I’m not talking about love. Love lasts forever if you’re doing it right. I’m talking about the time when love is still mysterious.
It’s the mystery that makes romance what it is. The uncertainty. The nervousness. The risk.
Think of high-school. Over the bra, under the blouse, hoping to god your parent’s don’t walk in. When you’re exploring someone’s body with wonder. When you’re not sure how to act, how to interpret things, and you’re tearing your heart out cause you don’t know what’s going to happen next.
You lose that as you live and you learn and you grow. Confidence takes that nervousness away because you speak your mind, you share yourself, and the uncertainty is gone.
Maybe I’m just feeling old. Maybe I’m just clinging to the past in a fit of nostalgia, to the innocence of my youth when love was the only thing to worry about. Romance without practicality, boundaries, type, or class.
Maybe my more recent relationships just haven’t had that nervousness. There was always that immediate connection that leaves little room for doubt. As fiery as they were, there was no mystery.
John still comes to me with girl advice every now and then, when he’s losing sleep and he’s writing terrible, hilarious poetry. He hates the uncertainty, but I tell him to think of when he’s older and married to the same person for forty years, how much he’ll miss those feelings.
I tell him to enjoy it. To lose himself. He should be so lucky to feel so strongly about someone.
We all should at least once in our lives, before it’s too late and the romance dies.
She started about some transfer forms, unfinished business in the wake of the divorce, but carefully segued into asking if I wanted to take a trip to the States with some other family.
This is how she tries to make amends. She doesn’t apologize or ask how I’m doing because she can’t. She can’t admit that she’s done any wrong, not even to herself. Her insecurity doesn’t allow her to show any vulnerability.
With a firm voice, I tell her no. No to the trip, no to her, and this causes her tone to grow angry. It’s funny to think that she may be angry at me, like a rapist being angry at his victim, but I know it’s not anger. It’s sadness, but she masks it with anger, the way she hides her guilt behind her excuses and explanations.
It’s easier to deal with the loss of your only child when it’s his fault.
From what she says, I can tell she’s more worried about her image of being a bad parent to her friends, than to actually being a mother to me. This was the person who “raised” me. The person who was supposed to teach me to be proud of who I am. To not be superficial. To be humble. To own up to my mistakes. To take responsibility for my actions. It’s a scary thought.
I can read my mom like a book. Not because I’ve known her for so long, but because she’s still a child. I know exactly what she’s thinking, and at the same time, she shows a total lack of self-awareness. She still hasn’t learned the important lessons, the epiphanies one experiences through childhood, adolescence, and young adulthood.
Talking to her is like talking to myself at an earlier stage in life.
I asked Rockstar Jeff, an old source of envy, if I could take a few portraits of him.
Jeff’s very photogenic, but he doesn’t agree. I’m 75% prep and 25% bad-ass, whereas he’s 75% bad-ass and 25% prep. Sometimes we joke about trading styles because there’s a mix in each of us, and we always like where the other ones goes with it. The truth of the matter is that I could never pull off his style. Anyone can do prep, but he’s got the right face, the right clothes, the right attitude for hardcore.
This was his hit single.
He’s the guitarist and screamer. The band broke up, but he’s currently exploring other musical opportunities. It’s interesting to hear his other projects; he’s always the frontman, but he adjusts his singing style to the band while adding his own edge.
Stars on wrist
This was a mutual tattoo done with a friend (his “right hand” person), which is why there are two of them. His friend has the same tattoos on her wrist.
Crows on right arm
As the crow is the universal symbol of bad luck, Jeff got each crow to remind him of a hard time in his life. Each one of them signify a moment. There’s one red one with a nail going through it, as a symbol that his bad luck is hopefully behind him (but he says it isn’t yet).
Daisy on right arm
The daisy is his mom’s flower. It’s not really wilted or broken (which is what I thought at first), it’s simply missing petals. He got this at a time when he was really angry at her, which is why it’s red. He had drawn two years earlier, but only decided to get it inked when she kicked him out of the house, to remind him of the hard love of family.
Stars on elbows
There’s actually one larger star on each elbow, with the initials of people coming out of them. They’re the first tattoos he ever got, to remind him of the tough lessons that he’s gone through with or from these people.
Heart on chest
This one was inspired by his mom. He was making making some foolish decisions around 18, and his mom reminded him that he should be happy with himself when he looks in the mirror, that there should be no hiding from the truth, and he should always be true to himself.
The word “truth” is surrounded by periods to emphasize that it’s a strong fact in itself. The word “self” doesn’t start with a period because the heart is a part of the sentence.
The only change he would make is to have it drawn backwards, so he could read it when he looks in the mirror.
This is a guest entry by fellow 9rules member, Dave Seah. We started this entry swapping venture as an exercise in writing outside of our normal styles. It also let us see how differently we would explore a topic that was defined by a single sentence, which was “Inspiration is everywhere”.
