Monday, 30 December 2013

It's All Just A Big, Beautiful Mess

The more I stress about what I’m writing, the shittier it gets (or at least, the more I hate it) which is a great excuse for the lack of blogs I’ve posted lately. Nonetheless, I’m writing this one in acknowledgment that it’s probably shitty and I just don’t care, because, as you’ll read below, I’m quite tired of caring. 

Theories, philosophies, experiments, tries & fails: this is how we live our life. No one really knows what they are doing. It’s the timeless matter of putting one foot in front of the other (or at least, another day of waking up and remembering to put pants on) and then attempting to move forward to whatever length we are capable. We all like to assume we have an idea about the right way (or at least, a better way) of living our lives than our neighbours, but don’t kid yourself; we have as a little of a clue as they do. Some people are better at lying to themselves (I occasionally wish I was more talented in this regard.) 

We have ideas on the best way to get a good job - and what is considered a “good” job, and how much is considered “good” pay at said job. 

We have theories on the best way to have a relationship – everyone has different expectations and thoughts on how to make them work and what is considered appropriate and healthy. 

Even the countless separate thoughts on what is considered a worthy use of our time will be revealed as internal and external debates concluding in confusion and/or depression. 

Yes, I’ll say it. Life is just a gigantic opinion of whatever you think it to be. But then again, that’s simply my opinion. I’m sure you disagree. (But first, be really sure you aren’t lying to yourself.) 

(Don’t worry – this post won’t end as depressing as it sounds like it will.) 

Over the years I’ve become increasingly proud of my large, mental paper stack of theories and developments on how I should live my life. At this point, I’m actually amused by how all the while I was building these massive piles of ideas in my mind, I truly believed I was learning to let them all go; learning to live free and uninhibited by social and self-set boundaries! 

I scoff in my general direction. You can, too. 

This constant effort to make sense of things while remaining open-minded and attempting to view alternative perspectives, but hold an opinion and stay objective, yet remember to feel feelings; and always push forward and take control of your life, yet don’t forget to sit back and enjoy the moment while going with the flow; chase your dreams, all the while letting them go so they can come back to you; use your wings to fly, but now and again don’t be afraid to free fall; an apple a day keeps the doctor away, but don’t eat them every day because they’re highly acidic and cause Candida… 

All I have now is a mind-office full of falling, burning confetti. 

The explosion happened a while back and I think I’ve spent the last few months internally (frantically) attempting to collect and re-organize this imaginary manuscript - “Beliefs and Theories and Everything I’ve Figured Out about Life" by Miranda Landry. About a month ago, I realized how much effort it would actually take to make sense of all these conflicting thoughts and theories that I was trying to organize in my mind. The possibility of any sense or sagacity is slim. 

So I am now imagining myself sitting in my little mind-office: hair standing straight-up, hands clutching tiny pieces of smoldering opinions, tears clearing the ash from my flushed cheeks as I watch the glowing embers of burning hindsights and lessons-learned drift to floor around me. There is a part of me that would like to stay there and cry, because there is no other way of expressing the frustration and disappointment upon slamming head first into the realization that the only thing you know about life is whatever you imagine it to be; all that effort, time and sacrifice you put in to building this castle of knowledge and expectations of what life is supposed to be, doesn’t actually exist (and perhaps never did.) But there are other options. 

I can spend eternity sorting through the mess, analyzing it all over again, and re-writing it in vain for some false sense of security that there is an equation to life that makes sense and a solid sensible belief I can live out. 

Or I can give-up. I can sweep it all into a dustpan and put it in the garbage, never haunted by it again, and to live in the depressing simplicity that life has no meaning to explore. 

But it looks kind of pretty, all these burning, fluttering, half-worked-out, absurdly confusing thoughts, lessons and beliefs falling all around me. I’ve decided, as long as the confetti is still falling (and it’s never-ending, trust me,) I’m just going to put on my best dress, find my bestest friends, and dance around in this big, beautiful mess. 

Excuse me while I go put some music on.

Tuesday, 1 October 2013

Don't Play Nice

What hurts the ego is best for the soul.

“Nice”. I find this a boring word. Rated highly efficient, but vacant and diffident. It gets the job done, lazily. She’s a nice girl. That is what we value: A nice girl.

Pleasing; Agreeable; Delightful. She has a nice smile. She’s unassuming, and careful to not offend. She does not upset a balance, or cause drama, or create turmoil for any reason – regardless of deservedness or justification. She’s a nice girl.

Nice girl is not a good person. Nice girl is self-serving, and self-conscious, and dishonest, and manipulative. Nice girl is a coward.

Her motivations are socially crafted; disingenuous. Do not disturb the peace! 

In the intention to remove risk of suffering – which is the nice thing to do – comes the unintended consequence of removing an opportunity for growth.

A desire to appear helpful – which is nice– conversely creates an inability for the helped to succeed on their own.

In an effort to maintain cohesion – the nice approach – she forces an outcome out of tune with natural rhythms.

Her actions come without reflective forethought, but with societal approval in mind. Like me! I’m a nice girl!

Don’t be a nice girl. Nice is overrated.

Be brave. Speak out. Be tactfully honest. Make ripples that cause change. Challenge suffering for the sake of development. Do not be afraid to offend for the intention of discovery. Do not be afraid to offend for the purpose of reflection. Do not be afraid to offend for the pursuit … of being true to who you are…

What hurts the ego is best for the soul.

