I just want to be a happy person

There seems to be a lot of talk in my world these days about ambitions and goals and dreaming big and striving. And I feel more than a little removed from it.

So reading what Allysa wrote really hit home in a pleasant way. She quoted from a commencement speech by Bill Watterson (the Calvin and Hobbes guy), and it’s a pretty great speech:

“But having an enviable career is one thing, and being a happy person is another.

Creating a life that reflects your values and satisfies your soul is a rare achievement. In a culture that relentlessly promotes avarice and excess as the good life, a person happy doing his own work is usually considered an eccentric, if not a subversive. Ambition is only understood if it’s to rise to the top of some imaginary ladder of success. Someone who takes an undemanding* job because it affords him the time to pursue other interests and activities is considered a flake. A person who abandons a career in order to stay home and raise children is considered not to be living up to his potential-as if a job title and salary are the sole measure of human worth.
You’ll be told in a hundred ways, some subtle and some not, to keep climbing, and never be satisfied with where you are, who you are, and what you’re doing. There are a million ways to sell yourself out, and I guarantee you’ll hear about them.

To invent your own life’s meaning is not easy, but it’s still allowed, and I think you’ll be happier for the trouble.”

I have a good job that I’m very good at, but it’s certainly not a career.  My husband is an engineer, which sounds very career-ish, but he treats it like an interesting enough well paying job that he happens to be very good at.  I treat them both like the path to lots of travel and keeping me in oil paints and mortgage money and cds.

In tangential but related news, I called my doctor’s office yesterday, and asked about IUD removal.  I’m going to wait a week or two, and then go in.  So.  Yes.

*spell check doesn’t recognize this as a word.  What does THAT tell you?

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Not a life list

Life Lists seem to be the Thing these days, under whatever name you want to use.  I just… can’t get on board, for some reason.  I think it might be that I don’t dream big enough.

When I was 8 years old, I knew how I wanted my life to go.  I wanted to grow up (er), graduate high school (check), go to university (check), get a job in a shiny office tower downtown (the last office tower was shinier, but check, and I do have my own office, which: double plus check), get married (check), buy a house (check) and have babies (soon to be checked?).  So.  My life is very much on the path to be the life I’ve always wanted.  And I’m happy and like it that way.  I don’t have any burning need to set the world on fire or become famous or really rich or a published author or a rock star or anything else.  My life desire has always been to just … live a good and mostly happy life.  I’m painfully aware of how lucky I am to be in the position to have my needs met by life.

My grandparents survived the war in Germany.  My grandfather fought at both fronts and survived a Siberian POW camp – escaping once to walk to Austria before being caught, and then starving himself to the point where he was sent back to Germany weighing less than 100 pounds.  My grandmother lost part of her ear to a fighter pilot while she ran for cover, with her baby in one arm and little girl in the other. They came to Canada after the war with almost nothing, with three kids, and then lost everything else in a house fire a few years later. Their oldest daughter died at 17. Their lives were harder than I can possibly imagine.

But they came to Canada for a better life, and here I am, 58 years later, and my life is good. My life is grand. Bad things have happened to me, and I’ve hurt and felt loss and death and all that, but I have a good life. A blessed life. I’ve never been shot at, or starved, or tortured. I think the fact I don’t feel the need to dream bigger and better stems from the fact that I’m already living my dreams. (And that sounds so much cheesier than I mean it to.) I’m incredibly lucky and I know it. While I hardly feel done yet – there’s so much more to see and do – I’m more than happy with my pleasant middle class life and good job and ample travel opportunities and lovely house and wonderful husband and good friends and healthy savings and so on.

So any life list I could have would either be too small or too large. (Go to Panama / figure out what I want to be when I grow up.) Going to Panama is easy – save money, get vacation time, plan, and go. The latter seems impossible, and likely to be something that develops as I age, and will always be a work in progress.

