It’s fitting that my essay appears in the back of the Globe and Mail, on the same day that Stephanie Nolen’s byline is on the front page. Back in King’s J-school, she would submit her flawless article at the same time I was in the back of the class asking when it was due.
A step ahead, that girl. Stephanie’s success was as predestined as Justin Bieber’s fall.
Another chasm of note: her article is about the suspicious death of a prosecutor in Argentina, mine is about the experience of being bitch-slapped, in a manner, during facials.
Look. It’s not high-minded stuff, but before you discard me as intellectual wasteland, relatability, in this day and age, is worthy of broadsheet space, too. Profound insights and waterfall music are not mutually exclusive.
Hello 2015, I can’t wait to eat you up. Let the wild rumpus start, like Max says.
And another thing. When it comes to idiocy, home ownership, and life, I’m the bomb. Click here to read all about it, courtesy of today’s Globe and Mail. The Facts and Arguments page isn’t the only one worth reading, but it’s frequently my favorite.
Note I’m not a redhead, but the repose I can get behind.
Wishing you a happy and healthy New Year. There’s a mountain out there for you to climb, should you choose to.
I run because it’s who I am; I do triathlons to find out who else I can be. In the course of six hours you have time to figure these things out.
You also, I learned, have time for some very random thoughts. Here is a sampling of things that went through my mind during the Oliver Half Ironman on the weekend. (Note: the more I suffer, the more I curse, profanity has a magical band-aid effect. Ella, that means stop reading here.)
- It’s a nice day for a little swim, a bike ride, and a run. What the hell was I thinking?
- I should have tried on this wetsuit before today, not breathing could be a liability.
- Hopefully these swimmers are sighting because I can’t see a thing.
- Pool swimming prepares you for triathlon like knitting prepares you for the WWF.
- First, you swim on top of me, and then you kick me in the face? Karma says there’s a flat tire in your future.
- Mother of God, where is that beach?
- Why is everyone in such a hurry in transition? People aren’t very chatty. I thought we’d bond after swimming through a dishwasher together.
- Drafting is illegal – of course I won’t draft. One thing about me is I follow rules to the letter. I don’t jaywalk, nor spit into the wind.
- Drink. Eat. Drink. Eat. Someone once told me you can’t over-fuel. Hopefully not the same person who suggested I do this race, because they are clearly trying to kill me.
- Where is everybody? I desperately need to draft.
- If I rode off this cliff, would I die or just be maimed for life? And if maimed, how long would I lay there before anyone came looking? I wouldn’t be one of those people who cuts off their arm and crawls to safety; I’d just cry.
- Wait, wait, wait. I’m totally going to ride your ass as long as I can.
- Speaking of ass, if mine didn’t feel like I was sitting on an inverted kitchen faucet, I wouldn’t mind biking.
- I should have biked 93 kilometers before today. Fuck, it’s far.
- Still, childbirth is harder. All that pain without an inch of forward movement.
- Was I supposed to practice transitions? Because I didn’t get the memo. And again, I don’t see why we can’t share a few words about that heinous bike ride we just endured.
- To the 24 year-old girl who passed me on the run: why aren’t you hungover in bed right now? Surely there are better ways to spend your youth.
- Is motherfucker redundant?
- Jesus Christ, who am I Princess and the Pea – how is it possible that I felt that pebble through my insulated runner? And that one? Ow. Ow. Ow.
- A six mile run would be sufficient given the circumstances. Whoever came up with thirteen is a sadist, and I hope they spend an eternity in hell running over hot coals, like we are doing today.
- What’s that stomach, you’re cramping? I can’t hear you, and by the way my legs are the boss of you.
- Never. Give. Up.
- I think I just found my inner ninja.
So, a lot of negative thoughts, subsequently erased by going the distance. That, for me, is the beauty of triathlon, and the reason I’ll be stupid enough to do more in the future.
I’m at a fundraiser, which is another way of saying I’ve had a glass of wine. I’m not slurring words, but my tongue is loose. You know.
So I come clean. Sometimes, I just cannot get a name right. Even though I have swam in her lane for a year and change beside her twice a week, and people have corrected me seventy times. My brain has decided her name should be Dawn, and not Sean, and there is nothing that can be done to alter its hellbent Dawn course.
