Nice Guys Finish Last

If you’ve spoken to me about singing–or just at all–in the past year, then I’ve probably complained to you about the hot new choir sensation taking over Toronto, that I won’t name here, but rhymes with Fire!Fire!Fire! The concept of this group is genius and it appealed to me right way. I love to sing. I love to sing with other people. I love performing. What I hate, is rehearsing. F!3 lets you have all that. Weekly song choices are posted in their Facebook group–you’re meant to “listen to the fucking song[s]!” The group meets a couple nights a week at some super cool bar and you choose a night to attend. You pay $5, get a lyric sheet with the songs for the night and the leaders (a couple guys–we’ll get to them) teach you a simple three part harmony. If it sounds good after a few tries, they’ll often record it and post that video on YouTube.

This seemed right up my alley, so one night last summer I took myself to the venue for the 7ish start time–and then nothing happened. Not for about an hour anyway. Not one damn thing got underway for nearly an hour. I should make clear, this was a weeknight and this event was meant to end by 10:30–just about the latest I want to be out on a weeknight (especially since I was starting work at 8:30am those days). So late start time–strike one. I still had a lot of hope though.

As the room began to fill I noticed that the group was relatively diverse but definitely skewed young. There were a lot of girls in high-waisted pants and buns on the very tippy-tops of their heads. Many, many pairs of glasses with huge frames were worn. I already did all this shit back in the 90s so I have no use for it now. It was ugly then. It’s still ugly.

OH:  Original hipster. Me, circa 1992

OH: Original hipster. Me, circa 1992

By the time we finally got started it was really crowded and people were being oddly aggressive about maintaining or scoring space. I don’t generally take my singing with a side of assault so I stopped trying to stand anywhere near the front or middle and just sort of let myself be elbowed all the way to the back of the room. I ended up in what was mostly the men’s section. Physical violence–strike two.

Then a weird thing happened. It started to feel like a fan club–a fan club I wasn’t I wasn’t a member of. There were a lot of inside jokes between the people near the stage–predominantly women–and the leaders of the group. A lot of things said were never transmitted over the mic so the rest of the room was just kind of left out. At the same time no one around me initiated any conversation at all. I tried making small talk a couple times but it was like being a black comic in KKK-country. It was a huge effort for me to make these overtures but they seemed to fall flat every time, so I stopped trying after a while. Weird unfriendliness–strike three.

F!3 , you’re out!

Despite this strike out, I was still going to give it as full a chance as I could. Thankfully we finally did some singing and for what it’s worth, that part was what I’d hoped for.

By 10:00, though we’d only gotten through one song, everyone seemed to automatically filter away from the area and head to the bar or outside for a smoke. I approached one of the leaders and said it was my first time, that I thought it was neat and asked if we were still going to be doing the second song since it was so late. If derision could kill, I’d be ashes spread over Lake Ontario. I was informed with all the annoyance in his heart that we were definitely doing the second song and that we were just taking a break. Because, as an obviously new person, I was apparently supposed to already know that they have no regard for time and always run late. Startling abundance of attitude by organizers–strike four.

Annoyed but still determined to enjoy the evening, I finally just walked up to a girl who appeared to be alone and asked her if she was new as well. She wasn’t. But she managed to find it within her to engage with me, introduced me to a few more people and I kind of hung out with her for the rest of the night.

We broke at 11:30. Strike five.

I left that night with mixed feelings. I was really, really bothered by how cliquey and unwelcoming it was overall. I was stunned by the star-fucking behaviour of all those women elbowing me out of the way so they could be closer to their dear leaders. And I was really disappointed by the fact that those dear leaders seemed to lap it up.

