- because people don't act as their authentic selves on Halloween. They step into the mask of a costume and all sorts of craziness ensues, often with the help of way too much alcohol.
- because it's too competitive. When you're a kid it's all about who gets the most candy, and when you're an adult it's about who has the best costume. I prefer my celebrations to be free of judgement, thank you.
I feel the need to unburden myself of a confession, so lean in a bit closer and I'll whisper it to you, okay? Are you sure no one else is listening? Alright, good, so here we go...
I don't really like Halloween. (Cue voices of horror and disbelief.)
"How could she say that in such a public forum where at least two people will read it?!"
"I wonder how her family copes."
"Does she just hate fun?"
If I could get philosophical for a moment, I would say that I don't like it for two main reasons:
Nowadays, because I don't have children, I can just ignore Halloween altogether if I choose. Well, I use the term "ignore" quite loosely. I can choose not to participate, but ignoring all of the hoopla is impossible - the stores are full of candy and costumes, there are pumpkins EVERYWHERE, and that annoying Value Village commercial is on yet again.
When I was younger, I didn't understand why I didn't enjoy Halloween as much as my friends did. Now, with a lot of knowledge and experience under my belt, I know that it is because I am a Highly Sensitive Person, or an HSP as we are now so lovingly referred to. That just means that I have a sensitive nervous system that allows me to be aware of subtleties in my surroundings, but also causes me to feel easily overwhelmed if I'm out in public for too long.
My Halloween hesitations seem much more sensible when viewed through the lens of being an HSP. Aside from Christmas, there is no other "holiday" with as many intense sounds, sights and smells as Halloween. The kids are all hopped up on sugar, the adults are drunk. It's all just too much for a highly sensitive girl to handle.
So nowadays I just try to let Halloween pass without taking much notice. I'll be staying at home, possibly preparing myself for the onslaught of Christmas marketing that is about to be laid on us. Hibernating is a very effective avoidance technique. Don't worry about me though. I'll make it through the holidays just fine, and I'll be all fired up for Easter, which is more my speed, what with the soft bunnies and pastel colours and all.
Enjoy the chaos today.
From the time I was a kid up until very recently, I was afraid of needles and having my blood drawn. Actually, not just afraid - I was full-on flippin' phobic. My m.o. had always been to:
1 - worry about the needle for days before my blood test;
2 - work myself into a frenzy the day of the test;
3 - silently freak out in the waiting room at the lab;
4 - break out in a cold, clammy sweat while the blood is being drawn; and
5 - after it's over (and hopefully not before) - pass out, throw up, or both
(I have always been a treat for the lab technicians, let me tell you. )
My mom likes to tell the story of how, when I was eight or so, she and I were sitting in the waiting room while my brother was having dental surgery and I passed out just from listening to a nurse talk to a patient about needles and blood. I slumped in my chair, my head fell onto my mother's arm, she thought I was kidding around and flipped up her arm and my head along with it and I bumped my melon on the arm of her chair. My mom panicked, the receptionist was unhelpful, and then I came to and puked all over the floor. Fun times.
As an adult, I learned to cope by only using labs that had a place for me to lie down while I was having blood work done, which helped immensely. Sometimes it seemed like a technician was questioning whether or not it was really necessary for me to lie down, but once they got started, all doubt was abolished. My symptoms are glaringly obvious. ("Excuse me, Ms. Broadfoot, but are your eyes rolling into the back of your head for a reason?")
I did some research and discovered that I have what is known as blood-injury phobia, and it is unique because, unlike other phobias, it causes your heart rate to slow down rather than speed up as a protection mechanism. It's kind of like your body sees the blood and thinks, "whoa, let's just slow things down a bit so we don't run out, alright folks?"
I once did a face plant on a sidewalk and when the ambulance arrived my blood was blood everywhere. The paramedics put a blood pressure monitor on my finger and they could barely get a reading. Afterward one of them joked that they thought they'd "lost me." Hmmm...
Now though, wonder of wonders, all this is changing. I have had some health issues over the last year that have required a LOT of blood tests, and finally, though I almost can't believe it, I seem to have overcome my fear. I guess my brain had a chat with my senses and told them to cool it when it comes to blood because it was embarrassed or something. I now see that there is only minor discomfort in a blood test, and I can sit up like a big girl while I'm having one done.
I guess the moral of my story is that practice makes perfect. Or maybe it's face the fear and do it anyway. I'm not sure, so take your pick. Either way, be assured that if you or someone you know has a blood phobia, it can be overcome. Personally I am over the moon excited to know that now when I need a blood test, I won't be lying on the floor staring up at the ceiling when it's over.
