January 31, 2013

Reading in 2013: Quiet

Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can't Stop Talking by Susan Cain was my second non-fiction read for 2013.

A hugely popular book last year, this examines both our cultural bias towards extroversion as well as the physiological commonalities shared by "introverts."

I found it encouraging and validating, as a self-professing introvert - albeit one who often functions as an extrovert. WHICH is a thing this book discusses. On many pages, I found myself wanting to shout, "THIS IS ME!" to whomever was closest at the moment, or to compile all the anecdotes and walk around handing them out to those whose lives most intersect with my own.

There is a chapter on introversion & Asian culture, which tends to value it more highly than our North American culture does, and another chapter on parenting introverted children... (for those to whom either is applicable, I highly recommend these chapters)

I am not keen to be prescriptive in how we label ourselves, and I think this book explores the complexity of introversion & extroversion in a way that gives space for the uniqueness of each person; there is no "true introvert" or "true extrovert," as we are multi-faceted people whose personalities are more complex than one label. That said, I think this read has a lot to offer in terms of understanding the inherent differences between people (the science of our brains is quite fascinating) and learning to create room to thrive in business and relationships. I'd recommend it to anyone - regardless of where you fall on the spectrum.

January 29, 2013

Quirkyalone (What Relationship Label Will I Accept?)

A new word for today: quirkyalone*. It's a neologism that wikipedia says refers to someone "who enjoys being single (but is not opposed to being in a relationship) and generally prefers to be alone rather than dating for the sake of it."

That is me.

Here's the thing, though. I don't really like the phrase. It's a compound of two words that I don't think accurately describe me - or at least don't flatter me.

First off, quirky. Sure, maybe I'm quirky. Everyone is a little bit strange in their own special (and sometime endearing) way. We all have little idiosyncrasies that mark as our own individual selves. But frankly, I don't think my contentedness and purposeful approach to dating is quirky, and I don't want that label attached to it.

And then, alone. If there is one thing I've internalized in the past three years of my life, it is that I am not alone. I have a plentiful network of friends and family who care for me deeply. I know people who are dating and/or married who experience just as much "aloneness" as I do; maybe more. To say that I am alone draws a distinction of haves and have-nots that I don't believe is true.

This conundrum has been brewing for awhile; I am just not satisfied with the most common options for explaining/defining my romantic status. And yet I recognize that these labels are inevitable and, at times, helpful. So which one do I stick on myself?

Single - carries the stigma of the ages, plus its social implications run parallel to those of alone.

Unmarried - anything that defines me by what I am not is instantly suspect. What other avenues of our lives do we do this in? Unemployed. Another loaded word... (Anything else?)

Not-yet-married - a doozy! Not only is it a negative descriptor, but it implies & assumes that I will someday marry, which we don't know is true! It's counting on a promise that can't be assured, and it builds up false hopes.

Independent - I tend to like this one, except that it inversely suggests that married or dating women are not independent. And while there is a measure of truth to that, it is not as if these women are dependent. They most certainly are still their own unique and contained selves who function and think and feel and experience life separately from their significant others.

Autonomous - same as above. Plus, I am not fully autonomous/independent. No human is. I don't want to pretend to be, because that isn't healthy and leads to a lot of pride and a lot of headaches and a lot of expectations I can't possibly meet.

Solo - I think this is my favourite. It has no implications on the partnered people. It doesn't carry any negative weight (I don't think?) and although I should never refer to myself as "riding solo," it is a term that has some presence/weight in popular culture.

What are your thoughts, friends? What terms do you like/dislike to describe your marital/dating/romantic status? Are there any common labels I've overlooked?

*thanks to Sarah for introducing me to this crazy word, via the wonders of Twitter and UberFacts (whom I often doubt, but were accurate today).

January 28, 2013


Hey friends,

I'm going back to captchas. I know a few of you were keen to have them gone, but I'm getting upwards of 20 spam comments on each new post plus 5 spam on old posts every day. It's bonkers.

Hopefully this won't deter y'all from engaging with my oh-so-riveting posts... (I think I'm about due for one, aren't I?)

January 23, 2013

Toes. And Nails.

I’m anxiously anticipating the loss of a toenail, and it is making me nostalgic.

A year and a half ago (where does that time go), Kirsten and I spent three weeks walking across northern Spain. Most of you know this. Most of you also know that Kirsten was plagued by foot troubles. Intense blisters that doubled the size of her pinky toe, a strange and inexplicably fiery rash, and then a blister UNDERNEATH her toenail.

I was sympathetic. Deeply sympathetic; in contrast, I merely broke/sprained one toe, in a non-hiking accident one rainy evening. Taped to its neighbouring toe and with solid shoe support, I wasn’t so badly off.
We persevered, of course. Kirsten’s endless will and pain tolerance amazed me, we laughed often, we cried (only a little), and we ate a lot of lemon yogurt.

