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.

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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:

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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.

 

Sharing is caring, and I apparently don’t

For anyone who cares to  follow, the perfectly curated lives of a lot of my friends are laid out online like a visual feast. On Instagram, some have over two thousand posts and are capable of sharing ten to twenty carefully selected shots of whatever adventure they’re having on any given day regardless if it’s the same adventure over and over. Adventures in parenting. Adventures in Taiwan. Adventures in bad haircuts, random non sequiturs, shared cooking videos, memes, trailers, jokes, and Throwback Thursdays.

I used to be a lot more active when Facebook was new.  A cursory sweep of my social media activities has made me realize I’m failing at life. Online life, that is. My Instagram has less than three hundred posts. My account is private, and whoever follows me gets the privilege of an exclusive peek at two different pictures of castaway shoes, a random cannoli, some guy at the summer barbecue fest and a little bit of me sprinkled here and there. My posts are fragmented and infrequent and I have never featured a single “story.” To the casual observer, it would seem like I really can’t be bothered to share.

If you’ve visited this blog every so often, it’s a very strange thing for me to say.

There is a dichotomy to my online self. In an online environment where I actually have a web of friends who will see pieces of my life without the need to ask for it, I barely share anything. And yet, I’m an open book to whomever cares to come here, to read a blog, which, unlike my IG, is full of verbal diarrhea and is actually open to whoever cares to find it. I do most of my sharing here, because I figure if someone wants to find about me, I’m around.

I don’t take online personality tests. I don’t pipe up about loving Jesus. I don’t share what I’d look like if I’m male, what my eye colour says about me, or what my mother’s maiden name is (lord knows my mother has no qualms about it) because here’s the thing. No one cares. And anyway, it has nothing to do with who I really am.

No one cares what your personality is based on your favourite salad, or what Disney princess you are based on a few questions off of a personality test. No one cares. The person clicking “Like” is on auto-pilot. It’s like replying with “LOL” to a text message, but not actually laughing out loud. It’s polite, it shows positivity, but ultimately? It’s an empty gesture. I like to save ‘likes’ for something actually worth liking. Like a particularly funny quote. Or a particularly unique snapshot. Something honest, and frank, and real.

No one cares. And also, engaging in these stupid little tests is like signing up to get phished. I feel like this cannot be stressed enough. People should not be giving out sensitive information, like birthdays or maiden names. That fun little game where you come up with your catchphrase by pairing the month you were born with the date of your birth? Phishing. That cute little test that says they’ll tell you what your mother’s maiden name means in a foreign language? Phishing. Think about it. People are lazy. Trying to remember a password is annoying, so we birthdays, or a combination of numbers that mean something to us, catchphrase, favourite vacation, movie, quote, something.

Cambridge Analytica aside, I’m not quitting Facebook. Not that I’m a diehard fan, but I’ve always said trainwrecks are interesting. Somehow, without knowing it, I seem to have retreated. I’m not hiding, I just don’t feel the need to be the kid in class who’s constantly raising her hand. Now, I’m just the kid in class watching the other kids make complete prats of themselves, wondering  if their inner Disney Princess is really reflective of what they’re like on the inside.

Image borrowed from Graeme MacKay, The Hamilton Spectator

Yes We Can

I’d heard of the Peabody Awards, but had never dug deep enough about its origins. Yesterday, George Peabody was the Google Doodle. The original billionaire philanthropist, old George gave over half of his money away and was so thrifty, he still took the bus. His only indulgence was an apple a day and he turned down a baronetcy offered by Queen Victoria, which tells us he had a set of brass balls as large as the state of Texas.

I like successful people who haven’t let their money change who they are. In my cursory research of interesting factoids related to George Peabody,  a list of billionaires who still do real things crossed my radar. If anything, I’ve always thought the family behind Wal-mart are a bunch of awful people, but knowing one of them drives a fifteen year old rustbucket was a nice surprise. Granted, rich people aren’t always angels sent from above. They are first and foremost all about business, which is a cold mother, especially when it comes to profit.

For all we know, George Peabody was closer to a crabby, tightfisted miser than Santa Claus. Even so, his kind of realness is the kind that I respect. Don’t get me wrong, at the end of the day money is for spending and all the accoutrements are great, but I’ve always been at home with the idea that you don’t have to have something. You just have to know you can get it if you want to.

Like I want to know I can own a Ferrari if I want to, I just don’t need to have one. Or I want to know I can buy an island if I want to, but I’m not going to bother. And I want to know I can get a reservation at the world’s most exclusive restaurant if I want to, but I don’t have to go because I’d rather have Popeye’s chicken. Or I want to know that I can stay out until four in the morning and get shitfaced, but I don’t really need to. That’s it, really. Just knowing you can.

There’s no need for bullshit mega-mansion swag with the fast Italian cars and the private jets and bespoke clothing. They’re fun, and if I was a billionaire I would probably have bigger indulgences than George Peabody’s apple, but I want to think I wouldn’t be what Migos calls bad and boujee. I want to think I would be like Bill Gates, who still rocks a $10 Casio even if he has more money than the GDP of certain developing countries. I want to be a billionaire who still eats tempura at the boulevard because it’s yummy. And because I can. No need to show it, just have to know it. There’s freedom in that.

