Clean and Elegant

Clean and Elegant

Tuesday, 29 October 2013

How I Am Old

28 years ago today, I was cut out of my mother’s stomach. I was headed out the vagina feet first, which isn’t usually recommended.  Legend has it that my father turned white as a ghost. My mother said that after she knew I was okay, she thought that she might die, but that it would be okay because I was already born. 

Mother, Sister, Me. All of us born.

I heard of a pregnant lady who’s getting a planned c-section this Thursday, on Halloween. A Halloween Caesarean. I feel like if it were my caesarean, I’d pick another day.
Today, I am overwhelmed with Facebook, text, and other digital birthday love. Even Google seems to know that it’s my birthday. There are colourful cupcakes and cakes on the homepage. Thank you Google, but thank you more to all the other real people I’ve met in real life and who remembered me.

On the bus this morning, I decided I would make a clich├ęd list about things that make me old.
1.  A small bunion is growing on the inside of my left foot. Despite years of diligently spreading my toes barefoot or wearing devastatingly practical shoes. Also, I think spider veins on my legs are in my near future. So be it. My short shorts aren’t going anywhere.

Long Live the Kino Shorts


2. I like to go to bed at 9 P.M. Even better is to go to bed at 8 P.M. and read library books until I fall asleep. Conversations after 9 P.M. exhaust me. Parties are the worst. No part of my body can make peace with why I am upright, awake and speaking.  My bedtime is geriatric.

3. I hate the people on the bus who blast horrible music through their headphones with the arrogant assumption that I might like to hear their lyrics word for word. One afternoon I asked some dude on the 80 if he might like to mute the video game music that was massacring my ears.  He looked at me with enormous disdain and called me a stupid fucking c-word. So now, on the bus, I say nothing. I sit, sighing, glaring and shaking my head like a seething eighty-year-old woman.
And that’s it. Otherwise, I am not very old. I look back on words and photographs from every year of my life, and even from last week, and I think, what a baby, you’re so young. As though the person looking back is so wise and aged. A week later, a year later it will be the same thing. Me looking at me, so young. 

Me, taking action, getting action, 27 years old.

Me nasal-flossing in Miami, 26 years old.

Me and my sister at the Halifax Harbour. 26 years old. Very sophisticated.

Me, 16, reading Amelia Bedelia at summer camp.

Me, Darby and Joanne, singing Kirtan, the first year I started Mysore, 22 years old.

Rocking the houla hoop, and tie-dye, on Mary Street in Perth, Ontario, 7 years old.

Exuberant Bodhisattva on Facebook
Twitter: @mypelvicfloor
I Let Go, self-help book by Erica J. Schmidt

What the fuck should I do with my life? Part One
What the fuck should I do with my life? Part Two



Sunday, 27 October 2013

What People Really Need

The mug Jadwiga made me was blue on the inside, white on the outside, and covered with strange creatures. A mixture of  humans, cats, and bunny rabbits, the creatures had long oval faces, dots for eyes, a round nose, crescent shaped lips, and eyebrows. Human half-circle ears at the sides and pointy ears at the tops. Behind the heads were large, half-circle bodies, supported with tiny hoofs and concluded with a round tail. Between the creatures, Jadwiga (pronounced Yad-Vee-Ga) had painted small flowers with yellow centres and five or six red petals. For my birthday, my boss Nathalie had ordered the cup from the L’Arche workshop where Jadwiga worked. It was supposed to be from my entire L’Arche house of people with intellectual disabilities. On the bottom, Jadwiga wrote, “To Erica, from Jadwiga.” Jadwiga loved to write her name on everything she created. And if anything had her name on it, she hated to throw it out. In the mail, she’d receive membership offers from credit card and insurance companies.

