Snip. Snip.

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I sat alone at a bar two hours before midnight on New Year’s Eve.  I watched couples and groups of friends in their fancy attire, clinking jubilant glasses; their laughter as lively as their libations.  I watched Times Square, already an hour into 2016, in full party mode on the TV above the bar, and as I nibbled the salt off of the rim of my margarita, I couldn’t help but wonder, what in the hell kind of holiday hullabaloo is New Year’s even about?

We spend exorbitant amounts of money to participate in parties rife with high expectations, bad champagne, and usually devoid of any significant payoff.  We make resolutions that last for 2.5 days, or like mine, which don’t actually kick in until January 2nd, because you’re so hung-over after the New Year’s Eve party that all good behavior need not apply on New Years Day.

Now, don’t worry.  This isn’t a doomsday story of a sad, troubled girl sitting at a bar, spending New Year’s drinking all alone.  I spent the next 48 hours with new friends and it was the best two days I have had in a long time.

But I did wonder, where did the traditions come from? The celebrating? The resolutions? The shedding of the old and embracing the new…and so I asked the Oracle. Otherwise known as Google.

In pre-Christian times, based on the Julian calendar, the first of January honored the Roman god, Janus.  After which, January was named.  Janus was the god of gateways, doors and new beginnings.  He was depicted as having two heads, one that looked forward and one that looked backwards.  Which makes sense when you contemplate the lyrics of Auld Lang Syne, the New Year’s song which poses the question: “should old acquaintance be forgot and never brought to mind?” No matter what changes life brings, what and who do we choose to remember?  What do we leave behind and what do we take with us?

Now based on the modern, Gregorian calendar of Christendom, January 1st was the day Jesus was named and then circumcised.  Talk about shedding! Talk about a day NOT to celebrate: get your dick cut off and have your fate sealed as the Son of God, (talk about nepotism) doomed to persecution, public ridicule and a whole lot of splinters.  Leave it up to the Christians to celebrate a day of foreskin removal and penile mutilation as a sign of hope and possibility.

Now has anybody clued into the fact that Jesus was named Jesus (snip, snip) on the exact same day, which previously celebrated the god, Janus?

Jesus. Janus. Um…hello??? Perhaps the whole thing was a typo all this time!

BOOM!!! I just blew your mind. Da Vinci Code Unplugged!

What I’m getting at (or not getting at) is that everything in my world falls under the category of “new” right now.

It’s really hard to start over. I’m too old for this shit. I was always the new kid. I used to crave being the new kid. I used to move all the time; saw it as an opportunity to re-invent myself.  To be a better version of myself.  But I didn’t come here for that.  I would like, for a time, a little predictability.  Stability.  A comfort zone that feels like home.  Something or someone to stick. A sense of self that feels solid.  And so I feel resistant to all of this newness, because I didn’t ask for this and I certainly didn’t seek it out.

I just moved into a new apartment, have a new job, meeting new friends, flying to New Mexico next weekend (to see an old friend) and let’s not forget, a new studio; my dream and my focus for the last FIVE years is opening at the end of February. Whether I like it or not, newness is something I must accept.  And while newness is supposed to be exciting, fresh and exhilarating, mostly, I feel a little scared and intimidated.

Newness is inevitable. And I have to figure out how to move forward (snip, snip) and let old acquaintance be forgot.

I choose what to remember and what to carry forward. And maybe that is a new twist to an old story that simply changes everything….

 

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Memoirs of a Downward Facing Dog

When I’d packed the van back in October, I did it strategically:  assuming along the way, there would be camping opportunities and I’d be sleeping in it from time to time.  I piled up the blankets and the pillows, washed and re-hung the curtains, and lined up the boxes in the back so that only minimal reorganizing was needed when I wanted to convert the back to sleeping quarters.

Now, I’m not entirely sure which country I thought I was travelling through when I’d had that notion….perhaps Ethiopia, Botswana, or Qatar, but somehow my reasoning had failed to include the fact that this is Canada.  In November.

