We Are Amazing

I am amazing.

I fail.  I mess up all the freaking time.  I flunked out of both university and community college.  I was once taken by ambulance from a night club (which I have no recollection of even being at) to the hospital where I woke up to my furious and terrifying mother wearing an expression of truly epic disappointment.  When I did finally go back to school, I failed one of my nursing practicum placements. I was stuck in a roller-coaster romantic relationship for years before I finally mustered the courage and respect for myself to walk away.  I don’t know how to paint. I never wear makeup. I pinched my son’s leg in his diaper snap last week which made him scream bloody murder. I have a plant in my window that I’ve named Tom because it’s extremely Hardy and I have constantly and accidentally tried very hard to kill him over the last three years. Often when my husband interrupts my focus and I’m not ready for it, I snap at him when he doesn’t deserve it.  I forget to text friends back for five days even though I could have texted them right back when I first saw it because is it really that hard to just pause for 35 seconds and acknowledge that you at least received the message? The answer for me is apparently yes, you might as well be asking me to pull teeth from a duck. I hope there isn’t actually a species of duck out there that does have teeth because I will look very foolish for using that analogy to illustrate how impossible it is for me to send a quick message back.  Which would then make it a perfect analogy because obviously it isn’t impossible, it is something I just don’t do; much like I don’t pull teeth from a duck.

I suck at so many things.  I am so, so human. Here is the point where you might start wondering if I have any redeeming qualities at all, or at least whether or not I have any self-esteem!

At one point in my life, things like this kept me awake at night.  I’d lie there in the dark afraid that someone out there in the world remembered that really silly thing I’d done seven years ago and whether the relevant person would show up in the coffee shop the next morning and I would have to conspicuously avoid eye contact while wondering whether they remembered me, while also being aware of the fact that conspicuously avoiding eye contact would probably draw more attention to myself and make it more likely that they would remember me and then go home to tell all of their friends and family that they ran into the silliest person in the world at the coffee shop.  Never mind that the person I was thinking about was probably asleep in their own bed two provinces over dreaming about the silly thing they did three years ago and were worried about running into that relevant person at the grocery store the next day!

I passed that nursing program out of sheer determination to not fail another college program (and I only worked as a nurse for a year after I graduated, for anyone who is keeping score on the fail-o-meter).  I realized that my opinion is the only one that matters over whether or not I should wear makeup and that if I don’t freaking want to, my husband will still grab my butt as I walk past him. I take paint night classes with friends so I get to cover entire canvasses with beautiful brushstrokes that sometimes don’t add up to a recognizable finished product.  Quite frankly, that’s my takeaway from a lot of famous art so if anyone wants to pass my information on to the Louvre, I would be perfectly happy to contribute an entire gallery of my amazing work for a season or two. I can have it ready next week!

Above all, I realized that taking ownership over my so-called failures removed their power over me.  If I did something silly seven years ago, it was okay for me to be honest about it. If I had hurt someone, I could contact them in this magical age of immediate connection and apologize and not have to be afraid of the stories they told everyone else.  If I royally goofed up somewhere in my past, I could share my experience with someone else to help them feel understood. I stopped wearing makeup because I owned the fact that I did not want to wear it, rather than wear it because I let myself live under someone else’s imagined control.  I learned that while I was worrying myself sick over what everyone else might be thinking of me, everyone else was probably worrying themselves sick over what everyone else was thinking of them. What a silly cycle we perpetuate for ourselves! And I learned that if I never failed I could never grow.

I fail.  I mess up all the freaking time.  I learn from my mistakes and I forgive myself because I am so, so human.  I am not a failure. You probably fail. You might feel like you mess up all the freaking time.  Give yourself permission to forgive yourself. Learn from your mistakes and conquer them rather than let them freeze you and force you into a life of fear.  You are amazing; do amazing.

 

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What’s Behind Your Closet?

 

Geometric Chicken

 

This week I sewed up a shirt out of a fabric I am absolutely in love with.  It, of course, has a chicken on it.  It is going to be my favourite shirt until wears threadbare and even then it will probably be upcycled into something new.  I used a high-quality cotton/Lycra blend, and the artwork was designed by a Canadian artist which was then printed onto fabric and sold by a very small Canadian company.  This little process has got me thinking about the bigger sustainability picture this week, as it has also got me looking at my closet.

I own a lot of clothes.  I wager I actually own less than the average Canuck since I’ve been actively cleaning out and holding back from purchasing in the last few months, but by what any one person needs to wear I own a lot.  Most of them are cheap.  Like many people who are also not made of money, I occasionally fall into the trap of trendy, low-quality, low-cost fashion.  It’s so cheap!  You can go to almost any mall, walk into an extremely low-cost shop and buy a ready-to-wear shirt for $8-$10.  At this price, you can buy five of them and just toss them out when they get holes!  What most of us conveniently forget about, though, is what goes on behind our closet.

