Friday, October 28, 2011

World Domination: How to rule

The backyard is great for conjuring evil plans.

Since I've been hibernating in Canada's autumn wonderland, I've been reading Hugh MacLeod's Evil Plans:

"Everybody needs that Evil Plan that's going to pry their lives out of the jaws of crap jobs, cubicle hell, mediocrity and general despair." -- Hugh MacLeod
In 2010, my evil plan was to save up cashola, get all my belongings down to one suitcase, quit my job and trot around the globe.

So I pretty much rocked that one.

Now I'm conjuring up another evil plan for 2012. It's gonna launch on my birthday, which is December 27th. Feel free to get me the gift that won't take up room in my suitcase by clicking the Donate button on the upper right.

Shameless plug.

Since the success of my last evil plan, I can't imagine not having an evil plan to plug away at on the road to world domination.

So if you're thinking of creating your own evil plans, take my advice:
  1. Get a journal. Evil plans take a lot of pondering and note jotting.
  2. Steal time every day. Concentrated effort is needed for evil plan manifesting. If you don't have time, steal it from your day job, spend more time in the bathroom, do whatever it takes.
  3. Give at least 20 minutes a day. Seriously, all it takes to rule the world is 20 minutes per day of concentrated effort.
  4. Believe you're worth it. Being successful in something that brings you joy won't make you a crappy mother, friend, spouse or person. It will make you inspiring. Be inspiring. 
  5. Do the teeth-tingle check. When you think of your evil plan, do you get so excited that your teeth tingle. Doth it keep you up at night smiling? If not, edit and ponder further until it does.
  6. Remember that no evil plan is too big or small. Sure, I had a big evil plan last year, but sometimes I think an evil plan may be as small as learning how to make gourmet cheese at home or growing a garden... or having furniture.
  7. Believe fortune favors the brave. Magic happens to evil plan doers. When your idea moves from your journal into action steps, God will rush to meet you with good luck, perfect timing and the right people.
Maybe you want to open an online business
write a book
make pottery
get your taxes up to date
clean out your storage space and sell it all on ebay and craigslist
or open a pie shack
begin a drum circle
write a blog
give tours of maple sugar bushes
or share your knowledge of your favorite wine region
become a psychic
or tap dancer
hone the art of parenting
forgive your parents
begin it or end it with someone or something
learn to play guitar
or grow closer to God

That thing you just thought of? That's your evil plan.

And yes, it is possible.

Last year, when I was doing my evil plan, I didn't realize how much planning it would take. It's not as simple as Save, Quit, Go. Every day I wrote out the What's and Why's and Who's and plugged away at the tasks at hand. There is something that can be done every day to pull your evil plan out of the pages of your notebook so that it will one day dance with you in daily life.

So what are you waiting for?

Bwah ha ha haaaa.

Monday, October 24, 2011

Relaxing feels strange

Do you ever feel like the laziest version of yourself? Like you were once the kind of person who was known for getting it done and now you're just Whatevs about pretty much everything? And it's not even about depression?

I think it's just cozy autumn weather settling into my soul.

Or I'm ill. Tough call. 

I've been spending time on the shores of Lake Erie, Ontario, which was once called "Ontario's North Shore" but now all the signs say "Ontario's South Coast," which I suspect is an attempt to bring in more tourism. Rebranding is always a valiant effort, unless it's done often, then it's just a shit product.

It's been 10 months since I quit the ol' advertising job where I had to consistently think up rebranding strategies. Since then, instead of running around the office like a nut bar, I've been running around the world like a nut bar. You got a tourist attraction? I'll be there. How about hours of urban hiking all around your city? I'll do it twice. You've got a train departing every hour on the hour and all I've got is time? I'll take the 7 a.m.

Go go go.

It's all a bit much.

Now, I'm taking a slow down.  I think. 

Sure, there is a giant project or two swirling around in my head. I'll have to get on that. But not today.

Instead, I'm reading The Paris Wife by Paula McLain.

I look just like that when I'm in Paris.

It's written from the point of view of Hadley, Ernest Hemingway's first wife. And it takes place during their courtship and their time in Paris. They lived in my hood in Paris, which back in the 20s was actually a dodgy part of town. Now it's swankville and where I spent a great deal of time with the lovely Christophe.

(The world waits with eager anticipation. What happened with Christophe?!) More on that later when I'm not too lazy to write about it.

In the book, we learn how she observes Hemingway struggling through his writing.