If you know me at all, you’ll have learned that I am a big fan of bucket lists.   Not the kind of things that you want to do before you kick the can…. although, I have a couple of those too.  But the things that you want to experience in places you suspect you won’t be back to for a while.  Things you need to do when you have the chance, because chances are transient and fleeting, just like the wind.

I had made a bucket list before I left Prince Edward Island, which mostly included a plethora of beaches and food to visit and eat my way through.  I made a bucket list for Montreal; of all those touristy things you take advantage of when you live in a city, and upon knowledge of your departure, decide you really should see before you leave.  Truth be told, I wasn’t so successful checking things off that list, but Montreal and I both know…I’ll be back soon enough.

Needless to say, there were a number of things I’d wanted to check off of my cross-country trip bucket list.  Namely, “making it across alive.”  I knew I wanted to drive through Canada, and I wanted to sleep in that van.

I have to say that when I’d planned this trip, I think that I romanticized the adventure a fair bit.  I had visions of passengers; friends eager to accompany me and eager for adventure.  Group sing-a-longs and passenger-seat DJ’s flipping tunes as the van happily puttered through scenic, foreign landscapes.  I imagined plopping my yoga mat down on mountaintops, serene moments of contemplation and introspection; handstands using the side of my van as a prop.

None of that really happened.  And I certainly hadn’t counted on doing the entire drive solo.

After the death-drive from Edmonton to Calgary, I still had to cross the Rocky Mountains; a trip that had my anxious heart racing so much, at the time, smoking cigarettes seemed a reasonable course of action.  6 hours and 1.5 un-enjoyed cigarettes later and I had made it….into the temperate, mild weather of Chilliwack, B.C.

So it was a blessing-in-disguise when my gracious hosts mentioned that her husband had a dog allergy, and though I could take the guest room, the dog had to sleep in the garage.  Feeling sorry for my old girl and constant travel companion, I thought….what better time than to put a big, fat check-mark next to a few REM cycles in my trusty and reliable cross-Canada chariot?

I rearranged the boxes, fluffed up the blankets, drew the curtains and snuggled in for the night.  Jerzy curled up against my side, and I drifted off to sleep full of gratitude.  The engine compartment was right underneath where my head and heart were lying and I felt connected to its machinery; thankful that this old, rusty She-Wolf had made it cross-country without a hitch.  With my paintings strapped to the ceiling, I was soothed by their presence, listening to the rain fall outside; grateful it was warm enough to not snow.

But that’s the funny thing about bucket lists and expectations:  sometimes they let you down, and sometimes they remind you that everything is right where it should be.

That is, of course, until my friends’ husband broke the van the next day.

Unexpected?  Check.

 

Catch and Release

I recently took a colleague’s class and it was so satisfying.  I was down deep, in one of those places where the “other” people in the room cease to exist and there is nothing but sensation of tendons, muscle, bones and breath working in fascinating, focused harmony.   And, while in Pigeon, she said, quite simply:  “Just. Let. Go. “

I felt my body slump to the ground in response to her words.  Tension releasing from areas of my body I was previously unaware were tight, and a sense of “shwoooosh” that left me molten and fluid.  It made me realize that there is so much more work to do in that department.  And I’m always amazed by the tendencies and the stories that get trapped in our bodies in a muscular, physical form.

That letting go doesn’t just mean letting go of the negative; the things that hurt you, the fear, insecurity and ego, but letting go means also relinquishing expectation, plan and control.  Letting go of stories that brought you joy, because they are now in the past; of success, because by which measuring stick would one ever deem worthy to calculate triumph over tribulation?  Letting go means softening your grip and letting the cards fall where they may.

As I start to wind down my time here on PEI, I notice I am feeling slightly clingy.  Clingy to situations; impressions of sensation and location.  For example, I raced a bumble bee on my bike ride the other day, like, for a long time.  And I can’t get that out of my head.  The mixture of lilacs and salty, sea air that lazily drifts in the breeze in the park by the studio.  How do I bottle that up and take it with me?  Clingy to friendships, strengthened by the sun, or by simply the limited time left together.  So much so, that I feel liking taking blood oaths to “swear we will be friends forever” and yet, hygienically, that is just gross, and realistically, life has taught me that there are no such guarantees, bodily fluids exchanged or not.  There is no such thing as forever.   Incidentally, we settled for friendship bracelets instead.

