so this is the new year

I once again find myself staring down the end of a calendar year and thinking, ‘Thank G-d that’s almost over.’

The sentiment is not entirely fair.  So much of this year has been breath-taking, beautiful, awe-inspiring, soul-reviving, and fantastic.  Some of the best decisions I have ever made have happened this year.  I have laughed harder at a joke in a film than ever before in my life.  I have been brought to tears by the simple goodness of life contained in a letter while standing in a crowded museum.  The fact that both of these incidents were somehow related to Muppets will not surprise anyone who has ever met me (or any Muppets).  I have made such amazing connections and met such incredible people.  I have strengthened relationships, both that were already good and some that I thought completely lost.  My writing has improved by leaps and bounds to the point where I have stared at paragraphs I’ve composed, unable to believe that something so lovely just fell from my fingers.  I’ve created.  I’ve achieved.  I’ve grown.  I find myself having hope for the future.  I find myself thinking that I might have a future after all.

I’ve also sat in hospital waiting rooms at three in the morning, terrified of the coming days.  I’ve wept so hard I couldn’t breathe.  I’ve prayed for someone to not wake up for fear of what they would find when they did.  I’ve felt endangered, alone, listless, hopeless, impotent, petrified.  I’ve had to say goodbye.  I’ve been forced to make the call I hate to make, the one where I whisper, ‘Please, help, I can’t be alone right now.’

I’m so grateful that that paragraph is smaller than the one it followed, but I also know how much I’ve edited out.

So much of my time is spent reflecting on the horrors of growing up.  This seems to be a common theme for people my age.  We’re expected to be independent enough to file our insurance and pay our own taxes and get married and have children, but no one between the ages of fifteen and fifty have any idea what they’re actually doing.  I become aggressive when someone suggests I have no business deciding who I live with or where I shop or what is best for me, but I also dissolve into tears in the middle of the grocery store when asked what kind of dessert I want to purchase because a hairdresser was condescending towards me an hour ago and how can you possibly expect me to make decisions under these circumstances?

That’s simply the way of being this age.  You’re stuck.  You’re reached the point where you can’t ask your parents for any but the direst of favours.  You’ve realised that you’ll never be able to please everyone and someone is always around to accuse you of being precocious/irresponsible/slovenly/haughty/prudish/loose/zealous/aloof, and since you’re going to get flack anyway, what’s the point in trying to impress those judgemental snobs?  And you finally reach the point where you can wear long underwear without an Ellen Tebbits-esque meltdown about what people will think of you for wearing long underwear only to realise you’ve been misspelling ‘Tebbits’ your entire life.

You can’t win.  You can never win.  And if that’s not enough to make a person a little blue, I don’t know what is.

I try to keep upbeat.  I go through periods where everything is gloom and doom and I make a point of reminding myself that everyone feels that way sometimes.  You’ll have a good day again.  And that good day will be awesome.  And maybe everything feels like shit right now, but you’ve had worse shit.  At least the shit you went through this year was shit you didn’t have to ford alone.

I sat in that hospital waiting room with a man who means the world to me.  He told me stupid jokes and read People Magazine en Español aloud until I laughed.

I wept so hard I couldn’t breathe because I had lost people that were truly extraordinary and caring and brilliant, people I didn’t want to lose because of how much better they had made my life.

I prayed for someone not to wake up because I knew the world he would wake to would cause him tremendous pain.  I didn’t want him to go through that.

I had to say goodbye, but in doing so I was able to teach the world how amazing the people I was saying goodbye to were.  I was able to introduce a stranger to the most remarkable young life I have ever met.  And he laughed at her jokes.  And he was stunned by her creativity.  And he was so grateful I shared that tiny part of her incredible life.

I made that call.  I made it more than once this year.  But at the end of the day, I had someone to call.  I had somewhere to go.  I have people in my life who listen, who pour another glass of wine, who hold me and tell me, ‘I’m so glad you’re still here.’

It could all be so much worse.

It seems stupid to have any sort of existential crisis at 26.  But then I remember that I had existential crises at 25, 24, 23, 22, 21, 20, 19, ad infinitum, and it makes me remember that existence is more or less one continuous existential crisis and this is why we have things like kitties and blackcurrant tea and Sherlock marathons.  Life is long and difficult and infuriating.  It’s also beautiful and fun and far, far too short.  And while I’m so often staggered by how bloody impossible it is to just keep living, I’m daily overwhelmed with gratitude for the people with whom I share this brief existence and the unrepentant joy they bring to it.

