Just F*cking Do It

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My husband delivered a keynote one time to an audience of startups and technology nerds. His advice to them was “stop talking about it and just f*cking do it”. Everyone laughed and nodded. This happens a lot in technology and business. People spend a huge amount of time talking about what they are going to do; pontificating, planning, researching, and discussing – but then fall down on execution.  So things either never get off the ground or they lose steam shortly after they launch.

The exact same thing happens in our lives when it comes to creating change, starting something new, or embarking on a personal goal attempt. We often build things up in our minds and make them appear way bigger or more complicated than they actually are. If I would have thought about running for 30 minutes without stopping before I began running on day one, I would have given up or possibly not even started running. But here I am 9 weeks later and running has stuck for me. First I had to be okay with 3 minutes, then 5 minutes, then 10 and 20 and so on. It was a gradual build up that all began with me just f*cking doing it. Every day that I run, I don’t think about anything other than what is in front of me at that moment. I put my shoes on and head out the door thinking only about putting one foot in front of the other, that’s it. And I do my best to apply this same logic to pretty much everything I work on. It helps tremendously. I am the type of person who gets completely overwhelmed if I think about everything at once, so for my own sanity I have to break it down. And just doing it helps because you take the first step, and then the second, and then the third and before you know it you’ve accomplished something.

Not all things work out just because we start doing them, but at least you can say that you actually did something. Talking about doing something and actually doing it are two very different things. So just f*cking do it no matter what that thing is for you.

this is what happens when I try to write

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I sit down filled with hope, my mug of tea and the motivation to accomplish the days writing. I click MS Word open and greet the blinking cursor with resolve and a smile. I take a deep breath in and begin thinking about how I want to start this section off. Then I see an alert in the corner of my screen from apple mail. I click it. Oops I didn’t mean to do that, I am supposed to be writing. But oh look it’s Fab and it’s Foodie Friday. Oh my god are those gourmet chocolate covered bananas? Okay I just have to go see those. I would really love to eat something sweet right now. Mmm chocolate. I follow the link from the email and go to the page that Fab hopes I will go to. I am a marketer keep in mind and I fall for all of the tricks of the trade. In looking at chocolate bananas I am reminded of the Warhol banana and then begin wondering if Fab is still selling Warhol stuff. I click over to the art section and start looking at art completely forgetting why I am there and what I am looking for but stumbling upon a dizzying array of beautiful art that I would love to have on my walls. In looking at the art I remember that I have been wanting to go to the AGO in Toronto because it’s been a while. I am just gonna go see what’s happening there right now. Oh my god look at that exhibit. We HAVE to go check that out. I excitedly hurry up the stairs to tell Dean about the exhibit. I stop on the way up and play with Yeti. He looks so cute. I am gonna grab my phone and take a photo of him because he looks so cute right now. While upstairs I walk through the kitchen and begin to feel hungry. I forgot to eat breakfast. I should eat something. I begin to look through the cupboards for something to eat. But I forgot my tea downstairs. I go down to get my tea and sit down in front of my computer. I grab my tea and begin to take slow sips. Oh shit! I am supposed to be writing right now! I click over to MS Word again to see my cursor blinking at me in a mocking way. I finish my tea and forget that I was hungry. Okay time to get serious now. I have to write. What am I writing about? Yes consciousness. Oh I better look at that research report I have open in my tabs. There is some good information there. I click over to the research report that has been open in Google Chrome for the last seven days because I haven’t turned off my computer in that long. It is one of fourteen open tabs. I start reading it and get about three paragraphs in when I notice that I have 12 unread alerts in Facebook (which is also open in another tab). I click and open Facebook and am enamoured by photographs, YouTube videos, angry rants, drama and funny comments until I realize I have to close Facebook. It’s really fucking with my productivity. But then I remember I am hungry. So I go upstairs in search of food. I feel mild panic when in the kitchen because I don’t have time to make lunch. I am writing and I have shit to do! I opt for a granola bar and some almonds instead and head back downstairs. It’s almost time for the girls to come home from school and I am seriously starting to panic. Where has time gone? What did I do all morning? I decide that I have to focus. I open MS Word and just start writing. I am afraid to look at the research report again in case I am distracted by something else on the Internet, which I know is a very plausible possibility. I start writing. Halla-fuckin-lujah!  I get about two pages written and am on a roll until I hear the bing of my email alert again and not even thinking about it I click my email program open and oh look it’s an email from so and so. I had better email her back. I wonder how she is doing? I haven’t talked to her in three weeks. I start typing an email to her, but then have to respond to several text messages, and a few phone calls. Oh and I really wanted to research flights to Nepal to see if there’s a cheaper way to fly there. It seems crazy to spend $2500 on airfare.