Here is a two-paragraph crash course of our shared history:
Deanna, this is Sean. (I hear Dawn, and think, oh, she even looks like a Dawn, she is bright like the sunrise. I love it when this happens. She is so not an Elizabeth.)
Thereafter, I congratulate Dawn (Sean) at the end of each practice. Refer to Dawn (Sean) frequently as my friend. Introduce myself at the said fundraiser to her husband as, Hi, I’m Deanna, I swim with Dawn.
He looks at me oddly, which is not the first time I’ve been looked at oddly on this night.
Your wife? I prompt.
Oh, you mean Sean. I thought I had another wife for a second.
Fed up with my brain, I take my flawed self and my glass of wine and make a beeline for SEAN. Sean Sean Sean Sean. Banning Dawn forever from my memory.
I interrupt her bid on a silent auction item to blurt out I have a confession. I have called you Dawn for a year and a half. For some reason, I can’t get your name right. It’s not that I don’t value you as a person, but rather a lobe of my brain has ADD where your name is concerned.
She looks at me, laughter pushing up the corners of her mouth. I have a confession for you, she says. You mentioned your partner was Kim, so for the past year and a half I thought you were gay.
We both laugh heartily at our Three’s Company moment, and I wonder if she’s as secretly pleased that I likened her to a sunrise, as I am pleased that she mistook me for gay.
I’m walking a tightrope, stretched between two Christmas trees, taut with the pressure of time, money, and expectation.
On the one side is the me that loves Christmas. Loves! The hype, the decorating, the giving, the madness, the merrymaking. The stories, the movies, the traditions, the magic. Did I mention merrymaking? I buy in. I believe.
On the other side is the me that loathes the tremendous hassle involved in making it all happen. And by all, I mean all. Food, decorations, charity, presents for the world at large. It’s a lot for one sister’s shoulders.
As I teeter on this thin wire, below me is the pit of despair, experienced in Christmas’s past, that I can fall into if things go awry. Trust me, it’s not fun down there. Life does not imitate art. If the Grinch steals all of our gifts, or Santa or I fail to deliver the coveted items on their list, my children will not hold hands in a circle and sing.
Yet I somehow magically order things the day after they can guarantee delivery to Canada by Christmas. Never the day before or, say, weeks in advance. Who thinks of this shit in November? It’s much more exciting this way. Will it arrive, or won’t it. My legs quiver with anticipation, and that pit is looking uncomfortably close. Back ups are stashed. And then I forget what I’ve stashed. And where. This is life on the edge, right here.
Come December, I could use thirty-hour days. Because while Christmas must be extraordinary, still, life goes on. Which is why I lost it when my children remarked on the cleanliness lacking in my car yesterday. Something’s got to give – a trashed car over myself, ideally.
Obviously, there is room for improvement in the process. In my world, best case scenario means Christmas Eve is purely for stocking stuffers. And a rum and eggnog-infused search for that thing I know I bought, but likely won’t find until Easter.
Christmas wouldn’t be Christmas without that special feeling – that I’m losing it.
This is not to say I don’t work. I work alright. I work day and night, weekends and holidays, with no pay cheque in sight. A bit like slave labour, but legal. It’s called Raising Children. Not to be left behind in these texting times, we even have acronyms, SAHM, SAHF, SAHP, or CEO when the mood strikes.
Lots of people have opinions about this job; but I’m not going there. Let’s just say I’m hanging them up – whatever they may be. I’ve been meaning to do this for a while. Six years to be precise. But you know how the universe sometimes speaks to you? Well, now it’s screaming. Louder than the two-year old next door, which I didn’t think possible. It’s yelling at me by way of signs.
Here are one or ten signs that I need to get a job, depending on your attention span.
1. Garbage day has become freakishly important in my calendar, now ranking somewhere between Christmas and Labour Day. I know, it’s not a holiday, but it’s even better because it involves purging. And two men show up right at my door to help me do this – when else does this happen? Never, that’s when. (Note: those garbage bins are filled with stuff I’m sick of picking up. Bye bye.)
