Clean and Elegant

Clean and Elegant

Friday, 10 June 2016

The Tidying Festival

Cleaning is masturbation for the people on Prozac.

M.D. friends, I am due for a consult.

In the meantime, my apartment looks spectacular. The floors and the windowsills glimmer and beam.
The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up, by Marie Kondo.
On Amazon.
Essential reading for eager cleaners is of course, Marie Kondo’s The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up. Marie Kondo’s unrivalled passion for keeping immaculate house began at the age of five, when the kindergartner felt compelled to devour housewives magazines. By junior high, she had embarked upon an “earnest” study of tidying, and each afternoon she’d come home from school, infused with enthusiasm and the resolve to tidy a different location. The fifth of every month was “living room day.” Another day would be, “pantry cleaning day.” Or perhaps she would “conquer the cupboards.” This woman has devoted an unimaginable number of hours devoted to creating a magical, clutter-free home. Her zealousness has led to the invention of the KonMari method, the key to abolishing mess and disorder for the rest of your life. Marie Kondo promises that her technique works for everyone, and even her laziest clients who suffered the most extreme cases of hoarding did not experience the dreaded “rebound” back to a disastrous living space. Her steadfast conviction fills me with such hope. As though life can be solved through fancy folding techniques and giving away your extra Mason jars you don’t need.

The heart of the KonMari method lies is determining what you should discard and what you should keep. After gathering all your items from a single category, you must handle each item lovingly, one by one. With careful consideration, you must ask yourself, “Does this spark joy?” According to Marie Kondo, everything you own must spark joy. If it doesn’t spark joy, it doesn’t belong in your home. Good luck with the toilet brush, folks!

For objects that don’t pass the joy sparking test, Marie Kondo recommends expressing gratitude for everything they once brought you. You might also wish them well as they embark on their new journey, to the dumpster or to the Salvation Army.

In my new room, the sparks are a little sparse, not due to a hoarding problem but because I am down to about three and a half suitcases worth of possessions. At the risk of being spark-less, and/or nude, I figured I couldn’t afford to throw out too many objects. I did, however, part with the threesome tights on my last moving day. Strangely enough, I saw some woman wearing them down the street from me. I hope they spark deep joy in her heart. But all this is to say that I did not spend that much time considering the joy-sparking capacities of my few possessions. I feel rather joyful about my new room slash Erica Museum.  That said, as I proceeded with my Tidying Festival, I discovered I had an enormous amount to learn about folding.

Perhaps like the old me, you believe that folding is no fun. To this Marie Kondo insists that “you have not discovered the impact of folding.” Folding must be done with great heart. As we fold, we should thank “our clothes for protecting our bodies. Folding is really a dialogue with our clothing.”

Marie Kondo believes that, “Every piece of clothing has its own ‘sweet spot’ where it feels just right – a folded state that best suits that item.” She maintains that, “There is nothing more satisfying than finding that ‘sweet spot.’ The piece of clothing keeps its shape when stood on edge and feels just right when held in your hand. It’s like a sudden revelation – so this is how you always wanted to be folded! – a special moment in which your mind and the piece of clothing connect.”

In Kondo’s mind, “to go through life without knowing how to fold is a huge loss.” At the same time, I can testify that spending Sunday morning talking to your clothing in attempts to discover how each item would prefer to be folded is somewhat frightening. Even more frightening is trying to master KonMari folding without first watching the Youtube video. I tried this and my clothes ended up spending four days in fat vertical rectangle shapes instead of in the way they always wanted – micro-thin and horizontal. My poor clothes were not grateful. Fortunately, I was able to make it up to them yesterday. The result is impeccable. Each item exudes comfort and appreciation. Having never been a neat freak, this is one of the most unlikely things I have ever done.
My Grateful Clothes
Also unlikely, last Wednesday a lovely pregnant woman hired me to clean her house.  I was really excited because she has a darling big black dog. For new friends and fans who haven’t read the archives, I used to have a Big Black Dog when I lived in Halifax. His name was Eliot and for a solid two years, he was a big star of the blog, and a highlight of my life. 
Eliot, the Old Big Black Dog. 
Although I derive immense delight from dusting and mopping, I expected that the pregnant lady’s adorable big black dog would be the highlight of my day of housework.

