All the Stones We’ve Yet to Pee

I spent the first day of the year of our Lord 2022 listening to so-bad-it’s-good boyband B-sides, and internally swoon-screaming. Hey, I grew up in a household that had Barry Manilow albums on vinyl. I glory in schmaltz. Besides, why even pretend to be ashamed? Late 90’s Jeff Timmons could get it. I freed the hormonal teenage girl that lives in me, and she ran like she was running across the border.

Dear lord, the late 90s. Those halcyon days, when hopes were as high as the jeans were wide. There’s just something about listening to handsome, corn-fed, mid-Western boys wooing impressionable young girls with songs about love and heartache that takes me back.

This pandemic’s been cited as the reason nostalgia is bigger than it ever was. All the talk about comfort-watching/comfort-listening opening the brain’s mood-enhancing pearly gates is definitely true, but for me, nostalgia is fuelled by the double whammy of homesickness and aging.

By medieval life expectancy standards, I’m practically a hag. The older I get and the more adulting I do, and the longer I spend without getting to be with family, the connection to that fearless younger self grows ever more tenuous. Aging, and the attendant responsibilities that come with it, comes with so much uncertainty – ironic, considering we all know where we’re headed anyway – that sometimes, just living feels like constantly trying to keep it together. Losing the battle with gravity sucks. So does being slapped in the face out of nowhere by random words you’d never think would apply to you. Like perimenopause. Are we here already? Should I start crushing up estrogen pills and sprinkling them over my Metamucil? Jesus. I can’t be there yet. Or can’t I? Can I just make like an ostrich, and stick my head in the sand? Maybe it’s a good thing I never really thought this far ahead. If I had known going in, that this was the price to pay for eventual independence, Id’ve been a wreck. Fine, more of a wreck.

With another year gone by, I think it’s important not to lose the sense of what one used to be, if only so we don’t wake up and realize we don’t know who we are anymore. (Which might be easier than you’d think, given how something as simple as breathing has been considered lethal in the past two years, and what a mind trip it’s been.) It’s not wise to live in the past, but it’s foolhardy to forget about it entirely. So reach for the familiar. Make every day Throwback Thursday – at least until this thing passes. Because, to quote one of my favourite sayings, this will pass. It may pass like a kidney stone, but it will pass. At least, I hope it passes. I hope it passes, before [word I refuse to type more than once in a blog post] arrives. 🤞

Leading With This

Hahaha. Oh 2022. Please have mercy. I am so tired of staying in and subsisting on toilet paper.

Rooting

“That’s me in the corner, that’s me in the spotlight – losing my religion, trying to keep up with you… oh no, I’ve said too much.”

R.E.M., Losing My Religion

I’d been needing a break since the past year turned out to be nothing but a blur of work and not much else. I felt burned out, run down, angry, frustrated, trapped, all the negative emotions that come to the fore when change – especially unasked for change – happens too fast and too hard and way too suddenly. I found myself being unable to do anything but whine and whimper and complain, to family, friends and on here, hating myself for every second of it. Rightly or wrongly, I felt complaining would make me sound tone deaf at best, and ungrateful at worst. How could I complain about having to work when so many people had lost their means of livelihood? How could I complain about not being able to go anywhere when so many others were bound to their hospital beds? So I fought it. It’s not cute to  keep bitching on here. You can delete  whatever you want to delete and curate however you want to curate, but the internet is forever. One never knows what’ll come back to bite you in the arse; lord knows I’ve already put my share of bullshit on here. So I fought it as hard as I could. I wasn’t always successful, but it wasn’t for lack of trying.

Unable to do anything more beyond complain, feeling completely uninspired and being  utterly *pause for dramatic effect* wretched, I decided if I couldn’t write anything nice, I may as well  write nothing at all. Which is fine. It’s not like I have anyone to impress, so who really cares whether I have output on here or not? But while some use therapy, some use booze, and some use weed, I tend to vent. It’s difficult for me to keep things bottled up. Expressing myself is how I self-medicate. Still, there is only so much venting one can do before feeling like a broken record. 

Moving away from Toronto was something we’d been discussing for the past couple of years. Le Hubs was slowly losing patience with living in the city, and I was open to going somewhere new. We’d been putting off making a decision, but all that changed last year. I may love Toronto, and I do miss living there, but it turned into a completely different city when COVID hit. There seemed to be no point in staying. If we were to be housebound, it made sense to have a larger space and more room to breathe. If we could do that and not have to pay more than we already were, then that was what we were going to do. And that is how we ended up in the “other” London.