I heart Canada

Just got back from LA last night,  and it was a good trip.  6 days, or a really long weekend, as we were treating it.  Had a good time and saw lots.  Totally mispacked.  Like, I haven’t mispacked so badly since I went to Mexico that one time?  At the last minute?  And remembered to bring 18 books and two or three swim suits but totally forgot to pack shirts.  Yeah.  Oops.  I got a really funny look from the Mexican security guard who searched my luggage on the way out of the country.  I was compelled to explain that I like to travel light, which is a total lie, because it sounded better than, ’cause I’m an idiot and this was a last minute trip and I didn’t make a packing list’.  Good excuse to spend a week at a resort doing nothing but reading and drinking before noon.  (We’ll overlook that one day I went to the Telum ruins, and to the Xel-Ha snorkeling site another – even on vacations where I want to do nothing, I find myself unable to pass up the opportunity to go see cool things.  Not the worst trait I have.) 

Still, this time the bad packing wasn’t my fault.  The weather had been a steady pleasant 22oc every time I looked, so I packed for that – skirts and sundresses and flip flops.  Sadly, the weather was more like 10-14oc, and I didn’t take my hoody off all week.  So much for the tan and the sundresses and the warmth.  We didn’t pack an umbrella (it’s LA! Sun and warmth! Oops.) and had 3 days with rain, one day being a torrential endless storm.  We bought a bunch of CDs at Amoeba Records (new and used – all sorts of random goodness) and a Target run filled up the rest of the suitcases.

I’ll put up a couple of pictures when we’ve taken them off the camera, but in the mean time, let me just say that for all Canada and America seem so similar, they are really not the same, and I’m always so very glad to return to the frozen white north. There’s an attitude that seems to underlay American life that’s different than that in Canada – maybe it stems from Life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness versus our Peace, order and good government. Our countries come from a fundamentally very different place about how to be in the world, and travelling always makes that clear to me. There is a seems to be an undertone of, well, screw someone else before they can screw you, and then be rude about it. Dealing with customer service people, like the assholes at tvtickets.com was the worst. They cheerfully screwed over a room of 100 people who had tickets for a tv taping – they release twice as many tickets as they have seats but don’t warn you about this fact, and do it every day. I was in tears when I found out we couldn’t get in to the Big Bang Theory taping – a taping I stalked the internet for weeks to get, a taping I’d based our flights around, the thing I was most excited about. And they? Were total assholes about it, and ended it with a series of glib, “Thanks for being so understanding!” while I cried. But it also came out in all those ads on tv for class action lawsuits and the driving (!!) and the total lack of respect for anyone else’s time. (Parking the car at the rental lot took 3 attempts. The signs were incorrect, as were the handout they gave when we checked in. And then they were rude about us not knowing what to do. You have a form that says fill this in and return it to the check in desk? I will fill it in and bring it to the desk. To have the check in desk tell me that they don’t need the form and the car needs to be checked by someone outside and we don’t have to come in at all? Really? That was a good use of anyone’s time?)

Now. This isn’t to say that I hate Americans or anything silly like that. I’ve met lots of Americans – and many are genuinly nice and wonderful people. One of my best friends is a dual citizen! (Isn’t that the line you’re supposed to use when you’re trying to not sound racist but actually are?) I’m not trying to say anything about individuals – just broad sweeping statements about cultural differences. I can show you a rude American and you could find a rude Canadian easily. (I ride city transit everyday – I know where to easily find them.) The American dream seems to be underpinned by a desire to win – to be the best – to strive. Canada feels like it’s underpinned by a desire to have life go smoothly. To not make a scene when something is upsetting. (But damn will we bitch when you’re gone – Canadian secret. We all complain constantly behind closed doors, but we’ll try not to be rude to your face.) To be pleased with the “socialist safety net” or whatever insulting term you’d like to use for when you know that when you get sick, it won’t finacially destroy you. (True story: my dad died of lung and brain cancer. He was sick for ~9 months. Two rounds of chemo. Three of radiation. (I think.) He had in house nursing care at the end and a hospital bed in the house and time at the hospital and drugs and a couple of ambulence rides and multiple CT scrans and MRIs. My mother figures the bigest expense was parking at the hosiptal, and they didn’t have 3rd party insurance before he was diagnosed. So. Health care may not be perfect, but it’s treated my family well.) And the homeless problem! Oh, it was heartbreaking. I once read that the American homeless are at least twice as worst off than the Canadian homeless, but that doesn’t even seem to come close. Our system has giant cracks that people fall through, but there are so many more safety nets, and fewer people and I’m guessing more resources directed in that direction.