I approached Dave because he writes with a deep insight in his words while presenting it with a light candor that draws the reader in. Not only do I admire his writing style and content, I’m envious of his ability to come up with creative, phenomenal ideas. I’m glad that he agreed to participate in this exercise, and leave his words and ideas as part of my personal journey.
You can read my take on the subject at Dave’s site here.
If I were in your shoes and got hit with an happy-sounding phrase like INSPIRATIONISEVERYWHERE, I’d mentally spring into one of three mindsets: 1. Skepticism 2. “Amen, Brother!” or 3. Apathy. I’d also make a few assumptions: that the intention behind such a proclamation was to be inspirational in itself. Furthermore, the meta-assumption is that we’re all looking for it, or need it real bad.
I used to enjoy my quiet, lazy, relaxing nights where I could sit down and write, but chances for creativity, expression, sociability have recently been sprouting up everywhere. These opportunities that don’t come around often, so I force myself to take the initiative before they’re gone.
It’s funny, my first reaction is to think another guy, as if we’re still dating ourselves. I suppose our relationship has never been conventional, but that’s what makes it so special. We still spend our weekends together. We still talk on the phone for hours without actually talking. We’re close enough that I’m completely comfortable around her, enough for me to let my guard to go down.
It’s made me realize how protective I still am of her, how upset I’ll be if she gets hurt. I think of all the things I could have done better, and hope this guy can treat her better than I did.
I have all these mixed feelings about it though. I’m worried that I may lose my friend, but I’m glad there’s someone to make her happy. In the end, I know I can’t be selfish. Letting go of her the first time was hard enough.
Tyler and I decided to combine our hobbies (biking and photography respectively), so we headed to the local skate and bike park after work. It’s amazing to see him on his bike. It’s a part of him, an extension of his body. I got a ride home while he rode his bike, and even though we left at the same time he beat me there. He was pretty burned out that day, due to it being his first time out this year, he still managed the energy for some great shots.
At the park, we met these 15-years-old kids. As Tyler noticed, you can tell a lot from someone from the bike they ride. The kid with the most skills (black shirt and jeans) had a used bike, something he put together himself. The other two kids had shiny new bikes with helmets. Tyler said it revealed how their parents were supportive of their hobby, but weren’t as hardcore in their hearts.
The great thing about Tyler is that he had no qualms about asking these kids, ten years his junior, how to do certain tricks. He has such a confidence that he wasn’t embarrassed about it at all.
The session was an exercise in motion photography. It’s very different from different what my usual portraits and still shots. Being placed in such a situation forced me to learn how to use AF Servo, which turned out to be more useful than I could have imagined.
The concept of motion is so subtle. You stop a frame in motion, and from looking at the bike you can’t tell which direction they’re going. It’s the muscles, the expressions on their faces, the direction of concentration that tell you what a biker is trying to do.
I laugh when I’m nervous. Especially around girls I’m attracted to — total gigglefest. I also laugh uncontrollably around people I meet for the first time. People lower their guard when there’s laughter, and I suspect my mind subconsciously finds humour in everything to put people at ease around me.
Around people I hate, I’m dead silent. That’s how you know I don’t like you: if I don’t talk. The mere presence of one of these people forces me to fully concentrate on not drilling a 4-inch hole in my temple with a cordless DeWalt.
Pat’s different. He told me once that if you ever see him shake his head and shrug his shoulders, you’re in his blacklist. In an act of faith, he’ll give everyone respect and will even go so far as to stab you in the front, but he gives up if you cross his line of ethics. He’ll never be involved with anything related to you after that. It’s not that he hates these people, like me, he loses all interest. This is probably even worse than my reaction which, because his is cold. You mean nothing to him. I try to let go as well, but I can’t. In the back of my head I cling to the hope that these people can change. Sometimes I also wonder if these people ever listen to themselves and can understand exactly why I hate them, because it’s so obvious to me.
I also cry in emotional situations. It doesn’t have to be anything particularly sad or happy, just a time when emotions are high. Intense sports games, Tim Horton’s commercials, sometimes just because someone else is crying. I can hide it pretty well though; people don’t understand if you start crying in a seemingly innocuous situation.
As frustrating as these emotional reactions can be, I know they make me who I am.
I used to try desperately to remain cerebral and logical — like Pat — but my emotions would always get the better of me. Now I’ve learned to embrace them. I could only do this after accepting myself and becoming content with who I am. They give me something Pat doesn’t have: intense inspiration. That rush, when your stomach churns, when your head is burns, when you heart flutters.
I had Darren over from Toronto for the weekend. We were going to do a movie marathon at the theatre — three in a day — but the movies all sucked. Disturbia? Georgia Rule? Please. Instead, I bought the first season of Six Feet Under, and we finished the roughly 11 hour season over two days. Now I can re-watch it with Bronwen and lend it to Pat. To be honest, I’d seen up to the second season before, but I was too stoned to remember most of it.
