Sunday, December 24, 2006

Seasonal Schmaltz

Let’s see… not believing in God (despite believing that the man called Jesus was a damn fine role model)… hating to shop even for practical things like food and new underwear… and being a vegetarian who doesn’t love to cook…. Christmas, and all its traditional trappings, doesn’t get me the least bit excited. That said, it doesn’t bum me out either. I’m entirely neutral toward this whole Christmas thing.

Not that December 25th doesn’t cause me some amount of emotion. I enjoy watching Liam’s excitement, of course. And this year is particularly amusing since I know he doesn’t believe in Santa, but is trying to fake it since he hasn’t figured out if the presents end as soon as he admits disbelief!

For me it’s the “Happy New Year” part of the Christmas season that typically has the most impact: the call to reflect on what was in the past year and what new and exciting things I have to look forward to in the new year. And having my birthday on February 1st, the Happy New Year greeting also reminds me that I will imminently be "one year older." And that, more than anything, makes me stop and think.

The year of my 29th Christmas I recall quite clearly. I had a huge amount of excitement about the fact that I was just a month away from turning 30 - and, I believed, finally entering the age at which I would be taken seriously. I honestly believed that by virtue of leaving my 20s - the decade of my mohawk, of having rats living on my person 24 hours a day, of wearing ball gowns with combat boots, and of drinking far too many Black Labels on far too many school nights – I would somehow be given the respect I thought I was due as … umm… an adult.

Throw on top of that the fact that three months after I turned 30 I was going to give birth to my first, (and only), child. Come on! Thirty, bob haircut, pet cat, Dayton boots and a mother. Everything it seemed to me, was working in my favour for achieving what I so desired: respect from a society of strangers.

I think I was 37 before I finally accepted that no matter how old my birth certificate says I am, I will never garner the nods of approval from the suits in the ivory towers. (And now, I can’t for the life of me, think of why that ever even mattered).

Fast forward ten years. The Christmas before I turned 39 launched me into a “this will be my best year ever!” enthusiasm for my new age. My marriage was feeling uncommonly stable. I was entering my third year of self-employment, having beaten the odds and survived longer than the majority of new business owners do before giving up the crazy idea of self-employment to go back to a real job again. And, I’d finally, and firmly, established my position as “the meanest mom in the world” to an eight-year-old who hated the idea that anyone was the boss of him. I was on top of it all!

Ah, 39! The promise. And the delusion!

By the time the next “Happy New Year” season rolled around, and I was contemplating turning 40, my husband had left me for a 26-year-old. And despite the encouragement from friends that “40 is the new 30” I was having a hard time seeing how a woman with grey hair, wrinkles and adult onset acne (pimples at 39/40??? Proof that if God exists, he is a bastard) would ever have sex again.

Forty. I was facing having to get a real job so I could get bank approval for a mortgage on my own. I actually wrote my first job application in 13 years. Cover letter, resume. Damn near killed me. And I wasn’t even offered an interview!

And, to top it all off, in the ten years since the Christmas that I was convinced I would earn respect of other adults by turning 30, I was now facing the reality that my own 9-year-old, having honed negotiation and logic skills superior to my own, had overthrown me in my role as a benevolent dictator and established himself as a fairly equal partner in what had become a democratically-run household.

What the?! None of this was what I had planned as I bit into that first (vegetarian) mince pie the Christmas eve before, making my wish for the new year …

So, here I am now. It’s Christmas eve again. In five weeks I’ll be 41. Reflecting on the year that’s just passed, I feel great about 40. It turned out to be an exciting and interesting year.

Through the miracle of the equity mortgage and having a great lawyer, I was able to buy the house I’d previously co-owned with Liam’s dad – without having to get a real job! (Of course, this is the kind of blessing that challenges my atheism…).

Despite the hormonally-induced zits, I did have sex last year – and it was the freaking best sex I’ve ever had, thank you very much. (And another challenge to my atheism, apparently, given my tendency for calling on God in moments of heightened awareness.)

And Liam has turned out to be a reasonable and thoughtful minority-government ally. Dictatorships seems overrated now and I’m quite enjoying sharing the blame when decisions he participated in making disappoint him.

