Thursday, 25 July 2013

Sunshine, Smiles, and Cheerful Words

Being at home has felt a lot like returning, and taking part in a well-loved television show.

The cast is familiar, new faces have been added to the numbers, and the senses are pervaded with familiar sights, smells, and company. The catch is you’re altered, and finding the new role to suit is a difficult task.
The change of focus from taking care of one, to being a part of many, is disconcerting.
 It’s enjoyable, definitely, but I find it also makes it easy to be indolent. 

I’m re-reading the classic Little Women by Louisa May Alcott and find it gives expression to my temperament. Amidst many things, something I particularly love is how accurately it depicts the struggle between high ideology and natural abasement. Over and over again they strive to live up to a golden notion that is continually being tarnished by mistakes, tempers, and trials. At a particular low point the parents are struggling with having “taught one child to meet death without fear, were trying now to teach another to accept life without despondency or distrust”. Not only is it a stark contrast, between attitude towards life and death, but to me shows the importance of facing life with enthusiasm.    

I've come to realize a strange polarization within me which is how I lean towards the optimistic side of things while at the same time being a bit cynical. Yet, I dislike prolonged contact with cynics and fear I could begrudge another’s happiness based solely on their seeming to be so happy.

I do know at least that I don’t handle despondency well and am glad I have the ability to pick myself up even if it is to reach for the unattainable. I figure spreading sunshine is worthwhile even among the gloom, and I’m glad I have my nieces to show me how. I've spent the past week with three of them and the things they say are so matter a fact is makes you wonder why you would dare to question them in the first place. It’s best to catch it in the moment before it fades, but these are the few I remembered of them.

Doing a craft project with the 5yr old she gives me a sticker with a shooting star on it and says “This is so you remember me when you’re far from me”.

Helping a niece fire a water-gun, and testing it to make sure it’s in order, she replies exasperated “It always works; it only doesn't work when it’s broken”.

*Q: “What are you doing?”
A: “I’m going to take a shower.”
Q: “Can I come too?”
A: “… I don’t think that’s a good idea.”
A: “Right. I would get all wet!! I’ll just listen from the door instead.”
A: “Okay.” Double locks the door.
*this wasn't from a niece but a child around their same age.

So it turns out that my new part in the family drama, or comedy of errors, is not very difficult at all. I’m expected to be the same cheerful, over-analytic youngest sister while my older siblings are to adore me (which could use improvement). It turns out that being half-way across the world wasn't very far at all. 

Tuesday, 16 July 2013

Brilliant Blue Sky

Brilliant blue sky was my first sight of Canada as the plane for Vancouver descended into the clouds.

When people imagine heaven, the preeminent image is on of limitless space with billows of clouds and mist that dance across the surface. Whenever I see this country from a bird’s eye view that is what I think of, that heaven can be compared to moments of wonder that we see on earth. 
My first reorientation into Canadian culture happened on the flight over.
 I take almost excessive enjoyment in the little services of airline travel. I think it’s nice that food is prepared in such organized containers and that there is a rhythm and rhyme to when things are served, lights go off, and the endless entertainment options.
 There was one particular stewardess who was especially smiley. Even though there is a chance it could have been forced, I found myself responding in kind and then do you know what happened? She smiled back. It seems this simple act of reciprocity has been missing from my life. I think Canadians in general are a happy bunch and very formal with manners saying their “please” and “thank-you”. I figure it could be for two reasons, either they are happy and therefore express their contentment by using these words or they can be using these words often enough that it creates the feeling of satisfaction. This is of course very simplified but it gives you pause to ponder since how often do we let our attitude affect how we view circumstance? By saying these words that some could argue we don’t mean, we give ourselves a chance to see our position in a new light and find what there is to be grateful for.
For me, I was bombarded with the little things I had forgotten I was used to.  When our meals came they came with butter and I had to ask myself what it was. It brought to mind a certain friend who claims that he loves to eat butter completely on its own in giant bites. I thought off following his example but then stopped because for one, that’s just weird, butter was not made to be eaten like bread and two, people were watching. I also was reinitiated into bilingualism and remember now why I understand some French words even though it’s just mostly when people are yelling at me.
I landed in Vancouver safe and sound and ran for a connection flight that I wasn’t late for. I then proceeded to walk very nonchalantly around the service desk pretending I knew exactly what I was doing. I eventually brought out my laptop to do a bit of writing, but that didn’t go anywhere either because there was a couple sitting right in front of me looking incredibly hip; I was in Vancouver after all. I then felt pressured to put on fashion glasses and whip out a Mac but all I had was a Toshiba! I then felt it would be appropriate to do some non-stop writing with punctuated sighs of exasperation, and forehead rubbing, but that didn’t happen either. Instead I stared at my screen counting the minutes to midnight and re-writing one sentence five times.
Once on the flight, I debated on sleeping vs. not sleeping until the trip was over so that made my decision easy. I also like to test social boundaries of propriety like proving false the statement that “If you don’t break the-ice in the first 10 minutes you never will”.  I would just like to clarify and add “or if you do, it will be very brief.”
I think this begs an explanation of why we even call it breaking the ice since it automatically brings to mind snow parkas and polar bears. If it sounded like something fun to do perhaps more people would be tempted to give it a try. I also dislike how there is a set mindset of only two types of travelers, those who are anti-social and those who are chatter-boxes. This leaves no room for the third type of personality that would enjoy a brief introduction and then a comfortable lapse into silence because you know sooner or later one of you will be climbing over the other to get to the washroom and prior prolog will make it a lot less uncomfortable.
I then arrived in Calgary and found my sister, easy enough to spot with her long red hair and enthusiastic smile waiting for me at baggage claim. I thought about running down the escalator to meet her, but who knows how bad that could have ended. I instead patiently waited to be delivered onto ground level, by a magic machine that has massive gaping teeth and only moves in one direction, so I could then run and give her a giant hug.