Writing In My Own Time

I’ve always wanted to be a writer. Ever since I was a young girl, I’d dream of having my name in print, my ideas published and shared amongst thousands of people around the world. I would set up my ‘desk’ on the side table in the living room closest to the grandfather clock, and I would sit there and write my stories. And draw my pictures, of course, for I was to be a famous author-illustrator of children’s books. After several ideas only came to fruition halfway, however (my story about Princess Monaca still resides somewhere in my mother’s collection of childhood memories, the picture of Princess Monaca waiting to be rescued only half drawn and coloured), I decided I would try something different, something I was by now learning in school: short stories.

No pictures needed, this was a new art form and I really enjoyed it. Even better, I thought I was pretty good at it. Again, I had loads of ideas, all about fairies and private eyes, and I would work diligently to get those stories written (most likely because they were for actual school projects). Nonetheless, having those two stories written really put a bee in my bonnet, and I’m still quite proud of those stories, though I don’t look at them quite as often as I should.

In the eight grade, the author-illustrator dream had a chance to come true again when our English teacher assigned us the task of creating our very own storybooks. In pairs. Believing by this point that my ideas were fantastic (and not wanting anyone else to have a handle on the story), I told my partner that, in an effort to divvy up the workload, I would write the story and she could put together the illustrations. My enthusiasm carried me from start to finish, but in the end I had to help my partner put together the book itself, much to my chagrin. Looking back now, I really did give her the short end of the stick. But I was just so darn excited about the prospect of writing, of painting pictures with my words, that I hogged all the story creating to myself. I still have the book we made (even though I swore up and down that we’d give it to the teacher to keep after class was done…I must say that though a part of me is sorry, most of me isn’t. Lord forgive me in my humanity).

Now, after spending years writing essays and papers and blogging for about 2.5 years, the time had come, the walrus said, for me to write a novel. I wrote last time about NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month) and expressed how I’d like to give it a try someday. Well, my friends, that someday is now. Not only does NaNoWriMo happen every year, but the lovely organizers also host Camp NaNoWriMo in April and July. When I figured out such a thing existed, I thought to myself, “Joyanne, here’s your chance! Do it!” So, I cracked my knuckles, opened a brand new Word document, and enlisted some of my coworkers to do the same. Plus, since you can set your word goal to whatever you like, I set mine 15,000 words below the usual 50,000, for  a 1130 word goal per day. It seemed reasonable enough and I thought I’d get through it, no problem.

Well, internet addicts, it is now day 14 and I am dying. Never, never, never have I hated writing as much as I do now (and yes, I am fully aware of what I’m doing in this instant and the fact that as of right now I’ve written 609 words that could’ve gone towards my story, now 618).  Never did I know that writing was SO HARD! Seriously, writing academic papers was a breeze compared to the novel. Probably because I’m the kind of person that likes to get all my research done first and then sit and write the blasted thing the night before it’s due, or even day of, whereas this time I’m flying completely by the seat of my pants, the NaNoWriMo mantra of “Just keep writing” constantly in the background. It’s honestly driving me mad. Within the third day I was behind and now, even after spending several hours over the weekend just sitting and writing, I’m a lofty 3991 words behind. The website tally tells me that at this rate I will finish on August 11, 11 days after the deadline.

I can’t stand it! I’m not sleeping well, I’ve had a headache every day since Friday, and my shame cycle is just getting deeper and deeper and deeper. “You suck!” the evil gremlins yell from their dark and sinister corners. “You’ll never be a great writer,” “You’re a failure,” You’re nothing!” Honestly, being inside my head is not so pretty these days. And for  what? A chance to prove that I can write fiction, like the many beloved novelists I adore. A chance to be able to say, “I’ve written a novel, I’ve done it, I’ve nailed my dream!” (just the writing part, mind you; the whole editing/getting published thing is entirely another story). A chance to feel great.

Hold up, Joyanne. Are you honestly saying that if you don’t finish this novel “on time,” so to speak, that you won’t feel great, that there isn’t anything else that will make you feel great? What about being outside in the sunshine, just chilling with friends at the Legislature grounds, or going for drinks, or partaking in a light sabre class (seriously, so fun!)? Are those things not important? And what is “great” anyway? Why does everything have to be “great”? Why isn’t “good enough” good enough?

