13 Days.

Published / by violet / 3 Comments on 13 Days.

In June, the middle child finished high school. A week later, give or take, he started working – he has no desire to add to his education (at this point, though of course the future is open). He has spent the summer rather aimlessly – not working full-time, coming and going as he pleases, playing video games, and occasionally hanging out with his younger brother.

He is 18, believes himself to be an adult in the truest sense, and has been mostly amenable to the rules of the house – though his only contribution is unloading the dishwasher in the morning (most of the time).  He shows up for some meals, is usually home by his curfew of 11pm (or follow the rule to let us know when he’ll be getting home).  He doesn’t tell us where he is, or what he’s doing, or who he’s with.

Our family rule has always been that you are either in school or you’re working + paying rent  – we’ve said it since the kids were little. So, yesterday we let the middle child know that he’d need to start paying rent as of September 1st. The rent is $300 – and covers his room, food (when he’s home for meals + whatever foods he lets us know he wants from the grocery store each week), laundry washed and dried, internet, water/heat/electric, parking space, use of family stuff (shampoo, playstation, whatever!).

Unbeknownst to him, the money would have been set aside for his future use. We don’t need him to contribute financially, but we do want him to start budgeting and thinking about his spending and his priorities. This is what adulthood looks like in the big picture.

Last night he started packing and declared that he intends to live in his truck for a few months. He thinks he can park it at work, that his boss will be okay with it, and when winter comes he’ll decide what he wants to do next. He noted that he has 13 days in which to make this decision.

It probably goes without saying that I think this is an absolutely ludicrous plan – and maybe that’s just because I highly value my creature comforts. I like my big, soft bed, and my air conditioning and my showers and my clean laundry and my fridge full of food. Perhaps I am soft.

Maybe I should have seen this coming – he did talk about living in his truck before he even bought it. Maybe he considers this an adventure.

Of all the responses to being asked to pay rent, this is not the one that I anticipated. I have made clear to him, I hope, that I think it’s a bad idea – but that he, ultimately, is an adult who needs to decide for himself what will make him happy.  I have made clear to him, I hope, that the goal here isn’t to shove him out of the house, either.

I suppose we’ll see what happens in the next 13 days.

This Started Somewhere & Went Somewhere Else.

Published / by violet / 1 Comment on This Started Somewhere & Went Somewhere Else.

A friend of mine posted, on facebook, a link to a chart that someone had made for themselves that was a “User Manual”. Here’s the link (hopefully it stays around).  Note the various tabs at the bottom. Interestingly, a lot of the advice online related to creating a “user manual of YOU” are related to business, not personal.. but if I decide to create my own manual, I’d likely use some of the info there, too (“what time of day are you most effective” could be applied to work/personal, for example).

I love this idea – in part because if you catch me off-guard and ask me what I need (in order to feel better, to soothe myself, etc.) I pretty much have no idea. I mean, my all-time favourite things to make me feel better are to snug up to my husband (Big Spoon FTW!) and to tell him all my problems (such a lucky man) – but those options are not always available at 3pm on a Tuesday, or whatever.  But even when I’m not having a shitty day or feeling overly sad, sometimes I’m not sure what I need/want.

Many of my personal insights come to me randomly – and then they kind of.. fade away. I’ll hear something that ‘fits’ and I’ll feel good about it and then, a few hours or days later, it’s gone. Hard to hold onto the things that twig in my brain and make sense if I’m not regularly thinking about them.

For example – I have realized in recent years that my favourite kind of reassurance is the kind that makes it okay for me to be wrong, to fail, to choose incorrectly, or to otherwise not be perfect/right.

Ideally, it goes something like this:  [optimistic statement] +  [reassuring statement].

“I think this is a great decision, but if it doesn’t work out it’s totally fine!”

“Okay, you try X and if it doesn’t work, well, then you know X doesn’t work. No big deal.”

I still, like most humans, love when someone says optimistic and cheerful things – “You’ll be great!” or “You’re super good at that, so it’ll be fantastic!” – but when my deeper anxiety kicks in, I really need the reassurance that even if everything crashes and burns, I’ll still be okay and loved and have value.

A big part of my anxiety around making decisions – common to ‘gifted’ kids, I know – comes from how I was raised. If I’m (ostensibly) smart, I should never, ever make mistakes. (Ha.) Even if the mistake only effects me – and no one else – I should be embarrassed to have missed or mis-calculated the potential for my actions to be wrong. Or I should have had a plan in place to mitigate the potential negative outcome. Or I should have done it secretly so no one else would know about my shame.

[This is not something I think much about consciously, but man, when I dig into some of my discomfort about things, it aaaaaaaaall comes down to other people judging me and me coming up short.]

