We all knew that was coming, right?

A while back a friend told me of a Vonnegut quote that I think of constantly. I’ve definitely mentioned it on here before, but if my worst case scenario is reminding you, I’m willing to take the consequences. It reads:

“And I urge you to please notice when you are happy, and exclaim or murmur or think at some point, ‘If this isn’t nice, I don’t know what is.”

I wrote earlier that I think of it constantly, when really I should’ve instead admitted that I couldn’t think of it often enough. It’s easy to get bogged down by anything that irks you. Every day is a series of microaggressions and interactions that could’ve gone better. Living is anxiety, in that if we had to stop and consider every infraction, we’d find the nearest bridge and a pair of concrete boots.

Conversely, we don’t give enough credit to moments that lift us. Negativity is far easier to feed than the alternative and feeling petty is exponentially more satisfying than contentment. I wonder though, if that’s a function of how much energy we give to that which doesn’t go our way. If we spent more time acknowledging pleasant moments, to carve out those few seconds each time, if we’d notice the difference in our lives.

Take today for instance. Today wasn’t remarkable in any way, but it hasn’t given me anything to complain about. If someone tomorow were to ask me how my weekend was, today would’ve likely factor into my recount. Still, when I think harder about it, I’d almost say it was a perfect Sunday.

I woke next to my girlfriend and we snuggled for a bit. I got up, breezed through public transit and headed for the gym. Without immediate engagements, I didn’t feel remotely rushed. I took my time between sets and really considered which muscle groups I was hitting. While normally I’m bound by evening events or exhausted from work, today I got to spend as long as I wanted without trying to get in and out in about an hour. I left the gym and dawdled around a few shops, then checked out a new Japanese restaurant that opened in Koreatown. It was great, the yakiniku beef was incredibly flavourful, the salad was much more than the usual iceberg lettuce drenched in (admittedly delicious) salad dressing. There was some kind of dried vegetable on the side and the miso soup tasted unusually vibrant. I left satisfied, without a bulging stomach.

I did some fruit and vegetable shopping on my way home. Ten minutes after I arrived, friends came over to play some Magic. We played for hours, the games were interactive with shifting status and tensions. There weren’t huge stalemates, play was fluid and dynamic. We had discussions about the wider metagame and format, then they left and I had the house to myself.

I’ve got a bolognese sauce on the stove which is minutes away. I spent time prepping, listening to music and took advantage of the fresh ingredients I bought earlier. Having tasted it already, it’s gonna be piquant as fuck. Plus the satisfaction of having cooked it myself is an entirely salient taste.

I don’t know what else to say, If this isn’t nice, I don’t know what is.

If I cast far enough, shit might get reel.

Sometimes a moment of clarity will just strike you from out of nowhere. Like a bolt flung from the hands (or tentacles, let’s be real here) of a deity, an epiphany. While I was voicing yesterday, somebody from the station dropped into the studio to hang out. When I came out of the booth, she introduced herself. She asked me my background and what I wanted to do. Without skipping a beat, I replied.

“I want to make podcasts.” I said. “It’s something the opposition does, but we’re really lacking behind.” Someone else chipped in “We have them.” I nodded and replied “we do have them, but the breadth of subject matter is pretty limited, which seems weird considering the vast Intellectual Properties we have access to and our company’s push for consumer engagement. If having a social media presence is so important, why not offer them cause to spend time with us while they work? Give them even more reason to engage with our brands. It’s an intimate, personal medium. Selling the idea to consumers that we’re their friends? It’s hard to buy that kind of marketing. Why not do that?” I stopped ranting. All three people in the room were quiet, nodding.

Where the fuck did that confidence come from?