All excellent questions and if I had a therapist we probably could work through and get to the bottom of them all. Since I don’t, however, I’ll try to do my own digging:

I think for me the novel represents the idea of “making it,” of finding a place in the world, of being recognized for something that people deem worthy. Ah, there it is: that idea of worthiness and caring what people think, that ultimate life-sucker that drains the soul. You know, I kind of thought I was past all this. I thought I was doing well, that I was happy. But now again I find a way to undermine myself with these ugly thoughts instead of focusing on the wonderful things in my life, my family, my friends, new opportunities and adventures. Just a couple weeks ago, in fact, I was at a picnic with a couple of my friends, eating snacks and blowing bubbles at cool gangstas (who totally smiled), and the question came up, “Do we really need anything more in this moment?” Well, Fred Astaire wouldn’t have hurt, but the answer was no, we don’t. And it was beautiful.

I want more of those moments in my life because I’m realizing how important they truly are, and what I’m beginning to realize is that, unfortunately, sitting on my arse and writing isn’t going to help me live life to the fullest. Sure, I still want to write my novel, and I do enjoy blogging, but I need to stop beating myself up every time I decide to go and do something else. I know it’s going to take me time to get used to the idea and be okay with it, but (whoa, head spin… I’m alright, really) I know I must, and I’ll keep trying to overcome this hurdle, this shame spiral, and be a good friend to myself, whether that means pushing myself to write or acknowledging that I need a break.

Ah, another ramble. So, is this post particularly philosophical? Not really, but I don’t quite care so much. It’s just another day in the life of a woman who’s trying to figure life out, by living it.

Peace,

Joyanne <3

P.s. 1319 words.

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Freedom!!!

Welcome to Sunday, a day that no longer is my day of rest (until the beginning of July, that is). Today is a busier day than usual because in addition to singing at the 10:30am Mass at St. Joseph’s Basilica, I was also scheduled to work my box office job today as well. 10.5 hours of work, most of it sitting at a computer waiting for the phone to ring.
After spending a few hours reading a book I found on my bookshelf and surfing the net, I was getting a little bit crazy twiddling my thumbs. In a moment of random inspiration born from a desire to find a specific online reading website (which I still can’t remember), I decided to check out what’s happening at NaNoWriMo or National Novel Writing Month. During NaNoWriMo people from all over the world crack their knuckles and hunker down to write a novel during the month of November. I first heard about it from a friend in Dublin who’d done it before and it seemed like such a great idea. Alas, what with traveling throughout the month of November, I didn’t get to it last year. This year, though, even though I’m sure I’ll be ridiculously busy with school and papers and the like, I really want to give it a shot. So, to begin boosting myself, I decided to check out some pep talks on the NaNoWriMo website, to see what published authors had to say about writing a novel.
The advice? Write every day, even if you don’t feel ‘inspired.’ Don’t feel like writing? Write anyway! What you’re writing is crap? Write anyway! Want to check email and Facebook and Pinterest and Twitter? Write instead!
This last one is really tricky for me, and author Malinda Lo is on the same page (ha, pun). In her Pep Talk, she mentions a program called Freedom that locks her out of the online world, thereby forcing her to get her work done.
Wait, what? A program called Freedom that shuts you out of your internet? I had to know more, so I clicked on the hyperlink and was redirected to Freedom’s sales page which markets the program as “the best 10 dollars you’ll ever spend.”  I could not believe what I was seeing. People pay $10 for a program that shuts them out of their internet for a specified amount of time because “online distractions kill [...] productivity”? Why can’t people just turn off their internet for a specified amount of time?
The answer? We’re addicted. I look at my life now and I am amazed by how much time I actually spend on the internet (this very moment totally being included). If I’m not on the internet I sometimes feel a bit out of control and anxious that I’m not keeping up with what’s going on in the world. But am I really keeping up with anything important? Nope. I’m scrolling through various Buzzfeed quizzes like “What kind of junk food are you?” and endless Ryan Gosling memes. It’s nonsense, but I still do it. And when I realize just how silly life on the internet can be, I concede that Freedom is aptly named because right in this moment, life without internet would be freedom. And when I think about it further I’m not sure that just shutting off my internet manually would be enough.
That’s really eye-opening. And it’s slightly worrying. If I do not have the self-discipline to keep myself away from the internet, what else do I not have the self-discipline to keep myself away from (which may be even more dangerous)?
So, with this new-found knowledge, I make a pledge to limit my internet intake and turn that time into something useful. Maybe I’ll work with my flowers. Maybe I’ll take a walk. Maybe I’ll strum my good ol’ uke, Henry. Or maybe I’ll finally set aside that time to write just a little bit every day, completely free at last.
Peace,
Joyanne <3

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Flip a Coin; It’s All the Same

Note: SPOILER ALERT FOR THOSE WHO HAVEN’T SEEN WAR HORSE (the play, not the movie).

