Who Says You Can’t Go Back?

About five months ago my building announced that we needed a new roof which resulted in a “special” assessment of a couple thousand dollars.  Two weeks later I took my car in because it was making a funny noise and found out that it needed (more than) a few thousand dollars worth of work.

I patched the car up as best I could and I started saving for the special assessment.  But my budget is pretty tight and, even though I’d known about it for lots of time, I was struggling.  The car was hanging over my head like a guillotine.  A few more things happened that were comparatively minor but still significant… And I realized that I was in over my head.

So I thought through my options and asked Mommy and Daddy if I could come home for a bit.

e017f6021313cacc8122e93a1183aae9

Taking on debt wasn’t an option.  And I simply couldn’t come up with the several thousand dollars needed over such a short period of time.

Living in the lower mainland isn’t easy.  My mortgage, taxes, strata and utilities take up about 46% of my net each month.  If you amortize the cost of the new roof over say, a two year period, we are at 50%.  So.  50% of my net over the past two years has gone towards housing.  Then there is car insurance, cell phone, fuel… It’s all rather a lot.

(I’m going to be fully honest here and tell you that I also eat out too often and have far too much clothing hanging in my closet.  These are my vices.  Giving them up would not have made the difference in this scenario.)

Because I get steady salary increases each year I am not concerned by the long term.  I was concerned by this moment, here and now, and how to get through it.

And I was really, really lucky to still have parents who could lend me a room for a few months.

So I’ve rented my non-rental strata unit out to a couple of girls who wanted to try living on the west coast for a few months.  And I’m going through the, rather humiliating, process of convincing my strata that, yes, this is my only option.

I’m sitting in the small upstairs bedroom of my parents house surrounded by too much stuff feeling pretty shitty about myself but also pretty grateful.  And the dinner that Mom made was pretty damn delicious.

Sigh.

Here’s the thing.  I’m going to turn 32 while I’m living with my parents.  I’m not a kid anymore.  I’m a grown-ass-woman and I feel like I’m failing.  I feel like I’m screwing up in a bunch of different parts of my life.  I feel like I am self-sabotaging with the best of them.

27af8eb5f390f3067ca4c1f43b8bd995

My reboot was going well.  Then, suddenly, it wasn’t.  Too many things converged all at the same moment and I found myself crying on the drive home wondering aloud why I couldn’t do anything right.

The thing is that I can do stuff right.  (I swear!!!)  It was just too much, all at once.  It was the feeling you get when you know that one more thing will break you.

Mom and I were struggling yesterday to pack the large and unwieldy cat tower into her truck.  It wouldn’t fit and I kept having to crawl into the back, (in a work dress, pantyhose and heels, because what else does one wear when moving?), and I kept thinking about how many people in my life had offered to help me.  And how I had stubbornly said “No, I’ve got this”.  And how that meant that my poor Mother and I were now giggling helplessly and slightly hysterically at our failure to lift this heavy damn tower.

I was able to ask my parents for help when I needed it.  But I’m rarely able to ask anyone else.  This is a problem.  Asking for help is so incredibly scary.  It makes one raw, vulnerable.  Saying “No, I don’t have this” is a terrifying thing for me.

I have always hated admitting that I don’t know how to do something.  It is crippling for me to try something for a first time and have to admit that I need help.  Anything from an exercise class to using a compass card.  Stupid things that shouldn’t be embarrassing!  I will research it, I will barrel through.  I will not admit I don’t know.  I will not ask for help. Even when help is willingly, lovingly offered, I often will not accept it.

94d220a1d75dff24d1be8d8a5640ff25

It’s not an attractive quality my friends.

I feel like each and every moment of my life I am one shown weakness away from… What?  People not loving me anymore?  My friends know my weaknesses, my failings.  My family does too.  None of them love me less for these things.

It’s something I’m working on.

This “Extraordinary, Ordinary, Life”…

If you have known me for more than roughly 5 minutes the chances are good that I have sat you down to watch the movie About Time.  It is my favourite movie, I think it is genuinely brilliant, and I think that every single person should take a couple of hours to watch it.

**Spoiler Alert**

The movie is pretty simple.  It goes beyond your average love story because… It is about family.  About the rhythms and patterns we create with those we love.  

2837b2f4ee7cc41637c80dcfdb414386

Now, the movie was written and directed by Richard Curtis, the same guy who created Love Actually.  We won’t hold that against him.  (To be clear, I have an irrational dislike of Love Actually).  

Our main character is Tim who discovers, on his 21st birthday, that he is able to travel through time to places within his own life.  (As are all the men in his family).

918b7602457b0bd9043f276b892d05c6

Tim decides to use his powers to find love.  And, of course, he finds it.

He meets the girl, he loves the girl, he marries the girl.  There’s no hesitation in Tim.  He’s… earnest.  It’s lovely.

b2d897ad8d134f2149e8e89a9d20b437

(Tim is played by Domhnall Gleeson who is absolutely yummy.  It’s worth watching the movie for this fact alone).

I question sometimes why it is that I find this movie so captivating.

These characters fall for each other and move ahead.  They have babies because they want them.  They joke about how broke they are and how they can’t afford the house that the babies have forced them to buy.  They have one of the most disastrous weddings of all time.  They fight.  Their hearts are broken in the ways that everyone has their heart broken.  They lean on one another in the ways that one should be able to lean on a partner.

Aside from the ridiculously beautiful family home and the abnormally good looking lead characters… The characters feel normal for me.  The life that they live is something that I want to build for myself one of these days.  It feels real.  It feels ordinary.

