Relax

I burst through the doors of the university, immediately feeling the warmth of the sun on my skin. It was a bright, sunny spring day, and I had just written my final exam. Filled with the relief of knowing I wouldn’t have to write another academic paper or take another exam for a good four months, I set out on a quest to enjoy my afternoon.

I got in my car, turned on the engine, put on my sunglasses, and…….realized I had no idea where I was going. All of a sudden, the knowledge that I didn’t have anything urgent to attend to, let me feeling slightly uneasy. I was to start a new job at the end of the week, but I had the next couple of days to do whatever I pleased.

I sat there for a moment, my car half out of a parking space, and decided on a reliable favourite: The Forks. I could wander around, grab a coffee, maybe call up a friend and turn that coffee into a beer, and enjoy people watching. I started driving towards downtown, looking forward to the relaxing afternoon, when the uneasy feeling set in again.

Alright, this is odd, maybe I’ll change the venue. I know, I’ll make use of the runners I have sitting in my trunk and go for a little run (which usually lasts about a block before I decide walking is a much more reasonable activity.) I could get some exercise, stay far away from the geese, and take in some fresh air. I rerouted my car and started driving in that direction, but something still felt off.

Hmmm, alright. It was still early in the day, maybe I’ll go visit a friend downtown for lunch. There were still a ton of restaurants I wanted to try in the Exchange District, and one of my favourite things to do was go for a leisurely stroll while I took some impressive architecture. There was also some shopping I wanted to do, since 95% of my wardrobe consisted of jeans and t-shirts.

The feeling crept up again.

I sighed, took a left turn, and drove in the direction of home.

As I threw on my sweatpants, I took a look at the big blue sky outside. I promptly drew the shades shut, bounced onto my bed, put on Netflix, and felt a flood of relief.

Sometimes, after months of doing it all, the best thing to do is to take a minute….to do nothing at all.

 

Have a relaxing weekend,

D.

Let’s get personal

It had been a while since I went on a first date. My last relationship lasted almost seven years, and I knew the dating scene had probably changed a little bit. It was apparent though that some things, at least, had stayed the same.

Perhaps the most exciting time lies in the messages and phone calls that take place before you meet someone face to face. Nowadays getting hooked up by a friend, or meeting someone online gives people an opportunity to see if there’s a connection before the first date even takes place. The only thing one needs to be careful about with this, is the perceptions that we fill in about the other person. It is easy to make someone laugh, or, in my case, it’s easy to make me laugh, but it’s also easy to create an image of that person that might not be real.

Another thing that you can’t fake in person: chemistry. This one is so important. After texting back and forth for a few days, I went on a couple dates with someone. He was kind, funny, good-looking, and we got along well, but there was something missing. It bothered me that I couldn’t figure out what it was. On paper, and logically, it should have been a match, but there was a spark missing that should have been, and it became obvious.

I reflected on it, surprised at myself for misjudging the situation since I normally deem myself pretty good at being perceptive, and then it dawned on me: I was no longer tailoring my answers to fit the situation. Ten years ago, (or even five, for that matter), I would have convinced myself I liked things, even when I didn’t. “Sure, I love snowboarding! Falling down a mountain for three hours is one of my favourite things to do. Sports? You can absolutely find me sitting in front of the T.V. whenever you have it on. Yes! I’d love to spend three hours watching a science fiction movie while I contemplate why I told you I liked this in the first place.”

The difference, between twenty-one year old Diane and nearly thirty Diane, was that I am now much closer to knowing who I am, and I don’t feel the need to hide any of it anymore.

I like lazy Sundays, the kind where you sleep in, grab a coffee, and wander around the city leisurely taking in the fresh air. I have a short attention span, and the likelihood of me paying attention for an entire movie at home is zero to none. I get ridiculously excited about silly stuff, like the first day of spring, or watching a prairie sunset over an open field. I throughly enjoy going to hockey games, but my motives for attending usually involve beer and a Jets-dog, and less about watching the game. I now am just as content to curl up in a chair with a book and a glass of wine on a Saturday night, as I am going out with friends. I use the term “cooking” loosely, and have much better luck making dinner with a phone and a credit card. I like tattoos, and I like them on me – we are so impermanent on this earth, that decorating the skin I am walking around in with art brings me nothing but joy. I will make plans, but some of my best days have been filled with spontaneity. If I’m on a road trip, I will enthusiastically make a playlist, stay awake for one hour, and then be sleep-drooling for the duration of the trip in the passenger seat. I will only yell if someone is on fire, or if they do something incredibly stupid in traffic. Family has become increasingly important to me, and I have learned through this past year just how much. I want to see the world, not in the comfort of my living room looking at my T.V., but with my own eyes. I can be sensitive, which I always thought was a weakness, but I have learned that empathy is one of the most important traits that a person can possess. If I have a bad day, which are few and far between, they can be easily fixed with wine and good company. I start a lot of things with childlike excitement, but can take a while (or a very long while) to finish them. Simple makes me happy: all I want in the summer is a tent, a campfire, and the appropriate amount of booze from the LC for all of us to enjoy ourselves. The most important thing during any day is to make sure I’ve laughed, I don’t care if it’s at myself, but a day without a smile is a day wasted.

