Sunday, May 31, 2015

The Parade Marches On

It was the morning of the Victoria Day Parade, May 18, 2015, a parade to mark the holiday honouring Queen Victoria’s birthday (which is actually May 24, 1819). Although I never met Queen Victoria I’m sure she was lovely and it’s always nice to remember someone’s birthday, but I wish someone would have a parade for me. Queens and birthdays aside, however, that morning I was going downtown, but NOT to watch the parade. Our family’s parade-watching days are over; my kids too ‘old’ and too ‘cool’ for such things. I suspect the next time I watch a parade with either of my strapping young offspring it will be with their kids – my grandkids.

But let’s not get ahead of ourselves. Let me get through the tumultuous teen years, first.

As the bus rumbled along bringing me closer to my destination, my heart and stomach were going ‘round faster than the wheels on the bus. You see, on one hand I was very much aware of a parade I would likely (sadly) not watch, yet I was also aware of a great transition about to happen.

I was getting my hair cut – and in a big way.

About six inches of hair was going to be removed from my head – as in GONE – and I wouldn’t be able to put it back if I changed my mind.

I was nervous, determined, scared, yet excited all at the same time.

Yes, I know I have written about my hair many times before. I don’t get it cut very often, and when I do it’s a BIG DEAL – to me at least. Where Queen Victoria likely had people to do her hair for her, I am lacking in royal parade-worthiness so I have to rely on my own two hands to do my hair. I’m a busy momma, so although I treasure my tresses and worry about them daily, I don’t have time to fiddle with my quickly greying strands. Keeping things simple by keeping my hair pony-tail-worthy long has always been the easiest.

But it was time to let go and make a change.

Just as we neared the outskirts of downtown and my whirling nerves were picking up speed, we slowed down. I had left the house early to accommodate for any parade-required street closures, so I wasn’t worried about being late for my hair appointment. Traffic was almost at a stand-still and as we inched along I saw the cause of our delay.

The parade participants – bands and floats and so on – had convened near the start of the parade in an empty parking lot of a shopping mall. It was an organized chaos of folks practicing their moves, getting in line, and doing last-minute checks of their parade floats. Excitement hung like a cloud over the parking lot, and I had no doubt many participants were as nervous as I was. As the bus trundled past I looked out over the floats, marching bands and performers with envy and longing. My heart was heavy with the reminder that parade-watching with my kids was over.

Traffic thinned and we started to speed up. As the parade convening area (is that what you call it?) slowly disappeared out of sight a procession across the street caught my eye. A school’s band was marching their way to the parking lot, complete with instruments, gold-buttoned/double-breasted blazers and feather-adorned marching band hats.

As I admired their blindingly clean, white pants (and wondered what stain remover their parents used), I realized that although we were going in opposite directions, we were both marching toward the start of something great.

I had been wanting – no needing ¬- to get my hair cut for a long time. I knew it was time to put an end to something and start anew. Just as parades have a start and an end, and just because my parade-watching days were over with my kids, didn’t mean there wouldn’t be other memorable moments with them down the road. And just like I knew it was time to lose my too-long locks and go for a change, it didn’t mean it would be forever; hair grows. But it WAS time for a change – for a new start.

Not only is Crescendo For Hair Salon near the ‘end’ of the parade, it is also outside the exact spot where my kids and I used to sit and watch many parades. To be making a change at the same spot from something I knew I had to move on was bittersweet. I had to let go of the nostalgic heavy heart that would drag me down every time there was a parade I wouldn’t be attending with my kids.

Just like I had move on and accept that my kids were growing, I had to let go of my hair. Hair always grows back, but kids grow and don’t stop. I was lucky to be able to have the parade days I DID have with them, but it was time to stop pining for the past, and cherish the NOW and what I could have with my kids.

Life has a way of forcing us to ‘let go’ – and always when we least want to. But that day I made a choice to let go of something that was weighing me down – my hair.

The day before my big downtown non-parade-hair-salon adventure, I found a quote by Coco Chanel:
Finding that quote was like a sign. I realized I was doing the right thing at the right time in my life – for so many reasons.

Once downtown, determination to let go and move on had me impatiently picking my way through the fast-growing crowds lining the by-then closed down street. But by the time I walked through the hair salon doors, despite my nerves still a teensy aflutter, I knew the time was right. It was time to march on.

With every snip of the scissors, Chris at Crescendo For Hair Salon watched for the merest hint of a quivering lip or a filling tear duct. The master he is knew cutting off THAT much hair was a big step for a girl. We could hear the parade outside – he even stopped to listen: "Yes, it sounds like it's started!" – and after an hour as the parade still marched on outside, we were done. And I didn’t cry. And in fact, I actually wanted more cut off.

But given the amount of hair already piled on the floor we decided to give it a week to a/make sure I didn’t cry and b/make sure I truly DID want more cut off. I would, indeed, go back and already, now, a week after THAT, I still want more.