Ladies and gentleman that is an inside view into the train wreck that is my mind. Isn’t it a fucking glorious wonder that I can get anything accomplished? To me that is ultimate validation that I am doing what I am supposed to be doing. The mere fact that I can still succeed in despite of that says a lot.

Oh look a kitty.

Vulnerability

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A friend and I have been having an open conversation on Facebook this morning about vulnerability and its role with the artist. Vulnerability is an important asset when communicating, creating, or acting out a part or role. It allows you to reach an emotional depth that you cannot reach by being too safe or avoiding thinking about uncomfortable things. Vulnerability helps us delve into those areas of self that we might not want to explore, but that help us understand ourselves better. Sometimes exposing those vulnerabilities, and embracing them even is the best form of therapy. 

Somewhere along the lines in our society we have been told that vulnerability is wrong, weak and not something we should project to others. Perhaps it was your parents or your grandparents who told you to never show your weaknesses. Maybe you received that message from society or indirectly from the people in your life. However you received it, you are not alone. I would say the majority of people on this planet do not want to show their vulnerabilities. Often when you look at the most popular bloggers, business leaders, and public figures they like to present themselves as being in control, having it all together and being very confident (sometimes overly so).

But why can’t we admit when things are going wrong in our lives? What is so wrong with that? It is through the honesty of vulnerability that you find the most support and compassion in others. And it is through the honesty and vulnerability of others that you are able to connect and offer your compassion to them. We don’t connect to positivity robots and artificial confidence. We connect with what’s real, that is why we come together so strongly and profoundly through times of hardship and change. Pain has the ability to heal us, and allows us to embrace our vulnerabilities, together as human beings. 

So instead of thinking of something awesome to post as your next Facebook status about how wonderful your life, job, clients, kids etc are… Why not post something honest and vulnerable. Just watch what happens. It will resonate more with your friends than “I am so lucky to have the best life ever”. It is great to express gratitude for your life and be happy (that’s the sweet spot), but dont forget that the vulnerabilities are necessary too. You wouldn’t truly be able to appreciate happiness in your life without knowing the contrast of pain.

Here are some of my honest vulnerabilities:

I have struggled with my weight for the last several years and can never seem to lose more than ten pounds or so. The way I see myself in the mirror is not what others see.

I have horrible self-esteem and often feel like a failure. It prevents me from putting myself out there a lot.

Social situations often make me very uncomfortable and I need to have a drink or two just to be able to talk to people without panicking. 

If I am too happy in my life, I cannot be creative or write. I become blocked. So I need a certain amount of vulnerability and hardship for my creativity to thrive. 

I’m Tweeting This

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I feel like Frank at the end of Godbless America with what I am about to say here but what the fuck has happened in our society that we are more obsessed with American Idol, our current Facebook status, and the number of followers and friends we have online (who likely don’t give a shit about us anyway) than on LIFE itself? When did we become so shallow as a society that we are more concerned with how we appear to others than on living for ourselves and being true to who we are on the inside.  Why do we care more about what others think than on our own sense of virtue? Who gives a shit if someone likes you or not. The people that matter will be in your life, the ones that don’t shouldn’t be on your radar screen or take up any of your headspace. Like Dr. Seuss once said “those that matter don’t mind and those that mind don’t matter.”

