Monthly Archives: August 2013

New Tricks

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Here’s what I do: I stay with things too long hoping circumstances will improve.

Is it optimism or stupidity, to hope that if I keep banging my head against the wall long enough, that it will stop hurting? To do to the same things over and over, and expect the outcome to become different at some point?

I did this with my first marriage. I thought leaving the city would help. It didn’t. Then, having a child. Nope. Buying a home? No? Having another child? No, the essential issues were still there, and didn’t change. When I finally ended it, it was a vast relief to both of us. Friends said to me it was like a weight had been lifted from me, and in ways, it had. A close friend said “I’m so glad you finally let that go. He never was right for you.” This was a friend who had been at our wedding 12 years earlier. “Why didn’t you tell me earlier?” I asked. “Would we still be friends if I had?” she asked. She was of course, right.

The same pattern of behaviour followed me in my next relationship too, only this time I was waiting for a commitment of some kind. Maybe this year? Maybe in five years? Maybe when my kids are old enough to leave home? Could we live together, or even in the same city? It took me eleven years to figure out that I had been duped, in a cruel and drawn-out way.

Now, anyone who knows the parties involved will tell you “they’re nice guys”. Sure. They actually are both very nice guys, and I’m not here to dispute that, or to explain to you what the issues were. That’s unfair to them and I’m not going to go into that here. The point is, though, that it was not working, I knew it wasn’t working, and I tried to make it work for way too long. People don’t change, no matter how much we’d like them to.

I’m at that stage with work right now. I feel like it’s a bit of a golden cage, really. I’m not into it anymore. I’m burnt out from years of dealing with anxious people. But I make a good wage, I have health benefits and a pension, so – does it matter that I’m bored? Lots of people would love my job.

When I was looking into the possibility of getting a dog a while ago, I thought I wanted a really smart dog, maybe a standard poodle or a border collie. The more research I did, though, the more I found out that smart dogs get bored. Smart dogs need constant stimulation, or they become destructive.

I’ve just about chewed through the leg of my desk, I think. Arf.

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It Comes Around Again

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Been thinking a lot lately about thrifting. I like thrift shopping, as much as the next person. Okay, probably a whole lot MORE than the next person. I find interesting, unique things. I don’t have to spend a whole lot of money on clothes (and other items, too). It keeps things out of the landfill.

We all do thrifty things. I have a close friend who is a kijiji wizard (Hi, Leesa). She gets the most amazing things, often for free, always for cheap. My Dad cuts his own hair. We buy things in bulk, watch for sales. Most of us put that blue box to the curb every week.

I was sitting the other day at the kitchen table with my sweetheart, enjoying a coffee and a chat, and catching up on my mending, which included: two bras, a camisole, a striped indian cotton shirt that I love, the top to my red pyjamas and a skort. Very small jobs – straps mostly, an underwire, some small tears. I darn socks, too, but only homemade socks – cotton athletic socks bought by the bag are disposable, in my book. Unless recycled for sweatbands for the gym. Or made into puppets. Or used as an impromptu camera case. Or… It occurred to me that not everyone does this kind of thing. Am I cheap? Well, bras aren’t cheap, that’s for sure. And if I just threw them out? Landfill.

Something occurred to me just now, making dinner. I took the blue rubber band off the broccoli, and put it in the bowl on the shelf over the stove with its brothers, and its sisters, the pink rubber bands from asparagus, and their cousins, twist ties from the bulk food store. I don’t think I’ve EVER purchased rubber bands.

I am often wracked with guilt when I forget to bring my reusable bags to the grocery store (which is, oh, almost always). But grocery store plastic bags are used in my house for disposing of kitty litter and lining wastebaskets. Or just carrying-things-around in general. My grandmother avowed that as long as you were carrying two bags from the same store, it constituted “matching luggage”, and was okay. If I wasn’t taking home grocery store bags, I’d just be buying some other kind of plastic bag for these types of things. Sorry, Man from Glad, you silver-tongued fox.

When my first baby came, we used cloth diapers. I would wash the “disposable” baby wipes, and reconstitute them with a mix of water, baby shampoo and baby oil. Disposable diapers were strictly for road trips. When that second baby came, though, and the first was still in diapers, and I was working constantly, cloth went out the window. I still regret that. A line of fresh cloth diapers flapping about in the breeze on a bright sunny day was a lovely thing. Also, I was told by a former infection control nurse that it was absolutely the best for small bums.

