Wednesday, February 29, 2012

northern life.

The thing is, I'm not actually very far north at all. But this town is high up, compared to Vancouver. So it gets snow. And temperatures in the minus region of the thermometer. And that great dry cold that is so much more invigorating than Vancouver's sulky, rainy plus-10 days.
So here I am, midway through my week here, and it's been great. Back home there are worries. Like: how much money am I going to earn in the next few months? Can I go to school in the fall, or will my summer job be too long, and if so, what can I do about it? Stuff like that. But this small town has been a nice, wintery break from some of those worries, and a great chance to catch up with some friends. I've pretty much seen everyone I wanted to see, too. Not to mention the fact that I'm catching up on 37 years' worth of winter sports in one week: I've been snowmobiling, snowshoeing and today I went skiing (cross-country, not downhill. That's still a closed book to me). Venessa and the baby went into town to do some errands, so the dog and I walked across the road into the Meadows, I stepped into a pair of skis for the first time in about 10 years, and off we went for two hours. I did pretty well, too. In fact, I had grand ambitions to go back out this afternoon, but by the time I got back home, I was EXHAUSTED. Good thing I turned around on the trail when I did. I made myself a giant, healthy lunch and now I have a date with the couch for a while.
But the best winter sport I've tried so far? DOGSLEDDING. On Monday, Venessa & I went to Danny and Lorraine's place out in the hills behind town (off Hardscrabble Road, which is the best road name ever) and spent a day with this amazing couple and their 30 sled dogs. The most excitable, strong, friendly, curious and LOUD dogs I've ever met! We got to take out a team of 8 dogs while the other 22 or so bayed in excitement as we left and Danny & Lorraine kept a watchful eye on us (and their 8 furry babies) from a snowmobile. Venessa drove the sled out to the meadows while I sat on it, took pictures and acted as ballast. Then I drove them back home. Beautiful, exhilarating, snowy, cold, addicting. Then Venessa drove us back to her place on her snowmobile, a little faster than we'd driven on the way out. And I screamed like a little girl every time she opened up the throttle.

Sunday, February 19, 2012

It's been a pretty good week in eastvanland, all told. Although actually I wasn't IN east van much. My brother was away, which meant I got to crash his life for a while. You know: small but tidy apartment right downtown. Dog and cat, who like my company. (I can hear them saying to my bro & sis-in-law "Look you guys, you've gotta ease up on this whole work thing. Your sister was here ALL THE TIME. And we LOVED it!") Oh yeah, did I mention that there's a gym, steam room, sauna and hot tub in their building? I was seriously considering changing the locks before they came home.
Every day I would snap the dog's leash on, slip out the back door and let him drag me to the dog park (sometimes, to mess with his head, I would have a conversation with the dog that consisted of these 3 words: "Walk? Park? Ball? WalkParkBall? BallParkWalk? ParkBall?" and laugh myself silly watching his ears twitch and his head tilt. His vocabulary may be small, but he HAS one, that's for sure). Sometimes when I was feeling decadent I would walk him back through ritzy Yaletown with a coffee in my free, leashless hand, and savour being in a neighbourhood where people have all kinds of money for frivolous things like spas and bikini waxes and Minis, for god's sake.
While I was downtown, Valentine's Day happened. And I won't lie to you, Cupid was good to me this year. Instead of a) spending my first V-Day in donkey's years alone and sad or b) ignoring it like I normally did because my anniversary was right after it, my new "friend" and I decided that we would have a fun, non-mushy time together; no expectations, nothing said that wasn't meant, and NO ROSES. So there was skating, and I cooked dinner, and later we had wine together, all alone in a bar because it was a weeknight and everyone else had to work. Hah. There may or may not have been some kissing too, but I will neither confirm nor deny this.
There was also a Flying Folk Army reunion jam this week. Which is a big deal because it's been how-many years since we played music together? Okay, only 4/7ths of us showed up. But we now have a (gasp) Facebook page, which means that we have fans again! And there is definite talk of a reunion gig before I go away this spring.

What else? Oh, there's a cool gig coming up for me next month at the Waldorf Hotel (Vancouver's current Hipster mecca). I've made some career decisions (now let's see if I can put them into action). I have a bit of work next month, nothing exciting, but it'll keep me off the streets anyway. AND I have a visit scheduled to my favorite northern town, a visit which will include meeting my gal-pal's new baby, hanging out with various friends, and DOGSLEDDING. Which will either kill me or be the coolest thing ever.
Stay tuned.

Thursday, February 9, 2012

knowing when to turn off.