Monday, 23 September 2013

Sawing Off The Horn on My Unicorn

I don’t know if I can call my new-found agreement on the Gen-Y issues a matter of hindsight. Technically, I am still Gen-Y and still in my twenties… and still somewhat delusional and spoilt. However, I’m starting to give my more passionate friends a slight eye roll when they get overly-defensive regarding opinions our elders impose about our behaviour and supposed self-entitled mindsets. 

The following thoughts have been developed after many humourous and serious debates following the viral article “Why Generation Y Yuppies are Unhappy” – a cute and funny, non-journalistic report of an opinion summarizing one possible reason a certain population of youngsters seem unsatisfied with life. And this would be my not so funny, non-journalistic report of an opinion summarizing why these unhappy youngsters get so justifiably defensive about it (as I once did.) 

I think what helped me calm down about the whole topic was a few key realizations (not all of which I can take credit for – some smart cookies in my life helped me work these out.) 

# 1.  Baby boomers and Gen X are not glowing role models. They made plenty of mistakes on top of all their glorious effort. While we can appreciate the hard work and sentiment of their generations, it’s important to remember they didn’t do it perfectly. With that, we bring to the world a new passion and outlook, and we won’t do it perfectly either. But we will still be contributing to the overall growth of the world – positively and through lessons learned from our mistakes. 

#2.   Grandparents and parents always think younger generations are going to ruin the world as they know it. And they are wrong. Just as their grandparents and parents were wrong. Yes, we will leave small negative footprints on this planet along with the positive development from our time, but all I have to do is point out Hiroshima and the 2008 Financial Meltdown and those older generations can no longer argue they’ve not left significant negative impacts. (I mean this as an  opposition to all the wonderful things they’ve brought to the planet and done for our lives, which is plentiful.) 

#3.   We don’t live in the same economic and social make-up as previous generations, and with such we are adapting to the new ones (hey, guess what – just as our grandparents and parents did!) And if we face it - instead of complaining about how unfair and difficult it is all the time (and without being side-tracked by articles regarding how lazy and spoiled we are) – we will learn from it, grow from it, and come out succeeding with immense growth in wake of this economic mess our parents left. Sorry Mom and Dad, just pointing out the obvious. 

#4.   These articles are making generalizations about the largest population of youngsters who seem to be the most annoying and stand out. It’s like how we make extreme generalizations about a Asians being bad drivers – because nobody notices, comments or looks who is driving when there is a talented driver in front of them (which could very well be Asian.) In the same way, every time these stereotypical characteristics pop-up in a youngster, we notice. Yet nobody stops to point out the youth who have the hardworking, conscientious, reflective natures. If you get really defensive about the whole topic, it might be worth considering how many of these generalized traits actually apply to you. (Hey, only the truth can sting that terribly, right?) 

#5.   While we can blame the previous generations for why we have the mentality that we do, (they are not wrong; our generation does act lazy and spoilt in regards to careers and effort needed to achieve success, and it kind of is their fault we were raised this way,) that finger-pointing gets us nowhere. It’s just another excuse justifying our lack of effort to change our lives. If we really want to show them we are different - and that we can make a change in this world - then we need to take responsibility for who we are regardless of how we became this way. (Admittance is the first step, right?) 

When I re-read the two articles I’ve posted previously on a similar topic, two specific points stood out that I don’t want to let go of. 

#1.  Our lack of self-efficacy: these “Problems-With-The- Gen-Y” style articles constantly tear down our belief in ourselves and our generations ability to create change. They steal our already fragile sense of self-worth and autonomy by painting us all with the same brush. Let me remind you - “Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has.” – Margaret Mead. 

#2.  Dear previous generations: you can still help. Do not wash your hands of us just yet. You can still participate in the creation of who we are and how we behave by tackling the suffering and disappointment with us. Don’t stand back and tell us what we are doing is wrong; get your hands dirty and help us figure it out. Don’t claim you have never behaved this way; show empathy and remember how you worked your way out of it. Be a source of inspiration and motivation, not of discouragement and negativity. There are those of us just waiting for the right words to set us in motion towards creating a much, much better world…

Saturday, 21 September 2013

Sleep Fast

I was 16 years old and the woman’s words were “Sleep Fast.” It was spoken at a Fraser Institute Seminar aimed at developing successful business practices. A not-so witty way of saying success comes with the sacrifice of some ever-pleasant Zs. Those two words have conducted far too many of my decisions as an adult regarding the importance of sleep. It’s nearly impossible for me to get them out of my head.

Despite a four year education in health and well-being at University which consistently expressed the necessity of good night’s rest, I still practice the “Sleep Fast” method. The times in my life I’ve accomplished the most I generally hadn’t spent a lot of it sleeping. In fact, during my first year of post-secondary studies I adopted a routine of consistent napping as opposed to a solid night’s sleep; essentially, 2 hours of shut-eye when I couldn’t keep my lids up any longer. Yes, it caught up with me and I started to feel a little burnt out and anxious, but I never did get sick like people said I would. I never felt the rope burning at both ends to a point I could not step back from.

