Standing Still

I roll the window down
Feel like I’m gonna drown in this strange town
Feel broken down.. feel broken down
Jewel Kilcher, Standing Still

According to the internet, everything I’m doing is  wrong. I’m slicing a mango wrong – the correct way involves a glass. I’m packing my suitcase wrong – roll, don’t fold. I’m making my bacon wrong – bake, don’t fry. I’m squeezing my toothpaste tube wrong – use a binder clip to help push every last bit of goop up through it’s nozzle. My life is wrong, I’m wrong and I’m useless without the internet.

It’s insidious, the kind of negging that used to be relegated to magazine covers like Cosmopolitan, that well-meaning font of wisdom on  how to live your best life. Cosmo has always been about how to lose weight, have better relationships, make him want you again, all with the subtle inference that the reader is boring, vanilla and unattractive and that the only way to be a fun, fearless, female is to buy their magazine. That’s the internet. It’s like a cover of Cosmopolitan, turned up times a thousand. There’s no subtlety at all.

Well the internet can go hang. I decided to stay away from it this past weekend, going cold turkey, because somehow I had just had enough. I wanted to confront my own personal FoMO, and see if I could beat it.

In the never-ending barrage of information that is the present-day internet, our real and our online selves have merged, and FoMO, or fear of missing out, is that nagging anxiety that an exciting or interesting event may currently be happening elsewhere, leaving us out of the loop, contributing to the feeling that missing out will contribute to a lifetime of regret, and so will not joining in. It’s just one of the many effects having a life online has on a body. There’s the sense of validity we gain from getting poked, tagged, liked, shared and talked about, the feeling of connection and belonging that can sometimes be even stronger in the world of the virtual rather than the real.

But it wasn’t just the FoMO. It was also the stark reminder that comparing myself and my life choices to someone else’s can give me crippling insecurity and lead to very damaging questions. Questions like, why can’t they be fat, what’s wrong with me, why them, why not me – a smorgasbord of whys that ultimately lead nowhere good, the kind of downward spiral that doesn’t feel healthy, or even good, and if there’s anything I dislike (and I know I dislike a lot of things), it’s being made to feel less than. And here I was, doing it to myself.

So I made like MTV, and unplugged.

And it was good. So good, I’ve decided to do without the internet on weekends.

I hadn’t realized how noisy and over-saturated the digital hum had become until I purposefully disengaged from the Matrix.  There’s an almost audible absence of sound, digital sound, a silence that expands. There’s a freedom in not knowing what Mr and Mrs Smith are up to, a peace in not being up to date and not caring. Trump what? Oil pipeline who? FIFA World Cup how? None of it. Not a single thing matters, and it feels so sweet. Like a big burden being lifted, this burden we place on ourselves to be informed, to be in the know, to seem together, to be “with it.”

It’s not that I no longer want to know what everyone is up to. I just don’t need to know about it all the time.

 

Illustration by Penelope Gazin, from Vice.

 

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Drive

I took an Uber tonight. It’s not something I do a lot. But tonight, I did. And it was like being in a time machine.

I wasn’t in Toronto, I was back in Cebu, on one of the many evenings in a cab on my way to work, like Cinderella in the evening, rushing. The driver took a route I had never tried before, cutting through parts of the city I had never seen. As it unfolded before me tonight like a new place to be explored,  Toronto was a mysterious city waiting to be discovered and I felt a quiet sort of  joy, savouring the sweet, delicious tang of curiosity.  For a brief span of time, I was younger, the whole world before me. I was that girl again, and I realized I haven’t felt that way in a long, long time.

