Monday, March 25, 2013

yes, it's morning.

i have spent most of my life under the misapprehension that i was a morning person.

when i was a kid i would occasionally slip out before sunrise for a nature walk before everyone was up, enjoying the cool air, the tranquility, the freshness of grass and leaves...  returning to unimpressed parents who were somewhat alarmed at waking up to their child missing, again.

even in adult life i have been capable of rising early, with a smile, able to hold a conversation. in contrast, i have many friends who are decidedly against mornings, and can get quite angry if forced to interact in any meaningful way before 11. because of this, i felt that i was safely on the other side of that line.

when i moved in with the latest roommate, i quickly discovered how mistaken this belief was. here was a true morning person, in all her glory. day after day she was alert, efficient, enthusiastically chatty, effortlessly multi-tasking, even *shudder* humming cheerfully as she darted around the apartment, then out the door at 7:30. all while i was standing confused in the middle of the kitchen, or slumped at the table. i wasn't sure how to deal with this at first, tried to keep pace, but couldn't. it was not physically possible to move my mouth in the necessary ways to formulate words, let alone ideas, at this velocity. then i tried avoidance, moving to the shower as quickly as possible, gaining a few more minutes to re-orient.
finally i had to admit that i was just not a morning person, at least not anymore, and request an embargo on early morning speech. 'you can talk at me, i don't mind' i told her one day, 'but don't expect an intelligent response.' she agreed.

things are more maneagable now, although i sense she is still not completely at ease with this non-verbal, sluggish presence at breakfast.
perhaps in the back of her mind is the reputation that many non-morning people have for unpredictable irritability... is she calculating the odds of me chucking a piece of toast at her head? i will never know. but that is the price you pay for admitting what you really are. there will always be preconceptions to go with it.

when we are not on the same schedule, i am inevitably jarred awake anyways, as the walls between me and the kitchen are almost nonexistant. there are sounds you cannot completely avoid making in the morning, dishes clattering, doors opening and closing, etc. i used to feel vaguely resentful for this uncomfortable launch into the new day. but now i just roll over for a few more zzz's with the happy knowlege that i can begin again on my own terms.

here's how it goes. i wait until the apartment is quiet. i stretch, move slowly out to the kitchen, put on the kettle, and sit. no thinking, planning, multi-tasking. just immersed in a  good cup of tea enjoying the trees outside. then, read the days text. make a light breakfast. do more reading. perhaps some soft music, lately it's been antonio carlos jobim (the perfect antidote to waking up to fresh snowfall in march!). all of these things gently nudge me to a state where i can  look forward to my day with positivity, motivation, kindness. write lists, cross things off them. be a productive human.

in all my flexible free-spirited life i have never been one for ritual. but if this is a way for me and mornings to be on good terms, i'm going to hold onto this one.

Friday, March 22, 2013

language therapy

confession: (not a surprise to those who know me) after years of living in a militantly french province, i never really learned french :S
came close when falling in love with the music of daniel belanger (even bad google translations of his lyrics can take my breath away), but in the end, not even he could convince me. it's nothing against the culture here, but i always felt like i was going to move on, so didn't want to invest in such a difficult language. also, i could survive without it. resulted in taking on some very interesting jobs...

i used to love languages. as a child i had a go at italian, german, spanish, and later on, thai. would usually manage to get down numbers 1-10, rooms of the house, random pieces of furniture, members of the family (and the all important 'where is the bathroom?' in thai, still waiting to use that).

i don't know what changed. the language path in my brain is well taken over, and requiring a good amount of hacking in the undergrowth to find again.
these are the three stages that inevitably happen.

1: euphoric enthusiasm. accompanied by vivid imaginings of effortless conversation in new language after just a few lessons. quickly followed by...
2. despair. after above delusions are shattered and the realization sinks in how much work will have to be done to achieve the desired fluency, the undertaking becomes huge and threatening. if not a gifted speaker in the first few minutes, why bother trying! after talking myself through that, the most difficult stage sets in.
3. procrastination. always a battle. i guess it comes down to schedule, motivation and self discipline.
will let you know how that some point....

another challenge is speaking. i'm fairly shy, even in my native language. and when an opportunity comes up to strike up a conversation with a spanish speaker in montreal (frequent these days) i will often go blank, and scuttle away before anyone picks up on the tiny amount of spanish in my brainwaves.
but ask me questions in french and i will reply in spanish noooooo problem. (?)

there are some people out there who just love languages, want to speak to anything that moves, and add a new language to their repertoire every year. bored with portuguese, lets try mandarin today! *tears*
i will never be one of these people. but i'm allowed to be jealous....

