Veronique Darwin

Archive for October, 2012|Monthly archive page

Changing a Morning Routine

In Inspiration on October 29, 2012 at 10:03 pm

Mornings are difficult because they are so hard to adjust to. You just got to leave the world for five to twelve hours and now you have to go back into it. That is incomparable to most other things. Most things in life aren’t thrown at you after long periods of unconsciousness. Mornings are.

I’ve never been able to change my morning routine. These are the things I would like to do in the morning:

1. Exercise.

2. Eat something healthier than cereal.

3. Write down my dreams

4. Have a coffee at home

5. Watch the news

Thinking about even one of these things in the first few minutes after waking up immediately takes them off the list. I never get any of these things done. I don’t think I’ve ever gotten one of these things done without my now remembering that day as a glory moment. It’s easier not to exercise, it’s easier to eat cereal, it’s easier to forget my dreams, it’s easier to buy good coffee elsewhere and it’s easier to forget about the rest of the world. So every morning, the first thing I do is break a promise to myself.

I’ve given up trying, of course, to do any of these things, because I know the person who is going to wake up tomorrow morning and it’s not going to be the same person who lined up her running shoes the night before. The morning person hates that person. The other morning I tossed a coin to decide whether I was allowed to eat cereal. Shocker: I was.

Now, I do hear great things from other people. Someone told me they get up at 4 a.m. and stay in bed with a coffee marking papers before going for a run at 7 with their dogs. Okay, yes, that sounds wonderful in principle. Countless people in Vancouver exercise in the morning. I bet even in Paris people go to coffee shops in the morning. Lots of people go to work early so they can get off early. People even do the crossword in the morning! Why does this all sound so great right now, but so terrible, so incredibly terrible in the morning?

There has only been one time in my life that I had a plane ticket booked to Paris. I remember when my alarm clock rang. I didn’t even want to go anymore.

I think maybe we’re nocturnal? I don’t get it!

Because I’ve lately been quoting Thoreau, I’d like to share what he has to say about mornings:

Every morning was a cheerful invitation to make my life of equal simplicity, and I may say innocence, with Nature herself.”

I have never woken up and thought that! Do we all need to build our own cabins on the edges of lakes?

(photo from “Andy the Fly Guy”)

And then, All memorable events, I should say, transpire in the morning time and in a morning atmosphere.”

I will end here with that quote, because if all important things in life happen in the morning and in a morning atmosphere, then I am doomed to approach each supposed milestone in my life with the greatest distaste and lethargy. But maybe what Thoreau is saying is that this list I just made up of 5 things I wish I could do in the morning time are actually the most important things. I might be able to see how that makes sense.

Maybe if I were to take the time to change myself in the morning, to not keep waking up a bad person, maybe that’s the most important thing. Because if I could change myself in the morning, then I could change myself for at least the other sixteen hours I am awake, before I fall back unconscious and reset myself for the following horrible morning.

Good luck, me tomorrow morning!

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Started Two Books at Night

In Thoughts on Writing on October 26, 2012 at 12:12 am

This is a bad idea, starting two books at night. Like learning two languages at the same time (and then falling asleep). I remember I always got Swedish and Spanish confused when I was learning them. Now, if I try to recall verbs from either language, I just remember neutrally accented nonsensical words. Larare, cantare.

Well, last night I started one French book, at the moment about a girl sleeping with a boss to get a job (Truismes by Marie Darieussecq) and another about a boy or man driving out of Ontario and looking at landscapes (No Great Mischief by Alistair MacLeod). I read ten pages of each book right before bedtime. That was what I remember.

I teach a Study Skills workshop where I try to teach high school students how to try to study better. I preface each workshop by a sharing circle: what do each of us need to work on? I tell everyone I can’t remember textbook chapters after I read them; classes after I attend them; movies after I watch them. Most sad is that I can’t remember books after I read them. Only sad because I want to write books, books others will remember.