It reminded me of something. Oh ya, the observer side of myself watching my workhorse self struggle through her writing... or not writing, as the case may be.

And the parallels don't end there, folks. While Hemingway was off mingling with famous expats Gertrude Stein, Ezra Pound and F.Scott Fitzgerald, I was watching Baby Einstein videos on Repeat Play, changing diapers and napping.

Not my children. Heavens no. My sister's kids. We're hanging. It's good times.

You can learn more about Hemingway's time in Paris in his book A Moveable Feast and Woody Allen's film Midnight in Paris.

You can't learn more about this in my novel because I'm too lazy to write it.

My workhorse self opened a few documents today. Then my lazy self showed up and said Whatevs. So that was the end of that. But not before I went through some self-judgment about laziness.
I forgive myself for judging myself as lazy. The truth is this just isn't the time to do those projects. There will be time. It's just not today. 
Why is it, when you're aiming to be evolved and enlightened, you have to do so much self-processing?

I can't help but think as I slink through the house, What is my deal?

Am I going through a dormant stage like all the trees outside? They are performing spectacular costume changes. It's really quite something to see, especially from the swing set in the park where you can swing so high that you actually get nauseous. Trust me.

Or perhaps this is the calm before the holiday season hustle and bustle.

Or perhaps I don't know how to relax.

Ah yes, that's it. Relaxing feels the same as laziness but without the judgment.

So this is what relaxing feels like.

Feels kinda lame. And tiring.

I hope this "relaxing" ends soon because it's seriously harshing my mellow. (As if I knew what mellow felt like.)  In the meantime, I'm going to sit back and admire the autumn. Why? Because I'm too lazy to bother doing anything else.

Relaxing feels strange.

Monday, October 17, 2011

Tossing photographs. Sacrilege or no?

I wonder...

If your house were on fire, what would you grab first?

To play this game fairly, let's assume the people and pets are already out of the house.

Most people say their photos. Fair enough. These precious and priceless records of their life can't be replaced. I imagine with the advent of digital photography, these people would change their answer to grabbing their laptop because that's where the original photos live. But basically, it's the photos people are after.

After my weekend at my mom's house, I can assure you that I'd be fine with my photos melting into oblivion. 

Cold, heartless bitch.

Ya ya. Since I bought my first camera, I've been obsessed with photos. I remember the joy at buying film (the canisters were so cute!) and taking photos here, there and everywhere of this, that and the other. I especially enjoyed the teeth tingling splendor of picking up my envelope of photos from the printer. Then there was slight disappointment since, of my 24 photos, about 3 would be great. But whatevs. I shoved almost all of them in albums for posterity's sake. Big beautiful albums. Hours were poured over organizing the order of photos the way some people agonize and lament over the order of songs when making a mixed tape for their latest crush.

Back then I had a powerful disdain for those who developed their film and left the envelope of photos in a drawer. Sacrilege.

For years these beautiful albums that reflected some of my A-Type personality traits sat on the bookshelf of my room at my mom's house. Now that I've become rather minimal with my lifestyle, I decided that this weekend was the weekend I would cull the photos.
tr.v., culled, cull·ing, culls.
  1. To pick out from others; select.
  2. To gather; collect.
  3. To remove rejected members or parts from (a herd, for example).
A herd is right. Do I really need all these pictures of my cats? Two photos, sure. Two albums, no.

Or how about the photos of me at the Huntington Gardens in Pasadena. What do I remember? Not the day itself, but the day I got this photo developed and was horrified at the size of my thighs. Why did I wear those khakis? Is my ass really that big?

Or the photo of me and an exboyfriend on our tour of Alcatraz in San Francisco. What do I remember when I see this photo? Not the romance. Not the budding love. Not even the prison. I remember him rushing to the boat, late, from yet another work-related task. And me, stressed and afraid, not knowing what to do if he didn't show up. Fear welling that he'd never show. Stranded. I was a young traveler back then. And I remember that this moment was a preamble to our future fights about he, me and work.

Or how about that birthday party of my friend who was in the middle of a rough year. The photos is of her smiling right before she blows out her candles, no doubt wishing for a better year ahead. When I see this photo, I know that it does, in fact, get better, but not before it gets a whole lot worse.

All these photos were tossed. I don't need to dredge up these memories anymore. They are heavy memories and I'm aiming for light. Yes, they were from an important time in the past. There were stepping stones and lessons. But they are done now. They were hard enough the first time. No need to relive these memories again. Lessons learned.