I’m not one to give up that easily though, so I tried going back a couple more times. The second time was a complete failure. The girl I’d met before wasn’t there. The people she’d introduced me to didn’t really seem to remember me though it had only been a couple weeks. It was a lonely evening and I didn’t have it in me to fight to make another connection. I left at the break. True to form, it was around 10:00 and they were one song in. I discussed all of this with a friend who has also attended–a woman who has travelled the world picking up friends as she goes and has a personality like July 1st fireworks–fun and mesmerizing. She is no shrinking violet, but even she found it strangely difficult to connect with people at this choir and stopped attending. She and I went together one night and then found that neither of us were interested in the song selection so we sat, had a drink and caught up with each other instead.

That was last fall and I haven’t been back since. In the meantime, my Facebook newsfeed has been blowing up with the success of this choir. They’ve performed at a number of events this year including NXNE, a TIFF after party and even an awards show. They’ve performed along side some great artists and been featured on at least one blog about the best ways to meet people in Toronto. They have absolutely gone viral. And I hate everything they stand for because, while individually I’m sure they’re all wonderful folks, collectively, they’re simply awful. The sad part is it wouldn’t take much to make it better. A shift in attitude at the top from “let’s do some resume padding and get our 20 minutes fame with an (un)healthy dose of ego-stroking” to “let’s just be as nice and inclusive as our concept intended” would change the entire dynamic of that group. But when you’ve got the media telling you you’re awesome and a coven of (young, hot) adoring women at the front of the stage beaming your awesomeness back at you, why on earth would you care if the older women and men who just want to sing, feel “part of” or not? I might not. They certainly don’t.

I sang in a traditional community choir for a few years and while I don’t have the time for regular rehearsals these days, I still like to attend their concerts whenever I can. I spoke to the director after their Christmas performance last year; this was a few months after my abortive attempts at making F!3  work for me. She–the director–is an amazing woman who has inspired love in the bosom of many a choir member, man and woman alike. She’s married with children, she teaches, she composes and she directs the choir at her church in addition to directing this community choir. I don’t know how she finds the hours in a day to do what she does, but she does it all with a grace and loveliness that I haven’t seen often in my life. She was, as ever, concerned about whether or not I’m singing, even if I’m not singing with her choir. So I told her about F!3 , but only to illustrate how maddening it is to know that a community choir like hers–a choir that puts in the hours, a choir that tackles immensely challenging repertoire with a group of mostly untrained singers, a choir that takes pains to have a welcome committee–will never get the kind of attention that F!3 does. And that hurts my soul. She took it in stride, graceful lady.

I think likely because of my affiliation with F!3, I found out about a live karaoke band and I’ve been going to their gigs pretty regularly. It’s super fun and it’s a crazy friendly crowd. I’ve since left the choir’s Facebook group.

Friendly places, friendly people.

Friendly places, friendly people.

[SOURCE]

Ordinary

I have my ideas about how it all began. Our parents, thinking that we’d all go to university, assumed that a world of opportunities would lie open to us as a result. In fact, they believed the sky was the limit. In the meantime seeming rags to riches stories abounded. Michael Jordan, the Jacksons, Richard Branson, Anna Nicole Smith, Bill Gates—every single last one of them sending the message: “anybody can be a ‘somebody’.” The hitch, anybody can be a ‘somebody;’ not everybody. We got duped. We thought we were all going to follow our dream through to monetarily successful fruition. But that’s not true. It’s far from true. Most of us will be ‘nobodys.’ We will have jobs we don’t like a lot doing things we never dreamed of doing. We will work harder than we feel we should to secure a decent retirement. We will never make the kind of money a ‘somebody’ makes. Thirtieth birthdays will be crushing for most of us as the ringing in of our second existential trimester highlights that we haven’t yet reached ‘somebody’ status. We will take too long to learn contentment with the mundane.

 Now as I approach my 29th birthday and take inventory, realizing I won’t be famous, I won’t be wealthy, I will not be a bestselling author or even a paid and published author, and I won’t be a renowned artist of any kind, I have finally found a kind of freedom. The freedom to be ordinary. And now I’ll get on with being happy. Happy and free—two things most ‘somebodys’ never really are.  

