Tuesday, 30 September 2014

Happiness Is

Juggling an apple.


According to my favourite port of call when I am A: physically sick, B: mentally exhausted and C: quite a bit of je ne sais pas. That would be Cabin Pressure. Listen below for the quirky life advice of Arthur Shappey.

There are a million things you might apply to happiness. A trillion. Basically, happiness is like the universe, expanding and expanding and expanding. So much so that we honestly cannot comprehend even into what it is expanding to.

I feel like I am complaining a lot lately, or at the very least, around people I find myself wanting to say negative things. I might have mentioned the national sport of England is not football, but "whinging" (their word for complaining).

Plus I am a natural perfectionist, at least in my head, even though you could say I have areas of total messiness and imperfection I am the least perfect person possible. (At least in terms of attempts to be such). Nonetheless, I do strive to give off the best impression, be likeable, be passionate, be engaging. That's *very* hard to keep up on a daily basis when you are also an introvert who would much rather be at the back creating things, instead of at the front telling people how to do something, or directing them toward some form of comprehension.

I recently went back down to London, for the day. I was literally up at 5am and back home and in bed by after midnight. In one day I went from a small town with small people and small minds to one of the most cosmopolitan cities in the world and back again, in the space of 18 hours.

Sometimes I cannot comprehend what possessed me to go down the path I am on. I dream of being a freelance writer. I dream of being an author. I dream of wandering the paths of Greenwood and exploring halls of Imladris. I want to be whom and where I am not.

Sound familiar? I bet.

Part of my reasons for being over here in England was just because I was hating being at home. I was stifled. I felt stagnant. I felt like I was going the back end of nowhere.

And then today I heard of a girl who asks things like "which twin's birthday is it today?" and who takes great joy in spending hours on painting toenails and the like Simple. Mindless. To her, that is pure happiness.

To me, I cannot comprehend how anyone could find joy in something like that. I'll do it. But I would nnever spend hours on that sort of thing. Then again, I read for hours on end and someone else might say I am wasting time reading mindless entertainment, seeing as most of library is fantasy, sci-fi or mystery. Genre fiction.

It's a simple activity to me. Simple. Mindless.

I can get lost in it.

Take those moments when you wake up late, rush out the door, breakfast in hand or dangling from your lips, saliva starting to melt it into mush. When you reach your destination on time. What do you feel?

I'd describe it as the best caffeinated, caffeine substitute this side of the universe.

That is happiness.

It is no grand, unobtanium from some distant planet. It might even be the slice of peanut butter toast being crammed in your mouth.

Except that you probably will forget you crammed it in your mouth an hour later when you are trapped in the rat race of work and you will feel distinctly unhappy.

So, how do you feel happy?

By remembering. Make a story of your day. Make it dramatic. Put it to the soundtrack of some epic music or belt it out like you are the star of a musical.

I am challenging you to keep a notebook listing everything that you did every day that should bring happiness, did bring happiness or could bring happiness. The next time you parttake in that speedy breakfast of peanut butter toast, enjoy the feeling of it sticking to the roof of your mouth as you barrel-ride your way to work.

Happiness is the courage to see your perspective from the rear view mirror.

Remember the Bucket? Fill it up with moments of happiness.

And epic music...like this: The best way to be fantastic in life is to have the courage to build a mountain of little moments of happiness. Stand on that. Then make more and stand in the valley, surrounded by those mountains.

Happiness. Is. Everything.

Friday, 19 September 2014

Practically Making Time

I love quotes but I love far too many, to actually manage to recall them all. There is one though that always stands out, since it is the most prevailent in a life of an anyone who must work in order to attend to basic needs.

It goes as follows:

"Writing is easy: All you do is sit staring at a blank sheet of paper until drops of blood form on your forehead."
~Gene Fowler

If the world is a grain of sand, so too, is it in a flower. And yet, Work makes us forget those colourful bits.

Though, I must admit, the way it tends to run through my head, it goes more like this:

"I like work. I can stare at it for hours. Until blood drips from my head."

Just as much sarcasm but with a slightly more all-encompassing twist.

Either way, however I choose to remember the quote, the key phrase is essentially that you can literally spend your life working and working and working and in the end, what is there to show from it?