Throughout the rest of University, I was adamant I just needed a solid eight hours sleep every night (in light of the gracious advice from others) and somehow it never seemed to be enough. I always felt groggy and lazy. Which brings me to where I am now, a 5-7 hour per night sleeper. Sometimes it’s less; I can function just fine for an entire day on 3 hours without whining about how exhausted I am, without needing to take a nap, and without noticeable compromise to my mental ability. And, to most people’s disbelief, I have way more energy and mental alertness than I ever did during my well practiced sleep routine in University. The days I choose to stay in bed for over 7 hours, I’m taken by that groggy, over-slept, unmotivated nature (what most people claim to experience after 9-10 hours of rest.)

People who are aware of my abnormally short dozing schedule constantly tell me I need to sleep more; that they think it’s the worst thing I can do for my health. An advice piece aimed to twenty year olds I came across in a health magazine stated that not sleeping enough was a definite detriment to productivity – I’m not feeling that.

With such, I face this health-based dilemma: to make a conscious effort in training my body to sleep more, thus reducing my available time to spend working towards my dreams, or continue on my path of so-called destructive R.E.M. patterns risking what is said to lead to poor health.

I look at the people who give me the “sleep more” advice and while I recognize this is extremely judgmental, I don’t know if I want to take advice from them regarding healthy and successful life practices. They don’t appear more balanced or successful. So I look at those who admit they often sacrifice rest for work and play, and in all honesty, they seem better off. They make productive decisions and they appear as healthy, if not more so, than their counterparts (from what I can see.)

The more research I do, I see that more sleep is probably better (but hey, at one time science convinced us cigarettes and cocaine were good for your health, too!) And maybe I just don’t want to. Maybe being tired just doesn’t bother me that much. Maybe I’d rather learn sign language at 4am, or devour an entire novel in one night, or over-schedule my work and social life in replacement of those extra couple hours under the sheets I’m “supposed to” be aiming for. I think my body is so stuck on this new-found, glorious lack of sleep I wouldn’t be able to sleep that much anyway. I'm not saying I'm giving up sleep, I'm proposing that perhaps it's OK, just for now, that I don't spend that much of my time doing it.

I may pay for this one day. In my forties, I may write about regret and naivety regarding how I should have heeded the education and advice given to me in my youth.

Nonetheless, I’m making the bed I lie in. I just won’t lie in that much.

Monday, 9 September 2013

The Light, The Voice, & The Sword

I would love to dramatically refer to my under-productive morning as a episode of writer’s block (and use that excuse to spend my day devouring classic American Literature at the beach with a bottle of wine.) However, that would be a lie. Writer’s block is non-existent in my world. I always have something to say. And more than I love talking about my thoughts (no one can argue this), I love to write them. (And how cliché is it to write about writer’s block when struggling with a medium upon which to write? Here I go anyway.) 

Let’s call it what it is: Fear-based procrastination. 

This is new for me - writing as a career, I mean. And while I have some enigmatic belief in my ability to one day be “successful” in my creative work, at the moment I have no proof. And somehow I know that having that proof would still not calm my fears of failure or, well, sucking. 

I know full well that my issue is not isolated to myself or my art. It’s human. More so, defeasible and human. Whether it be a finishing an engineering degree, or training to run your first 10k race, the protraction of the steps needed to achieve such goals is most often linked to fear. If we remove the isolated goals we do not actively desire to achieve at the moment (i.e., that RRSP account you keep meaning to open or the baseboards that need a new coat of paint) and examine only those which excite passion in us, what are our reasons to put them off? Time? Hard work? Laziness? Those excuses are simply that – excuses. And untrue.  

Most often we know what it takes to make our visions become reality, but somehow actively pursuing them becomes a deed worthy of distraction. Why? Fear. And not rollercoaster type fear where your body’s rhythmic senses come into play and adrenaline surges; I’m talking about the less recognizable type. It’s sly, and verges on subconscious. It’s usually based on low self-efficacy and lack of confidence. Or simply put, as mentioned above, fear of failure – what’s the point in trying if I don’t believe I can succeed? 

In my context, I can write for days on end without break under the assumption no one will ever judge my work, or with the understanding that it will not be marked as pass or fail. But the minute I must write to achieve (whether for finances or simply accolades), fear sets in. And I pick up a book. Or call a friend. Or play piano. Or scroll Facebook. 

I’m such a coward. I would love to continue lying to myself as I sit down at the keys and attempt to convert my mind to ink. No one will ever read this. It’s not a representation of me or my work. I’m a phony - not really a writer. I just like to write. Because that’s easy. Because those safely gift wrapped thoughts hold no risks. 

Thus, this very blog I’ve written not out of a “block” or to be cliché, but to combat my fear. To say, “actually, I will write, it will be judged, and it will not stop me.” 

It is the light that shows me the fear, the voice that says “you will not stop me”, and the sword I will forever hold to procrastination's throat.

Tuesday, 27 August 2013

Warning: Canadian Thawing

I feel like I’m being a shitty person for saying I’m over the summer.

I probably am being a shitty person for saying it. But, I am over it.

I’ve loved every minute of it. The sailing, the hiking, the beach days, the patio beverages – I took advantage of every opportunity made available to me to soak up the sunshine. And I know there will come a day very soon when the rain in this city feels never ending, and the humid cold will give my bones goose bumps. And I’ll probably start daydreaming of warmer climates and reminiscing about the good ol’ beach days of the summers past. People are quick to say “Don’t complain about the heat because you’ll be missing it soon,” and “Enjoy it while it lasts!” And I know that’s true. It happens every year – I did grow up in Canada after all. 