I don’t really have a point here, and have probably offended a bunch of lovely Americans. (I’m bitching behind a closed door here, aren’t I? You can’t see me…) It’s just always a bit of a surprise to see how different my home and native land is to the country south. We get the same tv and movies and music and so forth, but it hasn’t made everything the same yet, and man, I’m okay with that.

But. America? You could send up your taco trucks and bbq and fried chicken and local cider and loose liquore laws (hard alcohol in a grocery store!) and cheap shipping and warmer weather up here any time you want. Please?

Vimy Ridge

One of our stops in Europe last fall was Vimy Ridge, a First World War Canadian battle site.  We went to the memorial – of course we went to the memorial.  David’s already been the the Somme, and we went on to Passendale a few days later.  It’s amazing how much WWI history looms large in the lives of Canadians.  It’s amazing how the sites, of battles now almost a century ago, can make me cry.

Opting Out of the Game

I was out for dinner recently with a couple of girlfriends, and we had a great time. Ate and drank and talked for 4 hours.  We talked about work and money and investment planning and babies and boys and travel and career planning and writing and dreams and sex.  As you do with good friends over good food with lots of drinks. 

But.

To explain the next part, I have to explain these two.  The first has battled an eating disorder for a couple of years, and is finally coming out on the other side.  She’s put on some weight – she’s now maybe a size 4 – and she looks healthy for the first time in years.  She’s taken up hard core rock climbing and she is ripped.  She’s thin and blond and muscular and pretty.  The other looks like Catherine Deneuve as a young woman –  gorgeous.  She’s had two kids, has an amazing body, and looks 10 years younger than she really is.  So, I’m sitting with a pair of stunning women, is what I’m saying.   And then they start talking trash about their bodies.

Now, I’m um, not tiny, and not model-gorgeous.  I look pretty in the right sort of light.  I’m all tits and ass and belly.  I’m the plump girl next door with great hair.   If I wanted to get in to a pissing competition about who looks worse with these ladies, I could make a decent case.

But I won’t.  I refuse to play this game.  I will not be a part of the trash talking of self.  I will say positive things – I will happily tell these women how beautiful they are – because it’s true.  I will not be part of a conversation where they talk about how fat they are, or ugly, whatever.  Because first of all, we’re better than that.  We’re worthier than that.  Because no good comes out of the whingeing.   Not to mention, it’s insulting to me.  If they’re “fat”, what am I at 6-10 dress sizes larger?  Exactly. 

It seems to be a common “female conversation trap”, and I’m sure a lot of it is just people seeking validation and comfort.  But it doesn’t matter to me – I won’t play this game and I’ll do my best to shut it down when it happens around me.  Because dammit, we’re better than that.  Prettier, too. All of us.

The Wedding – links

2010 was a hell of a year.  My dad died of lung and brain cancer at the end of January.  David and I got married in March.  I wrote about it on A Practical Wedding. A few times, actually. The act of writing about such an awful time helped – helped to figure out what I need to say and needed to hear, and helped so much to hear that I was not alone.

So, in lieu of actual content, here some stuff I wrote in the last year. (Hey, I have to hurry up and go to a massage. Priorities, folks.)  Plus, pretty pictures!