Last Weekend Tonight (in bullet points, with links)

  • Shiny Happy People
    • new platform sandals
    • Pretty!
    • My feet are white and delicate! I’m a girl!
    • Why did I spend a whole afternoon walking?
    • And now my feet are yesterday’s ground up meat.
    • mein gott, the pain
  • Ikea
    • where I never leave empty-handed, despite my best intentions
    • same goes for you, Costco
    • Kitchen brush for 99c!
    • meatballs, yay
    • material for a new curtain
    • Yep, one. Singular.
    • would’ve flunked sewing class if it weren’t for my mother
    • which reminds me of that cross-stitch project I took on and never finished
    • it’s been three years, I really should complete that thing
  • Peek Freans Cookie Outlet
    • because I decided to send a box home to the fam
    • best place to get Oreos on the cheap
    • Le Hubs to me: What are you sending them, diabetes?
    • Me to Le Hubs: because I’m sweet?
    • sending them Omega 3 though
    • and pistachios, because my Dad loves them
    • my Dad, who wanted a trailer hitch for his Sorento, try fitting that in a large LBC box, Dad
  • Design Republic / Urban Mode / Casper Showroom
    • need new mattress, my back can’t take much more of this
    • I hate getting old
    • test drives are a must, 100 night trial offer bedamned
    • Urban furniture and design stores + expertly staged, ultra-expensive furniture = major inferiority complex
    • I may as well be living in a shack with donated goods from Habitat for Humanity
    • Casper vs. Endy vs. just choose one already godamnit, my feet are killing me
    • Oh well, Endy it is.
    • all I want for Christmas is Mandaue Foam
  • Storage Wars: Northern Treasures
    • getting some bang out of my Netflix buck
    • for when I want to binge-watch my tits off
    • one man’s trash, another man’s treasure
    • I’ll stick to dumpster diving, this is way too stressful
    • What kind of idiot leaves real gold jewelry in storage?
    • Maybe a dead one. Oops. Sorry, Lord.
    • Will Netflix ever get the original Storage Wars?
    • Does Roku support the A&E app for Canada?
    • Ugh, geo-blocking sucks!

Parts Unknown

Sometimes I avoid news. Not that I can avoid it entirely, but the general predilection of today’s news to be inflammatory – because that’s what sells – is exhausting. It’s issues, issues and even more issues, some of it real, a lot of it manufactured by people who seem to have made it their business to go through life with a gigantic chip on their shoulder.  Still, this past week or so, with that kiss (why does he make it so hard?) and she-who-shall-not-be-named invoking the memory of her dead parents yet again, it’s easy to see why people contemplate offing themselves.

Melodrama aside, suicide is no laughing matter. And it’s trending again. A couple of months ago, it was Avicii. Just recently, Kate Spade – she of the eponymous line of bags, shoes and accessories – and now Anthony Bourdain, celebrity chef, globe-trotter and highly esteemed food writer. All were highly successful and wealthy, all were living the kind of accomplished, jet-set lives the rest of us can only dream of having. None of it was enough to make them want to go on living. You know it’s serious when you wake up one day at the top of your game, and decide you can’t be bothered to keep breathing. Is it really that empty up there in the atmosphere of the one percent? Is it really that bleak? If having all that isn’t enough, then what is?

Although the stigma of depression is slowly being chipped away, no one ever talks about it very much. It’s a mysterious illness, easily dismissed, something only understood by those going through it and those who’ve gone through it and made it to the other side. My mother used to tell me stories of what it was like for her, after she had my brothers. She said it was a very scary, very weird headspace to be in. I was a child back then, so the only things that stood out were these strange roots suspended in jars of orange liquid, infusions of ginger root and tree bark she used to take, and the word bughat, something that, to a nine year old, was both riddle and an answer, all at once.

It takes a lot of strength to get through something like that, a lot of fortitude and a very strong will. My mother was one of the fortunate ones, able to emerge from the darkness of post-partum depression. I do remember one thing she always made an effort to do whenever she felt particularly low: she talked about it. Doing so helped in many ways – it helped me understand a little bit of what she was going through, even if I was only nine. And I think it helped her to know that we may not have fully understood, but that we were going to be there for her all the same. Talking about it helps. It’s particularly hard on us Filipinos, who for the most part, either think psychotherapy and the drugs that can come with it are for the weak, or believe in it but can’t afford it. Talking is cheap and effective, and there’s no shame in struggling. Depression doesn’t discriminate.

