night. My boyfriend would meet me there instead of the office, and it felt good to have a little me time to unwind every night.

The thing is, I need at least 30 minutes after work to unwind by myself and I wasn’t getting that initially. I’d work right up until 6pm and still have a hard time pulling away from the desk after 3 extra hours per workday. When it was time to go home, I’d get in the car at the absolute peak of stressfulness. I was wound so tightly that the smallest provocation would unleash all the rage accrued throughout the day that I had taken great pains to internalize.

My boyfriend was a total basket of stress at this point in the day too. He’d spend an hour on the train, surrounded by a bunch of smelly, annoying fuck-tard commuters (by the way, I can call them that because I did a brief stint commuting on the train so I know what really goes down on those things) and then he’d have to race to the car, tear out of the parking lot ahead of everyone else, and fight the masses of rush hour traffic to get to my office.

At the end of the workday when our stresses were combined, we were a powder keg ready to blow. And trust me, there were some spectacular blow outs! Instead of two mature young professionals, two starved wild dogs out for blood were getting into the car every night.

Plus, as soon as you’ve finished work and you’re all wired with stress, should the first interaction you have be with your significant other? No it should not. If you have unresolved stresses you should have the opportunity to take them out on innocent bystanders instead. Rip the server a new one for getting your order wrong, tell some douche in the elevator to shut the fuck up and quit humming that shit in your ear, or flip off that dickbag driver cutting suddenly in front of you. I’m a firm believer in venting before going home. If you’re pissed off let it out on someone who doesn’t matter, or some inanimate object even. I am partial pushing the elevator buttons really hard and slamming desk drawers shut. Letting it out in these ways means that there’s a smaller chance of that crap coming home with me.

After a particularly scarring battle royale on the car ride home one night, I decided for the sake of my health, my sanity, and my relationship that I needed to start leaving at the right time even if I couldn’t get home quite yet. So I’d take my book and enjoy some me time at the end of the day. When it was time to go home, I’d get in the car much more my normal self and I’d be able to listen sympathetically to my poor boyfriend instead of exacerbating his stress by adding all of my own to the mix.

Eventually the bus strike ended and I got to commute to and from work like a normal human being. However, this slowed down my reading time a lot. It took me forever to finish this book, even though it was really quite riveting.

I was nearing the end around 10:30 one night and it was getting so good that I decided to stay up until I was finished. I only had another 75 pages or so to go, so why not? I dug deep into my reserves of wakefulness and kept going. When I finally got to the last page it was 12:45am and my eyes were getting heavy but my heart was getting lighter.

It’s a very strange sensation to finish a book when you’ve invested so much time. If it was enjoyable, there’s a small feeling of disappointment that there isn’t more to look forward to. If it was terrible, there’s a sense of accomplishment for sticking it out to the end. But if it’s really good… there’s this bizarre feeling euphoria coupled with a harsh comedown. I was buzzing with excitement when my eyes swept over the last word on the very last page. The good feeling of finishing a book was magnified tenfold on this one because of how long it took, how incredible the story was, and how reaching the end of this book so closely paralleled the end of my woes with the transit strike, and my life at the time.

I consider finishing this book a tremendous success for me. Finishing a book may be a small joy for some, but finally closing this one is definitely the brightest spot in my week. I’ve heard that some people will read the last page of a book first, just to know what they’re getting into. That’s pure craziness! The best part of a book is building to the end and being totally surprised, or having your predictions validated.

Or sometimes, that last page might just be the thing you need to help you to realize how far you’ve come from beginning to end.

The Perfect Week (and a half!)

A few weeks ago it was a horrendously rainy morning. This does not bode well for someone who takes two buses to get to work. Two buses with a very small window of connection, especially in the morning. The evening buses usually work out, but for some reason the morning ones are an absolute nightmare. So on that particularly rainy day it seemed as though the fates had smiled down upon me because my buses actually connected and I was able to get to work relatively dry.

This totally made my day, naturally. So I thought to myself I ought to write a post all about how incredible it is when the buses actually connect. Then something even more remarkable happened. For the next 8 working days after that, ALL of my morning buses connected! Not only did they connect, but they connected with brilliant timing. I didn’t need to chase a single one of them down.

I’m someone who is notoriously early for work, school, events, etc. I’m always the first on the scene. Needless to say, when my timely arrival is dependent on the ill-conceived public transit schedule the anxiety I feel is unbearable. I’m constantly looking at my watch and leaning forward in my seat ready to jump off at every passing stop. I’m desperately hoping that my impatient huffs and long suffering sighs will actually make the bus go faster.

More often than not my attempts to defy the laws of traffic with a single discontented glare fail and I miss that crucial connection. When this happens, I’m that person frantically pacing the bus stop waiting for the next one to roll up and disappoint me. My good vibes are all very quickly cast asunder when I see that connecting bus go rolling along down the road without me on board.

Even more frustrating is the fact that sometimes I have to watch the connecting bus drive off without from my seat on the first bus! The intersection at which the buses connect is an annex of headache and traffic in the morning. The first bus comes down a slight hill towards the main intersection. Between the hill and the intersection are two pointless sets of traffic lights. To merely allow ease of access to a shopping plaza for the feint of heart motorists who think being courteous and polite is the best way to get where you’re going.

Sometimes the bus will get stopped at both sets of lights while trying to get to the bottom of the hill to reach the connecting bus. This is absolutely enraging! Especially when the red light hits, and not a single car goes through the intersection. ARAAGGGHH!!!! WHY?!? Why does the red light have to hit in rush hour for not even so much as a scooter? Sometimes I hop off the bus preemptively because I’m convinced that I can sprint to the connecting bus faster than the first bus will be able to get through the lights. More than once I’ve done this only to watch the first bus fly past me in my mad dash to the bottom of the hill. I’ll try any means necessary to make that connection happen. Desperate times call for desperate, poorly planned measures.

So you can imagine how remarkable it felt to have one connection go as planned on that rainy Tuesday.

Now imagine eight simultaneous work days of connecting buses. I’ve never felt such joy! My connection anxiety would be silently brewing inside me during the first bus ride, and then maddening euphoria would reverberate throughout my soul while cruising down to work on the second bus. I’d catch that second bus with ease and then float into work as if I were going to be spending the day playing with kittens or honing up my yo-yo skills. As opposed to my normal day which consists of lengthy meetings, aneurysm inducing phone calls, and trying to circumvent tons of red tape at all ends. The good vibes were going to my head, man.

However, as one Mr. Frost knows, nothing gold can stay. Such is the case with my spectacular week and a half of connecting buses. I missed the connection the following Friday. Although, it was sunny and warm so I did get to enjoy the morning sunlight for 20 minutes before the next bus ushered me into the office.

We had a hell of a run though!