Most of those clothes are made out of polyester (a synthetic fiber which breaks down like plastic – slowly!), and they come from faraway countries where they are mass-produced in factories which have questionable labour policies and working conditions, packaged in plastic and shipped overseas in large, stinky vehicles, where they eventually make their way to us – the consumer who is happy to block all of this out because we are getting a trendy shirt for $10.  We want cheap clothes, so we overlook the fact that our money is going straight into another economy, never to be seen again.

The shirt I sewed is cotton-Lycra.  I admit it isn’t perfect, because the Lycra is a synthetic product that won’t break down quickly.  However, it’s only 5% of the shirt.  Because of this ingredient, my shirt is very durable and will last me a long time.  Because I sewed it myself, I was able to make sure the stitching is sound.  I ordered the fabric from a Canadian company who worked with a Canadian designer.  A significant portion of the money generated from this entire process will stay in the Canadian economy, which supports Canadian jobs.  The materials for this project cost me approximately $32.

Now, I understand that for the significant majority of people, sewing one’s own clothes simply isn’t a realistic goal.  People are busy, they work long hours, they want to spend time with their children, or even more simply, they just don’t want to sew.  All of these reasons are fair.  I just hope that I can encourage anyone reading this to think about their clothing choices from a new perspective.  Given my history of wear and tear on my clothing, my shirt made from high-quality materials will probably last me two to four years of regular use, if not longer.  To buy such a garment ready to wear would run approximately $100-$150.  A $10 shirt from a trendy shop often wears raggy after just a few washes.  It’s the type of garment that is often ready to be replaced after about a season or so of wear, or it lasts long because it is worn sparingly to preserve it which requires a full closet to stay clothed during the week.  If that $10 shirt is replaced at the end of the season it was purchased for, an individual is looking at spending up to $40 a year just for one part of their wardrobe.  Over 2-4 years, that can add up to $80-$160 for eight to sixteen shirts that are worn briefly and often discarded.  That’s a heck of a lot of waste potentially ending up in our landfills and ecosystems when we consider the number of consumers out there in the world!

You don’t have to throw out your whole wardrobe tomorrow to have an impact.  If affordability is an issue because it’s easier to shell out the $10 now instead of $100, that’s ok.  Changes aren’t always made overnight.  But maybe I can get you thinking about your clothing choices down the road!  I would love to see people choosing clothing they love that will last them a long time, and that makes them feel good instead of repeatedly dishing out their hard-earned cash for cheap fashion statements designed to last for a hot minute.  I would love to see local artists and businesses supported by wages reflective of the love and care put into their products by the people in their communities and strong local economies!  Imagine the reduction in wasteful packaging and fuel costs to clothe us!  I’m willing to sound perfectly cliche; be the change you want to see in the world.  For me, that means making thoughtful clothing choices and even creating my own clothing to reduce my impact in the massive world of fashion.  What change do you want to be in your world?

 

What Does Your Reflection Show?

Taking my weekly self-care dates at the coffee shop, I have a lot of opportunity to observe a wide variety of interactions.  Some people find a quiet corner like me, and enjoy a hot cuppa while they read a book or work on something important.  Some meet a friend, carrying the stress of the week in the creases around their eyes and decompress over a mug of deliciously warm release.  Others rejoice with loved ones, finding reason to celebrate over connection long in the planning amid packed schedules and neverending commitments.

The ones that most intrigue me, though, are those that arrive in a flurry of pomp and wind.  They plop their bags down, defiantly claiming a corner of the little shop as their own for the foreseeable future.  Their sharp eyes dart around the room, as if setting a spell to ward off any breath of a challenge.  They settle in with their company and without fail it begins:

“I was stuck driving behind this complete moron, wasn’t even going the speed limit!”

“This weather sucks.  It’s way too [insert adjective].”

“My boss is such an ass.”

“Did you hear the latest about [insert politician’s name]?  What a buffoon, can’t believe he ever got elected.”

“Did a monkey make this coffee?  It tastes like old feet.”

“Oh my god, look at that woman’s hair.  Why would someone willingly do that to themselves?  And my god, that outfit…”

And on it goes with individualized variations, but the general tone is always the same; negativity with an unhealthy dose of blame.  Now, this is not the part where I try to paint myself as “holier than thou.”  This is the part where I tell you, I have so been there.  I have been the person who rushed around finding fault with as many things as I could fit into my day.  I have been the person who scowls at the car in front of me shouting obscenities at my poor, undeserving steering wheel.  I have cast horrible curses on the unwitting individual puttering along perfectly legally at one small kilometer an hour slower than the speed limit that I self-righteously believe doesn’t apply to me.  I have passed gentlemen on the street happily clad in two different plaids, and ruthlessly bullied them in my head because they forced that visual calamity on my undeserving fashion sense – never mind the fact that I happily pair giraffe print with stripes and consider myself to have impeccable taste.

