Empty Rooms and Kitchen Cabinets

I have always remembered my dreams.  They are vivid and often leave me feeling exhausted when I wake up, like I’ve been living them out in real life rather than in my mind.  I don’t think I’ve had a good night’s sleep in years.  The only times I remember waking up refreshed are after taking redeye airplane flights and then passing out from exhaustion.

I could go into all the reasons for my lack of sound sleep, but I know no one really cares.  I also know that most people don’t care about other people’s dreams, but please indulge me for a moment.  Or feel free to skip this post, whatever is easiest.  

Lately, I have been dreaming about houses.  I’ve noticed that this happens in times of great transition for me.  The houses are usually big and empty, gutted even.  There is often a lot of concrete and moments where I’m running through each room looking for something or someone who never materializes.

In these dreams, I am always afraid.

I started having them a few years after graduating from college.  I was extremely depressed and found myself floundering in all areas.  I have always suffered from anxiety to some extent my whole life, but the depression was new.  Or maybe it wasn’t if I’m being honest, but it was the first time I acknowledged it and the first time I sought professional help.  I remember walking into my therapist’s office on Central Park West during my lunch break from a job that didn’t quite fit, sitting down in an old arm chair, and bawling my eyes out before I could even really explain why I was there.  I cried most of that session, but for the first time in a long time I felt alive rather than going through the motions and pretending I was fine.

Therapy taught me a lot that I won’t go into here.  We did, however, spend some time interpreting my crazy dreams.  My doctor explained that a house is often a symbol for the Self.  The abandoned houses that seemed to haunt me represented emotional neglect and problems I had gotten used to.  They were a sign for a desire for self-improvement.  I know dream interpretation may not be for everyone, but when I heard this something clicked for me.  The dreams were my mind’s way of letting me know that I was in desperate need for some self-improvement.  It was a long journey, but once I made mental health a priority the house dreams stopped.

But now they’re back.  I keep dreaming of this one kitchen in a house that’s for sale.  The cabinets are covered over with layers of contact paper, like the kind that lines drawers.  I know someone is trying to hide something by covering over the old wood and it makes me nervous.  There is something very ominous about this place.

I’m pretty sure that this is my brain’s way of telling me that I’m trying to hide things from myself again: that I’m not dealing with shit very well and that I need to take a good stab at self-reflection.  And I know from experience that self-reflection is hard.  

So here’s the truth: as much as I want to think that I’m coping well with life in Canada, I’m not.  I fill my days with “stuff”: cooking, reading, writing, walking the dog.  But the reality is all of that is just a mask.  During the week when J is at work and I am alone I realize what I have become and it terrifies me.  I am a housewife for the moment and while intellectually I know there is nothing wrong with that, this role feels wrong to me.  Inside I am frustrated and angry that we had to leave everything behind to come here.  

I am not in the mood to put a positive spin on this.  This is how I feel today, in this moment, and I think failing to acknowledge that completely hasn’t been healthy.  Tomorrow will probably be better, but tonight I am going to go eat a Magnum bar, watch bad TV, and wallow.

Tomorrow will probably be better.  Most tomorrows usually are.

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Independence Day

I’ve been absent from this space for a while, mostly because I haven’t been in the mood to write.  My parents were in town and then we were off to Northern CA for the Napa wedding (didn’t pick any of those options, FYI, but instead went with this little polka dot number).  

I love SoCal with all my heart, but NorCal has definitely grown on me over the past few months. While I’m at a point where I can acknowledge that Vancouver is a great city, it still doesn’t feel like home.  Canada is fine, but I find myself feeling more patriotic than I ever have in my life for the US.  I know we have our problems, but now that I’m a resident of a country that is not my own I really appreciate America in a new way.  Today especially, as friends and family are celebrating our independence, I feel homesick for my homeland.

Searching for a job as a temporary resident of Canada has been harder than I imagined.  Most job listings flat-out state that preference will be given to Canadians and permanent residents (a status that takes 3 years and a formal immigration process to achieve).  I’ve also come across jobs with maximum age requirements (i.e. jobs held for people under the age of 30).  While I knew it might be tough to find full-time employment in a foreign country, I never anticipated it would be like this.  Perhaps I’ve been lucky in my past job searches, but I’m used to getting at least an interview.  At first I thought I was just going about my job search the wrong way, but in doing some research I’ve found that this is actually quite common here.  The unemployment rate among immigrants to Canada is extremely high.  I have the necessary work permits, etc., but that doesn’t seem to matter.  I just feel very stuck and miss living in a country where my citizenship status didn’t seem to color every aspect of my life.

I definitely appreciate the immigrant experience in a whole new way.  Politicians in the US are always running on platforms that keep American jobs for Americans and I never really thought much about that.  Now I understand just how difficult it must be for the thousands of people who move to the US in pursuit of opportunity and find it difficult to get a foot in the door.  I know I have it much better than most people in my situation, but it’s still hard.