This place has cast its spell and even though I know, deep down in my heart, that it is time to move on, this process always surprises me.  It’s not like this is the first time.  Scrolling back through older entries and I realize that this past year has been nothing but moving.  Constantly changing venues, and each time falling in love with the people, places and moments of my locale.  Each time having to Let. Go. And. Leave.

But yet, what I have discovered, is a whole lot more space in my heart.  It’s not as if one experience moves in at the expense of another.  That my heart space just opens wider to take more in.  I can hold it all.  I feel more alive than I have ever known.  Vitality coursing through.  Energy and stamina that sometimes makes me feel like a bionic woman.  I mean, I can barely sleep at night because I’m just so excited to wake up to another day.  This is exhilarating.

So, I’m trying to get ready.  Instead of clinging my fingertips on the edge of the precipice, I am going to open up my palms and freefall.

The Move (part III)

I have to admit that I had already planned to write the story of my departure before the event had even taken place.  I had it all built up in my mind of exactly how it would go.  All of the characters staged and ready in the dress rehearsal.  My expectation honed to its knife-sharp edge.  And doesn’t life always hand out lessons like that?  Like a little towel-snap on the rear-end, just to keep you in check and remind you who’s in charge.  I’m a yogi.  I should’ve known better.

It was a heartwarming story.  A story about the mysterious circle of life.  What goes around comes around.  To give is to receive.  Reap and ye shall sow.  I signed over my lease to my neighbours.  We have watched each others’ lives unfold through windows in our apartments, windows into our dining room tables, to family gatherings, friends, babies, food.  Through the commonality of our back-yard gardens and shared sidewalks we’ve exchanged pleasantries, albeit strained by the boundaries of language.  Connected strangers.  And I always wanted to be more neighbourly.  If you remember, I always wanted to get invited over for dinner and sit in the other side of that window.

So, maybe I never did get invited over for dinner at the dining room table I saw from my apartment every day for three years.  But in my story, I gave something even better.  I gave them the opportunity to put their dining room table in my dining room.  A fresh, new space for their blossoming family.

In my imagined reality, after finishing up the final bits of packing, Maude, Simon, Florence and giant, unborn baby-belly came over to my apartment to collect the keys.  Florence’s laughter rang out in the empty halls as she ran around choosing her new bedroom, Simon pondered the things he might build in my basement, his eyes twinkling with parental pride and patriarchal prowess, while Maude softly took the keys from my hands, one hand placed maternally on her goddess-like belly, her eyes full of mist and gratitude.  And I, I walked away from my apartment with my head held high.  A spring in my step, a skip even, self-satisfied with all of the joy that I had imparted on a family, the closure I had found in my heart, a wide-open road of freedom in front of me…….

SCREEEE-EEEE-EE-EE-EECHHH!!!!!

It didn’t go quite like that.

I moved out on New Year’s Day.  After a semi-quiet, semi-lame, semi-perfect New Year’s Eve, I woke up with a semi-hangover at 6 am to finish packing.  I had two appointments with people coming to pick up beds.  I had planned on keeping my bed, but the damn thing didn’t fit down the basement stairs, so I had to give that away too.  I had to pack and re-pack my bags to keep the weights and baggage levels down to a minimum.  I had to empty out the bathroom cupboards, full of toiletries purchased on Fugly days (feeling fat and ugly days).  “Home Improvement Days” I call them.  Wrinkle creams, lotions, potions and salves.  Perfumes, body sprays, conditioners, bath salts and serums.  Slightly used and just killing me to throw out, but guaranteed to add years of youth and allure to the diligent and faithful consumer.

And while everyone was sleeping off their New Year’s Eve debaucheries, groggily envisioning brunches and coffee, I was sweeping dust-bunnies and choking on cobwebs.  Packing without a single person to help.