What happened to real relationships? You know, the analog ones that used to happen face to face. Where interaction with a friend meant more than commenting on a Facebook photo. Where meaningful interaction meant taking time out of your busy self-absorbed schedule to actually get together with someone in real life and look into their eyes, and maybe even share something vulnerable of yourself that isn’t an attempt to manipulate someone into thinking that you are fucking awesome. An interaction that you didn’t have to share on Facebook, tweet about or incessantly photograph because you were just happy to be there in the moment of life. We used to know how to live without the need or distraction of having to show the world how cool we are. Now we can’t even enjoy the present moment because we are too busy Instagramming the experience, tweeting the events in real time, or posting an excessive amount of narcissist photos of ourselves doing everything that we hope others envy. Why do we care so much what others think? Why can’t we just be authentic without the need to overproduce, overdesign, overthink , and overstate everything in order to get attention. Did our mommy’s and daddy’s not love us enough when we were young? What happened?

We don’t read books anymore, we read blogs by authors who care more about power, influence and social manipulation than about the craft or art of writing. They don’t care about the content itself, so much as they just want to hook you with another lackluster blog post so that you’ll come back and increase their site traffic, feeding their fragile ego. They feed and prey on the insecurities of others, look for the weak to exploit, and love to wax about anything that will obtain another notch on their shallow belt of influence. Meanwhile, many real writers are drinking themselves into a stupor, cutting themselves and bleeding onto the page, and pouring out their truths into their words without regard to who reads it, because they have no choice but to write – because they are the real writers.

But this isn’t about writers. It’s about people.

I hate to be so cynical about our society. Don’t get me wrong, there are a lot of good things too, like a return to local business, local food and community – be we seriously need to fuck off with our exaggerated sense of self-importance. We are all awesome in one way or another and we don’t need a logo, a popular blog, or fifty thousand profound tweets to demonstrate that.  I’m not speaking directly about one person or another, but rather collectively as I observe the tweets, posts, photographs, and experiences of a completely neurotic digital society who spends way too much time thinking about what others think.

Occasionally though, this life is splattered with beauty and truth and people who really do “get it”, and it is in those experiences and interactions that I derive hope for the rest of society. They are the ones who will push things forward when we come out of this deep, thick yet shallow fog we seem to be in.

The View From the Window

Lucy was a quiet outcast frequently distracted by thoughts of her failing family and directionless life. Her friends were an odd assortment of exchange students, band-geeks and misunderstood rebels who smoked obscure brands of native cigarettes like they were sacred. She wasn’t sure exactly where she fit in, both with her friends at school and with her family at home. She was as uncomfortable in her own skin as one could get, and spent most of her time walking around looking down at the ground, or sitting in her bedroom staring out the window.

Her senior year of high school was her most traumatic ever.  Her parents separated, her brother announced that he was Gay and began a full time drugging career, and she had no idea what she wanted to do with her life. Her awkward and unsure demeanor always scared people off and made them uncomfortable around her. It was like they sensed her discomfort and personal trauma. Nobody knew how to communicate with her without feeling burdened by the conversation. Lucy often sat alone on the windowsill of her bedroom window wondering what to do next. She didn’t know what she wanted to do with her life and felt she had little control over the things that happened to her in her life. She just knew that she didn’t want to end up like her mom Mary or depressed and drunk like her father Clyde

Lucy had never really felt much of a connection with her mom; who was one of those women who had kids and made a family life out of necessity, not because it was something she really wanted. Mary was a real estate agent and worked hard day and night closing deals to acquire more shit, more wealth, better cars, and more stature while her husband Clyde sat in front of the television with a bottle of Canadian Club staring at his dusty guitar dreaming of what might have been. Mary pretty much ignored Clyde for the most part and really only spoke to him if she needed something from him. It was largely felt that he was a mistake in her life, and often the kids were made to feel like that as well.

