Wednesday, December 22, 2010

New Name

December 23 – New Name

Let’s meet again, for the first time. If you could introduce yourself to strangers by another name for just one day, what would it be and why?

Um, this one's kind of weird. I like my name. Mostly I get called by my full name, which is Alison. But I also get a lot of Al, a few Allies, some A.J's and the Redboot Quartet calls me Al-J. I like all the permutations of my name, really.
The only other name I can think of is Miranda, which my mom was totally going to call me but then she forgot when they brought her the birth certificate to fill out so then she went with Alison. I think Miranda is kind of a sassy, take-charge kind of girl. But then I might get called "Randy" or even worse, "Randi", so maybe I lucked out there.
My name is who I am; I don't think I'd change it, even if I could.

Travel/Future Self

Oops- missed a day. Here are two for the price of one:
December 21 – Future Self. Imagine yourself five years from now. What advice would you give your current self for the year ahead? (Bonus: Write a note to yourself 10 years ago. What would you tell your younger self?) (Author: Jenny Blake)

December 22 – Travel How did you travel in 2010? How and/or where would you like to travel next year? (Author: Tara Hunt) {Future Tool: New Year’s Goal Questions for No-Goals Creatives from Jeffrey Davis. For the next 10 days as you round out your year, we’ll share one tool each day to help you [...]

Future Self, writing in the year 2016...
Dear Me,
If you do these simple things, the next 5 years will be so much better:
Focus on the good stuff; learn to let the bad things go instead of obsessing so much.
Save some money. Ask yourself if you REALLY need that coffee, that chocolate bar, that sweater.
Build on good habits like getting up early and hitting the gym. Don't give up just because you had a minor setback.
Look for work; don't wait for it to come to you. Create work opportunities. Be creative.
Assert yourself. Don't downplay the many skills and talents you've acquired over the years. You are amazing!
Use the phone, letters and face-to-face contact to maintain friendships. Be less of a loner and more generous. Be the friend that people can call at 3am.
Be generous and giving in love. Remember it takes work to maintain a relationship. Learn to accept the things you cannot change.
Travel. It's always worth it. Which leads us to...

Travel. In 2010, I travelled for work, to Barkerville and Wells. One of the best decisions I ever made. Living and working in small-town BC for over 4 months made me a stronger, more confident person. I also travelled for pleasure, to Winnipeg of all places, to meet up with my amazing mom, who was working there. (She's back there this year... but she flies in tonight for Christmas. Yay!) I hung out with her at the gorgeous B&B she was staying in, got taken to a Turkish-style spa, and ate way too many great meals. And, as I always do with my mom, we walked for miles.
In 2011, I already know I'll be heading back to the 'Peg; not only to see my mom but to see the play I've been in. If I'm lucky and everything works out, I'll also be heading to Istanbul in February for 2 weeks with the Reptiles. Bliss! Then back up to B-ville in the spring and summer. 2011 is also the year that I want to go back to the UK with J, who has never been. We've been promising ourselves for YEARS that we'll go and see our families there before it's too late. Travel is something that I've been wanting to do more of for years, so I'm making 2011 my Official Year of Travel. There.

Monday, December 20, 2010

Beyond Avoidance

Beyond Avoidance: What should you have done this year but didn’t because you were too scared, worried, unsure, busy or otherwise deterred from doing? (Bonus: Will you do it?) (Author: Jake Nickell)

What I should have done a long time ago: Take responsibility for my health and weight and start exercising and watching what I eat. Will I do it this year? Well, I did just join a gym, so that's going well. On the other hand, I probably ate my own body weight in cookies and candy canes at our Christmas party last night, so...

Sunday, December 19, 2010


December 19 – Healing: What healed you this year? Was it sudden, or a drip-by-drip evolution? How would you like to be healed in 2011? (Author: Leoni Allan)

Definitely drip-by-drip. Friends always heal. Connections. I am so all about the connections. And just having the chance to BE. To be ME. To do six months of counselling with someone who said I hear you. I get it. To spend four months somewhere new this summer and be a performer, no holds barred. Working. That's a big healer. I love that my work is a life-changing thing rather than just something I do to make money.

In 2011 I would like to keep building a tribe of really good friends. I think that will keep me healthy like nothing else. I took my time getting home tonight because I stayed late at work having a great conversation with someone and my only regret at the end of it was that I had taken so long to feel comfortable around this person. If I can build the confidence to let people in sooner, I think 2011 will be a very exciting year! And I want to keep on getting work that challenges me, because when I have good work, everything else is just gravy.