So anyways I started two books last night, because that’s what I do, I read even though I don’t remember. I read to read books. For example, I was without something to do for five minutes tonight (I was warned ahead of time I would need to wait five minutes). Like the predictable patient of some psychology experiment, I began to panic. Five minutes? My life was laid out for me, and I hadn’t come prepared. There were two books I had already started at home, on my night table. There was a pile of work I could be doing on my bed, a short story to edit on my computer. Oh yeah, I am writing a novel I don’t have time for and I have to sit here for five minutes?

This is ridiculous, this intensity I have for reading. I know we think kids are obsessed with texting and video games and we think that’s bad, but what about when kids just read all the time? Was that so much more acceptable? I don’t think it’s okay that in my memory I was reading The Witches at my sister’s high school commencement ceremony. Granted, I was in fifth grade, but I don’t remember her walking across the stage (sorry, I don’t remember a lot of things) and I do remember that moment in Roald Dahl‘s The Witches where the main character (maybe it was a mouse?) was looking in at a conference where all these women (witches) took off their wigs.

I don’t know if that showed I had a good memory of books or not.

My point being reading and why we do it. Writing and why we do it. At a certain point I won’t remember whether I read a book at all, let alone what it was about. So why do I waste time doing it feverishly? Why do I try and start two books at once? Why do I panic if I’m not reading?

And more than that – why am I trying to write another book whose plot no one will really be able to explain? I know you probably won’t even want to read it. Most people I meet are passionate about lived experiences, not books.

I hope the drive I have to understand the world through literature comes from something good inside of me, like a desire to better understand others and to spread empathy and change the world. Really, I think it’s simple. I read somewhere (probably a book) that you shouldn’t write to please everyone. You should write to please people who love books, because those are the people who are going to read them. People like me, who write blog posts about how they started reading two books at once last night.

Late Review #1: Suzuki at VWF

In Literary Events on October 23, 2012 at 1:45 pm

I am a new brand of reviewer, one who reviews late and not very accurately. I went to five events at the Vancouver Writers Fest and would like to review them in backwards chronological order.

On Sunday I saw David Suzuki and Tim Flannery in conversation with Linden MacIntyre at the Stanley Alliance Theatre. I took notes, though it just looked like I didn’t know anything about the environment, which was true. I’d like to share a variety of things that were said.

David Suzuki has written over fifty books! (I mean, that’s probably not true). I felt relief that I wasn’t obliged to buy this newest one. It seemed silly when someone walked by with one.

Tim Flannery was here from Australia. It was announced that he arrived here on Air Canada. He is a scientist, an explorer, a teacher, a journalist, as well as chief of the climate commission in Australia.

Linden MacIntyre is a writer I feel I should know. I listened to a portion of an interview with him on CBC about his new book Why Men Lie. It was about that.

Linden MacIntyre opened the night by saying that every individual is constantly making choices all the time. I thought that contextualized the night nicely, and I felt really proud that I had made a choice to come here and change the world.

Tim Flannery (I just feel more comfortable calling people by their full names, as though they are dolls) added that acting collectively is the great human genius and the great human choice.

Yes, added Linden MacIntyre who understood this: there is great tension between citizenship and consumerism. I wrote this down. Totally! I thought. I underlined.

At several points in the night David Suzuki ramped up the conversation into a fighting frenzy. This got people clapping in agreement after mostly every line. One of these was about how scientists who are saying it’s too late to save the world should shut up. I felt relieved when David Suzuki used the word shit a lot (I feel I say shitty a lot).

All three people on stage on Sunday kept telling me to get involved in the democratic process. By the end of the night I was sweating. I feel like it’s too late for me to start understanding about politics. Because of this, I never attempt to talk about politics, and so fall further and further down some hole I feel represents my lack of knowledge about politics. I turned on the Presidential debate for four minutes last night and tried to do homework at the same time. I turned it off and actually felt proud of myself for watching.