And being “over” summer, isn’t the same as saying I’m being ungrateful for all the beautiful weather. My meaning is simply that I’m ready for the fall. And quite promptly, the winter. 

I’ve spent many afternoons in the past few months sweating on the patio with a cold cider - I want cozy nights at home with a good book, a fireplace, a rum toddy, and the sound of raindrops on the windowsill. 

Then, I want to strap on a snowboard and soar over fresh powder in Blackcomb. And I want to run the bridges in the rain. I’m looking forward board game nights indoors and roasted (not BBQ’d) dinners. I’m excited to use my oven again without it over-heating my apartment. 

I think in the same way everyone longs for summer when the winter cold wears on their patience, I long for all the seasons. Appreciating each of them fully, and then getting excited for the next. Maybe that’s just part of growing up in Canada and always being aware of the rotating weather; it becomes a positive expectation. 

Or, on a more realistic note, I spent the majority of the last five years hopping my way around tropical climates and North American Summers. My Canadian blood needs to be reconnected to the cold every so often. You know, to recharge. Like our Canadian core needs to stay frozen and mine is on the verge of completely thawing.

Friday, 16 August 2013

Piano. Poetry. Patio. Pinot Grigio. Peace.

There is a piano in the park a block away from where I’m living. (There is a number of pianos around Vancouver this summer, painted bright colours or with polka dots, free for people to play whenever and however they like. A beautiful concept.) Someone is playing it right now, at midnight. And as I sit here on my patio drinking a glass of wine, completely enveloped in my book, there is this incredibly romantic mood that sets in. A warm summer evening, piano keys chiming in the distance, a mystery novel, my feet up in the lounge chair on the patio, and a cheap bottle of Pinot Grigio. And within seconds, this mood transforms me from a frustrated server, to a character in my own book.

 I write this not to describe how I feel, but in wondering if others feel the same way. In the simplest appreciation for a star-y night sky and a good book to help unwind, that it can capture you and take you away - take you from frustration and doubt into a new world of beauty and peace. And this is the moment I choose to remember about today. This is the moment I will hold onto when I lay in bed tonight collecting my thoughts to put to rest. This moment, is all the reason I need to get out of bed in the morning tomorrow. To know, and love, that life is fullest when its simplest: after a struggle, unplanned, and when I’m completely alone.

Corny? Romanticized? Say what you will. These are the moments I live for.

Maybe the piano is a more important concept to me at the moment because I’ve recently started taking lessons. I have a number of goals and dreams of what I will do with this skill once developed. But right now, there is this little daydream playing out in my mind: I will be the one sitting at that piano at midnight on a warm summer day, playing my favourite tune, and somewhere nearby will be a frustrated individual needing to calm down. And they will hear me playing. And hopefully, if my daydream comes true, the mood that instills upon them will make their life a little fuller.

I await an encore.

Monday, 5 August 2013

The Whip Vs. The Carrot

Let’s do a little exercise: picture a quiet, calm place.  

Take a couple deep breaths. 

Think about how your body feels. 

Release any tension as best as you can. 

Now, I’m going to throw a term at you and I want you to think about how it makes you feel: 


Did you cringe a little? I did. (If you didn't, feel free to stop reading.) 

The term leaves an after taste of self-doubt, self-criticism and a bitter dash of guilt. I only noticed this negative connotation a few weeks back. It is possible I’m the only one, but that I don’t believe. 

Despite these feelings, I do consider myself a more motivated individual than the average population (No - I’m not being facetious.) I might change my mind fairly frequently, but when I pick something, I dive in head first, put all my energy into it, and in most regards, make it happen. This is why I find it interesting that the term “self-discipline” should resonate such a gloomy undertone. 

With further digestion of the term, I came to see that many people, myself included, view self discipline as the simple act of either not allowing something you want, or forcing something you don’t want. A synonym to will power, in a way. 

Essentially, self-discipline, is a constant “no,” when you want to say “yes.” 

And every failure to say “no” brings about a guilt in realizing you are the cause of your own demise, a criticism of your strength as a person, and a doubt in your ability to be successful. I am being a bit mellow-dramatic on the concept, but it is in hopes that you grasp why the term can carry so much unwanted weight. I think it’s time to shed that weight – for myself at least. 

 Self-dis-ci-pline [self-dis-uh-plin]
(Noun) Discipline of oneself, usually for improvement. 

This definition only provides me with one new piece of information: the idea that you are saying “no” when you want to say “yes” is completely the wrong outlook! Self-discipline is about saying “yes” to a much bigger picture. It’s about “yes” to your goals, “yes” to your future, and “yes” to a life you have chosen. 

You are not saying “no” to that second helping of cake, you are saying “yes” to fitting into your new jeans and living longer. It's not “no, you can't have those new golf clubs”, it's “yes, you can buy a new house in 5 years." You are not saying “no” to sleeping in, it's a “yes” to running that marathon in 4 months. You are saying “yes” to breathing pain-free in your eighties, not "no, I can't have that cigarette." Essentially, I'm describing an exercise on positive thinking and maintaining a vision of the big picture. And possibly, a way of never having to say “no” to yourself again. 

But how is one disciplined by definition? I mean, in action? 

