Zen Habits to the rescue

I know what it’s like to feel on top of the world. To feel like I’m standing on a surfboard and I’ve caught a rogue wave at its peak and with no effort at all, as if every fairy godmother in the universe is cheering me on, I’m gliding like Jesus walking on water.

As I continue on the wave, I’m peering into the horizon and no matter what I do, I can do no wrong, as if pink unicorns and purple fairy dust is sprinkling down on me and isn’t that a rainbow? No. Oh god. Look. It’s a DOUBLE rainbow rising up out of the ocean directly in front of me like a magnificent Orca beckoning me towards it, straight towards Nirvana on this earth in my lifetime. Amen. Been there. Occasionally. Okay at least once that I can think of, vividly, but not for quite some time.

I also know what it’s like to be on the other side of that coin. It’s not depression. Well, maybe a little. It’s more like being dropped into some bunker in the middle of nowhere and everyone has forgotten that you’re there and you might as well be in the trenches at Vimy Ridge or at least having a flashback to that time. Well, okay, that’s overly dramatic. So?

Now being a writer helps contribute to the second reality because there are many periods of uncertainty, and periods of down time, or periods of just trying to think of something new when you’re in between the actual writing of something. It’s that period of time that requires brainstorming and researching related to coming up with a good idea, or even a really stupid idea, or let’s get real, a downright bad idea for queries or something, anything, give me a sign. One that doesn’t show how lame I can be at times at handling uncertainty, but never as lame, alas, as those who have long-term, full-time jobs are about to be unemployed. Not as lame as them.

The downtime can be a tricky period because for someone like me, it can feel like I’m not working even though I’m always working and I have to figure out why someone who seems to be spending more and more of my life these past few years not working at a formal job can still get anxious about not working at a formal job.  I will chalk that up to my childhood which is the root cause of everything that is wrong with me. There’s research to back up that fact so, no, I’m not being overly dramatic.

Not all periods of work are productive. Are you at work? Look around. I mean, honestly! You’re reading this stupid blog post. Get back to work!

Somehow, alone, just me and my computer, in that period of time that requires mining for new ideas, sitting or going for a walk in the middle of the work day or getting outside for a coffee at Starbucks and just free associating to come up with something of value as a starting point can make me feel like more of a fraud than I normally feel in the troughs of neuroticism as Holy Grail.  I blame it on being raised by Presbyterians on my late father’s side.

So yesterday when I was feeling this way, right at the zenith of that feeling, I got an e-mail from my subscription to this blog called zenhabits and it was so perfect. Leo’s solution related to countering that feeling of being overwhelmed with just doing the dishes.


I love that. Here’s someone who gets that sometimes just doing one simple thing that’s actually achievable can make all the difference.

Here’s his post. Subscribe to his blog. But first, do the dishes!

Vancouver, I need a housing hug. Work with me!

KizmitWent to the really great marketing ploy, Gesamtkunstwerk (be careful how you pronounce it), to listen to Jeff Derksen, a poet and English prof at SFU speak to the future of the city and how social housing might be re-imagined in Vancouver.  Enjoyed some wine and a very tasty pretzel bun dipped in grainy hot mustard too. Thank you very much.

The first thing I learned, or had reinforced, given that I already sort of knew it, is that if you want to market something, give it a really cool name that’s hard to pronounce for everyone who isn’t fluent in German.  Get some intelligent, in-the-know and interesting individuals as speakers. Put it in a stark space. Include an exhibit with architectural drawings and small models. Turn it into a “go-to” event. They, whoever they are specifically, did a really great job at putting this on.

Derksen was comparing the approach to social housing in Vienna versus Vancouver. What I’m saying here is my bastardization of what he said. But it will give you the idea.  They actually have a will to do social housing in Vienna which ranks as the top place it the world for livability.

In Vancouver, social housing only ever seems to gets imagined in a very unimaginary way and always in relation to those on the lowest rung, (actually, they’re not even on a rung, they’ve dropped onto the street). In contrast, in Vienna, 60% of people live in some form of subsidized housing and Vienna is ranked as the No. 1 livable city in the world. Gee. I wonder if there’s a correlation? Ya think?

There is imagination in Vienna around social housing that is apparently lacking in Vancouver. Or given the gold mine of creativity that exists here, I guess it’s really just the will that’s lacking. Derksen did seem to be treading lightly of course, given that the people hosting him have the main goal of selling more condos.  Specifically at a cool looking place called Vancouver House.  Interesting but not quite as exciting for those of us who can barely afford the furniture in the lobby of new said building when it’s done, let alone a whole condo in an architectural sculpture. And just to be clear, I’m not knocking it. I just want Vancouver to provide more options based on a spectrum of bank accounts.

Sometimes when you live in Vancouver and purchasing a place to live is not a option, you begin to feel like it’s normal to be on the outside looking in all the time. Like that’s the way God wanted it.  The chosen ones are in condos. You’re not. Oh well. And it’s not that I even desire to live in a condo. I’d rather live in a yurt or a couple of shipping containers that have been architecturally renovated, one arranged like a block on top of the other and in a little sunny clearing in a forest. That’s way more my style.  A condo does not factor into my dreams.

It isn’t until you go to a talk like this that you begin to think, hey, just a minute, who made the rules anyway? Who said that the only thing dictating everything has to be money?  Is it enough for a city to receive all the love? Doesn’t it have to give some back? This unrequited love thing might have gone too far in Vancouver.  Is there any other city in the world that’s as self loving as Vancouver? If so, let me know where. I don’t ever want to go there. Is it enough to love a city or should we also expect that the city might give more of us, proportionately, some love back? This is sort of what Jeff Derksen asked. Read his essay on it (unless you’re over 50 and then the teeny, weeny print will mean you won’t because it will be too hard to read).