When it comes to living arrangements, I've tried all of the combinations - I've lived with my parents and siblings, I've lived alone, I've lived with a male partner, I've lived with roommates. I have found that all of these situations have theirs pros and cons, and if I had to choose a favourite, it would definitely be different than it was only a few years ago.
I used to think that I could never be truly happy if I lived by myself. I just always assumed that I would get married and have children, so the idea of a solo existence did not appeal. But life had plans for me that I knew nothing about and I ended up exactly where I didn't want to be. So I tried to learn and adapt, mostly with more failure than success.
And then I read a book that changed my life. Actually no, I'm just kidding, I didn't. That just sounded like something someone would say in that instance. What I did do, however, was read a book that made me laugh and look at my life from a different perspective.
The book is called Live Alone and Like It, The Classic Guide for the Single Woman. It was written by Marjorie Hillis, and was first published in 1936 (yes, you read that correctly), and then again in 2008 with a new preface by Laurie Graff. With chapter titles like, "Who Do You Think You Are," "Etiquette for a Lone Female," and "Setting for a Solo Act," Hillis, in her stern, matter of fact manner, lays the groundwork for any woman who wants to thrive while at the same time living on her own.
Hillis, who lived alone by choice and worked for Vogue magazine for more than 20 years, believed that there is a technique to living on your own successfully that stems directly from your attitude. "You've got to decide what kind of a life you want, and then make it for yourself," she said. Indeed.
Right from the start Hillis makes it clear that she'll take guff from no one, saying that "anyone who pities herself for more than a month on end is a weak sister." With her no-nonsense attitude, she then proceeds to lay out a plan for living well on your own, complete with case studies of anonymous single women living solo to varying degrees of success. Miss H. of Wilmington, we are told, is "rich as a bootlegger and as smart as paint," while Miss J. gets "the small end of everything and the worst seat on the bus."
No topics of discussion are left unturned, and include friendship, etiquette, leisure time, and interior design. There are chapters entitled "Pleasures of a Single Bed," and "A Lady and her Liquor." It really is an A to Z guide on how to prosper as a single lady.
I find it quite remarkable how much of the advice still applies today. But maybe the point is that I shouldn't, because basic human instincts and traits change very little over time. At the time the book was written, single women were rather rudely referred to as "extra women." We may have altered our terminology since then, but when we say that we feel as useful as a third armpit or a fifth wheel, we are describing the same sensation of feeling extra, or leftover, or not needed. The technologies we use to live our lives may have changed, but our feelings stay the same.
As you may have guessed by now, with the help of this book I have accepted that my favourite living arrangement is now the one I am currently in - just me and my cat. I now see that at this point in my life, living alone is the best option for me. As a writer I find that my creative mind doesn't follow a regular schedule, so I sleep at odd hours, I eat at odd hours, and I just generally live kind of an odd life. But that's okay, because I like my life and I am perfectly content to have my home be my solitary sanctuary - designed for me, and me alone.
I might be brand new to blog writing, but not so to blog reading. I read A LOT of blogs, and I tend to notice certain trends in language and word choice because I'm interested in that sort of thing. And since everything I've ever read about successful blog writing says that you need to speak in your own voice and set yourself apart from the pack, I thought it might be helpful to share some of the most overused words and phrases I've noted lately.
Now of course, nothing terrible is going to happen to you if you do use catch phrases in your blog writing. You just run the risk of fading into obscurity because you sound like all of the other bloggers out there. And there is always the chance that some potential readers won't bother to look beyond the tired phrases to find something new - they'll just click away.
If you find yourself questioning any of the following, trust me on this one, and don't use them. You'll thank me later.
"Writing, to me, is simply thinking through my fingers." Isaac Asimov
"I'm writing an unauthorized autobiography." Steven Wright
This video makes me exceedingly happy. You should watch it too, unless you hate fun.
I have lived with depression since I was a teenager. I used to say that I “suffered” from it, but recently, I’ve flipped that. Suffering is a part of life, and so I choose to say that I “live” with depression. I feel like it is always with me, somehow, lurking in my subconscious and ready to strike.
But as much as I can, I have embraced it as a part of who I am, and slowly I am learning to see its benefits as well. For one thing, depression has taught me to be kind, compassionate and sensitive to others’ feelings.
In all of that time, though, I don't think I've ever compared clinical depression with its "real life" definition. A depression is "an area that is sunk below its surroundings; a hollow." Ummmm, yeah. That about sums it up nicely. When you are depressed you feel like you have sunk below everyone around you, and what used to be the part of you that loved and laughed and got excited about things has suddenly been replaced by a void - a lacking so huge it takes over your life.
