Friday, November 25, 2016

A dress is a friend

This might sound laughable, but I believe a dress is first and foremost a friend. It takes you to places you want to go, helps you feel your best self, builds your confidence, shows you aspects of yourself you never considered before. I have a picture for this post but am still working on it. Bottom line, in my view, a dress isn't an ordinary piece of clothing. The good ones aren't, anyway. Each dress has its own unique personality and is waiting to interact with the right person to go places with.

Today, while looking for a new dress at a vintage clothing shop, I came across two dresses: one was dark blue, sharp, button-up, clean lines, a perfect fit. The other one was a burnt orange, a little loose and playful, with a short gathered skirt. I wore both of them twice, and studied myself in the mirror.

The storekeeper, a young Asian woman with a straightforward, casual demeanour, commented that the dark blue dress looked very good: clean, professional, minimalist. But she also remarked when I wore the orange dress that it looked wonderful.

I told her I agreed about the dark dress, and that if I was just considering value for money and being pragmatic, I'd go for the blue dress. It's functional, respectable, and can be worn anywhere.

Except I felt nothing toward it. It was just useful, that was all.

Then there was this slightly offbeat orange dress. It put a bounce in my step and made my heart beat a bit faster.

I was agonizing which one to get, when she slapped me on the back. "Just go with the orange one," she asserted. "You like it, it flatters you, and it's like no other dress out there, right? Those other standard dresses, you can get anywhere even if it's not here. Go with the one that makes you happy."

I felt like this is more or less my decision making process with a lot of my clothes and shoes. There are the pragmatic, respectable items, which make me feel more or less like my usual self. Then there are the dresses and shoes that, the second I wear them, transport me to a scene in a book or imaginary scenario. They have a music and story about them. Those are the ones I feel the best about. 

Wednesday, November 2, 2016

The meaning of illness

I've been sick many times this year. Too sick. Too many times.

Why, I ask myself.  My mind turns to all the vitamins I should have been doing, the cranberry extract I should have been taking to boost immunity, all the work I missed, the amount I should subtract from invoices for missed days.

But then I think about the subtle signals my subconscious sends me through vivid dreams that I have while sick. These despairing, apocalyptic dreams, often featuring water and flooding and oceans, in which I'm simultaneously thriving and looking at a structure in ruins.

Slow down, they seem to say. Look inside and remember the things that were important to you. The people who love you and what they want to see you do.

As I recover today, and stagger back from my first professional haircut in a long time (I usually never give myself permission to spend on such things), I try to remember. 

Friday, September 16, 2016

Langley storekeeper

Macaron rat

I had a very mopey, despairing week full of low moods. But as my partner says, "Do, or do not. There is no try." So despite all my heartache and regrets and feelings of self-sabotoge, I went ahead and wrote, and drew, and doodled something to cheer me up. This morning it was my dear rat with two macarons. I don't eat or like those things, but they are like little gems and aesthetically delicious to look at.

Monday, August 22, 2016

Rat Chronicles - how it began, etc.

How I met my current partner. The reason it's called "Rat Chronicles," btw, is because of his observation that I'm basically a giant rodent in behaviour and habits (messy, destroys snacks, leaves bits of paper everywhere, panicky, leaves everywhere in a state of mess) beneath a human facade.

Then came the actual meeting. It's weird to think of this now but he initially wasn't 100% my type. I recently learned I wasn't really his type either. Interesting how it's turned out.

What became clearer later was that he understood he'd been "found" when he met me. I felt I'd move on to another dating partner, but it didn't happen. 

So he weathered through a bunch of things. There were some very obvious red flags about me -- pencils (a few broken) on my bed, multiple cups lying around in a 2-metre diameter, an extremely cluttered desktop, spiders in the room (he claims he got four or five spider bites on the first visit, which I think is an exaggeration. Two or three tops). Still, it didn't really clue in until a few weeks, maybe two months in, that the "real me" wasn't really a wonderful, lovely woman and wife material, but rather something more like the below.

