Thursday, 11 September 2014

YOU GOTTA WORK


There is a joke around our house that if the King starts to show any bent for a creative profession we are to crush it like a bug. (Oh calm down, we don’t really; (ahem) but the thought is definitely there as both his father and I are ‘creatives’ and sometimes rue the day we ever chose that path). Moreover, we hope and pray that he turns to us in years to come and says 'Guys, I want to be a mechanical engineer…and work in Formula One'….Ha! A pushy mother, with an affinity for sports, can dream.

The thing is this, any one out there knows that the creative arts, no matter what avenue you travel, are a brutal, long slog filled with frustration, disappointment and limited paychecks. Obviously I’m highlighting the negatives today (and will get to the positives, so be patient). Being a singer, writer, artist, sculptor…mime, what have you, is not for the weak. In fact, when you set out on the path, if you’re not strong enough, you’ll either figure out that you better get stronger, or pick a job that is a lot more stable. It's a professional avenue that tests you from every angle and demand that you develop some very thick skin (Simply look at all the artists in history. They're either deranged, drunks, or missing body parts). 

Over the years, especially as I live in a very expensive city, I’ve undertaken pretty much every job out there. Yes, we creative types are pretty darn creative when it comes to employment, as the main goal is to find something that allows you to live, and have flexible hours so you can, hence, be creative. Since I left university, I’ve done everything from 9-5 professional jobs (publishing, music companies, PA work etc.) to the most mundane jobs out there. Luckily I was raised with an excellent work ethic (thanks dad), and pride never got in the way of things. As a good friend, and fellow artist of mine always says, we (artist types) have no shame. I suppose it doesn't start out that way, but after many years, well, you check pride and shame at the door (not dignity, never ever dignity).

So for many years as I tried to pursue any avenue of writing (and succeeded on some levels), the jobs along the way were colorful and at times hysterical at best. I was a nanny, a dishwasher (a good fit for someone with OCD), a floral assistant (after getting torn apart by thorns, I realised this was not for me), a dog walker, an assistant to a stylist, did admin at a furniture for pets company and a coal company - I quickly realised coal was pretty boring -  a barista, a stall seller (never realised how cheap people with money were until I tried convincing the banking stiffs to buy their wives christmas gifts and spend more than a tenner) and of course, all the while wrote my butt off.  

The good thing about this wide and varied list is that things were certainly never dull and I always had ample fodder for my writing. In fact, my friends never hesitated to call me and ask for the latest hysterical story - one of my best friend's favourites, the day I had two wild kids in my charge and the feral dog that was on death's door decided to sh*t a mountain in the middle of the carpet. That was a fun day. There were certainly days when I thought to myself, seriously, is this all worth it?! And is this why I got my degree? (I'm sure my parents thought that as well). But then I’d remember the ultimate goal (being a screenwriter, and writer full stop for that matter) and how badly I wanted it, and reining in someone's feral child instead of sitting chained to a desk didn’t seem so bad.

It’s pretty simple when it comes to having a dream – AND the luxury of being able to dream, as many don’t have that luxury, reality is far too brutal – you have to tell yourself two things, one: if you give up, the dream ends, two: you may have to amend the dream a bit along the way. I was told by a writer friend of mine years ago that whatever your goal is, every day you should do something towards it. It can be little or big, it doesn’t matter, but it should be an action that moves you forward in some fashion (and alcohol can certainly help in this process). 

For me, to my great surprise, after 15 years of writing and trying to make a film, it looks as if I’ll finally have a film go into production in the next month (whoooooo team BC). It’s a bit surreal and I’m certainly trying to remain realistic in the face of it (as anyone knows, things in the creative world can fall apart at any moment), but I’m also trying to enjoy the moment I’ve been working tirelessly for all these years. And I suppose that’s it right there, you gotta work; you work everyday for something that means the world to you, and you tell yourself that it may work out and it may not (I don’t believe in luck and I don’t believe in things happening because you want them more than the next person. There are plenty of deserving people wanting and dreaming out there that never have their dreams realised). But you remind yourself that the quest was everything, and what you learned along the way is tantamount. My quest shaped me and made my skin as thick as hell, and despite the long slog and the unglorified jobs, and poor paychecks, I wouldn’t have traded it for anything (okay, maybe for a few more pay checks and less dog sh*t, but hey).