As it happened, the day turned out to be quite performative.

One of my friends who is writing a novel wanted to know what it’s like being a cleaning lady. I would say that it is similar to cleaning your own house except you don’t know where anything is. And if you are the sort of person who feels disgusted by your own mess, other people’s dust usually feels less personal.

People always say that children are easier when they’re your own. I’m not sure I believe them. But mess is usually easier when it’s other people’s. Unless you are on Prozac, in which case all forms of cleaning can serve as your new masturbation replacement.

I am on Prozac, and last Wednesday, I was ready to be invigorated via dust eradication. With exuberance and determination, I prepared myself to tackle the dust and the corners and the big black dog hair. My serotonin leapt at the kitchen counter’s newfound luminosity. Windex in hand, at around 11 o’clock, I went outside on the patio to conquer the dirt on the glass table.

(In truth the best technique for cleaning glass is vinegar and newspaper, but in a pinch, Windex will do.)

The Big Black Dog, whose fake name is a toss-up between Michael and Jeremy came outside with me. He promptly lay down to bask in the sun on the patio shingles. Before I finished with the table, I thought I saw MJ return to the house. Summer is sweltering for big black dogs. Once the table was done, I went inside to scrub the bathroom sink. Soon it would be time for vacuuming. I felt highly satisfied with my level of efficiency. I transferred the sheets from the washer to the dryer, and threw in a load of curtains.  It suddenly occurred to me that I had not seen Michael-Jeremy for some time.
To protect Michael-Jeremy's anonymity, photos of the old Big Black Dog 
have been used to evoke canine images in your head.
“Michael slash Jeremy?” I called out. No answer. The apartment was not enormous and it took me seven and a half minutes to make three thorough searches and realize that Michael/Jeremy the Big Black Dog was nowhere to be found. Had I forgotten him on the patio? Nope, not there.

Now I had lost the lovely pregnant woman’s dog. Worst fail ever. I imagined him jumping off the side of the terrace, and his injured body being lugged away by horrified animal rights activists. Or he had simply slipped away, soon to fall into the hands of irate city inspectors.

I happened to have a picture of M-J on my phone from a picnic the previous weekend.

“Mile End,” I posted on Facebook. “Has anyone seen this dog? Let me know.” I messaged my phD friend who is always drinking decaf lattes somewhere in the neighbourhood. No answer. I like to call my phD friend, The Mayor of Mile End. Calling out for Michael-Jeremy on the way, I went to Chez Boris Café to see if the Mayor of Mile End was taking advantage of Boris’s excellent doughnuts, and if he had come across the Big Black Dog. But alas, my phD Mayor of Mile End Friend wasn’t there.

I felt quite devastated. It was the first of June. June was supposed to be a month of explosive and transformative creativity, and now I was failing as a maid. Even though I am a thirty-year-old grown up, I decided to call my mother and shed some performative tears.

My mother recommended calling the pregnant woman despite my fear that this would result in long-term trauma. Maybe the pregnant lady would have an idea of where M-J had gone. I called and left the most serene message I could pull off on the answering machine. Highly performative.

For the next twenty minutes, I wandered around alleyways and asked random people if they had seen a big black dog. Nobody had. Finally the pregnant lady called back.

“Oh, don’t worry,” she said. “It was the dog walker. I forgot to tell him you were coming. You must have missed each other.”

My life is an ecstatic adventure. Tidying up is a special event. The rest of the afternoon involved rather extensive wars with the vacuum cleaner and its multiple fancy attachments. For fear the machine was not to be conquered, I went back to my apartment to get our dirt devil.  I hope the sight of me in my short shorts hauling a bright red dirt devil through Mile End sparked joy in several people’s hearts.

Eventually, at least the bottom half of the fancy vacuum became willing to suck dirt up. Victory was mine.

If you’d like me to be part of your Tidying Festival, let me know.

The End.

Monday, 6 June 2016

Why I Am Like Oprah: A Response to Adam Grant's "(...) 'Be Yourself' is Terrible Advice"

A successful writer from the New York Times says, “Unless you’re Oprah, ‘be yourself’ is terrible advice.” In a moment of deep authenticity, author Adam Grant claims that “Nobody wants to see your true self. We all have thoughts and feelings that we believe are fundamental to our lives, but that are better left unspoken."

