- by Alyson Shane
When we moved in to this house the old owners left a bunch of garbage and old stuff lying around everywhere.
Most of it wasn't worth keeping or donating but one thing we decided to hang onto was a 90's version of the board game Mouse Trap.
I love that stupid game.
It's janky as hell, never quite works, and there are what feels like 3967475867 pieces which could get lost
and as it turns out there was a piece that got lost.
Maybe the most important one, in fact:
The diver who "jumps" into the bucket at the end of the game and triggers the mouse trap to "fall".
In what I'm sure was only an act of humouring me, John and I tried to find replacements for the Diver piece but nothing worked.
The piece needs to be light enough to "jump" up and shaped the right way to land in the basin.
It also needs to stand upright and not fall over as you play through the game.
It's a tall order for a small piece.
As it turns out buying the piece individually would cost more in shipping than just re-buying the game again, so a few weeks ago when it went on sale yr girl bought another version of Mouse Trap.
Now we have two Mouse Traps.
One from the 90's, and a new one that feels completely different.
You still play as a mouse
and there's still a trap
but you don't go through the game building a janky Rube Goldberg machine, in the new one because it's all pre-built before the game starts
which I guess is what they meant when they wrote "Easier to Set Up Than Previous Versions" on the box
and had me feeling an awful lot like an old man yelling at a cloud as we played it
(because of course we played both versions back-to-back)
When we got to the end of the Mouse Trap version I played as a kid John and I were both in the "cheese wheel" loop at the end of the game where you go around and around in circles until you catch all yr friends
but that never happened because the machine never worked properly.
The marbles were the right weight
the table was even
but the "Helping Hand" piece kept getting knocked so it didn't push the second marble into the bathtub so it could fall and make the Diver jump into the tub.
Eventually we did what everyone does when they play Mouse Trap: we gave up.
But before we packed everything away we did a side-by-side comparison of the two versions.
The newer version of Mouse Trap feels like it's for wee children because, like I said, you don't build the machine as you go.
You go around the board collecting cheese and the person with the most cheese at the end of the game is the winner
which is not the "last man standing" cutthroat version of Mouse Trap I know and love
but I digress.
We checked the number of pieces
(which are different)
we checked the number of tiles
we checked the number of cheese pieces
(also, you guessed it, different)
but the biggest difference we found when we compared the two was the most shocking of all:
the new Mouse Trap Rube Goldberg machine actually works.
Every time. Without fail.
The sign hits the tub
which hits the marble
which hits the broom
which spins around
knocks the marble into the tub
that hits the Diver
who jumps into the tub
every damn time.
So as much as I'm loathe to admit that a newer version of something I grew up with might be superior
I do have to admit
it's nice to have a version of Mouse Trap that actually works for once
even if it does feel like it's for wee babies.
- by Alyson Shane
(A portrait of a lady on her blog with a mug promoting her blog)
and it's weird to think about how much of my life has been chronicled here over the years. I started this iteration of this blog 13 years ago and if I go into my blog backend I can see posts that I wrote when I lived in other places, loved other people, and was
a different person in so many ways.
I've been publishing online since 2000 but jumped around to different hosting platforms as they came and went
at first I had a LiveJournal
then a DeadJournal
then I was on Blogger.com
then I was on WordPress
and now because I'm married to a software developer I use his custom CMS called Elefant and he maintains it for me
which is a huge relief because HTML and CSS were never my strong suit.
The other day I was talking to a student and mentioned that I've been blogging all this time and she said
"why? How do you still find stuff to talk about after all these years?"
and I said Well, I write about my life and I keep livin' it, so I keep writing.
How much I blog has ebbed and flowed over the years
there was a time when I blogged every single day and that was hard because sometimes it was a struggle to pull a thought or a story or a post out of the humdrum of day-to-day life
but it was rewarding because I got much, much better at my craft and found my voice in a new way because when you really think about it
this blog is an ongoing piece of art made of my words and thoughts
pixels on a screen organized into dates and timestamps that give me a sense of place and time and offer this strange little window in the things I was thinking, feeling, going through in that moment.
The posts on this blog feel like
puzzle pieces of my heart
of my soul
that I've worked on for years and years
creating a larger image that grows with me
a map of myself that I discover as I explore it in real-time.
Of course people have made fun of me for blogging over the years, rolled their eyes when I pulled out my camera to take a picture of dinner
(this was before iPhones and Instagram)
I've had people treat my blog like it isn't art
tell me it isn't "real" writing
or that it's not a serious form of self-expression
but yr art isn't for other people so it's cool if they don't understand it
or get jealous or petty when the thing you love to do and have done with love for years opens up opportunities for you.
