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“To Reach a port, we must sail; Sail, not tie at anchor; Sail, not drift.” ~Franklin Roosevelt
So I sat in my car today and I watched as a huge SUV tried to back into the tiniest of parking spaces. I contemplated reversing and trying my luck in another row of vehicles further down, but decided there was no where I really had to be. I was in no rush at all. So I just watched and waited and gave myself kudos on my *choice* to drive a small *economy* car (It’s an ’87 Jetta).
I patted my own back while wearing a smug look on my face, all the while subtly cringing at the nine-point turn the gas-guzzler was struggling through. Who doesn’t know that it’s easier back into a lane or road than it is to back into a tiny stall? Really.
As I had so much time on my hands to judge others and self-affirm my positive life choices, I also had a moment to realize an overwhelming sense of Déjà vu. I swear I’ve done this before. Actually, I know I’ve waited for this exact vehicle in this same parking lot…..I did this here…. I did this last year! It was pre-Christmas. I wrote about it! Ah ha! HA.
And so it is that I re-visit my little blog.
I had to have a look at what I wrote last year at this same time. Where was I in my own head? What was my mood? I had just settled back down on Vancouver Island and I was surrounded by family and new friends and the excitement of living and breathing the snowboarding lifestyle and getting paid for it with a job at the mountain! It was time for me to put down roots and explore a new community – how exciting!
The handful of entries I’ve managed to post since that time a year ago, don’t really give light to all that’s been going on in my life. It’s hard to write about your thoughts and feelings and outlooks when you’re in one place and the people you see every day are directly contributing to your thoughts and feelings and outlooks.
It really ups the level of accountability when you don’t get to just pick up and leave every few days!
Although, in saying that, I did manage to move to Nanaimo briefly. I got the opportunity to move in with fabulous friends and go back to school. Well, actually, school fell through…. and after a few weeks (it was days) slugging through a less-than-stellar job, and the realization that we were all so busy I wasn’t even really spending time with my room mates, I decided to pack a backpack (it’s my default I guess) and go up north. I had been asked by my uncle to help out as shore crew for the Van Isle 360 - a circumnavigation of Vancouver Island that happens every two years. It’s an elite sailing race and I was happy to have the chance to be a part of it.
I arrived in Port Hardy ready to do the team’s laundry and cook them warm, hearty meals upon request. Luck was with me – the boat was short-crewed and I must have struck them as the perfect Weight-Distribution-Specialist, as I was invited aboard. This was amazing for so many reasons. One being that I had entered (and lost) a contest just a few weeks before (see previous posting) where I was trying to win a trip aboard a sail boat. Kismit or what? This was waaaaaay better than any two-bit prize…. I got to do real sailing, in a real race, with my (yes, real) uncle.
Among an amazing array of other scenery, I saw the beautiful northern tip of the Island and spent a fun-filled night in Winter Harbour. I’d like to say I picked up a lot in the way of sailing knowledge, but everything moved so fast, it was hard to keep up…on the water, and off. Sailors really know how to party. We had a night to recover in Ucluelet after being battered for hours and hours (one of the other boats broke their mast in the storm) on the longest leg of the race – 140 nautical miles – over the rugged west coast waters. The wind was so bad and the rocking so incessant that two of the life-long sailors aboard our boat couldn’t move – couldn’t even sit up for over 12 hours.
We had the wind at our back as the danced into Victoria’s inner harbour. And we got caught in the narrows for hours on our arrival into Nanaimo, but this was a great opportunity for the Coast Guard to deliver Tim Bits (donuts – to all you non-Canadians) out of pity, as we anchored and tried not to move backwards. It was a once-in-a-lifetime experience and it was so perfectly timed (the whole trip – not just the donuts). I got a much-needed reminder that I love the adventure – I’m always up for the adventure – and although I’m trying this settling down in one place thing, it doesn’t mean I have to settle.
I realized I didn’t want to live in Nanaimo. I moved away when I was eighteen for a reason. And although I’ve changed, and the city has changed, I wanted something different. I missed the little life I had started to set up in the Comox Valley. And so I returned to Courtenay, once again with a backpack on. My family put me up, yet again, while I started looking for employment. And employment I got. All of a sudden I was ironing trousers and blow drying my hair. Within a few weeks I had my own place… and my cat and I found ourselves living together for the first time in 3 years. Sometimes these things happen that fast. Well fast may be a relative term….
Anyway, we all move at our own pace and there’s no point in pushing it. Things are feeling like they’re falling into place for the most part, and that’s pretty awesome. This life has proved to be quite the incredible journey so far, and my guess is: it will only get more incredible as we continue sailing forward.
