Category: lists

Things you can’t change

I’ve been working through this post in my head for exactly 4 days, 13 hours, 59 minutes and 15 seconds.

It’s not about resolutions.

I don’t think I believe in resolutions. At least, I don’t believe in them for me. I already have my list of 100 things to do before I die. Sometimes at the beginning of a year I’ll pick a few of those that I think I can accomplish by the end of the year. When I was in high school and university, I would usually write a little list of about 5 things I wanted to do over the summer. They were always achievable things. The summer I was 14 I taught myself to shuffle. The summer I was 17 I taught myself to French braid my hair. The summer I was 21 I taught myself to sit up straight. But I do horribly with concepts that you can’t measure. Things that I can’t definitively cross off a list. And, honestly, if I make a list that I can’t finish it drives me crazy.

Okay, I lied, it’s about resolutions.

But I don’t have any. Not really. It’s more like I’ve come up with a philosophy.

If you’re reading my blog then you already know that these past four months have been some of the hardest of my life. There are a lot of things outside of my control that I have been working against, to change. And I’ve had a few conversations with Fae and Kaitlyn recently about what type of things I should accept in life and which things I should work to change.

Because life sucks. But I’m stronger than that, right?

There are things in my life that suck. Things that I can’t change. Things that require patience and courage and perseverance.

What I can change is how they effect me. What I can change is how I see my circumstances. What I can change is what I make of my life.

And the true task isn’t being happy when everything’s great, it’s finding a way to be happy when everything isn’t.

I’ve already started to make some changes in my life this year. Little things that I can change. And hopefully I’ll slowly work up to the big things and I’ll spend 2011 learning how to be happy when things aren’t exactly as I might wish them to be.

And this girl? I’ve proof that she still exists.

Me on New Year's Eve, photo by Chandra

My non-negotiable list

I like to make lists.

I often talk about my list of 100 Things to do before I die. I’ve done 29 of them already. It will be 30 by next week. Someone asked me what I was going to do when I finished the whole list. Easy. I’ll write another.

I recently read a post on my friend Courtney’s Tumblr, of an idea she had had and shared with some of her students. I’m not surprised, Court is the person who originally inspired my love of lists. We used to make “10 things to do this year” lists in high school.

But Court’s list is different. This is a non-negotiable list. I suggest you click on the link above to read her reasoning behind it and what she hoped to teach her students. I’ve been thinking about it for awhile now. This is mine:

I want to be a mother. I want to have a job that I love at least 60% of the time and which challenges me. I never want to stop seeing the world. I want to have cats, always. I want to save money to pay for my children’s post-secondary education. I want to read all the time and instill a love of reading in children - not only mine but all children. I want to volunteer, even when I’m really busy, for causes that I believe in. I want to be the one who has great dinner parties, and I want to be the one who hosts family holidays. I want to write a book - even if no one but me ever reads it. I want to always make time for my best friends. I want to always be close to my sister. I will not change my last name. I want a true partner in my life, with their own interests and hobbies, who challenges me intellectually. I never want to stop learning new things. Everything else is negotiable.

Sky, by me

Listography

I make lists when I can’t sleep. Books I want to read. Places to go. Names. Things. Colours. Words that start with L.

listography by lisa nola

I got this for Christmas. And I am writing an autobiography in lists.

List your biggest fears. Apocalypse. Spiders. Death.

List the countries you’ve visited. Ireland. France. England. Scotland. U.S.A. Dominica Republic. (Note: add more soon.)

List the people you’ve lived with. Jess. Chris. Alaina. Valerie. Rosie. Kristen. Taylor.

List your character flaws. Condescending. Judgmental. Intolerant. Selfish. Impatient.

List your guilty pleasures. Chocolate chips. Fried chicken. Disney Channel movies. Lifetime movies. TLC. Nutella with a spoon.

List things you think everyone should do if money is not an issue. Get amazing hair cuts. Order dessert. Live abroad. Learn.

List the things people should remember you for. Cheesy jokes. Words. (I’m stuck there…)

Something about making lists calms me. In the same way equations in math class used to. It’s a formula. A process. There is no interpretation, no overthinking.