I wrote this 9 years ago and the irony is that while there was a lot of truth in it, it didn’t really work for me. It gave me an out and that out meant that I didn’t try to achieve goals. I didn’t even set goals. I just let life happen to me. And, ultimately, that didn’t make me happy either. It took me nearly another decade to figure out that I’m not built for accepting ordinary. I’m built for constantly striving for extraordinary–whether I achieve it or not.

My Reluctant Relationship with Rogers

This is one of those blog posts that sort of writes itself.

This all started with my master plan, when I first moved into my apartment, of having cable for the first few months to get me through my surgeries and then eliminating it afterwards. After my convalescence I called up Rogers on July 28th and spoke to a very pleasant young man who urged me to keep my cable because it was only going to cost me $2.00 more to keep it than to get rid of it. I told him that I wanted standard pricing because I wasn’t in the mood to have my cable bills keep fluctuating and he assured me that he was quoting me was standard pricing. So I made my ragged notes, enjoyed about another 10 minutes of VIP cable before I got bumped down to basic and went on my merry way…until my next bill arrived it was about $50 more than that nice young man had quoted me.

On August 19th I called up Rogers and spoke with Patrick who advised me, with an admirable level of “I don’t give a shit” that the overage was because I’d been billed for a service call that hadn’t happened. Patrick also advised me to pay the bill so I wouldn’t get hit with any late fees and told me to just wait for a credit on my next bill. Always obedient, I did as I was told and paid the bill.

My September bill was about $20 lower than the quote I’d been given but certainly not $50 lower, as it should have been with the credit from the previous month. But I let it slide. I let it slide because I hate talking to service providers more than I need to. I let it slide because my last bill had been completely indecipherable and I assumed this one would be too. Like most people, I have better things to do with my time than to tussle over $30. But tussle I should have, because on October 18th I got hit with a bill that was yet another $50 higher than it should have been. This time I called in and the rest is meticulous note-taking history. Following are my un-enhanced notes from these calls.

October 23, 2013 (6:15pm, call duration 82 minutes)

Interaction ID I659567587

  • Called Customer Relations and spoke with Ronel about the situation
  • Ronel told me repeatedly the problem was the term pricing coming to an end and I explained that I had been advised in July that I was getting standard pricing
  • Ronel worked up a quote with a number of options including keeping basic cable and removing it with various options for long distance calling
  • I asked Ronel to send me a quote by e-mail and she advised me that I would receive it within 2 hours (at this point it was close to 8pm EST)
  • Ronel offered to give me 6 free movies to offset what I had overpaid over the past three months but that didn’t make sense because if I cut off my cable I have to watch all those movies before doing so
  • I advised Ronel that I would be escalating this issue because I feel I’m just owed back the money I was overcharged over the past 3 months
  • Ronel put me on the line with Lisa (manager) who advised me  that the reason my pricing was not what I had been quoted was because my term pricing had ended, despite the fact that I had repeatedly told Ronel that I was NEVER advised that what I was being quoted in July was term pricing
  • Lisa finally offered (and I accepted) a $50 “goodwill” credit and indicated that now that I’ve been “educated” about my pricing I’m responsible for it–seemingly overlooking the fact that a Rogers rep quoted me a price, Rogers didn’t honour it and $50 covers about half of what I’ve been overcharged in the last 3 months
  • Ended the call with expectation that I would receive an email quote by about 10pm EST and having been advised by Lisa that I would need to make a decision about changing my services by November 10th at the latest if I don’t want to be billed $141 next month

October 23, 2013 (11:28pm, call duration 23 minutes)

