Goodbye 2017. Thank you.
Goodbye, 2017! And good riddance!
It was a rough year on all fronts, each front compiled online so thoroughly that I won't even seek out hyperlinks for them. The crazy thing for me is, however, how disconnected I was from it all. As much as I tried to keep up with BC politics, the #metoo campaign, Black Lives Matter, various Trump-related debacles and the gradual de-sheening of Justin Trudeau, the fact remains that I've been consistently distracted by my own life. 2017 will be remembered as the first year in the last decade where I was, well, essentially "separated." In fact, last night would have been our 11th anniversary, and here I am in Smithers, visiting my kids staying at my in-laws' place (which I am enormously grateful for). Needless to say, I've been one of the people who's felt too busy to be politically and socially active, and I find that a little disheartening. But necessary.
But what can I say for 2017? I can be grateful for a few things:
Unfortunately, I still haven't been able to write. My blog entries are still lacking in passion and order; my songs remain unfinished and without direction.. So, in those respects, the only direction I can go is up.
So here goes!
Last night I came in a close 1st place at the karaoke competition at the pub across the street.
I feel really fortunate to have won, particularly since I had to buy a new car battery yesterday in order to make sure I could start my car when I go to visit my kids in Smithers in a couple weeks. The old battery kept dying a little too often for me to trust that the car would start in -15°C weather.
Usually, at karaoke, I try not to ever double-up on songs; it's a fun challenge for myself to always try to track down something new. Buying the battery, however, pushed me to try to make sure that I chose a crowd pleaser. I realized that, instead of choosing some new, obscure song like I normally do, I should choose a familiar, upbeat, short, instrumental solo-free song with a cold open and close, in my vocal range and already memorized: Amy Winehouse's "Rehab" fit the bill. And I milked it, walking around the stage, mixing up my vocal intensity, and playing with the runs a little. And all my deliberation... well... paid off.
I know karaoke isn't necessarily musically expressive, but it has certainly helped me rebuild some of my confidence in performing. Between singing covers at karaoke and playing covers at the restaurant, I'm starting to enjoy playing and singing music again. It's helped me keep my voice in shape and study a little about how an audience works. This has been good, especially since I had declared a couple years ago that I didn't want to play solo anymore after a few consecutive botched performances. It's good to feel like I'm in the groove a bit.
I still don't have the confidence to play my own songs. But I feel like I'll be able to start writing again soon, if I'm able to get a break long enough to mellow out and do it. And maybe then I'll have the confidence to put my own music out there into the world.
Until then, I'll keep playing covers at the restaurant and singing karaoke here and there. It's not what I want to do, but it's certainly a few steps forward.
Happy birthday to me!
It's my birthday! I turn 37 today.
I don't tend to do much for my birthday and this one is no different. I don't mind the idea of hosting a party, but I don't have the space at all, so I don't bother. I really dislike that sort of attention, but I've learned over the years that birthday parties don't have to be about me; they can just be an excuse to get together with friends.
But next year my birthday takes place on a Friday night. So maybe next year I'll use my birthday as an excuse to get together with friends. For now I'll just do what I've done for the last couple decades and talk a bit on the phone and spend time on my own.
On breaking smartphone addiction.
Over the last few years, I've been addicted to my smartphone. It started with a Blackberry Torch in 2011, which wasn't very smart but let me keep up with the news in a nearly-constant fashion. I upgraded to a Samsung Galaxy S5 in 2014 and then a Samsung Galaxy S7 Edge last April. For the last few years, I've almost always had a smartphone with me.
I've been grateful to have the smartphone for numerous reasons: I credit the smartphone, for example, with helping me lose weight, largely due to the calorie-estimated step-counter in Samsung Health. I would take walks, and then read the calorie counts of the packaged foods I would eat; when I compared the food to the amount of walking I'd have to o to work it off, it became much easier to resist eating it. In that case, it was a direct matter of time-usage. The same program helped me get back into running when I really have no self-motivation without the opportunity to make an interesting map. For the last few years, with no small credit to the smartphone, I've been able to keep my weight down at a more manageable level. This is good, since I really hated myself when I was up at 225 lbs.. It's good to feel more at ease in my own body, even to the point that I might take my only sport coat to a tailor for refitting.