Depression is soul-crushingly boring and monotonous. The highs and the lows cancel each other out and you are left with an absurd feeling of absolute nothingness. You can see it in someone's eyes when they are depressed - it's like their pilot light has gone out and there's nothing there to light them up.
The opposite of a depressed life isn't a happy life. It is a full, rich, meaningful one.
After many years of trial and error, I am personally learning how to fill in the hollows of depression. I have hit on a really good combo of medication and therapy, for one thing. Having a therapist who really "gets" you is all important, and I finally have one who does. And the more I experience, the more I learn about how I can stay away from the hole and not fall in yet again.
I questioned whether or not I should talk about my depression here on the blog... for about 30 seconds. And then I decided to just do it. Because I can't talk about myself without talking about depression. And I'm not ashamed of any of it. Everyone who lives with depression needs to speak up, speak out and smash those damaging stigmas. The more we share, the more people learn, and the easier it is for us all to understand one another.
I dream that some day I might be able to metaphorically fill in my own personal depression and never have to dig it up again. But until then, every time I feel myself sinking, I will simply try to keep my head above ground. And should I fall again, I will remember that I can always, always find a way to crawl out of the hollow and face another day.
Word nerd - noun - Any of a subspecies of human beings who devote the majority of their waking hours to the study of words and language, thus rendering them slightly withdrawn, pensive and nerd-like, while at the same time, very cool, if they do say so themselves. synonyms: grammar geek, language lover, etymology expert, alliteration aficionado
So, yes. Words. What can I say? I love them. (Queue is my favourite word, because it's so ridiculous. Why the extra "ue?" Plus, it's both a word and a letter, a noun and a verb. So versatile.)
Both on their own and grouped with others, I think words are just the greatest invention. We may take them for granted now and then, and misuse them on occasion, but just imagine where we'd be without them. I'm pretty sure that the world would come to a grinding halt. Which is pretty powerful stuff, I'd say.
Words allow us to communicate all of our basic human emotions. Words give meaning to our lives. They educate and inspire, motivate and redeem. Words convey our thoughts and allow us to connect with other people. They are essential to human interaction.
Whenever someone asks me what I do for a living and I say that I'm a writer, the next question is usually, "what do you write?" I'm always tempted to say, "sentences," because I don't want to be pigeonholed. I believe that once you know how to craft a proper sentence, you can write just about anything.
I love to work with words. Whether I am writing, editing or proofreading, I am in my element. I love to play with words, too. Reading fiction, doing a crossword puzzle, playing Scrabble. It's all good to me.
And what I especially love is helping other people find the words they need to say. It is always gratifying to be able to use my skills and talents to help someone communicate their truth. Language just doesn't come easily to some people, but for whatever reason, it does to me, so I'm always happy to share my luck with others. (Keep watch on this site for some grammar and writing tips. I've got some great ones up my sleeve.)
I have recently been working through a business e-course with an online community (more about that in a future post.) Some of the exercises are designed to help you pinpoint just what it is you want to do with your life - what makes your heart sing and your pulse race. I did put interests other than reading and writing on my lists, but I realized that's all they are - interests. Reading and writing are essential components of who I am as a person. They are built into my DNA.
And so it is. I read and write, therefore I am - a word nerd, through and through.
P.S. Are you a word nerd, too? Or maybe you think you might need to hire one? Comment on this post, drop me a line here on the site, send me an email, or come say hi on Twitter.
I always have a difficult time explaining myself when people ask me where I live. Not because I live in some remote location, or in a yurt, or because I forget where I live, or anything like that. I just don't live in a traditional housing "situation." I live in... an apartment, which is kind of a condo, but actually more like a co-op, but not officially. Clear as mud?
I live in a four-suite apartment building, which I own, along with the other tenants who live here. We each own one quarter of the building, which includes one, two-bedroom suite; shared space in the basement for laundry facilities and storage; and one spot in our garage. We're kind of like a co-op, but not officially, because then we'd have to have directors and official meetings and all that sort of hogwash. So we just do things our own way.
We do have a written agreement for each tenant that outlines our basic concept and "rules," but it's not legally binding. The main stipulation is that each suite is owned by a woman, but we have no restrictions on who else can live with us. Currently, we have four women, one husband, one grandson, and a few cats.
Two of the women who live here have done so for 20 years. They originally bought the building together with two other women who no longer live here. They were all at points in there life where they were either divorced or unmarried, and wanting to own property but maybe not willing to take on the upkeep of a house entirely on their own. So this form of shared accommodation was just the ticket.
