Archive for November, 2012

Finding Castles in the Air…

Castles in the Air

strange cloud shape by uair01, Creative Commons License

I want to waltz under the stars in Paris. I want to sing with a jazz band in New Orleans. I want to swim with dolphins. I want to eat at a really good restaurant in New York City. I want to photograph architecture in Quebec City. I want to make a feast at midnight in my own kitchen, in my own home…

I ‘d cook Cornish Game Hens, and asparagus with orange juice, and two kinds of potatoes, and lime soup, and chocolate pudding, and fruit salad with berries and mint and basil and a syrupy vinaigrette. I’d have a plain mixed greens salad with a simple lemon juice and mustard dressing, garlicky toasted baguette slices and possibly some kind of cheese fondue. Blueberry tarts and dinner rolls, and if someone was there to join me, I’d make them steak or ribs if they’d enjoy them…

I’d like to see a polar bear with my own eyes. In the wild, not in a zoo. And to sit around a campfire in the Serengeti.

I’d like to hear a story, older than written language, told by someone who knows it’s soul. Where are the storytellers today? I want to hold a child in my arms.

I want to sleep. Warm, and safe, and protected. In the wide open world, next to the surf of an ocean.

I want to buy furniture, rugs that don’t match the tapestries, tables without chairs, and make them all play nicely together.

I’d like to be joined.

I want to stand on a corner and  hail a cab. I’d like to stop traffic as I crossed a street. I want to learn to whistle with my fingers…

I want to remember how to make castles in the air again, this time without the walls. To hope against hope…

To dream.

I’d like to lead a revolution. I want to be a part of a change that I believe is good, and necessary, that will better the lives of those who come after, in the long run. I want to be part of the marathon, not a marathon, the marathon…

I’m not done yet.

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How to Keep Friends: A Social Experiment, Part II

Friends courtesy HaPe_Gera, Creative Commons License

So here’s how I’m doing in my little social experiment. I’ve alluded to it here, and here. Let’s get specific.

I have fallen behind on my Facebooking, but I should remedy that with putting some time in this weekend.

I went out last Friday, but to a concert, and I ducked out early, so I really didn’t get to spend much time actually interfacing with people. In my defense, I had to work overtime the next day… I know. It’s lame.

I have put an effort in to keeping in touch, via text and phone call, but I can feel it starting to slip. Now is the time to redouble my efforts, yes?

I haven’t organized any events though…

With the holidays coming up, everyone’s time is precious, and money is earmarked for other things: gifts, travel, rent, feasting, therapy…

So I’m trying to generate some quick, painless, cheap get-together ideas. Here’s what I’ve come up with:

1. Movie Marathon: Whether you watch Lord of the Rings, Star Wars, or Bad Boys and Bad Boys II, movie marathons are always fun, and if cheap if you already own them. Pop some popcorn, let your DVD (or VCR) machine do the real work, and have people BYOB. Done.

2. Bowling: At less than $20 per game, four people can have a lot of fun pretty cheaply. Plus competition – I hear you athlete types chomping at the bit already. And a plus against the movie marathon is that you can actually engage in conversation – more than just reciting everyone’s favourite lines as they come up that is.

3. Pub: A local watering hole to which people can walk or easily carpool can be cheap – it can also be pricey. It depends on how much people end up drinking, really. But at least the onus isn’t on the host, but each individual, so if they got the cash, and a safe way home, let ’em enjoy!

4. Potluck Party: I love potlucks. You get to try new things sometimes, and everyone takes home leftovers, and recipes are exchanged – it’s a great ice breaker and conversation starter, too! “Oh, you put green apple in your mashed potatoes – how interesting!” Plus, food, ‘nuf said.

And that’s all I got so far.

The problem with these is that they really depend on people being able to get together at the same time, which for my friends is pretty much a miracle. You throw corporate nine-to-fiver me in with shift working single moms and musicians and bartender/students and well, I guess Monday at 6:00 am might work for us all… But baby steps, right? So maybe I employ these with two or three people to start…

Or maybe I find a way to make that early Monday morning thing work… Wouldn’t that be cool, starting your day off bright and early with some straight-up friend time?