Looking forward to 41, now. I’ll be thrilled to stay-the-course. And, if the course changes, my guess is that I’ll be good with that, too. Life is good. No. Life is fucking amazing as I head into the new year.

So, to all of you, my wish that your new year will bring you opportunities to learn and to grow, to regularly pee your pants laughing, to face new challenges and accept the outcome as positive (even if it’s not what you had hoped for), to have spiritual experiences when you’re both naked and clothed, and to love deeply and to be loved for exactly the person you are.

Everyone of us deserves nothing less. Happy New Year.


Sunday, December 10, 2006

Reflections on my own arrogance

Until 2 PM today, Sunday, my weekend was going as well as a good weekend does. In fact, even better than most. And so was Liam’s.

But two events moved us from head-banging to the Red Hot Chili Peppers as we drove from the ‘burbs back to the city, to unsettled and introspective.

The first event that prompted reflection, we fortunately missed by an hour: a car accident that left a single vehicle wrapped around a power standard. The driver was probably fine enough, but if there had been a passenger… the sight of the car made us both feel sad to the point of nauseous, hoping the driver had been alone.

Fewer than two kilometers and five minutes later, we actually witnessed a car accident. A small sedan pulled off of a side street into the lane of quick moving traffic that we were in. At the same instant, a huge black Toyota truck switched lanes right in front of us. I stopped in time. But the other two vehicles connected. The truck rammed the driver square-on. Every other car managed to avoid hitting, or being hit by, either the truck which did a 90 turn and flew into the median, or the sedan which spun to a stop in the middle of the two lane street.

Smoke started to pour out from under the hood of the sedan. Several people jumped from their vehicles to assist the driver of that car. Cell phones were flipped open. The horn was engaged (I didn’t look to see if it was the driver resting on the steering wheel or not… too much information for me).

Since I wasn’t looking at the sedan carnage, I watched as the truck took off down a back alley at “get me the hell out of here” speed. I was perfectly positioned to follow it, hoping to grab the license plate number. The neighbourhood we were in, just seven blocks from my house, has a big park that was filled with kids playing soccer – meaning kids and parents on or near the road as well. I had no way to see the license plate since I was watching the road, but Liam managed to get the first four digits before I pulled over to call the police and let them know the direction the truck was heading.

Given how many hundreds of hours I spend in my car every year, I’m surprised that this is the first accident I’ve actually witnessed. According to ICBC, 459 people were killed and 78,000 people were injured in motor vehicle crashes on BC roads in 2005. On a typical day last year, there were 695 motor vehicles crashes; 215 people were injured in these crashes (including four cyclists and six pedestrians every day); and at least one person died. This means that there was one car crash approximately every two minutes of every day, and someone was injured almost every seven minutes.

And a good handful of accidents that have contributed to the stats have been very close to home: four kids at Liam’s old daycare were hospitalized three weeks ago after a car went off the road and drove into the playground. Six months ago, my scotch-drinking buddy, Alan was hit while riding his motorcycle (not his fault and he's selling his bike now). A year ago Alan’s wife was driving home from work and was hit by a truck running a red light. Two years ago our neighbour and his then 2-year-old son were thrown from the crosswalk by a car on Christmas Eve (the child bounced and recovered quickly, the dad was off work and in a leg cast for several months). And the car that I drive was actually responsible for an accident a few years ago (I was at work when it happened).

I know that the roads are dangerous. I know that the situation on the road can change in the matter of a split second of looking down to change the radio station. But I drive with the arrogance of someone who has never been in a car accident, still believing at some level that it will never happen to me.

Seeing the collision today makes me reflect: I was one second from being part of that accident. Was it luck that my car is intact outside my house and that Liam and are drinking hot chocolate on the couch and not in an emergency room? Or can I assert that I avoided being part of the accident because I was aware of my surroundings and slowed down, anticipating potential danger when I saw the sedan pulling forward? I recognize the arrogance, but I'm not sure how to overcome it... and I guess it's a potentially dangerous arrogance.

Tuesday, December 05, 2006

Hire this photographer!

He's brilliant.
And smart.
And funny.
And he cooks a mean tuna steak.
And did I mention, he's one of the best photographers I've met in forever.
His name is Gilles Champagne and this is his website.
Mention my name... you'll get a good seat... I mean, deal.
And tell your friends.