I’ve had vague ideas about professionally producing podcasts before, but haven’t given it a whole lot of serious consideration. Then all of a sudden that torrent came tumbling out of my mouth. Who would pay me to do it? Where would the funds come from? Today though, I’ve been thinking about it more. Who better than a large corporation? It’s not like they’d have to invest in infrastructure. They have the equipment, the hosting. They can handle traffic and would have umpteen ways to promote it. They have on-air talent. They have content that invites both discussion and promotion. We know that there’s a market for it, given the near ubiquity of podcasting. All it needs is someone to go to bat for it.

I’ve been struggling a bit lately in multiple areas. Aside from near constant impostor syndrome (though I assume this is a universal part of the human condition), I’ve been feeling really down on myself. For years I had a fire burning, mantra of Make it Happen running through my head. I felt indomitable and pushed forward constantly. The past few years have felt like a rut professionally and I’ve started to doubt whether or not I’m a capable person. It’s been harder to get motivated and excited about things. Self-esteem has given way to recursive negative self-talk and I’ve started to stop believing that I deserve opportunities.

This past weekend was spent in the constant company of friends. A couple of them were people I’m quite close with, but most were casual acquaintances. I had an amazing time, but one thing stuck out to me. Almost universally, people there saw me as quick witted and down for anything. They assumed I took chances and opportunities, that I was creative and hard working. Good-natured, compassionate and funny. They saw me as the kind of person I want to be, a person who boldly follows their desires and makes things happen.

I feel like I used to be him. That if circumstances align, I become him again. I realised just how much I want to be as my friends see me. I want to take risks and be okay with failing. I want to put in effort because a lesson learned is the worst outcome. I want so badly to believe in myself again.

If others do, what’s stopping me?

I also came up with the band name T’ronahsaurus Rex. Now I have only to come up with the musical talent to bring it into fruition.

I think I found my best self this weekend. Away at a friend’s cottage, far from responsibility, schedules and mandatory apparel. Bare-butted, whimsical and earnest, I came and went with warmth in my heart and joy in my soul. Also puns in my mouth.

The past two days were a whirlwind of future memories. Endless rolling in-jokes and riffing. Extended bits about Guy Fieri that morphed and evolved over hours. I for one can’t wait for his cinematic debut, Mad Max: Fieri Road. With everyone in varying states of dress, somehow I became the Token Naked Guy. Others dressed to the nines, big fuzzy coats, scarves, fluffy pink slippers and glittery face paint. Constant snacking and drink top ups. Hedonism incarnate.

There was a defining element of commitment to the call to adventure. One of my favourite extended excursions centered around a Polaroid camera that was lying around. I was strolling the place garbed in an open green smoking jacket and zebra patterned boxer briefs. Very Hugh Hefner. My friend saw me standing next to a bar stacked with assorted trinkets and baubles. She told me to strike a pose and I gave her an “oh, I didn’t see you there” smise. She snapped it at the perfect moment. We watched the Polaroid develop in real time and realised the permanence of each shot. We had one take and everything needed to align. We walked downstairs into the plush 70s style basement (complete with orange shag carpet) that we’d dubbed the “Fuck Den” (because of The Implication) and found our canvas.

We began a series of 70s Playboy style shoot, each more extravagant than the last. We’d arrange the scene, finding our vision, then I’d direct the talent and create our perfect moment. There was our friend splayed seductively across the table (bowl of keys tucked in the corner of the shot). Other friends dressed in tiger and ringleader garb, her crawling predatorily up the stairs as he leashed her back. Another draped herself over the couch, covered in constellations of fairy lights. One straddling a fireplace with a fire extinguisher and logs in the foreground, cigarette hanging from her lips, lighter aflame. The shots stacked up one by one until we had a portfolio of absurdism as a reward for our efforts. A fun, manic night of revelry and delight.

I can’t hope to capture in words how much I needed this weekend, mind, heart, body and soul. Spending times awash in the giving nature and wit of close friends lightened a burden I’d been carrying for some time. In finding my best self, I hope I can find an ongoing way to represent the aspects I’d come to value over the past 48 hours. I’ve earned it.

Can this just be life now?