Any suggestions on cheap evenings (or mornings – seriously, I think I could be on to something here!) to spend with friends? What’s your go to get-together? Do you game? Video-thon? Evening walks? Organized sports? Let me know below, I could use the help!

Fear Not: How To Make Friends Part II

Jump in with both feet first!

Cliff Diving courtesy JohnONolan, Creative Commons License

OK, so last week got away from me – I know this early on into a series and I’m already flaking out – it doesn’t bode well…

Fear not. Because that’s what we’re going to talk about today. Not fearing.

I know for me, and I’m sure some of you out there, too, that there are those days when you just irrationally despise everyone around you. Especially those who care about you. I know, I know, Midol can cure this – or it could be that we’re just a bunch of scaredy-cats.

See, when I feel this way, it’s not just that everyone is irritating me, and making my life more difficult, it’s often that I feel so d*mned alone, and all those happy, popular, together people just seem so d*mned happy and together and popular and everything seems so easy for them that I just want to scream, and cry, and lash out because I’m jealous and can’t they see how awful and lonely they’re making me feel???

Umm, no, they can’t, crazy Miss Happ… Uh, remember how you work so hard to keep it together and not let them see how much you’re hurting and just want to be included? Yeah, that. That’s what they see, because that’s all you allow them to see.

Also, people are incredibly self-centred. (Seriously, look at this blog.)

So while I’m all upset and worried about how I’ve offended someone and they’ll never forgive me, or how maybe I smell because no one calls me, or how I wish they would invite me for lunch, just once… They are worried about that zit on their forehead, or how they wish I (or someone) would just call them, or how they might get fired from all their extended group lunches and why can’t they just have a work ethic like Miss Happ’s….

It’s rough all over, kids.

So in the spirit of growth and development, and making friends, and conquering those fears one voice at a time… Try something new.

Something you’ve never done before, something you’ve never dared. Go cliff diving (and tell me about it!), take a ballroom dance class – without a partner – and meet some new people, take voice lessons and stop being afraid of impromptu sing-a-longs (they happen more often than you know), learn how to rewire or build something with your hands from those tutorials at your local hardware store, join a gym and learn how to do yoga or 15 chin ups or run 5km…

Better yet do something you thought you would hate – maybe that’s just your fear talking. Maybe it’s something you tried when you were young but it didn’t come easily so you gave up, or someone made fun of you before you’d figured it out, or someone for whom it came naturally made you (inadvertantly or on-purpose) feel inadequate…

For me that used to be just about any kind of land sport, singing, and driving.

And you know what?

I had to figure out driving, and while I used to cry EVERY TIME I drove – to the point of nausea and hyperventilating – now, I love it. I take scenic  routes, and Sunday drives (even with the cost of gas). I love driving. But it took me years (and a few now ex-boyfriends) to get there.

I started singing lessons in August. I go once a week, and my instructor is fabulous. I can firmly say I have made a friend in her, and even if I were to quit, we would each want to stay in touch.

Alright, I haven’t really begun to conquer the land sport thing yet… But maybe I will. In fact, Dashing is a huge land athlete, maybe that is something he can teach me to enjoy.

The point is, when you try something new, when you face your fears, when you get over it and sit amongst all those whom you envied, you learn, you grow, and often, you come into contact with new potential friends. And after all that learning and growing, you become a new potential friend to yourself and those around you. Because each time you knock a fear out, you become more confident.

And there’s nothing more attractive than confidence.

So go ahead – Fear Not.

Catching Up To Dashing: Baby Steps For The Win

Baby Steps

Tortoise wins courtesy nedrichards, Creative Commons license

Alright, it’s been awhile since I’ve gone all Dear Diary on you guys…

There’s been drama and panic attacks and tears – and that’s all very boring and teen movie of the week, so, no, I’m not going to discuss it here.

Here’s where Dashing and I are now, though.

We’re good.

That’s it. Really. He is planning his return to school and I am working (and contemplating making it official!).

We speak daily, on the phone and via text. We see each other for lunch or dinner about once a week. It’s been awkward and awesome all at the same time. And we’re both learning loads. I can’t speak for him (I hope one day he’ll come online and give you guys his side, but, we’ll see), but here is what I’ve learned so far.

