Barriers

I have perhaps been prone to self sabotage. I am the kid who grew to competency in a sport and then gave it up. Over, and over, and over again. Not because it was too hard – because I’d solved it and was done. I dabble in things and then drop them – I have often complained of being a generalist to the point of knowing “nothing about everything” as the saying goes. In many ways, I like it that way. My general knowledge on a wide range of topics means that I can join in conversations with an equally wide range of people. Dabbling in lots of crafts and activities is handy when an unexpected problem comes up and I can use random scraps of knowledge to come up with a solution. I have always joked with my sister that she’s an artist and I’m a lowly artisan. I can make nice, useful stuff. She creates exquisite beauty that inspires. But really, seriously, maybe I have been self sabotaging. As I work through all kinds of interesting childhood trauma, I question some of these choices I’ve made. Some of these things I believe about myself, my uses, my skills, my talents*. I think about the fact that I might have been concerned about moving beyond competency and into expertise – the physiological response I get from just typing this suggests it’s true. I feel my stomach churn and my breath catch in my throat. My eyes are watering** and I want to slam the laptop shut and walk away.*** My body knows things my brain would rather forget.

The ages my children are now were so hard for me. Home was not quite the haven it could have been and school was an actual torture. I hated it. The buildings, the boredom, the bells, the bullying, belittling, constant judging and jeering. I was friendless and frightened, frazzled by fluorescent bulbs, got good grades, but had trouble with tidiness and typing. Already I felt that academic success had little use in the real world – while also feeling it was the only thing I was naturally adept at. I used quietness as a shield, and immersing myself in reading. If I could just get people to ignore me I couldn’t get in trouble… As I got older I slipped into a louder, sillier persona. If people were going to laugh at me anyhow, it would at least be on my own terms. It worked to a point. I could save face in public, but felt shattered inside. One day, when I was being particularly over the top, a friend**** asked why I was acting like that and I stopped, rather abruptly. I’d been found out. I was fortunate enough to find “my people” for the first time shortly after that and Kyle, was one of those. He called me out all the time for my masking – especially my “ditsy phase”. (It apparently affronted him personally, as my boyfriend, that I pretended to be stupid. Fair enough.) I became more confident and less inhibited around my friends, started to think that there might be some trustworthy humans out there.

In spite of distinct progress, I do still have a deep fear of being judged, of people thinking my head won’t fit through doorways or that I’m making everything about me all the time (turns out when you grow up with a narcissist, you get accused of being one, and it messes with your head, deeply.) Besides that, having been on the receiving end of enormous amounts of unsolicited advice, I am hesitant to advise. The irony of course, is that I am now focusing a lot of my energy on becoming a resource person for my community. An adviser, a facilitator, someone who carries authority, so often represented as a big stick – but not one to beat down; a walking stick maybe, supporting people on a journey; or a stake, sharing the load of a fragile stem; or even simply a signpost, a lamp, leading the way.

So what stops me from writing, from putting myself and my thoughts out there. That deep lurching feeling in the pit of my stomach as I give the Publish button the side eye. The way my ears ring when I think about organising a new group. The dry taste in my mouth when I think “what if [those people in my past that made my life miserable] read this and expose me as a fraud?” or perhaps worse”what if [those people who tried to help] read this, feel inadequate, and project that on me?”. That last one stings the most. I’ve been complimented so often on how “together” I am, that I feel a responsibility to keep up that image. I know I’m a hot mess sometimes, but I’ve spent a lot of time thinking I was responsible for people’s feelings about me. I admire people who can be vulnerable in public spaces and don’t seem to feel like they will be bringing shame on their community or loved ones for admitting to less than perfection. I need to be allowed to admit that struggle brings growth. Fear stunts growth and I’m done living in fear. I’m doing well enough for me.

Love,
Belligerence&Chocolate.

______________________________________________________

* here I want to add “or lack thereof”, in my usual self deprecating way. I choose not to.
**though that might actually just be the onions I chopped… the rest stands.
***I don’t, mainly because this is a desktop and it doesn’t slam shut with any degree of satisfaction.
**** a boy, who I had a crush on.

Growing light

This week was the equinox. I love this time of change* with all the lovely flowers springing up, the rabbits running about, the little lambs, the birds nesting. It’s absolutely delightful. It’s also a bit bittersweet as an expat Canadian. I miss the patchy leftover snow, the sound of March with water running constantly everywhere from the melting snow, the smell of maple sap boiling, the taste of “la tire d’érable” sticky and sweet rolled on a twig, the feel of the sun on my bare arms and of the gritty chunks of old icy snow in my hands and of swirly slushy snow around my boots. I also miss Canada around the other equinox, when the Ottawa Valley explodes into colour as the trees lose their chlorophyll but keep their leaves for a few glorious weeks, when the produce is abundant and delicious and we just gorge on the last of the peaches and the first of the apples and all the corn and cranberries we can cope with.