I had a most wonderful dinner with my landlady/bnb host. I should note I am not sure what to define her as seeing as she runs a bnb but I am staying here long term. I use the kitchen and all that jazz as I would in a flatshare, except the flatmates change on a regular basis; for a day or so there seems to be no one at all, and a few times over the next months I will have to shift to another room simply because some people need to (and do) book six months to a year in advance. Fair enough. Plus, I get my sheets done, I can have my laundry done too and there is a tidy collection of tea bags, instant coffee and milk always. I feel ridiculously fortunate and more than a bit horrible that I cannot seem to be very good at obviously expressing my gratitude. I am though, grateful, beyond words. It's little things like tonights dinner that remind me I was right in my feelings to not take a room on one of the shifty estates or that it was okay the gentleman with the room I initially found, basically dropped me without notice for an older and more settled nurse.

But none of that is particularly on poise for the purpose of this post. Though it is a rather perfect presentation of one of my problems. I ramble. Horribly. Which often leads to me getting lost in both figurative and literal corners. Bury St Edmunds was a bit of a nightmare the first day I wandered. I was lost within seconds. Mostly because my sense of direction is not used to factoring in little alley ways, side streets and the sort of detours that are literal holes in brick walls that you think will just get you straight out to the other end but really take you 'round the opposite.

That being said, I am also a very driven and goal oriented individual, when it comes to material goals and achievements.

My move to England however, was one of those rare things that essentially made a disreputable hash of oil and vinegar (the bad sorts filled with factory chemicals I mean) in terms of my goal-orientation clashing with my butterfly imaginism. It took me just wanting to get the flipping fudge out of Vernon, because Victoria, as adorable, artsy and quaintly British as it tried to be, was still Canadian, and therefore Not British. No matter how many times you walk past the Empress, the Parliament buildings, grab tea at Murchies or have clotted cream and scones. There are still those silly tourist shops selling carry-on sized maple syrup bottles, maple fudge, the Bay, and that hilarious black bear, or maybe it was a moose, that sat outside of one of the shops in a Mounty's hat. (See I can't even remember it's just so stereotyped). Then though you have the gorgeous totem poles, the orca statues and well, double decker buses with the blue and green British Columbia logos all over (I'd almost say they were copying London, except that all of BC has double deckers in the larger towns...except Vancouver, Vancouver is in a class of its own). 

England though is England, in all its mist-rain, whinging-is-a-national-sport (complaining) and excess of packaging and pennies. Their rudeness knows no bounds in one area and the next second they are all a mask of rock, politeness. Also, their driving is terrifying but their public transit is peachy.

Either way, I am here. I am experiencing. I am here for experience. Lots of it. But when you spend most of your days staring at work for hours, until blood drips from your forehead because you are racking your brains on the laundry wires until they are parched, your mind wonders what the flack you're doing. Well, that and the usual questions of how will you be more successful? How will you feel less tired? How will you be more happy?

I've just been falling back on, "it's experience. Live and let live. The day is over. It has passed. Move on. Breathe. Trust. Relax. Enjoy."

I panicked this morning because I had to take my form group out for a fire drill and I hadn't a moment to preview the path the group was meant to take from their room (which is not my usual classroom). They though, being Year 11's had more experience than me, and anyway, I had a moment before the start to vaguely glance over the email with the map. But I still used time panicking. Or, in other words. I let blood drip from my forehead and wasted too many ticks of the clocks (which still aren't matchin up in the school, anywhere).

Time. It goes by fast. Everyone knows that. But you don't really *know* it until you are near the end of it, something, or a particular stage. I have been in England for one month and three days. I didn't even note the passing of the full month. I was focused on the end of September itself. Either way, time has moved. Fast. And here I am, for experience. What have I experienced? Loads. Of course I have. It's a new country after all. Except there is still loads more. What I have experienced feels like poking my toe into the water at Long Beach (Tofino, BC) when I was eleven (or something, that first time) and then I finally stood up to my ankles in the ice water and let the tide slurp my feet down in a miniature version of a sinkhole, before jumping out of it with a giggle. Child's play.