I’ve spent a decent amount of time trying to undo the “perfect or nothing!” attitude – the mental place where, if I can’t be instantly good at something there’s no point in trying – and I was able to shift out of that by intentionally doing things that I knew would have a terribly un-perfect outcome.. and letting myself be okay with it.

That’s easier to do with, say, cross stitch, than it is for something more expensive, public, or with potential long-term ramifications.

When I try to consider taking a risk or being really wrong about something – my immediate thought is, “Oh god, I’m being irresponsible! I’m not taking things seriously enough! I can’t just do X without thinking about all the possibilities for what could go wrong!”

The pick up day for Louise, my new car, has been pushed a bit and I have to wait until Wednesday. This has given me plenty of time to panic about it – despite doing a LOT of research, googling, asking a LOT of people for their thoughts.

There is no question in my head – I really want this car. I’ve wanted this car for a very long time. I already love this car SO MUCH. And yet, here’s what goes on inside my head – especially in the middle of the night:

What if people think I’m being irresponsible for buying this car?

What if people judge me (negatively) for it and think I’m an asshole?

What if this car IS completely impractical and everyone knows that I was wrong to buy it?

What if I get stuck in the snow and have to call someone to tell them I’ll be late (or not coming) because of it and then they think I’m an idiot for buying this car?

What if [fill in specific people’s names here] is upset because I bought this car and can’t do [certain things] for them anymore? And then we can’t be friends?

What if someone vandalizes the car and then people are like, “I told you so”?

..and on and on and on and on and on. During daylight hours, I can mostly roll my eyes – because I’m not an emotional disaster to the same extent during the waking hours. And because I usually as my husband for his perspective – because, on a lot of topics, he’s someone who just doesn’t give a shit.

So when I throw my anxieties at him, Coffee’s response is to shrug, literally.  To tell me I can take his car on certain days if I want to avoid doing outreach in a really distinct car. That he’ll drive it in the winter if needed or, worst-case scenario, we’d scrape up some money to buy a shitty cheap winter car and then re-evaluate in the spring. We could sell the Mustang. It doesn’t matter if everyone else on earth thinks I’m fucking crazy for it, as long as it makes me happy.

And, y’know, maybe I will totally fucking love this car? Which is, really, the reason I’m buying it?

The thing is, everyone else is stupid. Like, really, really stupid. Okay, that’s not kind, but it’s true.

So, maybe I’ll spend some time putting together a “User Manual” for myself. Maybe I’ll do it in a google doc and share it with those closest to me or maybe I’ll put it in a fancy notebook (from my collection of unused fancy notebooks that I’m worried about messing up – ahem) and save it for my own reference.  It doesn’t hurt to have more tools handy. It’s interesting to try to view myself from both the outside and inside at the same time, without judgement, just trying to understand.

No, I didn’t segue in and out of that topic very smoothly, but that’s okay – wabi sabi, baby.  Or, as my friend Abby used to say, wasabi-bobby.

I’m looking forward to Wednesday. Louise. Fuck anyone else’s judgement.

Live.

Published / by violet / 3 Comments on Live.

When I was in my teen years, in the mid-to-late 80s, my friends and I spent a decent amount of time driving around the city nearest to home. Sometimes we had a destination in mind (pool hall! mall! movie theatre!) but sometimes we just meandered around the many one-way streets until we got close to curfew, and then we headed home.

On one particular occasion, with my boyfriend of the time behind the wheel, I caught a glimpse of the most beautiful car that I had ever seen. It looked almost exactly like this:

A 1988 Mustang. If it were possible to swoon while sitting down, I would have swooned all over the place.

That car eventually became an obsession for me – we’d be out driving and spot it (because, come on, how could you miss it??) and we’d just. .. follow it. For as far, and as long, as we possibly could. The good news is that my boyfriend at the time loved that kind of ‘chase’ so didn’t complain.

I never, ever got close enough to find out who owned it or where it lived or any of the details. One day it just stopped being around, I guess, or maybe I moved away?  Whatever – it just dropped out of my life other than sticking firmly in my memory.

But my obsession with Mustangs had just begun. I vowed that one day I would own one, ideally in purple, and ideally that very same 1988 model.

Fast forward many years and I just bought a Mustang. I’m picking it up on Monday night.

It’s not purple and it’s not a 1988. It’s not brand new, either. But it’s a GT and it’s a 5.0 and it’s equally as brightly coloured and visible and over-the-top amazing. I’d follow myself around in it if I was in my teenage years, again. There are photos on facebook and instagram.

We test-drove it on my birthday, earlier this week, and then I spent a lot of time debating whether my lifestyle could handle it. Could I drive RWD in the snow? Was it practical for work? What if we needed to move something big and didn’t have my reliable hatchback? Could I possibly keep my old car AND buy this new one? Is it ridiculous to buy a sports car in general? Am I too old for this?