Darren also gave me a nice tea container. It’s rather large, since I buy my tea 50mg at a time, but better too big than too small. He also got me some chai tea, considered a wellness blend. When I asked him what for, he couldn’t give me a reason. I love gifts for no reason.
We shared our tattoo ideas, and his was the Chinese character for love on his back. Darren and Bronwen are the some of the few people I can talk openly with about love. We’re such hopeless romantics. We tell each other that we’ll never be married, not to be self-depracating, but to be honest with ourselves. We have our ideals, and we’ll never settle for anything less. It’s comforting to know that we’re not alone in our quixotic beliefs.
The most yielding thing in the world
will overcome the most rigid
The most empty thing in the world
will overcome the most full
From this comes a lesson —
Stillness benefits more than action
Silence benefits more than words
—Verse 43, Tao Te Ching
Sometimes, temperance is the greatest weapon.
When someone attacks you with words or tries to make you feel any less than yourself, you merely need acquiesce.
In doing so, you disarm them. You rob them of their only weapon — anger — and their words lose all meaning and significance.
Tai Chi, as the physical manifestation of Taoist philosophies, follows the same idea.
Then you will understand the flow of internal power, and, having repeatedly practiced and refined your technique and explored your own awareness, you can use and control your internal power at will.
The T’ai Chi principle is as simple as this: yield yourself and follow the external forces.
—Waysun Liao, The Essence of T’ai Chi
When your opponent expands, contract. Create a void in your stance, and let them fill that void. By absorbing your opponent’s energy, you reduce it to nothing.
No one proves themselves more inane than one who matches energy with energy, force with force.
I’ve finally come to fully understand such an idea. The theory made sense, but I never put it in practice, and practice is what makes the understanding complete. It was only recently that I had the chance to apply it. The old me was hot-headed with too much to prove. When faced with insulting, patronizing words, I would have reacted, instead of following the principle of wu wei. The situation was a test of myself, and I passed.
While writing this, I realized that my RSS subscribers will lose most of the entry; more than half of it is in the captions of the photos, which are embedded in the link tag. Almost all my pictures have captions actually. I may try writing a WordPress plugin or modify Lightbox JS 2 to display the captions in subscription feeds.
Pat and Jen had ten of us over for the Victoria day weekend. They put the extra leafs in the table and it was twelve in all. Potato casserole, ribs, drumsticks, sausages, salad, corn-on-the-cob, and I don’t even remember what was on the other end. It was funny to see how proud Pat was that there was too much food to fit on the 12 person table. I can understand though; there’s nothing more satisfying than being a good host. I prefer the host role to the guest role actually. It’s when I can be in control of the situation, and I’m much better at making sure people are taking care of than being taken care of myself (I think a sense of imposing is what contributes to this).
I won my first game of Settlers of Catan. The quiet ones are the ones who win, they say, so I tried to keep my mouth shut amidst all the jocular smack-talk. The guys also played Capcom vs. SNK 2. Even though we all come from different backgrounds, every single one of us knew how to play. Very telling of how pervasive the Street Fighter series is to our generation.
The guests help clean up without asking, they thank you for having them, and in return, the hosts thank you for coming. You can tell a lot about people, not just from their friends, but their company as well.
A while ago, Dan and I made plans to play some table tennis yesterday.
It’s been a year since we went to the old recreational club. The venue changes every year, and this season it was too much of a hassle for me to go as it was buried somewhere in the city. For Dan, the new venue was too far to be practical to go on a regular basis.
When we arrived, there were all familiar faces. We greeted them with handshakes and how-you-doings. Yerka, from the Czech Republic, arrived when we were catching up. Along with her Polish husband Andrei, Yerka was one of the new members last year. Andrei was on my league team, and even though I was captain, Andrei was definitely the best player, with Yerka always there to support him from the bleachers.
I extended my hand to her, but in the European fashion she leaned in to kiss me on the cheek. I reacted and adjusted for a kiss as well, but apparently there’s a rule on which side to kiss first.
My friends and I never faire la bise, and in my ignorance, I went for her right cheek, she went for my left, and we ended up kissing full on the lips.
Some think I have a form of OCD. They notice that I have to do things in a certain way. These things aren’t exactly debilitating to the point of being considered disorders, but they’re big enough for people to give me a teasing now and then.
I have to sleep with the end of the blankets at my feet. My duvet and cover are separate, so the opening is at one end. It bugs the craaaaaaaaap out of me if it’s not at the bottom.
I always carry a few things with me. Lip balm (Labello brand), cell phone, iPod, lens cloth (to clean glasses or camera), in addition to the normal wallet and keys. If I have a bag, this list expands to include a notebook with pen, and a camera. I’m very uneasy without them. I look for pants with appropriately sectioned pockets for this reason.