  • Quote had still not arrived in my email and nothing my Spam/Junk
  • Called to ask about when I should expect to receive the e-mail and was initially told by Scott that since I had escalated to a manager that it was probably not understood that I still wanted the quote (WHAT????)
  • I explained that Lisa and I had discussed that I was receiving the quote and the time frame within which I had to decide on the quote so it wouldn’t make any sense that anyone would think that I didn’t want to the quote sent to me
  • Scott saw that my quote does show up in their system and transferred me to Customer Relations to speak with someone who could help with getting me the quote e-mailed
  • This person indicated that the system is having issues and that I would likely receive my quote in the morning and that he would text me the quote in the meantime, but that would still take a while to arrive since it uses the same system
  • No text ever arrived

October 24 2013 (10:59pm EST, call duration 25 minutes)

Interaction ID I660004863

  • Spoke with Jordan who basically just put me on hold several times after confirming my e-mail address twice to work on getting my e-mailed quote out to me
  • Jordan advised me that he had to make a change to my account to trigger the e-mail, then reverse that change – the change was to my unlimited long distance
  • Jordan advised that the e-mail should arrive within 3 hours and that I might receive it twice
  • Not holding my breath
  • This is a joke
  • Downloaded Call Recorder for iPhone

October 26, 2013 (6:41pm EST, call duration 19 minutes)

I661038435

  • Kendall (female)
  • Spoke with Kendall and let her know that I’m still waiting for the e-mail quote from the 23rd
  • Kendall advised that there is no way to send me a quote from their system and that the most reliable way to get a quote is to go to a Rogers store and have them print me a copy of the quote

So after 5 days and 149 minutes on the phone with their reps, I’m left with this:  Rogers, one of the three largest telecommunications companies in the country, can’t. send. me. an e-mail. Or won’t.

I sent an e-mail to the office of the president. I have slim hope that it’ll lead to anything.

In other news, I just LiveChatted with a Bell agent, got a quote and set up a tentative installation and they e-mailed me my chat logs within 10 seconds. Someone is doing something right.

 

 

The Space Between

There’s this space between thinking you might know something and knowing it for sure. It’s a space where you can be divided. A space where you can continue to let your heart pretend something isn’t one way when your brain knows very well that it is. Or maybe it’s the other way around. Who’s fooling who? I don’t know. I just know some part of me got fooled and maybe shouldn’t have.

When my friend said to me, with fingers crossed, “J and K are like this,” I should have abandoned not knowing entirely. Like the way I abandoned it without a backward glance when the HR lady at work told me she wanted to speak with me on my lunch break about a job I’d applied for. I didn’t know for sure, but I also don’t know of many places where they wait until your lunch break to offer you a job. No, that particular giant “fuck you” is about letting you know that you are still firmly ensconced in your current job and will be for the foreseeable future. But somehow “J and K are like this” didn’t make me certain.

I take a lot of responsibility for it, but not all. Less than a month ago, J was saying things like “that place has the best waffles, we should go there.” J was coming dangerously close to cupping my breast in a public place (we were both drunk). The sheer level of innuendo that has gone on between us has left me wondering, at times, why we weren’t leaving a particular bar together. J makes an effort to touch me everyday at work. I’m not the only person he does that with, so that alone would not have made me feel special, but added to the other stuff…well I certainly thought he might be interested. There was certainly room to think that “J and K are like this” might mean they were just good buddies. Or maybe not.

That’s what’s got me wondering about that space between. Maybe there isn’t one. Maybe the point is that I don’t need certainty. I don’t need to wait until my friend invites me out for drinks with she and J, only to turn up and find my friend, J *and* K there. I don’t need to wait until we’re walking down a street and I’m watching J and K holding hands, horrified. I don’t need to wait for the assurance of being stuck eating terrible food in a restaurant with poor service while trying to avoid watching J and K stare at each other across their table. No one needs that.

I feel old and stupid and humiliated. I feel like what should have been obvious to me was likely obvious to everyone else around me at work who knew about my crush. I feel like, if I’m going to survive dating, there’s no room for the space between anymore.

