You have to admit, Spirit of the West is a pretty damn good band name. This past weekend Spirit of the West played their last concerts at the Commodore Ballroom in Vancouver. For me that is a potent mix of nostalgia on two fronts. My high school graduation dance was at the Commodore Ballroom and I saw Spirit of the West perform there years later when they were still at the height of their popularity. The bouncy dance floor came in handy on both nights.
But, things have changed. Spirit of the West is retiring, high school graduation is a distant memory and I no longer live in Vancouver.
All this reflection, also leads me to think about my first blog post, last March and how I came to finally start this blog. I've always written. It's how I make sense of the world. Poems, short stories, short plays, monologues, articles children's books, journalling. I've worked and played in all these genres.
One day in the midst of a dark time, I had a flash of insight while walking the dog. (I find dog walking good for fresh air and epiphanies in general) It occurred to me that if I could find my way back to the funnier self of my youth, and bring some of that energy into my current life, that could only be a good thing. As the saying goes, pain is inevitable suffering is optional. Life is what it is, but if you find something to make life sweeter, you should grab onto that. That's what I told myself anyway while picking up after the dog.
I knew that I could definitely use a little levity. It was, in a way, a reversal of that adage we often hear, "what advice would you tell your younger self?" I wanted to know what my younger self would say to this older, lost version of myself.
Striving to write humour seemed like a concrete way for me to find my way. The idea was cemented when I had a chance conversation with the older sister of my best friend from high school. Talking to Sue was like a jolt. She reminded me how silly her sister Sharon and I had been and how funny we were. It was refreshing to talk with someone who knew me before I was this grumpy partner/step-mom/mom/robotic person. I used to make people laugh. When I told Sue that day I didn't really do anything funny anymore she said, "you've got to bring back the funny."
I am well aware that life cannot be and is not all sweetness and light, but why not fill the in between with light? Yes, I thought I will bring back the funny. Maybe if I gave myself the space and time to write and think funny things again, it would bring some levity and lightness back into my life. And Dear Reader, I'm happy to report that it has. I have been having much fun writing funny things for you. Although I admit today's offering is not very funny. My humour writing practice has not solved the problems of the world, but it has improved my tiny, little world and for now that is enough.
Back in high school, (before my first bouncy night at the Commodore Ballroom), I had a creative writing teacher, named Mr. Holuboff. Mr. Holuboff encouraged me to write comedy. He encouraged us all to just write, but he actually seemed to think what I wrote was funny. Not always, but sometimes I could make him laugh. This was a revelation to me.
In Mr. Holuboff's creative writing class, we had to produce a short story every two weeks. There it was; the space and time to create. And a deadline. (Ah, let us have a moment of silence to honour the breadth of creativity induced by the holy deadline). If we didn't hand in our ten pages of writing (longhand) we didn't get a mark. And we had to read our work out loud. This was great writing practice.
My favourite part of that class was making Sharon laugh. She was my litmus test. If I could push Sharon into hysterics, I'd done my job. I'd run story ideas by her, see what reaction I'd get and proceed from there. That's probably why hearing her sister say 'bring back the funny' was so powerful. Sharon and Mr. Holuboff were my first audience.
Life is bittersweet. Spirit of the West retires, in part because the brilliant John Mann has early onset Alzheimer's. I wasn't at any of the last concerts, but by all accounts they were as raucous and vibrant as ever, with an additional layer of poignancy. I'd like to think I was there in spirit. I haven't bounced on that dance floor for a long time, but it's part of who I am.
I don't even do my own taxes. I hand them over to someone I assume knows what he (in this case) is doing. Still, no matter what good intentions I have, no matter what organizational methods I employ throughout the year, it is always a scramble for me to pull all the receipts together in a format suitable to hand over.
It doesn't matter if I bribe myself with lovely snacks and beverages and scintillating radio programs or music, or promise myself a grand reward when it's all done. It is always a chore to get myself remotely positioned to pull the receipts and notes together to hand over to the professionals.
I should note, until recently, I was self-employed for a very long time, which adds a ridiculous layer of complexity to the tax paying process. I mention this for those of you safely ensconced in employment, where you merely have to tick off some boxes and attach a few government documents. That is a completely different tax season experience! The self-employed, small business owners out there will understand what I'm talking about.
It doesn't help that spring beckons at tax season. At least it does where I live. Outside the blossoms are rioting for my attention. The birds are busy in their courtship rituals. Seeds are asking to be planted. Trails want to be hiked. I should have done this in the dead of winter when there were less distractions. Except in the winter I was busy with winter things.
Do you see the problem with the way I'm approaching the taxes? Don't worry, I will give you the answer.
I'm compartmentalizing. I'm treating my finances like they are a despised and separate part of my life. But, money, like relationships, requires tending. I need to nurture my relationship with money. I need to humanize it. I need Stephen Leacock.
In case you aren't familiar with him, Stephen Leacock was a Canadian writer and humourist. According to Wikipedia, between 1910 and 1925 he was the most widely read person in the English speaking world. He's not with us anymore, which is surprising as he once wrote:
"I detest life-insurance agents: they always argue that I shall some day die, which is not so.
I read Stephen Leacock's A, B and C on a plane recently and caused the poor passengers around me some distress. They already had enough to deal with. There was the constant cacophony of bawling babies and then a delay in cabin service. They did not need the woman in the last row by the bathrooms, (conveniently located adjacent to the queue), writhing in her seat, shoulders heaving, emitting muffled snorting sounds. That's disturbing at the best of times. Held captive in a metal flying tube at 30,000 feet, that's just not right.
In A,B and C, Leacock takes a literal journey with the imagined characters of text book math problems. It's inspired. Reading it confirms for me why we have a literary award for humour writing in Leacock's name.
Who's to say this won't help me with my taxes? Sometimes a little levity is just the trick we need to complete the onerous tasks. Wait, what I meant to say is, the cherished, significant work of our lives.