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Archive for December, 2010

So I read Learned Optimism years ago, and was initially shocked to find out I scored as a huge pessimist, because I’d always considered myself an optimist. What an eye-opener. (You can find the quiz on-line here.)

I retook it today and I’m now “very optimistic.” It helps that my life is going really well, I grant you. But still, all that goofy self-help stuff actually appears to work, supposing one does more than buy the book and skim it once before shelving it.

It was gratifying. What can I say.

And I got all pissy today at the Trader, who thinks he’s a massive optimist but who I have to keep biting my tongue to stop myself from calling him Eeyore because he’s such a freaking pessimist. It’s not a sin or a moral failing or anything, but it can be really freaking annoying when you’re trying to share something you love with someone you love, and he doesn’t even notice himself pouring cold water all over it.

(I posted Karen Armstrong’s TED talk on compassion on FB. It’s amazing. I love Karen Armstrong. I would run around all day and night force-feeding people with her messages if I could do so without being lynched, and if it wouldn’t be very odd for a devout agnostic to be all out religioning people. The Trader watched it, said he liked it and agreed, but then immediately followed up with “the world being what it is, it will never go far” and “sometimes you need soldiers too”–a propos of exactly nothing, with no provocation whatsoever. I mean, it’s not like he was responding to anything I said; he just volunteered it. “Gosh, what a fabulous message of World Peace! But what it really makes me think of is WAR. What do you mean, I’m a pessimist?”)

Anyway, he’s a freaking Eeyore, and most of the time I manage to keep my mouth buttoned on the subject, him being his own person on his own journey with his own struggles, who is trying very hard to be a good person and learn from his mistakes, etc.; and then he props up the old grey raincloud over Karen Armstrong, and I get pissy.

Even though a few years ago, I was in exactly that position: thinking I was an optimist because I believed that life could and would get better, when really, I was practically the worst you could be at it.

He’s a very cheerful pessimist. But he still thinks that the worst-case scenario is not only possible, but likely, and expends enormous effort and energy into forestalling events that will almost certainly never happen. And then pats himself on the back for seeing the glass as half-full, when it’s actually a crystal glass brim-full of champagne.