 

Image from Mental Floss

The Paralysis of Choice

Lately my weekends have been spent at home, doing nothing. Not that I’m forever out and about, but it’s very unlike me to let a month go by without at least attempting to discover something new. These days though, things seem to be rote. Even my food adventures are rote. I’ll visit my favourite  bakery in Chinatown (I’ve found Hong Kong style bakeries to be closest in taste to Philippine-style breads), maybe drop by my neighbourhood jerk joint for oxtail if I feel like it, or  hit up my secret go-to in Ossington – which I refuse to name because I selfishly don’t want it to get too popular – for Portuguese rotisserie chicken. I’ve slowly felt myself falling into a rut, which is not something one should fall into, not when one lives in Toronto. There’s so many things to do and to see, falling into a rut is almost inexcusable.

But there’s only so much adventure I can bring myself to do. I spent a year or two feverishly trying out new things, the goal being to find something I liked and could stick with, a huge chunk of the new things being places to eat at. Like where to go for brunch. (Check.) Or Cajun. (Check.)All-you-can-eat Indian. (Check.) Ramen. (Check.) Peking duck. (Check, check.)

So I sifted through the morass of my internal wiring, trying to see what was up. Is it getting older? Laziness? Predictability? If I’m being entirely honest, I think some of it is that. And then it hit me. The real problem is having too many options. I feel inundated with them. It’s Toronto. Turn a corner, and something’s happening. A new restaurant. A new Instagram-worthy little nook. Something. There’s always something, and I find myself with so many options, I feel paralyzed by my inability to choose.

Even deciding to stay in and watch something can be paralyzing. What platform do I use? Netflix? Hulu? Amazon Prime? And once I decide which one I want to use, another round of choices begins. Do I watch a TV show? If so, what show? Do I watch a movie? If so, what genre? And once I decide on a genre, what movie? It’s exhausting, like my life is suddenly a long-ass exam comprised mostly of questions with multiple choice answers.

It’s been said humans are only capable of making a finite number of good decisions in a day. Once we pass that number, the quality of our judgment starts to decline, one main reason tech titans like Steve Jobs and Mark Zuckerberg always wear the same thing any given day; it lessens the amount of choices they have to make, freeing them to hopefully save that mental energy to make better choices.

I don’t really know where I”m going with this except to say that’s what I came up with today. The inundation of all that’s possible and all that’s new has me paralyzed.  I sometimes find myself with so many options, I’m wracked by indecision, struggling with the inevitability of regret, because I know no matter which choice I go with, I may end up regretting not choosing differently. And I don’t like regret. It tastes bad. Indecision tastes bad too, but it’s a little more palatable, so I end up on the couch refusing to make a choice. Which comes with its own taste, and its own brand of regret.

I hope Jane Fonda adopts me

When you grow up in a small town and cut your teeth on the Disney renaissance, getting out is always the goal. Not that getting out was never the goal, but all those songs about being part of some other world, there being more than a provincial life, a whole new world, going the distance while the wolf cries to the blue corn moon because it’s the circle of life? Come on. I was practically being programmed to leave.

At nineteen, itching to go out and explore the world, the sight of  four privileged women running around in expensive outfits, living out their thirties in the playground of New York City was an eye-opener. What the Golden Girls is to some people, Sex and the City is to me. Until then, the longing to leave was just that. A longing. Some sort of nebulous desire to go out and somehow, have the adventure of a lifetime. There was a goal but it wasn’t exactly defined, until SATC came along and defined it.

Living in New York City was not my goal. Neither was it to be a part of a fab foursome (I would be Miranda). But what I wanted was to be an adult with people who gave me understanding and acceptance, to have my own place, to explore the idea of brunch, buy whatever caught my fancy and do whatever and whomever I wanted to do, whenever and wherever I felt like it. Sure, in my fantasy world I also weighed less than a hundred pounds and there was little to no Netflix, but that benchmark aside, I think I got what I wanted.

So here I am, the same age Carrie, Samantha, Miranda and Charlotte were, and I realize adulting is fun. It’s also a horrible ball of crap. You can’t just ignore the price of living on your own, blithely going through life and ten different credit cards in the hope of landing a job at Vogue as well as the eligible bachelor you’ve had your eye on since day one. Work has to be done. Bills have to be paid.

So what happens when you get what you want and all of a sudden realize you want even more because humans are never satisfied? You find something new to aspire to. And now, this is my new fantasy:

Yes, I know, another fab foursome of privileged white ladies swilling pinot and enjoying their hard-earned comforts, maybe I’m just too colonized for my own good. But hey, I’m with it.

Skin colour aside, what I really want is to be best friends with Jane Fonda, who is my current guru and life coach, although she really should lose that janky-ass wig… no. Skin colour aside, what I really want is to be with people I’m comfortable with, who I like, and respect, who love books, and reading, and who haven’t lost their zest to learn and discover new things, despite probably taking ten separate medications for ten separate ailments. It’s vital to still have enough joy and verve left to strap on the world’s most ridiculous push up bra, go out there and really grab life by the balls. So yes. Yes. This movie will be my Waiting to Exhale. And yes, I’m going to watch it. When it comes out. In theatres. And if I don’t, on Netflix. I think. Oh sod it all, I’ll set a reminder.

 

Image borrowed from The Mighty