A few weeks after we returned home, she told me that her toenail was gone. It was sad and gross to hear. I had seen her feet at their worst, but I was relieved not to see a nail-less toe. It is a weird thought to me.

A very weird thought. Which brings us back to today:

On Sunday night, an aggressive soccer striker (whom I proudly and effectively defended against during our first shut-out of the season) landed on my foot early in the game.

It hurt. Like the dickens. BUT we were without girl subs, and if I left the field, we would be at a one-man disadvantage…hardly an ideal situation in our last pre-playoff game. Plus, the adrenaline! It’s easy (though maybe not wise) to play through most injuries.

I was sure my foot would be bloody when I took off my shoe, but no! Just a throbbing, pounding toe and the hint of a bruise under my polished nail (hooray for the Christmas pedicure).

Three days later, I am walking normally again, but the toenail is an ominous purple, and heaven forbid I should let anything touch the top of my foot! It was recommended that I ice the nail and/or drill a hole to relieve the pressure.

DRILL A HOLE. IN MY TOENAIL. Not gonna happen, thankyouverymuch.

Some of my more athletic friends seem to view the losing of a toenail as a rite of passage into the world of the “true athlete.” I’m not sure I want to be in this world after all.

Have any of you lost a toenail before? How gross is it, really? Will it last forever?

January 15, 2013

Reading in 2013: The Authenticity Hoax

My first non-fiction read of the year was The Authenticity Hoax. It is, in short, a book about the meaning of life and our search for significance.

These two quotes essentially summarize the main argument (although tracing the history and trajectory of our culture’s status competitions is, I think, worth the read):

“The quest for authenticity is about searching for meaning when all the traditional sources no longer have any sound, rational justification.* This book is an exploration of the quintessentially modern attempt at replacing these sources with something more acceptable in a world that is not just disenchanted but also socially flattened, cosmopolitan, individualistic, and commercialized…Absent from our lives is any sense of the world as a place of intrinsic value, within which each of us can lead a purposeful existence. And so we seek the authentic in a multitude of ways, looking for a connection to something deeper in the jeans we buy, the food we eat, the vacations we take, the music we listen to, and the politicians we elect. In each case, we are trying to find at least one sliver of the world, one fragment of experience, that is innocent, spontaneous  genuine, and creative, and not tainted by commercialization, calculation, and self-interest.” 
“In the end, authenticity is a positional good, which is valuable precisely because not everyone can have it. The upshot is that, like the earlier privilege given to the upper classes, or the later distinction gained from being cool, the search for the authentic is a form of  status competition. Indeed, in recent years authenticity has established itself as the most rarified form of status competition in our society, attracting only the most discerning, well-heeled, and frankly competitive players to the game.”

My biggest disappointment with the book was that it does not suggest alternate ways of living/finding meaning from the ones it discounts, and does not acknowledge/address some of the obvious critiques of his perspective.

But it certainly challenged me to consider how much of my own quest for “authentic” living is motivated by status-seeking and the desire to place myself in a specific social/class context. Mea culpa, I am guilty of posturing. There are more thoughts here that I'm still sorting out - thoughts on when "authentic living" is a goal, and when it's a result. Thoughts on recognizing the competing values of our culture, and the impossibility of living 100% "rightly" and how privileged I am that my life even has space for such contemplation. Most people in the world do not.

Has anyone else read this book? What do you make of Potter's thoughts on how/why "authenticity" has become such a high value in our culture? 

*I should say, I fundamentally disagree with this premise, but reading the book knowing his foundation is helpful in understanding the mindset of those who agree with the rejection of all religious & spiritual beliefs.

January 10, 2013


The first time my birthday has felt like "aging" and not "growing up." Kind of a weird transition point, for someone who spent the majority of their youth trying & wanting to be older than they actually are.

It was a lovely low-key day and now it is over and we're on to the next birthday (Roommate of Awesomeness, Ms Karen is celebrating today) and next weekend I am in a wedding and then it's pretty much February and before you know it, 2013 will be over.

Ok, but seriously. Time doesn't stop and these next few months will likely (hopefully) have a few big shifts and it is exciting and scary as always.

The sound of it is growing on me.
I think it will be good.

January 4, 2013

Hello, 2013.

I started the new year like a champ: that is, without a voice, hacking and coughing and wheezing into the air, contaminating loved ones with my presence.

So on the 2nd, as I lay in bed rather than sitting at work, I took some of my awake-time to think about New Year's Resolutions and how I dislike the word "intentions."

With my birthday next week (!), the new year is a natural time for me to think about the things I want and where I'm headed. And as I mulled it over, this is what came out:

What I want is
     always the same:
          to know and be known.
          to love and be loved.
          to give grace and receive it well.
I want to know
     this one little life
     is making a difference
to some other little lives
     and that together,
our lives are more
     than they are alone. 
I want feet on solid ground
     and a head full of dreams. 
I want to believe
     that Jesus loves me
     and that his love matters
           more than I currently believe. 
I want to sleep through the night
     and wake without an alarm
          when the sun streams in.