It can be so easy to live online.
I knew someone once, back when chat rooms were the thing. Maybe they still are; I wouldn't know. Anyway, he was always going off to the nearest internet cafe (we were on tour, and he didn't have a laptop; this was the late '90s and laptops weren't quite as prevalent then) and he would...Chat.
And I couldn't understand it. Why, why would he want to sit in front of a screen for hours when there were Real Live People all around him? Including his fellow cast members, who were only too happy to bicker at him, play loud music in the van, and go dancing at any weirdo nightclub we could find on the road.
On second thought, no wonder the chat rooms looked so appealing...
But the thing is, I find myself online so much now, what with this career development course I'm doing this month, and also looking and applying for jobs, and emailing, and blogging, and let's not forget the monstrous, life-eating FACEBOOK. Where I pop in to see how my friends, local and distant, are doing; to make some smart-ass observations; to answer and write messages; to see if That Guy is online so I can start a conversation. A Chat, if you will.
That Guy refuses to email or phone me, which means, if I was a smart girl instead of a fool, I would leave him the hell alone. Instead, if I see he's online, I start feeling twitchy and doing this little monkey-dance/chant in my head that sounds like this:
lookatmelookatmelookatMEGOSHDARNIT! And then, whether we converse or not, I feel like a bit of a twit.
If I was a very strong girl, I would leave Facebook altogether. I've been tempted, but I really have some great friends on there, and I wouldn't hear from them as much (nor they from me) if I didn't hang on to my account, so for now, it stays.
But I have decided to stay away from it for a while. Messages will come to my email account anyway, so there's no pressing need to go on there compulsively.
My job-searching (god, now there's a whole other blog post) is done for the day.
My coursework also.
I've checked my email enough times, already.
Time to switch off and face the real world, rainy though it is today.

Thursday, February 2, 2012

Ten Thousand Hours

I just read a fascinating book by Malcolm Gladwell called "Outliers". I could rave about the whole thing but really, you should just read it yourself. There's too much interesting stuff to go into here, but basically he's writing about how there's no such thing as a self-made man; that our background and economic class and antecedents and culture help to shape us into successes or failures (or pilots who crash planes- see, there's even a chapter about plane crashes! I have a morbid fascination with plane crashes so I couldn't help but be hooked).
But in one chapter, Gladwell mentions the theory of 10000 hours, which I've read about elsewhere, in Daniel Levitin's very cool "This is Your Brain on Music". Meaning that ten thousand hours of work is what it takes for pretty much anyone to become an expert at anything. Ten thousand hours of math. Or painting. Or practicing, say, the accordion. The theory being that there are no 'prodigies' or 'geniuses' but rather people who apply themselves while others slack off. Oh sure, there are some people who are innately more talented than others. But ten thousand hours is the great equalizer: after you've put in that much hard work you are going to be damn good, whatever you do, or so the theory goes.
I like the democracy of this theory, but it daunts me too. I am coming to the end of my first week in this Career Evolutions course I'm doing, and all this self-evaluation is waving some uncomfortable truths in my face, even though my facilitator is encouraging and supportive.
I can be lazy. I can be easily discouraged. I would rather seek the new shiny thing than apply myself to the old standby which has lost its novelty. And yeah, I know that these bad qualities are hardly unique to me, that I'm in good company. But it strikes me that there's really no outside fix for this stuff. The hard work lies with me; I must make changes within myself or all these golden opportunities I have will pass me by.
But I AM learning some wisdom in my old age. I am slowly learning not to get too discouraged by these harsh truths and to focus on the baby steps rather than the big picture. Need to network? Start attending the city's Squeezebox Circle to meet other accordion players. Want to write? Spend a little time doing some form of writing, even if it's just blogging. Sketch out the idea for a song. Don't get discouraged if nothing clicks right away. Revisit later. Read new books rather than lazily re-reading the same old favorites. Squirrel away new ideas and phrases for future songs. Don't beat yourself up if you're too tired/run-down to jog; go for a walk instead.
Although I am still worried about money and work, I am encouraged to see that I'm not wasting time getting depressed and upset, as I have in the past. I feel so incredibly lucky to have the time to do all this self-evaluation and exploration. I'm writing songs with an incredible person who can teach me a lot about creative songwriting and expression. I have the time to play my guitar, to write, to go for long walks, to learn how to drive (I took the car out on the road today! And survived!). I'm spending time with some amazing friends, and also with someone who makes me feel sexy and admired, which is a real boost.
As I write this, I realize that the reason I probably feel less depressed is that I feel more in control. And yes, there are still lots of things I want to work on: spending less time on the computer is a biggie (that means YOU, Facebook!). But it feels as though changes ARE happening, and if I can keep going this way, then the next few months won't be a waste, even if I don't find meaningful work before I leave town for the summer.