While pouring through these photos, I noticed some slivers of pain come up. I know enough now to know that when something disturbs our peace, school is in session. So as I sorted, I worked my process and practiced compassionate self-forgiveness.
I forgive myself for judging myself as heartless kitty mommy for tossing photos of cats I've loved so much. The truth is these photos are not the actual cats. I'm not tossing actual cats.
I forgive myself for buying into the belief that my body was anything less than a super hero at holding my soul in this journey on earth. The truth is my body is really good at carting me around the globe. And now I know that being overweight is a spiritual issue, I realize I had much spiritual growth based on how I judged those thighs.
I forgive myself for judging my ex-boyfriend for being late. The truth is he was doing the best he could do at the time. And thank Christ we broke up. For a thousand reasons. We both found better, bigger love with someone else.
And that photo of my friend at her birthday? I imagined myself going back in time to hold her and whisper, This moment will pass and I know it will get better.

In between two of my many photo albums I found this:

This is not what you think it is. Math was never my strongest subject so when I was a young girl I took the instruments out of this tin container and added these:

There were many evenings during my childhood when I would sit in my room and try not to hear the shouts in the kitchen. I would sit on my bed, open this tin and look through the stamps for ideas of where to travel. Anywhere but here. Steve Jobs said in his famous Stanford commencement speech that we cannot connect the dots moving forward, we can only connect them looking back. These stamps were dots that led to my advertising career in direct marketing and to my current nomadic life on the road. But I didn't know that then. All I knew is that they comforted me during a really shitty time in my past.

I went back in time to hold my young self who was playing with the stamps. Even though I know now that it got a whole lot worse before it got better, I held her and whispered, This moment will pass and I know it will get better. It will be a wild, fun ride. There will be a whole world to explore and you will have the time and means to do it. You will find true love. This is just the rough patch. Remember, this too shall pass.

I wish I would have told myself to spend more time learning French. Do you think I could go back in time again and magically wake up tomorrow morning bilingual? That would be awesome. I might try it.

I implore you, dear reader, to toss the photos from yesteryear that do you no good now. Or to your future self. There is an expiration date on childhood.

Quick tips:
  1. Do it alone. This is not a committee project. 
  2. Be quick about it. You'll likely have less than 2 hours before you get tired of it. 
  3. Have the garbage bag beside you. Be ruthless.
  4. Don't set aside photos to send to people. Unless you're into making more work for yourself.
  5. Work your process. If something triggers you, use self-forgiveness. 
    • "I forgive myself for judging myself as..." 
    • Also, "I forgive myself for buying into the belief that..." 
    • Then add "The truth is..."
      (see above for examples)
This works wonders. You'll feel lighter. You'll feel peace. You might have to wear heavy boots just to keep yourself on the ground. Floating freaks people out.

All the photos aren't worth keeping. Believe me... and Timothy Findley who wrote where they go in You Went Away...
"In the flea market, a shoe box filled with photographs. This is all we have. Whose lives might be recovered, if only the box had been labeled?... The box itself has been destroyed beyond recovery. Time and the elements have done their work. Nothing remains to tell you who these people are. Or were. We know that some of them are dead—dying gently or killed. We know this because they disappear all at once and do not return to stand beside the people with whom they were formerly seen." 
Way to be a downer, Tiff. But it's true. Be the one who sorts through them now so some stranger at a flea market won't be pawing through them with his greasy fingers.

I was ruthless but wasn't evil. Here are a few keepers that still make me happy:
Laundry with my younger sister.
Sears special with my older sister.
Not smiling for the camera.
Likely self-conscious about my bangs.
Wallpaper and sofa mayhem.
Fun times during my Little House on the Prairie phase.

Save the good times. Chuck the bad. Work your process. Move on.

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

My underwear drawer

My nomadic journey started in my underwear drawer.

Further explanation is probably required. 

The other day, I received a comment on my blog from Mandy_Fish who wrote,
"Now it makes me curious as to why you are a nomad. I'm going to have to go back to the beginning of your blog and find out..."
And that got me wondering about when this nomadic journey started.

I didn't start this blog in January 2010 with the end goal of being a nomadic blogger. I started it because I wanted change in my life. My dreary corporate job was sucking the life out of me. And all the time I wasn't working was spent recovering from working. It was a vicious cycle.

Someone told me once at the beginning of my advertising career that it's easy to burn out. I thought this was crazy talk. I had just landed my copywriting job at an advertising agency. I was writing the back of cereal boxes. I thought I had hit the big time.