So okay, King, if you want to be a singer or paint abstract truck motifs, that’s fine, but you better start learning a day trade, cause cheese doesn’t come for free.



Tuesday, 9 September 2014

SCHOOL DAYS


The King had his first day of school on Monday - BIG school, with uniform and all. Fine, at his level they are still greeted with playdough and painting stations, but sod it, they are in the system and are not getting out for sometime (unless he runs away and joins the circus, but I'm hoping he sees reason. Circus life is not for him).

Between the two of us, I was definitely the more nervous. He approached it like he does most things, casual, asked a litany of questions. Do they have food there? Is there sand? Does my uniform have blue on it?’ You know, the important things, and I answered them calmly, while I simultaneously sh*t my pants that my baby has grown up far too quickly. On the plus side, the school is right next to our house, so I’m often caught lurking at the gate, peering inside to watch him play. I’m gathering the teachers that don’t know me are probably sending my photo to the police.

Of course, there is a tremendous amount of liberation (for both of us, I'm gathering) in sending them off to school (yeeehah!), while it at the same time, it dawns you that with school comes a whole boatload of other issues. The main ones pressing upon me: will he be happy, will others like him, and will I have to head to school like Rambo to serve a four year old justice for smacking my kid (I kid I kid. I’d send his father). Apparently on his first day, even though I discussed relentlessly the concept of introducing himself to other kids to make new friends (4 year olds don’t really get this concept), there were some tears shed on the King’s part because he could find no one to play with him. Yes, a little bit of me died inside. I know I know, I’m a puddle of jelly, but the notion of one’s child sitting alone in the playground looking for someone to play with would even wound Charles Manson's heart. Okay, maybe I’ve overreaching but it’s brutal for even the most hardened mother to bear.

The other thing that looms in my head is will my little King behave himself or will he quickly earn the reputation for being the little trouble maker that doesn’t listen? Or god forbid, he throws some giant tantrum because I put a banana in his snack bag and not a nectarine. But then I remember that other four year olds don’t judge tantrums; they are in awe of them and would probably whip out a notepad and start taking notes (okay fine, four year olds don’t write, aside from the uber gifted….Who bore me senseless). I’m also hoping that the teachers are well versed in the stage that the King is at, where his running mantra consists of ‘I can do it myself, and stop talking to me’ mixed with a dead stare where he doesn’t acknowledge a single thing you say to him. I’m hoping (never thought I’d hope for this, but hey) that he simply reserves this behavior for me, and for his teachers, he flashes his charming smile and falls in line.

Then there are the other issues of will I fit in with the other parents? Do I have to join some PTA where everyone gets surly and fights over the ingredients of the cafeteria lunches? And why are some of the parents at his school missing their teeth? 

Ah, all in a day's ponderings...

Aside from calling his teacher 'Armstrong' all day (he for some reason doesn’t like using her title of Mrs.), so far its smooth sailing for the King. Here’s to the next 14 plus years of his schooling life. Godspeed, my nectarine eating scholar. 

Wednesday, 3 September 2014

ORDINARY PEOPLE


Have you ever sat next to a group of people on the train, or at a restaurant who were speaking another language and wondered what they were talking about? I don’t know about you, but I used to always imagine it was something far more interesting and scintillating than what the common human spat out (especially the French. I had visions of esoteric deconstructions of philosophers and such, when in truth I’m sure they were talking about how the Americans can really screw up a simple loaf of bread.) As my husband is bilingual (Polish), I used to sit on the train and ask him what various Polish people were saying in hopes of having the inside track to conversations I was clearly meant to be having. To my dismay, it was always a bit mundane and ordinary – barring the occasional amusing domestic argument (let's be honest, those can be fun to listen in on).