Clyde, as depressed as he was, was at least real. And he had a good (albeit dysfunctional) connection with Lucy. Sure he got drunk and slurred his words sometimes, or cried about his wife Mary, but they talked about lyrics and life and analyzed people around them. Clyde was a machinist and always felt resented by his wife Mary. He tried and tried to make her happy and eventually just gave up. He was always made to feel like he was some sort of low-class loser that she just “got stuck with”. Lucy’s older brother Aaron was the spawn of this mismatched love made in a watering hole. Mary wouldn’t talk to him anymore since he announced to the family at dinner that he was gay.  And Clyde, well he just kept trying to figure out how to talk to his son man-to-man about a topic he knew nothing about. So Aaron was pretty much ignored by everyone except Lucy.

Aaron had felt resented since the day he was born. He didn’t feel like the joyous addition to a family that most first-born children are, he was likened more to a dirty little secret. He knew that if it weren’t for that drunken night when his parents conceived him in what was supposed to be a one night stand, they likely wouldn’t be together. His first 5 years of life were spent being shuffled around at various daycare centres while Clyde busted his ass on the nightshift, sleeping during the day and Mary disappeared selling homes, closing deals, and working out incessantly at the gym forgetting about her motherhood duties and lower middle-class reality.

And then came Lucy… Surprise! Another drunken resentful night of sex combined with Mary’s steadfast resistance to the birth control pill. At least after Aaron they made an attempt to be together by getting married. Lucy wouldn’t remember, but apparently after she was born Mary disappeared for 3 months to “figure her life out” while Clyde took a leave of absence at work to carry the weight of single parenthood, the loss of a wife, and worry of finances on his unprepared shoulders.

Mary came back, after two affairs, several hotel rooms, and tanking sales figures at work. She realized that in some miserable way, her real life was what propelled her to sell and be the relentless bitch of a real estate agent she was. She ended up tripling her sales figures that year and went on to become one of the top selling agents in the region. No one was really sure why.

Lucy was fifteen the first time her mother said “I love you”. It was forced, unnatural and totally awkward. Lucy was escorted home by a police officer after her seventeen-year-old boyfriend crashed the car they were driving home from a keg party. Her boyfriend died. Lucy miraculously got nothing more than whiplash and the pain of a dead boyfriend.

Clyde held her hand supportively as she explained the story to her concerned parents. Mary just glared at her in amazement, wondering how she managed to escape unscathed.

Tears streaming down her face she cried “I’m sorry. I’m so sorry. I didn’t know he was drunk. I swear”

“We’re just glad you’re okay” sighed Mary “And also… I, I love you Lucy. I want you to know that. I always have.”

It was no surprise that a year later her mom was finished. Finished with the family, finished with Clyde and finished pretending to be the warmhearted family woman that only her family knew she wasn’t. Mary went full boar with her selfish material-driven life and shallow career. Aaron moved out with some new friends and Lucy stayed in the empty shell of a family home with her dad.

When Mary and Aaron left, the house seemed different; calmer, quieter, a little bit more depressing, but also a little nicer. Clyde frequently sat in the quiet of the dimly lit living room pouring himself glass after glass of Canadian Club while his daughter sat concerned and reflective looking out of the window in her bedroom. They ate dinner together in the evenings and sometimes watched Jeopardy together.

Late one evening Lucy wandered into the living room to talk to her dad who was sitting in his chair quietly, staring out into the backyard. He didn’t hear Lucy wander in.

“Oh hi Luce” he said in a defeated voice

“Dad… We are gonna be okay”

“I know we are,” he said

“It’s just us now.  She never wanted to be here anyway. And Aaron is still here, he just doesn’t live here.”

He looked down into his empty glass and then stared up at his beautifully insightful daughter. He wanted to say something, anything, but couldn’t find the words. A tear fell from his eyes as Lucy sat on the arm of his wingback chair and hugged him tightly holding his head close to hers, while the warm glow of the television reflected on their faces.

The Art of Disappearing

Image courtesy of http://www.churchtimes.co.uk/

Uncle Jack was an unusual man. He was never quite the same after returning from duty in Vietnam. You would look into his eyes and feel the horror seething out, the undeniable regret, the pain, the dark secrets that he carried around with him on a daily basis.