You know, it’s hard to believe that I actually enjoyed Monday today. But it’s true. I did. Not only did we get a refreshing breather at work today, but I also decided to go to a spur-of-the-moment live streaming of The National Theatre’s War Horse at Cineplex Odeon. A friend of mine had an extra ticket, so I took it. Man, what a show. As much as I love theatre and think everyone should indulge in it, I understand that not everyone loves theatre and I respect the decision to stay away… except with this show. War Horse is definitely a show everyone should see. Pour quoi, you ask? Well, because of the ‘universal themes,’ as its author, Michael Morpurgo, said during the intermission talk-back. Not only is this show about war, but it is about reconciliation and the ‘desire for peace.’ Not to mention the puppetry is stunning and that goose is a hoot! Well, more like a ‘honk,’ I suppose… *slaps knee*

Along the lines of the puppetry, as I was driving home with another friend of mine, she mentioned how she liked that at some points more than the three designated puppeteers would aid in moving Joey, the title war horse. When I thought about it, what struck me is that Joey had more people operating him at two main points: when he was galloping or jumping, and when he was in pain. To summarize, when he was most powerful and when he was most vulnerable. And when I thought about it again, I realized how true that is for me as a person. The more powerful and confident I feel, the more people I seem to draw in. Conversely, when I am feeling my worst, those are the moments when I find I have a lot of support from those around me. Funny that being both strong and vulnerable draws in people power.

This is super interesting because whenever I used to think of vulnerability, I used to think of weakness. I hated being vulnerable (and still find it challenging) because I felt that being so made me weak, made me less of a person for giving into what I was feeling and perhaps even breaking down. Several times, actually. What I’ve come to learn, however, is that our most vulnerable parts are actually what drive us and where we get our strength. For example, showing others I love them is a hugely vulnerable thing for me to do, yet when I do just that my power grows and suddenly I am strong for having owned what I was feeling and sharing it with others. Albert is the same when he decides to go to war to search for Joey; his love for his horse propels him through thick and thin until they are reunited.

That’s what those moments in War Horse made me think of, how strength and vulnerability are one and the same, not opposites like we may think. So, go ahead and watch a live streaming of War Horse. Better yet, see the show in London! At the very least you’ll get a quack out of that goose! Oh, puns…

Peace and Christ is Risen!

Joyanne :D

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From Death to New Life

Tomorrow is Good Friday and I’m not going to church. I won’t partake in the procession around the church, I won’t kiss the shroud, I won’t travel to various churches throughout the day to venerate different shrouds and pray. I won’t participate in Jerusalem Matins, I won’t listen to any sermons, I won’t feel the peace I usually do on this holy day.

Where will I be, you ask? At the theatre. It’s interesting how theatre used to be my life. It was the focus of my degree, my passion, the thing that set me apart from my friends growing up. I was the crazy one who went to theatre school, who believed that I would make my living by becoming different people onstage.

My, how things have changed. No longer do I strive to become different people. Instead, I simply want to be myself, to find my way in the world by being me. And one of the things I’m learning about myself is how much I rely on my faith, my church. Oh, sure, my faith could be a lot stronger and more consistent, but my need for church, for taking that time each week to just gather with like-minded people and pray, has become so necessary that I’m really feeling the grief of not being able to participate in tomorrow’s Good Friday services.

I know it’s totally my fault. I completely dropped the ball on getting the time off because I simply forgot that since we have shows running at the theatre tomorrow, of course we’re open. Honestly, when I got the schedule and realized my blunder, I cried. And then I called my mom, who wasn’t home, so then proceeded to chat with my brother. He laughed at me and said this wasn’t such a big deal. And maybe it isn’t in the grand scheme of things, but it still hurts my heart to know that I can’t be where I want to be tomorrow because of my commitment to the theatre, my commitment to something that used to envelop my body and soul.

Isn’t it sad when we realize that something we had previously dedicated our lives to and fought for time and time again suddenly isn’t as important to us as we thought? I know it may sound silly, but it almost feels like a death, like a part of me has vanished. And yet, this same death helps me move into the next stage of my life, closing a chapter and starting fresh, so to speak. The challenge is accepting that this change is okay, that it’s okay not to be in love with theatre anymore. I will always appreciate everything that I have learned about life through my studies in theatre and no doubt  that knowledge will inform whatever I choose to do next. But I have begun to realize that theatre is not my focus anymore. Faith is.