(from Jeff Edwards website)

This night was inspiring the way that gloom and doom with a spot of light in it is inspiring. It was inspiring to be sitting amongst people who knew a lot more than me and wanted to do something with it. It felt inspiring that maybe after I attend this type of thing a certain number of times it will start to make sense to me. It also felt inspiring that I am becoming an elementary school teacher and I can go back and help children find out about important things and eventually make important changes.

A friend of mine who is in my elementary school teaching program walked up to a microphone and asked a question: what change do you hope to see in the education system? Take the kids outside! intoned David Suzuki. Yes, I thought, scribbling that down. That makes sense to me.

Faking until Making

In Inspiration, Thoughts on Writing on October 17, 2012 at 12:11 am

I know that I feel like I’m faking it every time I stand up to teach something. I can’t possibly know this information well enough to open someone else’s eyes to it. But somehow it always works out. It usually works out. It often works out.

Writing is the same way. I often feel I cheated: this isn’t a real concluding sentence, not a poem, not possibly a novel. When I read something I feel that the writer who wrote it holds infinite wisdom. He or she saw into something in a way I couldn’t and then they showed me how to see it too.

Here’s how I’m dealing with the divide between me and all the wise authors I’m reading:

One thing is that this writer probably wrote a lot of things that didn’t accomplish this in the first place. And the second thing is that the writer probably didn’t set out thinking he or she was going to blow my mind. It just happened because this person walked fast enough through a labyrinth of words and ideas. They knew they had no idea where they were going with what they were writing but they trusted there was a way out. I think that’s how creativity is done.

I ran a corn maze a few weekends ago. I say I ran it because my trio’s plan was to move with speed and intuition through the dark towering corn in the hopes of beating out the other competing teams. There was one moment where our technique was tested. We met face to face with a team when we both knew we were very close to the exit. Either we stick with them on what was a calculated, systematic route, and we risk coming in second. Or we run randomly the other way and risk winning it all. We ran really fast and I think we screamed as we ran. I screamed as I ran.

(from Layman Family Farms)

A lot of false hope goes into the most creative of pursuits. You need to trust that by talking through something like teaching, or writing through something like a novel, or running through something like a corn maze, you will get closer to the soul of the thing (the raw part.) Though the layers you need to pull off to get there may at first seem false, like they’re not a part of you, you need to move past the awkwardness to get to the purpose behind what you’re doing. Trust me. Why else would there be a rhyming expression called fake it until you make it.

So I strive to do this in everything, though it’s awkward and mistake-ridden. I strive to speak as honestly and openly to people as possible. Though sometimes I mess up and tell you everything, at least I get closer to truly communicating . I hope I can do this in teaching elementary school students. I hope I can be a person to them, one who makes mistakes and is exploring. I hope I can use intuition to teach. Because I like to think of teaching, of everything I do, as a creative pursuit. And so I need to keep running through things, like it’s hard to see but there is an end in sight and I’m searching for it.

Why Thoreau Got It Right

In Thoughts on Writing on October 13, 2012 at 5:09 pm

taken from Walden, from the chapter called “Visitors”

“I have three chairs in my house: one for solitude, two for friendship, three for society.”

“Many of our houses, both public and private, with their almost innumerable apartments, their huge halls and their cellars for the storage of wines and other munitions of peace, appear to me extravagantly large for their inhabitants. They are so fast and magnificent that the latter seem to be only vermin which infest them.”

“One inconvenience I sometimes experienced in so small a house, the difficulty of getting to a sufficient distance from my guest when we began to utter the big thoughts in big words. You want room for your thoughts to get sailing trim and run a course before they make their port. … I have found it a singular luxury to talk across the pond to a companion on the opposite side. In my house we were so near that we could not begin to hear, – we could not speak low enough to be heard.”

My Identity

In Inspiration on October 11, 2012 at 5:04 pm

I imagine identity fraud is a lot like alternate universes. Were  someone else in the world to be me at the same time that I am me then that would be, of course, awful, but also somewhat freeing.

It’s like when your garden gnome takes pictures of himself in front of tourist attractions around the world. It’s like, I didn’t know you had the agency to do that! It’s so cute.