The loads more I have to experience is that little something called travel. The little bit that sparks the desire to move to a different country in most people. I am most people in that regard. I came here to see many different places, most of which I have only seen pictures of, as a film set or read in books or on the internet. In short, from that intangible distance is a puzzle of experience that cannot be solved until you are breathing the same air as the person you idolize or that which various buildings or mountains were formed in.

Which brings me back to the dinner with my landlady. Uttler lovely. But you'd be bored out of your mind. The key bit I do want to leave you with is something I am also challenging myself to do now.

I am going to call on my practical side. I am going to call on my creative side. I am going to combine the two and practically make time.

Or, in more mundane language, I am going to make lists. I am going to make lists of all the places I want to visit, all the locations in the places I want to visit, all the things I want my camera to snap, all the foods I want to try and whatever else I can potentially dredge up as I make linear lists.

Then, applying myself religiously to the perusal of airlines, trains and coaches, I will be setting aside one weekend per month in which I go somewhere.

September, though nearly done, is basically set on me possibly getting to Cambridge and at least, very definitely going down to London again to visit a cohort who came to teach in England back in April. 

Making lists is difficult and it is still very easy to forget to add something, which makes me feel it to be restrictive. Then again, if I want to achieve anything, if anyone wants to achieve anything, lists are one of those necessary evils that act a bit like fabric bandages. They stop the bleeding forehead when you've been at work too long but the act of pulling them off (ie: getting them done), is on the list of distateful tasks that remind me of cleaning bathrooms with bleach back in the days when my mom hadn't twigged on the natural cleaners that one, did not smell of deadly chemicals and two, were a million times healthier and better cleaners anyway; being natural, non-deadly chemicals. She has me to thank for her being, if still a crazy cleaner, at least an environmentally friendly, crazy cleaner.

Will you be practical this weekend and make a list of goals to get accomplished and time frames by which they must be accomplished in?

I've got enough to practically make more time than eternity.

Wednesday, 17 September 2014

Instructions on the Box

Lately I've been ending my work days tired, rather braindead and feeling like no matter how many steps I take forward, there are a million more I still must make and the very definite potential of stepping onto a landmine of disaster.

One, I am a newly qualified teacher. Two, I am a newly qualified teacher, from Canada. Three, I am not naturally extroverted. Four, I am basically a walking enclyclopaedia with the memory of an elephant and imagination the size of the Everest. I have a flipping, endless, library tower for a memory bank after all. Plus, like just about every other person on the planet, I have my fairly large share of self-esteem challenges so all in all, I generally don't feel nearly as good as the stranger plonked next to me on the train.

Therefore and naturally so, in order to succeed and to know that I have succeeded, I am the sort who loves to have a tidy list of things to check off that will determine whether or not I am actually a decent human being.

The problem? Life isn't an IKEA instruction manual. In fact, it is more of a DIY, over the past 24 years these are the bits I've picked up from various garage/yard/boot sales and now, now, you are asking me to manifest it into something which will create a tangible output of success.

Excuse me while I go scream in a corner and bang my head against my desk for a spell.

There. Are. No. Instructions.

I have built a brick wall out of my life. Ordered. Expected. Going from one direction to another.

Also known as the acronymn, TANI, this has recently become a point of contention in the jury house of my library (in my head). See, as a teacher, instructions are just a teensie bit, very much vital; both in terms of corraling thirty plus teens who are exciteable or tempermental and in terms of directing the same teens to comprehend and respond to the material and challenges being presented in a logistically and ordered fashion that will lead them to a greater understanding.

On the other hand is the side of me that has come off of years of being driven to the very goal I am living, I mean, I have had the aim of being a teacher since at least the age of fifteen. Thus I am left really with only my desire to become properly published (ie: publishing house published) and travel to all the places I want to see.

And so here I am, feeling quite adrift, very much in a state of d├ępaysement (the feeling of being wrongfooted when not in ones home country, of being out-of-place).

I am finally in an actual job and considered an actual adult which both are bizarre since I still see myself as practically a teenager. Yet, ironically in my eyes, any coworker I mention being just 24 for too looks at me like I must be fudging the truth. Most think I am closer to 28 at least. Should I feel insulted by that? I haven't decided. Either way, I am definitely not anywhere near the maturity level of other 24 year olds I work with who to me, are so extroverted and very much into socialising, gossip and general goofiness so perhaps it isn't all that bad. 