If we’re to go by the examples of successful people who’ve killed themselves (Ernest Hemingway, Virginia Woolf, Robin Williams, Alexander McQueen, etc), all the money, success, fame and glamour in the world aren’t enough.  But does that  make life not worth living? I refuse to believe that. I still want to know  what it’s like to be so rich, I can use dollar bills to wipe my behind.  I’m not convinced that life isn’t worth it, just yet. I think breathing is sweet, and I still want to win the lottery. If it’s all downhill from there, then that’s as it may be, but at least I’d have gotten to try being on top of the world.

Just Another Day

Well, Doug Ford and the Conservatives have won Ontario, winning a rat race of an election I couldn’t bring myself to participate in because all the choices were so bad, it was practically  Russian Roulette with all the chambers loaded. The Liberals have overspent, overpromised and under-delivered. The NDP is untried and untested, their dreams of a better province unsupported by a concrete budget. The Conservatives are viewed as  the Canadian version of the people who support Trump and they didn’t even bother releasing a plan with a budget. Doug Ford, their grand high poobah, is the brother of a mayor so infamous, Toronto did a full 360 and elected his exact opposite – may that infamous mayor rest in peace – and said poobah made said brother look so much gentler in comparison.

There’s really no easy way to put this, my province is fucked.  Ontario’s electricity bills are astronomical in comparison to the rest of Canada, and our government acts like someone  who’s just gotten paid on a Friday and decided that the word budget is not in their vocabulary. In Toronto, the TTC is practically held together with duct tape and a prayer because no one wants to stop squabbling about how to make the TTC better and everyone keeps spending to find out how to make it better instead of actually making it better. The Liberals have already screwed us seven ways to Sunday, what else could go wrong?

I have no idea what the future holds for Ontario and Toronto in particular, but at least the Liberals paid for their very expensive mistakes (but not before we had to pay for theirs) by flaming out spectacularly. I guess we’ll have to see if the Conservatives make good on their promises to make Ontario great again. Hope for the best, and expect the worst. So really, just another day, eh?

Excuses and Alibis

Due to an ever so unique combination of exhaustion and distraction, I’ve been struggling to write regularly of late. I’m mentally and emotionally drained by the time I’m done with work, so when I get home the last thing I want to do is think. Or talk. Or even do. Because work is nuts. My brain has to go in so many different directions in any given time and sometimes the volume of what I’m processing bogs me down and takes its toll. My thoughts mostly resemble scared mice scurrying away whenever I try to cobble them together, which is probably my cue to go to my family doctor and ask for drugs. Pharmaceuticals: today’s answer to everything!

But, no. Like most everything else, I will bend over and take this current exhausting adult phase like a champ, even if work sometimes feels like a fat dick shoved up my ass with no lube, because this too shall pass. It may pass the way a particularly jagged calcium deposit shreds your  urethra on its way to sweet freedom, but it will pass. Please pass. Please?

So I’ve been making it a lousy excuse not to write because by the time I get home I don’t feel like writing anymore. I’ve been reading or watching Netflix while stuffing my face. I really should try to cut down the stuffing of the face, but I don’t seem to have any self control these days.

Still, I’ve come out of temporary hiding to say I’ve had it with this whole royal wedding. If I never see another post about Meghan Markle again, it won’t come soon enough. With my luck, and because people need to sell newspapers, it will be full court press coverage  of Harry and Meghan for the next few months, at least, while I twiddle my thumbs and wait for the inevitable stink piece on how the Duchess of Cambridge is jealous about all the attention being showered on the Duchess of Sussex.