Dis-ci-pline [dis-uh-plin]
(Verb) 2. To bring to a state of order and obedience by training and control. 3. To punish or penalize in order to train and control; correct; chastise. 

Fear of punishment or fear of failure does not motivate me; I’m more likely to chase a carrot than run from a whip. So, to visualize self-discipline as punishing myself in order to control and correct myself, sounds… ineffective. But when I break this term down one step further, I discover something that does work for me: 

Dis-ci-ple [dih-sahy-puhl]
(Noun) 1. A person who is a pupil or an adherent of the doctrines of another; follower.
(Verb) 1. To teach; train. 

Hmm… To be self-disciplined, therefore, can simply mean to teach or train myself. 

... Through saying “yes” to the bigger picture...

... By remembering that failure is a part of learning (and the point of self-discipline - even when I fail at it - is to learn. And you should never, ever feel guilty about learning...) 

... Because self-criticism is about self-growth (and can come from a caring place...) 

... And self-doubt, is as normal as it is unnecessary.

"Discipline is remembering what you want." - David Campbell

Wednesday, 24 July 2013

When My Paint Peels

There is this old, simple, square, post-modernist building in front of me. The side of it has been painted three or four different colours in its 50 years standing. The paint is peeling in massive strips off the side of the building revealing the multi-coloured shades of red bricks. Too much sun, too much rain. Yet somehow, something quite naturally beautiful exists in it. All the different colours and textures, and the illusion of different depths. I have seen people having wedding photographs next to building walls like this one. Similar to how my friends recently had engagement photos next to an old, rundown barn outside of the city. 

I like how things that become old and rundown can become more beautiful. It gives it character. It tells a story without words. Well maintained or not, it can be appreciated for the years it’s been through. Old is beautiful, in most regards. 

Some people only like new things - new, modern-style, trendy homes and apartment buildings. The kind of new things that go out of style in a couple of years anyway and eventually become another expense in order to keep up with the look. And regardless of maintenance, eventually that building will become old. And maybe someone will just tear it down. Or maybe it will stay well maintained. Or maybe it will start looking like this building in front of me, and will be appreciated for its subjectively-imagined story. 

But those people, the ones who only like new things, they are the kind of people who don’t like anything getting old. Many of them like Botox: no wrinkles allowed. And they hide their well-earned grey hairs. They have people use knives to lift their boobs up. And their faces. And sometimes their bums. And all of that is fine. I can definitely appreciate new (or do I just mean young?) looking things. They are fancy, and look like they have status and importance. And society agrees with this and often holds more respect for these fancy, new, important looking things (like boobs – fancy boobs are very important. Ahem.) 

And sometimes – okay, more than sometimes – I’m really attracted to those fancy, new important things. And while I’m still young in regards to a larger population, I’m just now rounding the age where I’m noticing all the aging characteristics that my elders warned me about (wrinkles, cellulite, joint pains, etc.). And I have to make a decision regarding how I feel about these things. On one hand, it feels nearly tragic to say goodbye to what felt like a never-ending youthful body of which I abused and took great advantage - in all the right ways (don’t pretend you don’t know what I mean by that.) 

But my decision, is that I’m going to appreciate the stories my wrinkles will tell one day. Just like one day I will buy an old house, and give it love and respect to show off its well-earned, genuine beauty. And I don't expect that everyone will see the loveliness that I do in the old, paint-peeling, sun-bleached building across the street from me right now. And some people may not appreciate the beauty in my old house, and in my wrinkles. 

But that’s okay. Lots of people won’t appreciate their Botox-ed eyebrow line and fake tits.

“I want to grow old without face-lifts...  I want to have the courage to be loyal to the face I've made. Sometimes I think it would be easier to avoid old age, to die young, but then you'd never complete your life, would you? You'd never wholly know you.” 

- Marilyn Monroe

Tuesday, 16 July 2013

Beyond These Blog Posts

I have more stories than the average person. Granted, I’ve travelled a lot more than the average person. And I’ve taken a lot more “life risks” than the average person. I also think I live closer to the edge of vulnerability than most.

(As a side: I don’t believe this to be because I’m brave; I truly believe I’m frightened of nearly everything. The difference? Possibly, I’m just not opposed to feeling afraid. I scream and jump and hide my eyes during “scary” movies as timid as Resurrection Evil, and yet I still love to go to them.)

I love telling my stories. I feel like they allow me to relate to a variety of people from different lifestyles and upbringings. And the perspectives my stories have given me of the world help shape my everyday decisions. They provide me with guidance and wisdom, somehow. (Note, I view this wisdom as an external entity, because owning it would hold too much responsibility. A blog for another day.) 

Sometimes when I share selections from my journey, I get too caught up in how they are being received. What does that listener take from it? Is it simply entertainment for them? Or a life lesson? Or perhaps they aren’t really listening? Sometimes, when I’m feeling particularly sensitive, I concern myself with how I may be judged. Does this person think I’m crazy for having taken these risks and put myself in these situations? Do they even believe me? (Some of my stories sound quite outrageous, and all of them put together is hardly even a believable fiction novel.) And there is the odd time, when I’m feeling particularly insecure, I just wonder if I’m talking too much. Are they even interested? Do I sound self-indulgent or narcissistic? 