We were pretty broke back then, my then-husband had trouble finding lucrative or stable work, and we had to make do, mostly. We didn’t eat a lot of meat. Once we were having company, my brother, and I made a pork roast with potatoes. Two little boys were whispering at the table, and I said, “hey, what’s up, guys?”. Boy One pointed to the roast. “What’s that?” “It’s a roast,” I said. “A what?” “Meat,” I said. “Like hamburger before it’s squished up”. My kids did not recognize meat.

I made quite a few clothes for my kids, too, sometimes cutting down my old clothes and reworking bits and pieces into vests, shorts and pants.

I am my mother’s daughter, with the mending, and sewing, and cooking, too. Mum’s hamburgers were full of mystery, lumps and globs of not-meat to extend that pricey meat as far as possible. She sewed, darned, mended, knit, crocheted, upholstered – whatever.

I remember once she came across a recipe for barbequed baloney. Dad dutifully put the rotisserie on the charcoal barbeque, and she took a big chunk of uncut baloney, scored it like a ham, slathered on barbeque sauce, and cooked it just like a ham. It was delicious. I told this to a co-worker once, and we laughed. At Christmas, when I was leaving to go up to Mum and Dad’s, she asked “Are you having barbequed baloney?”

“Don’t be silly. That’s for Easter.”

I never have the latest, greatest gadget. I drive a ten year old car. I have a flip phone. I have a rotary dial phone up in my room. They all work just fine. I had a toaster that left a burnt spot the size of a dime, for years. I only replaced it when I found a good one at a yard sale. I’d rather get things fix, or fix them myself. If something moves, and it shouldn’t – duct tape. If it doesn’t move, and it should – WD40.

I love to do these things. I feel somehow wise and clever when I make things last longer, or get a second use from them. It’s not that I’m actually cheap – I’m terrible with money. I’m good with repurposing, though. Matter can be neither created nor destroyed, it just changes forms., an’ that’s a fact, Jack.

Reboot

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I should be happy, right? I’m employed. Lots of people aren’t. I make a decent living wage, and I have a pension. Lots of people don’t. I contribute to society. I promote access to justice for the disadvantaged. I assist people who have challenges to negotiate a confusing and frustrating system.

So, I should be happy, right?

Here’s the thing. I’ve been doing this for – wait for it – fifteen years. For last seven or eight of those years, I have been doing almost exactly the same thing, every single day. I interview people in crisis. No one comes to me because their life is Perfectly Happy and they Haven’t a Care in the World. People come to me when their life is going down the shitter, for any of a variety of reasons. Sad people; angry people; confused people. Some of them I can help, some of them I can’t. A few are grateful for my help. Most are indifferent. Some are frightening and intimidating. Whether I can help someone or not has nothing to do with whether they are pleasant and polite. It can be very, very frustrating.

So, I think sometimes, why don’t I do something else? This is not What I Wanted to Do When I Grow Up. I came to this field completely by accident in 1986, through the back door. I found it suited some deep-seated thirst for justice in me, and also paid the bills, so I have stayed.

But I may be getting just a little burned out…I’ve tried to pursue other opportunities within the organization, but for some reason, I think I’m pretty much where they want me. Don’t get me wrong, I feel valued but – getting a bit bored. Maybe a little jaded.

I never want to not-care. I never want to be another negative, bitter civil servant. I honestly believe in what I do, and I know it’s valuable. I’m not sure what the answer is here. It’s a good gig, and mostly, it’s been good to me, and I’ve been good to it.

Here’s a couple of rejected career change ideas:

1. Ballerina

Why not:

a) Kinda old.
b) Can’t dance.
c) Tutus (enough said about that).
d) Pretty sure shoes don’t come in my size.
e) Gotta find a ballet-dude who’s about seven foot six and can lift me over his head.

2. Medicine

a) Not good at science-y stuff.
b) Blood and stuff.
c) Poop and vomit.
d) Depressing being around sick people.

3. Gardener

a) Bad knees.
b) Bugs and stuff.
c) Dirty fingernails.
d) Sunstroke.

4. Teacher

a) Kids.

I’m stumped, friends. Really, what else am I qualified to do? As my Dear One says, my runway is getting shorter all the time. If I were to go back to school, it would have to be for a very short time.

I think the answer is to refresh my interest in what I do, or leave it strictly at the office door every night and enhance my life in other ways.

But I’m booooorrrrrrrrred.