And, after all, there’s always next year.

on writing from a non-expert in the field

When it comes to being a writer, I know I’m not an expert.  I write constantly — pretty much at every waking moment in one capacity or another — but a good amount of it is only seen by a tiny group of people.  I write emails to clients, notes to friends, secret revelations I don’t understand, text messages and post-its and endless lists.  At my core, I know I am a writer more than anything else apart from a reader.  Words are my true religion and have been as long as I can remember.

The odd thing I’ve noticed, however, is that I only Write — in the sense of something whole and edited and publishable, if only on sites such as this one — when I’m secure in myself.  I have to be in my baseline in order to want to share whatever I’ve made.  Not too happy, not too sad.  Due to a lot of work over the years, I’m in my baseline most of the time.  It’s better than the negative extreme, even if it does keep the positive outliers at bay.

Over the past few months, I have lived in those extremes.  My life has been either intensely joyful or debilitatingly difficult far more often than it’s settled in the baseline.  As a result, I don’t want to share personal details.  I keep these moments to myself and those to whom I feel closest, either to protect and savour them or because I don’t fully understand them yet.  It’s too dangerous to let them out into the world.

I’ve been working on a few pieces for this blog in my head, one for quite some time and the other just over the course of the last two very difficult weeks.  I’m hoping to have them put together soon and be able to let you all in.  In the meantime, I hope all of you are safe and well and warm.

that’s irony, alanis

I live in the U.S. of A., which, naturally, was my first mistake.  As probably everyone in America knows, there have been a lot of changes to insurance and healthcare laws as of late.  These should have been super awesome, but have turned out to kind of suck.  There are all sorts of reasons for this and debates that can occur and teeth that shall be gnashed as a direct result, but I haven’t had nearly enough whiskey to get into all of that.  This is not that story.

As a result of these changes, I recently started paying for health insurance out of pocket for the first time in my young life.  This has caused me a lot of anxiety because 1) any understanding of insurance was sorely lacking in my education because of my parents’ continued belief that I have some preternatural understanding of adulthood due to my childhood habit of being insufferably precocious; b) paying for insurance requires this thing called ‘money’ which I don’t happen to have with any regularity; and iii) I have an anxiety disorder and thus freak out about everything all the time forever.

Me.  All the time.

Me. All the time.

After a lot of tears and swearing and several bottles of wine, I was able to set up an overpriced plan with Important Insurance Company (TM), the results of which haunt my dreams and therapy sessions to this day.  I have been less than thrilled by their services thus far, which is mostly due to the fact that, when interviewed by a representative regarding my overall health, the young man on the phone didn’t seem to know what asthma was and fell out of his chair when I tried to explain that, no, I hadn’t had any recent surgeries for my PTSD because that’s not actually a thing that can happen; I’ve checked.  I then lied and told him I had no other pre-existing conditions, my thinking being that developing further medical conditions as a direct result of speaking with my medical insurance provider was kind of counterintuitive, albeit rife with comedic potential.

But I was prepared to let that all go.  Everyone has bad days and I don’t expect the dude in the call centre to be a medical expert.  I get it.  Forgiveness was at hand.

Then I received an email this morning:

*Clearly* a mistake.  Clearly.

*Clearly* a mistake. Clearly.

I’m pretty sure my insurance company is fat-shaming me.

Looks like I’ve got some feelings that need eating.  Thanks for making me even more unhealthy, insurance company.

 

my joy can only be expressed with gifs

I called my da on Sunday.  There’s an unspoken rule between us that we have to spend Palm Sunday together (because of puns), but since I was in Chicago and he was back home, a phone call was an acceptable substitute.  He was hanging out at home reading with a cat on his lap, like ya do.  The world continues to be a balanced place because of this.

He started telling me about how he just got a copy of his favourite version of The Scarlet Pimpernel in the mail (starring Jane Seymour, Anthony Andrews, and Ian McKellen, some of his biggest actor crushes).  He was beyond stoked about it and explaining all of the reasons why this was the greatest film in the history of until-he-watches-something-else-brilliant.

For the record, this is the version of Scarlet Pimpernel that features this guy:

Wearing the Green Coat of Sex

Wearing the Green Coat of Sex

Who you may recognise as this guy:

The Sane One

The Sane One

Who along with this awesome lady:

Now 78 and still being called 'unbelievably hot' on television

Now 78 and still being called ‘unbelievably hot’ on television

Happened to give birth to this hunk of ridiculous:

A Consummate Professional

A Consummate Professional

As I began to realise this, my father started to go off on a tangent about how he was really irritated that no one bothered to mention in aforementioned film adaptation of The Scarlet Pimpernel that the reason why Marie Antoinette had contacts in Austria was that her mother was head of the Hapsburg Dynasty.  And then we gushed about Schönbrunn for about twenty minutes.

And, suddenly, so many things about me made sense.