We all know that Christmas is a special time of year. Family, friends, wining, dining, and gifts. Yeah, it’s special, no doubt. There’s the flip side to consider, as well. Stress and all that mumbo jumbo….so-busy-bad-weather-unexpected-expenses-hard-to-buy-for-too-much-to-drink-to-eat-to-wrap….yadda. Yadda. Blah blah.
My advice? Start watching the chaos and find humour. Just give yourself a little extra time and sit back and watch the insanity ensue. You can’t change the crazies that come out of the wood work and emerge in droves at your local shopping venues. Instead of getting annoyed at the person who takes eight minutes and a nine-point turn in order to back into a parking spot, give these people a break. Everyone shops this time of year (with exception of those overly down-to-earth types who have found the true meaning and all that..or the really crafty types that are so prevalent here on the west coast). So it falls to reason that unskilled shoppers come out at this time of year. This makes it that much more adventurous for the rest of us!
Actually, I think I’ve over simplified these characters. They aren’t unskilled at shopping – they are more-or-less unskilled at basic social interactions and sometimes even logic in general.
Watch the person in front of you try to explain a specific book to the lady at the cash register – while not knowing the title, the author, or even the genre of book they’re in such dire need of. Take note as she get more animated and frustrated, starting to lash out …. “nobody in this bloody store knows anything about literature!” She storms off feeling vindicated knowing she is better-read than anyone else in the shop and also that it’s run by illiterate morons. Now instead of letting their negativity rub off on you and your retail experience, just take a moment – realize you’re just very lucky not to be that person. Smile at the cashier. A knowing glance can do wonders. Now you can feel vindicated in your own right – and the camaraderie of like-minded, socially-adjusted people is exactly what this season is about.
Love thy neighbour… and your local customer service associate.
In all seriousness, I’ve really had to embrace being back in the real world for this time of year. My battle is not with the general public, but with my memories. I thought I had it all figured out – I got a job at the ski resort in order to fully wrap myself up in winter. Being up on the heavily snow-covered hill, surrounded by people who love being outside – it’s the perfect way to get through the long dark winter. Yes…all figured out – I knew this sort of job would ensure I worked through Christmas and I could slog through this very emotional holiday by working hard and feeling exhausted enough to sleep through the night. I could avoid Christmas… again! What luck.
Luck comes in oh, so many forms. I truly believe that each one of us is lucky, it’s just a matter of perspective.
So I guess I was one of the lucky ones – my schedule gave me both Christmas Eve and Christmas Day off. As I was about to volunteer to take my coworkers’ shifts, I held my tongue and thought about the opportunity at hand. This could be exactly what I need. I’ve stated before: some of the best outcomes have been from situations that are difficult and way, way, way easier to avoid. It dawned on me that I need to face the holidays; the traditions, the ups and downs that come hand in hand with this time of year.
It’s been pretty sweet so far, and even with a few tears there is some sense of accomplishment.
I can’t even begin to count the ways in which I’ve been lucky. Life happens, sh*t happens, some of it’s heavy and bad and life-altering, but we do our best to pick ourselves up, and when we do – whether it’s luck, or determination or sheer grit, we, hopefully, can look around and begin to see the love surrounding us.
My love and thanks to everyone who has been part of my life these last few years. I have met so many special people. I have travelled with each and everyone of you whether it’s through airports and foreign countries, written word, or shared memories.
We’ve arrived here …right now. It’s pretty good, isn’t it?
Keep each other laughing. Share music. Hug to stay warm.
Thailand was a treat. Upon arrival we were greeted with fireworks, a parade, dance and light shows…it was amazing. We ate bugs – more than one – and agreed they tasted like the small crispy bits of french fries. We wandered around in awe at the activity, picking small antennae out of our teeth, and only on our way out of the city the next day, did we find out it was Coronation Day. One night in Bangkok …pretty great.
The majority of our taste of Thai – you know, besides the grasshoppers and such – was spend on beaches surrounded by other young westerners. It was quite a change of pace from our experience in Cambodia but it was easy and relaxing.
Our Balinese Christmas came and went and was lost in a sad and happy wave of normality I had never experienced before. It was good to take a break though…no carols, no presents, no freezing temperatures. We had a seafood dinner and I was lucky to share my token Christmas Guinness with two Irish blokes. They kept us entertained with tales of excess and debauchery. I reckon that Guinness pool-side is just as good as eggnog fire-side. And tales of debauchery are a very close second to “Miracle on 34th Street”.