Saturday, December 18, 2010


What do you want to try next year? Is there something you wanted to try in 2010? What happened when you did / didn’t go for it? (Author: Kaileen Elise)

Now's the time, isn't it? We come to the year's end, we think about everything we swore we'd be and do, and how (badly) we measured up to our resolutions. I can hardly believe it was almost a year ago I sat in a hot tub on Denman Island in the pouring rain, laughing and crying with 2 girlfriends and talking about the months past and the months to come. I didn't know about the bad stuff that was coming: months of being broke and working retail and a horrible flu/cold that stuck around all January. But I also didn't know about all the wonders-and there were many more of those than the bad stuff. Things like: going to Winnipeg to see my Mom. Spending 4 months as an actor/singer miles away from my safe routine. Performing at the Ghost Train this fall. Getting my current gig at the Playhouse.
But I digress. I swore last year that I'd write at least a set's worth of solo material. I even started a song-a-week project this summer. Which lasted a whole 3 weeks before the Barkerville rehearsal schedule wore me down. So when the Accordion Festival happened in September and I was invited to play a set, I bailed. Oh, I claimed that I didn't have enough material, that I wasn't ready... but what it came down to basically was fear. I was too afraid to stand there on a stage and say This is my stuff. This is me without a band to back me up.
So, 2011, let me have another chance to prove that I can be a solo artist. I've already been asked to play at the festival this fall. This time, I'll be ready. Afraid, but ready.

Friday, December 17, 2010

Lesson Learned

What was the best thing you learned about yourself this past year? And how will you apply that lesson going forward?
(Author: Tara Weaver)

This one's easy... I think.
I learned that I can be my own worst enemy. How is that the best thing? Because if I know this, I can change it. And if I can change it, then nothing will stand in my way.

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Reverb 10: better late...?

December 16 – Friendship How has a friend changed you or your perspective on the world this year? Was this change gradual, or a sudden burst? (Author: Martha Mihalick)

Okay, so I'm late to this thing, but some of my fave bloggers are following the prompts over at Reverb 10, and I though it'd be fun to jump in. I may try and do a few of the ones I missed, if I have time...
So anyway, friendship. You know when sometimes all things are pointing to the same subject or issue in your life? Synchronicity, if you will? Well, that's what friendship has started to feel like lately. And then I sign up for Reverb 10 and... here it is again, for heaven's sake.
I blogged recently about friendship, and how I feel that I am not being very good at it lately. As 2010 ends, I am mourning friendships that seem to be fading, while trying to learn how to be a better friend to the ones I have, and how to been open to new friendships instead of building walls of shyness around myself. I hope that I'll be better at being social (and sociable) in 2011, but for now I'll pay tribute to ten friends who changed the way I see the world in 2010:
A makes me see the magic in our crazy, musical life.
G shows me the power of honesty, and the value of a good chat and a hearty laugh.
M reminded me to be young at heart.
V showed me the fun in of getting outside for a swim, a bike ride or an ATV trip.
R is calmness, dedication to craft, sly humour.
M proves that brothers can be friends as well as family.
B reminds me that 'crazy' might be another word for 'unique'.
P's dedication to maintaining friendships over years and distances is inspiring.
S showed me that sometimes the same people who hurt you can also bring you great joy.
A's enthusiasm is infectious.
Thanks to all 10 for showing me different ways of seeing and living life.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Aches and Gains.

I sound like an old lady these days. "Oooh, my abs!" I squeal, as J makes me laugh about something. I'll go to lift something and my upper arms and the muscles over my ribs (what are those called?) will protest and I wince at the unaccustomed pain.
I signed up at a gym last week, one that offers a 30-minute kickboxing circuit. My punches are still kitten-weak, but every time I go, I learn a tiny bit more about correct posture and explosive force. At least I know what I'm aiming for, even if I can't deliver yet. Vancouver winters are seldom cold, but the constant rain can make a wimp out of fair-weather runner like me, so when I accidentally discovered this gym, so close to my place, I checked it out right away and signed up, an early Christmas present to myself.
Yesterday I was huddled on the couch most of the day, tired and depressed. You know those days when you dig a tunnel of despair and are so obsessed about it that nothing can help light your way out again? Not the company of J, not the whiff of our lovely little Christmas tree, not coffee or- well, you get the picture. J's advice was to stay put and rest, but I knew that only one thing would help: action. So I got on my bike and headed down to the gym. 30 minutes later I was red-faced and sweaty, but the fog had lifted from my brain and I felt more alive than I had in days. I was able to go out that night and revel in the company of friends, and see my way out of the dead-end that my mind had been languishing in.
That's worth a whole bunch of sore muscles, in my opinion.