Friday, August 19, 2016

Tuesday, August 16, 2016

The shoe shop owner

I was walking outside during lunch time and a bearded, skinny, short man around my height asked me for change. Having repeatedly given money to people who ended up using that money for drugs or drink (not judging but it made me feel like I was just enabling a destructive habit), I was about to decline, but my ears caught that his request was very specific:

"Miss (or ma'am), would you have a bit of money so I could go buy myself a burger at the $4.95 bar?"

I looked in the direction he was pointing. There was indeed a bar and burger shack, all items $4.95. And he was very explicitly asking for food.

"I can't give you any money, but I can buy you some food," I offered.
Half of me expected it not to happen; I've often bought food for people only to have it turned down because money was what they really expected.

"Sure, that would be great!" he said, brightening with a smile. "This is my first meal of the day!"

It was 1:30pm, and if I were in his shoes, I'd be going mad with hunger. Dieting never worked for me because I start shaking and become simultaneously lethargic and incredibly angry when hungry.

"You know, a lot of us in the downtown eastside get a bad rap because of the stereotype that all we want is money for drugs," he said. "But I've been clean and sober seventeen years now. I've got three part-time jobs, but there's not much work, and it's tough to eat."

I asked him what kind of jobs he does.

"Dishwasher. Construction. Painter," he said. "But there's not too much work these days."

There probably was, but when you look like someone with no fixed address, steady work can be near impossible to find.

I had no idea if his sober and clean seventeen years thing was a truth or not, but even though I was low on money myself (or probably precisely because of this fact), I decided a guy asking legitimately for food must not be denied and walked into the bar with him.

The guy appeared to have had food there before.

"I used to be a shoe shop owner, you know. It was a stable middle class business and everything. But after I hit fifty, things all went downhill," he said.

I nodded. "It's tough. It's tough to live in Vancouver."
"What about you? What do you do?"

"I'm a writer," I said. "It's a tough business."

"A writer, huh."

Were I a better human with less insecurity and less anxiety over everything, I probably would have gone ahead and ordered a beer for myself and sat down to eat with him, because eating alone sucks. But he ordered his food to go and I don't drink and was technically 'on the clock' for this job, so decided it was fine to leave.

"Thanks a lot, eh," he said. "Good luck with your writing!"

Good luck with my writing, huh. I thought, depressingly, about the book I'd been working on for six years, the plot now convoluted with too many characters, spinning hopelessly out of my control. I thought about my shitty writing skills, the story I poured my heart into recently that moved none of the people who read it. I thought of my lack of wordsmithing and storytelling ability, and of the poor subjects of the feature who deserved someone with better skill. I thought about my terrible habit of paying for people out of some guilt/pity/any excuse I could muster, my tendency to lose money on everything and get shortchanged perpetually and to refuse financial help when I really need it. How naive and foolish I am to look up quick-fix feng shui methods to bring money into my wallet rather than perpetually pouring out.

Perhaps I was compelled to help this man because I'm only a step away from becoming just like him in the unstable world of writing. It's been a very low week. Physically I'm fine but my heart feels like a sick animal, lying face down in the field trying to survive poisoning and praying not to be eaten by predators.

Shoe shop owner. I should have at the very least shared with him my love of shoes. 

Sunday, July 17, 2016

Class: a construction worker, cocaine and caviar

I hear the most interesting conversations sometimes from construction workers. This time, though, the guy wasn't saying anything -- it was more just the contrast between two young men of the same age sitting beside each other on the SkyTrain, one covered in dust and working in construction, the other, a university student in a "Cocaine & Caviar" t-shirt, spending time with other university friends, talking about evening plans.

It made me think of the issue of "class." I could be wrong and construction workers could be making a lot better money than white-collar university grads, so this is not about income. It was more like the conversations I'd been having with people who'd had to drop school to support their single moms or developmentally disabled siblings. There's some kind of unspoken divide between those who go straight to work and those who go to university at age 17.

After the student and his gf left, the construction worker pulled out a tattered spiral notebook, and I saw that it was covered in notes made in multiple pen colours, blue, green, red. There were paragraphs starting off with "Last Saturday, I went to the park..." and numerous words crossed out. I thought he might be a poet or a writer, then looked at the left side of his notebook, where there were words written in careful pen, like "verbs" and "noun." I took it he must be from another country, painstakingly writing notes and learning new words.