So when Maude showed up at my door at 10 am, I was, to say the least, NOT ready.  I mentioned I’d still need a couple of hours to finish up, and so she asked if it was okay to start moving some things in through the back-yard door into the basement.  That didn’t seem like too much to ask, so I agreed.

45 minutes later, my basement was nearly full of plastic bins.
49 minutes later, Maude was at my door again, asking if she could come in and start cleaning in the kitchen since she was no longer able to pack or move boxes due to her big belly.
50.5 minutes later, Maude and her seemingly ENTIRE matriarchal family-tree line were in my kitchen, scrubbing cupboards, vacuuming behind my stove and scheming a total take-over of Pine-sol and disinfectants.

Once the latex-gloved ladies had crossed the threshold, the men followed.

Neighbours, brothers, fathers, grandfathers and Simon started infiltrating my apartment from every orifice.  The basement, the front door, the back door, the windows (okay, not the windows…but it felt like it) had furniture being shoved through at an alarming rate.  My dog had been stepped on numerous times and I was hiding in my front bedroom, gulping mouthfuls of air like a fish, trying not to hyperventilate and cry.  By 1:15, their dining room table was set up in my living room, and upwards of 15 people, plus a guy in a wheelchair were sitting around that table, using my boxes as chairs, eating a deluxe, four-course lunch of soup, salad, vegetables and Tourtiere,  a French meat-pie traditionally served around the holidays.

The dining room table was in my living room, but I still had not been invited to sit at it.

Luckily, a sweet friend rescued me.  She walked in, saw the look on my face, surveyed the scenario, and said, “Jen, let’s get you out of here as quick as possible.”

Residuals were tossed without care or concern into black garbage backs. My luggage and a mattress loaded up in her car, my dog crouched into the front-seat floor.  The keys were handed over in between mouthfuls of meat-pie, a careless goodbye, au revoir, tossed my way before faces resumed their hunched-over devourings.

I felt like a cat that got swept on the ass with a broom…right out the front door.

I squished my way into the remaining space in the car; under the mattress, over my dog and between my luggage, and as we pulled away from that apartment, I curled into a tiny ball and sobbed huge, body-wracking sobs into the arm rest.  No opportunity to walk through the empty walls and let the waves of memory wash over me.  No lingering closure.  No proper goodbye.

I say in almost every yoga class that I teach to let go.  But the truth is, letting go isn’t all that easy.   We assimilate objects, stories and ideas until they become as much a part of your identity as your arm or leg.  Becoming an amputee hurts like hell.  And you will learn to walk again without that missing limb, but there are gonna be days when you still feel the phantom ghost of what once was intrinsically a part of you.

As with all things, there is a silver lining.  The Universe can be both cruel and kind.  Through a mutual acquaintance, I was introduced to a pilot who just happened to be needing lots of flight-time hours.  So after a 15-hour drive in a rented car from Montreal to Halifax,  swerving and skidding through snow-storms, me and my dog got a private flight in a teeny-tiny, two-prop plane to Charlottetown.

And as that plane lifted off, light as a feather, I could feel every updraft, every sworl of wind beneath my seat.   And though there may have been a skip missing from my step, there was freedom in my heart nonetheless.

And just enough of a welt on my rear-end to remind me that nothing ever works out quite how you expect it to.

The Move (part II)

Apparently, it’s not all that easy to pack up a 3-bedroom apartment.  As it turns out, I have a lot of shit.  Trust me, I’ve fantasized about half-smoking a cigarette (for old times’ sake) and then flicking it nonchalantly into a gasoline-soaked basement to watch it all burn to the ground.  Warm my hands, roast a marshmallow and call the insurance company in the morning.

Except I don’t have insurance, fresh out of s’mores and there’s actually a few things I’d like to keep.

There is nothing quite like a purge to serve as a gentle reminder of what you can let in when you let go.  It’s physics, really.  Equal and opposite action.  Reaction.  Or something like that.  There have been some amazing moments and beautiful people that have entered my life as a result of this move.  There have been some crazies too…certifiably wacko.  Action, reaction.  It all balances out.  And once you start letting go, once you wrap your head fully around the purge, it actually becomes addictive.  EVERYTHING MUST GO!!!