Being known as a writer is why I have my company, why I've gotten speaking gigs and teaching jobs and been on committees and panels and been a spokesperson for causes I believe in
because Alyson Circa 2000 needed a place to put her feelings and stuck with it
despite dry spells
despite feeling dumb
despite feeling nervous, embarrassed, ashamed
this ever-evolving piece of art is something that never fails to make me
- by Alyson Shane
that's hyperbole but only somewhat.
We're in the part of the winter where it always feels like night time and every day feels the same, and it's normally the time when I'd go on vacation somewhere warm but there's still that pesky pandemic so we're staying put and as a result every day I go from
my bed, to
the room next to it, to
the kitchen, to
the living room (maybe), back to
the room next to my bedroom,
things could be worse but the days have been slipping by in a weird way they weren't before. I've worked from home for years and kinda go into a "fugue state" around this point (which is why I take a vacation) but not even leaving for meetings or meetups is really blurring everything together.
Luckily John and I anticipated this happening so back in the fall we booked a private cabin out at Falcon Lake and we're leaving in a few weeks and the concept of, omg
leaving my house
seeing other places
sleeping in a different bed
almost doesn't feel real.
We had a lil panic the other day when we realized the cabin doesn't have wifi, which was something we should have considered but when you haven't left yr house in pretty much a year you forget about basic stuff like how cabins in rural parts of the province tend to not have great wifi
but you know what? I'M PUMPED ABOUT IT.
Pandemic aside it's been a crazy-busy year for my agency and I spend my days in meetings and working on it and then break for dinner and spend my evenings working on HeyAlfa
(which is so crazy and going to blow you away I promise)
and part of my infinite-loop-life really just comes down to working so much and I know it. It's fine to love what you do but when it's all that you do that's not healthy.
I love my work and try to find a balance but living where you work and working where you live makes things bleed together
so I'm looking forward to forcing myself to take a break
even if it's just for a few days in the middle of snowy nowhere.
- by Alyson Shane
I was having one of those "stress dreams".
You know the ones: something's wrong, and it's stressful, and you spend the whole dream trying to manage or resolve it and wake up feeling anxious or stressed-out or out-of-sorts. I get them when I'm under a lot of pressure, or when I have a deadline looming, or when I'm about to go back to work after an extended break
(which is what I assume this one was about.)
For me, these dreams typically centre around a few themes:
- I'm in school and I have an exam and I've forgotten to study for
- I'm in school and I've forgotten to do an assignment
- I'm trying to get to school/work but stuck somewhere
What's weird about these dreams is that even though I'm in school (usually it's high school though sometimes it's university) I always know I'm not actually in school in real life, so I spend most of the dream trying to convince people that I've actually graduated, or that I'm working full-time, or whatever.
(Trying to get people to listen to/believe what I say is another recurring theme in my dreams which tells you a lot about the trauma/baggage I'm still trying to work through I guess.)
Anyway. Last night I'm having this super-vivid dream about my old high school, Garden City Collegiate
(except it wasn't actually GC since that's just how dreams work sometimes)
I'm sitting in a classroom with all the girls I went to school with, Candice and Dyan and Kaitlin and Kristen and Meaghan and so on, and I'm feeling stressed because we're all about to take a giant test and (surprise surprise) I'm not ready for it.
We're all sitting on the floor for some reason and I get up to go talk to my old guidance counsellor, Mr. Loeppky, to tell him that, hey, there's been some mix-up because I don't even go here.
But since it's a stress-dream obviously he isn't listening to me and keeps walking away, and I'm running around the school dodging students and shoving past people to keep up with him and explain the situation and then I bump into my ex, who looks at me and just
pukes all over himself
so I stop chasing Mr. Leoppky and take him to the bathroom and try to help him wash up, but he's covered in vomit and it's all over his black shirt and it's squicking me out so I leave to find Mr. Loeppky again
but instead I wind up back in the original classroom, because dreams.
I'm sitting on the floor again, talking to the girls I grew up with, and this other girl Jessica (who bullied me abit when we were kids) comes up, points at me and starts screaming about how much I smell.
I look down and realize I'm also covered in puke. Oh hell.
I start trying to explain myself but because it's a stress-dream she isn't listening and is teasing me and everyone around is turning to stare and ohgod now they're all judging me and ohgod they're sneering at me and ohgodohgod
instead of panicking and getting upset and embarrassed and stressed out, I stand up and say:
"I smell because I was helping Ty wipe puke off himself, and I don't even go here so fuck you and fuck this."
... and I walked right out of the school and into a busy street where I caught a streetcar and rode it to a park where I ate macaroons in a park in the sunshine and thought about how much I love running my own business and not being in school anymore.
I know this all sounds stupid (because dreams) but I have never ever EVER resolved a stress-dream that way. I woke up feeling happy and confident and secure and GOOD about myself, which isn't how those dreams have ever gone at all.