My da is a fangirl.  I am a second generation fangirl.  A second generation Cumberbatch fangirl.

<3

Life is beautiful, friends.

***

Super sorry for the accidental blog hiatus.  It was due to some really awesome stuff happening and encouraged by some less-than-awesome stuff happening, but I hope to be back in action soon.  Hopefully in a less interweb-picture-heavy format.  I promise nothing.

winning the blame game

I’ve had a lot of conversations lately about blame.  Blame is a pretty pervasive force in my life and some days (read as:  weeks) it weighs on me a lot more than others (i.e. this one).

The thing I find most interesting about blame as a general concept is that it has such a fine containment field.  For me, there’s a massive difference between Owning a Mistake and Taking the Blame.  While this is more or less an issue of semantics for many people, this is something I struggle with on an almost daily basis.  It’s important to take responsibility for the mistakes that you make.  It’s a part of being a mature, functioning human being and I highly encourage everyone to try it whenever possible.  Where this can become a problem – where it shifts from healthy ownership to destructive guilt – is when your way of taking responsibility is to assume all blame for every problem that is at all associated with you in any way and proceed to give yourself a psychological beating every time you screw something up in even the tiniest way.

That’s me, by the way.  Hello.

I’d like to say that stopping this behaviour has gotten easier with time and training.  I’d like to say that telling myself that it’s silly to blame myself for everything and judge myself harshly for any and all mishaps has brought me some sort of enlightenment.  Sometimes that’s true.  Sometimes that’s hooey.  Today it’s hooey.  Tomorrow will be better.

I was talking about this with a friend of mine last night, someone who has very similar issues of self-judgment and loathing.  We didn’t exactly come to any sort of consensus on how to solve this problem other than eating our body weight in Steak ‘n’ Shake chili mac supreme, which is sadly not going to happen because we live about 800 miles apart and there is a disappointing lack of Steak ‘n’ Shakes in the gaping expanse that resides between us.  What we did agree on was that this whole issue of judging ourselves for everything we do is a helluva lot easier to cope with when we know that the other person is only a phone call away.  In the midst of everything bleak and painful, there’s always going to be that soft voice on the other end of the line that says, ‘I’m here.’  And that’s something to celebrate, I think:  having someone else think you’re fantastic when you can’t even think you’re decent.  I’m really glad I have that.  It’s a brilliant thing to have.

***

I know a lot of people who have various issues with anxiety and/or depression.  This is a hazard of working in any sort of artistic field or just generally being a person.  I was recently directed to this pretty fantastic blog post about realistic ways of coping with depression that’s definitely worth the read if you have some free time.  She uses words like ‘solipsism’, which is great because you can feel all fancy about reading the word ‘solipsism’ today.  There it is again!  Look at how academic you are!  Use it in a sentence today!  Knowledge is power!

But more important than building your vocabulary, I just want you to know that I hope you do something nice for yourself today, even if it doesn’t seem like anything at all.  Make yourself some jam on toast.  Take a little walk to get a soda.  Congratulate yourself on your encyclopaedic knowledge of Sherlock trivia.  Read.  Whatever it is, enjoy it.  You deserve it.  I think you did a really good job today, even if you don’t.  Especially if you don’t.

an open letter to myself

Dear Today Kiri Who Was Just Bested By A Coffee Maker,

Hey, girl.  Nice bracelet.  Did a six-year-old make it for you?  No, seriously.  I know a guy.  He does good work.

I know you’re kind of a hot mess today.  You left your wallet in your other bag and have to run home before racing back downtown to catch your evening train.  You thought 1/2 was bigger than 3/4 because your fourth grade teacher taught you square dancing instead of fractionsThen you told your boss about it.  You work in the financing industry.  This personal reveal was a poor choice.  Stupid days happen, I know they do.  It might have something to do with staying up too late writing fan fiction.  Again.  No judgment, just a thought.  I’m brainstorming here.  But since you finished all of the copy editing you had to get done today and changed the lobby clock without breaking anything, I’m going to let your hot messery slide.  Because in spite of everything, you did your best today.  And I’m proud of you.

…But you should probably print your train ticket now before you forget about it for the 97th time today.  Just a suggestion.

Respectfully submitted,

Reasonable Kiri Who No One Believes Actually Exists

’til chapter three

I grew up on Disney.  I think most people did.  My most formative years took place over what I’ve heard called the ‘Disney Renaissance’ – the decade covering Little Mermaid through Mulan.  Well, technically Tarzan.  But did Tarzan save China?  I THINK NOT.  These were the days of Alan Menken and Howard Ashman, of heroines who first branched out from ‘just pretty’ into ‘pretty badass’, paving the way for the likes of Tiana, Merida, and Anna.  I know I learned a lot from these films, and the work coming out of Disney probably had more influence over me than anything else I watched.  …Except Star Trek.  Which explains my socialist tendencies.