Algonquin Park, March 2013

One of my dearest friends has her birthday today. She’s a really cool human and one of the cleverest and bravest people I know, and if she’s reading this she’s probably either laughing in that adorable way she does when people compliment her or protesting that she’s not all that**. I think about her a lot these days, because she’s an expat too, from a beautiful land, also full of the amazing colours of nature and spectacular tasty local desserts and fruits – though less snow than mine. She celebrated the new year – starting as Europe did for many centuries, with the start of spring*** exactly to the second, because her people have a bit of a knack for astronomy it turns out. When I sat down to wish her a happy new year though, the words died on my fingertips. How could I say that, make that wish, when everything seems to be so bleak. It felt very much like what we call “Wishful Thinking” as dripping with irony as when “hope” was left in the bottom of Pandora’s box in the Greek myth.

In a few days we’ll be observing “Tolkien Reading Day” on March the 25th – in Christian lore the date both of the conception and (34 years later) of the crucifixion of Jesus – in Tolkien lore, the day the One Ring was destroyed and Sauron defeated. The Professor coined the term eucatastrophe – the antithesis of a catastrophe, the moment where, with everything seeming bleak and hopeless, all is made well, beyond hope. Frodo and Sam, Aragorn and the captains of the West, continue their fight, not because they truly believe they can win, but simply because they can’t think of any other course that wouldn’t compromise their most deeply held beliefs. They are completely awed when they succeed. The other thing of course, that happens on March the 25th, in Tolkien’s work, is the birth of a little girl, two years after the fall of Sauron. It is a smaller, cuter, eucatastrophe… but a eucatastrophe all the same, and her friends and family stood in awe there too.

Perhaps then, feasts are our way to express our uncompromising awe and wonder at the world around us. Belief beyond hope in some good, some deeply buried potential eucatastrophe. Because we know that in spite of their unlikeliness, there are in fact, fresh wonders every morning. Here’s to the growing of the light, the rising of the sun, and to women, life, freedom.

Love,
Belligerence&Chocolate

__________
*But not the time change…
** she is.
*** altogether a more sensible start point.

Weathering/Feathering

Hello again Internet. It’s been fun hanging around in some of the social public places, but there’s really nothing like kicking around in your own little corner, right?

Half the crocus patch seems to have perished due to the weirdness of that last few days, but the pearly blue ones are alright (and those are my favourites), and the snow’s all melted now, so that means it’s spring.* After several years of taking wild stabs at growing vegetables in the garden, I’ve decided to give flowers a go instead. The stakes are a bit lower, most of them are edible too, and well, they just make me happy – and that counts for a lot. Besides, we’ve been helping out at the community garden and are getting a much better veg growing experience there than in the shady, sloped garden I’m staring out at as I type.

Now, don’t get me wrong. The view is actually pretty decent – in the little corner behind the garden and between the houses I can see alpacas grazing and lots of lovely trees I like to walk to. The main issue is that I don’t know how long it will be mine to view. It’s been a hell of a ride since this blog started** personally and globally, physically, emotionally and spiritually. There have been storms. Lots of ’em. It’s mostly been really tough. I’m exhausted. I want some stability. But! (there’s always a but… and there’s often an and!) I have learned so much. I’ve been finding safe people and spaces and acknowledging how much I lacked those at other times in my life. I’ve been deschooling myself and learning new ways of teaching. I have taken on less and seen others around me take initiative. I am trusting others and trusting myself.

I have always tried to come across as someone who really has things together – I might still, I’m not sure. I care a lot less what people think these days. I had some plans for things I was going to do in my 30s. My bestie and I were going to start a school. We don’t even live on the same continent anymore, but she’s a college prof and I home ed my brood, plans change and evolve even when you have them. I like plans, and I like planning. I love organising trips and events, all the minutiae of it. It’s fun, an optimisation problem for my overexcitable brain. Let me tell you though, SO MANY of my plans have gone wrong or failed altogether in the last 3 years, that I am hesitant to even begin planning anything. It might be a lesson I need to learn. I’ve gotten better at weathering the storms, resilient, standing firm, but maybe I need to take it a step further (or is it a step back?) and let myself soften, be carried, embraced by the chaotic flow of it all. My favourite medieval home girl had this figured out….

The feather flew, not because of anything in itself but because the air bore it along. Thus am I, a feather on the breath of God’.

Hildegard von Bingen

Love,
Belligerence&Chocolate

______________

*Never mind that the snow fell two days ago and it’s all we’ve had in two years.
** Gorse bushes still surprise me, and now there are several nearby. They’re flowering at the minute too, which is the best. Did you know that people used to hang their sheets on them to dry? The spikes would stop them flying away in the breeze and they would smell amazing. My local gorse is a wee bit far to try that though.

