I started NaNoWriMo this week. If you don’t know what that is, you can check it out here. It is a month long novel writing extravaganza essentially. Where people who are already too busy with living life commit to writing 50,000 word by the end of the month. It’s inspiring and motivating and – fingers crossed – will get you to finally produce that great novel that has been waiting to be birthed for who knows how many years.

I did it a couple of years ago and did finish and I do have a very rough first draft of what could be something good. They really need a follow up month for actually editing and completing because apparently that is also a stalling point for me.

 

The first time I did it, I was almost derailed a few times by a case of “paralyzed by perfect”; this is what I came to know my nearly insurmountable need to edit and proof and perFECT my writing as I was actually writing. First draft? What’s that? It must be perfect from the moment go, or it’s not even worth starting, right? Wrong. Hard lesson learned. This is a trait that has been an issue for me for way more years that I care to admit. A trait that I never really saw as a problem until one day just over 20 years ago.

 

Years ago, I was picking up my son from kindergarten. Kindergarten, keep that in mind. Meaning he was about 5 years old. The door opened and all the kidlets started streaming out, except mine, who was standing there being held back by the teacher. Uh oh. That’s never good. My mind was racing with what could he have done? This was my oldest who, even then, was always well behaved, polite, the quintessential oldest. She waved me over and said she needed to show me something and invited me in.

She came over and showed me the single page colouring sheet that the kids had been asked to colour. It was a simple line drawing of a flower. She explained that 15 minutes in, everytime she looked over at my son’s colouring sheet, it was only covered with a very small amount of colouring and she didn’t know what was taking him so long. Then she saw him stand up, fold his paper in half, walk to the garbage can next to her desk, place it in and take a new sheet and return to his desk where he started to colour again. Clearly something was up. When she went to look in the garbage can, she found almost a dozen colouring sheets with a few strokes of crayon on them; with one stroke of colour on each that was just ever so slightly outside the lines.

He had been throwing out his page every time it was not perfect. She said something that has stuck with me every day since then. That she told him something she had never had to tell a child. “It doesn’t need to be perfect.”.

 

This year, two days in, I have had to literally tell myself – out loud – that it doesn’t have to be perfect and to just keep writing. Even when it feels like every fibre of my being is screaming at me to stop, go back, and correct that horrendous grammar goof that I know I just slammed into the keyboard. You know what though? I left it there. That error, glaring and huge and WRONG.

It’ll give me something to do in December.

PS. Son 1 is still happily seeking perfection day to day but is no longer paralyzed by it. At 27 years of age his motto now is “Nothing is perfect.” But he still tries… those genes run strong 😉

PSS. I didn’t even run a proofread on this. Okay, I did run a spellcheck – baby steps to learning lessons 😉

It’s November 1st and this year that means it’s novel month for me. Fingers crossed that I don’t hate writing by the end of the month but for now, it’s just excitement and optimism.

 

Not sure what it is? Check it out, there’s still time to join up and get going. I did it in 2016 and have a wonderful rough draft of a novel that I keep promising myself I’ll get around to polishing. It worked for me once to kick me in the proverbial ass so here I go again!

 

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there are still days that I don’t care

that “why” will never be answered.

i still ask it.

of you.

of the universe.

of my goddesses.

of the wind, the moon, the ocean.

i whisper it, scream it, dance with it, sleep with it.

 

there are days that i own the lie of my question.

days that i put down my crafted

protection of pretending that

i don’t know.

moments when i reach in and hold the truth

and lift it out of my shadows

where it stays curled up,

away from where it can hurt me.

 

there are days that i love you for not leaving

in silence.

days that i still hear your voice,

your answer.

screamed at me,

whispered to me, shown to me.

it was your answer and you surrendered it.

you were done carrying it.

 

there are still days that i ask though.

because there are days that it feels better

to leave the answer

floating in its gossamer vessel of nonsensical,

hidden.

because the truth in my question

is that i know the answer to “why”

and it doesn’t change the ending.

You know…. I have spent the last week or so trying to figure out why I’m so “weepy”. Meaning, quick to have tears just sitting there and having them just overwhelm me without warning and for , apparently, no reason.

Then it hits me a couple of days ago that maybe, just maybe, it has something to do with grief and an upcoming date that hurts – a date that should be a celebration of a person’s life but instead now will always be “he would have been… today” .

To clarify, I am an expert-level crafter of the state of “I am fine” until I am so not fine that I am an expert-level mess so for me to do what I did a couple evenings ago is a huge thing.

I was chatting on the phone with my sweetie and I got overwhelmed with ugh and grrr about the topic (which was a mundane one to be honest) and I started crying. For. No. Reason. According to my reason-to-cry-meter which I have (and which is perfect by the way).

And here’s the thing… instead of trying to stop or getting angry that I was losing my shit, I just said ” You know what, I’m just sad this week because of X and I’m emotional. And I’m done trying to not be sad. I just am.”