I developed this theory while at university; it may be familiar to some of you.  Being a girl who grew up on Disney, I naturally had a favourite Disney princess.  I’m pretty sure every girl does.  Ladies in the audience, think about it a minute:  who was your favourite princess when you were a kid?  Look at that for a minute.  Now look at your adult life and relationship choices.  Look at the choices you made in relationships that were less than stellar.

Now back to me.

Now back to me.

Now here’s my theory:  the poor relationship choices we make as adults mirror the disturbing subtext in the choices of our favourite princesses.  The issues we have with ourselves can be reflected in the more disturbing corners of our preferred princess’s psyche.

I’m going to use myself as an example.  It’s only fair.

Growing up, my favourite princess was Belle.  This is for obvious reasons.

Get it, grrrl.

Get it, grrrl.

Belle was the first princess with whom I ever actually related.  I wasn’t easily scared, cursed, or prone to narcolepsy, and while I wished for a home life that was better than my own, I was only too aware that the powers of my magical godmother were limited to puppetry and clowning.  Yes, that entire sentence was true.

But Belle was different.  She was like me.  People thought she was weird.  People thought she was too smart.  She was kind and courageous, but it was always in her own quiet way.  Like Belle, I was (am) a voracious reader, making friends in my head far more often than in the schoolyard.  She understood that the world was better in books, and we were safer when we stayed with our imaginary people than we were with the ones in our respective hometowns.

When Belle met the Beast and their relationship moved forward in the way relationships always seem to move forward in Disney films, I was completely sucked in.  Belle’s goodness changed the Beast.  Through Belle, he could see that people weren’t all bad, that someone cared for him enough to stick around.  His anger ebbed.  His hope grew.  And because Disney has never been subtle with metaphors, his inner beauty literally erupted into his outer form.  That was true love to me.  And that was the foundation on which I built my concept of romance.

Looking back now, I can see this wasn’t exactly an accurate representation of the love I would find in my teenage and young adult life.  I can see how the story was subverted to fit the objects of my desire.  I would date people who were troubled or angry or lost.  I would look at all of their flaws and think, I can make them better.  I knew there was a wonderful person in there somewhere, and since I was a person who was kind and clever, they would naturally become the same way with enough exposure to me.

And, naturally, this never actually worked.

Because life is not a Disney movie.

I saw something online recently that the criticism surrounding how Beauty and the Beast advocates Stockholm Syndrome is rather unfair.  Belle and the Beast are both outsiders:  Belle for her intellect and dislike of traditional roles and the Beast for his appearance.  Their othering is what brings them together.  They triumph in the end because of their differences and their compatibility.  It’s the first instance of The Guy not getting The Girl in a Disney film and that’s something I find very appealing.  Reading about this got me back to thinking about my hypothesis.  While I’ve done some reconsideration, I still stand by my original idea.  However, I’d like to add something to it.

I didn’t learn my bad relationship habits because of Disney.  Instead, I learned the wrong lesson when watching this film.  What I learned was that I can change him.  What I should have learned is this:  He may change for you.  But that is his choice.  It’s not your problem.

We are so quick to blame media for our problems, to say that video games or comic books are responsible for corrupting our children or increasing the divorce rate or furthering the gay agenda*.  It’s all nonsense, of course, as studies have shown time and again.  I think we continue to search for the blame in entertainment because it’s an easy out.  It allows ourselves to play innocent victims to corrupt organizations and faceless corporations, which is always more pleasant than acknowledging responsibility for our own actions.  However, the fact remains that not all fault can lie with the teacher.  Every student comes in for a lesson with their own personal biases.  While it’s completely possible that someone who’s already troubled could see Natural Born Killers and decide to go on a killing spree, not everyone who watches that film has this reaction.  Wouldn’t that suggest that the fault lies not in the presented material but in the interpretation by this one person?

Sure, I may have picked up this particular flawed gem of advice from too many re-watches of a Disney classic.  But if I’m completely honest with myself, I created the fantasy on my own.  I romanticize the dark, brooding type and always have.  It’s nice to think that everyone is sweet-tempered and considerate underneath all of their crusty layers.  But nice is different than good.  And nice is not the same as realistic.

But at least this provides a solid explanation for my fangirl crushes on Loki and Sherlock.

*The media in no way works to further the gay agenda.  By this point in time, it’s so well-organized that we just keep our secret communicator wristwatches tuned to the same frequency and wait for Uncle George to send the coordinates to our next meeting.  Much more efficient that way.