Well, looks like I’m still the crazy one, but this time I’m the crazy one who has decided to go to church school. God bless my friends.

Have a blessed Good Friday and wonderful Easter! Christ is (almost) risen! Христос (майже) Воскрес!

Joyanne <3

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Making Love in More Ways Than One

No, this post is not going to include any explicit content.

And now for all of you still with me, I have made a discovery: I want someone to make love to me. Now before you all point your fingers to my first sentence, allow me to clarify. Last Friday I decided only one thing would mellow me out after a long week at work: a Fred Astaire marathon. Okay, so I only watched two movies, but I tell you, watching that man dance will definitely put a smile on anyone’s face (check out this scene from Easter Parade, one of the films I watched). I seriously fall in love with him every time I watch one of his movies (note to any potential suitors out there).

My discovery, however, did not come from Freddy-boy himself. Nope. Instead I found myself intrigued by a certain line co-star and famous dance partner Ginger Rogers‘ character, Dale Tremont, says in Top Hat. See, Jerry Travers (Fred Astaire), an American dancer, falls for Dale and ends up hounding her, intriguing her, and finally inspiring her to fall for him too. Of course, this happens while dancing. In a gazebo. In the rain (I’m going to be super girly and add, “Sigh.”). Alas, Dale mixes up Jerry with his married producer and is appalled that he would flirt with her in such a way. No, flirt is not how she puts it. “How could he have made love to me?” is what she actually says.

Now, considering this film was made in the 1930s, I’m pretty sure she wasn’t talking about sex. No, Dale was using the phrase “making love” to mean a sincere act of intention, of communicating interest and, later down the line, love. And from that moment I began thinking (surprise, surprise). Nowadays, we only use the term “making love” to mean sex. Don’t get me wrong; I do believe that sex should definitely be categorized as “making love,” but that’s not the only way to show someone you love them. “Making love” to someone can also mean a kiss, holding hands, cuddling, sharing a meal, having a conversation, throwing snowballs at each other, arm wrestling, etc, etc, etc. By having the term “making love” only apply to sex, we’ve limited ourselves to only one way of showing love, when, in reality, love is so much more versatile and flexible.

So, am I against sex? No, definitely not. But I am against narrowing our definition of “making love” to only mean sex. I mean, only using sex to show love has got to get boring after a while, doesn’t it? I don’t know about you, but when I “make love,” I want to keep the excitement and spark alive as long as possible. Starting with a dance. Maybe some snowballs.

Peace,

Joyanne :D

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Going Where No Ukrainian Catholic Has Gone Before

I’m really learning to appreciate having a roommate who shares the same faith as I because I can come home and say, “I just spent a half hour sitting in front of a picture of Our Lady of Guatalupe and reciting the Jesus prayer.” And that’s normal. The fact that we can then embark on a discussion concerning church services and programming is also cathartic.

I just came home from Adoramus at St. Joseph’s Basilica; the schola was singing (if you don’t remember what ‘schola’ means, check out my last entry). I’d never been to an Adoramus before, so I really didn’t know what to expect. Seems it’s a sort of reconciliation service where people are invited to go to confession while readings, hymns (us), and a lot of silence ensue. The service was quite nice and I think I would consider going once when I’m not expected to sing.

The thing that surprised me, however, had nothing to do with the service, but with the congregation itself: it was made up of mostly young people ie. the average age seemed to be about 25! I was shocked, shocked, I say! Never had I seen so many young people gathered at church just to go to church. If that many young people were at one of our churches, there’s some other kind of incentive (well, I suppose there were free snacks after this service…but still).

I happened to mention my surprise at the service’s  demographic to one of my priest friends at the Basilica and he replied, “I find it’s best to get back to the simple, core stuff. It’s just prayer and confession.”

Naturally this got me thinking. Does the Ukrainian Catholic Church have anything similar? The answer came almost as soon as I asked my roommate the question: the Reconciliation service we do at Unity every 2-3 years. Ask anyone who’s attended what one of the most memorable moments of Unity was and I’ll bet you they’d say the Reconcilation service. Why? Because it’s a simple way to get back to one of the core beliefs of Catholicism: Jesus always forgives. Seriously, once you go through that service, I challenge you not to feel at least a little better for sharing whatever’s been weighing on your mind. Or maybe you just want to chat with a priest or sister and ask some questions; that’s cool too. I’ve definitely done both.