We are a hesitant generation.  And, don’t get me wrong, taking time is good and smart.  But do we need to wait 3 years?  4?  5?  10?

I talk to my parents and their generation and everyone seems to echo the same thought… They just did it.  They met, fell in love, married, had kids.  They don’t talk about agonizing in the same way that we do.

42ffb28fdcde2bb82d972e7088442c48

This movie is about the ordinary moments and that captivates me because life is about ordinary moments.  It is about fights and power outages and time spent giggling on the couch.

1e52a7a1b438b673ae2dd5b75cb561ac

 

…”Do You Spend Lots of Time on Your Knees?”

When I was 19 I got a job working at a car dealership as an accounts payable clerk.  It was a couple days per week, while I was going to school full time, oh, and working a second job as an office manager in downtown Vancouver.  I was a busy, busy girl.

I don’t remember much about this job, it was so long ago.  But I do have one very clear memory.  I was filing a pile of invoices, kneeling on the floor, when one of the salesmen, a much older man, came wandering over.  He placed his body directly in front of me so that I was trapped between him, the cabinet, and the wall.  His crotch was at eye level about four inches from touching my face.  He laughed and asked if I spent lots of time on my knees.

I could see past him to several other men who worked there watching and laughing.

I just remember turning bright red, forcing myself to laugh, and responding with some inane remark.  I remember feeling trapped, uncomfortable, and beyond angry.  I remember thinking that I needed to keep my cool so as to avoid making the situation worse.  I left that job quickly.

3a56f313c4ca0274af7fab0a6099a5a5

A few years later I had a boss who would stand behind my deck, close, breathing down my neck.  Literally.  I remember that whenever I went into his office he would ask me questions aggressively about the file that I was working on and then interrupt the moment that I attempted to explain, as if I was the stupidest girl he’d ever been forced to deal with.  I remember that after almost every single meeting I would go into the bathroom and shake and cry in one of the stalls for several minutes until I could calm down from the way this man spoke to me.  I remember that there was a couple of other women who did the same thing.

I remember my boss Greg.  Greg owned a small accounting firm and I was his only employee.  It was just Greg and I most of the time.  I was in my early twenties and worked for Greg for a number of years as I completed my degree.

Greg was an incredible boss.  

He was a few years older than me.  He mentored me, believed in me.  He paid me a fair wage and gave me a ridiculously generous bonus each Christmas.

If I was struggling with a class Greg would offer to help.  He would give me time off for exams.  If I did something wrong Greg would teach me.  Greg didn’t mansplain, or bully, or stand too close.  He didn’t stare at my breasts and ass when he thought I wouldn’t notice.  (Or when he knew I would).

There are good men in this world.  Lots and lots of them and I have been blessed to have many in my life.

I have also had some pretty awful men in my life.  Without the good men I don’t know if I would have realized that they were treating me badly.  It’s easy to become used to this behaviour and brush it off as “locker room talk”.

It’s not locker room talk.  Or.  It shouldn’t be.

I am not a political person.  I don’t watch debates or hold strong policy opinions.  When it is time to vote I look around, find out who matches best with my values, drop a ballot into a box and wait until the next time.

But I watched the debate last night.  I watched the debate last night because it was all we could talk about at book club earlier in the week (this was pre-“grabbed her by the p*ssy”) and already all we were talking about was feminism and Trumps attitude towards women.  We were despairing that Hilary might not make it, even though people don’t want Trump because, for some men, it would just be too hard to vote for a woman.

And I know nothing about US politics, okay?!  I don’t want to hear about policy.  Trump is a racist, and a sexist, and I think that that alone should disqualify him.

Hilary is going to win.  I have too much faith in humanity to believe otherwise.

But I think that something even more powerful is going to come out of this.

We are talking about it.  We are talking about our own “grabbed her by the p*ssy” moments.  We are saying: we are done smiling when uncomfortable.

It won’t happen overnight.  Two months ago, on a first date, a man pinched my nipples so hard he left a bruise.  (He did not have permission to touch my nipples).  I left and the next day told him he had made me very uncomfortable.  I left it at that because, what else is there to do?

A quote from Amy Schumer…

“Most women I know that I’m close to have had a sexual experience that they were really uncomfortable [with]. If it wasn’t completely rape, it was something very similar to rape. And so I say it’s not all black and white. There’s a gray area of rape, and I call it ‘grape.’ It’s the guy you went home with in college, and you said, ‘No,’ and then he still did it, or maybe you woke up and it was someone you were dating. …

“There’s just so many different things that can happen, so it’s not always this, ‘Well, you’re going to jail and that’s it.’ There’s other stuff where it’s like, ‘Wow, it would be so much work, and it would be such a life-changer for me to … press charges or take any action against this person.’ But every girl I know has had some experience that is kind of like ‘grape.’ “

(There is a really great article about “grape” here).

Mine wasn’t “grape”, I left and he let me, but it was kind of… Assault-Light?

My point.  What’s my point again?

We are in a culture where every single woman I know has a story about grape, about their “grabbed her by the p*ssy” moment(s), and we don’t talk about it.

And, suddenly, the conversation, uncomfortable as some might find it, has opened up.

So let’s talk about it.  All those good men in our world, you guys need to talk about it too.

Let’s make it clear that it isn’t something we are okay with.

That we aren’t going to stay quiet anymore.

(Even if it just means telling that man from work that, no, you don’t spend a lot of time on your knees).