I would tend to disagree. Also, since when is Oprah the epitome of authenticity?” My sense is she is somewhat performative. The benefits of being yourself depend on how charming and delightful you are.
Oprah Lives Her Best Life. These days, we have similar hair.
According to Grant, “Authenticity means erasing the gap between what you firmly believe inside and what you reveal to the outside world.” For me the gap is tiny, and possibly non-existent. I take pride in this gaplessness, even if my life has not been as lucrative or famous as Oprah’s. Eventually, life pays off. After four years, my highly authentic self-help book, “I Let Go” earned 100 bucks in royalties. I used the money to buy a delightful pink and purple polka dot duvet cover which, along with its enveloped duvet, I do my best to hump regularly, despite Prozac’s adverse sexual side effects.
Duvet Dreams
Why I am like Margaret Atwood and what I don't gain from humping duvets.
These days, perhaps due to my excessive and reprehensible authenticity, I don’t tend to work all that much. Unlike the rest of this manic planet, I am not particularly busy. As a result, I possess something that almost nobody else has. Not Oprah, not Adam Grant, not even Margaret Atwood. It’s called time.

One of my favourite things to do with my time is to talk to my friends and loved ones about their lives. Although I may seem like a chronic and narcissistic verbal machine gun, in fact, I happen to have both listening skills, and friends. As fate would have it (a phrase that frequently emerges in my most authentic word choices), many of these friends like to tell me about their problems.

From what I can tell, some of the most painful situations emerge from certain friends’ inability to be transparent and honest about their personal lives. Having to conceal what’s really going on looks like an exhausting and impossible burden.

Deceit may make the world go round, but it also causes people to die inside, one to one billion cells at a time.

That’s why I canned things with the Married Man. I felt it was causing other people’s cells to die.

According to Adam Grant, “No one wants to hear everything that’s in your head. They just want you to live up to what comes out of your mouth.” According to me, these two things do not have to be mutually exclusive. (“Mutually exclusive” is another one of my higher authentic self’s most genuine expressions.) More importantly, I would be delighted to hear everything that’s in your head. It would be a privilege. If your head needs hearing, I am here to listen, any day of the week. Hit me up and we can meet for doughnuts. Or performative grilled cheese. Or a nice long people walk.

“Be yourself” is not terrible advice. If our authentic selves cause various structures to collapse, perhaps they were already due for the crumbling. A world without radical honesty feels tragic to me. For this reason, I resolve to be myself for the rest of my life. Lucrative, prestigious, intellectual, coherent, full sentences, or not. Feel free to join me and Oprah.
The End.

Unless You're Oprah, "Be Yourself" is Terrible Advice, by Adam Grant
Brené Brown's response to "Unless You're Oprah, 'Be Yourself' is Terrible Advice."
Also, there is Butt Club tomorrow at Parc Laurier. 6 PM, north of the pool.

Exuberant Bodhisattva on Facebook
Twitter: @mypelvicfloor

I Let Go by Erica J. Schmidt

Performative Crying in Alleys
Performative Text Messages
The Performative Love Letters
Still Me
Why I Am Like Jane Fonda

Friday, 3 June 2016

Taes Floats Your Boat

Why I am like Jane Goodall:  We both like to eat a lot of trail mix.

Today is International Doughnuts’ Day. Perhaps you can relate to my deep-rooted childhood Doughnut Trauma. When I was on the swim team and an important competition was coming up, whenever we went to Tim Hortons post practice, the doughtnuts, and especially the Boston Cream Doughnuts were forbidden. Legend had it that the doughnuts took three days to three years to digest. Legend transformed into fact, and doughnuts became what I like to call a Danger Food, to be avoided at all costs.
Danger! Doughnuts!