Do you ever find yourself surrounded by such a beauteous vista that you question what you’d done in life to deserve it? I’m lounging on a comfortable chair on a subdued, but clear day. Chirps, warbles and soft buzzing unfold from the surrounding vegetation. I’m on an expansive deck overlooking a gently sloped clearing, leading down to a still pond. We’re flanked on all sides by verdancy, swaying idly in a light breeze. A nearby lamppost adorned with bird feeders is seeing regular use. It’s humid, but the wind kissing my naked skin feels like a gentle embrace. It’s idyllic to a tee. Did I somehow leave reality and land smack bang in the middle of a fairy tale?

I’m away with friends at a batch. Or cottage, as they say here in Canada. It’s so far exceeded every expectation. I’m used to modest accommodations, not sprawling mansions with every amenity and then some. I say this after a night spent popping in and out of the hot tub. We’re a group of 15 or so and it’s never once felt cramped. Multiple lounge spaces (including a bona fide 70s porno room, shag carpet et al). A fully functional (far more so than ours at home) kitchen and enough bathrooms to prevent long waiting periods (plus, y’know, the outdoors for any overflow).
I can’t overstate what a relief it was just getting out of the city limits. A weight lifted thinking of the release inherent to leaving a time obsessed metropolis for a weekend. Schedules tossed out in favour of a more laissez-faire arrangement. There’s nowhere we need to be until we return home, we can do as much or as little as we want. It’s a wonderful group of open, accepting individuals. It’s a clothing optional weekend, which I’m taking full advantage of (don’t worry, there’s copious bug spray). There’s something so comforting in optional nudity. Don’t get me wrong, I like clothes, but the choice to be settled in my own skin without the fear of isolating or infringing on the boundaries of others is liberating. I’ve also developed a new appreciation for shirt-cocking (business on top, nothing on the bottom). It’s so affirming having nudity de-sexualised, around a group that implicitly understands that.

Our hosts have been pulling out all the stops to make us feel at home. After we settled in and had a few drinks, they gathered us together. We were to put drinks in a cooler, get some light coverage in case of rain, grab a torch and suit up for a ten minute walk into the forest. We were led down a track, sky blotted out by trees. The way was lantern-lit (which they obviously did painstakingly by hand. Jeezus), with strings of coloured fairy lights draped periodically overhead. Magical Stranger Things vibes. After a short downhill walk, we arrived at a snug little cabin. Chairs and pillows everywhere, an inset bar, fireplace and dance floor at the ready. I already used the word “idyllic”, right?

This place is paradise. Surrounded by warmth, unshackled from any expectations. Is this what a holiday feels like?

You know who knew a thing or two about comedy? Dante.

I remember exactly when I decided I had to be funny. I was nine years old. My best friend was moving on from primary school into intermediate. My best friend was the funniest person I knew. I was not. I don’t know if I’d channelled the latent spirit of Miller, but I knew that I was liked, while my friend was well-liked. Something deep in my core told me that being liked wasn’t enough. I needed to be well-liked, as my friend was. I also knew innately that my friend leaving would throw off some integral balance in the schoolyard. We needed joy, but with him gone, that got a little bit harder. Someone needed to fill that void. My precious nine year old brain volunteered as tribute. Heavy lay the crown, but I’d worn a kippah, it couldn’t be that different.

I still feel like a fraud. Playing a role with wit coming from the head, not the heart. I’m don’t worry whether or not I’m funny, I worry about the distance between my humour and myself. All these years I’ve been searching for the kind of jokes that fit me, that feel natural. Comedy that tumbles out out my mouth without a second thought. I latch on to puns and word play because they feel safe. I love words and how they intermingle. Snide or sarcastic commentary feels safe. Using intellectualism as a stand-in for wit, because keeping the joke at arm’s length means I have time to back down from it. If I it doesn’t land and I haven’t fully committed, it lessens the sting. It minimises both negative consequences and potential.