And an amazing thing happened. No, I didn’t miraculously feel better, but the heaviness of it all became different. Why? Because there was just the sadness and the heavy to feel. The weight of the ever-present push to not let it get to me or to be fine wasn’t quite so present all of sudden. Those words I spoke, “I just am.” weren’t defeat, they were acceptance.

Surrender isn’t always about giving up.

Sometimes it is simply giving in – sometimes for just a moment – and letting it be how it is. That alone makes the load a little lighter.

There was a day when

you were not there,

and then,

all of a sudden,

you were.

I looked at you and I was

overwhelmed by the sense of disbelief

of how that happened and how

It.Just.Is.

 

There was a day when

you were here,

and then,

all of a sudden,

you weren’t.

I looked for you and I was

overwhelmed by the sense of disbelief

of how that happened and how

It.Just.Is.

There seems to be so many similarities to Canada and Europe that it would almost make sense that things should not be too unfamiliar while travelling. Right? Wrong. Right. Sort of.

There have been so many times over the past three weeks that it has felt like I have stepped into some sort of Bizarro world that is just slightly not quite “right” to what I am used to. It’s not far enough off of my norms to be completely different but just enough that I’ve been tossed a bit off balance so to speak. 

Things like:

  1. Wall light switches. They operate the same as ours – almost. The same but opposite. Which means I have been trying to turn them off when I leave a room by turning them on.
  2. Food packaging. Looking for yogurt and after much searching, I have it pointed it out to me by a very helpful person only to realize that it does not come in the containers that I have been looking for it to be in. Nope. What would be a milk carton container to me is a yogurt container here. Lesson learned.
  3. Flushing a toilet. No handle on the side of the tank exists here. Nope. Either a couple of push buttons (one large , one small, that is easy enough to figure out), or a single push button on the top of the  tank will get the job done. Not hard to understand, just slightly different enough to make me stop the first time and wonder how to flush.
  4. Bathrooms, part one. I could seriously write an entire post just about public bathrooms (they were the reason for my first jet-lag emotional melt down – in public – tears over how to pee.). Starting with bathrooms in restaurants: You find the bathroom ( the word “toilette” is close enough to the english “toilet” that it is all good – yay! I can read a sign 🙂 and you open the door only to be faced with the smallest room you have ever seen with only a sink in in! You are too stunned and confused to notice (the first time) that there is, indeed, another door in the room. THAT is the door which will lead you to another, equally small room, that has the actual toilet in it. Voila, problem solved. It’s actually a rather ingenious system but it sure throws a person off the first time.
  5. Bathrooms, part two. If you are out and not lucky enough to be a in a restaurant and you need to use the facilities, so to speak, I wish you all the luck that the universe can provide. Public bathrooms are few and far between, and – as far as I ever saw – pay per use only. The rates range from $0.60 to $0.80 usually but there are the pricier ones out there and trust me, you will get to the point where $2.00 euros for a pee is not only acceptable but welcomed. Personally I think the bathroom guys are giving the bottled water street vendors a cut but I can’t prove it….
  6. Coffee. A subject near and dear to my heart. In line with the overall European vibe of not being crazy rushed and actually enjoying life…a request of a coffee “to-go” is looked at like my head just tipped off. Coffee is meant to be sat with, sipped, and enjoyed -always with a teeny biscuit cookie provided gratis. Not at all a bad concept and one that I aim to bring back with me.
  7. Hot Chocolate. I know, I know, another drink. But really, this one is worth mentioning. Hot chocolate when ordered with whipped cream comes with the whipped cream served on the side, on a little plate with its own little spoon. Again, another spectacular idea and I don’t know why Canada doesn’t do this! It keeps the whipped cream application and ingestion totally in the consumers control. No messy melted whipped cream topping, just perfect whipped cream heavenly goodness.
  8. Egg storage. This is something that I knew but still, seeing it in action was one of those “huh?” moments. Eggs that have not been washed (usually what happens in commercial egg production and delivery) do not need to be refrigerated. So they aren’t. Eggs on a shelf or an open area nowhere near being kept chilled is just the way it is. Generally in Europe, eggs are not washed and therefore, don’t need to be refrigerated.
  9. Vehicle travel. Oh, the differences! It was a few days before I figured out what was so different with all the vehicles on the road. Size. I have yet to see anything resembling an F series pick-up or similar type vehicle. Even SUV’s are rare and stick out like a sore thumb here. Vehicles are simply smaller. Hatchbacks and small four doors dominate the tight roadways. Special mention here to traffic lights: Smaller in size and shape and so many of them! Still green for go and red for stop but just different enough to make me look twice.
  10. Door locks. Maybe it’s just the doors in the building that we are staying but wow – I have never had such a hard time unlocking or locking a door as I have had here :). To be honest, I still can’t explain how to unlock the door because every time I do it’s just blind luck that whatever I was trying worked. Locking it is simple now though: close door, yank the handle “up” and it locks. Boom, done. easy.

*Honourable mention to bikes which are beyond description here in The Netherlands!