Then it got me thinking, all of our insistence on being extraordinary and singling ourselves out from the pack often gets overshadowed by the painful truth of how ordinary we are. (Not to depress us all, you're special, I promise). I of course started a little experiment recently at the playground and at restaurants where I’d listen to what people were talking about – yes, I know, it’s called eavesdropping; what are you going to do, call the manners police? And to my (non) surprise, most people were talking about very similar things. Be it, an argument with their boyfriends/husband/girlfriends/stripper (you paying attention?), or what annoying thing was going down at their child’s school, to the utter mundane topics of, ‘what should I do with my hair?’ And ‘did you see that new store that opened in the West End.’ Obviously I don’t have a wire tap on the whole wide world (like the NSA) but barring political conversations (which can be mundane in themselves) and a bunch of scholars shooting the sh*t about existentialism and physics, well, most of us are talking about the day to day lives that we lead. (and note, most of us are not astronauts, race car drivers, or mensa bright inventors. Cause that would be interesting).

This of course got me to thinking that perhaps we all need to strive to be more extraordinary...or perhaps that we need to start watching more documentaries on the Peruvian llama population so we have weird facts to divulge to our neighbour on the train (Did you know that during the period of extinction, llamas were domesticated and worshipped in the highlands of Peru by the Inca Indians of South America and were named “silent brothers.” You see, not ordinary) Then again, I suppose it takes a bit of work to be more than ordinary and often, there is a fine balance between extraordinary and damn near nuts. In fact, I’m thinking that extraordinary might just be a euphemism for ‘kinda odd.’ 

Nonetheless I’ll take odd over ordinary any day of the week.

Wednesday, 27 August 2014

A LITTLE (BIG) WHITE LIE


[ONE FROM THE ARCHIVES TODAY. NEW ONE TOMORROW]

I was watching a ‘news’ show the other night and the whole show was about the big lies that some people tell, not the small ones like, ‘I’m really 38 again. Really I am.’ In this case the lies ran the gamut from people impersonating people, lying about one’s age (the man in question went back to high school to relive his glory as a basketball player) and the doozy of all doozies, a woman lied to her boyfriend, her family and the community at large about her health. We’ll get to that one in a minute.

The overwhelming trend of the entire program – aside from the fact that all these individuals had a serious lying problem – was the sheer desperation from which these people operated their lives. Each clearly had a hole the size of the Grand Canyon where the scruples and soul were supposed to be and yet, the crazy part was, each assumed that their intention for the lie was coming from the right place. I suppose that is what everyone thinks when they spin a big fat white one (aside from serial killers and murderers; something tells me the don’t give a sh*t about intention). It never continues to amaze me how one can, over time, believe their own lies.

So the less offensive of the offenders (and I say this lightly as…well, it’s shades of grey when it comes to this lot) was a guy who lied about his age and returned to high school so he could relive his golden moments as an athlete – guess his path as a professional athlete was limited. Harmless enough – outside of being totally sad, as whom the hell wants to relive high school. Okay fine, I’m sure a lot of us would like to return to a simpler time when all we had to worry about was exams and how much beer to drink at the weekends; but on paper, it is kind of scary someone took that much time to fabricate an entire identity so that they could return to the hallowed halls of False Security High. He was of course eventually spotted out with his ‘high school’ buddies by his adulthood buddies – or at least people that knew him under a different name, and the gig, as they say, was up.

The other offender was definitely more unbelievable and well, downright criminal. He was an middle aged man that was dressing as an old woman and then going into banks to…well, I fell asleep during the good bit, but when I woke up he was dressed in old lady drag taking his mug shot, so I assumed he had committed a felony and was going to psych ward in a New York Minute.

But the lie that absolutely floored me as well as the reporter on the show (I love a reporter’s face when they’re interviewing someone who they think is certifiable) was about a woman and what she would do to keep her man. Sheila – let’s call her that cause I have limited memory at this point – was having problems with her boyfriend. They had had two children, but he wouldn’t commit, and they broke up numerous times and previous to the big fat doozy of a lie, he was ignoring her and being a pretty crap baby daddy. So, what’s a girl to do? Well, Sheila decided that she would pretend that she was dying of cancer so that baby daddy would put a ring on it. Apparently this method worked and to her shock, worked so well that he moved her in to his house within days and the within weeks the entire community had rallied around her and started donating towards their wedding, honeymoon and her final days on this planet. Even the newspapers got involved writing touching tributes about this blushing bride with only a few months to live.