With a new bounce in my step – heck, who wouldn’t with all that extra weight, gone? – I left the salon. The parade was still going on, so I figured, “Well, while I’m here...” and made my way to OUR parade-watching spot. A band marched by, some fire-trucks trundled past, and a little boy in his daddy’s arms beside me waved at the passing procession. I clapped at the right time, took a few pictures, and kept patting my hair while wondering if anyone could tell I had just changed.

And I didn’t cry, I didn’t long, and I didn’t stay for the end, either.

I turned around and moved on with my own parade.

I left.

Wednesday, May 6, 2015

Adult Colouring - Maybe it IS for Me (Part 2)

Okay – so after all that stress, I gave the colouring ‘thing’ a new start (see 'Adult Colouring - Maybe It's Not For Me - Part 1). I was drug-free (Valium was making me too dopey), caffeine-free (too jumpy), and I had plowed through a few self-help books renewing my self-confidence with positive self-talk. I could do this! So the night after my pencil sharpening debacle (see previous blog, Stress-Free Colouring: Part 1) - and yes, I had to wait a WHOLE day to start colouring in earnest - I got busy.

The reading glasses were on, everything was positioned ‘just so,’ I was relaxed and calm and you know what……?

It wasn’t so bad after all.

I had previously flipped through Johanna Basford’s book, ‘Enchanted Forest,’ and found a not-too-complicated design, something not too intricate, and something not too....busy. I told myself this was for no one’s eyes but mine – I did NOT have to show anyone. I wasn’t striving to be displayed in an art museum (my coloured piece, not ME), and I wasn’t being graded. No one was looking over my shoulder telling me what was right or wrong, and if I wanted I could colour in wax crayon (a true artiste can use any medium to create a work of art, but an artiste I am not, so I stuck to half-used pencil crayons). I could do what wanted, how I wanted, and at my own pace.

And as I worked, focusing on one bit – one leaf, as was in the particular design – at a time, I got into a rhythm. I didn’t over-think what right colours were to use, I didn’t second-guess my choices (okay, maybe I sometimes did – but heck, that’s what erasers are for!), and I concentrated on just enjoying it. I found it relaxing, calming, meditative and...addictive.
I couldn’t stop.

But as I coloured, the clock ticking well past my bed-time – ‘Just one more section, MOM’ (um, that was ME) – my mind started to wander.

As I said in my previous post I had been previously been in a creative slump: the whirlwind of this thing we call LIFE was nudging its way into my creativity and threatening to knock it on it’s you-know-what. I was getting antsy: nothing was working in my writing projects, or anything else I was doing. I was cranky, whiney, bitchy, cranky, and antsy – all at once.
It was not pretty.

Hence, the colouring thing.

And as I progressed on that first real colouring night I didn’t completely ignore my family around me: I didn’t. But as I coloured, my mind started to wander. With conversations around me and the TV on in the background I would pick up bits and pieces of this-and-that and....I would get ideas.

For my creative writing.

Out of nowhere would pop a great name for a book title, a concept for my novel-in-progress, or a great name for a character. I had been concentrating on shading an ivy leaf in the design with Forest Green, and my mind was free of everything else. I wasn’t trying to come up with writing stuff – it just happened.

I refused to make notes in my too-fancy colouring book. So on a random piece of paper on the end-table beside me (it was article on tennis elbow common to archers – go figure) I would jot down my writing ideas in Taupe, Raspberry, or Peacock Blue. The tennis/archery elbow article became a rainbow of pencil crayon test scribbles intertwined with all-too important writer’s idea/notes.

And I kept going.

And coloured some more.

And I didn’t cry if I went outside the lines.

And I kept the eraser handy.

And I kept jotting ideas.

And when my arm got too sore (I have to preserve my writers/archery arm, you see), and my neck got too sore (I was starting to nod, even WHILE doing something I loved), I reluctantly put everything away.

And realized one thing I had forgotten to remember: creativity begets creativity.
One thing I have always known and had often preached is when in a creative slump, go do something ELSE entirely different. Knit, sew, write, paint, draw, bead – anything. Renowned creatives (think Julia Cameron, ‘The Artist’s Way’) have for eons taught, written about, and preached about creativity fostering creativity. And as an aside, writers have for eons wailed, “Why do I get my best ideas while driving/showering/mowing the lawn?” Well, as far as colouring goes, not only is doing something else creative fostering creativity, but doing something repetitive relaxed me enough to allow something else other than life’s little hiccups to come to the forefront of my mind.


That is some heavy stuff.

(For a more detailed, educated, analysis of creativity, check out Julia Cameron’s book, ‘The Artist’s Way’ and visit her blog at Julia Cameron Live.

So now when I colour I keep a notebook beside me (duh, isn’t that what ALL writers are supposed to do?), focus on staying un-stressed (duh, isn’t that what colouring is SUPPOSED to do?), and just colour....

And if they ever have a colouring contest for a 40-plus age group, I won’t be entering.

I won’t be able to handle the stress.

Thanks for reading!