It’s quite the dichotomy I have come to see in myself.  I have also come to a very simple realization.  When I am unhappy or disappointed with myself, or when I am having a day where my confidence is in my boots, I am a Negative Nancy.  I cannot enjoy life.  I have nothing nice to say, I have only harsh judgements to cast, and my glass is not even half full of bad coffee that tastes like a monkey stirred it with his feet.  When I am happy and full of confidence, I’m a Happy Harry!  Life is absolutely, beautifully grand.  I’ll probably tip the server extra because I want her to enjoy her day, I ooze patience and am the first person to notice the magnetic little green “N” stuck on the back of that car going just one kilometer an hour under the speed limit and send feelings of confidence through the universe to that teenager just driving safely like his dad has drilled into his head a zillion bazillion times.

My feelings, curses and mood are not a reflection of what strangers are doing as they live their lives alongside and overlapping with mine.  They are a reflection of what is going on inside my own head.  They are a mirror to how I am coping in my own life.  If I am coping poorly, I will be that Negative Nancy at the coffee shop who is defensively lashing out at everyone and everything and alienating the people who are paying attention to me.  It’s been a couple of decades, but I am getting a grasp on what that old adage really means; my reaction really does say more about me than it does about another person.

 

I Never Learned How to Make Friends!

My husband and I moved from the prairies to the west coast a few years ago because the opportunity came up and we both agreed on one thing; BC is best!  He has moved around the country quite a bit for work, but this was my first big move away from my family and friends.  I have been learning a lot!

I realized that I didn’t know how to make friends.  I had no idea.  I’ve always had friends out of situational necessity.  I grew up in a small town and lived there my entire pre-adult life life.  I moved away for university and lived in the dorms.  I worked part-time with other people my age.  When I graduated college I worked with my friends that graduated at the same time.  There were always people around, and one can’t just not talk to them without being the weird chick, and then one just magically ends up with friends!

After I moved across the country and wasn’t in school regularly and then found my job search quickly going nowhere, I realized that I never learned how to make a friend out of a stranger on the street.  Who is supposed to say “hello” first?  Do I wait for someone to make eye contact?  Can I beg my hair stylist to go for coffee with me?  Can I just bake some cookies with the front door open and hope someone wanders in to find the delicious smell, and then just slam the door shut and force tea down their throat until they agree to buy adorable “best friends” necklaces with me?  I don’t know, I never learned how to make friends with complete strangers outside of structured social settings!

I spent a lot of days being sad and depressed on the couch with my dog sleeping on the floor beside me before I finally got so annoyed at having nothing to do while my husband was at work and powered up my Google machine.  After much searching I found that I was not, in fact, alone in my search for friends.  There is online dating, but it also turns out that there is online friending!  There are blogs and sites dedicated to connecting lonely individuals with other lonely individuals who are looking for a platonic tea party buddy who will drink it without you having to be charged with administering a noxious substance.

I found a social group site, http://www.meetup.com, made a profile, and started searching for someone to friend.  It turned out that I didn’t really fit in with the local groups already running (I’m not a 40-year-old divorced woman, or a dude with a pimped out motorbike), so I said “To hell with it, I’m making my own.”  And just like that I started hosting a group online, organizing hikes and pub nights, knitting circles and winery tours.  It’s the easiest friending I have ever done.

I was back in my hometown chatting with my mom and a few of her friends a few months later, and one of them asked me how I’d been doing out west on my own (since my husband travels a lot for extended periods for work) and if I’ve been finding a social group.  I excitedly told them about my online ladies’ social group, and they all looked surprised.  One of them said “wow, you’re really brave and outgoing.”  They talked about it as if I was doing this amazing thing, when in reality all I’d do was post something online like “Cheap Movie Night!” and go see a movie with a bunch of friendly gals.  We continued chatting and when I got home I thought about the conversation; I came to the conclusion that MOST PEOPLE DON’T KNOW HOW TO MAKE FRIENDS!

Almost everyone relies on their social or occupational situations to provide them with friends.  Uprooting yourself and moving across the country is becoming more common, but is still by no means the typical thing to do.  So many people are born, grow up, live, work, play, and die in the same community and never have to step outside of their comfortable little box.  Here I am, living all by myself on the other side of the country, and meeting strangers online in order to have someone to go hiking with so I don’t get eaten by a cougar, and people think that’s amazing.  I mean, it’s kind of a pain in the ass, really.  If I meet friends online for the first time, I don’t know if I can run faster than them and I kind of need to know that in case we meet a cougar.

So if you have been wondering your whole life why everyone seems to know how to make friends while you struggle, I bet it’s not just you.  I bet all of those other people are wondering (or wondered at some point) the same thing.  Thinking about that has made it much easier for me to strike up a conversation with someone at the tea shop, or engage someone on the beach taking their dog for a walk in a brief friendly exchange.  I have not been bitten yet – neither by human nor dog.

Smile at that stranger as you walk past them on the street, maybe tell that dude at the dog park that his sweater looks nice.  Bake some Christmas cookies and take them to your neighbours, or maybe stop in the parking lot for that girl who looks like she can’t get her car started.  If no one is sure who should initiate a social interaction, it might as well be you!