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Been thinking, this night and the last few, about Alec & Laura, and their relationship.
Alec and Laura, for the uninitiated, are the protagonists of this show, which I'm lucky enough to be a part of right now. They meet, quite by accident, at a train station. She gets grit in her eye. He removes it for her. A friendship blossoms, becomes a romance. But they aren't free to love each other: they're both married to other people, people they love, and they have children. Before they can ever consummate their affair, they realize that it is doomed, and that they must always be apart. They choose to do the "right thing", but in doing so, they sacrifice their love for each other.
What I think about, in those moments when I am backstage, or in the dressing room listening to the dialogue coming over the Tannoy, is how I look at this story now versus what I would have thought back when I was, say, 21. Back then I would have been unreservedly on the side of True Love; I would have raged at the fact that Alec and Laura make the decision to go back to their spouses. Black was black and white was white and lovers should be together.

Now, at 36 (and in a 14-year relationship), everything is shades of grey.
If we are lucky- and I count myself squarely among the lucky- we meet our soulmates, and settle down together. But years of familiarity breeds...? Not contempt (hopefully), but certainly the shine wears off. Here's what you can't realize until you've been at it for a while: you have to work to make it last, folks. Add kids into the mix; I imagine it gets way harder.

And then, one day, you may meet someone shiny and new. Someone who hasn't seen you hungover or belching or bleary-eyed. Someone who makes your heart beat faster, your eyes sparkle. Who hasn't heard your same stories a thousand times over. Everything they do is endearing. There's a great quote from a movie called "The Beach" which has always stuck with me:

"When you develop an infatuation for someone you always find a reason to believe that this is exactly the person for you. It doesn't need to be a good reason. Taking photographs of the night sky, for example. Now, in the long run, that's just the kind of dumb, irritating habit that would cause you to split up. But in the haze of infatuation, it's just what you've been searching for all these years."

Alec and Laura have this kind of infatuation for each other. He claims to love her over and over, although (as Laura herself admits) they hardly know each other. They discuss secrets and dreams with each other: her love of music and adventure; his interest in a particular kind of medicine. If Alec and Laura were to end up together, their relationship would become something more prosaic, but while they meet once a week in the anonymity of the train station, they are free to love each other without life getting in the way. "I never think of myself as 'grown up'" Alec admits, and perhaps it is his reluctance to grow up that leads him into this affair, while the more sober Laura never abandons herself as easily as he does.

Two things that make their story interesting to me:
We see their affair almost exclusively as it pertains to Alec and Laura alone, and not as it impacts their spouses. And so we don't have to ask ourselves the obvious questions: is adultery 'bad' and 'wrong'? How will it affect their marriages? Instead we examine how the affair affects the two lovers. Also: Alec and Laura never have sex. And so their affair is one of hearts and minds, rather than bodies.

But is their affair necessarily all bad?
Certainly they are desperately hurt at its end, and although we never meet Alec's family, Laura's husband Fred begins to feel abandoned, though he never guesses why. But Alec eventually has to leave his safe, boring life as a GP in the English suburbs to help start a new hospital in Johannesburg. And although Laura doesn't go anywhere, we get a sense that perhaps she will allow more room in her life for her music. So they've both grown and changed by the play's end, although the process has been terribly painful. Should they have done the 'correct' thing and avoided each other from the start, as Laura's instincts tell her to do? Or did they help each other to grow?

I don't have any answers, and that's the truth of the matter. Ask me again in 20 more years. I look at Alec and Laura playing out their ill-fated love every night and I think there but for the grace of god. I think that I have a wonderful man, one of the best you could ever find, and I love him with all my heart but sometimes I meet men who make my heart race and my breath catch because they are shiny and new, because they see me differently, and I chase after these new connections when maybe I should be running away. And yet at the same time I know how rare it is, and how lucky I am, to love and be loved by someone who has known me for so long and still loves me, despite all my faults.

I stare at the screen and I realize that I don't know how to end this without being trite, or without sounding as if I condone adultery, which I don't. So maybe I can't end this properly. I'll go on being who I am: imperfect, conflicted, wanting to have my cake and eat it too. And I'll keep listening to the lines in this play, and hoping I never find out how it feels to be Laura.