I've been grateful for the connections I've made with people, for the ways I've been able to reconnect with some people in my life through the smartphone. It has become an essential part of my life for keeping connected with people, particularly my kids, who live 1200km away. I can use the smartphone to send video messages or text messages through Messenger or other apps, and that's all good.
However, I don't like how much I've let the smartphone take over my life. I am by no means a luddite, but I really don't like how I use my time with the smartphone. I miss the boredom, the times when I would sit down and read a book or write a song instead of scrolling through a series of news feeds. I miss the ways I used to choose between different options for time use instead of defaulting to a smartphone.
So I've been trying to find some ways to get the smartphone less prominent in my day-to-day life. Already, with my kids so far away, I find myself taking photos with my phone far less often. I've largely gone back to film, back to the more careful methods of photography that I was used to long before my family went digital. This feels good to me, and I'm enjoying taking photos again.
One thing I've done: a suggestion box.
I haven't used the suggestion box much like I originally planned, since I haven't had any visitors since I started the system. But I hope that, once I do have visitors, I will remember to take my phone and put it in the box. I've also considered using it for meals when the kids come down to visit.
I've also got the kids' room in the apartment where I don't let myself bring my phone. That's a phone-free space, and it's the only place in the apartment with a comfy enough space for reading and whatnot. That's been a good step. But still, I end up in my sleeping space in the living room, scrolling through the phone. A phone-free space in the apartment simply isn't enough. I'm addicted. I don't like it, but I can't seem to stop.
However, over the last few months, a few things changed. I haven't had the kids. I only got to see them up in Smithers for a few days over Thanksgiving weekend, and I was rather stunned by how much they looked at screens. It made me think more about my own habits, since I knew it would be hypocritical to tell them to get off the screens if I couldn't do it myself. Even so, even with that conviction, I couldn't seem to break my own habits.
But I've been addicted, so just shutting off the phone wouldn't work. And it's my only phone. And it's the main way that I keep up with the kids. So I had to regroup my de-addiction plans, since I can't really just scrap the thing.
Then the play happened.
During the A Flea In Her Ear run, I simply did not have the time to pay attention to my step counter. I couldn't have the phone on stage and needed to pay too much attention to everything that was going on to keep up with the phone. At the end of the run, despite rarely meeting my step count, I weighed the same as I started. I also felt a little less attached to the phone. I no longer panicked if I realized I forgot it plugged in at home when I left to get some groceries.
This inadvertent byproduct of being in a theatre production is much appreciated.
Third of all, I've tried to reorganize some things at home:
By setting up my apartment in a way that more mimics a pre-smartphone space, I find myself turning to the smartphone less often. Now, it takes as much work for me to put on a record or a CD as it does for me to track down the portable Bluetooth speaker and set up a podcast. This gives me choice between mediums and media, and I'm more likely to pick things other than scrolling through a news feed, or other than listening to yet another episode of *insert podcast name here.*
So we'll see how it goes, but I feel good about it. I never wanted a smartphone or a cell phone in the first place; my family life just pushed me in that direction. And the smartphone,as amazing as it is, does not make me happy. I feel like, if I can find any way to put the smartphone down and choose to read a book, write a journal entry, listen to some music, or write a song, I should do it. Because as much as other people might have lots of willpower to crate immersive things on apps and whatnot, and enough self-discipline to finish a project before bouncing to a browser or app to take a break from the task at hand, I simply don't have those characteristics.
This week, I'm going to try something I haven't done since I got the Blackberry Torch in 2011: I'm going to leave my phone at home instead of taking it to work. I'll report on that later. Wish me luck.
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