While you’re at it. Take a look at this short description of the approach to social housing in Vienna where 5,000 to 7,000 social housing units built each year and that equals 85 percent of the new housing stock there annually. It’s a  big fat bear hug if not outright love. It’s commitment to everyone, rich, poor, elderly, youth.

So, that’s the long way of saying what kind of city would you rather live in. Exclusive or Inclusive?

* The photo above, taken on Salt Spring, is the entrance to the house behind a very creative little coffee place/gallery called Kizmit that’s kind of its own little exhibit, Salt Spring style.

Having Their Way With Them


The other day I was in my car listening to CBC Radio when I heard a feature about changes to the laws surrounding prostitution in Canada and Germany.

I heard that some in Germany are now rethinking whether loosening already loose laws in a country that has had legalized prostitution since after WW II was the best decision given that many of the women who work in the trade are from the world’s poorest countries and aren’t doing the work voluntarily.

Said one German who loves what she does and chose it, “there is exploitation in all sorts of workplaces, not just the sex trade.” True. But can we agree that having to put up with not being paid for overtime is a little lower down the human rights tragedy scale than being raped and beaten while doing work for someone who reaps all the financial benefits from work you didn’t sign up for and would never have chosen? This is the reality in Germany for some trafficked women from Hungary, Bulgaria and Romania, according to the interview.

They spoke to a German woman who had graduated from university with a physics degree and who now works as a dominatrix. I was fascinated by the type of woman who would get a physics degree and decide she’d rather be a dominatrix.  What motivated her decision? Enquiring minds want to know. Was it because there’s not a ton of work out there for those with brains big enough to get a physics degree, especially if the degree was only at the undergraduate level? Listeners weren’t told whether she had a B.Sc. or a PhD.

Did she wake up one morning and look in the mirror and think to herself, Fuck physics. I want some real control. And, as a dominatrix, just like in physics, acceleration, velocity and time would definitely come into play in her preferred career path.

I thought to myself, I’m a bit of a control freak. I’m interested in the freakishness of the human psyche. Writing and being a dominatrix might fit well together. At least that way, I’d be the one in control for a change.

Like you, I’ve done the cursory flipping through all the mediocre writing in Fifty Shades of Grey to get to the next sex scene and the next and every time I finished a paragraph I thought to myself, so that’s it, that’s what all the fuss has been about? That’s what made E.L. James a millionaire at least once over? The world is so lowest common denominator!

I was thinking that if you were a really good dominatrix maybe you could get away with not even having sex. You could build that into your shtick through a never ending waiting game. The conversation might go a bit like this extremely polite version.

“You don’t honestly expect me to reward you for your behaviour today do you? Are you kidding me? Not this time. Sorry. Not gonna happen! Don’t be such a baby. You’re so DEMANDING. Forget it.” Then a crack of the whip. A tightening of the chains.

You could carry on with this game until finally after a session or two you’d have to give in because he or she was paying you and then undoubtedly you’d have a client for life, because can I just say there is nothing like anticipation. Isn’t that what relationships, at least in their earliest phase, are built upon?  Isn’t that how girls and women get labeled sluts? They don’t wait long enough. How long is long enough in the 21st century? How long is long enough if you’re gay versus straight? How do “the rules” differ for each?

Along with the mystery vanishing of flight MH370, these are the kinds of things I’m wondering about today.

Here. Why not wile away some time listening to this interesting  CBC interview that I’m referring to and see what kind of questions come up for you.

To Boss or Not to Boss

work_team-buildingRoyalty Free Cartoon from www.sangrea.net

As most days, I was listening to CBC Radio. A guy, Ryan Carson, comes on and starts speaking about his tech company, Treehouse. He’s talking about how when he started, with just a handful of employees, they were energized and things were humming along.

His little company grew and pretty soon he had 30 people showing up to the same place every day. It didn’t take too long after that before he began to notice something else as well. He began to notice that instead of excitement and enthusiasm, he began to hear grumblings about so and so not doing this and so and so not doing that.

Pretty soon, he realized, coming to work every day wasn’t what it used to be. It was challenging for all the wrong reasons.  It occurred to him that prior to the growth, he’d had a flat management structure. He had a core group of people who were equals who sat around a table and discussed every aspect of the business and every one of them was inspired by the challenge to grow the business. He thought about this predicament (the norm for most workplaces) and  he decided to do something drastic. He got rid of all managers. Nobody was the boss (except him I guess). Krazy with a capital K? Anarchy defined?

Not so fast.

He decided that if he had the right people then there was no need for some artificial hierarchy, the kind that exists in most workplaces, where some people have a lot more power than others.

If you’ve ever had the incredible luxury of working somewhere where people work hard, show up on time, do their jobs, (I know, I know) you can’t help but recognize that a collaborative style, not a hierarchical one, makes the most sense. It’s more likely to keep energy alive, support innovation, promote momentum. You can’t go back. Once you’ve worked in that type of environment, if you ever have, you can’t go back.

After you’ve experienced a collaborative workplace, it’s almost impossible not to look at someone who is supposed to be managing and think what are they doing here? How obsolete is this?  Of course, this works best, I suppose, with knowledge workers.

Listen to the interview on Spark. So what do you think? Crazy idea or possible? What would make all the difference in the success of this do you think?