I thought once the move was behind us I could sit down and bang out a few things. I’d given myself at least a couple of months to focus on not working. A reset of sorts. One would think someone who had a lot of time on her hands would find a few minutes to sit down and write something. One would think. I told myself I’d get to be more productive.   Instead, I found myself doing something I can only describe as… nesting.  I spent February and most of March playing housewife, cleaning every week, puttering around in the kitchen, making our new place feel familiar, like a  home. I now have two small house plants. Two! If you don’t know me, having so much as a plant is something because I can’t be trusted with anything that lives, so this is kind of a leap of faith. I have a sansevieria (the “snake” plant), and a dracaena. I chose them because they’re supposed to be hardy indoor house plants that “thrive on neglect.”   Still, the hubs has had to remind me that “neglect” doesn’t literally mean “neglect,” (so why even use the word?) and they’re still going to need occasional watering. I took a couple of snake plant leaves to propagate, and they’re starting to root very nicely – I’m hoping they’ll produce pups in the weeks to come. I can only hope to do as well as they are so far.  Did I just jinx them? Listen to me, talking about propagation. Knock on wood for me, will you? 

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For once the things that could be complained about (Ontario’s horrific mismanagement of the vaccination roll-out, the ridiculous lockdown hokey-pokey, outbreaks at Western U, etc.) don’t feel as heavy. Don’t get me wrong, they’re serious, but it feels a bit more of the same than a heavier load on already overburdened shoulders. Finally, sitting down to write this feels just a little like fun again too. And that’s always a good thing.

In Which I Look Up and a Year’s Gone By

You know what the year was like for me? A quickie. Barely any time to start, sputtering to a finish, then just lying there, gasping for breath. Yep, that sounds like 2020 to me.

I watched as we bragged about working from home, then complained about working from home, then broke out because working from home became too much. I watched as we made dalgona coffee and sourdough bread, watched as we succumbed to the acute mental illness that is Tik-Tok, watched as we started hawking homemade things, and watched as we blamed everyone from the highest echelons of government down to the barangay tanod for everything,

Toronto went from orange, to red, to orange, to red, to grey – and I couldn’t enjoy any of those zones at all, or even say they made a difference. After the virus struck and the city shut down, I lived the whole year as if I was in a round the clock grey zone. Dine-in restaurants? What are those? The number of times I actually ventured out to shop (groceries don’t count) can be counted on my fingertips. I didn’t enjoy having to wear a mask all the time, or having to shy away from people. I didn’t enjoy slathering on hand sanitizer every time I’d enter an establishment and every time I’d leave it (neither did my hands). I stopped seeing faces and bodies, and started seeing possibly virulent petri dishes with arms and legs. I don’t enjoy the paranoia that strikes at the sight of bare, flared nostrils over a face mask.

I was lucky to still have a job when everything else had either downsized or shut down, so I threw myself into work. What else was there? But all work and no play makes Jack a very dull boy; I worked too much, so much so that I felt myself beginning to fray at the edges. In this case, all work and no play gave Jack burn-out. It also gave Jack the possible beginnings of carpal tunnel. At the risk of beating this metaphor into the dirt, I am Jack.

Taylor Swift released not one, but two albums this year. I did diddly squat. I was (am?) the embodiment of Bruno Mars’ The Lazy Song. I’m gonna kick my feet up, then stare at the fan, turn the TV on, throw my hand in my pants… I barely wrote anything, not because I didn’t have time, but because there was nothing to inspire.

This time this year, I was supposed to have been back home in the Philippines, with my family. They may drive a body crazy, but at the end of the day, I like spending the holidays with them. I miss the traditions we have, the midnight dinners and the cornucopia of round fruits, that incessant Jose Mari Chan Christmas album. The smell of apples brings tears to my eyes, and so do oranges; the sight of a bag of Chippy can form a fist around my heart, squeezing hard enough to take the breath out of me. Don’t worry too much, though. Quite a lot of things can make me break down lately; this year I found myself crying during two separate Dr. Who finales and My Neighbor Totoro. I’m a mess. At the risk of sounding like a broken record, it’s been a heavy year.

I am not someone who is able to be optimistic at all times. I am a realist, and I realize things are probably going to get worse before they get better. I also realize that I took my hometown for granted, so much so that I up and left it, like an idiot who didn’t know better. I miss home. I miss it more than I ever have since I’ve moved. Worse than the enforced lockdowns and the job burn-out, the sensation of having my wings clipped is the one I found hardest to bear. But such is 2020. This isn’t the new normal anymore. It’s just new. Or is it normal? Only 2021 will tell.