And for a long time, I devoted all my creative energy to advertising. Awards, accolades and raises poured in. Well, they didn't pour in, but there was a consistent trickle. And I loved every bit of it.

But after the millionth headline and billionth copy change, I couldn't use advertising to burn through my creative juices anymore. I had to find something else.

Hence the blog in January 2010. My main goal was to find a new creative passion. I wasn't planning on quitting my job. I wasn't planning on traveling the world. I was just hoping to find some pleasure in my life.

So I spent the first part of 2010 painting and bookbinding. The energy for all these pursuits waned quickly. Bookbinding sounds like fun, but there is a lot of paperwork. Folding. Piercing. Sewing. Ugh. And at the end of it, I'd create a journal that took more time and cost than my favorite journal, the Twin Ring Notebook, which promises on its cover:

It keeps its promise, too. It DOES have the most advanced quality with the best writing features that gives satisfaction to me. And it's a better journal than I can bind myself.

So that was the end of that artistic pursuit.

And painting... that went well for a long time but it was messy. And I don't want to clean up messes. That's what my day job was for. (If you've ever been a copywriter, you know what I'm talking about.)

So how does this relate to underwear?

In my pursuit for my new art, I kept a journal. I wrote three pages a day as instructed by Julia Cameron in her book The Artist's Way. And after writing a whole lot of blather that helped release my pent up frustrations with my life, I found I was writing lists of things to do. Massive lists. Big things to do and little things to do. Things to do on the weekend. Things to do in life. Lots of things to do.

And one of the things on this list was to clean out my underwear drawer.

So that's what I did.

Turns out, it takes virtually no time to sort through underwear drawers. I don’t have to try them on to see if they will fit like I do with the clothes in my closet. A quick glance at each pair makes sorting easy. And there is no question of whether or not to donate these undies to a thrift store. That can’t happen, right? People know not to do that, right?



Turns out, a quick online search tells me that not only do people donate underwear if it’s “gently used” but that not enough people donate to homeless shelters. I also read there is a shortage of plus-sized underwear at women’s shelters. Further research says that skid marks or bloodstains are not okay. Holes are also not preferred. No one is interested in unsightly knickers.

So there you go.

But mine were pitifully worn out, so in the trash they went. I was shocked to learn that I had underwear from five boyfriends ago. A decade’s worth of undies was still under my roof long after the lover for whom they were purchased for his viewing pleasure was out the door.

In no time, I had a drawer of three tiny piles of underwear, all neatly folded like envelopes. This was more than just satisfying. A tiny chasm opened in my soul and peace began to trickle in. I felt lighter.

This was such a lovely feeling that I moved onto cull my closets, which led to sorting through my papers and files. Eventually, I gained enough momentum to revamp or toss entire photo albums. Do I need to keep photos of five-boyfriends-ago? No. I tossed them as quickly as I tossed their matching gotchies.

With each bag I dropped off at the thrift store, with each pile of papers I shredded, with each drawer that became empty or sparse, that chasm of peace opened wider. And it stayed that way. I was no longer hypnotized by the fallacy that material things bring happiness. They don't. (Except for Apple products and soft bed sheets.)

I found great satisfaction in crossing tasks off my list as long as I gave myself enough time to do so. I think that's the trick with lists. One needs to be gentle with timelines. The lists morphed from lists of unfinished tasks to calculations on how much money I could save by a certain date. They morphed again when I printed out a map of Europe and taped it on the inside cover of my journal. My lists became names of places to visit.


By the end of 2010, I got my apartment down to the one suitcase and carry-on I now use to travel the world. Toni Morrison was right when she said, "You wanna fly, you got to give up the shit that weighs you down."

When I started this journey, I didn't know I wanted to fly. But in giving up the shit that weighed me down, I felt so light that flying seemed like the most natural thing to do in the world.

And the creative pursuit? Turns out it was this blog. Turns out it was writing all along.

Bastille Day in Paris, 2011.

Friday, October 7, 2011

Destination: Home(s)

Not having a home is emotionally exhausting.

And after having been on the road since February, I'm feeling it.

Yes, I was in Paris for a long time, but the traveler in me couldn't make it my own home beyond buying myself a comfy pillow. I was still unsure. I was still seeing about Christophe. Stay tuned on that one.

(The world waits with eager anticipation.)

Rather than settle down to one place on my travels, I decided to set my bags down in many places I once called home and soak up rejuvenating energy.