Is there a secret service agent around the corner about to arrest me for pretending to be someone I am not? Who knows.

All that is are footsteps to make. One in front of the other. Day by day. I listen to Shane Koyczan's "Instructions for a Bad Day" regularly now. It doesn't help much, beyond the minute or so after, but perhaps, like the "fake it until you make it" smiling method, if I listen to advice on how to get through difficult days full of students who behave so horribly you cannot believe you are on the same planet still, perhaps a good day will stick. Perhaps my library mind will recognise 99.9% of life is literally incapable of being categorised and does not belong in an IKEA shop. After all, even all those horrible kids have reasons for being horrible that go beyond instructional logic. My writing on these blogs goes beyond instructional logic. It rolls and rambles and tumbles back 'round again.

This week I am going to challenge myself to have one day without a single plan. One day where I listen to no expectations from myself, others or society. I am not near the success of some of my role-models and yet there are many who are not near the success of myself. I am living a dream. Perhaps it hasn't turned out as lily-tipped as I imagined but if everything came in an IKEA box, life would get rather mundane and predictable and already, there are days when even I, in all my love of order and expectation, like to throw out quirks that throw others off.

A student gave another teacher in the English department a dead bird's leg. It looked like a curled, miniature skeleton of an angel wing. Crackled and delicate. Tiny and tender. It grossed out everyone else. If I could I'd have a whole skeleton hiding out in my back cupboard. Maybe a jar with a preserved heart. It would go fantastically with Edgar Allan Poe's "Tell Tale Heart" short story too.

Anyway, as I challenge myself to have one whole day where I plan absolutely "nothing" I challenge all of you to pick one day this week to plan absolutely "nothing." At the end of it, all I ask is that you reflect, mentally, or through writing, how did you feel throughout the day, what fears, doubts, freedoms or frustrations did you have?

I bet you it will all be positive realisations. Fare thee well!

Saturday, 13 September 2014

If I Had

Had we but world enough, and time,
This coyness, Lady, were no crime.
We would sit down and think which way
To walk and pass our long love’s day.
~ from "To His Coy Mistress"
Andrew Marvell 1621 -1678 

Have you ever heard the phrase "had I but world enough and time"? I have. Not sure where though but it was circling through my head this morning as gray light slipped through the huge windows of my new home and I snuggled deeper under freshly washed sheets...only to have a list of potential things to do start running a marathon on the oval track of my brain. 

There is always so much to do, to see, to hear, to taste, to touch. I walk into grocery stores here and it's a struggle to decide what to go with in terms of one, being diverse and healthy, and two, keeping to a budget, and three, allowing myself treats but also ensuring I am trying new things so I can experience as much as possible. The same goes for what I do on a daily basis. Yes, most of my days are living at school since I get there for 6:30 and often don't leave, exhausted, until 6. By the time I am home I might have planning or marking to do, I squeeze in a bit of lazy reading and then I drop into bed, lately, near midnight. Especially, if I get asked if I want to go out for dinner, or come by for tea or whatever the case, and then things get shifted back or around even more. In my idealistic mind I figured every weekend I should aim to travel to somewhere for the weekend, but honestly, as a new teacher and an introvert who needs alone time, with just a book, not even random cafe strangers, in order to recharge, that probably won't happen. 

 I'm still going to try but what I am currently coming to grips with is the notion that we don't have eternity and nor is the world and giant place. Not that I really have a desire to see every single corner of it. Just certain parts. What I am learning currently is that, when you choose to move to somewhere to live, to live, even if it is to a new country that you want to explore and learn about, you are living there. That means factoring all those mundane and dull things that come with being human. Like sleeping, eating, having a disgustingly oily face by the end of a ten-twelve hour day because of the more humid climate or just having a personality that as much as your logical brain cannot shut and wants to keep going and going, your emotional side just wants to curl up in a corner with a comfortable book you have read before and smells like home. Currently I have my nose in Paulo Coelho's "The Alchemist" again. 