After Mr. Few-Dates and I agreed that we were lacking chemistry, I found myself at my parents house, sitting beside my mom with a glass of wine in my hand.

“Oh I forgot to ask, how was your date the other night?”

I laughed, “another one bites the dust,” I said with a wink.

She turned to me, smiling.

“You know, Diane, I was thinking earlier; I was always sad over the past seven years when you were in Alberta. Every Christmas and birthday that went by when he didn’t propose, it upset me. Not because it was necessary, but because I just wanted you to know how much you were loved. But it dawned on me in church today, that’s not important. The thing I want most for you isn’t for someone else to love you, but for you to love yourself.”

I looked at her and smiled, tears welling up in my eyes a bit.

Thanks, Mom.

For the first time in a long time, I think I do.

Can you braid hair?

I arrived at my friends house with wine in hand, and the smell of homemade food greeted me at the door. I was about to have dinner with my favourite couple, and after studying in the afternoon (which more or less consisted of napping with my textbooks open beside me) I was looking forward to good food and good conversation.

After a delicious dinner, we sat in the backyard under the open sky, breathing in fresh country air and sipping on glasses of wine. It felt like an easy evening, and I was grateful for it.

Then, fuelled by thoughts of being in a very loud place with lots of sweaty people, six simple words rolled off my tongue:

“We should go to the bar.”

About an hour and a half later, we found ourselves in a very long line full of people that clearly knew what “pre-gaming” meant. I surveyed everyone waiting in line as I wobbled up to it, shaky from deciding to wear the high heels I throw on twice a year, and came to the conclusion that the bar was temporarily closed for the night and was currently operating as a daycare.

My God, when did I get this old? I know I’ve joked about it before, but everyone looked like they could still order off the kid’s menu. I looked at my friend, “did we look like this 10 years ago?” Just as the words came out of my mouth, someone in front of us passed back a 40 of vodka that had made it’s way through the crowd. We handed it to the people behind us, passing on whatever mystery illnesses might be lurking.

The atmosphere was almost exactly like I remembered, but I was no longer looking at it through 18 year old eyes. Everything was…..sticky. We quickly made our way to the beer tub, and I wondered how many I would need to drink before I didn’t feel like I could be everyone’s mother.

We found our way to the dance floor, and I had recalled why I enjoyed nights like these. Having a cold beer in hand while rocking out next to friends is something that I still love, even at a venue where the majority of the people have never heard of Green Day or knew the joys of running home after school to catch an episode of Full House.

The bar gods were smiling on us that night, when a change of plans had us in the back of a truck, heading towards a downtown pub. The blaring country music was far behind us, as we walked into one of my favourite places to grab a beer. Dance music boomed upstairs, and the now four of us quickly grabbed some drinks. We weren’t dancing long before a smiling guy came over, and leaned towards my ear, *in a heavy French accent* “Ah, hello, can I buy you a drink?” I looked at him and laughed, he must have been all of 19, so I politely let him know I was a little out of his age range.

“Ah, oui, oui, you are old, yes, but not terribly old.”

I looked at him, now with a very unimpressed expression. “Thanks for that”, I mumbled, “but I shouldn’t mix alcohol with all the old people pills I have to take.”

I ventured off to the washroom, only to be greeted with the sight of a bathroom attendant who had enough products to take care of any bar emergency. I cringed a little, as I always felt like you had to give them a dollar every time they handed you a paper towel. Digging through my purse, I only had bills on me, but I managed to scrounge up fifty cents. After being provided with the necessary paper towel to dry my hands, I handed her the fifty cents, and was greeted with about the same expression as I had given the smooth French guy only minutes earlier.

That’s when I was approached by a very drunk, very loud girl, who requested a favour.

“EXCUSE ME! DO YOU KNOW TO BRAID HAIR?”

I stared at her blankly for a moment, unsure if this was code for something, or if she was really asking a stranger to braid her hair in a public washroom at one in the morning. She looked so hopeful, and a little desperate, so I looked her in her bloodshot eyes and nodded.

“OH THANK GOD! I HAD A FISHTAIL BRAID BUT IT FELL OUT AND THIS IS A MESS! PLEASE HELP ME!”

Besides shouting as if I were a football field away, she was a pleasant girl, so while getting major side-eye from the washroom attendant, I got to work on her hair emergency.

That’s when I chuckled to myself a bit. I was drunk, sweaty ,and braiding a strangers hair in a downtown washroom. But, after spending the night with friends, and allowing the release of some pent-up energy, I felt like I needed this night.

I made my way back to the dance floor, had a couple more drinks, and was in my friends car, on route to McDonald’s. The bar night finished off at home, sitting at the kitchen table with my cheeseburger while I wondered if that girl’s fishtail braid had brought her the joy she was looking for.