I’ve started taking beginner improv lessons as a way to understand how to be present. I want to get more in touch with where my humour comes from and how it takes shape. Improv flies in the face of my instincts. Instead of keeping a safe distance, it forces me to jump in and commit. Instead of comparing and contrasting five different thoughts, gauging how any audience would receive them and ultimately wait for a better time to yield higher impact, improv tells me to grab the first thought and run with it. Instead of sifting through ideas for whatever makes me sound smarter, improv tells me to jump in and make it work. To trust my instincts and not back down. To listen to others and work with them. That creating harmony is a tacit contract that requires teamwork.

Our teacher told us last night, if a scene breaks up, if someone fumbles a line, take a second and get back to it. Don’t remove yourself to comment on it. You’re shifting the onus off yourself to instead point the blame somewhere else. You’re not being accountable, you’re immediately jumping off a sinking ship instead of trusting one another to fix the leak. It resonated. I immediately thought of my propensity for commenting from a safe distance. How on one hand an arm’s reach feels comforting, but also isolating. Being unwilling to fully embrace often means standing alone.

It’s easy to live a life without taking risks. Just don’t complain when things don’t get better. That needs to be earned.

There were, too, people doing parkour. Seemed apt.

I’ve never been great at relaxing. Something about the idea of sitting and doing nothing stresses me out. If I’m not thinking, why am I awake? I have a constant need to be engaged in an activity, even if that activity is merely hanging out and chatting with others. Given this borderline anxiety over relaxation, the beginning of my weekend was going pretty damn well. Friday I was home sick, learning the intricacies of Watch the Skies‘ ruleset as best I could. Saturday I was constantly on my feet, putting the ruleset into motion for paying customers. By the time the game had wrapped up I wasn’t far from falling into bed. If I was at all afraid of getting appropriate amounts of sleep however, our cat has been going apeshit for the past week or so. As such, it’s been a while since I slept well.

Whatever my feelings on relaxation, both my brain and body needed a break.

Cue the perfect summer day, but in spring. Temperatures going up to the high 20s. A cloudless sky and light breeze blowing through. After a morning spent lugging a microwave around Koreatown, my girlfriend and I decided a park day was not only desirable, but necessary. We put the call out, but didn’t get much back in the way of responses. A few hours later the temperature had dipped to an ideal mid-20s. Some friends posted about hang outs in Trinity Bellwoods. Deal. We strapped on shoes and hit the road.

First stop was Bakerbots. I’m always loathe to mention Bakerbots too much, but figure my readership is small enough that this won’t spread the secret too far. Bakerbots is a boutique bakery that partners with the outrageously popular Bang Bang Icecream. In a one-two punch operation, Bakerbots make the cookies and Bang Bang cream the ice. Bang Bang routinely has a 30+ minute wait time in the summer. Bakerbots takes five minutes at a stretch. Same ice cream, but a slightly smaller range of flavours. I had a cone of burnt toffee and double chocolate, while my girlfriend grabbed burnt toffee and Sam James espresso. Holding the napkin-less cone and feeling drops of delicious dairy melting onto my hands brought me back to childhood beach trips. We’d hang out in the sand and sea for a few hours, then nana and papa would take us to grab massive ice creams. Hokey Pokey and Goody Goody Gumdrops, always. On a sunny Sunday in Toronto, a cone was no less of a treat.

We wandered down to Bellwoods, noticing just how many people were out and about. Over the winter months, Toronto can seem like a ghost town at times. Strange, for a city. Spring typically has more hours of rain than sun, as locals chomp at the bit for patios to open. As soon as they do, the floodgates open and if the patios are full, everyone under 40 goes to one of the many, many parks (seen here in green). Bellwoods is a great spot for dog watching, slack lining, capoeira, calisthenics, frisbee, a few local beers on the down low and assorted musical jams.