 I stood corrected. They are both students. I hope he goes far.

BTW to the Ted1580 guy and others who ever for some reason want to get in touch or ask for a commission (again, being untrained, I can do my best but am not the artist Junggi Kim) , reach me at plasticcastle575(at)gmail(dot)com.

Friday, July 1, 2016

Drawing and intimacy

Today, when I was sketching, my partner leaned in and tried to take my sketch book and see the drawings I'd done inside. I became incredibly embarrassed and flustered—my partner looks at professional, extremely talented artists' work for a living, and a lot of my drawings have incorrect proportions, haphazard shading, dubious composition, etc.

So I grabbed my book away and tried to vet my drawings to make sure there was nothing overly crazy or shoddy in there, and planned to rip out any drawings that were incredibly embarrassing before showing it to him. But by seeing me so embarrassed, my partner apparently lost interest, and when I handed my book to him, he just didn't want to see it anymore.

"No. It's too late. I'm not interested anymore," he said.

I rarely feel emotions in an intense way, or rarely have since my teens, but this made me feel deeply ashamed and unhappy. It was just one incident, but I felt like it was a metaphor for my entire life -- that I'm too ashamed and embarrassed to let others see me, especially anything creative, so I hide away and try to edit and fix mistakes until it's ready to view.

But by that point, people have lost interest or moved on, even those people who are close to me. Even the father of my friend was mystified, and told me I should be less shy and self-conscious about these things.

Perhaps this is why I'm not suited for the creative field, even though I've dreamed about it incessantly as a child. Having this one thing criticized is as uncomfortable as having my eyeballs stroked with a sponge. I'm not sure when it all started or why it's lasted so long.

I'm far less sensitive to having other aspects of me mocked or critiqued (I couldn't care less what people think of my appearance or morality, for example), but somehow, the very idea of my partner looking at my stories or drawings and feeling disappointed makes me want to jump out the window.

"Are you annoyed because it seems like I don't trust you?" I asked.
"YES," he said, glaring.
"It's not's just that you look at really talented people's art all day, and..."
"So? That doesn't mean I don't want to look at your work," he said. "I mean, I'm aware that it's a sketch book. I'm not expecting fully completed art works."
"Yes, but--I just want to make sure it's good enough before showing you. You know how it's embarrassing when people look at your writing, and it has typos in them, and you know you can fix them, but--"
"So fix them!" he shouted.

I started to stammer about how for some reason I'm not very good at what I do, but still incredibly touchy about people's opinion, but he cut me off, saying "I'm busy right now."

I don't know why, but my partner seems to really hate when I have things I don't share with him.

This is a problem, because I've always had a deeply secretive, guarded side to me.

I assume everyone in the world has things they don't want to share with even their most trusted friend or family member or significant other, and don't pry for that reason.

But with my partner, every secret, every attempt I make at hiding is like a massive violation of trust. He sees it as evidence I don't have confidence in him. Since this has already happened many times, I don't know how I can remedy the situation.

It's strange, because even though I think I'm being completely open about even bad things, I keep a lot of personal things from people all the time. It's not that I mean to be untrustworthy. I just don't have the confidence, for starters, and on top of that I'm a hopeless lover of mystery and the unknown, and speculation. When human beings landed on the moon, at least some people were likely angry that the mysterious, unknown parts of the moon were gone, replaced by cold hard certitude -- I'd be one of them.

But I'm realizing that it wins me no sympathy from my partner, perhaps he even is disgusted with me over it, so I'm going to try to develop some thicker skin.

My goal for 2016 -- it's one that requires a lot of effort -- is to be less shy and less embarrassed about people's judgment. There was a time when I was able to change many aspects of my personality through sheer practice and effort. From not being able to talk to a single stranger for many years, practice and more practice has made it almost completely natural, to the point I don't even think about it anymore. Eating disorders and other conditions are not completely gone due to conscious efforts to change.

Will this fear be something I can radically alter? Or is it a core element of personality that some might just call fate?