Soul & Mind


Yesterday, after 12 weeks of being on strike, I went back to work. Actually, I went in on Sunday for half a day. HR had called on Saturday informing me that I was going to act as the head of my department until the new guy comes towards the end of November, and that I was invited to attend a managers/supervisors meeting on Sunday that gave direction on what the priorities are and how to prepare for opening to the public.

The meeting was professionally conducted, but the tone with which management spoke was subdued, quiet, even contrite, if I may say so. A few people returning to work presented themselves neutrally or with some excitement to get back to work, but most others wore grim, black expressions on their faces, smouldering silently. The room was thick with tension and distrust.

I suppose this state of things is only natural given how long the strike went on for and all the negative effects that came out from that. There is a lot of healing needed for employer-employee relations, and even among union members. Last Friday, when I learned that my union ratified the 2nd deal, I burst into tears, feeling absolutely conflicted about going back to work and letting the full impact of feeling helpless hit me in a way that I had managed to avoid the past three months.

Here are some things I learned while being on a lengthy strike:

  • it is undignifying NOT to be able to work. After two weeks into it, my sense of worth and purpose became threatened in a way I had not expected. While I like my job a lot, I thought I had a pretty good handle on not letting my life revolve around my work. But the strike revealed to me that a good part of myself needs to be productive and to know that I am contributing to society in some way.
  • people are incredibly generous and resilient in a time of trial. The members of my union showed me this by the way we shared resources, encouraged each other on the picket line, and participated in creative, community-building activities while on strike duty. I got to know a lot of my co-workers more personally while we picketed together. I felt very blessed by their openness to me to being known.
  • I have options with what to do with my life. Prior to the strike, I had gotten into a comfortable (and in hindsight, unfulfilling) rut in the routine of my life. There have been some things I have been wanting to pursue (like go back to school) but have not had the courage to make the necessary and radical changes in my life to really pursue them.
  • I can handle the stress and discomfort of living on very limited financial means. I’m not saying that I enjoy going into debt or anything sadistic like that, but I did learn to live on very little and came to appreciate the generosity of my family and close friends. God provided the necessities, just at the right time. But having said all that, I really hate being in debt. I still can’t believe that I’ve lost a quarter of my wages this year.
  • I am still marketable.
  • I can still give, even if I have very little.
  • How to increase and decrease in knitting.
  • That many of my co-workers love to play Scrabble and play it very well.

Okay, that’s all for now. I could go on.

I’ve been blessed with two incredibly good days.

Yesterday

First of all, it was my day-off. And I was feeling physically well. It was partly spent at Regent College, where Dot and I registered for a writing course to be taught by one of my favourite contemporary writers. Bought my required texts for the course from the very addictive bookstore there and then took the opportunity to check out the newly renovated and expanded library.

Because thefourthpotato happened to lunch at the University Golf Club nearby, we made plans to meet him in the atrium at Regent. He has come all the way from the Land of the Rising Sun to celebrate the J&J wedding this past weekend. Because he’s only staying for two weeks, we’ve been making plans to meet up whenever possible.

We also looked up Joe, who works in the IT department at Regent. He played host to us by treating us all to coffee and tea at The Well, a coffee shop that shares space with the bookstore. As we leisurely sipped our hot beverages, we amused ourselves and each other by talking piffle.

Afterwards Dot, Derek, and I went down to Spanish Banks for a walk. We walked as far as the concession stand, where we picked up some snacks to tide us over to dinner. Then we made our way to the beach, sat on a log to enjoy the view, and talked more nonsense.

Dot and I had an early dinner with Cat and Yvonne at the Rocky Mountain Flatbread Company. Derek came along for the ride and just watched us eat, as he had separate dinner plans. It was my first time there, and I was impressed. The toppings lean towards the gourmet and the crusts are not greasy at all, being made out of flatbread. Because I can’t stand the feeling of grease on my hands, I generally pooh-pooh eating pizza, unless I absolutely have to out of convenience. So I’m happy to know there are options out there for high maintenance people like me.

After dinner, we went to the end-of-the-season Chor Leoni concert held in the Bard on the Beach Mainstage Tent at Vanier Park. It was two and a half hours of good fun and music that I could relive over and over again. I’ve attended a few of their summer concerts over the years, and I notice that the performances have become more choreographed, cheeky, and playful. A very naughty rendition of the panto, “If I Were Not Upon the Stage,” had everyone in stitches. Some special guest appearances: Judith Forst and Dal Richards.

Spent from laughing so hard, Dot and I grabbed a late night snack at a HK cafe where we did some catching up.

So a very satisfying day it was, filled with good friends, books, and music.

I’ll try to write about today tomorrow.