1. He really does want to make plans and follow through on them.

2. I took it for granted that an “in-person” chat would always be coming up – and excused my poor telephone skills with not liking the phone. It’s not a lie, I do hate the darned things, but it’s lazy to say that’s the only reason I can’t think of things to say while speaking to him through one. Fortunately, I’m getting the chance to improve that part of my communication with him.

3. I can have a more balanced life, and I can have it now. I think that with or without the break, I still would have made it happen eventually, but rebuilding my community became necessary therapy in the last five weeks or so. So far, I’ve gone out with friends at least every two weeks, I’ve texted other people several times – and they’ve texted back, I’ve been on Facebook and updated some things, and I’ve started my Christmas Cards. Now I should probably go back and check that list to figure out what I’m forgetting that I said I would do…

4. We really do have fun together. It wasn’t just loneliness, hormones, and escaping failing relationships that drove us together. And that’s cool.

5. And this is the big one… I have trust issues. With him. And specifically regarding our future together. But I figured that part out. And we’re working on some ways that we can make it easier for me to trust again, recognizing it will take time, and I’m so happy. I have something to work on, I am a part of this relationship again, I’m not just waiting for him to figure out what he wants.

It’s so important, this tiny shift in power. It’s not that I thought I was perfect, far from it. But I really did think that all I wanted was for him to want to be with me the way I wanted to be with him, or to be able to tell me what he needed from me that was different from what I wanted. That I was just waiting for him to catch up to me, or to make a decision not to.

And that’s horrible.

For him, and for me, that is so wrong. I want him to know what he wants, yes, but I want to be able to help him find it. And I want us to be a part of both our futures, but we can’t do that if I’m afraid to be myself with him. And right now, sometimes, I am. Because being myself got me hurt. He didn’t mean to hurt me, he just needed to slow things down, but we’re human (mostly) and we didn’t communicate well. I thought he knew that all I wanted most was him, not a house or a status or a ring – and he thought he was letting me down by not being ready for ALL THE THINGS at once. He just wanted to play with me (in the sweet flirty way we do, not in the string-me-along way or the naughty (also fun) way) and have fun being us.

But I don’t yet know how to play and be me and be boisterous me without ending up wanting more… But I believe it’s possible. So we’re working on that. Baby steps.

Recommendations? Advice? Thoughts? Shared experiences? Books I should read? Leave it below, I’d love to hear it!

Warning! Woman at Work

Warning! Woman at Work

Construction Worker at Westlake Center 1988 courtesy Seattle Municipal Archives, Creative Commons License

I had a meeting with my boss today, and she asked me what my career goals were, as reviews are coming up.

Well, I took the job to become a home owner because my acting degree didn’t come with a sugar daddy and I hear hooking’s illegal here in Canada so… yeah, career goals.

Honestly though, I’m a go-getter. I excel at things. I’m one of those annoying people who can do just about anything, and do it pretty well, too. Even more irritating (to me) is that I can see myself doing just about anything. It makes choosing stressful (I know luxury problem, but still).

Now that I’m working for a big company with room to grow, people expect me to have career goals beyond “Make car payment this month” and “Invest in house in fall winter spring.”

So in a company with fairly limitless options, and me with almost limitless potential, what the heck do I want to do?

And do I really want to do anything?

Because if I stop thinking of this job as a job, as a means to an end, as that place where they keep my paycheque, as that thing I must endure (almost) painlessly to be able to achieve my dream of homeownership, and uh, food… Then I am committing to a community and claiming it for my own.

Then those people I work with become those colleagues with whom I create products.

Those “work friends” might actually become work friends, and I might know these people for years – have barbecues with them, invite them to housewarmings, and baby showers, and – oh my god, I’ve married my work.

I really don’t think I’m a huge commitment-phobe, but my paid ambitions lie buried with my acting career. I want the house and the family – not the boardroom and the politics – right? I said, right?

Alright, I know I can have both. OK? Especially since I’m not engaged, not likely to get pregnant anytime soon, and have masses of brains wasting away in data entry – well, not so much wasting, as attempting to find ways to improve the systems and think my way out of a job… Details.

And having the higher paying job that committing to career-like ambition offers would make home-owning and family-having easier in the long run.