I’m still pissy. I’ll get over it.

~~~~~

Anyway, the point was supposed to be, New Year’s Resolutions. Man, why do people hate them so much? OK, so I had to make the NYR about “writing more” about ten years consecutively before I actually started publishing, but so what? OK, so I made the “work out more” resolution for five or six years before I started doing it, but so what? Yes, all right, I’m still making the NYR about testing my blood sugar more often, but so what? It’s not five or six or ten years of failure, it’s five or six or ten years of practicing and trying again and finding better ways to accomplish your goals.

I do not get what people have against the innocent New Year’s Resolution. It’s been fantastic for me. My resolutions (and tarot readings and general goal-setting-ness) have gotten me a better job, a fitness routine, friends, a satisfying side-gig, a lovely house in a nice neighbourhood, some amazing books and all the learning that goes along with it (for many years I had a resolution to read at least two science books a year–now it’s a habit and I don’t make the resolution anymore, but it’s paid off for sure), a bunch of recipes I love to cook–tons of amazing stuff–plus all of the things I haven’t managed to get together yet, but I recommit myself in January and get back on the horse and try again and it’s good for me, I think, to do so.

It’s fashionable to decry the NYR and talk about how it’s a sham and they never work for anybody and you’re better off not doing it. Piffle. The only goal you’re sure to never reach or resolution you’re sure to never hold to, is the one you don’t make; and all of the ways of repackaging them and calling them something other than Resolutions is just a way of salving the ego from not having achieved success effortlessly on the first try. If it were possible to achieve success effortlessly on the first try, you’d already be doing it and it wouldn’t need a Resolution. So acknowledge that you’re going to fail, a lot, before you finally succeed, and that it doesn’t matter what you call it so long as you keep trying, that willpower on its own is never enough and you need a plan and a ton of stamina, and just keep bashing your head against the brick wall until it gives.

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But they feel like they should be connected.

I drove down to the City for a friend’s Christmas party, and nearly got myself into an accident. There was construction (in December) and the lanes were closed so we were all squeezing left and this one guy would not let me in. Merry Christmas, I thought, and then a block later *his* lane ended and he was revving up beside me at the red light and motioning his intention to get in in front of me.

No way, I shook my head and mouthed at him. No.

Guess it pissed him off, because he cut off the guy behind me, raced around me on the left, and then got in front of me and jammed on his brakes before turning right. That’s quite an accident to nearly-engineer two days before Christmas because someone you just screwed over wasn’t about to do you a favour.

Not like it wasn’t justified. Sure it was. You refuse to let someone in in front of you, they’re not going to be so thrilled about letting you in front of them; but the thing is, I kicked myself after wondering what in hell I was thinking. Like he’s going to learn an Important Life Lesson from a random woman driver on the street? I sure taught him, eh? No, not so much. I just let him get me in a bad mood which almost landed both of us in an accident, and it would have cost me nothing to be charitable, except that I’ve been working so hard to be *less* charitable so that I don’t get walked over so much. I think I have some things to learn about when it’s worth the effort, and when it’s not.

(Now the people who are in this lout’s life every day are surely entitled to expend that kind of effort in demanding some sort of reciprocity, and I pity them, because it must be very exhausting.)

It’s not an easy lesson to learn when PP’s not here, though. It’s been four years, just about, and I still cry when she’s not here on weekends, so you might suppose I’m not fit to be around on Christmas. She left to go to the Ex’s house; I cried. I went to the Christmas party, came home, and cried. I cried when I woke up on Friday morning. I did the last of the holiday shopping and then came home and cried and had a nap. The Trader came over and we spent the rest of Christmas Eve and Christmas morning/early afternoon together, then he went to a family gathering, and I worked a bit on some new stockings, and then cried.

(“Why didn’t you go with him?” Good question! Apparently this family member is a bit of a bible-thumper and doesn’t want to admit to her kids that the Trader is divorced, which makes it awkward for him to bring his girlfriend around for Christmas dinner. No, I’m not impressed, and yes, he knows I’m not impressed, and furthermore he knows that this is a situation that needs resolving in the short-term–but not for Christmas. That wouldn’t tend to build a good foundation for future relationships, I’m thinking. “I’M HERE WHETHER YOU WANTED ME OR NOT AND I DON’T CARE IF YOU HAVE ENOUGH FOOD BUT GODDAMMIT HE’S DIVORCED AND YOU HAVE TO ACCEPT ME RIGHT! NOW!” Hmm, no.)

Anyway, there’s been a lot of crying, and I keep waiting for that magical moment to arrive when I begin cherishing my me-time the way the post-divorce memoirs assure me I will, and I’m thinking this is a milestone I may never personally experience. I want my bunny. I want her stubby little fingers and her infectious laugh and her throaty, breathy chortle, and the way she grabs my hand and says “stay stay!” so that she doesn’t have to brush her teeth or put on her pajamas alone. I want her to climb up on my lap pretending to be a baby kitten, purring and licking the backs of her hands, head-butting me and asking for belly rubs. I want her running around pretending to be Rudolph, making her light-up nose glows while making the “EEEEeee!” special sound effect from the TV special, and then telling me how the other reindeer all laughed and made fun of her glowing nose, so I can then give her a big hug and say how beautiful I think her big red nose is.  I want her singing Christmas carols while hiding behind the living-room curtains, so everyone on the street can see her and what she’s doing, but she gets to pretend it’s mysterious and secret. I want to listen to her negotiating her imagination with her friends, as they exchange “let’s pretends” for “let’s pretends” until at the end they each get to pretend to be what they want at the same time, together. I want her anime eyes and and a soliloquoy on bullying and a round, soft cheek in reach of kissing. I most emphatically do not want me-time, or at least not in the quantity I currently have it. Especially on Christmas.