Today is just another day in Canada.  I wish I was home to celebrate, but I guess that isn’t in the cards.  In the meantime, I hope all of you Americans have a great Fourth of July.  Watch some fireworks for me 🙂

Friday Favorite: Little Green Cars

I’m not sure how I stumbled across Little Green Cars (probably through Spotify radio, check out their website: http://littlegreencars.co.uk/), but now I can’t get enough. They’re playing all over the world this year, but as of now I don’t see any trips to Vancouver 😦 Oh well, I’ll just have to listen to their album on repeat and pretend I’m seeing them live. “The John Wayne” is my favorite song of the moment. Their harmonies kill me every time.

My Writing Story

I have been suffering with the worst case of writer’s block.  Not just on this blog, but in everything I’ve been trying to do.  This move to Canada has given me the opportunity to devote myself to creative pursuits.  Since I’m not working full-time (not by choice, FYI, I’d much rather be fully employed at the moment), I told myself that I would focus on what would make me truly happy.  For me, this means writing something longer than a short story.  It means actually writing a novel.

Just putting that out there is really scary for me.  It means that I am admitting out loud that this is something I want to do.  It has always been my big audacious goal and yet I have been so preoccupied with other things over the past few years that I’ve let it fall by the wayside.  I’ve used work and school as reasons that I could never fully devote myself to writing anything worth reading.

Now that I have the time, I have no excuses.  I could actually do this if I made it a priority.  The only catch?  I think I’ve read too much.  As someone with a background in book publishing and a masters in library science, I think it’s safe to say that I am pretty devoted to reading.  There is nothing I love more than curling up with a good book.  When something is good, I devour it.  When something isn’t so good, I finish it anyway (I’ve been told life is too short to waste time reading things you don’t like, but I can’t not finish reading something I start.  It’s a sickness).  

With all of this reading under my belt, you’d think that I’d have lots of sources of inspiration.  That’s true to an extent.  The only catch is that I keep stopping myself from pursuing ideas if I have any inkling that something like it exists in the marketplace.  As a once-upon-a-time editorial assistant at both a literary agency and two large publishers, my mind often gets clouded by the business side of things.  Is this idea marketable? Has it been done before? This is a horribly dangerous way of thinking because it focuses on the end result rather than the process.  I shouldn’t be worried about whether or not I could sell this book I haven’t written.  I should just be writing for the sake of writing at this point!  The final outcome shouldn’t play a role.

So many of my days recently have been spent sitting down on my couch, brainstorming ideas and shooting them down one by one.  Then I get nervous about the fact that I can’t come up with anything original.  Then I start getting mad at myself for wasting all of this potential writing time by being anxious.  It’s a vicious cycle that ultimately leads me to give up for the day, only to begin the process again.  I am the best at making myself feel the worst.

I don’t know what happend this morning, though.  Something changed.  I sat down for some stream-of-consciousness rambling on my laptop and then out of no where it just kind of hit me.  An idea that I’m actually excited about!  I have so far tamed my impulse to Google the shit out of this idea because I know that if I find anything remotely similar it will squash all creativity.  I’m just going to run with it because I know that’s what’s best.  I want to finish something for once without being my own worst critic.  For better or worse, this story is mine and I think I owe it to myself to tell it.

The Whole Friends Thing

Yesterday, I was talking to someone about how difficult it is to make friends in your 30’s.  Maybe this isn’t a universal truth, but it’s certainly the case for me and a lot of the people I know.  To be fair, I haven’t been trying very hard since arriving in Canada.  There is more I could be doing: joining a kickball league (this has been suggested to me more than once, but I’m not even sure if kickball exists here?), take a writing class, etc.  But I’m just so out of practice at the whole making friends thing that I think I’m lacking the skills necessary.  I feel like I need to attend some sort of workshop: “Making Friends 101: How to Create  Social Network in Three Easy Steps.”

I am still friends with people I’ve known since I was 12-18 years old.  That’s 20 years of friendship in some cases (crazy!), which means you don’t have to provide any backstory or explanation about yourself.  These people are my backstory.  There’s no need to be the best version of myself because they’ve seen me at my best and at my worst and have still stuck around.  There is so much comfort in having that stability.

So when I think about developing new friendships, I’m kind of at a loss.  I have my husband and my puppy, but while they are fantastic I’m also someone who needs more than that to feel truly at home in a place.  Whenever I’m out and I see groups of girlfriends having coffee or window shopping, I have a total Carrie Bradshaw-in-Paris moment (please tell me you know what I’m talking about) and I feel this ache in my gut.  But then I think about having to develop new friendships and it makes me feel so overwhelmed.  I know I need to be proactive about this, just not sure where to start.

There are expat groups and things like that here which might be a start? I may also take a cooking class or something . . . 

Has anyone else had trouble meeting people when moving to a new city?  Any tips?