It was a happy, messy night filled with friends, food, and drinks, and even though I nursed quite the hangover this morning, I would gladly do it again.

 

Unintended Exercise

It was a beautiful spring day. The sun was shining, the birds were chirping, and this lovely city I call home was just starting to wake up from a long winter nap.

I decided I wasn’t going to waste the chance to witness Winnipeg coming into spring, so I threw on my runners and ventured out to the park. Ah, yes, this is what I had been waiting for. The rays of sunshine were warm enough for me to leave my coat behind, and I relished in the deep breaths of crisp air that filled my lungs.

I started out on a path I was familiar with, making sure to smile and say hello to anyone who met my gaze. Even the wildlife seemed to appreciate the day, with an abundance of critters crossing paths in front of me, chasing one another up trees and down pathways after a long winter.

I turned a corner and was greeted by a flock of geese. I had seen many of them around the city lately, which was a welcome sign of spring’s arrival. Still strolling along at a slow pace, I looked over at them and smiled, pondering how nice it must be to head south for the winter with all of your friends. They even seemed to notice me too, and I was greeted with a few friendly honks.

Oh, one’s coming over to say hello. That’s nice. I knew better than to approach one of them, so I zigzagged in my walking a bit, trying to avoid meeting him on the path.

This did not deter him. He got louder, kindly cautioning me to get away from the flock. “I’m going, I’m going!” I said out loud, fully aware there were other humans in the area that had just witnessed me conversing with a goose.

HONK HONK!!! “I know! I f’in said I know! I am walking in the opposite direction of you and your friends!”

But this did not appease him.

Quickly, and with perhaps as much warning as a goose gives you when deciding you’re about to die, he ran at me full on.

“AHHHHHHHHHH!”

I was now sprinting, zigzagging, and using any other tactics I could to dodge him. “GET AWAY FROM ME, YOU ASSHOLE!!”

After about thirty seconds (which feels like an hour after you’ve spent the entire winter deeming walking from your house to your car exercise) the relentless chasing stopped.

I leaned over as I caught my breath, accepting the fact that the first personal trainer I encountered this year had been a small creature with feathers that could take flight.

I looked over at them, now quite far away, and grumbled to myself.

‘Thanks for the run, you majestic asshole.”

Winnipeg, the Beautiful

“Winnipeg?! I see why you came out west!”

After moving to Alberta a few years ago, this was a sentiment I heard often. It seemed the general consensus was that any sane person would pack up and move immediately if they found themselves living in one of the prairie provinces (except Alberta, of course) and that there was no further explanation needed as to why someone had chosen to make the move. As soon as the words “Well, I’m from Winnipeg,” rolled off my tongue, people were furiously nodding their heads, sure that they had identified the motivation behind packing my life into my car and driving for twelve hours.

I have to admit, after living there for eight years, I started to find myself agreeing with them. The winters in the city I had lived in were mild, and if I wanted to pack up and go to the mountains for the weekend, I only had to drive about an hour before I was surrounded by as many high peaks and trails as my heart desired. I started to make a point to visit Winnipeg only twice a year, avoiding the winter weather and the biting mosquitos.

And then, because life always has a way of showing you exactly what you need to see, I ended up moving home last summer. Fresh off heartbreak and a career change, I was hesitant to see if I would be able to find happiness in the same place I had left searching for it.

The first few months felt like a blissful visit. I went to all of my favourite spots – The Forks, Assiniboine Park, the Exchange District. I even spent some time driving around the country at dusk, just to remember what it was like to see for miles and miles over an open field.

And then winter hit. The cold left me unsure of things again, and combined with the stress of school, I began to wonder if I had made the right decision to move two provinces over. Every time I saw the thermostat dip below minus thirty, I fantasied about the warmth of a Southern Alberta winter, when I could throw on a light jacket and go for a run. I found myself feeling gloomy, and I began to countdown the days to my next Alberta visit. 

It was after that visit, after spending a week so close to the mountains, that I realized something; I knew exactly where home was.

It was strolling through the Exchange District and admiring the strong buildings that had lived through so many more seasons than I. It was the laughter from friends that filled a quiet restaurant on Osborne on a Tuesday night. It was filling my lungs with crisp, fresh air as I ran through Assiniboine Park. It was licking the ice cream from the corner of my mouth as I indulged at Halfmoon while I walked along the Red River. It was sitting outside at dusk, watching the sky light up with a fierce prairie sunset. It was plugging my car in without gloves, stubbornly trying to work through the biting cold. It was sitting on a bench on Broadway, watching the city slowly wake up from winter. It was driving down Main Street, seeing the same local businesses I had watched from the back seat of the car when I was a kid. It was racing up the stairs at the the Forks, with a view of the city as my satisfying reward. It was visiting with family, not for just a weekend, but for as long as I pleased.

And, all things considered, it was knowing that no matter what, through good and bad, this city would always be here for me.

So, next time someone asks why I live in Winnipeg, I will simply reply with “why on earth not?”