Wednesday, 29 April 2015

Confessions of a "Busy Addict"

Work/life balance. Work/life balance. I have been contemplating this topic a lot lately. Maybe because it's hard in 2015 to describe ourselves as anything but the dreaded "b" word...Busy.

I've personally read some excellent articles on how a lot of people are having trouble keeping their downtime...well...down?

I find myself constantly doing something and so I hear the words "I'm busy" fall out of my mouth more than I care to admit. 

As the perfectionist daughter of two self-employed artists, I find it difficult to protect my downtime. I grew up in a household filled with amazing creative energy. One that housed two amazing adults with an incredible work ethic. In my house, spending time on your passions was not considered a form of indulgence but rather meeting a basic need. I learnt early on that you had to harness your creative energy before it got the better of you. And for me, that sometimes meant spending the majority of my time focusing on creating rather than being a bundle of worry and introspection. This focus lead me to devote time to my craft at an early age, a practice which I try to maintain to this day.

There's nothing wrong with this. It's admirable even. But what happens you cross over from working hard to not taking any time off? That's what some like to call "being busy for the sake of busy" and this can be harmful.

I am a self-diagnosed "Busy addict."

I've been wired to use my time efficiently and effectively and for this, I am very grateful to my parents.The other side of this is that sometimes I drive myself nuts. My mind is constantly racing and creating. I like the challenge of balancing a lot of things at once. I go from high highs after starting a new project to these awful points of exhaustion.

As I've gotten older, I've become more skilled at anticipating when I'm going to crash and have learnt to take the necessary precautions to make my fall as gentle as possible. It's difficult because most of the time I love being busy. I like scheduling, I like high-lighting and I love my agenda. Take me on a date to staples and I'll be yours forever.

The harsh reality is that sometimes I find myself in a very dark place after these intense periods of  creative work mostly because I've forgotten to take care of myself. I find myself getting really sick, sad and lonely.

Maybe this is because during these intense periods of work, I lose perspective. I forget that I'm doing all of these activities and shows mainly because I enjoy it. That's certainly why I started writing and performing. That's also why I want to keep going with my passions.

However at times, I get so caught up in perfectionism and adrenaline that I stop being grounded. I collapse into a whirlwind of scheduling and rushing. I taste chaos. My busyness vomits all over my free time. Figuratively, of course. No one likes vomit-covered anything.

In theatre, we describe this crash as a symptom of  the "post show blues" -a state of sadness after going from the rush of creating and performing to the aftermath of not having much going on. I think this is a universal concept for anyone who has experienced something exciting and then is forced to return to regular life.

I've heard from people that they don't understand why artists need so much alone time especially since a lot of artists seem to be such extroverts. I can personally say that I've always needed a good chunk of alone time to recharge my batteries. To take a break from being excited, nervous, self-deprecating, neurotic and whatever other emotion I'm feeling that hour and just chill-out.

In a way, this is my break from putting myself out there all the time.

It's not because I don't love my friends and family.  It's just that, at times, I can't cope with anything else. Sometimes I need to be by myself and do nothing. But I also find it really hard to let myself do nothing. My two modes swing from "go, go, go" mentality to sloth. I'm working on developing something in between.

So why do you put yourself through it?

Have you ever had something you needed to do? Something that when you did it you weren't thinking about anything else? You were just...blissful. That's what writing and performing is for me. It's magic.

It's also a lot of other things but that, perhaps, is a topic for a different day.

I hope that everyone can experience this feeling of bliss in their lives. It's one of the most beautiful moments.

Here is my hope:

That I can figure out a balance between working towards what I want without scheduling every waking minute. I also hope that other people don't have to go through as many crashes as me to realize that you can take care of yourself while doing what you love. And for me, that's taking time to be good to myself without feeling guilty.

So through the help of this handy blogpost, I must confess that I am attempting to get better at balancing my time. I'm trying to curb my addiction for unnecessary busyness without losing my drive to create. To consciously decide where I am putting my time. To chose when it's worth being busy and when it's just me being uncomfortable with time-off. So here's hoping that I can break this pattern and hopefully create healthier, more peaceful ways of working.

Fingers crossed xo.

Looking for some creative time of your own? Why not sign up for my next "For the love of writing" workshop! For more information, check-out!workshops/c1ahu and treat yourself to a creative date.

Wednesday, 15 April 2015

The Printer Phenomenon

I have a question for you.