I have so many people in my list of connections now. Just skyping them all takes many hours. Plus I've begun making friends here and that too of course takes time. Then, I still haven't stopped my writing dreams, I still have plans to go out in early morning hours to photograph Bury St Edmunds without many people about, I have an ever building list of places to visit, Cambridge and Sutton Hoo being the closest and most present in my mind at the moment since i could day-trip them both which leaves me time to actually prep for my teaching job. Whoever says teaching is the most slack job because of all the time off does not realise how much effort goes into the job outside of the work hours you are paid for. Especially when you are new at it, have no experience or resources to draw from and yet you are expected to take on the same work load as an experienced teacher who has five or more years of resources to pick from. 

But maybe, maybe, we need to do not what Andrew Marvell suggests, which is to take time to think about what we will fill our days with, but to just do things on spontaneity, to not judge our choices as good or bad. If we need a day to recharge. We need a day. The point is that we are making a choice and we need to wholeheartedly believe in that choice. 

The challenge is when you wish to do great things but your idea of great things measures up to the individuals who are buried in places like the Poets' Corner in Westminster Abbey. It's at this point in the teeter totter of your mind I remember Andrew Marvell who I didn't know, let alone did I attribute him to this poem or the line this post is centred around until I looked it up out of mild curiousity about a year ago and I've heard the phrase "if I had world enough and time" (which is really not even very accurate) thrown about for much longer than that. 

It tells me that whatever I do, however I do it, this blog for example even, will go out into the world, it'll be some words among trillions, some thoughts among billions, one life among ten million years worth. So, really, then, what does it matter what I do, so long as I do something. 

After all. I am here aren't I? Here on Earth. Living. Breathing. Writing all this right now. 

Here's another saying for you. An idiom: "the devil's in the details." 

Berry details on a walk through a nature reserve in Bury St Edmunds.

I see that as meaning life is in the details. The good, the bad, the little, the big, the sideways bits that don't ever actually turn out how we envisioned. I encourage you to spend today looking at things with a magnifying glass (whether you wish it to be metaphorical or not is up to you) and you'll see your life in the things you spend time with. It is in the seconds you take to enjoy your toast in the morning. Just your toast. Not your toast with your newspaper or your phone or your prep for work or while you are running scattily toward your transit vehicle. Your life with be the sum of many parts. It is neither good nor bad nor sideways. It is life. It keeps going no matter how many times you sit down to think about which way you are going to walk into order to best pass the time which is delegated to day cycle of this planet. 

If had we world enough and time, I would suggest we kept our ears opened and did whatever we desired during every second that passed us by. It might be watching tv, reading a book, listening to music, walking, biking, sleeping, eating, visiting with friends or family, scrolling through websites or wandering through isles of clothes. 

Whatever it is. Enjoy the details of this life. You've just got one. 

Sunday, 7 September 2014

Bereft on the Winds of Wifi

“We are an exceptional model of the human race. We no longer know how to produce food. We no longer can heal ourselves. We no longer raise our young. We have forgotten the names of the stars, fail to notice the phases of the moon. 

We do not know the plants and they no longer protect us. We tell ourselves we are the most powerful specimens of our kind who have ever lived. But when the lights are off we are helpless. We cannot move without traffic signals. 

We must attend classes in order to learn by rote numbered steps toward love or how to breast-feed our baby. We justify anything, anything at all by the need to maintain our way of life. And then we go to the doctor and tell the professionals we have no life. 

We have a simple test for making decisions: our way of life, which we cleverly call our standard of living, must not change except to grow yet more grand. We have a simple reality we live with each and every day: our way of life is killing us.” - Charles Bowden

I adore books. More than the average person you run across but probably less than those who could not live anywhere but a library and make their careers all that and more. I could have, but somehow I find myself working as a teacher, and in England no less. I might pin the few English teachers I had in high-school as my reasons, or my mom, or the fact they do get summers off. Whatever reason landed me here, I am here and that is that. 

Thing is, many of those potential reasons are very much based in me going along the push-car path of domesticity. Domesticity into society. The sort who follows pathways and generally doesn't cut the corner and tread on the grass. The sort who looks both ways and then some (especially around here. No one can drive and they certainly don't put much stock in pedestrians attempting to cross streets at crosswalks. 

