Things to Celebrate on Leap Day

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HAPPY LEAP DAY!

It’s a surprise we don’t celebrate Leap Day as an indulgent holiday, given that it can be justified as a rare occurrence of irresponsibly decadent behaviour. I suppose it’s already between Mardi Gras (most years) and St. Patrick’s Day, which are irresponsible enough, and those who acknowledge them obviously don’t restrict excessive drinking to every four years. (Hey, I have new justification for my terrible weekend of thinking I’m 20.)

I think of last week’s episode of 30 Rock with Leap Day being an actual holiday with a token folklore figure and all, that Liz Lemon was never aware of for some reason. Anything done on Leap Day is excusable because, as February 29th doesn’t occur most years, it’s like the day didn’t exist, and neither did the things that happened on it.

There are all sorts of things related to Leap Day that we can incorporate into the holiday. It can be used to celebrate the science of time-keeping that has led to this adjustment, and those historical figures who put the effort into the calculations that measured exactly how it should be done. It can be a day to be extra nice to the little guy, those often neglected in society because, like February, things were taken away from them in favour of all the Roman emperors who wanted their own month to have 31 days, dammit. Emily McCombs, editor of xojane.com declared this to be Say Something Nice Day (which should really happen more often than every four years), which is in spirit of The Little Guy (or The Little Gal, let’s be at least equal if not even here) who never gets acknowledged for her (or his, although this is probably more applicable to women) proportional contribution.

We can celebrate people born on Leap Day, like Ann Lee, founder of the Shakers, or Jerry from Parks and Recreation. (Just kidding on that second one – nobody wants to celebrate Jerry.)

Contemplate what this day means, and think of all you want to accomplish before it comes back in 2016. Look back at what’s changed since 2008. And remind yourself, “Oh yeah, the Summer Olympics are this year.”

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A Terrible Vacation from Being an Adult

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I’m an adult now. (But I’m not singing the Pursuit of Happiness song.)

I’ve been an adult for a while, actually. It struck me on a particular day last year that I’ve been legally recognized as capable of making my own decisions for 10 years. As has been the case post-WWII, a segue into adulthood has been established, referred to in market research as “18-24”, or “college-aged”, or “18 until you move out of your parents’ house you lazy parasite”. I still like to think of myself as a young adult because I haven’t accomplished much, but I know I’ve matured a reasonable distance since the age of being an adult that nobody treats as an adult.

But I still revisit those times. I have a few best friends whom I’ve known since very distinctly pre-adult ages, and we’ve matured along similar paths up to this point. When we were in university, i.e. 18-24 or thereabouts, we did some typical coming-of-age irresponsible things like excessive drinking. I was very good at holding my liquor for a girl and I didn’t experience a hangover until I was 22 and had 6 shots of tequila within a couple of hours. There’s a special nostalgia for the times that we drank so much together in our parents’ basement, or the room one of us was renting in “the party house”, or our first apartments. We drank and drank and drank and did stupid shit within the safety of the home and passed out to depart ways in physical and mental shape only diminished by the short sleep.

I was a good drinker. I rarely vomited and could function easily the next day. That naturally started to change over time as commonly happens with the aging process at that stage of life. But the hangovers were mild and only lasted a few hours – you know, a headache that a couple extra-strength ibuprofens could take care of. This was from hard liquor, usually in vodka coolers or combined with soft drinks, or shots both fruity and harsh. Beer wasn’t alcoholic enough and my tastebuds weren’t thrilled with most brews. Wine seemed too civilized and also tasted more bitter than then it does to me now. I don’t even get drunk from hard liquor anymore, so my preferences in alcoholic beverages have moved onto the beer and wine that in a previous era I steered away from.

Well, it’s still possible for me to get drunk from hard liquor – if I’m already drunk from wine. I know it’s not a good idea to mix sources of alcohol, but when you’ve already split a bottle of cheap malbec in half with one of those best friends, it gets nostalgic and you think that drinking Jaegermeister together will be just like old times.

But your brain, when reminiscing, does not function in line with your liver or stomach. You end up vomiting on your friend’s floor, which if it did happen 18-24 was funny at the time, and passing out only to wake up the next morning to bus home and throw up in the snow on the sidewalk halfway between the stop you got off at and the appropriate vomit-hole in your bathroom at home.

In previous hangovers, even up to, say, 26 or 27, one barf session (or “upchuck” as we called it in 1990) was usually enough to get everything out of your system and function again. But now it can take five. Six. Seven before you can even stand up long enough to go get the Pepto Bismol you don’t have in your medicine cabinet because you never do this anymore. Wine, even cheap malbec, may taste good to me now, and the harsh black licorice of Jaegermeister may even be tolerable to down several times once I’ve had enough wine. But yellow bile does not mix well with anything, the bitter acidic digestive aide that goes surprisingly well with the new navy-white-grey colour scheme of my bathroom. Even brown sugar Mini-Wheats cereal doesn’t taste good coming back up.