To Erica, From Jadwiga

“Well it is for me,” she would say. “Jad-wi-ga, it says. Jad-wi-ga Lukasik.  That’s me, Er-i-ca.” Often she’d take the scissors and cut her name out of the envelope, storing it amongst piles of paper in her desk. Every morning for breakfast, Jadwiga ate a small bowl of Cornflakes with milk, a piece of toast and jam, a glass of orange juice and instant decaf coffee poured into a mug. Always she used the same dishes. A bowl that would hold only the permitted amount of Cornflakes, (our restrictions, not hers), a small spoon to measure the jam and eat the cereal with, a small white plate, a short juice glass, and her special mug.
“That is my cup,” she’d say. “With a cat on it. The cat was black and on the white cup was patterned floral designs and calligraphied letters. Regularly, Jadwiga would sound out the words.
“What. People. Rea-lly. Need. Well what it says, Erica?”
“You can read it,” I’d tell her.
“What Peo-ple Rea-lly Need. Is. A Good. Listening to.  Okay. That’s very interesting.”  She’d look at the cup for a moment. “Well, Erica, one day, it will be gone. Broken. My cup. With the cat on it.” Every time she heard something shatter in the kitchen, she’d say. “Well, it is my cup, proba-blee. With the cat on it.” When she discovered it wasn’t her cup, she’d say, “Well, one day, it will be my cup. Gone. Broken.”
One day, Jadwiga’s cup did shatter. I think someone dropped it as they were drying the dishes.
“I knew it,” Jadwiga said. “It was my cup. Gone. Broken.”
I lived with Jadwiga for two years in the L’Arche community, from when I was 19 until I was nearly twenty-two. Now I am almost twenty-eight and I live in Halifax with my boyfriend.
The other morning as I was getting ready for work, I’d left my empty coffee cup with Jadwiga’s strange creatures on it on the ledge at the top of the banister. As I reached for it before heading downstairs, I knocked it over and it shattered, the strange creatures’ amputated limbs and divided bodies spread all over the upstairs hallway. My cup. Broken. The one thing that Jadwiga had made for me. She likely won’t make me anything else. She is old now and can’t remember who I am. I should never have been so careless, leaving the cup so precariously at the top of the staircase. Then again, even if the cup had been spared that morning, another morning, it would have been gone, broken.
All the broken pieces
On September 20, I called Jadwiga to wish her a happy 74th birthday. She is used to receiving phone calls from her sister Lucy and she began to speak to me in Polish.
“It’s Erica,” I said.
“Oh, Erica,” she said, confused. “Well, Erica, you will prepare yourself and supper, and eat it alone. I tried to explain that I wasn’t alone. I was in Halifax. I had a boyfriend, and at that time, a dog.
“Well, I’m not feeling very good,” Jadwiga said. “But it’s okay. You too, proba-blee. Not feeling very good.”
“Oh, I’m okay,” I said. “Sorry, you’re not feeling well.”
“Well, Erica, thank you for your call. I won’t keep you. You will prepare yourself a supper and eat it alone.”
“That’s okay, Jadwiga. I’m not in a hurry.”
“I said I won’t keep you. Goodnight.” And she hung up.
When you have a cup, the Buddhists says that you should see it as already broken. Because soon it will be. And then you won’t be disappointed.
The cup is broken. The bus is broken. The relationship is broken. This body, this life. My body, my life. Gone.
I put the broken pieces of my cup in a plastic bag in the basement. I never bothered rinsing off the coffee residue.
Now I am taking a picture of the broken pieces. After that, I will throw them in the garbage, and then they will be gone. 
Jadwiga's Strange Broken Creatures:

The Image on Jadwiga's Broken Cup with the Cat:

What People Really Need Is A Good Listening To.

Exuberant Bodhisattva on Facebook
Twitter: @mypelvicfloor
I Let Go, self-help book by Erica J. Schmidt 

My Life's Purpose
A Broken Body is Not a Broken Spirit
Not Separate From All That Is


Tuesday, 1 October 2013

Obituary: Eliot, the Big Black Dog

Robbie and I are heartbroken to announce that Eliot, our Big Black Dog, died on Friday, September 27. Eliot was the very first underdog of the Underdog Club, a Montreal-based dog adoption program that finds homes for hard-to-place shelter dogs. The handsome young man was placed into the loving and dedicated hands of Underdog Club founder Fern Breslaw and Robbie Cameron, also known as “The Boatman.”