I angst-ed. I asked strangers. I talked to anyone who might have some insight. I googled. I watched youtube videos. I waffled. I posted on Facebook and asked my friends for their thoughts.

No one said I shouldn’t buy it (which doesn’t mean they weren’t thinking it was a terrible idea) but a lot of people said things like, “Life is short!” and “If you can afford it, do it!”  Those are both philosophies to which I subscribe but sometimes forget to embrace.

One friend said: Buy the shoes, buy the car. Enjoy the life you’ve built.

.. and that struck me pretty hard. I have done a pretty decent job of creating the life that I want – but sometimes I forget to enjoy some of the nicer things about it. I get focused on not taking too many risks. I think too much about practicalities in some ways (and I am wildly frivolous in others – I have NO problem with buying the shoes. Noooo problem.)

Another friend said: As someone who has known that you want a mustang for like, 25 years?! this is very exciting.

(I often say that I am not great at delayed gratification and long-term planning for things, but I think this is perfect evidence that I am actually VERY good at those things.)

Another friend remarked that, now that he’s in his 60s, he doesn’t advise waiting until retirement to drive a sports car. It may be his recent knee replacement surgery talking, but y’know, yeah.

The deciding factors in purchasing were:

  1. My husband repeatedly reassuring me that if it was a terrible purchase for me, we could sell it or he could drive it in the winter, or we’d find some way to fix the problem.  (I sometimes forget that decisions do not have to be permanent, even if the ‘fix’ might cost a bit of money or be inconvenient or whatever – very few things in life can’t be ‘undone’).
  2. I had a work-related meeting at which I discovered someone I know professionally is a self-described ‘gear head’. She gave me unbelievably good information, 100% supported the purchase, kept telling me that I’d LOVE the car, and talked a lot about her own adventures in (way out of my league) fancy car ownership.  She also made me promise that I’ll drive the car and not treat it too gently.
  3. The monthly financing amount is approximately the same as my current car – and the cost to insure it is only $5 more per month. So, y’know, clearly not THAT ridiculous of a purchase. (There are benefits to being a middle-aged married woman, lemme’ tell you.)
  4. I really want a fucking Mustang.

I worried about being highly visible thanks to the paint colour, but, honestly, I’ve never really hidden in my adult life. Most of my online presence is under my real name, I show up in the media frequently enough that it’s a non-event lately, I’ve had pink/purple bright hair.  I’m still a bit concerned about parking it on my driveway (thus letting everyone under the sun know where I live) but, well, not much I can do about that given the issues we have with our garage.  I’ve been joking that my 44th year is the year I give up on subtlety – but I think most of that went out the window a few years ago.

I worried that clients would think I was an asshole for driving a beautiful car. (Not that everyone would agree that it’s beautiful, but you know what I mean). But someone who works in the same field (in a different city) reassured me that the clients who already like me won’t begrudge me a nice car – and that I am not required to live a life of austerity (whether just visibly or literally) because of my work.

It’s not that I don’t believe I’m worthy of this car – it’s more that I can’t quite wrap my head around the idea that I’m about to own it. It’s exciting and bewildering. I’m an adult? An adult who can own a sports car? Huh? I do not need a super practical car? Coffee is super nonchalant about this, which seems preposterous until I remember that this isn’t his long-term dream we’re talking about. (His mid-life crisis was to take up running – I think mine is better.)

Live live live live live. Enjoy the life I’ve built. Buy the car.

And, hey, maybe some teenage version of me will enjoy following me around town like a weirdo.

 

Success.

Published / by violet / Leave a Comment

I do a lot of public speaking to professionals and random ‘average’ people in the community, talking about my clients’ experiences, about drugs, about harm reduction, and about anything and everything related.

Our area is working towards implementing supervised consumption services (“safe injection sites”) so the topic has gotten really contentious and I’m never quite sure what I’m going to encounter when I’m asked to speak. Still, if you invite me I’ll show up.

Generally, I get a lot of positive feedback – people thank me for giving them some facts or info, they tell me they learned something new, and they were happy to have the opportunity to ask questions. I’m proud of this – if I can nudge someone towards empathy or a bit of understanding, I’m making life better for my clients bit by bit. I also really enjoy public speaking, so spending 2 hours talking about my people and having it be well-received keeps me motivated at my job sometimes when things are difficult.

My talks are usually a mix of facts – gathered through our local public health unit – and anecdotal stuff. I put out some numbers, I talk about how it feels to go through withdrawal from opiates, I talk about the facts behind safe injection sites, I talk about poverty and mental health and a lot of other stuff. I generally try to think about what I can say to people to make my clients’ lives easier – like, if you knew THIS about my clients, perhaps you’d be kinder to them or at least not shitty.

I know the facts because I attend an ungodly number of meetings throughout the month. I know the anecdotal stuff because I’ve tried to listen to clients over the years, I have a coworker who has told me about his own experiences (and I am grateful he shares), and through observation, too, while I’m out in the community.  I also read a lot of work-related things in my spare time.