First stop was my sister's house where I have my own bedroom in the basement. Then my mom's house, where I technically still live according to the address on my passport and voting card. I slept a few nights in my old bedroom surrounded by yearbooks and photos of my youth.

I hopped a flight to Los Angeles and spent my days at one friend's house where I lived on her couch one summer. And spent my nights at another friend's house who bought my bed when I left, so I was able to sleep in my old bed. I stopped by my old apartment for tea with my friend who is now living there. Same bones. Different tchotchkes.

Then I zipped up to Carmel and Big Sur for a retreat. When there, I was able to revisit hotels I stayed at in my dozen years of California living. One of my favorites is the Gorda Inn. Just off Highway 1. Looks like an old western hotel. The second floor gives full ocean views, perfect for whale watching and daydreaming. It's on my list of places to haunt when I die. Do you have a list of haunt-worthy places, dear reader? 

And now I'm back above the border and writing from my uncle's house in Toronto, where I lived a few summers ago doing a freelance gig. It's nice to have them make me coffee and toast in the mornings. The cousins are out of the house so my bedroom is surrounded by diplomas and trophies of their youth.

In all of these places, little habits have resurfaced. I still look on top of the microwave for my mail because that's where they'd set my pile. I scrounge around the back of the cupboard for my favorite mug, which is thankfully still there. I even received a new Restoration Hardware catalog with my name on it at one of my old addresses. Of course, nothing in that catalog will fit in my one suitcase but it was nice to see my name and old address on the cover.
My favorite mug at my uncle and aunt's house in Toronto.
I toggled between saying big hellos to some friends and saying silent goodbyes to others. When you go away, you just can't keep them all. Thankfully time takes care of the awkward reality of tough and possibly hurtful choices. Silence can be a salve if we let it. And there are some friends I couldn't see because my time was limited. How I yearned to go for dinner with so-and-so or for a bike ride with so-and-so. Instead, they found out I was in LA through a tag by another friend on Facebook, then they were confused as to my whereabouts. I thought we'd have time to visit.

I have a friend who, if I email to say I will be in town on a certain day, will only respond to my email the day after I've left. At first, I was confused by this behavior and feeling a little bruised. Now I understand. We just can't see everyone all the time, no matter how much we wish we could. And then there are some that you haven't seen in so long that you want to jump into their pockets and stay all day, all year, forever.

Sentimentality also required another visit on this whirlwind tour of North America. To be so attached to the people, places and things of the life I left can put an uncomfortable squeeze on my new life of new people, places and things. How can I roam around Paris and BE in Paris when I'm lamenting about what to do with my couch left in LA or feeling guilty about not keeping in touch more often with friends?

Last year, I culled my physical possessions down to one suitcase. This year, I'm taking a deeper swipe at the sentimentals I wasn't ready to release back then. Revisiting all my homes has helped me feel confident in taking a solid step back from the past and toward the next step in my nomadic journey.


Thursday, October 6, 2011

If Steve Jobs ruled the world

Steve Jobs 1955-2011

If Steve Jobs ruled the world...

I'd go to his iHotel. I would never have to wait in line in a hotel lobby. I could walk into the hotel, having already checked in on my iPhone and use a generated code on my phone to open the door to my room.

I'd fly on his iAirline. I would pay more for the airfare but I would truly know on an experiential level the meaning behind the old adage that it's the journey and not the destination.

I'd bank at his iBank. Online. At home. In my pajamas. And if I had to go into a banking center, the posters would be elegant. There would be no stock photography.

I'd drive in his iCar, blasting iTunes music through my amazing speakers.

I'd live in an iHome of his invention. Clean line minimalism and crazy cool gadgetry.

It's election day in my home province. The only thing everyone can agree on is that there is no clear favorite. This would not be the case if Steve Jobs were in the running to rule the world.

I was at dinner at a friend's house last night when the text came in, announcing the news that Steve Jobs is now reinventing on another plane. In that moment, there was silence, a common knowing that the news would come, and an awareness that forevermore, we would remember where we were when we heard it.

I told Christophe this news last night on FaceTime. He in Paris. Me in Toronto. "C'est la vie, baby." That's life. Simple. Direct. True.

Steve Jobs was aware that death was part of life, too. I've posted his Stanford commencement speech before, but somehow it seems fitting to repost today. If you have 15 minutes, take a gander. It's inspiring and gives us a glimpse of the inner thought process of one of the greatest inventors of our time.

Steve, you rule. Thank you.


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