Am I the only one who doesn’t give a shit about this? My feeds have been crammed with the dress, and the kiss, the guests (Amal Clooney in mustard yellow, making up for the ridiculous getup she wore to the Met Gala) and all the ooh-ing and they’re-oh-so-in-love-ing.  Have we forgotten the mess that was the Charles/Diana union? That started out just as romantic as this one did, with all the cute smiles and the shy glances and the photo-ops and gown reveals. For all the magic of that wedding day, they ended up at each other’s throats. Two people from different backgrounds getting married and trying to fashion a life together? It’s work. So I’m here watching them go by, giving them five years at most before it all goes to shit because I’m a bitter, overworked peon and I’m sick of having someone’s extravagant romance being shoved in my face. Also when the mention of a British-American wedding comes up, my brain goes straight to Four Weddings and a Funeral, the gold standard for English romance (no, it isn’t but I love it anyway).  Also, because this is me at weddings:

big meringue.gif

Who am I kidding, this is everyone at weddings. Everyone I know, anyway.

Try watching Four Weddings and a Funeral on mute some time. It’s just as hilarious.

 

Random YouTube K-Hole: Tears for Fears

I’d been waiting for the official video of Carrie Underwood’s Cry Pretty before posting this particular k-hole about songs that deal with a specific kind of emotional catharsis. But before getting to the country queen’s latest oeuvre, I’m getting in a time machine and going all the way back to the past when Aerosmith and Alicia Silverstone ruled the video airwaves…

Aerosmith, Crying

I don’t know what you’re all going on about us being oppressed, female power was just as alive in 1993 as it is today. Alicia Silverstone and her healthy blonde mane acts out after seeing a very young, very attractive, Stephen Dorff inhabiting his standard persona of douchebag-you’d-still-bone cheating on her in a movie theatre. Proving to him and everyone else, including the guy who attempts to steal her backpack (look, Josh Holloway!), that she’s not going to take any shit unless it’s on her terms, this was the first of Alicia’s video collaborations with Aerosmith. She would go on to star in Amazing, and Crazy, to similarly enthusiastic acclaim. With a killer video and sweet vocals, Cryin’ is the Teenage Dream video of the 90’s, before Katy Perry (intentionally? unintentionally?) got her revisionist mitts all over the disaffected teenager storyline.

Justin Timberlake, Cry Me A River

Way before he became the Man of the Woods, Justin Timberlake was living out a revenge fantasy featuring Britney Spears a blonde who famously breaks his heart. He denied the song was about Britney of course, but we all knew he was lying, Liza Minelli! For a brief moment in the early aughts, those two turned a number of pre- and post-pubescent teenagers into a screaming Tyra Banks meme. (We were all rooting for you in matching denim, damnit!). With the help of Timbaland, Mr. Timberlake breaks into a not-so-mysterious blonde’s home like a crazed stalker, tap dances all over her furniture, has sex with a stranger in her bedroom and spies on her while she’s in the shower. Rude! Also, creepy. This video would’ve aged pretty well if it wasn’t for that bulky-ass cam-corder, reminding us all of the lengths we used to go to just to record things for posterity.

Ariana Grande, No Tears Left to Cry

Known more for her vocal chops than eye-catchingly original music videos, Ariana Grande doesn’t do anything to upset that particular status quo in this, her latest video for No Tears Left to Cry. The concept is pretty much blonde Inception on the discarded set of Marvel’s Dr. Strange and it’s a complete disconnect from the song, but who needs concepts and connectivity when you have a new hair colour? It could be the bleach, it could be having a perpetual ponytail, whatever the cause, Miss Grande’s state of mind is up, down, and all around. A bit of a surprise banger, No Tears Left to Cry  is probably going to go on heavy rotation from here to eternity. And by eternity, I mean for the rest of the summer. She’s here, it’s queer, get used to it.

Carrie Underwood, Cry Pretty

And finally, the blonde that kickstarted today’s quintet. Round of applause for Miss Underwood (no relation to Frank) who is back with another country ballad about falling apart, wasting mascara into the process. I’m not sure what she meant by saying her face got all fucked up and she doesn’t look the same; I only hope she’s not suffering from some extreme form of body/face dysmorphia, because girl is still looking good. I know some people who are so gay they practically sweat glitter, but Carrie Underwood is going the extra mile by actually crying glitter tears while singing Cry Pretty. A bit on the nose, but way to commit to a concept!