Trying and Failing to Launch

A strange thing happened tonight. I waited 25 minutes–I even timed it so that I wouldn’t be tempted to cut that wait time short–for a dude to show up for a meet and greet. It’s so easy, on those initial meets that are the product of online dating, to bug out when someone’s 5 minutes late. It’s hard to make yourself vulnerable enough to wait it out. It’s hard to wait around to be potentially stood up. So at 6:09 I started a 15 minute countdown on my phone.

At 6:24 I looked around one last time, not even sure if I’d have recognized this fella if he’d been stepping on my toes, and headed to the grocery store to pick up some stuff. On the way out of the store I tried and failed to hail a cab so I took the next bus that came. I say this only because it probably led to a certain amount of serendipity.

When I got off the bus and stood at the light waiting to cross the street, I saw him waiting on the other side. It was by now, an hour after the time we were supposed to meet and the fates had seen fit to put us across the street from each other. But I’d already sent off the “wtf” e-mail asking what happened. The e-mail pointing out that the very reason I’d given him my phone number was to avoid this specific situation. The e-mail making clear, without ever saying it, that had he maybe not acted like I was going to stalk him and just given me his number I might have been able call him and find out what the hold up was.

I don’t think he saw me. He didn’t wave. He didn’t shift to a stance of recognition. So, instead of crossing the street and saying hello, I turned left and walked a block to the next cross walk and back another half block to get to where I needed to go.

It’s hard to say why I did that. Maybe because he didn’t recognize me at all from across the street. Maybe because it would have been too hard to get past how irritable and let down I’d already been feeling at that moment to try to be outgoing and good-natured for a coffee date with someone I’d never been that excited about in the first place. Maybe because I was starving and didn’t want to carry around a roast for another hour.

I feel guilty and I wonder if I’m engaged in self-sabotage. I wonder if I’m ready to date at all.

This may not spell the end for Big_Guy_Me and I. If he asks for another shot, I’ll probably go along for the ride.  At least I know he didn’t really stand me up. I just kinda wonder if I should.

For the Luv of Toronto

So I realize it’s been a while since I’ve posted here and that’s because I’m juggling a lot of new projects. I’m doing some volunteering, trying to score a new job, and getting ready for the annual chapbook launch of my writing group, among other things. It’s a lot of plates to keep spinning so this blog has suffered a bit. But there is a silver lining, here’s a new blog for you to check out:

http://torontoluv.com

Toronto Luv is my “potential-employer-friendly” blog but also a project I really wanted to start anyway. It’s a place where I can post pictures that I’ve taken and in this way continually renew my relationship with the city that’s been my luver for some 19 years.

I will continue to post here as the spirit moves me but with everything else I’m trying to get under way, the long and thought out posts that I usually do here just won’t get the attention that they need, and that you, oh faithful reader, deserve. I hope that in the meantime you’ll join me for the ride over at torontoluv–for the luv of Toronto!

IMG_0230

The Downside of Feeling Good

Last year this time, I went on a trip with my writing group in Korea. We were messing around trying to take pictures as we jumped off some big boulders and as I made my leap, I remember thinking that I was probably going to regret it.  And regret it, I did. I landed and immediately wet myself. Not a dribble, but full on, I need to change my pants, wet myself. By the time I got home from the trip my entire backpack smelled like piss and I had spent the rest of the weekend sweltering in the one other pair of sweatpants that I’d brought with me.

At the time, I had no other symptoms from my growing fibroids and so I just chalked this up to being 36. I had noticed that I’d needed to go to the bathroom a lot more in recent months and this was my warning to make sure I never ignored the need to pee again.

Here I am a year later and the fibroid that was causing me to become incontinent at 36 is now out.  All five pounds of it. You read that right. Five. Pounds. My five pound Elvis has left the building taking my uterus and cervix with him.