It’s really rare for my clients and other ‘vulnerable’ people to get to hear me speak in a formal way – for a bunch of reasons. Often I’m talking in places that aren’t welcoming to them, they  don’t have transportation to get there, the timing isn’t good, there’s a lack of support for them to show up, and really, I’m not sure how interested they are in hearing about their own lives over a series of 100 bleak powerpoint slides.

But still, I figure it’s my chance to advocate and educate – so when I talk, I try to channel my people – talk about their concerns, about their experiences, about the things they tell me.

Last week I did a presentation at the library and it was open to anyone who wanted to come. It was a small turn out (many of my friends came, which was cool, and my beloved husband got to hear me speak too!)

A few days later, a guy staying at one of the local shelters came up to me at an outreach location and asked to speak with me for a minute. I don’t know him, he’s not a client, but I recognized him from seeing him around from time to time.

He said he had been in the audience at my talk and was really impressed. He thanked me for talking about the complexities of drug use and addiction and treatment (how people don’t ‘fail’ at treatment, treatment options fail people). He thanked me for talking about all of it with a good sense of humour – like how I compared my daily coffee consumption to meth (they’re both stimulants but only one has any real negative values assigned to it). He also said that he learned a lot about what’s happening in our community.

Listen – – that 30 second interaction meant more to me than hearing from any Executive Director or otherwise ‘powerful’ person, of any agency, anywhere, ever. I am really glad that I have so much opportunity to advocate for my people and I totally believe in what I do, but to hear that I’m doing a good job from this person kept me flying high for a solid week. He felt heard by me, and felt like I represented him well, and that’s really all I want out of my job.

New Things.

Published / by violet / Leave a Comment

My friend Jo gave me 4 little tomato plant babies that I’m now growing in the yard. Coffee was kind enough to pick up some giant garbage pails and drilled holes in them for drainage. I put in some stakes and, well, we’ll see what happens.  3 of the 4 plants (I think) are “indeterminate” which I now know means they have the potential to grow to insane heights and produce loads and loads of tomatoes.

While I was visiting my friend Lena, she introduced me to her Aerogarden and, unsurprisingly, there is now an Aerogarden on my kitchen countertop. As of this morning, it is working to germinate some “heritage greens” (lettuce) seeds and I am really quite excited. I decided lettuce was a good choice since, around the time that it’s edible, the tomatoes in the garden will be doing their thing – and I can eat some delicious salads and sandwiches. Once winter rolls around, I’ll switch the indoor garden over to cherry tomatoes, maybe. (Or weed. Apparently Aerogardens are very good for growing weed.)

Last week we were just about to head out for a lunch date when the phone rang – the installers wanted to know if they could come and put our new garage door on. This was unexpected and wonderful timing.  A little over a month ago we had picked it out, we gave them our downpayment, and were told it would be 4-6 weeks before they’d install.  It’s not fancy, it’s not special, but unlike our previous door it is insulated, it locks, I can open it without hurting myself, and it stays open and doesn’t try to knock me out.  Apparently garage doors have improved since the 1960s. Who knew.

I picked up a dash cam for my car and, this afternoon, spent some time running the wire from the camera to the power outlet thingie (it’s not a cigarette lighter anymore, right?) I had originally thought that I’d want it to be hardwired in – there are kits for that – and figured I would try out the camera for a bit before going through that effort. I think, but don’t quote me on it, that I am going to be absolutely fine with it as-is. I managed to hide about 90% of the wiring in the various spots around the car and I think I’ve got it all tucked away neatly enough that I won’t end up accidentally catching it on something. Hopefully. I look forward to endlessly forcing Coffee to watch video clips of me getting cut off in traffic. I’ve already forewarned him that I talk to myself A LOT in the car, so at least that won’t be a surprise to him.

At work, we get a lot of styrofoam crates – some of the medication we dispense is delivered to us in large cooler-sized boxes. I brought one home a few weeks ago and, over the weekend, Coffee was about to hack one up for me. Now I have a fantastic insulated holder for my sous vide setup. Hopefully that’ll make it easier to hold a steady temperature.  Now I just need to find a good 8 hour stretch of time to make bacon.  (Okay, I could possibly try it out on something else. Something less time-consuming. Fine.)

My indoor succulent garden is currently thriving – a combination of me figuring out wtf I’m doing, the increased daylight hours, and … luck.  Mostly luck.  But it’s really nice to wake up in the morning to see some happy plants, check in on each one’s progress (lots of good growth in some cases), and fuss over them a little (but not a lot). I am rather fond of this entire process – no weeds, no interlopers eating my plants, and only a few issues that I’ve needed to solve along the way. Highly recommended. A++, would do again.