But I have it.

Since this is apparently not going to get better, and since I don’t want to just distract or disconnect myself, I’ve been trying to turn it to account. This has been a hugely successful year for me in a lot of ways. Not financial, so much, but we’re not doing badly there either–and on the other fronts, I have a job I love that is challenging at a little company, in a lovely neighbourhood in a great town; my daughter goes to a good school and has a lot of really nice friends; my boyfriend is really nice to me; I’m even publishing, though so busy I don’t get to write as much as I’d like; but on the whole I’ve been so busy doing and enjoying all of the nice things that have come my way this year that I haven’t put the time or thought or effort into *being* the kind of person that I want to be, and have been cranky and judgmental more often than I’d like.

I’m not sure where this is going yet, or what it’s going to turn into.

I suppose if I did, it wouldn’t be disconnected.

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Just so you’ve been appropriately warned, there’s nothing high-minded or inspiring here.

PP was terribly sick last weekend, and now it’s my turn. It hit me thursday night and since then, beside a  few ill-advised hours at the office Friday morning, all I’ve managed to do is walk from the kitchen to the bedroom and back. It sucks. I’ve saved up for months for this vacation, and I had so many plans for what PP and I were going to do together with all this time off, and all I can do is lie on the couch and slowly sip warm beverages while coughing. We have a party to go to this afternoon with friends she hasn’t seen since the summer, and we were going to have a gingerbread house party here tomorrow with our friends, and spend time downtown where they’ve got a horse-drawn carriage over the holidays, and go out to breakfast at the little tea shop and eat scones, and so many fun things. And all I can do is sit here, massage the fur on my tongue, and cough.

Got home from work Friday at 2, slept 2:30-5, then again 10-9 the next morning, next afternoon 2-4:30, then last night 9-9. Still exhausted.

I am very bitter and unhappy over the timing of this, if you couldn’t tell.

If PP’s experience is any guide, I should be feeling mostly human again by Tuesday. But I want to feel better NOW, dammit, so we can enjoy our first vacation together in almost a year.

The World’s Nicest Boyfriend has been taking good care of me, though, at least as much as I’ll let him given my rules about how much time he and PP can spend together.

In related news, and slightly less self-centred, please spare a kind thought for the Trader who, thanks to the weather in Far Far Away, might not get to see Trader-Tot for the holidays this year.

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I had my parents over for dinner tonight. It’s easier to get the house reasonably tidy and make dinner for them than it is to pack up PP for a one hour drive when she gets back from her Dad’s, then stay there for a while and drive an hour home. So I had them over for dinner.

I made beef bourgignon soup. It was yummy, and I have leftovers, so hurray.

Anyway. We were in the living room and PP and I were being snuggly, which we often do. She’s adorable, you know. I love to snuggle her and she loves to be snuggled. I sent her off to brush her teeth and she pattered away in her bright pink fleece nighty, and my Mom said, “You two are so cute together.”

“Oh,” I said. “Thanks.”

“It’s true. You’re such a good mom and it is so wonderful to see you with her.”

“Oh.” I said. “Thanks.” Again. “She makes it pretty easy, though.”

“I don’t think being a mom is ever easy.”

This is the first compliment my mom has ever given me.

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it “worked”

If by “worked” one means that he has returned to civil discourse and has agreed to make up some of the time.

Stay tuned for the next blow-up…

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PP’s birthday party was so amazing. Almost everyone came, and the people who came all RSVPed (hurray!). The party room at the Craft Store wasn’t the prettiest ever, but they had PP’s name in the front window of the store, and we dressed the room up with balloons (after threatening to do nothing, of course the Ex brought balloons too–thus proving that “I just want the time and location!” actually meant “I am going to do whatever I can to piss you off in advance and then act like a decent person when people are watching”–putz. He also agreed to order a pizza for delivery, at the party while people were watching.)

All the girls diligently worked away at their jewelery boxes with paint and stickers. It was fun to watch how their personalities came out in their creative process–M spending the entire hour making sure the top of the box was perfectly covered and even, J adding free-form wiggles and curves, L painting her name on the top, G making nice even stripes, and PP just experimenting and adding stuff until it was packed. Then pizza, snacks, a chocolate birthday cake, and presents. Presents from friends who are either just like her or really know her, because everything was something she would have loved to buy herself and will really enjoy playing with. Then everyone grabbed a fistful of balloons and a loot bag (silly bandz, notebooks, magnets, buttons) and gave PP a big hug and went home.

PP’s reading buddy, a grade 5 basketball player and sweet girl also named Maeve, came too and was a really good sport about hanging out with a bunch of little kids for a few hours. It was great. We had such a good time–it cost a small fortune once all the craft supplies are factored in but PP was so happy.  The lady hosting the party was lovely, warm and friendly and gracious and very well-organized. I got some great shots. Expect them on FB soon.

And PP’s father came to sit on a chair in the corner and text his fiancee for almost the whole 2 hours. The girls would be racing by around him, laughing and playing tag and telling silly jokes and he’d just sit there silently pounding away with his thumbs on his BB.

The Trader asked, Why bother coming?

To prove I can’t stop him, I said.

We picked up a tree on the way home–a real one this year, a lovely pine that you can smell through the whole house. It’s my first real tree in probably twenty years. I’ve got almost all the lights on, but should probably pick up some more garlands. The poinsettas, wreath, evergreen bouquets and outdoor lights are all out (the latter thanks to the Trader, who despite his fear of heights insisted on climbing the ladder to clip them to our very peaked roof). The santas and snowmen are out. The special mugs are out. Just a few weeks left until Christmas.

I can’t wait. Also, I’m completely unprepared.

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