Eliot, the Very First Underdog (Photo: Jamie Leblanc)

Eliot even got to be in an art show on. (Photo Jamie Leblanc, Design Fern Breslaw)

Soon after his adoption, Fern brought Eliot along to work with her at Cossette, one of Canada’s top ad agencies. Cossette employees have fond and vivid memories of Eliot’s charm, exquisite good looks, and the time he got diarrhea all over the carpets of the production office. As a Cossette employee put it, “we all get the shits. Good for Eliot for reminding us of our humanity.” Over the years, Eliot would regularly provide his caregivers with such reminders. Cleaning up Eliot’s myriad excretions was known to relieve back pain, creative blocks, and financial angst.

Following his stint at Cossette, Eliot returned home to accompany his pitbull boxer brother and fellow underdog Charlie through his emotional struggles. With both dogs and humans, Eliot always played a bit hard to get, but Charlie loved him dearly and the two were good friends.

Charlie and Eliot, fellow underdogs

In 2009, Robbie and Eliot moved to Halifax, where Eliot was embraced by the Cameron family, who bought him a luxurious bed, invited him to many parties, and treated him very well. Eliot used to love to raise hell in Point Pleasant Park. One morning, to his great delight, Eliot found and chased a raccoon into the woods. An extended period of screeching and unpleasant noises ensued. By the time Robbie could get to the scene, the raccoon had perished and Eliot stood in immense self-satisfaction, his tongue dragging down to the ground.

Horrified, Neighbour Malcom saw to it that Eliot was banned from the park. The Wildlife Protection Services said that he could return upon successful completion of obedience school.  Despite our attempts with a private trainer, we felt quite certain that Eliot could never be trusted with a raccoon or anything equally tempting. He never returned to the park; however, he continued to adore his walks during which he chased after sticks and barked at every dog he passed.

Throughout his life, Eliot was always excited to get to his “next thing.” He loved the transitions that would lead him to the subsequent item on the agenda. Getting into the car, and out of it. Arriving at the party, and then leaving. Walking up the stairs to go to bed. Although he was not a particularly affectionate dog, he seemed to take comfort in the predictability of his routines. And he always seemed to like having us around.
Last Christmas was a wonderful time for Eliot. He got to celebrate with the Camerons and open lots of presents. Then he got to go on a big long car trip to Ontario. Car rides were one of Eliot’s favourite activities. The trip to Ontario entailed thousands of stops and starts and exciting next things. Eliot probably had more fun than me and the Boatman combined.  

Eliot loved the trip to Ontario, except for the bath.

On the way home from Ontario, we stopped in Montreal so that Eliot could reunite with his dear friends Fern and Charlie. Due to Charlie’s emotional problems, the visit was not a big success. Charlie was inexplicably terrified of his old friend and Eliot had to stay in a kennel.  That said, we are happy that Eliot had a chance to return to his roots before his passing. Also, we are so grateful to Fern for starting the Underdog Club and adopting Eliot with Robbie so that he could enjoy his great life.

For Eliot, the ageing process was difficult, but thankfully quite brief. Plagued with arthritis and fragile hips, his legs gave out one by one. Over the past month or so, we treated the pain with various pills and remedies. Just a couple weeks ago, we took him to the beloved cottage one last time.  Sadly, not long after, it became clear that Eliot’s pain and discomfort were too severe to manage and that his life, once full of joy and excitement was now miserable. In respect for this majestic young man, we made the heartwrenching decision to put him down.

Eliot enjoyed one last car ride to the vet’s. We had to carry him out of the house. On his way into the trunk, he tried to leap out of our arms. He looked excitedly out the window for a few moments before lying down. At the vet’s, he lay down again and we pet him and said goodbye. As the vet opened her needles, Eliot perked up, always interested in a package or present. It took the vet a long time to find Eliot’s vein. While she was looking, Eliot got calmer and calmer. Right before she found it, we could hear the vet’s front door open and another dog walked into the vet’s office.  Eliot lifted his head, let out a final soft “woof,” and he put his head down.

We miss him so much.

Thanks to everyone who loved him.