None of that stops me. I love to share what I’ve learned. What I’ve seen. What I’ve smelt, felt, climbed and crushed! What I grew, what grew in me. What I can’t wait to do again, and what I wish I’d never done (kidding, I have none of those.) And I hope and believe that some people, many in fact, want to hear about it. 

And this, amongst many other reasons, is why I’m choosing to write. Beyond these blog posts. I’m pursuing a new profession. Once again, I’m taking a huge risk. A career of art and passion with no promises of financial stability. (Serving may be the avenue to pay bills for the foreseeable future.) But I believe in me, and apparently many of you do, too.

So now I’m going to tell, and exaggerate, and twist and turn, and re-create, and explore, and tear apart the many different stories of Miranda Landry. I’ll let you know how it goes. Your feedback is always welcome. And any and all support, suggestions and criticism is appreciated and accepted. 

Much Love, 

Miranda Landry - Author and Freelance Writer ;-)

“Don’t only practice your art, but force your way into its secrets, for it and knowledge can raise men to the Divine.” ― Ludwig van Beethoven

Monday, 8 July 2013

Where Growth Begins

Everyone reacts interestingly to criticism. I'm starting to believe the only way to accept criticism well is by attempting to remain fully objective to the circumstance and remaining aware of how your ego is affecting your reaction. But most individuals do not do this. And to be fair, most people (including myself) are poorly rehearsed in giving effective constructive-criticism.

I've been berated a number of times by insecure managers thinking the only way to keep order and a sense of discipline was through stamping authority with harsh tones, patronizing and condescending verbal reproach, and much worse, micromanagement. What these managers fail to compare is how they imagine themselves being perceived, to how they are actually being perceived. (The difference, of course, being a large reduction in respect and overall belief in their professional competence.)

That category of manager is more common than the ones we love, the ones who feel confident in their role, and who gain respect through organization and ability rather than cracking an unnecessary whip. But even the motivational and approachable managers, when giving criticism, will encounter strange and disappointing reactions to their well-intended feedback.

We find many ways of defending our ego and self-esteem when getting dealt a perspective on our behaviour that is vastly different from what we believed about ourselves. 

One, would be the "angry defendant", where rather than spending a moment considering that the critic could have some remnant of truth to their viewpoint, the initial response is to find every justification possible for why the feedback is bogus, or untrue, or that it comes from a place of negativity and bad intentions. It's usually a highly emotional response, and appears to be quite arrogant, but comes from a place of severe insecurity, and a need for emotional healing. Some people, actually, can't handle the truth. This response leaves almost no room for growth and development.

The second would be a less powerful reaction, and might be called the "Canadian defendant", as it is usually started and finished with a million apologies. The individual probably feels genuinely terrible for their poor actions upon which the criticism was based. However, this response is almost as equally as useless as the former, only because simply accepting the outward perspective without considering one's own thoughts on the issue can lead to a lack of understanding in future behaviours. They change out of guilt, not out of knowledge and desire. The critical thinking step of receiving criticism is where the growth begins.

Then I think the "defendant in denial" would be another easily categorized response. Not quite as useless as "angry defendant", only because in order to lie about the behaviour, they are acknowledging at least to themselves, that the incident or behaviour exists. And most likely, if they feel the need to lie about or deny the truth you are putting on them, they already knew it was a problem, and have spent time thinking about it. The acknowledgment and the introspective thought process will eventually lead to a more permanent and genuine form of growth.

There are infinite numbers of reactions. We like to pass blame, ignore the issues, accept and then immediately reject. Some of us pretend (even to ourselves) that we are really digesting the information and then decide it's inapplicable.

And then, there are ones who can put their ego aside, for just a moment, take a deep breath, consider what is true about the new information provided, and digest the rest. 

To analyze and be honest with oneself - in deciding if the criticism comes from a caring place and with the intentions to improve and grow your character, and determine if it is valid and actionable, and then attempt develop one's own path of development - is exceedingly difficult to do. 

"To avoid criticism, do nothing, say nothing, and be nothing." - Elbert Hubbard

Wednesday, 26 June 2013

At The Corner of Lost &... What?

I don’t think you were meant to come here. It was a mistake.
Kind of like the last mistake you made (you know the one I’m talking about.)

However, just because this is a mistake, doesn't mean it was not meant to be.
And just because something is meant to be, doesn't mean it is a good thing.

I've lost you already, haven’t I?
Then again, that would be the only thing to make sense at this point – because I’m a bit lost as well.

And, bloody hell, am I ever tired of being lost.

You see, I spent a lot of time in my youth well directed (that is the best way of describing it.) In “knowing” that an adult’s advice was the correct way to live, all my motivations came from external  sources – the fear of consequences and promise of rewards – rather than an internal desire. After a few short years in adulthood, I discovered adults have no more of an idea about life than I do. (Some adults may, but they are not the ones I am referencing here.)

Then came a lull. A period of apathy. Some may have perceived it as laziness. At times it felt like depression. But regardless of your perspective on my behaviour, I've discovered where it came from: vast nothingness.

This article isn't getting any clearer, is it?

From what I can tell, I stripped myself of all pretentious, disingenuous actions that were brought about through social pressures and standards. In not wanting to risk my ego’s involvement in the decisions I was making, I became unable to distinguish my desires for my life from society’s desires for my life.

Doing this while traveling left me with a lot of… nothing. No goals. No hobbies. No interests.