Why do you printers cause so much trouble?

Seriously! Have you ever had a printer that worked 100% of the time?

Why does technology torture us in this way? Is it because the oh-so powerful technology gods are angry because we've created these time-saving machines and now as punishment, we've lost control of them. We thought we were the master of technology but the truth is, it rules us...

My theory behind this is called "the printer phenomenon." I've concluded that no matter what printer you have, it will screw-up exactly when you need something printed a.s.a.p.

It could be a final essay, a big presentation,  or even an important, time-sensitive form.

Now I've shared my life with a number of printers. H.p officejet, H.p deskjet and some others whose names I forgot.

What? It was a long time ago.

Lots of people have many different printers in their lifetime. Shut-up.

But no matter what kind of printer I've had, every printer I've used has, at some point, caused me some unnecessary grief.

The other day, I was brought to my boiling point. This is when I realized that the dysfunctional relationship in my life was with my printer.

It went a little something like this:

Setting: Home, Office, 9am. Young Woman (aka me) sits at her desk, proud of finishing her project.

Young woman
Sweet!  FINISHED! Now all I have to do is hit print!

No, no, no. I feel like you really need me. And that's unattractive so "error message 006525."

Young woman
Excuse me?

If you don't know what that means then I guess we're aren't as synced up as you and your macbook thought.

Young woman
Oh I see, this is about my mac?

Printer's been around longer than I have. And you never yell at it.

Young woman
That's because It doesn't do this to me

You only ever want to hang-out with it.

Young woman
No, you're over-exaggerating!

Oh am I?

Young woman
Come on, printer. Don't do anything crazy. (Beat) Hey, look at you! You're doing such a good job and I really appreciate you.

You're just saying that to make me work

Young woman
No, not at all! I couldn't care less if you worked.

Is that why you threw away your old H.p deskjet?

Young woman looks nervous and takes a deep breath in.

Young woman
I...I can see why you're suspicious but if you just do your job then there won't be a problem.

Cartridge access door open.

Young woman
What are you doing?

Error: Cartridge is missing or damaged

Young woman
I just changed the ink last week

Error: yellow cartridge is missing or damaged

Young woman
 But I never use yellow ink

Error: You can't proceed with printing unless all cartridges are present.

Young woman changes yellow cartridge... again

Young woman
There you go. A new, unnecessarily expensive yellow cartridge so now you have to work.

Aligning cartridges

Young woman
Great, now you can just print that and I'll be on my w...

Error: Cartridge is missing or damaged

Young woman
How? I just changed it!

Aligning cartridge

Young woman
 Rocketman says my bus comes in 2 minutes. Can't you hurry up?

Aligning cartridge will take 7 minute

Young woman
Now you're just being an asshole

Young woman picks up printer and throws it out the window.

End Scene.

Okay, so I didn't throw it out the window but I was tempted to. I blame this incident on the technology gods.

Like many people before me, I've been known to raise up my cellphone, DVD player, computer, and mp3 player to the sky as an offering to the technology gods and yell "WHAT DO YOU WANT FROM ME?" pleading them to make it work.

I sometimes even perform a ritualistic dance. It's instinctual and primal. I hit and tap and swear at my technology until I get some sort of response. And then, just when I've given up hope, I use the age old wisdom passed down by human beings from generation to generation.

I hear my grandfather whisper from his grave, "turn it off, wait 30 seconds and then turn it back on"

The truth is, this usually works. The technology gods are appeased. My document is printed. All is restored.

For now.

Wednesday, 1 April 2015

The Brownie that made me realize I was a feminist.

I've always been a fan of treats. Chocolate, cookies, cake. Oh baby, I'm there! I've never truly identified with people who can eat a meal and then pass up dessert. In fact, those people frighten me slightly.

This, however, is a story about how I almost stopped eating sweets.

When I was 13 years old, I was standing at the snack table during the intermission of a classical concert. Yes, I was a classy 13 year old.  Just as I started eating one of the most delicious brownies of my life, a man in his late 50's came up to me and said the words that would change my thought process forever, "Be careful not to eat too much or you'll get fat."


A Middle aged man walked up to me and warned me not get fat.

What a guy.

Now it's easy looking back to "justify" that this man was merely making a "joke." Having a bit of a laugh. Trying to break the age barrier with his witty repertoire. However in my 25 years of life, I've learnt that most jokes are, in fact, funny.