And I could still think of it as a job, right, just that thing I go and do for a third of each weekday? And I don’t have to make bffs 4ever with everyone there, I can simply be polite and encouraging and helpful and me – and leave them all at 5:00, right?

Or I could grow a little. Grow up a little, and embrace the adult-y-ness of the whole situation, and realize that I am not a student, not a starving artist, not actively living those lifestyles anymore, but that doesn’t mean I can’t be part of those communities, while taking on new ones.

Or does it? Do I have to be a starving artist forever in order to relate to other starving artists who are both actively starving and actively artistic? If I keep the money, but fingerpaint on weekends, does that count? What if I keep the money, but fingerpaint, and generate an eating disorder? OK, whatever, I really like food, so that’s not gonna happen.

But, honestly, as your identity grows and changes, sometimes passions and communities leave you – does that mean you have to leave them?

When do you have to no longer self-identify as something? Is there a time when you ever must?

I don’t know the answers, but I do know this:

I am an actor. It is not what I do, it is what I am.

And I know that doesn’t help me with my present quandary of corporate career goals…

What do you think? Can you help? What advice would you give, or have you gotten in this type of circumstance? Let me know!

Family: Who Makes the Cut

Happy Family
Happy Family Taking Self Portrait courtesy photostock/FreeDigitalPhotos.net

As I write out my Christmas Cards, I can’t help but think of who I consider to be family.

I am part of many families, you see. There’s my mother’s family, and my father’s family with whom I share a common lineage (adoptively speaking), and my father’s created family (those who have standing invitations to our home), and my created family, which includes a few of my friends, and members of each of my other families, and Dashing and a few of his biological family.

It’s a little like this:

FAMILY CHART

FAMILY CHART – BY MISS HAPP

But how do we get there? When you’re little, your family are those people who take care of you, and by extension any whom they call family.

Over years one develops those existing relationships, growing closer to some, learning to tolerate (or not) others… and as one grows and meets new people one adds to the base from which to draw familial relationships.

That’s fairly simple, and common, thinking.

But when is it that someone goes from being a friend, to being family?

For me, it is that line where I would protect them from themselves. I love my friends, yes, but somehow I know they manage without me. I know they can take care of their own stuff, and I trust them to ask for help if they need it. I feel comfortable telling them when I think their behaving poorly, or when they’ve made a poor choice, but if they choose to disagree, well, that’s up to them.

Family though, family is so much more complicated.

Because somehow, in the idea that my life would be truly altered if this person were to leave or be in hardship, there’s the self-protective reaction that says I should do all I can to prevent it.

If a family member has an addiction, it affects me in ways a friend’s addiction might not, and it’s so much harder to tell them “You have a problem, and I need you to get help” because it’s like telling part of yourself that you’ve been let down by it.

If a friend has financial hardship – I might give them some money to help out, but probably not that much, and I might expect it paid back someday. I can understand that a friend might fall on hard times. And I understand that they will get back up on their own eventually.

If I see a family member heading towards financial hardship, I do all I can – lecturing, giving of funds, subtle and not-so-subtle hints about job applications or savings accounts – because underneath it all, I feel responsible for their well-being.

I recognize that, like my friends, my family is mostly full of capable adults, who manage to feed themselves, and clothe themselves, and get to and from work daily without my constant assistance or supervision – but I still feel connected to them in a way where if they fail, I fail. If they succeed, I am proud of their accomplishment, and happy to have helped in any small way. But when family hits a rough spot, for me, it’s an all hands on deck kind of time.

At least, that is the gut, knee-jerk reaction.

But I’ve come to learn that even family, sometimes have to fail on their own.

After all, it’s through failing that we learn our greatest lessons, right?

But even when it’s a hands off – let-em-fall-down kinda time, there’s still that instinct, that basic desire to come between them and the cold, hard ground, because when they hurt, I hurt.

And that’s how I know who’s my family.

Where’s the line for you? Are you more protective of friends, trusting your family to speak up more? What do you think? Let me know below!

A Good Night…

Size Doesn’t matter in Friendship.. by Sethulal Trekila, courtesy Creative Commons License

Tonight was a good night. My best girl friend came over to my house (I know!) and my parents cooked an amazing feast, and we watched The Magnificent Seven, which she’d never before seen.