This ain’t it.

There’s a hole in my heart,
And I’m falling apart,
But I live in chaotic bliss.

The songs are parodies,
Of Christmas melodies,
A toddler taking the piss.

While outside and in a tempest raged,
There’s a play in the front room, being staged,
In which fairies with cut out cardboard wings,
Share the spotlight with long-ago Narnian Kings.

The wind blows right through us on top the hill,
I’m writing no sonnets here, sorry Bill.
And while words still come out of me
And sun still feels warm to me…

I try to remember what I know.
This too shall pass. You know, in a bit
But in the meanwhile darling. this ain’t it.

_________
I wrote a stupid poem for y’all.
But seriously, Petit Papa Noël x Super Mario Bros Wii makes for weird songs.

Love,
Belligerence&Chocolate
___

P.S. Petit Papa Mario/ Quand tu descendra du ciel/ N’oublie pas des Koopas par milliers/ Mais avant de partir/ Il faudra ma petite fleur de feu! – Chinook, age 3




Blurryface Sniper Hyperbole

Basically, if you’re not listening to Twenty One Pilots and USS, what are you even doing with your life?

Honestly, even I am sometimes amused by my music selections. My childhood soundtrack was folk music and classic rock with a splash of Saturday afternoon at the Opera and weekend morning jazz. My Mom played guitar and my Dad took me to the symphony. I took piano lessons for a decade and Bach, Beethoven, Bartók et al. are old frenemies. As a teenager I sang in the church choir (namely with this cool cat ) and fell hard for punk and indie rock (sharing headphones with boys on the bus, at swim meets and in the halls is pretty much a defining feature of my high school days). I lifeguarded with a DJ who got positively giddy about dubstep and a bunch of girls who switched back the radio to Top40 hits as soon as he went back on rotation. Went to some really fun indie/rock shows in my/Kyle’s Uni days – but that’s also the time where I got into medieval (religious and secular) music. I’ve always had friends who were in bands, and always felt terribly inadequate in my musical skills as a result (with no jealousy to be honest, just admiration and delight in getting to hang out with them). I miss record stores being a thing, because Kyle and I used to go there to hang out and talk to people about new records. We’ve found a work around though and now have a delightful new Spotify playlist called “Doesn’t Suck” – I think we must be getting old, because we find most of the new music does. Thankfully there’s more old music than we can listen to in a lifetime. So here’s a list of weird eclectic stuff to check out.

Stromae – Belgian rapper, social themes, brilliant word play
USS – my darlings, super eclectic electronic folk punk with lasers and cutouts and smoothies
Strada – Mediterranean medieval masters, check out the Christmas albums as an intro
Twenty One Pilots – I wish I didn’t have to rhyme everytime I sang. (But they’re so good at it though)
Billy Talent – Canadian Punk, more niche than I realise now that I live abroad
MotherMother – more CanCon, Quadra Island weirdos let loose on the world
Mahler – Kind of a jerk, but darn he wrote some great stuff
The Ting Tings – Girly, in your face, unignorable
Chopin (by Jan Lisiecki) – saw him live before he was a big deal *classical indie cred is a thing right?*
Helmut Fritz – here for the funnies.
Alexandre Astier – directs movies so he can write the soundtracks. True story.

Anyway, Mistral’s got a birthday tomorrow so I should make brownies!

Dadedada, dada, dadedada We have problems!
Love,
Belligerence&Chocolate

Old school blogging in the age of influencers

I think what’s stopping me from posting here as much as I feel like I’d like to, is primarily a sort of social media pressure. It sounds so tacky to even say that, but it’s really true. I have this blog, I love the name and ridiculous latin tag line. I love writing and am really craving that release, it’s cathartic and creative for me, more than anything else I do, and yet, I hesitate to post. Why? Because I don’t have a “brand”, because this place is all over the place. This place, incidentally, means my brainspace as much as my blog, my hobbies as much as my atelier, my plans as much as my planner, it’s all all over the place. Perhaps I need to strive for the authenticity the influencers claim (but how much of it do they deliver?) and just accept, and lay out for the world, the random, ecclectic, eccentric space I inhabit. Perhaps it won’t help me sell the cute clothes I make, or get followers on instagram, or whatever else it can maybe do for others, but it can at least free up some space in my brain, let me reach out into the vastness of the interwebs and make a connection or two. And if not, maybe at least I can get my ideas in order and feel saner for that.