Happy New Year, everyone. More than ever, here’s to your good health – physical, mental, emotional and everything in between. And remember…

Big moneyyyy!

It’s My Party (and I’ll cry if I want to)

The day after 29

The last time I worked on my birthday, I was rescued by three of the loveliest girlfriends a girl could ask for. They showed up, whisked me off for aperitifs at Bo’s and peanut butter afters at Pan de Manila, talking till the sun came up. Yes, we were classy like that. It’s been a decade and a hell of a lot of life changes since that night, but it also feels like only yesterday; even if we don’t get to hang the way we used to, I will cherish them forever.

I like to think of myself as someone who has grit enough to face reality. This is apparently a lie and utter bullshit, because I have somehow turned into someone who runs away from her birthday by literally running away. But not this year. Not by the dictates of this, the year of our Lord, 2020, a hellscape designed to push everyone to very limits of sanity. Not with lockdowns, masks, nasal swabs, temp-checks, quarantine, self-isolation, all these brand spanking new ribbons of red tape strewn across the path of normal movement. So, in place of the usual, this year I have to work. Because of course. Of course. Why deviate from being a shitty year through and through? It’s November, we may as well see this whole thing through to December. And onward. Forever and ever, world without end, ad infinitum, amen.

I don’t normally do this.

Blog on a weekday.

Dig up memories mid-week.

Spend my birthday at work.

It’s been a while. I’ve come to realize taking birthdays off has not only spoiled me rotten, but has also been medication of sorts. It keeps me on an even keel, like my very own annual Rumspringa. So this year, since I have no idea what to do with myself, maybe it’s a good thing I’m working. At least I’m doing something. A very depressing something, but it’s something, which is better than nothing at all. What’s the alternative? Boxed wine and take-out? Crying in the shower?

Still, it’s by no means the worst birthday I’ve ever had. No, the worst birthday I ever had was when I ended up eating torta for three days straight because my mother had bought too much and no one showed up to the party. What a bunch of dicks. LOL. I don’t remember why no one showed up; had I saved the invite till the very the last minute? I think I may have. Did I do it on purpose so I could have all the torta to myself? Who knows? I was eight. The whole thing is a blur. All I remember is the torta. So good. All that sugar. In hindsight, I regret nothing.

Damnit, now I want torta.

The Best Values are Addams Family Values

The Best Values are Addams Family Values

Today being October the 31st, I rewatched Addams Family Values because I wanted to do a Debbie Jellinsky appreciation post. I ended up appreciating the whole movie instead. I couldn’t help it. I loved it then, and I love it now, and really, how could you not?

They know what they like (and say it) –

They know what they don’t like (and say it).

They face disappointment (like a dead, fully baked stripper in a cake) –

And move on with grace and humour.

Continue reading “The Best Values are Addams Family Values”

Stray Thoughts in the A.M.

Stray Thoughts in the A.M.

I’m tired of not being able to go anywhere. It’s not that I need to. I just want to know I can.

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I miss second-hand bookstores. A lot. Didn’t really realize how much, until I looked up from reading All the Light We Cannot See, realized it’s so good I want a copy of my own, and was reminded that BMV – one of my favourite haunts – is closed. And it sucks.

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I dug into a folder from 2010 to find a photo of my niece and me for her birthday, and my god, this is self-flagellation. Keep your hair shirts and cilices, if I want to self-mortify, I’ll revisit 2007-2010. I miss being skinny.

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Not that I was that skinny, but what made me think I was fat in 2010? This photo folder is pushing my 2020 self to have a good long cry in the shower.

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I really just want to wake up and magically be a hundred pounds. I want to take a potion, fall asleep, wake in a pool of dappled sunlight, open my eyes like Princess Aurora after being kissed, float away on my tiptoes to a full length mirror, and sing the opening bars of Creed’s My Sacrifice to the newly revealed outline of my clavicles. Hello my friend, we meet again

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Can I just have all the cake I want? Can I never have to worry about trifles like calories, or cholesterol, or fatty organs and having to eat fish and leaves forever?

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We finally have a car! I kind of felt something. Just a little something. A little bit of excitement, a little bit of happiness, but mostly relief. I feel like I’m supposed to feel something more, but I got nothing. My brothers are way more excited about it than I am. Am I dead inside? My mother suggested we do some sort of cleansing exorcist voodoo by dedicating the car to God, because “you don’t know who used to own it.” I promised to take it to an abandoned parking lot and sprinkle it with holy water. Maybe do a little dance. Burn some gris gris. Which I haven’t. Where would I even get holy water? I think swinging a censer would make for some dramatic visuals though.

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I hope my mom doesn’t read this. Her glare of death is as potent now as it was then.

