Friday, January 30, 2009

Writing as a right

With my roommate's mom here tending to my spunky pal's broken bones and bed-ridden blues, I'm getting an extra dose of mothering -- a kind of parenting that includes more opinions and boy talk. Over wine and pizza at 3 in the afternoon yesterday she gave me her two cents about my plans to move to the U.S. in support of my fiance's education plans.

"American's are different"
"You know what they say about when one partner moves to be near the other, with no social network"
"What about your career?"

I finally stopped her relentless critique, yet something stirred inside. Perhaps it was the wine or the white-flour pizza, but I was feeling uneasy about the status of our plan. We hadn't fully explored the options within Canada -- a country that would offer us health care and interest relief on my substantial student loan.

I hemed and hawed over this notion for the rest of the day, looking for signs. There were signals that the U.S. market would be fertile ground for my journalism career -- like the environmental blog I'm about to start contributing to, based in NYC -- but there were also signs I should stay here in Ottawa. Assignment letters. Responses from new editors. Neighbourhoods blossoming with community spirit (that make Ottawa less like a city and more like a bunch of towns and a stable #1 employer).

I broached the subject with my fiance and it turned into a bit of a squabble, but I didn't tell him where the subject initiated from and I ended the conversation surprising him with the news that I'd be down for Valentines Day. As with all our plan-making, we're taking baby steps and keeping our options open.

In any case, with my career on the line and the love-or-money question raised, I settled down to write about what it is that keeps me tapping away at a keyboard, scrawling in the dark, composing poems on long runs. It came down to a fundamental feeling that I had a right to write. That I would feel somehow less human, less myself, less connected to the world, were I to give up the ghost on writing (and making a living by it).

And then I slept, and dreamt like never before. At one point, on the verge of tears, I shut my eyes and saw a book, it's pages urging me to write.

I woke, recalling my dream for pages in the half-light of dawn.

In the end, I found that writing is a right, as fundamental to my existence as water or air. Take it away and I falter, grasping at straws for who I am and what I am here for.

Monday, January 26, 2009

Monday morning (attitude)

Yes, it's Monday morning as I write this, a very cold Monday morning that saw the temperature actually drop after the sun came up. It also saw my alarm clock wake me (from a dream about getting my hair cut, the stylist finding popcorn kernels under my gums) at 7:30 a.m.!

Now, I'm usually at my desk by 9 a.m. ... but that's allowing for a dreamy 20 minutes or so of sheet-shuffling and dream-remembering. Today I had an appointment to keep: a seniors fitness class at the Metro Y.

As with all my fitness initiatives, there was a brief pause in which I questioned -- nay, doubted -- my decision. Do aerobics? For the sake of appeasing a source? Just because he offered a guest pass to his class? When it's -34C?

But alas, my bladder had already been stirred and I knew I had to answer the call. Soon I was bundled up: Gortex pants, puffy red coat, long johns, double layer of socks ... you get the picture (though really I should start documenting these get-ups... they're really something!)

That's not to say my resolve was complete. No, I stuck todays' Ottawa Citizen in my back pack -- just in case my fitness instructor source hadn't made arrangements to get me in the class free, I wanted to have back-up plans for hanging in the downtown Y lobby.

Then, as I walked in the frigid Centretown streets, the moisture from my breath forming a white layer of frost along the edge of my scarf, I realized that I was ready to rock. I had pulled myself out of bed, over the hump of Monday morning, and I was prepared to pay whatever (ok, I was considering a $3.25 limit...) to get into that class ... and receive what I knew would be a healthy dose of inspiration.

Indeed, it was more than I could have asked for. My name was on a sheet at the front desk (spelled correctly!), and the class was welcoming, quick-paced, and funny. It got me 'out of my comfort zone' by verbalizing grunts and 'voilas,' all to the tune of ABBA, Olivia Newton John, and the rest of those aerobics classics.

If you've never seen seniors move it, you're really missing out. There was something goofy, yet focused, about the mood of the class -- and altogether it made me excited for that chapter of my life.

As for this here chapter of my life, I'm meeting my source later today for coffee, where I'm expecting him to tell me the location of the fountain of youth, or at least lead me to some interesting stories.

But if neither works out, as is sometimes the case in this freelance life, I'll know this morning was not wasted. The Y60 class at Metro Y, the -34C, the alarm clock and the bundling, all got me over of the slump that sometimes comes with Monday morning.

Thursday, January 22, 2009


Yes, those second-skin garments made the fashion news this week, as menswear designers went for 'toned down creations in the context of economic woes.'

With analysts calling it the most radical change in "fashion consumption history," models touted relaxed trenches, cardigan coats and ... longjohns. For those recently-made-redundant, stay-at-home types, perhaps? Indeed, my first reaction was to cynically wretch at the thought of thousands of men, deflated without a bi-weekly paycheck, but as I pulled on my own long underwear the image in the mirror gave me pause.

Back in my day as a 'ski area professional' (we take offense to 'ski bum') I was given many a compliments for my ability to strut in said garment, my collection of multi-colored and multi-purpose longjohns, even my potential as a model for Mountain Equipment Co-op catalogs. Longjohns hide just enough, smoothing flabby bits and whispering cottage getaway in one, practical wardrobe piece. They take the role of Spanx and the cute-factor of Uggs (the boot we love to hate). And they are now needling their way onto the 2009 runway collections of recession-fearing menswear designers.

And if you're going to stay at home, wearing one item of clothing for most of the day, it might as well be comfy -- and designer-labelled.

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Taking advice (my own, and others)

So I left the iPod at home on my run today. I'd already cleared the R3-30 podcasts (hit-and-miss for running beats) and took on some DJ Miles tracks for the road, but then I remembered ... from previous posts (not to mention weird chest rashes from electronic cables) ... that my mind sort of shuts down when I listen to music on the go.

And I really do want to get back to you, blog. (Only upon returning did I realize I'd been gone for a month! Egad!)

In any case, after I started trotting down Lyon Street, eyes focused on the semi-plowed sidewalk and cheeks puckered against the wind, I realized I I would have to take it slow on this run. Winter running is an entirely different sport, involving a testy game of layering (one which I'm losing via over-bundling these days) and a final product that, in my case, looks nothing more graceful than a power-suited lade rushing the morning bus in heels and a briefcase.

Take it slow, I told myself. You're out here, you're taking a stab at it. Slow -- baby steps. (Though in this weather babies would be wheeled around or cozily strapped to mom's chest).

And then, the aha moment. I can take it slow with the blog. I can write in spurts, I can leave it alone for a week of heavy deadlines (or a time when I doubt it's role in helping be get a paying gig).

So I took my own advice a couple times here. But I also want to get better at this, I want to improve and I DO believe it can help me get paying gigs.

So, in the bleak mid-winter, when times are tough all over and neither running nor writing looks appealing, I'm going to read more blogs, research and link, and take baby steps to a new online life.