All in all, our last couple of weeks in Asia were a gentle transition – relatively speaking – back into the throngs of the Western world. Both the prices and the touristy-feel increased as we migrated south. We were blessed with exceptional scenery, culture, and religion. This assisted in filling our hearts with a sort of pseudo holiday joy.
And so we made it back to Australia in time to celebrate the bringing-in of a new year. This one will be pretty good I think. A year of new beginnings… adventure, travel, friends, family, new things, new people, old things, and all things in-between.
We are alive and it’s our job to do some serious living. Everyday will be a day of celebration even if it’s small and quiet and personal. We will smile more. Why not? We will forgive – get over it. We will open our hearts and be amazed when others open their hearts to us.
We will realize our faults and forgive them. If we are able to forgive others the very least we can do is forgive ourselves.
We will get excited. There’s a lot to do: we pay the bills and do the dishes, but everyday holds joy, and if it doesn’t then we need to make changes. Maybe we will open up, be honest, and ask for help.
We will find love. It’s everywhere and it comes in oh, so many forms and it starts with you. We will give love and give it freely – that means no strings– none…no exception.
One of the best things I’ve done this year is to remove myself from my comfort zone. I’m not suggesting everyone give up everything they have to travel the world – although I support you 100% if this is the case, and I hope to meet you along the way. The montage of destinations are simply a change of canvas that has helped in removing routine, pattern and familiarity from the equation. The palette.
All the most memorable experiences of the past year are the ones that initially gave me pause. The times that I had to work up the balls to get ’er done. No shortcuts. I’ve had to challenge myself, ask for help, take the leap. When I have truly done this, each and every time, I have walked away a little bit proud of myself.
It’s important to know that these challenges have resulted in a magnitude of outcomes. The whole gambit; an entire colour spectrum of emotion. Regardless of the greys and browns and blacks, I have surfaced more complete – each experience benefiting the painting-in-progress that is my life.
May 2010 be a more-happy-than-sad year for all of us. A colourful year.
Theme Song of the Day:
Night Windows – The Weakerthans
British Columbia is a place that sings loudly to me. I have grown up with the mountains and the ocean and the forests in my backyard – three decades of walking through postcard-quality scenery on a day-to-day basis – and yet it still takes my breath away.
We’ve all heard that one of the great things about going away is how much you appreciate what you’ve got when arriving home again. This has to be true for so many people around the globe. The comfort, familiarity, and routine of home…it’s got its appeal. We derive focus and a sense of direction with this blanket of habit and recognition.
A pattern to smudge over the chaos.
In this part of the world, on the west coast in particular, we are blessed to not only have wild, natural beauty at our doorstep, but the laid-back friendliness of the people that surround us should not be taken for granted. A simple stop in the middle of a busy street (with a slack-jawed look of confusion) warrants a stranger stopping to not only offer assistance… but you know what?…uh, I was headed in that direction already so why don’t I just lead the way and make sure you get to where you’re going?…Want half my muffin?
It’s like living in a Disney movie.
This is not to imply naivety. Not at all. We just have friendliness and it perpetuates itself…one person smiles and then the next. It’s science! As a whole we are educated and alert and maybe we have an underlying confidence that allows us to put ourselves out there. It’s really something.
Where am I going with all of this provincial pride? Well I didn’t actually intend to go on and on about how great we are up here in the Pacific Northwest. I just couldn’t help myself…!
But truth be told, I guess it all comes down to the fact that I’m seeing home in a very different light than ever before. My main component isn’t here anymore. A huge part of the ‘home’ equation has been taken away. My comfort and belonging is emotionally tied up in the life I have been building with one person for ten years. I can still appreciate the qualities of home. I still have that life…it’s just very different now…it’s individual – my observations may be more objective in some regards because of this… or, I don’t know – maybe they’re teetering towards a more subjective nature?
Anyway, I didn’t have too many expectations of coming back. I knew I had to face the paperwork I have been putting off. I have beautiful new babies in my life (all of them boys!) that I have had so much fun visiting. I am honoured to take part in a couple of weddings, some BBQs, and more than a few parties! I get to visit with friends and family and its been fantastic so far.
A few hiccups along the way have threatened the digestive peace that is home. Some of the hiccups are bigger than others, but I know I am strong; I can handle these…I will drink my water upside down and get through the worst of it (by the way – in Oz they stand on their heads and drink water right-side-up to cure hiccups).
I am very aware that as issues arise, the temptation to pull away from all of it gets stronger. I have to be careful not to become too numb or distant when dealing with stressful situations. Sometimes the little things seem unmanageably big and then at others the big things seem so small in comparison to all that I have been through.