I wash my hands about 10–12 times over the course of a day. As a result, my hands dry out (which I also can’t stand) so I use Glaxal Base a couple times a day, which is a perfume-free, water-based lotion. It’s so hypoallergenic and absorbent that they use it as a base for topical medication.
I hate having an odd number of eggs in my fridge. This may be due to the fact that I never deviate from eating two eggs in one sitting. If I ever cook an odd number of eggs (maybe when a guest wants one or three), then I’m left with an odd number of eggs that I’ll forever be trying to even out again.
I always walk to the beat of the song I’m listening to. Most songs are in common time (4/4), which can be divided or multiplied by two, so adjusting the walking pace (in essence, two beats) is easy. Something based in 3 (such as Lamb’s album Fear of Fours) is less flexible. The only time I walk at my own pace is during songs with irregular or changing time signatures, like any progressive rock album where I can’t even figure out where the down beat is.
I have to wear slippers on tile or ceramic floors. I don’t know why.
I can’t listen to an album out of order. There may be songs I don’t like in the album, and I’ll have no problem skipping them, but I listen to the rest in order.
I have to eat portions of food in a certain way. This is only true for big meals with side and main dishes. There’s an order: side dish (mashed potatoes, or toast), side dish (corn, or egg), main dish (turkey, or bacon), rotating between all three, but always saving the main dish for the last bite. I find there’s a better contrast with the food when you switch between dishes. Flavours get lost when too much of the same thing is eaten. This is as opposed to Aaron, who eats his side dishes first, and then saves almost the entirety of his main dish for last.
At the rehearsal dinner I was lucky enough to meet Dennis, Aaron’s older cousin from Edinburgh, Scotland, and we immediately hit it off. Some people don’t so much talk with you as at you, whereas talking to others can be like dragging a stick through the mud, but for us it was the perfect balance. The art of conversation is dead, we agreed, and finding each other was like two Masonic brothers from different lodges meeting for the first time.
Pat later told me that, on arriving, he didn’t say hi to me for fear of interrupting us. Our faces were so intense, focused on each other, he said. Dennis and I exchanged contact info, and he offered me a place to stay if I ever went to Scotland. Normally, I’d brush off such an invitation as a glib pleasantry, if it weren’t for the fact that he repeated it five or six times over both nights. In return, I offered him a place to stay if he ever wanted to give Nana and Popa (whom he calls June and Vic) a break. It’s funny, I never knew their names until then.
I also had a good talk with Rob while Aaron and Chris were outside smoking cigars that night (which turned into the morning) before the wedding. We bonded over our love of Aaron, and I got to probe Rob, who’s deep enough for an entire entry I’ll be posting soon.
This is the Story of Aaron and Karen
Before I gave my speech, I showed this video as a way for everyone, but most importantly Aaron and Karen, to know how the groom’s side felt. Notice the keg-can of Heineken in Trolley’s shots.
I learned a lot about being an interviewer, about asking the right questions, about trying not to laugh at funny stories. You can hear in the way I ask Jay (yellow shirt), “In what way?”, that my cheeks are tightened in a big smile. I also realized that I shouldn’t finish other peoples thoughts, which is a bad habit of mine. The interviewer shouldn’t present any bias.
Everyone told me afterward that they were touched by how Aaron spoke from the heart. The interesting thing is that people were laughing at parts I didn’t expect them to laugh at. In my speech too. I don’t write to be funny; I can’t be a funny person why I try. It happens rather accidentally.
The speech did go well. I like how people started saying, “Woo hoo!” and “Cheers to that!” for the toast. If you listen closely after I give my thanks, there’s one person who claps well before anyone else, and I’ll forever be wondering who it was and why they were clapping with such vigor.
The ceremony was short and sweet, though it was a little cold. The Prince Charlie jacket doesn’t breathe, so the groomsmen were warm for most of it. I felt bad for the bridesmaids though, who wore backless, sleeveless dresses.
I caught up with Nick and Alison, whom I hope to see for a few photo projects down in that area at some point during the summer (I wish I was able to bring my camera to the wedding though). I got to know Steph a little better, and you could tell from the way she talks that she really cares about Trolley, which was important for me to find out. Hanging out with Jay was a blast too; he’s a really fun, easy-going guy, and I can totally see why he’s such good friends with Aaron. Pat did some robotics for us to the Scottish dance music, and I had the opportunity to introduce him to Dennis, hoping that both conversationalists would hit it off.
We danced, we mingled, we ate, we laughed. Weddings always offer great opportunities for such things. What other chance would I have to wear something as fun as the Scottish regalia (although Dennis explained to me that Ontario and Canada have their own tartans, and that I’d have the right to wear one if I wanted).