 

I have loved having the chance to live in a world where things are “different” – mostly because it reminds me that all of these things aren’t actually “different”  

They just are to me because of where I’m from and what my “normal” is for all of these experiences. All of my usual things would be just as different to someone from somewhere else experiencing them for the first time.

I realize that a couple of European countries for three weeks is still so “close to home” as far as what I live with normally but it does open the eyes to what else is out there – and stokes the fires for wanting to see more “different”.

A glimpse inside the search engine history of a writer

or in other words:

If my computer is ever searched and I am a murder suspect, I am screwed.

  1. “Dispersal patterns of blood seepage in beach sand: hot sand vs cold?” (Image search) (spoiler alert – very pretty but verrry hard to reproduce)
  2. “Time from throat slitting to unconsciousness?”
  3. “Does saline freeze?”
  4. “Comparison of poisoning symptoms: rat poison vs arsenic”
  5. “Which poisons are the least detectable in an autopsy?”
  6. “Is suffocation by packed snow in throat possible?” (aka: James Bond movies do not lie)
  7. “Human body dismemberment: gross anatomy information” (Image search)
  8. “Death by starvation, how long? By lack of water?”
  9. “Can insomnia cause insanity?” (also a personal interest search)
  10. “What chemicals are used in a chemical port-a-potty?”
  11. “Symptoms of biocide poisoning” (see end result from previous search)
  12. “Death by heat stroke – in enclosed high temperature spaces – how long?”
  13. “How to permanently clear a search history?” (sadly, you never can really clear it all, we’re all screwed)

 

we wandered the short beach,

eyes downcast,

voices silent.

our eyes searched for the sea glass

that hid in the rocks.

our feet pushed the water worn rocks aside

as we hunted.

i stooped to grasp a piece

of jagged glass

and held it out to him.

he came near, his hand stretched to mine 

and i placed it in his palm.

bright sunlight caught the rough edges.

he held it aloft to let the light

pass through it

as he turned it,

looking, examining.

his hand dropped and

he tossed it back into the waves

with a flick of his hand.

his words to me were   

simple

as he spoke softly.

“it isn’t ready yet'”,

my son explained.

the waves hadn’t worn it down enough.

it was still just glass

that had been broken,

it hadn’t been exposed,

enough,

it hadn’t been weathered,

enough,

it hadn’t been worn,

enough,

to be beautiful.

yet.

I have rarely been called beautiful.

Beautiful is not for girls like me, so I have been told.

I have felt beautiful a few times – but it is not something that I am, so I have been told.

Pretty. Yes, pretty.  

I have been called that often enough that I even believed it sometimes.

Cute, adorable sometimes.

Sweet has been uttered more than a few times in reference to me.

All words that others have used to describe me, to describe who I am.

What I am really, not who; because who I am is what I am of course – and that is wrapped up easily in descriptors of my physical attributes.

These are the words that sprinkle my life like garnish.

Garnish that the entree that is me needs to be adorned with if I am to really be complete.

“Make sure you wear something nice for your first day of school. No one is going to want to talk to you if you don’t look approachable.”

“Smile. You’re prettier when you smile. You’re not going to make any friends if you don’t smile.”

“How are you ever going to find someone if you go out looking like that?”

“You could be so much prettier if you just put in some effort.”

 

Helpful words of advice to the younger me so that I could learn how to perfectly present the commodity of me for approval.

For purchase.

For acceptance.

For friendship.

For love.

I was the best student of these lessons – I always aim to be perfect so why should I not be perfect at this learning after all.

I have known since as far back as I can remember that I am worth something to someone if I am pretty, cute, quiet, polite,well-behaved…good… but mostly if how I look and behave is “right”.

That “right” though is the slippery, elusive, mist-shrouded image always just out of my grasp.  

It is a picture made by someone else that I could never seem to bring into focus.

A picture that I knew held the secret to me feeling “right”.

For so many years, every incarnation of me was shaped to try to fill the nooks and crannies of the boxes that I kept trying to fit into.

Girls that looked like me did certain things – and didn’t do certain other things.

Girls like me behaved a certain way.

They lived inside very specific boxes.

Boxes that fit girls like me.

Except that they didn’t fit me.

They hurt.

Trey pinched and chafed and suffocated.

I tried to pretend that I poured into them effortlessly and perfectly but I could never live that lie for long before the boxes just hurt too much.

Over and over again.

So many times that after a while I didn’t even know what shape I was and what the box would look like that DID fit me perfectly.

 

I felt wrong.

Wrong in a way that can’t ever be made right.

 

It didn’t occur to me that I didn’t need a box to live inside of.

I had learned the lessons so well that I knew – not just knew but believed so deeply that it was truth – that I was not complete if I wasn’t framed in someone else’s parameters.

It never occurred to me that the package that I came in was complete and perfect and whole.

That there is no such thing as “girls like me”.  

That the real truth is that I am the box.

And it is not wrong.

It is right, perfectly right.

And it’s rightness has nothing to do with how it looks.

And that is fucking beautiful.