It’s been a theme in my life that I haven’t had very defined goals – a gifted (slight) underachiever with way more ideas for projects than time to complete them, a 5w4 with way more plans than energy to put into them, it’s been a sort of defence mechanism. I have so many things going on that eventually some of them get completed and I can let people think that they’re things I set out to achieve, but like when I used to pull off an A on a project I’d done over lunch before handing it in in the afternoon because I’d completely forgotten its existence until then, it’s much more accurate to say that they’re just hings that happened to get done at that time. I appear self-driven because I like working on things on my own – but mostly I just like to experiment and am happy to share what comes of it if it’s not a complete disaster (spoiler: it rarely is in the kitchen, but the rest of it is less certain). As I get older, I’m more aware of my nerodivergence. I had a beautiful bubble of similar minded friends through high school and university (including Kyle’s years in grad school) that sheltered me and let me be odd without seeming so (primary school was not great, but I try not to think about it too much, and then I had my delightfully odd siblings anyway). As I spend more time in the “real world” and on social media it’s becoming apparent that goal settings and having a clear purpose for doing things is more common than haphazard experimentation. I’ve tried a few times to write out goals for this blog, for my shop, sensible things to do, but they just don’t work. I just don’t know, and honestly… I kind of like it that way.

Of course, part of me longs for stability – a decade of blissfully playing “follow the funding” across Canada and Western Europe being gatecrashed by forced immobility for two years has shifted priorities a bit, as have some illnesses, deaths and births in the family in the same period. Really though, what I’d like is just enough stability to relax in – like the way a poem needs to have a meter to fully expand into. Absolute creative freedom leads to uncertainty, form contains and channels creation into something transcendant. I think that’s what I’m looking for as I poke around the darker corners of my memories, as I try to sort out how this gorgeous brain of mine is wired together. I’m not looking for a goal or a game plan, for a list of objectives or best practices, I don’t want tips to grow my business if they’ll crush my soul, I don’t need to know in advance what my end will be – but I need to find a form, a poem to contain… me.

no ads, no sponsors, just thoughts.

Love,
Belligerence&Chocolate

Socialising again…

It’s weird folks, we’re getting social again. Like people in houses, groups outside, sharing food. SHARING FOOD. My favourite thing. My charism. My life’s work. I’ve missed it so much, and today I got to get back to it, and get my small humans in on it. We participated in a local Bake Off for the village harvest fête. We had friends over for dinner. It was great, it was exciting, it was exhausting.

Seriously though, I’m grateful for the days of prep-for-an-event-baking, the good-but-exhausting social days and the quiet-because-we-overdid-it recovery days*. They’ve always been our family rhythm before, and I’m glad that I remember how that goes. A house full of mostly introverted humans who nonetheless love their friends and love to party isn’t the most straightforward boat to steer, but it’s the one we’re in and we’re happy it’s sailing again.

Now when do we get to go back to the panic-pack-for-a-trip-tomorrow days, followed by the all-day-on-trains days and the walked-who-knows-how-many-miles-around-a-new-city days? Because I miss those too.

Love,
Belligerence&Chocolate

*This will be tomorrow. We will hide at home and maybe go to a playground during school hours. Maybe just watch Fantasia 2000. Hopefully sleep in past 7am.

The hope in bright pink elbow pads

I will admit to having been dismissive of the Olympics (and other major sports competitions) in recent years. If you know me irl you may even have heard me say that these displays of nationalism and machismo had reached their expiration date. Honestly, a large part of me still feels that way. The humility and brilliance of a Southgate doesn’t quite match up to the disgusting behaviour of countless “fans” thrashing Wembley and spewing racist nonsense online.

That said, Sirrocco went to football camp, mostly because he was enthralled with watching England (and sheltered from the attendant news stories) and loved it. And tonight, I passed by the kitchen window to see a man zip past on a skateboard, his tween daughter shouting at him to give her back her board. He did, and held her hand and showed her how to get herself moving. She fell, she laughed, she got back up, dusted off her bright pink elbow pads and tried again.

And that, that might just make it worth it.

Love,
Belligerence&Chocolate.

p.s. If you haven’t watched the Women’s skateboarding, do it. It’s the most wholesome, encouraging, hopeful thing on the telly these days.

Happy Easter!

Lent has been very lent-y again this year, hasn’t it. But here we are, Easter Monday, and we woke up to snow and daffodils. It’s a good image really. Hope springs eternal, and Spring brings hope, over and again each year. They look a bit sad in this picture, but they were just keeping their heads down, protecting themselves from a harsh night, and when the sun hit them later in the morning, the snow melted and they lifted their heads right up, sunny flowers on a sunny day. I’m feeling like life has been throwing quite a bit of unexpected spring snow, so doing my best to cherish and shine on those sunny days where it all melts – knowing that both of these are phases, that it can’t be sunny all the time, and that I’ll make it through the snow storms, the winter, the bad day, and shine.

Love,
Belligerence&Chocolate.