the thing that helps is that i actually do love spanish. it's a fun language to listen to, fiery and fast, full of emotion and yet guided by some pretty great logic. the perfect mix. i kind of love the music too, it gives me permission to feel all sentimental and mushy. a refreshing contrast to the general cynicism of the northern hemisphere. some words that pretty much sum up spanish music: 'corazon', 'amor' and 'quiero'. throw in 'no entiendo' for good measure. oh and 'baila'.
dancing.... now that's a whole other love :)

i've heard that surrounding yourself with as much of the language as possible will assist the osmosis process. in the meantime, while waiting for The Morning i wake up speaking full sentences from previously watching spanish 'Sesame Street', there are resources for some good ol-fashioned work. the series 'Practice Makes Perfect' has great books, makes learning the written form simple and fast. also, a friend recently introduced me to this website that has a sneaky way of getting you to learn languages by designing it like farmville. except no escaping cows. or whatever farmville has that gets people addicted. if you can get human weaknesses (ie, addictive personality, competition) to work in your favor... i'm all for it!

this is just the beginning of what will likely be a loooooooooong process. future spanish teachers, be warned!

Monday, March 18, 2013

musings on montreal.

despite the name of this blog, i have been a resident of montreal for 7 years and counting. not exactly the definition of a nomad, unless you count numerous apartment moves and a jaunt to scotland...

anyhow, after committing myself to live at least a year and a half in ecuador (and the plan is not to come back, but keep moving through south america), i have been going through a process of cutting ties. mostly physical - selling furniture, cancelling lease... but along with that it's been frighteningly easy to cut the emotional ties too. scenes that i used to love are now looking old and worn, shops and cafe's starting to lose their appeal, and the lifestyle.... well don't get me started on that.

how does that happen... a place that once thrilled you, a lifestyle you'd always aspired to live, an atmophere that you thought was home... almost becoming repulsive? how do you fall out of love with a place? is it like falling out of love with a human? realizing that they have taught you all they can... and staying together will just be unhealthy and/or irritating for both of you?

perhaps seeing montreal yet again under sheets of ice and scurrying from place to place to avoid losing limbs to frostbite has skewed my viewpoint....

however, i was downtown the other day, and thinking that it had been a long time since i took a good look around, and appreciated what the city had to offer. this was my soundtrack.

so i set off down the streets, and opened my eyes. this is what i saw. the row of old, almost broken down buildings on st catherine full of grafitti, juxtaposed against the huge sleek glass concordia buildings. almost every face you pass on the street has lived another life on the other side of the world. houses almost bursting their stone foundations, painted in bright colors, detailed woodwork made with love and skill that disappeared years ago. i could go on and on... clearly most of my lingering love for montreal is wrapped up in the architecture. not a surprise, montreal was my first sighting of things on a grand scale, buildings older than parts of canada, and as a dreamy 13 year old, i was impressed. some things will always stick with you.

now here are the things that i've stopped loving, or never did to begin with. never got into the club scene - hate crowded spaces. enjoying the terrace scene in the summer is a nice idea... but gets terribly expensive. besides, so many of those places are about seeing and being seen... a kind of show. the shopping is great, but can quickly turn into an obsession with appearance... ok, so i am kind of hitting on my issues with the general lifestyle.
there is the buzz of city life, exciting as a teenager, but as a somewhat sensitive and intuitive adult, the incessant pace seems unnecessary and exhausting. and last but not least, all the favorite haunts have either closed, moved, or changed so much that the original charm has been lost. (Griffintown anyone???)

that being said, montreal still has some very beautiful people that are grounded and maintain their connection with what's meaningful. (these people also take frequent trips to the country to decompress....) i have learned more about how to live a balanced life from people here than i have in all my years at home. montreal was where i came to get my feet under me when i was 18 and living on my own for the first time, and after moving back from scotland, feeling homesick and reeling from some personal losses. montreal has always been there to cradle me, then toughen me up for whatever is next.

these days it's been a lot of tough love... which makes me wonder about what's in store....
right now, coccooned in my apartment, it's about escape. escaping in my mind to my future home, escaping through music to other (warmer) parts of the world like senegal and mali. and this time it's not about being a discontented person, it's just the knowlege that there is so much more out there to experience and be immersed in... we have this mistaken belief in the western world that our standards and lifestyle are what the rest of the world should strive for. but taking a step back..... if all humans are equal, that would mean that each group of people has something equally important to offer in how they live their lives.

i will never be comfortable with living in one place, for this reason. there is just too much to learn. and to give. everywhere.

so, montreal: we've had some amazing times, lots of milestones happened here, i will always love you for the friends you've given me. and thanks for being a stepping-stone to other things. couldn't have done it without you. but now... it's time to move on.

PS: i really really hate your winter.