Rekindle the Joy

Maybe I've been the problem, maybe I'm the one to blame

But even when I turn it off and blame myself, the outcome feels the same

I've been thinkin' maybe I've been partly cloudy, maybe I'm the chance of rain

Maybe I'm overcast, and maybeall my luck's washed down the drain

My last road trip to Edmonton was a bit of a trip down memory lane with the music I was listening to - old Switchfoot albums I remember really digging when I was in the same mood and the same space, you know, not enough money, not enough time, too many worries, a lot of self-doubt. Seems so familiar. 

On Sunday night at Starbucks, after most of my crazy appointments had already happened, they had a cute sign on the door that says, "Rekindle the joy." complete with a bunny and a cardinal making friends over a pile of Christmas presents. 

I realized as I read it that the holidays are something you make for yourself (something that I already knew) and that I was doing a really terrible job of that, which was more of a revelation. The word rekindle really did it for me. Helped me see what I wasn't doing - going back to that tiny ember of joy that I haven't been active in tending. I have been letting the winds of life be a bellows or a draft, one awakening the fire, one taking its strength away. So I've been trying my best to feed the flames of Christmas despite the blue Christmas that many around me seem to be having. Fire, death, the threat of bankruptcy, and the sting of a long-term breakup are just a few of the many heavy things that are affecting the lives of my friends, and even though a few of my friends are having particularly happy Christmases this year, I am feeling the effects of a long term grief that's been growing in me for some time. Life is not always kind. 

Sometimes you get a chance to do something kind, though. That same evening I helped someone jumpstart their car when their battery went dead and they were exceedingly grateful. And I got to rescue a couple whose wedding photographer backed out at the last minute. Their wedding is in less than a week now, at night on winter solstice. You know, that day when the world isn't actually going to end.

And I recently volunteered to be a special presenter at a Grade 10 class to talk about photography as a profession. One of Paul's friends is teaching art classes at the Saskatoon Christian School, and the kids there were really interested and receptive. The teacher said they were exceptionally creative and they asked good questions. It made me feel like a real pro. As did the actuation count on my new camera - the D800 is already over 25,000 photos taken with it after I've only had it for just over a quarter of a year. I think that gives some small picture of how busy I am! Being successful at something, to the point where the success is truly undeniable, is a strange place to be. I read once that studies say that only people who are actually good at things - famous or successful people - have strong fears of being found out to be a fraud. I actually found that quite encouraging, as well as the realization, now that I'm at least nominally friends with some of the best photographers in Canada, that they all do that too. I even saw one of them forget to take his lens cap off at the Canada Photo Convention. I swear that moment was like the keynote speech of my own feeling of redemption. It's not that I wanted to watch someone else fail, it's that I wanted to find the common ground in reality to understand my own success, a grounding, I guess. Finding out that crippling fear and discontent and feeling like a fraud were all part of the game at the top levels helped me to feel like maybe I was getting somewhere down here in the middle ground that's still sloping up. 

Don't close your eyes, don't close your eyes

This is your life and today is all you've got now 

Yeah, and today is all you'll ever have

This is one of those times where I try to see my life as a whole, where I came from, where I'm going, and figure out those course corrections. There's a few major ones I'm looking at, and this upcoming sabbatical will really help with that I think. I am trying to make my own self-improvement the job so the transition from work to personal work won't be so weird. I need to feel like I can put as much energy into myself as I need to. I have some serious personal fixing to do. I hope I come out of it with more answers than questions, though that doesn't seem the way of things.

Here is where you're finding me

In the exact same place as New Year's Eve

And from the lack of my persistency

We're less than half as close as I wanted to be

A lot of times I sit and stare at my Christmas tree that's been up since late November and just try to get into the spirit of the holidays, the magical feeling that something wonderful is happening in the world. Sometimes I catch a glimpse of it. Sometimes I sing a snatch of a carol by the light of the blinking tree. I have moments where I find the Christmas spirit in all of this, but things feel… so practical and blue and mundane sometimes that it's difficult to really catch onto the coattails of the season and go for the usual ride. 

This is your life, is it everything you dreamed that it would be

When the world was younger and you had everything to lose

Paul and I have tried to institute a regular date day on Tuesdays after hearing that one of his married friends had done so for the greater good of their marriage. As my crazy year is finally petering out, I have been trying to be more proactive about finding ways to support Paul since his job is busy this time of year. He assesses people's ability to do things after they've had car accidents - and it's one of the more dangerous winter seasons Saskatoon has had so there's really not much of a work shortage, though there was a brief drought the other week that helped him catch his breath.

I feel so close to you right now

There's no stopping us right now

I had a really successful weekend in Edmonton, what with shooting a Christmas Party, Family photos, Engagement photos that were particularly cool, and meeting three wedding clients and two daughters who were buying their Mom a family photo package for Christmas. I was pretty exhausted when I got back a few days ago and life's been a blur of attempted productivity and actual productive time since. Paul had a slow week from work last week and as a consequence is feeling more like himself than usual. 

Paul and I went to his office Christmas party, which was an interesting experience. His fellow OTs are a bit on the wild side and some of the folks there were hilarious, but then, it was a Christmas party, so anything goes! It was cool to finally meet his boss - who is pretty much the most supportive boss I've ever heard of in my life. 