I moved to my permanent residence over part of the weekend and that consisted of at least one hiccup (as any point of movement usually does). This time it was a loss of wifi and my landlady and her husband had gone to Cambridge for the weekend. For two days I was without wifi. I hummed and shuffled. I tapped and I twitched. I went out to the morning market, dropped a gift off to the lady I lived with temporarily and got called "her first Canadian friend in Bury" (which made me feel rather like a circus oddity) and went shopping for a good stock now that I have the permament space to store things, as well as my very own classroom which needs to be filled with resources beyond what the English Department is able to provide. But then, it was back home, to no wifi. What did I do? I wrote. Having no wifi is a rather useful method of getting yourself focused, or sitting in a cafe or library, which is what I did after only a few hours of impatience. 

All that is to say, I was lost without my wifi. I felt stranded. I started really missing home. I really wanted to call my mom and dad. I worried what they might be thinking. 

One day and a bit. No wifi. That structure that is in place. That structure which began with the invention of my adored books. That sussed out oral storytelling and made it some novelty item that gets taught in schools as "this is how the ancients used to do things." That made me miss home and get more emotional than I have in all these three weeks. 

Loosing that connection. That safety net. The key that means I never truly am in a different world or on a different planet because I can always, always search up photos, news and family. 

How people did it one hundred years ago. I haven't a clue. But that brings me right back to how this is one huge and ironic, tragedy. 

I have been so domesticated, so educated, so ruler-straightened that I show up to trains, to meetings, to casual events, ridiculously early, because I cannot even trust that the clocks I follow are neccessarily in line with the clocks everything else follows, or that my sense of direction (which is generally good, until factoring in medieval side-streets and lack of signposts), also falls prey to not trusting in the systems I have agreed to live by, just because, they might, they just might fail me, like the wifi did. 

I have no control over them. But then, did the ancients have control over the stars, the sun, the tide or the heat-waves that bring about drought? No. Of course not. Except that they learned to live by the whims of nature. They learned to go with the flows of up, down and sideways. They did not seek to bend nature to their will and thus, if something failed. It failed. It was no end of the world. It just meant moving on. Starting over. Getting up and dusting knees off. 

Then again, in our reckoning of "ancient" that still covers societies that were forming cities and farms, naval fleets and grand empires. They were the beginning of what we are today. 

I see all this. I recognise all this. I agree with all this. Our domesticity is death. 

But do I want to let go of it? No. After all, I adore my books. Is that wrong of me? Is that wasteful? Lazy? Hypocritical? 

Judge me. Go ahead. Perhaps I am all of the above. Perhaps I am only a few. Perhaps I am nothing at all but just another sheep who has delusions of grandeur (another thing which is just a product of our domesticity). See, if I was to be a real person, like truly, really, living my understandings, I would get up and live in a hatch/hut in the woods, live off the land, own nothing but the clothes I wore and meditate all day. 

Thing is, that's not living. Living is experience. Living is exploring. If the world is water, then living as a human is a tide pool. We are part of a bigger picture but sometimes we are a part of a picture that is focused inward, on ourselves and our little life that goes about as far as our feet can physically take us and our mind is comfortable with.

Most people here think I am crazy and brave to have done what I did. Moving out here, newly qualified and obviously entirely new to the school system, let alone the culture itself. (No matter how much you learn and know about a place, you don't know it until you live it). 

I just did it for the experience. Like I am doing teaching. I did it because I was terrified of it. I am no orator. I am no outgoing, bubbly individual. I adore my books. I would live in those all day. Books could be my entire world if I wanted. But actually, I haven't read much in the past months. Not a proper novel anyway. I have been too busy experiencing and working toward being able to experience.

Charles Bowden would probably despair of me but I, I will just keep trekking on. I've gotten this far as the domesticated animal that I am. This is life. This is experience. I am living in this era as one particular human girl among billions. I'm not special. I'm perhaps even a bit dull. 

What matters though is I stop. Sometimes. I watch the stars. I wander through woods. 

Perhaps that is no better then those people who feel good about their token contribution to the betterment of the environment through their measly weekly recycling but at least, at least it is a start. 

Check back with me another time. Whenever that may be. I do at least, follow the belief that you cannot put a clock or moon cycles to the development of knowledge. 

Learning life by the day.