So, I’m an adult now, and I should know better. I should know my body better and I should know the other experiences since crossing the line of young- to supposedly-responsible-adult better. I’m not an alcoholic, thankfully, so I’m not going to swear off any drop of the intoxicant and seek out AA meetings for recovery. I hope it never comes to that. I shouldn’t need these terrible experiences every once in a while to know there’s nothing fun about excessive drinking. I’ll stick to a beer or two every now and then. I’ll stick to a glass of wine with a nice dinner. I’ll have a couple vodka 7-ups at open bar weddings. That will be fine, and I’ll handle it well. I’m mature about it.

Go Pluck Yourself

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I pluck my eyebrows. I’ve put a spare pair of tweezers in my purse because in each mirror, with a different set of lights, I find more stray hairs. I’m sure many tricks of photography and cinematic special effects have been discovered this way. It’s a magic trick, an optical illusion: it appears to be consistently ivory-beige, but in reality there are little strands of a dark brown hiding from human perception.

There’s no one mirror that uncovers all hairs, either. Even in the brightest of natural sunlight there are thin ones that appear invisible outdoors but look thick and dark in somebody else’s bathroom. The same goes for blemishes and acne scars that I thought my concealer concealed. White hairs always showed up this way until I gave up on dyeing and just let them grow, under the excuse that it gives my hair “character”.

Nobody notices these things, or if they are visible to other eyes nobody thinks they’re not supposed to be. It’s a matter of personal challenge, like finishing a giant year-end crossword or having eaten at a roadside diner in every American state. If I can make my face look well-done-up in several different lighting conditions it will bring a sense of personal accomplishment. Even if it’s just in the eyebrows. The skin probably can’t reach those heights until extensive laser procedures. But the eyebrows. Eyebrows, I will conquer you.

The Write Reasons

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Life is satire. That’s not a profound realization. It’s far from a modern Eureka! moment because there’s nothing modern about it. My low-hanging life goals so far have been based on that. I’m more amused by myself when I’m not naïve enough to expect the fulfillment of dreams.

I don’t write to become famous. I don’t even write to make money, although payments or offers to commission my brilliant skills are welcome if they ever hilariously come my way. Instead I work OH THE DULL OFFICE LIFE OF NUMBERS AND REPORTS that so many bohemian spirits trapped in a tertiary capitalist shell resent and abhor. Poets, or, ahem, “poets” mock me. But there are a few things still misunderstood:

  • Numbers have colours and can create beautiful pictures only seen in my mind.
  • By trial and error I attempt to fix other people’s problems, which keeps my left hemisphere just as exercised as my right.
  • I work with THE DULL OFFICE LIFE OF NUMBERS AND REPORTS for other companies, meaning while I use and interpret the numbers and build and translate the reports I can still giggle inside about the accumulated mess that the socially constructed realm of “finances” in modern economies has created, as these specific numbers have little bearing on me.
  • And also, I get free coffee.

If I wrote for a living so many of these things would be lost on me. And if I were a self-employed freelancer and could play by my own rules, I would be forced to deal with far more complicated income taxes every year – the socially constructed realm of numbers and reports that DO have a great bearing on me, in a very direct way, whether I were to work with them myself or pay an accountant hefty sums to do it for me.

Some writers may say much of the whim and the art is lost when they have deadlines and word counts that ever so hyperbolically feel like knives held to their necks. If I wrote for a living my day to day subsistence would depend on deadlines and word counts as prescribed by other people. Since I write for a hobby, the knife held to my neck is by my own choice, for my own drive and rush of creative adrenaline, and if it gets too much I can call it off with the designated safe word. Yes, I’m comparing leisurely writing to BDSM. And no editor can take that away from me.

So I’ve kept writing as a hobby for these reasons. I’ve kept photography as a hobby for similar reasons, and because I hate weddings and other people’s babies. (I don’t hate my own babies because it’s hard to hate something that does not and will never exist. And if I ever did get married and throw a wedding to match, I would probably hate it even though it’s my own.)

And, to make the opening sentence of this piece actually relevant to what further mumbling produced, life is satire and everybody is living both the serious and joke versions of their lives at the same time. Written satires about writers’ lives are overdone, and so the living satires they’re based on come off as a dime a dozen. Writing as a hobby applies the perspective of satire to a broader base. I get far more amused from my own life, and I have far more things to write about than just…writing.