Circumstances changed for two of the women, so two of the suites have changed hands since the beginning. I have lived here for seven years now, and I am both the newbie and the youngster in the group.
We have a common bank account which we each pay into every month to use for property taxes and building maintenance and other shared expenses. We meet once a month or so to both check in on each other and make sure we're all doing okay, and to take care of building business - it seems that there is always something that needs to be fixed or upgraded. We share tasks such as lawn care and snow removal, and we are fortunate that one of the tenants is an expert gardener who makes our garden the envy of the neighbourhood every year.
I must say that as an introvert, living in such close proximity to others has been a bit of a challenge at times, but nothing I can't handle. And besides, there aren't any other housing situations that I know of where you get to meet and assess your neighbours before you move in. I knew that I would be able to adapt and I have.
I can't say for sure whether or not I will stay here indefinitely, because you just never know what may come my way in the future, but for now, I'm perfectly content where I am. Now if I could just figure out how to easily explain that...
Over the summer I cashed in some Air Miles for a sewing machine. I know, I know, glamorous, right? Some people save for trips to exotic locations, or cash in for flashier items, but me? I'm all about practicality. I've been considering getting a machine for some time now, but I have found myself overwhelmed with information about what specific model I should purchase. A quick search on the Air Miles site netted two results, and I only had enough miles for one of the models, so that was that, decision made. Easy peasy.
Receiving the parcel was not as easy, which was the fault of UPS, though, not Air Miles. After leaving a "sorry we missed you" note on my door despite me having been here when they supposedly rang the bell, they directed me to the closest UPS store for pickup of my parcel. But alas, when I arrived there on a Saturday morning, I discovered that the parcel was nowhere to be found.
The sole employee working in the store was worse than useless. His repeated response to any and all questions (there were two other customers there with the same problem), was, "They are UPS. We are the UPS store. We are not affiliated in any way." Ummmm, what now? I think they must be affiliated in a greater degree than say, oh I don't know, Pringles chips and the UPS store? But apparently, that is kooky talk. There was absolutely NOTHING the UPS store-that-is-not-affiliated-in- any-way-with UPS employee could do to help us locate our packages.
All we could do was check the online tracking system (which of course said that our packages were at the UPS store), and wait. Mine did finally arrive on the Monday at around 7:30 in the evening. When I asked the driver what might have happened he claimed total ignorance, but said that when he came on shift that day, his boss directed all of the drivers not to deliver anything to that particular UPS store. Hmmmm... the plot thickened. Actually, that's where the plot ended, for me at least. I was just so happy to have my new sewing machine, I didn't bother filing any sort of complaint. My mom thinks that the store manager was stealing Air Miles packages and selling the contents on EBay.
So anyway, back to the machine. I should probably mention at this point that I have no clue how to sew. I did take a class in high school, but all of the knowledge I accumulated there has been surpassed in my brain by more useful information like my ATM pin and lyrics to some truly horrible songs. I don't think I had enough patience for sewing back then. It's possible that's still the case, but I think I'm more relaxed now and more forgiving of myself.
I'm enamoured with the sights and sounds of sewing - the variety of colour in the bolts of fabric at the store, the lovely crinkly sound of a pattern as it is pinned, the hum of the sewing machine, the perfect imperfections in a handmade piece. I even read sewing blogs despite not knowing what they're talking about. (Dolly Clackett is my fave - Roisin cracks me up, and her handmade dress collection is truly awe inspiring.)
When I took the machine out of the box it gleamed with shiny newness. I looked at it and saw endless possibilities for what I might use it to create. I gathered fabric scraps from my mom and a neighbour. I dusted off the sewing kit I received as a gift many moons ago. I bought a book on sewing basics and starting watching the DVD tutorial that came with my machine. I set up the machine on a table I had cleared for just this purpose. Aaaaaand, you guessed it, there it has sat, untouched for nearly two months.
I know there are several reasons for this. I'm busy getting back into the swing of things after an illness, I got the machine when I did because Air Miles sometimes removes rewards when they sell out and I didn't want that to happen here, I want to have sewing as a winter hobby, yada, yada, yada. I think the real truth though, is that I'm letting that damn machine get the better of me. It's silently taunting me, and I worry that I will try my hand at sewing and fail yet again. And that my dreams of having some handmade clothing and curtains hemmed to a proper length will never see the light of day.
I think I can conquer this demon though, if I give myself permission to fuck it up and try again, and again. Everything takes practice, and this isn't a competition. And who knows, maybe I will surprise myself. If the ladies of Underworld on Coronation Street can do it, so can I. I'll keep you posted.