He never much talked about Vietnam, but you knew that it was all he could think about. The experience raped him. He couldn’t have the life of an average citizen and had a hard time reintegrating into a society of people oblivious to the horrors of war. He used to say, “Ignorance is bliss”.

Before he disappeared I remember asking him “why didn’t you get married Uncle Jack? Didn’t you ever fall in love?”

He looked at me and sneered “Heh… me fall in love? Who the hell could love someone like me!”

It wasn’t his answer that was heartbreaking, but the fact that he actually believed it.

“Everyone deserves to be loved” I said naively.

“Look sweetie… Why don’t you go play with your Barbie’s. I’d like to say you’ll understand one day, but the truth is no one does.”

I was eighteen. Barbie’s were long over for me. I was into boys, smoking, and record players. What was he thinking?

The last time I saw him he was alone in my grandparent’s basement. He sat on the couch staring blankly at the television in a dimly lit room, chain smoking. It was my job to get him to come up and join the rest of the family for dinner. It was also when I took my last photograph of him.

“No thanks” he said “I don’t have the stomach for that. Get that damn camera out of my face too will ya.”

What did he mean? The stomach for us? For dinner? For having to communicate with his family?

I was angry. “It’s time you forgot Vietnam Uncle Jack… You’re sinking like a submarine. What kind of a life is this?”

I stormed upstairs and felt his stare cut into my spine.

Uncle Jack never came upstairs that evening. Never came up to say hello, to make small talk, or even to pretend that he wanted to be around us.

The next day my grandparents called in a panic. He was gone. His room cleared out, nothing but his dog tags left sitting on the dresser.

For the first few years we thought he just needed some breathing space… but when my grandparents died and he didn’t show up to either of their funerals, we feared the worst. The mystery became even more frustrating.

One afternoon I went to the vegetable market in Chinatown. I could have sworn I saw an older Uncle Jack. I waded through the crowds of people towards a man sitting on the steps of an electronics discount store. I got pushed and swayed around in the crowd, my vision occasionally blocked by people, hands, or signs.

When I got there he was gone.

Did I really see that? I didn’t know if I was imagining him, or if it in fact could have been him.

The mystery of Uncle Jack had tormented me for years. I felt like my comment pushed him over the edge. How stupid of me to think that somebody could just “forget” about war. I was one of those oblivious people he spoke so spitefully about. I was no different than the others.

In my late twenties I landed an installation with some old photographs I had been working on revamping. It was a series of photographs I had taken of Uncle Jack. Black & White images mostly. There were images of him staring off into another realm while blowing smoke from the corner of his mouth, others of him sitting in a solitary chair, or sitting on the edge of his bed…waiting, for relief from his mental anguish. His eyes told horrible truths.

The installation helped me get to a place of understanding. Going back and looking at the images allowed me to peer into his eyes one last time. For once I actually saw the truth.

He could have never led a normal life. It was unfair of anybody to expect that from him. Especially when they didn’t see the carnage, death, and tragedy that he lived for years.

His eyes were void of a soul. For once I felt happy for him, wherever he was. It was better than here. I knew that now.

 

Pottery Class Gone Wrong

We got kicked out of pottery class last week, which in retrospect, I guess I understand. We weren’t as interested in the pottery class per say as we were in recreating that sexy clay scene from Ghost. We even had Unchained Melody queued up on hubby’s iPhone set to play at precisely the right moment, which was right after he removed his shirt and sat behind me. The teacher was horrified and disturbed by this, and asked us to leave immediately and never come back. We didn’t really understand where she was coming from though because we were actually making a really nice piece of pottery. I guess recapturing a memorable scene from one of the most romantic love scenes ever is a no-no when you are taking pottery. Or perhaps we should have recreated a scene where the focus was more on the pottery itself, and less on the love… Maybe then she would have been happy. We aren’t sure. But what we are sure of is that we are out $125 bucks each.

Whatever. I will stick to buying unique kitschy pottery on Etsy rather than attempting to make it myself. Fuck you pottery class. Fuck you!