For those of you who have been along for this ride, you know there was the abortive first attempt at removing my fibroid masses back in March. Night and day. Black and white. Ice and fire. Yin and yang.  Pick your opposites and that will give you a sense of how much different I feel post surgery this time around vs last time.  Last time, I actually came out of surgery, overall, feeling worse than when I went in. This time, post surgery, I feel better than I have in nearly a year (though admittedly I haven’t tried leaping off any boulders yet to really test things out).

I am in almost no pain. I’m sleeping through the night right out of the gate. My bladder is working pretty close to normally again.  Despite the fact that I shouldn’t have any core strength right now, I’m having no problem with movements that use my core. In contrast, after my last surgery, I had this crazy pain in my hips that made it impossible to sit or lie down for a long time, so sometimes I just had to stand against a wall.  It took two weeks to start sleeping through the night and a while longer than that before I could sleep on my side again.  The urge to pee was intense all the time making it hard to walk very far or really do much of anything physical. It was a production to get in and out of bed because my core muscles were so weak. And then there was just the good old fashioned depression that went along with this.  I don’t think many people realized how depressed I was; I don’t think I realized how depressed I was.  I can only see how different I feel now emotionally–how much more positive I feel.

So how could I possibly mess this up? By pushing my body too hard, that’s how.  As good as I feel, it’s hard to bear in mind, at times, that I am still recovering from surgery. I am inclined to neglect my body at the best of times. The last few months have been the worst of times and still I didn’t really take good care of myself. I think I had this sense that if I gave myself a break from the intense stress, if I acknowledged how tired, in pain and depressed I was, I’d never get out of bed again. I’d curl up and stop living. I always have this fear that if I slow down for a minute, I’ll stop all together. Like some emotional equivalent of a shark.

My surgery went super well but there are still things to take care of. I have to see the cardiologist for three follow up appointments to sort out the heart palpitations I was having in hospital and still continue to have here and there. The urologist needs to make sure that those painful stents did their job and that my kidneys are functioning normally now. A general surgeon had to come in and do some extra work where my fibroid tried to attach to my bladder so there’s that to be wary of. And of course I’ve got a 6″ abdominl incision to heal up from.  It feels like child’s play this time around but it isn’t.

I started reading this book called The Highly Sensitive Person by Elaine Aron, before my surgery, on the recommendation of a friend. While some of it seems to fit, I’m reluctant to take on a label that might make me feel limited, so I’ve been reading with interest, but holding judgment. In a nutshell, highly sensitive people will tend to pick up on subtleties in a situation more quickly and thus feel overstimulated much more easily, which has both good and bad outcomes. I was intrigued when one of my nurses at the hospital mentioned that I might be having heart palpitations because I have a sensitive nervous system. She and I certainly hadn’t been discussing my pre-surgery reading.

Post-surgery, I’ve been tackling this book again and while I’m still hanging on to my grain of salt, today’s chapter brought me back to the idea of just being a lot more in tune with my body; with what it can handle and what it can’t. For the first time in a long while it struck me how wrong headed and actually dangerous it is to ignore my body’s cues, especially now when I seem to be hypersensitive to everything. For the first time in while it hit me all at once that there are no do-overs with this body. This is the only one I get. I’m grateful as hell to my body right now for how it has has rolled with these two surgeries. Now it’s high time I stopped telling it to shut up and do what I want, but instead to sit quietly and listen to what it wants.

It’s scarily easy to ignore my body’s needs when I’m healthy (or even when I just feel healthy); it’s unfortunate how much I do the same when my body is crying out for care. Reading this book is reminding me that taking a break doesn’t mean that I’ll never get anything done again. It’s reminding me that when I feel edgy and overstimulated, I’m much better served by taking a walk to the lake than to the fridge. It’s reminding me that when my body needs sleep, an Advil, some quiet time or to take a pass on that party, it’s okay to give it that. There are a lot of things I want to get done in these next five weeks that I’m off work, but if it takes an extra month or two to achieve those things because I took care of my body first, so be it. It’s the least I can do for the amazing body that has gotten me through all of this.

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