This is a good time of year for lists. I will write a few more before January 1st.

The Road Less Traveled

How many of us spend our lives in a city we barely see?

It’s the same old story. Jaded by life, we go through our days with blinders on. Without the energy or the interest to see or do things. To explore.

There’s so much in Ottawa and around that I have never seen, and I lived there for 22 years. There was tons in Galway that I never saw in my four months there. I remember walking to work one morning in Galway, following the river back behind the Roisin Dubh, watching the swans and the garbage float side by side. And suddenly I was struck by the fact that, even though I was on my way to crappy job too early in the morning and even though it smelt like vomit and stale beer, I was in Ireland. It was so easy to forget. To concentrate on hating my job or on what club we were going to go to that night.

This time, I made a decision to change that.

I made a list. It’s a whole page of places to go around Newcastle. Most of them are either in the city or on the Tyne and Wear Metro system.

My best memory from Ireland was when we crawled underneath the Blarney Castle with only the little flashlight from my keychain. Because we were terrified and had no idea where we were going or whether we might get thrown out before we got to kiss the Blarney Stone, but we were there. In this little passageway underneath a castle. People had been there before - the bottles and garbage everywhere proved that. But in a place so chalk full of tourists, for that moment it was ours.

blarney

This weekend I became an adventurer. Living in alone in a new city is terrifying and lonely at times, but I made this decision for myself and I know that I can love this. So I went exploring, to distract myself from the small ache of loneliness that followed me to London and back again.

This weekend was Heritage Open Days in Tyne and Wear. Tyne and Wear is the area of between the two named rivers, including Newcastle, Gateshead and Sunderland. They were offering special tours of many places that weren’t normally open to the public, and even the places that were normally open were free. I admit that I forgot about it entirely on Friday, and slept in quite late on Saturday. But I still managed to make it to three places on Saturday and one today.

One of the buildings I saw, Alderman Fenwick’s House wasn’t normally open at all. And the highlight of my day on Saturday was the Bell Tower at St. Nicholas Cathedral. I had gone to St. Nicholas the first Sunday I arrived in Newcastle. It’s a gorgeous old church, and I walked around inside the seemingly deserted building for a while on my way back to my flat. I returned on Sunday for two reasons. The first was that it was close to the Holy Jesus Hospital, which I visited before it, and the second was that the Heritage Open Days booklet promised a display of the oldest books in the Cathedral’s collection.

stnicholas

I arrived just in time for the magic words.

“So I guess you all want to go up to the tower then?” The guide said to the gathering crowd. I immediately tried to blend into the group. I definitely wanted to go up to the tower.

stairs

The staircase up the Bell Tower is impossibly narrow, steep and dark. The first place we got to was the Bell Room. From here, the Bell Ringers (who have trained for years to be able to do this) use the cords to ring the eight bells in elaborate sequences which produce the tunes you can hear for miles from the Cathedral.

bells

We had to leave our bags here, because the staircase got narrower from then on. Right before we left, our guide rang one of the bigger bells. As we climbed the staircase, the sound buzzed through the tower. The walls trembled with the vibrations. We stopped briefly at the Bellfry to watch the huge bell swing back and forth.

We continued on to the very top of the Bell Tower. Heritage Open Days is the only time they let the public up this tower. And so we stood, where not so many had stoof before, looking out at the city of Newcastle from perhaps the highest point in the city.

newcastle

You should know, I’m terrified of heights. But as I looked up, my back pressed firmly against the stone wall of the Tower, I knew it was worth it. The climb. The shaky feeling in my knees as I glanced at how far away the ground was. I was looking up at the spires of the Bell Tower, from right below. From the centre. From a spot that so few people had before.

tower

I’ll continue the next part of my weekend adventures tomorrow, with my first trip to the North Sea.

Reading Rainbow!

I got this from someone on facebook.. and I thought I wasn’t going to do it. But I’ve decided to give it a try. I’m going to read 50 books in a year. Do it with me!

1. The Gathering by Anne Enright