Uh…yup….’subjective’ is the clear winner here.
Give me the stress of a lost bus ticket or a language barrier any day – it seems easier than trudging through even the smallest confrontation or mishap at home.
All of this: the good and the bad, it’s all part of life. Things should get easier as time moves forward. For now I am happy to visit ‘home’ and I am looking forward to heading back on the road in only a few short weeks.
Let the adventure continue.
I’m sitting on the deck enjoying the heat and the noises of very tropical-sounding birds. Somehow the five hours of sleep I’ve had in the last fifty-odd hours is sustaining me. I think I may be surviving on the excitement and novelty of being somewhere new. It’s so warm!! I can see a wild baby turkey as I write this.
The flight over was a pleasant surprise. I have never been upgraded before, but if I only have the one shot at improved airline comfort, the 14.5 hour flight to Auckland was the prize to land. I was moved from an isle seat at the back of the plane to a “premiere economy” seat against the bulkhead at the front of the aircraft. SO much leg-room!! The food was good too – prawns and such, cheese, port…champagne to start. Fantastic. Thank you, Air New Zealand – really it was quite the experience and I feel a guilty indulgence at having traveled like a rock star…or at least a Canadian rock star…
Upon arriving in Brisbane, my good friend Alice welcomed me. There’s nothing better than having someone you love meet you at the airport! It’s been seven years since we’ve seen each other, but Alice has had a way of being around during pinnacle moments in my life. We first lived together in Edinburgh, ten years ago. Alice was the only ‘local’ who lived in the flat with us and we became fast friends. We traveled a bit through the area surrounding the city and endured one of the most disastrous camping trips I’ve ever been through. It was an ordeal – but we laughed the entire time.
Years later, Kevin and I took our first trip abroad together and Alice’s house was one of our stopping points. I got to show him my former playing ground, and Alice and Kevin had a chance to get to know each other. That was the trip Kevin proposed to me on – Alice was in on the surprise. Very devious!
Our last meeting was later that same year when she came to Victoria to visit us. Since then we have been keeping in touch intermittently. Coincidently, Alice wrote an invite for me to come visit anytime, just a day after the tickets to Australia had been booked. “Oh that would be great – you’ll never guess – I AM coming to Australia …where exactly do you live?” Aha- Brisbane, wow that’s where I’m flying in!
So we trekked through the city, making our way to her place – a beautiful little flat in a nook off of a cul-de-sac. Up on a hill, we can see the city through the leaves of the frangipani. It’s so green. It’s warm, and the bag is heavy, and the jeans are exchanged for a skirt, and the beer is cracked. Ahhhh…..
Friends come over and we chat and have some food and soon enough it’s time to head to the West End… We’re going to see the Chocolate Strings, a very fun and talented local band, at a pub called Lock n’ Load. The West End is a super-casual, café-culture area in a small strip just south west of the Central Business District. Live music plays at a few different venues and the atmosphere is busy but relaxed. The bar is packed and the music is just great. The band has actually outgrown the venue and people are dancing on the sidewalk outside. What a rad first night.
We get home in the early hours of morn’ and, after struggling with the math, I realize I’ve been up for exactly 48 hours. Sleep comes easy. I am so happy to be here.
Theme Songs for the Day:
The day was good. Although it would have been just fine to hang out in the yard and work on Alice’s friend’s bike, we actually managed to walk into town and maintain some amount of productivity. We walked for hours – I saw just how ‘interesting’ Brisbane is…it’s not necessarily the prettiest of cities, although there are some little gems. Alice explained that Brisbane had a huge developmental boom in the late 80’s. It so happens that the city held Expo ’88 (yes, they were the city that followed Vancouver). “Queensland shows the worls: Regionalism and Modernity.” The massive amounts of concrete are a testament to this era.
Slurpees were our main form of sustenance as we made our way over the Goodwill Bridge, through the Botanic Gardens… we walked down through the main shopping area and, as it was Saturday, it was jam-packed. It had started out cloudy but was pure sunshine within the hour.
We walked down to the man-made beach that sits beside Brisbane River in the South Bank area. It’s a little weird that chlorinated water sits on the graduated sand ‘beach’ – but all the people that swarmed the area seemed happy. It’s like a big water park for the whole family.
As we strolled the market we realized how terribly tired we really were. Movies were in order…and popcorn (it’s just SO good – top five foods for sure). A successful day. Tomorrow – the beach.
Another theme song for the evening:
Burn One Down – Ben Harper, from the album Fight For Your Mind