Those individuals who have been close to me over the last few months have been unfortunate enough to witness my continued irresponsible and unaccountable actions that accompanied  my confusion. (My peers’ seeming lack of empathy only contributed to all the perplexities, so maybe I shouldn't assume they are even aware of my journey down Lost Avenue.)

But, I made it through all that, and while I sense “Found” is still quite a distance from me, I am now able to invest in my self-set goals… which are motivated by internal desires…  and come with earning and appreciating the journey as much as the potential reward… and they feel genuinely and wholeheartedly suited to me.

Now I pursue my art form – writing. And am learning a new musical instrument (just for fun.) And am making healthy decisions for my mind and my body (because I actually DO respect myself despite my recent arguable actions.)

And with goals, comes responsibilities. And pressure. And then stress. And now fears of failure.

And it is STILL so bloody hard to keep my ego out of it!

All of these current decisions could still be mistakes. But that doesn't mean they aren't meant to happen. And that doesn't mean they are good. Alternatively, it doesn't necessarily make them bad. 

And I still have no idea what I'm even talking about.

In summary, I started at the corner of Lost & Unaware, then ventured to Lost and Confused, and have just arrived at Lost & Terrified.

I sense that Lost & Hopeful is just around the corner. Please let it be around the corner. I have life blisters on the heels of my ego.

"The world today doesn't makes sense, so why should I paint pictures that do" - Pablo Picasso

Tuesday, 28 May 2013

Despite The Broken Endings

I’m often confused by trust. Obviously, everyone has a different perspective. Some people believe that it needs to be earned.  Others behave as though it is quite simply a fragile gift that once broken can never be rebuilt. And some special individuals only pretend to give their trust to others, often convincing themselves that they are capable of the extent of vulnerability necessary.

I think that all sounds cowardly. And unfortunate.

While I fully understand the need to protect oneself, (and perhaps my viewpoint carries a dash of well developed cynicism) I have begun to feel that trust will always be broken, but the knowledge of that should not keep me from investing in it. As simple as it is to be human, we will let each other down. But in order to engage in connection and take risks with each other, to actual feel some level of transparency and in rare cases, intimacy, being able to willingly trust is fundamental.

And  we test it, over and over and over.

My favourite people in this world are the ones who continue to trust - despite the constant broken endings.

I never want to live looking out of a lens that first portrays the worst in those around me. To me, that sounds like a paranoia which can only serve to eat at you day by day until the effort it takes to really give your trust to someone in even the smallest task becomes impossible.

Without an ounce of naivety, I would rather the consequences of pain and misfortune by trusting too many, than miss out on the possibility of connection and whole-hearted living by trusting too few. I refuse to label myself a fool for having the courage and strength to trust again; the only fools are those who cannot see the missed opportunities by avoiding the pain of having it broken.

“Only those who dare, truly live.” – Ruth P. Freedman

Thursday, 16 May 2013

Beautiful Ambiguity

The following is a short exert from a book I've been working on. The topic of it came up in conversation with a close friend of mine the other day and it made me feel brave enough to post it. I suppose it is just a generalized summary of my thoughts on relationships and human connection. I am well aware many people may not agree. Food for thought, I suppose.

"The inspiration for these stories doesn't come from wanting to share the lessons I've learned about men, or even advice about relationships. I think I'll always be hopeless. Not to be confused with a hopeless romantic; Daddy issues prevail and cynicism develops after enough tough love. But, despite the struggles and hurt I continuously allow myself to walk into, I always deem the experience worthwhile. The connections, the new emotions, the raw energy of fresh infatuation - and in some cases, love - can still be cherished and enjoyed beyond the resulting heartbreak. 

I think that's why I have not failed. (To some, my lack of permanent companionship may in itself be a failure. I think this is a judgement reserved for another's life.) No, I have not failed. I would not say I've succeeded either, but in my view, love and vulnerability is not something you can quantify to pass or fail. It is simply, what it is. To be experienced; to be appreciated; to confuse you; to amaze you; to silence you and to awaken you. It's not meant to affect everyone in the same way. 

A "goal" for love is like saying poetry has a quantifiable science in which it can be dissected and calculated. We can and do try to make our poems, our love, black and white equations, but the intentional meaning only ever belongs to the owner(s). And even then the author can find the meaning ambiguous to themselves: no one can ever define their poem... or their love. Maybe that's why over centuries poems still remain the best possible form to express love. Both ambiguous. Both beautiful."

Thursday, 25 April 2013

The Meaning of Life: Screw Stability


I really do not want to write about the age-old search for meaning in life, but it has been on my mind a lot these days. Not because I’m distraught about it, or feel the need to figure it out or find an answer, but because at the moment, the daily tasks that take up my time seem almost… shallow… and pointless. And, being the over-analytical, introspective young woman I am, I can’t help but wonder if there is really a point to any of it. Is it all just about the experience?