We laid our blanket down with friends and watched the world go by. Everything mentioned above and then some. There was a good nature in the air (and obviously all around, trees softly swaying in the breeze). One of our friends had a Hang, which he proceeded to play for us. I’d never seen or heard a Hang before. It looks like an inverted Steel Drum, but could also pass for a large viking shield. It’s gentle and melodious, a sound akin to wind chimes or the motion of a waterfall. Gentle, soothing and tough to play well. Lying back in the evening warmth, listening to the symphony of life going on all around, relaxing started to make more than a little sense.

Good things happen to those who… wait…

I need to start writing now, otherwise I know how the next half hour will play out. I’ll tab between Facebook, Reddit and Twitter, ostensibly looking for something to write about. Realistically, it’ll be procrastination by any other name. I’ll go to the toilet even if I have no need. Maybe stand there and shake it in case something comes out. I’ll refill my water bottle, even if I’m not thirsty. You can never be too sure. Plus if I have water to drink, that’d justify future procrastibatory toilet trips. I can’t forget the kitchen, because that’d be on the menu big time. There’s nothing like opening a fridge to forage for snacks, finding nothing, then checking the pantry to no avail. Lather, rinse, repeat. Maybe I’d be lucky and find a pickle or something. Cheese would also be a hot ticket item. Realistically I know I’m more likely to leave having consumed a spoon of some spread (be it peanut butter, cottage cheese, honey or marmite). Having completed that noble quest, I’d return to the keyboard and continue refreshing Facebook.

As always, it’s a challenge to put words on the page when there’s nothing urgent or exciting going on. It’s a Friday night and I’m at home with no immediate plans. I’d tried to set up hang out time with friends, but with that having fallen through, the amount of energy I want to put into shaping tonight is minimal. I’m helping friends move a ton of stuff into storage tomorrow, so a big night is less desirable. Plus I’m not drinking until Tough Mudder. Oh, and I’m cutting out bread-y things and most sweets too. Why? Because having fun clearly was overrated. It might seem overkill, but I’ve forever been dreadful at moderation. Saying no in an absolute sense makes it a lot easier than falling prey to my ability to justify eating delicious things purely because they’re delicious. I’m not demonising sugary or fatty foods, just my ability to consistently eat things that aren’t them. SUMMER OF NO FUN IT IS.

Alternatively I could put together a list of things I’d like to do in lieu of “anything fun”. Considering the money I’ll save by not drinking, I could do some rad stuff. A bucket list for the next two and a half months before Tough Mudder, eh? Let’s see what I could get up to…

  • Sleep in a tent. I’ve got a cottage weekend away with friends planned, which’d be a good chance to knock this one off.
  • Go for a long bike ride. I don’t own a bike, but I’d sure they’re easy enough to borrow or rent. I’ve always been interested in biking through the Don Valley parkway. It was a nice walk that looked way more enjoyable on wheels.
  • Flying trapeze. I used to love flying trapeze. The only place I know that offers drop in classes offers them on Fridays at 7pm. It’s a bit of a hike and with work finishing at 5pm, it’d be tight getting there in time. We’ve got summer hours at the moment, which means we can leave early on a Friday. Why not take advantage of it and give it a swing?
  • Improv classes. Well this one’s cheating, ’cause I signed up the other day. I’m taking a weekly class for two months in the hopes that it’ll help me brush up on my front-of-brain skills. I’ve got no illusions of becoming a performer, but there are myriad ways improv skills could help in my everyday life.
  • Cook something special. I have no idea what yet, but this summer is the perfect time to flex my culinary muscles and try a dish I’ve never done before. Something that intimidates me. I could try home made sushi, fresh laksa, make my own ice cream, some kind of extravagant mushroom pasta.
  • Get back into indoor Rock Climbing.
  • Try an epic hike with friends.
  • Rent a car and visit a small town with my girlfriend. Stay in a cute little B&B owned by lovely old people. Desecrate the room with filthy sex.
  • Finally get around to re-watching There Will Be Blood.

Endless opportunity abounds if only I put my mind to it. Or more accurately, if I can stop procrastinating for once.