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The dealer detailed it before handing it over to us though. So there is no trace of the previous owner, except for very meticulously kept receipts. I found them all, folded neatly in a plastic envelope, in the glove compartment. Each receipt conforms to the dates in its CarFax report. What a stickler. Hopefully a Protestant. Maybe Episcopalian.

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Sorry Mom, that was the last one. I promise.

We Interrupt Your Scheduled Programming to Bring You: Heartbreak Weather

This, ladies and gentlemen, is how you use your boyband membership as a springboard to success. None of the overdramatic, Camila Cabelo-esque ready-for-primetime impatient grasping that usually characterizes the breakaway narrative; no Beyonce or Justin Timberlake-esque pulling focus, no Robbie Williams-esque bad boy drama, no Geri Halliwell-esque shock and awe. Just doing your time, putting in the work, waiting your turn, and then, when the time comes, capitalizing on your chance and proving that you have a helluva lot of talent as a songwriter, and more than enough charisma to outshine everyone else in your former boyband, simply by virtue of seeming above it all, and less… well, encumbered, by everything.  Not everyone exits the weird cocoon of singing groups so unscathed.

Who doesn’t enjoy success stories, especially ones where the underdog suddenly emerges to become the bright shining leader of the new world order, Hunger Games style? Not that Niall Horan is a stranger to trying times. Even pretty people get their hearts broken. Not all of them mine it the same way. It seems Horan’s answer to dealing with heartbreak is to make upliftingly catchy tunes for a sad subject matter, which is a positive way of dealing with things, everything else considered.

I liked Flicker, Niall Horan’s first solo album. Not that I’m a big connoisseur but it’s one of the best a former boybander has ever put out in recent years. Heartbreak Weather, while not quite as stellar as Flicker, is not a bad second effort. Although Horan has said it’s a concept album, meant to show matters of the heart as various weather patterns, it’s not as cohesive, track arrangement-wise. By this, I mean the order of play could use just a smidge of re-ordering. Still, it’s really nice to see Horan come into his own, and so suavely too.

Romance is Dead, Long Live Romance

Romance is Dead, Long Live Romance

Liz Lemon: I scheduled a root canal for February 14th, Jack. I will spend half the day in twilight sleep, then I will go home and watch the Lifetime original movie “My Step-son is My Cyber-husband.”

Jack Donaghy: Wow, that is inspired. You are truly the Picasso of Loneliness.

30 Rock, S04E13: Anna Howard Shaw Day

I remember when I used to dread Valentine’s Day. I couldn’t stand all the giddiness and flowers, the cards, the chocolates, the naked, cherubic, rosy-cheeked little Cupids hanging from the ceiling. Instead of a day that highlighted what love was about, for me Valentine’s Day was a day that highlighted not being loved at all. I wanted so much to be one of the chosen and instead it was a day that made me feel like the ugliest stepsister at the ball.

So I hated it. Hated it like the Grinch hated Christmas.

And now?

Now, I find I don’t care all that much about it anymore.

Sure, you’ll say.  Of course you wouldn’t care about it, why would you? You’re married, you’re done, you’re off the market, the pressure to find a mate is gone.

Romance as we know it – surprise helicopter rides and impromptu candlelit dinners at the top of some revolving restaurant in some unnamed metropolis – dies hard when one is married. And it doesn’t just get snuffed out like a flame, oh no. No, no, no. You won’t get that at all. You won’t even get the displeasure of having it ripped off like some sort of metaphysical band-aid, nursing the sting one moment, moving on the next. Romance doesn’t just die overnight; it dies gradually, struck blind by the kind of I-woke-up-like-this face not even a mother could love, deafened by the snoring, asphyxiated by morning breath and all the careless farting, until twelve years later you wake up and realize that yep, it’s gone.

It’s probably age. We’re both older now, and I don’t know about him, but I’m the kind of old that sees most things as a chore, measuring a choice or an activity against the remaining time I may have left on this earth. A lot of things are prefaced with “do I have enough time to do this and wait for myself to like it?” Or, “Why am I really doing this?”

Keeping a marriage alive takes work. Hard work. Some days, you work hard to remember why you got married in the first place. The sometimes suffocating closeness of living in proximity with another person can take its toll. So no. No more schmoopy love notes. No more surprise flowers. No more spontaneous nights in hastily booked hotels, or ostentatious dinners in ostentatious restaurants, and ostentatious gifts to prove we love each other; right now, the most ostentatious thing we give each other is the fact that we’re still together, a grudging “I’m still here, aren’t I?”  which dissolves into mutual eyerolls and then a bit of a giggly cuddle.