13 January 2010: Wedding Planning In The Face Of Serious Illness And Even Death: The problem I’m facing is one I’m not finding a lot of information/help on the internet, probably because talking about death is hard at the best of times, let alone at a wedding. But I’m sure that I’m not alone in dealing with a loved one’s illness during wedding planning, and I’m wondering how anyone else got through it. The kindness and stories in the comments still make me cry.

20 May 2010: Morgan on Weddings in the Face of Death: Do I have any regrets about throwing the wedding, about the timing, about our choices?  Sure, everyone has regrets, but I can live with my choices.  Do I regret standing up in the room full of family and friends and declaring my love?  No, absolutely not.  Life is short and it can be cruel, we all know this, so any excuse to celebrate joy should be taken.

21 May 2010: Wedding Graduates: Morgan and David: Taking pictures and having an intimate family dinner before the ceremony didn’t reduce the impact of the aisle walk and the way David looked at me, the same way practicing the vows at the rehearsal was a completely different experience than saying them in the ceremony.  The first was sweet, and the second transcendent.  Same words, but emotional intensity was sky high – David’s voice was so choked with emotion he could barely speak.  This loveliness, this intensity, this palpable love?  That was the only thing I should have been aiming for.  I should have stopped second guessing myself about not serving dinner, or not decorating more, or any of that, and just focused on trying to allow in the most joy possible

29 October 2010: Ask Team Practical: Honoring Lost Loved Ones: Think about small personal things you can do – things that don’t need to be broadcast.  I wore my grandmother’s pearls and my father’s engagement ring. My engagement ring belonged to David’s beloved godmother, who died several years before we started dating.  After her cancer diagnosis, she gave the ring to him for his future bride. People weren’t told these details – their significance is personal.  Many may have recognized the heavy gold star sapphire ring, but it wasn’t important for me to tell everyone what it meant – I just wanted to have something of his close to me.

I spent a lot of time with this quote – even used it in the programs, to my mother’s horror.  “”Every one of us is called upon, probably many times, to start a new life. A frightening diagnosis, a marriage, a move, the loss of a job… And onward full tilt we go, pitched and wrecked and absurdly resolute, driven in spite of everything to make good on a new shore. To be hopeful, to embrace one possibility after another – that is surely the basic instinct… Crying out: High tide! Time to move out into the glorious debris. Time to take this life for what it is.” – Barbara Kingsolver, High Tide in Tucson

Pulling the goalie?

We’re at the point where the when has gone from a future problem, to a near future problem, to last night’s discussion, which was measured in weeks.  We decided that pulling the IUD in two weeks was just too soon, and pushed it off at least another month.   I mean, in April I have this awesome “Cops and Robbers” stagette to go to – it’s for one of his innumerable cousins, and promises to be amazing! And I’m gonna have to be drunk to wear horizontal stripes. 

So.  It boiled down to even super keen David been like, eep, not yet.  He’s more ready than I am, so I’m pleased that we both thought another month or two of stalling would be good.  Because, after all, I control the universe with my mind, and clearly will get pregnant the first second I’m not using birth control.  Isn’t that what we all learned in sex ed in grade 7?  Sex= babies.  Oh, sure, I’ve read the books.  I know when I ovulate and I read a 700 page book about cervical fluid, and so on.  But still, there will be part of me that will be surprised when it doesn’t happen on my exact schedule.    Oh well – I hear the trying’s fun, right?  🙂

It’s a good thing.  Over Christmas, we wrote a very long list called Getting Shit Done 2011.  Like New Year’s resolutions, but more practical.  Like: get RRSPs (check!), write will (no), put together Europe vacation pictures (started), re-seal tile in bathroom (I’m still high from doing this last weekend)…  We’ve only done a little from the list, most of which I’ve already forgotten about.  It was compiled as a sort of pre-baby checklist.  Because I like lists.  And I really like the illusion of control.  I’ll let you know how *that* goes…