One of the many lovely aspects of traveling and working overseas is that you are able to dismiss any social pressure regarding the life you live. No one ever says anything bad about choosing to travel. And you can always justify your irresponsible actions by telling yourself that once you get home you can address all the mistakes you made, thus pretending your traveling lifestyle is essentially pressing pause on the life you have back home. This isn’t truth, yet I still haven’t kicked this mindset. Now that I am home, I feel I need to start being wholly responsible and addressing the goals and social expectations that I think I should meet in my life. But I don’t want to…

I don’t agree with most of these standards and goals that I let society inflict on me. I’m speaking of the desire to hold status, to be wealthy, to be stable, to respect the unwritten hierarchy, to use actions to create an outcome rather than let your genuine actions develop a natural outcome (thus, my Without Plan Without Fail motto). However, those are all topics for another blog. To be honest, I don’t agree with many of the North American social behaviours that I must abide by to participate in our culture. I think this officially makes me a misfit in my own home.

Therefore, all this recent talk (a.k.a., rambling bullshit) about what my current goals are in life regarding getting a career job, my own apartment and a dog feels quite shallow - because it isn’t really what I want to be doing. I’m interested in it all, but I essentially feel like I have just brainstormed a list of experiences I want to have that somehow compromises with our social/ cultural standards on how one should live their life just so I can justify my actions despite their lack of meaning. And then I realized that these things were essentially my way of not hating life while I kill time until I die… slightly depressing, no?

Being an individual who doesn’t have one particular passion that I want to devote my life to, or a massive goal that I really want to achieve in life, makes it difficult to decide what to do with myself. I’m interested in everything; I want to try everything; I want to experience as much as I can; I want to have as many different connections with people and places and things as I can during my short time on this planet. And I want to create good and peace in as many little ways possible. And if all those things combined is what motivates me to get out of bed everyday and puts a smile on my face, than I should be able to find meaning in almost any lifestyle I’m facing. And if that is truth, than I say, “screw stability!” My passions are taking me on a wild goose chase around the globe. Again. 

Tuesday, 16 April 2013

Simply Un-Identifiable

I’ve obviously taken another short hiatus from blog posting. While I blame the technical difficulties of having left my computer at my mother’s house, the truth stands that if I really wanted to, I’d still be writing them. This is apparently not the case.

I was well aware that the first three months moving back to Vancouver would be difficult. Financially, I’m rebuilding everything: an obvious challenge that I was confident in overcoming. The social aspect of rebuilding - and creating anew – friendships that are missing from a city I want to call home is hardly even a challenge for an outgoing lady such as myself. But still, loneliness after a break-up and not really having a comfortable shoulder to cry on beat me up a bit more than I expected.

Moreover, there has been one heavy, constant emotional challenge (after such an extended time away in different contexts) that has made adjusting to life in VanCity much more difficult than expected. This “difficulty” has convinced me that google-ing one-way flights to new countries at 2am is completely appropriate. And it keeps me from hanging pictures on the walls of my bedroom. And truly unfortunately, has kept me from allowing deep connections with the people whom I choose to spend my time with. And while this list appears to confirm commitment issues, I assure you that is not my problem.

The issue? Identity.

The first issue of identity is that for the last segment of my life I’ve connected with and accepted the traveler in me. It was not only how I viewed myself, but also how I perceived others viewing me. I had become a random mishmash of cultures and it was appropriate with the number of lifestyles I participated in while living overseas. It is hardly a label I place on my forehead, but for the purpose of answering “Who am I?” the answer “A traveler,” was always in reach. This is much the same as when I was a child and would answer “a dancer” or “a ballerina.” Later it became “student.” Shortly after that, my healthy and sporty lifestyle pulled me into an athletic mindset. Then, traveler.

After three and a half months back in Vancouver, my life is slowly piecing together. I have a job (albeit, not what I love to do, but it pays my bills and I love the people I see at work everyday, so I am forever grateful for the opportunity it provides.) I have a house to come home to (again, despite it’s rough appearance, it is filled with interesting, kind souls and a lot of hugs and laughs.) I’ve sorted out any financial woes, and have made enough friends to last a lifetime. It is all coming together, right? Right. But…

The second issue: I’m not a “traveler” anymore. I was a traveler. I was a ballerina. I was a student. I was a health freak. Now, I’m a waitress? A social butterfly? A too-frequent party-goer? I’m making this sound very cut and paste, like somehow I’m looking for something to call myself, but I assure you that is not the case. I’m not looking for a category to put myself into, nor have I ever. But I believe your surroundings and context and actions create you. And right now, my surroundings, context and actions don’t create a person I’m proud of. I’m not disappointing myself, but I know this is not how I want to develop my new identity in a place I’m building a home.

The third issue: being back in a city where I knew myself so well in one context, I naturally want to associate my identity with that old Miranda. But it just doesn’t fit anymore. That was before Africa and Cruise Ships and Islands in Australia and holidays in the Philippines. That was before engagements, and before Typhoid fever. That Miranda can’t exist anymore. I can’t be that naïve anymore.

I have no conclusion to this blog. There has been no ah-ha moment. And reality is, I know I’m not the only person to struggle in creating a new identity. I’m sure this is hard for new-mothers who don’t want to categorize themselves simply as “a Mom.” And I’m sure it’s just one symptom of reverse culture shock that many before me have gone through. And I’m sure that I’m just over-analyzing the #@% out of this because that’s what I like to do with my time.

Regardless, now I see that jumping on a one-way flight is simply my way of avoiding the search for myself here and is just chasing the old me (which now holds very little meaning.)

So, I guess I’ll stay a little longer and try a little harder. I’m quite interested to see how this all plays out. However, I make no promises. Dubai, Ireland, Myanmar and Japan are still whispering "Come visit" in my ear...