It made sense that if I’m going to get rid of all of my stuff that I, at least, make an effort to make a little of the cold, hard cash-ola to aid me on my travels.  So I ransacked every room, every closet, drawer and the basement and brought it all up to the main floor.

A few dollar-store neon signs strategically placed around the neighbourhood, plus an ad on Craigslist and much to the dismay of my border collie, weekend strangers were flowing through my apartment in a steady stream.

The really amusing part was welcoming people into my apartment saying, “Welcome.  Don’t mind the dog, she just barks.  Everything is for sale.”

Cue empty stare.

“What do you mean, ‘everything is for sale’?  Are you leaving the country or sumpthin’?”

There were the customers that walked into my place briskly, with a cursory glance around to take note of anything of significant value.  There were the customers that came in with a shopping list of home items they were missing.  “Do you have a Panini-press?”  And then there were those that cared more about the story, about the opportunity to browse through my life than actually buying my crap.  You knew right away which ones wanted the abridged version and which ones you could open up to.

“Actually, I am moving to Prince Edward Island to teach yoga for two months and after that I have no job, no home and no idea where I’m going.  I’m giving up 9 years of life for a nomadic and unstable future.”

They’d blink a couple of times and say, “Cool.  How much is this?”

And you knew they got it.  That we gotta do these things from time to time and he’ll buy that complete set of cake-decorating tips for $5 because it’s only going to help you on your way.

A woman and her husband walked in and right away I could tell; she was a browser.  Browsing slowly gave her time to ask questions.  She did not want the abridged version.  I mentioned PEI, she mentioned a recent move to Montreal from St. Johns, Newfoundland.  She mentioned a love for hat-making.  I found 25 spools of colourful ribbon in my basement.  She mentioned her daughter made jewellery out of porcupine quills.  I ducked back down into the basement and came up with a giant bag of leather scraps.

“How much?” she asked.  I enjoyed her company and conversation so much, I replied, “Free.  Just tell your daughter to send me some earrings in PEI.”  She mentioned she was a writer.  “Oh, I just started writing and I love to read,” I said.  “What do you write?”  “Oh, just some short stories, a novel.”  To which, her husband, who was removing some shelves from my wall, piped in, “Her book was nominated for the Giller Award.”

Only one of the top literary awards in Canada.

He came back a couple of hours later with the car to pick up their purchases.  In his hands was a tiny box.  Inside, a pair of beaded, porcupine-quill earrings nestled on some cotton.  Underneath the box, a signed copy of Kathleen Winter’s, Annabel.  A beautiful and thought-provoking story written by a very kind, curious and humble woman who now gazes at my hand-welded end table while she eats her dinner and makes hats.

Weekend by weekend my apartment became emptier and emptier, until it became time to call the Salvation Army to whisk the away the rest.  What wasn’t approved by their pick-up service was put on the sidewalk.  Without a car to take this stuff to a recycle depot, I placed an ad on Craigslist, saying I didn’t have a car but I didn’t want the stuff to go to a land-fill.  A man named Moe showed up on New Year’s Eve day with a smile and a handshake and then loaded boxes into his car and took them to a homeless shelter.  Just to be helpful.

Riding my bike around before the holidays, trying to frantically get errands done, friends visited, wine purchased, apartment packed; I got a flat tire.  I’ve had my bike for the entire nine years of my time in Montreal.  Before that, it was my dad’s bike.  An old, black Trek just rusty enough that no one wanted to steal it, but solid, fast and my main mode of transportation when there’s no snow on the ground.  We called her Black Beauty.  And as I started pushing B.B. home on the sidewalk, angry that I now had no time to finish my errands, the rubber tire fell off of the rim and started spinning around in the spokes.  It got worse and worse, flapping and flubbering, until finally it seized up and I could push no further.   I propped Black Beauty up against a parking meter, with tears in my eyes I looked her over and I said goodbye.  And then I walked away.  No lock.  No key.  Just free.