Yesterday, in between social engagements, I amazingly managed to squeeze in a trip to the Park Theatre to watch Once. I was first alerted to this movie by Nick, who asked me to pick up the soundtrack for him in NYC. A low budget production that won an award at the 2007 Sundance Film Fest, this modern day “musical” (if you had to call it something) stars musicians Glen Hansard and Marketa Irglova, who play a Guy and Girl whose relationship develops in a such way that seamlessly and brilliantly integrates the music with the storyline. Visually, it has a very raw and grass roots feel; parts of the film are shot like a documentary. If you like acoustic guitar music and appreciate the creative, collaborative process of music-making, this film is for you (especially you, coko). The music is achingly poignant and expressive, underscored by the unresolved (oh, did I just give it away?), romantic tension in the relationship between Guy and Girl.

Here’s a live performance by Hansard and Irglova of one of the more popular songs from the soundtrack, “Falling Slowly”:

Some things to be glad about:

  • I’m getting better by leaps and bounds (no wheezing and coughing this morning!).
  • Some good friends, Jo and Jason got married yesterday. At last! If I may say so, they are one of my favourite couples, well-matched in personality and good-looking together. They looked so happy yesterday and really enjoyed themselves. Very happy for them. The best man delivered the best speech I have heard in a loooooong time. To the point, but warm, honest, faintly roasting, and audible. A man of few words, he’s also one of the quietest friends I know, often almost inaudible when conversing or praying. Someone joked that he should carry a mic with him all the time.
  • The wedding was a reunion of sorts, bringing together people from faraway places and people who I don’t regularly see.
  • Although I was feeling pretty anti-social at the banquet (because I was still wheezing and coughing last night), I got to meet a couple of people I’ve been curious to meet for a while because I’ve been following their blogs.
  • Got to try out my new Urban Decay eye palette that Jen brought back for me during a business trip to Florida last week. Although very busy, she kindly made time to go to a Sephora on her lunch break.

Okay, I can recognize goodness without having to feel good. Definitely on the road to recovery.

While I didn’t like how the trilogy His Dark Materials turned out, nor do I subscribe to Philip Pullman’s theology, I *did* enjoy reading The Golden Compass. The premise and fantasy world established is fascinatingly unique; his characterizations and plot development in this first book gripped me to the point of sacrificing a night’s rest so I could finish reading it in one sitting. A movie, based on the first book, is being made (starring Daniel Craig, Nicole Kidman, Eva Green), to be released on December 7, 2007. I am very curious to see it. It will be controversial, especially among conservative religious circles.

Anyways, I was alerted to this bit of movie marketing by ziasudra, where you get to figure out what your daemon is. Mine is a gibbon named Thalius. Great. (If you’ve really got nothing better to do, feel free to comment on my results. Very possibly, your input might morph it into something else.)

I’ve been sick the entire week beginning last weekend. Came down with a sore throat, which has developed into a persistent cough. Getting sick is not a surprise to me, because I was really worn out from my trip. In fact, I noticed some lymph nodes swelling up during my last few days in NYC. My doctor couldn’t really tell what was wrong with me … he just put me on some antibiotics and sent me in for some blood work. Went back to work for a couple days, but by Thursday, it became clear to me that I was getting worse, not better, so I went home early and then took yesterday off to rest properly.

Hence, I’ve been doing a lot of reading, lying down, because I notice that I have fewer coughing fits on my back. Finished The Namesake this morning, and now moving onto Volume 7 of the Tin Tin 3 Complete Adventures in 1 Volume series.

During my time in NYC, I managed to squeeze in a visit to The Strand, an pretty amazing secondhand bookstore. Picked up the two books mentioned earlier, as well as Mark Bittman’s highly readable How to Cook Everything. I was so excited to see the Strand carry all of the Tin Tin volumes at very discounted prices (I have only vols. 3 and 4 at home), but reality set in very quickly regarding how little room remained in my luggage, so I disciplined myself into choosing just one to bring home. Also, at the time, I couldn’t remember which volumes I owned, so it was good to play it safe and pick the one I was absolutely sure I didn’t have yet.

Anyways, after I complete this editing job over a modest meal of noodles and fishballs, I will get to fully absorb myself in the world of Tin Tin. It is a way of “being kind” to myself, which the Spirit is exhorting me to do in these uncertain times.

Wowee! In addition to seeing Itzhak Perlman, Kevin Spacey in the Moon for the Misbegotten, The Drowsy Chaperone, and Avenue Q, I’m going to seeing Björk in New York at the famous Apollo Theater in Harlem! I can hardly believe that I get to see her at practically the beginning of her tour. I fully expect a unique spectacle and aural experience! (Apparently, there’s going to be a ten-piece female brass ensemble.)

Online ticket sales started yesterday at 7am, which Anita, a huge fan, got up for. (She also got tickets to see Björk perform in Deer Lake Park on May 23rd a couple weeks after the NY concert.)

Björk in New York!” I love saying that.

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