The only snag of course was that Sheila was in perfect health and had no idea how to stop the freight train of a lie that was HURTLING down the track towards a very large brick wall called CONSEQUENCE. And of course, instead of stopping the lie before the money started pouring in, the free honeymoon, the dress, make-up and all the rest of it was showered upon her, she decided to shave her head, pretend she had chemo and dive straight into the deep end of the liar’s abyss. Unreal, right? The best part, when she was telling this whole story to the reporter, she was trying to justify it all by telling the audience how torn up she was by the lie that she wanted to kill herself. So torn up and suicidal that she has a two hour video of her at her wedding doing an in depth dirty dancing number with her husband where she is partying like it’s 1999…or like she has cancer.

Needless to say, she finally got found out, was utterly ostracized by everyone, lambasted in the press, became a national news story, but get this…her husband took her back and said, ‘I tried to hate her, but love is love.’ As you can see, he’s a pretty generous, forgiving man – or a total gullible moron, I’m not sure which. Humans never cease to amaze (mortify) me. 



Thursday, 14 August 2014

EVERYTHING IS PERFECT


I hate the word ‘perfect.’ In fact, I not only hate it, I think it wreaks havoc on many levels and that disturbs me. I know, I’m feeling extreme today so let’s blame my cold medicine. A celebrity spoke out recently saying that in hindsight, her quest for perfection throughout her life has turned out to not only be detrimental to her psyche, but was a total waste of time (I’m paraphrasing, as she’s much more obnoxiously eloquent). In short, she realized there was no such thing and is happy to put an end to the exhausting quest for the pot of perfect. (I wonder how much that cost in therapy)

Here is the thing, aside from snowflakes, raindrops, a child’s laugh, and the occasional espresso done right after a sleepless night, there is nothing on this planet that is actually perfect. It’s a hyperbolic, idealistic, inflated pipedream of a word that we throw around to set ourselves up for failure. He was the perfect guy (haaaaa), we had the perfect date, she has the perfect body, they had the perfect life. It’s a word thrown around in a wink-wink fashion that for most is an attempt at the ultimate compliment (unless its dripping with sarcasm of course). Which don’t get me wrong, telling your husband you had the most perfect weekend is certainly a sweet thing to do, but from a linguistic/semantic point of view - which you know us bloggers, we love to hang our hats on semantics - it’s not entirely accurate.

In truth, the use of the word perfect is pure exaggeration; a hope, a wish, a descriptive pinnacle to shut out all the naysayers and doubters in the world. 'Everything is perfect damn it, what do you say to that?'  Let’s take the unrelenting quest of the beauty industry to make us drones think we have to be ‘perfect.’ Every ad on television is telling us how we can have the perfect life. Be it the right car, the right hair products, the right make-up, the right holiday. Whatever they’re selling the message is clear, it will help you on your way to looking (let’s keep in mind, it’s not about feeling; they could give a toss how we feel) like the picture perfect person in the advertisement. This is where, from my standpoint, things can get dangerous. Some little fourteen-year-old girl on the quest for the ‘perfect’ body is measuring herself up to some unrealistic, unattainable benchmark, when in truth, her perfection is staring right back at her in the bedroom mirror. People kill themselves to achieve something and wonder why the journey is so damn painful and the destination is NEVER reached - ahem, cause it doesn't exist.

Hence, from where I stand, the word perfect should always be followed by a caveat (I’m going to write Webster’s Dictionary about this). He’s the perfect guy, for you (for me, we'd be divorced in 10 minutes). She has the perfect legs to a guy who likes long legs (thankfully my husband likes us diminutive types); their marriage is perfect…on Facebook (many are guilty of this one). Her children are perfect…aside from that little petty theft blemish on their record. You get the idea.

None of us are perfect. The human condition is inherently not perfect. The idea of perfect is something we hang on the wall to look at and strive for in some mythological way. Come on, Humans! Keep waking up in the morning and striving for perfect, it means you’re not dead yet!

In simple terms, perfect is an illusion unless defined by oneself; so let’s own this one, shall we. So yes, I’m perfect. I’m perfectly flawed and perfectly short and perfectly vivacious (after my morning coffee) and perfectly aware that I’m far from perfect. And you know what, I’m perfectly fine with that.