The Compulsive To-Do List (That Never Gets Done)

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I…make lists. When I’m not doing anything else my first resort will be to make a to-do list for things I need to do later. When I’m waiting for something at work – a reply back from someone taking their sweet-ass time, a computer to finish what it’s taking its sweet-ass time to do – I grab a pad of Post-It notes and write a list.

Normally it’s of things to do in the evening, or on the weekend. It’s sometimes a shopping list for groceries or other sundry items. It can even be a long-term to-do/shopping list. Sometimes it’s a budget, sometimes it’s a wish list for the next gift-related celebration, and sometimes it’s a brainstorm of ideas to write about here.

But I rarely get around to the things I write down.

I have far more ideas in my head than what I actually get around to writing here, and I have even more jotted down on paper. I can plan minute by minute how my evening should be productively spent but rarely are half of the items taken care of. As much as I try to plan my purchases there’s always an impulse decision to buy something not on the list, or not buy something on the list. Writing these things down on paper is basically meaningless.

So when I used to make elaborate lists of colour-coded things to do on a monthly, yearly, or 5-yearly basis, it was a futile plan of taking action and accomplishing things. It’s a good thing, then, that I hardly started that organizational habit to motivate myself. I liked making the lists. I even made the logo above to represent the oddly compulsive need to create this list – but without the obsessive component that actually keeps my mind on the things written down.

It’s a mindless thing. The real “to-do” item is writing something down (see: The Zombie Medium). The binder of short-, medium-, and long-term tasks or goals was more for the sake of colour-coding and picking a good font to use, and as each category covered a different aspect of life it was a mental exercise to think of a minimum number of activities in each one. That hobby stopped when the thrill of creating the list faded, in spite of the steady flow of items to include.

And you should be glad. If I religiously went by my to-do lists, I wouldn’t be writing this right now. I would be washing dishes or scrubbing the bathroom sink. Most of us don’t look forward to tasks like that – that’s why we write them down, to enforce ourselves to attend to these duties. So if we’re going to avoid them anyway, why not make it even more satisfying by staring at the face of the list and doing something else instead?

Human Consciousness…and Human Not-Quite-Consciousness

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The last couple of years have exposed me to some profound concepts and realizations that I’m still working to fully grasp. I’m still working to fully grasp them because part of it is that there is constant room for improvement in generally being a person. Emotional intelligence has become a focus of mine, trying to develop the skills to understand people and separate problems from the individuals involved – basically, learning to not hold grudges or snap when annoyed. It takes a lot of deep breaths and careful deliberation behind spoken statements, and far more listening than anything else.

This is not based on any particular book I read, but from hearing other people talking about books they read. As useful the information in these books may be, the cheese of self-help oh so strongly repels me from paying money for the book and spending time reading it. So instead I do what I often do and let the gist of these things ferment in my own mind before applying them.

Self-awareness is fundamental to all of this. Removing my mind from my physical self and my actions helps for evaluating my own decisions and character and improving based on that. The third-person view establishes an awareness of how I’m impeding on other people, physically and mentally, and how that can be corrected.

But not everyone is…sharp in this area.

Without getting into rants about the evidence of this in politics, I’m going to limit my examples to the small and amusing. A few weeks ago, curling against a relatively young team who only fit the Canadian stereotype so far as they curl, I was standing on the side lines as one of their players threw her rock. (Most people won’t understand this, but smile and nod until I get around to writing up Curling 101.) One of the other players, who sweep the ice as needed to guide the rock down the ice in direction and speed, stood right in front of me waiting for the rock to be thrown. Right in front of me – not a step or two into the sheet, but right against the sideline behind which I stood. Less than an inch between my nose and the back of his head.

There were all sorts of tricks I could have played on this guy who clearly had such a thick layer of oblivion around his head that he didn’t even see me before stopping in that exact spot, like breathing down his neck or going into a hacking fit of cough, but instead I just turned my head to look at a teammate. And we laughed. We laughed because this ridiculous level of unawareness in one’s corporeal form and the presence of others exists. Who knows how smart this guy is or thinks he is in whatever areas he chooses as important. But my own perceptions of what human intelligence really is and we should all strive toward have changed over the past few years. Beyond any quantified test score or measure in physical ability, a complete lack of consideration or awareness for other people is about as useless a form of stupid as you can get.

The Zombie Medium

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Who says pen-to-paper is dead?

Over the past few weeks I have written pages and pages of letters to friends in various parts of the world. I map out my thoughts to help come to conclusions by hand before I type things in. I still do my taxes on the forms they send in the mail. I won’t acknowledge any To Do list that isn’t written down (whether I’ll properly address those that are is a separate matter).

In fact, I have several entries for this site written on pieces of paper on my coffee table in front of me. The real question is why I still haven’t typed them up here. Maybe this internet thing won’t even catch on.