I'm not really sure what to make of it. Maybe I'm moving on past some sort of baggage or maybe it was just a fluke, who knows.
Either way it felt good, and I'll take it.
- by Alyson Shane
who is friendly and sweet and kind, and has a terrific memory for names.
I see them at my local watering holes; at the bars and coffee shops where I sit with my laptop to work when the weather is nice, or when I've been feeling a bit stir-crazy from working from home all week.
We've had lots of conversations. They regularly ask me how I'm doing, even though I'm pretty sure they don't fully "get" what I do for a living. They tell me about the odd jobs they take, how hard it can be to get a full-time gig, and how much they like working outside, and with their hands.
Everyone at all of the places I go knows them and asks how they're doing.
All the staff know their name. The people working behind the bar, or behind the counter, will say hello and goodbye and tell them to come back and visit soon.
Everyone asks what they've been up to, and gives them advice when they ask for it.
They get, and give, a lot of hugs.
I love interacting with them, and watching them interact with others.
This person, by the way, has a developmental disability.
It's worth mentioning because I don't think people usually come together around each other this way. There's a sense of collective caring that seems to manifest itself in the right people.
Every time I sit at a counter or a table or a bar and listen to the people around me come together to care about, support, and create a community that is inclusive for everyone it makes me a bit emotional.
Because I read and listen to a lot of news about people who don't give a shit about one another, and it's pretty easy to start assuming that other people around you are malicious, or ill-intentioned
instead of being, I dunno
just a regular person trying to do their best and get by
and it's nice to be reminded that most people you meet are kind, and decent, and willing to create a community together
and all you have to do is say "hello" to become a part of it.
- by Alyson Shane
One of the things I'm worst at is living in the present moment.
Which sounds hippy-dippy and something you'd interpret from a tarot card reading, maybe, but taking a few moments to really sink into what yr experiencing is a good thing to do from time to time.
Maybe that's what meditation is. I don't know because I've never really gotten past the point where everything is itchy and distracting.
When we were in Thailand I realized I was suffering from this problem because I was constantly feeling pressure to get out there and do something.
John got a throat infection which kept him in bed for several days while we were in Koh Tao and I got really stressed because I felt like we were "wasting our vacation" relaxing at the AirBnB rather than being out and about 24/7.
This pressure, to be doing something all the time, is a leftover from my super-anxious days when I would judge myself for taking downtime, or for not filling every minute of every day with some task or to-do.
I know that, but I'm not always great at recognizing it in the moment. Which can really suck because, okay, we were just hanging out at an AirBnB
but we were also spending time in a new place on the other side of the planet, still getting street food and enjoying the warm weather even if we weren't hiking up to see wats every damn day.
What I should have been doing in that moment was soaking it up with my partner, not worrying about when we could get back to filling our vacation time with stuff.
Lesson learned, and luckily I figured that lesson out early enough on in our trip that I was able to chill out for the rest of it.
(Okay, most of it.)
And I'm glad I did because I was able to enjoy my vacation with my partner while I was there instead of glossing over it because I was busy thinking and worrying about who knows what.
I need to bring more of that into my day-to-day because worrying about stuff removes me from enjoying what I have while I have it.
Being "fully present" means I can soak up the good, bad, and in-between feelings and create more vivid memories of things that are, in reality,
Because each new day runs the risk of being the last of something.
It's scary to think about which is why I think most people don't, but it's true.
This could be the last day you see the person you love.
This could be the last day you talk to yr mom or dad or awkward great-uncle.
This could be the last day you walk into a job you've had for 20 years.
This could be the last day you eat at your fav sushi place before they close.
Nothing stays the same.
Things Fall Apart.
So enjoy what you got while you go it.
- by Alyson Shane
I've always been a "good sleeper". I usually don't have trouble falling, or staying, asleep as long as I'm in my own bed and am not in the throes of some anxiety attack or panic-inducing situation.
I also have really vivid and interesting dreams, which helps.
The last few years though, I've been getting more into early starts.
Part of it is that I don't party as much as I used to. When you're awake for days doing bad things to yr body, yr body needs to crash and reset and it does so through sleep.
I also like being awake more. In my pre-therapy days, lots of days felt like I was just trying to muddle through until I could crawl back into the safety of my bed and my dreams.
Sleep was more like an escape.
But in the last few years that has changed a lot. I still love sleeping, but if I could go without sleep for several days just so I could be productive and also do all the things I want to do, then I would.
I still want to stay up for days on end, but for different reasons.
I haven't been able to stay up for days per-se, but lately our jet lag has me waking up at 2 - 3AM most mornings, and passing out before 8PM. It's been weird, and is kinda like getting the flu at the end of your day because yr body is super confused internally.
