ww: getting real

18/08/2010 § Leave a comment

Never eat shredded wheat. For years I have wondered why I could never grasp which way was East and which was West. Even though I always woke with the sun — excited to bring morning coffee to mom and dad, cream and sugar, — and I knew that if I faced North, the direction I always knew, it revolved around me from side-to-side. Still, I could not remember what the name of those sides were. It took years of my daily rhyme — “the sun sets in the West” — for me to put a name on a direction. From there, I introduced “never eat shredded wheat” in an attempt to understand which way to go.

“Where do you live?”

“Dundas West.”

“Oh yeah, whereabouts? I live just at Lansdowne.”

“On Sheridan, one block … never eat shredded … West of Dundas and Dufferin.”

Perhaps it was the years of smoking and drinking and being on the run that made me think I had no tastes, clinging onto others’ thoughts and ideas in an attempt to be definable. I was direction-less and it made me self-conscious.

Tastes and preferences provide personal direction, but do we stop to ask what propels them? A couple of days ago I received an early gift from a sister-friend, sealed with the words: “we grow neither better nor worse as we get old, but more like ourselves.” It made me wonder if we are more like ourselves in infancy and old age, selfishly indulgent in saying: “I am who I am and I don’t give a damn.” Which is fine, but, why is that?

It’s funny the way things change by staying the same. Our preferences are based on nostalgia, clinging to the simpler life of a childhood spent wanting to grow up. As we age, we accept our real selves.

Yesterday, I woke up in my bedroom and saw myself in the mirror at the end of my bed, looking like red rum. I wondered who that right-handed-hair-parted-on-the-left-right-eye-sagging girl was, because it was not me. I felt funny, not like myself. I got up and read an email from Kate saying that this week’s assignment needed to be opinionated, a mere reflection of our personality — “Neutrality will not work.” So, I let the opinionated side take over and write a cultural criticism that took a one-sided direction. After she wrote the piece, I could not turn her off. She was on a roll, sucking me into the deep, dark rabbit hole. I felt nauseous from the buzzing volume of those words. Being a lover of ideas, the shift was shattering. It felt like I was bound for 7 years of bad luck.

At night, instead of eating poorly-made, dried-out, gluten-free pakoras — I chucked them out after a couple of bites — I ate a Peanut Butter & Butter & Honey (PBBH) sandwich. The taste was sweet and salty and I felt warm and fuzzy when full. My personality and mood shifted so I wondered why that was. As a kid, I used to hate PBBH sandwiches because that was my daily bread. Bored with the same old spongy lunch, I would throw it in the garbage before I went home, afraid to get in trouble for bringing it home and wasting food. But, with belly full of sticky memories, I was happy. Somehow, this shift reminded me of feeling nauseous the first time I heard “Blue Monday” when I was 6 or 7 years old. Forcing the feelings of dizzy-sickness down, I would rise to my feet on the black, cotton couch and jump around as my dad danced in twitches. I have come to love New Order not because I understand the music, but because I loved those moments with my dad.

I was at The Common this morning reading Kerouac’s “On The Road,” a paperback I took, not stole, from Mr. P’s bookshelf. Midway through “14” a man — a bookish looking type with clear plastic frames wearing an intentionally simple, knitted, cream sweater and grey, brushed-cotton shorts — sat beside me and pushed in, “Why you reading that?”

” ‘Cause I feel like I should. Everyone has read it and I want to know why.”

“Kerouac only wrote one book, right?”

“No. He wrote a few others. I guess he was a wanderer, never really knowing what to see next, always on the go. It’s not bad, it just doesn’t really explain or bring into question why he traveled so much.”

“Yeah, didn’t he live with his mom or something?”

We shifted the conversation to bookstores and he asked me how I know so much about them. “I’m a reader,” I said.

I humoured him, “What about yourself? What do you like to say that you do?”

Darren is a writer, he has published a book, he has worked for Toronto-based projects like Utopia and Greentopia, he runs a small theatre company off Spadina and he travels a lot, he is from Edmonton, where his family still lives, a place that he tries to visit as little as possible…

I dived for the cracked door.

“Why is that?” I slid in.

Swung wide open, he explained his family dynamic. It was much more interesting than the list of manufactured accomplishments — stamped and recognizable. I got to see the real side of him: what direction he came from, what direction he might move towards, instead of his “doings.” All from those three magical words.

This afternoon, I sat facing south, somehow the sun still shining in my face. In the background was the tender and sweet sound of Sinatra’s “Moon River,” bringing no sentiments of personal nostalgia, yet it was a new moment of genuine — real — happiness. I noticed that I liked the moment that was happening. Why is that?

Because the moon also sets in the West.

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