It is gone, just like everything else and what remains is all this room for newness.  It’s the first time in my life when I am not running away from something.  This time, I am running towards something.  For now, it remains vague and faceless, but the magnetic pull in my heart tells me I’m where I’m supposed to be.

So when I plugged my IPod into my computer after the hard-drive was replaced, it beeped at me and said, “Your IPod is synched with another ITunes Library.  Would you like to erase this IPod and sync with this computer?”

In the spirit of all things fresh and new.  Sure, why not.

The Move (part I)

How do you dismantle a life?  How do you take it apart, pack it away, give it away, throw it in the garbage, sell??  How do you make judgement calls on all of the memories, imprinted into object, translated onto the tangible?  What do you trash and what do you treasure??

I am moving.  I didn’t know I was moving, but sometimes things just happen and before you know it, you’re on a slingshot trajectory to Lord knows where, but there’s no use in even thinking about turning back now, because there is simply: no turning back now.

I took another job teaching at a Moksha studio.  This time, for two months in Prince Edward Island.  After a few unfruitful attempts to sublet my apartment furnished, my next-door neighbours,  pregnant with their second child and in need of more space said they would be interested in taking over my apartment—albeit unfurnished.

Which gives me exactly three weeks to get rid of a 3-bedroom, fully and almost lavishly bespeckled apartment by somewhat of a junk-collecting artist/hoarder with a giant basement with plenty of room for extra….junk.  (Oui, c’est moi. )

I moved into this apartment in the middle of a break-up, somewhere along the lines of Round Three in a five-year, five-round relationship.   So at that point, there was still hope.  And as I look around at all of these things, I realize that I nested and built this imaginary life on hope alone.  I rented this apartment and I lived in its’ potential, thinking, “This place will be good for a couple—one day.”  And it took me a pretty long time to realize that maybe some things are just broken.  Sometimes love just ain’t enough.  And maybe, I should start living in my potential instead of the potential of a person or an address.

When I started packing things up, sorting, selling…opening up my apartment to weekend Garage Sal-ers; wheeling and dealing in my vintage store of memoires, I find humour in the things I am attached to.

A meat thermometer.  A ten-dollar metal thingamagig that can be found anywhere, but has perfectly cooked a whole lot of Thanksgiving turkeys for some very important people in my life.

Looking around this room, this pop-up store which once was my apartment, I realize that objects can only absorb a limited amount of memoires.  They can become oversaturated, infused with too many associations.  The meat thermometer I keep because it’s small and, based on the delightful expressions on the grease-stained lips of my turkey eaters, pretty bang-on.  However, the couch, stained with promises, hopes, tears, wine and disappointment (in no particular order)—that fucker has got to go!

Montreal is a city that has filled me with some of the best and some of the worst memories in my life.  Its’  sultry summers, winding balconies, tarnished copper, beautiful, strange people, cobblestone walkways, meandering bike paths, gonging churches, snowy ice-rinks, exotic language, vivid markets, wine and parks and picnics and music has taught me how romantic life can be, with or without a partner.  And yet, its’ sidewalks, streets and cafes are haunted by little ghosts of love lost.  What once was mysterious and new is now familiar.  The proverbial sex-life is non-existent.  For that matter, so is the non-proverbial one.

I sometimes feel like a tornado has spun through this city, bringing me the best of friends who felt like family; as a group we gathered like a force that rested in the calm eye of the storm, so that we might, for a spell, imagine a life where we’d be together forever.  And then ultimately the same storm that blew them in, swept them right back out again, dispersing them to foreign destinations, Oz, and all of the other magical places in their lives.

Its’ conic currents blew in the tempest of a huge, heart-wrenching love that spun around in circles and circles for years and years, before finally, it broke and then blew itself to a calmer land by the sea.

And so, I know it is time.  Time to change.  Move on.  Let go.

One person does not need to own so much stuff so that she can furnish an apartment for three.

(To be continued)….in the meantime, Happy New Year!

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