I know, I know. I'm a humour snob.

 I remember putting down my brownie and feeling so ashamed for a reason I couldn't identify. I felt gross and bad about myself. That's when I had the realization that because I was a girl I wasn't supposed to be openly enjoying my food.

I started to think about my female relatives and the images of woman I'd seen on t.v. Could I remember a conversation around eating that was positive? Most times when food came up, there was always some justification for why a woman was eating. As if being hungry or I don't know, seeing something delicious wasn't reason enough.

Oh god, I haven't eaten all day. 

Oh I shouldn't have eaten that but I guess I'll be bad today.

Oh god, that carrot slice just wasn't filling enough.

I then thought about the male influences in my life. The ones who gobbled down three plates of food and  then congratulated themselves for not puking, and I honestly started to feel jealous.

Why wasn't I allowed to admit that I had an appetite or that genuinely liked eating?

 This random man's careless comment made me question my value as a person and as a women because I was eating a brownie and, god forbid, enjoying it. Looking back at this moment, I realize there was a larger issue at play. By 13, most girls have been socialized to believe that our worth is based on a combination of our physical appearance and our ability to fit into a set of socially constructed values. It becomes harder to know where our personal belief systems end and society's expectations begin. One prominent belief system is that If you're fat, no one will love you. If no one loves you then you've become a woman alone and that is the scariest, most negative thing you can have happen to you. You've essentially failed. The end.

I could honestly write countless blog articles about the issues involving body image and women in society. In fact, I probably will. But for now, I'll stick to this one point.

This brownie incident made me feel bad about my body, stressed about my future worth, ashamed for not fitting into the "food hating" game, and honestly hungry because I was eating the brownie because I was fucking hungry.

What bothered me was that for all the women who had been body-shamed for not fitting into a certain aesthetic or for straying from our culture's expectation that women don't have appetites, there were very few people who questioned why it was okay that these belief systems were so widely accepted? Why was it socially acceptable to humiliate people based on what they ate or how much they ate? Why was a women's body anyones business except her own? And finally, why did this man feel so confident within his place in society that he felt he had the right to comment on a young girl's body without batting an eyelash? This is one of the first times I truly understood gender inequality and the inherent sexism placed upon women's relationship with food.

Who knew so much could be hidden within a simple brownie?

This is the first time that I, Laurel Brady, realized how royally messed up our societies view of body image was. I'm not going to lie, it took me years of being conscious about what I was saying to myself to feel confident to push up against this kind of disgusting social dialogue. And it took me years to realize how troubled this man's belief system was.

Looking back on it now, I feel sad for him. I feel sad because his archaic belief system was so ingrained in his subconscious that he didn't even realize his own idiotic comment was, in fact, idiotic. I feel sad that he didn't take a moment to enjoy a delicious brownie with a bright young person and start a conversation. He never gave himself the chance to ask something that mattered. For instance, what did I want to do with my life? How was I going to make this world a better place? No, instead, this man accepted what was comfortable and decided to say the absolute wrong thing. Instead of engaging in a conversation with me, he tossed out this careless comment to fill the void of his own insecurity.

Over the years, I've wondered if he was taught that as a man he should ignore that he himself was not a perfect specimen and instead focus on women's flaws since we've already conditioned to hate our bodies. I guess it seemed to him like I was an easy target. And when I meet people like him, I've now become that person who makes someone loudly explain their alarming point of view. Because I've found that when you allow an uninformed person to explain their sexist, troubling thought-process, they have the unfortunate habit of tangling up their own words and hanging themselves on their prejudiced logic.

So to the man who warned me to "not get fat", I'd like to say thank-you for educating me early on that age is not an indicator of wisdom, and that there can be huge acts of social defiance in something as small as eating a chocolate brownie.

Today I identify as a strong, empathetic feminist with a love of sweets and zero tolerance for bullshit. I love chocolate, I love food, and I love my body regardless of what size it is because it lets me do what I need to do. It allows me run, it enables me to write, and it also gives me the ability to raise my arm in the air, lift up my middle finger and present it to any person who tries to make me feel bad about my body.

So for those of you who've ever been made to feel bad about your body, I truly hope that when presented with the option,  you eat that brownie if you want to. And if you don't want to, I hope it's your choice and not the influence of some troubled human being. You deserve a goddamn brownie and no one has the right to take that away from you. That is all I have to say about that.

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