Then afterwards, she borrowed our internet to quickly send off her resume to me by email, so that I can try to help her change her work community.

It was nice.

It can be just that simple. Doing favours for one another, making quick one-liner jokes during the silent parts of an old western, breaking bread…

Sometimes life gets in the way, our heads get in the way, of something that should be so simple. Two people making a connection and enjoying a couple of hours in the other’s company.

It doesn’t have to be torrential downpours of emotion, we don’t have to fix each other’s world in one night – or at all. Just passing some time. Speaking lightly, smiling, laughing, nothing serious except the pull of camaraderie.

It was pleasant. And I look forward to many more like it.

How To Make Friends: Part 1

Friends

Successful friends courtesy stockimages/FreeDigitalPhotos.net

As promised…

I don’t know much about keeping friends, but I do know a very little about making friends.

See I spent my childhood with only one or two friends at a time. I had a lot of time to observe.

Then I blossomed. I discovered drama, and theatre people, and figured out how to make friends.

You see, theatre people are a whole other species. Really. Anyone who has been or knows someone who has been a theatre person, knows this.

The actors spend their time observing humanity from the outside in, and performing to feel it from the inside out.

The writers observe and deliberate over nuance and context, seeing plot in every sentence.

The directors find relationship dynamics and power shifts in every movement, every volume level, feeling to pull those strings at the right time to form the right message.

The stage managers see everything. They know all. And they are everywhere.

The tech crew work harder than anyone gives them credit, creating art out of nothing, out of negative space, and for the most part, they do it smiling.

It was here I found my niche. You don’t become a theatre person. You just are one. Even after you sell out to corporate life for drugs and money.

So what are you?

What activity turns you on? What are you good at? What do you enjoy doing?

Because if you’re looking to attract new friends, that is where I would start. With something that, even if you don’t make a lasting people connection straight off the bat, at least you’ll have fun swinging.

My father played in a recreational baseball league until he was 50. My sister continues to play volleyball after college. My mother travels. Her spouse joins the Rotary club.

I read, and swim lengths, and go for walks and movies – all things that can be done in groups, but I usually end up solo.

Why? I don’t know.

I think that acting is my thing. I am an actor. Even though it’s not lucrative (for me), and it’s time consuming (like you wouldn’t believe, unless, you know… you know), theatre people, they are my people. That is the one social circle I’ve ever felt like I fit into.

Who are your people?

If you don’t know, if you’ve never had that “Aha, click” moment of just sliding into place, start with an activity you’ve always wanted to try.

But mostly, I’d think of the things you remember doing as a kid. My sister, and father, and mother, and stepmom all played sports – competition is their thing.

I’ve liked reading and imagining myself in stories and imagining stories around me since I could read. Having an audience’s attention without having them staring at me, myself, is all I could ever ask for out of life. It just is. But I would go nuts if I had to talk about fouls and technicalities and scoring averages. I just don’t care about winning or losing in that sense. I see the beauty of sport, but the competition part just misses me.

So – do you like talking sports? See if you can join an adult recreation league in your area. Or hang out on game night at your local watering hole instead of in your own den.

Enjoy the arts? Join your local community theatre, or volunteer to usher at performances.

Is food or cooking what gets you going? Take some classes in a cuisine that’s unfamiliar to you, or learn how to frost cakes with all those flowers and leaves.

Love languages? There’s usually “X” as a second language courses at your local college or university.

Whatever it is, once you’re there, find one person who you find approachable, and strike up a conversation. It may be difficult at first. But just start with one person. Listen, and share your thoughts. It will get easier.

There is something about surviving something – even something as small as a play, a season, an exam – that bonds people together. You stop being a collection of individuals and become Mme. Leclerc’s 6:00 class. Or the cast of Footloose. Or the Flaming Weasels, most improved team of the season…

Whatever it is, as long as it’s an activity you enjoy, and you can do it with others who enjoy it, you will find a community, and you will find that you belong.