Time starts to pass

Before you know it you're frozen

Paul and I always cuddle when he goes to bed and then I get back up because our schedules don't mesh, and the other night as we cuddled I told him, "Did you know we've been in love for three years?" "Life moves pretty fast. If you don't stop and look around once and awhile you could miss it." Last night we went to see The Hobbit with some of my high school friends. High school was TEN YEARS ago. I don't really feel old, I just marvel at how time marches on sometimes. Especially in a three hour movie that you realized about twenty minutes in was going to be wholly disappointing. I won't share any spoilers, but I was not impressed with it at all. The whole spirit of it felt nothing like the book to me. There was an innocence lost about it. There was something so challenging about The Hobbit that wasn't missing but wasn't done well, the decision of a person who is comfortable with their mediocrity deciding to take the big chance to embrace adventure when it comes, along with everything it throws at you, trolls and all. I am going to read the book again, I feel like I need to work on that adventuring spirit in myself again now that I am an adult.

Speaking of adulthood, nothing speaks to being an adult like spending a whole day on insurance proceedings (for the second time this year) and still not being done with it all. Ugh. What with the move (which was expensive) and life (which is expensive) we spend a lot of time on budgets and filling out forms and all manner of weeping and gnashing of teeth.

I don't believe the emptiness

I'm looking for the kingdom coming down

Everything is meaningless

I want more than simple cash can buy

Murphy is the cutest little dog in the whole wide world. Alternately he drives me and Paul crazy and makes us smile, but there's definitely a net good here. I wish I felt I could take more time for training, but I think that will happen soon. He's a natural pretzel when he sleeps. His personality is one part cuddly, two parts firecracker, and three parts smart as a whip. He's always trying to see what he can get away with, but a sharp no turns him away from nearly any bad deed. He is not picky about his toys, and every new toy gets soundly beaten, although at the advice of our breeder, our cheapest and most entertaining toy is the white t-shirt fragment on a shoelace. He's fast as a western outlaw's draw with that game and even when Paul and I sweep the prey as fast as we can we're often not fast enough. The other very entertaining Murphy toy that requires some cleanup but seems fair trade for hours of entertainment - paper. We gave him a big piece of crunched up packing paper and kept more of it around. There's shreds on every inch of my workspace floor, but he's left MY papers alone. Fair trade, like I said. We're starting to train him with some things for clicker training, and I hope to do a lot more soon, but sometimes with these fast moving days I have we spend companionable time together in a patch of sun on our couch.

He's a ray of sunshine for me. He keeps Paul and I active and alert. He's good toddler practice, as we were saying.

Is this the New Year or just another night? 

Is this the new fear or just another fright? 

Is this the new tear or just another desperation?

This whole year has been on the difficult side. Well, all three years of our marriage have been a strange mix of happiness and struggle. We're getting somewhere with it though, things are looking up and looking forward we see better days ahead. I love our house, it feels a bit like we've always been here honestly, just like our last place did. I love being close to friends and family here, and re-making my relationships again, especially the people I've been keeping up with anyway. I'm grateful to spend time with friends and not feel out of touch or out of place. I am hoping to spend more time with friends than I have so far, but people have been very generous in their time, and we have tried to be generous with ours though that's not always easy with the staggering workload. Paul pretty much conked out entirely yesterday and only spent a few conscious hours in my company, and the majority of our Saturday date-day plans went down the tubes. Not that I'm unhappy. We watched some Netflix together in the evening and we spent some time entertaining the Murphy, and it was pleasant to feel like I could do something personal.

It's funny, even taking out the garbage this morning seemed like the biggest victory to me after feeling like the house was pretty out of control. My friend Cathleen who was here for a day and helped me bake some cookies from an old Church Cookbook (those are huge here in Saskatchewan, and the recipes are simple and actually work for me reasonably often). We tried honey cookies, which weren't as awesome as we'd hoped, and I tried a new shortbread recipe which I am really happy with (comment if you want it!) because it's tasty as buttery sugary goodness should be and a bit crumbly but it doesn't fall apart on merely touching the cookie, which many of my previous recipe attempts for shortbread were found wanting. If I were to cut it thicker I'm sure it'd be perfect. Shortbread is my favourite cookie, and the smell of making your own is pretty fabulous. 

In a world full of bitter pain and bitter doubt 

I was trying so hard to fit in, fit in, 

Until I found out I don't belong here

I see good things ahead for us. Easier times. I see myself blossoming out of my shell a bit more after having been resigned to loneliness. I see money becoming a lesser focus of our lives after being central for far too long. I see a comfort with success for myself, a blossoming of my still young self-respect starting to bleed over into taking care of myself in a more physical way and pressing this eating disorder problem into a real remission. I have actually been doing rather well in this area of late, which gives me hope. The comfort of home is helping to balance the sadness of friends and the difficulties of keeping finances balanced. At some point life is going to be about something other than money, right? 

As a priest once said to a confessor who complained that they were confessing the same sins every time, "What do you want, new sins?" I would prefer no problems, but in comparison to the problems of many people around me, money seems pretty small. 

Tonight I spent some time with Mark, and he had some sage words for me to help me feel like things are getting better. 

Only You can stop the emptiness

Don't let it take me over