Yesterday and today I woke up at 5:30AM and it was great.
Turns out I can get a lot done super duper early in the morning, and since I'm one of those people who are very very on and clear-headed and productive right after waking up these early-morning hours have been great.
I'm not going to miss falling asleep sitting up at 8PM, but y'know
- by Alyson Shane
I didn't used to be. I feel like I'm developing an affinity for mornings as I get older though.
During the week we wake up at 7:30 AM but if I could manage waking up earlier and not be a giant grouch who hates her life I'd get up at like 6 AM or even 5 AM if I could.
I do my best work in the morning when my mind is clear and every time we travel or I find myself randomly up super early in the morning, even if I'm tired I still start my day feeling like
yeah, I got ahead of all that shit I had to do today.
I've been up for about an hour and have already snugged John and Toulouse in bed, fed the cats, took a photo of the street because I love quiet winter mornings
and made a cup of tea which is also something I've started doing as I've gotten older.
We really do become our parents in weird ways.
My mom is from England but she moved to Canada when she was 18, probably to get as far away from her mother as possible, which is also the reason I moved to Ontario when I was a the same age.
She's British in the ways you expect British people to be British:
she has a gap between her two front teeth, which I also have
she subscribes to a "know your place" and a "stiff upper lip" attitude when it comes to work and talking about your feelings
and she drinks tea like water.
My mom used to drink Tetley Orange Pekoe tea, and there was a whole area of the kitchen dedicated to the cups and plates and sugar containers and other paraphernalia needed to make it.
I don't remember if she took sugar and cream, but I do.
It seems like the older we get, the more we search for things that take us back to the feeling of safety we had when we were kids. Maybe that's why I drink so much tea these days.
It makes me feel safe and the smell has an old familiarity to it. Like a well-read book or an old leather jacket or a hug from your favourite uncle.
Tea was for the times in-between fighting. When my mom and I would watch Star Trek or some HGTV show together, or sit on the deck while she did crossword puzzles.
Sometimes I dream about her. I'm not sure if it's a memory, or just something I've dreamed enough times that it's real.
I'm sitting at the dining room table and my mom is looking out the kitchen window in our old house on Murray Avenue. It must be early morning because the air feels filled with light. She's wearing a long housecoat in a soft colour, and the kitchen smells like orange pekoe.
It's so vivid that it feels like I can reach out and touch it, but it's just a dream. A memory. Some whisper from a long time ago.
I think about her when I make the same tea during these early mornings by myself.
It's like a ritual; an homage to the parts of my mother that aren't stained by her words or behaviour.
I wish I could go back through time to that golden morning and talk to her. Ask her questions over the old, heavy dining room table over multiple cups of orange pekoe.
Who are you, Mom?
Why are you so angry all the time?
What are you so afraid of?
I've spent so much time asking myself those same questions, but I don't think I'll ever know what her answers are.
Most of the time it feels like the closest I can get is making myself a cup of tea in the early morning light
thinking about all the ways we're so different, and the small, quiet ways that we're the same
and how maybe that's enough.
- by Alyson Shane
I don't know but whatever it is, it's been a weird few weeks and it's not just me. Everyone seems to be going through one thing or another.
There's a weird crackle in the air, bad juju, bad luck, weird happenstance, odd off-putting stuff going on it seems. A conflict. A misunderstanding. Health issues. Mental problems.
Everything feels fucked in one way or another and it's hard not to let it eat at you. Wear you down. Make you feel like what's the fucking point
of anything at all.
Between politics and the planet and interpersonal bullshit I swear every person I know is struggling somehow and I'm not sure if this is what adulthood is supposed to be like
or if this is just the new normal we all get to deal with
or if this is just how we get to feel if we take the time to be a #wokebae in today's messed-up, backwards-slipping world
but whatever it is, it sucks.
And I'm ready for a break.
But being a #wokebae (which is a joke, you guys) is realizing that - goddamn it - if nobody gives a meaningful shit then nothing will get better.
So you wake up and swallow yr feelings and slap a smile on yr face and pretend like, yeah everything's great I'm just overwhelmed because a major world power just elected a guy who committed sexual assault to the highest court in the land
and yeah the president of that same country made fun of victims of sexual assault and people thought that was OK
and the planet continues to be fucked and we're making it worse and what am I supposed to tell my future child about how we messed the planet up for them
and yeah people in this city can't vote "yes" on what should be an easy "yes" and essentially a non-issue
and people continue to be the versions of themselves that they are instead of the ones you wish they were
and all the other ways I and so many other people around me have felt like we're failing ourselves, or others, or both. And pretend like
yeah it's fine.
But it's not fucking fine, is it?
(Tell me it isn't.)