My point is, why is something that is so powerful not available more often? Why do we allow ourselves to fall back on the usual Sunday liturgies with no more understanding than the previous week? Perhaps (and this is something my roommate and I concluded), perhaps if we had different services available people would become curious and attend. Maybe they’d ask questions. Maybe they’d then come to the Sunday liturgy with a thirst to know more. Maybe they’d actually stay within the church because then they’d know what it’s about instead of just thinking about faith as following a bunch of rules to ‘keep our noses clean.’

I think that’s the end of my thought train.

Good night! Sleep tight!

Joyanne :D

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8 Real Reasons You Should Love Clowns

It’s been a while since I wrote something “philosophical” on here (funny, since that’s the whole purpose of this blog), but after reading Buzzfeed’s recent article “11 Reasons You Should Love Clowns,” I felt my fingers itching to contribute my two cents.

I was in Vegas in November 2011 with a bunch of my girlfriends I’d known since kindergarten. Half of us decided to go and watch Mystere by Cirque du Solei. As much as all the acrobatics are excellent to watch, I was mesmerized by one of the featured clowns in that show, the ‘Big Baby ‘ (the late Francois Dupuis). Everything he was doing was just SO SIMPLE that I couldn’t stop laughing (ie. he’d stand on the stage and just look at the audience and laugh). That’s it! I was in awe of how he’d mastered simplicity, something that is so hard to do in the world of performance. Unfortunately, my friends did not think he was anything special and when I tried to explain what being a clown truly means, I got the ever-unsatisfying brush-off answer: “Well, that’s just weird.”

As someone who went through a clown and mask workshop a couple years ago, I am very sensitive when people start talking about clowns because what many people think of when the word ‘clown’ comes to mind usually has nothing to do with the true nature of clowning. Articles like the one posted on Buzzfeed don’t help. True, the reasons the article lists for loving clowns are things I would consider to be true (we are great with kids, we don’t shy away from daring clothing, we do have a range of facial expressions), but these reasons for the most part are superficial and don’t get to the true heart of a clown (not to mention most of the clowns pictured in the article are TERRIFYING! No wonder people are afraid of clowns!).

What is the true heart of a clown? Let me try to explain this by citing my own clown, Dot (sidebar: I speak of Dot as a separate person to myself, though we are inevitably intertwined as we share the same body; this is something all of us who went through clown workshops do, so get over it). Dot is an incredible flirt and will give away her (ie. my) phone number to willing strangers, she loves pink and green (but mostly pink), and she’s obsessed with stripes (how ironic). She doesn’t smoke and will tell you directly that smoking is bad for you if you happen to light up in front of her. She can’t juggle very well, but when she does manage to catch all the balls, regardless of how little time she’s spent juggling, she is super excited. And if she doesn’t catch all the balls… well, she pretends like she does.

Dot also has feelings, very strong feelings that can change in the blink of an eye, like any human being. The difference between an adult and a clown? A clown actually shows how s/he is feeling at any given time. Happy? Jumping off the walls. Sad? Crying her/his eyes out. Afraid? Cowering in the corner. Clowns do what we as adults are afraid to do: they embrace and project their vulnerability to the world.

It’s because of this vulnerability that it’s hard for me when people say they don’t like clowns because being in clown does not mean just putting on a wacky collection of clothing and red nose, and getting all up in people’s faces while acting silly; that can scare people and is the reason why good clowns learn to be super observant and cautious when approaching people. Being in clown means taking one’s inner-most self and putting it out in the world to be inevitably stomped on. In a way, a clown is very much like a child, open to new experiences and seeing their entire world as one great, big adventure. Dot actually reminds me of me when I was about 7 years old, that time in my life when I was old enough to have opinions but hadn’t developed the inhibitions to conceal how I was feeling, that time when I wasn’t afraid to play, to climb trees, to ride my bike, to tell boys that I liked them. Being in clown means ultimately being brave and owning your story. And not only owning it, but sharing it as well.

So, according to Buzzfeed, there are 11 reasons why you should love clowns. To sum up, I’m going to give you 8 more:

1. They take the simple in life and make it profound
2. They can make you laugh
3. They find wonder in everything
4. They turn failure into success
5. They portray all extents of the human experience in a way that gives the audience some release and catharsis
6. They will be your best friend if you let them
7. They are brave
8. They are human

Finis.
Joyanne :D

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