Romance may be killed off as easily as the first sucker in a horror film, but love, now love is an entirely different animal. Love is a box of Michelina’s that gets eaten but replaced, making sure the “DO NOT EAT! EMERGENCY WORK FOOD” post-it looks just like it did on the original box because he doesn’t want you to know he ate it, but gets busted for it anyway. Love is putting up with getting pantsed. Love is getting dry humped randomly while doing the dishes. Love is waving at each other from the elevator. Love is surreptitiously patting him on the butt with a “giddy-up, horsie” as he pushes the yellow grocery cart at the local No Frills.

Love is the cockroach of emotions – it can survive anything, even a nuclear holocaust. And that’s okay with me. I don’t mind a little romance here and there, but I’m not going to let one single day dictate that I show it. Love is a tenacious little fucker, and if you ask me to choose between romance and love, I’ll take love any day of the week. 

The 2010s Ruined Some Words for Me, and Here They Are

How did your New Year’s celebration go? Was it happy? Was it sad? Did it have fireworks? Mine came and went with a sort of sputter, because Le Hubs was at work and I didn’t feel like going out to mingle with strangers in Nathan Philips Square. So I stayed home, opened the doors and made sure I was clutching bills when the clock struck twelve. (That’s a Filipino tradition. Holding money ensures a steady supply in the coming year, and open doors usher in good fortune – it’s really more like welcoming in the flu when you do it in the dead of a Canadian winter, but I do it anyway.)

clutch moneeyyyy 2
Big moneyyyyyyyy!

There’s been a lot of hue and cry about entering a new decade, and a lot of thinkpieces on how the 2010s have shaped and changed the world as we know it. It definitely feels like a decade where we went from zero to sixty in no time flat. It’s not a very pretty picture at the moment, with all the ridiculousness going on – careless leaders, divisive issues and all that. If there’s anything this decade, especially its latter half, has done for me, it’s to highlight the slow, lingering death of discourse, the seeming end of common sense, and the egregious abuse of some truly lovely words in the popular lexicon that will never be the same for me again. I’m all for slang, but some things just can’t be borne.

Without further ado, here are some of the words the 2010s have ruined for me:

Influencer – One of the worst things to come out of the 2010s. It’s at the top of the list of words (and people) that make me cringe. It’s a made up word for a made up concept, a hot air bag of a self-appointed title for pretentious wannabes who believe their lives are worth emulating and use it to take advantage of the gullibility of others. Seeing it makes me want to claw my eyes out and scream at society at large for celebrating so much vapidity. While we’re here, you may as well throw in curate/curated. Blech.

Iconic, Legendary, Epic, Massive etc. – No. Stop. Stop it. Stop it right now. These adjectives are hard-earned, and it can take a lifetime to earn them. For the love of all that’s holy, they are not herbs to be sprinkled liberally over everything.

Literally/Actually – I am literally losing my mind at how many valley girls actually exist based on the actually extensive usage of literally, which, actually, is literally always used out of context. It actually makes the ones who overuse it literally come across as, actually, idiots. Literally.

Cancelled – is for airline flights. And TV shows. And credit cards. It is not for human usage. You cannot cancel a person, no matter how badly you want to. If a person still breathes, “cancelled” is the wrong word. Please consider using kill, murder and/or eliminate if you really feel that strongly about pronouncing someone’s life as over. Bear in mind you will have to go and actually do the deed first.

Everything – as in “… and it was everything.” No it wasn’t. It was just steak. Stop being lazy and find an appropriate descriptor. And no, you are not allowed to use iconic, legendary or epic. Or say that you were shook. Once again, it was just steak. Jesus.

Shook – or any iteration of this when it is intended to mean overwhelmed. Like shooketh. The correct word is shaken, but… you know what, I give up. These are special times. Sigh.
There’s still triggered, and snowflake, and slay, and savage. And, it seems fairly recently, pure. Please, not pure. Why? What did the English language do that was so bad we have to slaughter it this way?

I quit doing resolutions a while back, because they never work. Still, in the coming decade, I resolve to avoid websites that overuse all these words like the plague. You know the ones. The ones where headlines read like they were barfed out by a random SEO-driven headline generator that runs on 100% high-octane hyperbole. “A massive XXX happened and now everyone is upset.” Ugh. No more rubbish. No more clickbait. Nothing against them. I’m just old now, and unable to take too much of juvenile, half-assed, under-researched, hastily written shit. (Mine is an exception, but that’s because I came up with it, lol.)

Also, I need to stop drinking so much milk tea.

Happy 2020, everyone!