(photo from bugbitten.com)

Also, identity theft lets you off the hook for the things you actually do. I mean, you didn’t smuggle drugs. What’s the big deal.

I hope that when someone tries to steal my identity they also make a post on my blog. I would just be interested to see what they write. Go for it.

Too Stressed

In My Writing on October 8, 2012 at 10:12 pm

I spent a year writing a novel and not once did I get stressed, though writing a novel (a part of a novel, a novel-in-works, a novelish thing) is probably the most complex, soul-biting thing I’ve done. Now I’m just busy and somehow that’s worse. It’s worse to know I have to wake up for something tomorrow. It’s worse to know that I had to wake up for something today. It’s worse to be tired all the time. I forgot I used to be tired all the time.

I spend days without thinking of my novel. Then I remember: oh yes, that is what I am doing with my life. This is just what I’m doing with my year, with my 9 to 5 hours. 9 to 5, I’ve come to realize, is an expression because it has a very clear meaning: 9 to 5 is most of your day. If you do something from 9 to 5, anything you do before or after is extra. Your body is done after 5, not ready yet before 9. I feel sad because I committed to someone wholeheartedly this summer that I will write for 90 minutes before school and 90 minutes after. I was told, with a small smile, that even one of those would be great. That would be great, I realize now, even one of those.

(from Google Images)

I will spend more of my day writing (and working on my writing and thinking about my writing). Annie Dillard, inThe Writing Life, calls working on her novel “sitting up with a dying friend.” I’ve left my novel, my lonely dying friend, alone for too long. It needs my warmth. It needs me to write little nuggets of hopeless words and laugh at myself, anxiety-free, because writing is producing bad stuff and then working at it. I might be able to calm the anxiety taken up by time, time, time, if I were to devote some of it to the thing that makes me relax. I need to start biting my soul again instead of eating up time.

A Guest

In Inspiration on October 3, 2012 at 8:13 pm

I’m always trying to learn things like patience and respect. I am consciously aware that a lot of the time I am impatient and disrespectful, so I have made learning these things a conscious priority.

I try and assign a mantra to each day: be respectful, be patient. But what does that mean, really? I record successes and failures in a journal at the end of the day if I remember. The mantra usually comes to surface in one or two situations a day, so I record these. Remembered to be patient in the bus line-up. Sat still instead of getting up while someone was talking to me, for example.

But this morning, somewhere between my cereal and coffee, I had an insight. I don’t know why. I felt impatient, and didn’t want to start my day off that way. It was an insight that had surely been floating around my head for a while, but to which I had paid no attention. It was something I maybe gleaned from yoga, from talks about the environment, from manners. The insight was you are a guest.

I am guest in my own body. I am a guest on this earth. I am a guest in my house and in my room and in my clothes. I am a guest at school and on the bus and in a conversation with my friend. Everybody and everything are always inviting me in, I just need to remember that I’ve been invited.

This mantra took over my other ones today because it encapsulated them all. Whenever I returned to the mantra I had a chance to reevaluate myself. Am I moving with respect? Am I thanking people? Am I allowing others to lead? Am I stepping lightly on my part of the earth? Though the mantra came to me less often than it will tomorrow or the next day as I practice it, it actually helped me in a few moments.

I remembered I was a guest as I moved quickly and clumsily through the world. I slowed down. I watched my arms. I listened to my legs before I moved them.

I remembered I was a guest when I sat in a First Nations Longhouse thing this morning. I listened and reflected on the stories. I introduced myself and shared where I came from.

I remembered I was a guest when I came home to a house that I share and that is being shared with me. I had conversations even though I was hungry.

The mantra also helped me assert myself. I realized I am a guest here, so I must be a good guest, a fun guest. A guest who contributes something. A guest who you would like to invite back.

Thank you for coming as guests to my blog. I am a guest of WordPress, of the blogsophere, of the internet. I move respectfully and patiently through it, though not very patiently.

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