2. I’ve installed a water cooler in our house, and I find myself hanging around it, asking what my weekend plans are.
3. There is a glare on our television during the daytime that drives me insane when I’m trying to watch Orange is the New Black. While folding laundry, naturally.
4. I’m not done my bitching and complaining, not even close, but I’ve run out of people who will listen. Time for new material.
5. I used to have six hours of peace and quiet. Now I field about twenty texts from my children between 9 and 3. Mostly about their social calendars, which only serves to rub salt in my wounds that I have none by comparison. I was fun once.
6. Homicidal thoughts can’t be healthy. Purely mariticidal, I hasten to add.
7. Delivering their forgotten lunches and homework to school ignites me with rage that they have no respect for the work I do and the sacrifices I’ve made.
8. Complaints about my cooking fill me with rage that they have no respect for the work I do and the sacrifices I’ve made.
9. I’m developing anger issues.
10. The fact that I’m at number ten and haven’t even mentioned shoes yet, speaks volumes. Hello, mama needs a new pair of shoes? And then when I do indulge, that conversation. You know, the one where he says “Where are you going to where those? It’s not like you work.” Then I lose it. See number 6. Now you know the definition of mariticide.
I can’t find fulfillment at the bottom of a wine bottle. Trust me, I’ve tried. Time for plan A.
In your opinion, what is the absolute worst thing about being a stay at home parent? We’re venting here, so keep it negative.
I’ve always meant to get acquainted with the inner workings of our house. Being the biggest investment I’ll ever make, I thought I would find the time to learn what the hell all those pipes and wires are all about.
My intentions were pure.
But our first house was a fifty-year old split level, and the mechanical room was located in what can only be described as a decrepit dungeon. The furnace and some other contraptions were perched on a mass of exposed rock. Many a creature made their homes amongst the dirt floor and granite, cobwebs made up the vast selection of art in the corners.
My enthusiasm for the details waned.
When I turned up the thermostat, the furnace kicked in. The water flowed plentifully from the taps. The mice staked their territory, and upstairs, I staked mine. All was good, and perhaps ignorance was bliss.
Then we decided to build a house, and I assumed this would be my chance. The mystery of what pipe held what would naturally unveil itself to me as I laboured alongside the many trades that came and went. But the only thing that unveiled itself to me was my impatience with the project, and how interminably slow it was. The plumbers and electricians came and went with their leather holsters and tape measures, and honestly, I was just happy to see the back side of them leaving.
In my haste to have it finished, I missed it being built.
So in the following years, when things occasionally went wrong, and I needed to direct a handyman/plumber/man with toolbox to the mechanical room, I would wave them in the general vicinity, because truth be told I couldn’t tell our air exchanger from our wifi portal. A couple of the wisecrackers, who understood my vagueness for ignorance, commented, didn’t you build this house? And I did what I always do when caught out; I pretended not to hear.
So when our hot water started disappearing three days ago, I willfully ignored it. But freezing cold showers can only be ignored for so long.
A nice boy from the local heating and plumbing shop (is it just me or do they seem younger and younger?) donned his booties and asked me to show him the water heater.
I froze. I should really have located the water heater before he came. Then I babbled about how we had just moved in, all the while moving towards the mechanical room where, surely, the water heater must be. Or was that the central vacuum?
As soon as I switched on the light he confidently strode towards a box in the corner, and I exhaled. There is nothing I loathe more than feeling like the dumb housewife that I am. I seized on this opportunity for learning; no tradesman gets to quietly go about his work undeterred in my house at $100 an hour.
So, how does this thing work, anyway, I asked.
To his credit, he actually tried to tell me. But as soon as he started talking, my mind left the mechanical room and entered the arena of what I should make for dinner. I instantly regretted my feeble attempt towards self-fulfillment. He rambled on and on. I stared past his full head of hair (not one of which was grey) at the maze of pipes, but then noticed he was quizzically looking past me. He stepped around me and flicked a switch that was beside my shoulder. A piece of masking tape above it read boiler.
There you go, problem solved. On his way out the door, I launched into my (now familiar) spiel, about how silly I am, I can’t believe I didn’t check that switch. Not that I knew that switch was there, mind you.
No problem, happens all the time, he lied. All this to say that ignorance, while blissful, can also be expensive.