Breaking Out: Getting Over Yourself

Time to Break Out

Jail courtesy Arvind Balaraman/FreeDigitalPhotos.net

I don’t know if it’s natural, but it seems fairly common with myself and those around me to put up these walls around ourselves. These fences, and signs that say “Private! Keep Out”

Now, in my gregarious days of excessive flirtation I was a natural at knocking these down. Dashing used to say that it didn’t matter how much he would barricade the entry to something, I’d come in through a window or the chimney or something and kick down the door from within.

These days, it seems I am a natural at putting them up.

It sneaks up on you. You think you’re doing it to protect others, to keep the dangerous parts of yourself, the messy emotions, the things they don’t want to hear from them. Or maybe you’re just hiding the white-hot pain to keep people from tracking their muddy work-boots all over it. Maybe it’s self-preservation. Maybe it’s to try to preserve them.

It doesn’t really matter. Because eventually you realize you’re alone, in a house with concrete walls, barbed wire fences, boarded windows, and seventeen locks on the doors, and you don’t know where you put the keys. You’re trapped.

What was your refuge, your safety zone, is now your prison.

And you start to hate them for abandoning you there.

Nevermind that the “Stay Away” “Electrified Fencing” and “Trespassers will be prosecuted” signs are all in your handwriting… You are trapped, and alone, and you hate them for not noticing, or for not staying, for not pushing back. For not wedging their work-boot in the doorway. For not coming down the chimney to join you.

Well, I hate to tell ya, sweetie, but it’s rough all over.

They have their own prisons they’re building. Or maybe they’re building a house o’ dreams, but you nixed the neighbourhood barbecue because they wanted to host it on your lawn, and now they have fences, white picket fences to be sure, but fences none-the-less keeping you out.

But you can’t stay alone, trapped in your fortress forever. You know it. But maybe you need to hear it. You cannot stay alone.

Because eventually you would die, and if the only people to notice your death are Revenue Services, well, that is so much scarier than reaching out.

So you break off the boards covering your windows. You look out and see your very safe lawn for the first time in eons. You struggle to wrench up the screeching window, as it protests the entire time. You climb out. And breathe. And reach out between the links on your electrified fence, hoping to touch someone passing by. Eventually, you get brave and climb over the barbed wire topping. Your body armour snags on the top and you have to leave it behind.

You land, vulnerable, on the sidewalk. And realize, from this side of your fortress, those picket fences keeping you out of your friends’ yards? Well, they’re ankle-high. Not insurmountable like you’d thought. But still, you have to be the one to get over them.

This is the hardest part. Telling people what you need, and trusting them to help you get it. Reaching out so that they can have the opportunity to reach back. You can’t just fall, and trust that they’ll catch you. You have to let them know that you are falling, and that you need them to catch you.

Shame is the biggest obstacle here. No one likes being the one falling. No one likes doing it in front of an audience. It is so easy to curl in on yourself and dig a hole to hide in, but that hole just becomes a tunnel heading back to your fortress of solitude. Death and taxes. That is all that is waiting there for you.

So to the walls, and the fences, and the pride, and the shame, I say…

Get over it already.

Bondage to Buddies: Going From Bonding Over A Unique Commonality to Friends

The ultimate bonding activity

Three Legged Race courtesy State Library of Victoria used by Creative Commons License

It is amazing the strange things over which people bond. I’ve had friends with whom I shared one class in university – that’s all. One class. I’ve made friends over brands of yogurt in the grocery aisle. I once had a community of picky eaters within a cast for a show I was in – Picky Eaters Unite! I can have fabulous conversations with people I run into while walking home and reading Harry Potter, or stopping by a war monument in a park, or sitting in traffic (true stories! – and not just this one).

My point is, I’m approachable, I have spark, and some people enjoy conversing with me – but the initial bond isn’t always enough of a foundation on which to build a lasting friendship. I’ve talked about how to keep friends – let’s talk about how to make friends. From initial sparks to person you can phone and call by first name – without trying to sell them anything.

This will be a weekly series (well, we’ll try for weekly!). At the end of which, maybe I’ll try out some of the techniques and work on expanding my community and report back as to which theories worked for me.

Stayed tuned for the thought experiments on how to make friends – starting next week!

For now let’s get a little silly – what crazy bonds have you formed that led to (or didn’t) lasting friendships?

Student living and me.

Just life. But through the eyes of a Blue-eyed History student.

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