Daniel Vitalis: "The human body is like a doughtnut." Yikes.
Years ago, a man named Daniel Vitalis told me that the human body is like a doughnut. From the mouth to the anus is one big hole. To cope with Daniel’s disturbing assertion, and with deep-rooted childhood Doughnut Trauma, my sister has generously invented a new meditation technique. My sister’s name is Taes and she is quite a successful children’s performer. Part of her success is due to her name. Pronounced “Tess,” the spelling of “Taes” makes no sense. Growing up, it was even worse, because her full name was supposed to be Taesnine, pronounced tess-neen. “Taze-9?” her teachers would call out on the first day of school. The boys in her class liked to call her nine seats. Giving your child a name that no one can pronounce and/or spell is an excellent technique for generating Special Person Syndrome. Children with names that no one can pronounce and/or spell must develop the self-confidence and resilience required to advocate for their name’s accurate representation. Before my sister was born, my mother considered calling her Amy Louise. Luckily she didn’t, otherwise my sister might not have turned into the star she is today.
Here are my sister and I, being Very Special People. More where that came from.
It’s hard to say whether or not my sister would have acquired her second superpower without her name-ensuing Special Person Syndrome. In any case, her second superpower lies is her exceptional meditation techniques. Last week’s brilliant technique was called “Taes floats your boat.” When you experience self-defeating and repetitive thoughts about groin welts, groin sarcoma, doughnuts and Married Men, Taes advises that you visualize the detrimental sources of rumination and picture them boarding a boat. Then take a deep breath as you watch the boat float away.

Sometimes it is hard to put people on boats, since you might actually care about them. But Taes assures me that rather often, it is for the best.
“Is there Wifi on the boat?” I asked, thinking of the Married Man.

“No Wifi,” Taes said. “He can have one pomegranate.” A pomegranate to share with the groin welts and the doughnuts. I hope he watched the video on how to open a pomegranate without a knife. If not, I guess he can dig into the doughnuts. Or the Doughnut Trauma.

Though it takes practice, floating your boat turns out to be soothing. There is nothing to be done. You’re in Montreal and your problems are on a boat. When the people you once clung to fail to text you back, you realize it’s nothing personal. They’re simply too busy, floating away on a boat. Wave bye bye.
Bye bye, Boat People.

Not all doughnuts belong on your boat. At  Mile End's Chez Boris, they have splendid doughnuts. Free-range doughnuts, or something like this. The Darling Baristas with Beautiful Hair assured me that Boris doughnuts do not take three days to three years to digest. What a relief. If you buy your coffee before 10 am, you get two free doughnuts. With my Doughnut Trauma safe at sea, today I ate one free doughnut. I gave the other one to my Stunning Friend who likes to wear her baby on her back. These days, my friend needs extra doughnuts for breastfeeding and carrying her baby on her back. Also, the thrills of purchasing exquisite baby wraps off the internet require a great deal of energy.  Apparently, the process sometimes involves gambling.  

“It’s my bad addiction,” my friend confessed.
"I want a bad addiction,” I replied.

Today I also learned that carrying a baby around in a wrap makes your legs look fantastic. Besides being stunning with fantastic legs, my friend has many other marvellous qualities. She is extremely smart, and hilarious, and she is gifted with plants and decorating her house. When you have friends with children, it is important to give them tons of compliments since a lot of the time, the babies steal all the glory.

On that note, my wonderful sister is almost certainly still reading this and in order to quench her Special Person Syndrome, I should probably mention that she too is stunning, with fantastic legs and many other body parts. Her wisdom and meditation skills are extraordinary and she can jump around and sing about bananas like no one else in the world. There is no other way to end this but to say, “Taes (pronounced "Tess"), I’d float away on a boat with you any day of the week.”

The End. 

More Being Special. What fantastic legs.
Exuberant Bodhisattva on Facebook
Twitter: @mypelvicfloor

How to Let Go, for $2.99

The Budgie Exodus of Mile End
Locks and Keys
Family Visits and Narcissistic Personality Disorder
Rideshare, Sterilzation and Doughnuts

Thursday, 2 June 2016

Performative Text Messages

When I was seventeen years old, I watched my grandmother pull apart two-ply Kleenex on her death bed. She would rip each half into four tiny squares, using each section to blow her nose. Though she was dying of pneumonia, not a fiber of tissue was to be wasted. As I watched her, I had the clear thought that somebody had to tell the story of these tiny pieces of Kleenex. Otherwise what was the point?

I feel the same way about pouring my heart into a riveting and inspired correspondence with the Married Man, a.k.a. the Elusive and Illicit Texting boyfriend. Without publishing my efforts on the Internet, what was the point?

Don’t worry, Married Man. I won’t give you away. Your side of the correspondence stays safe with me. I am the Queen of Confidentiality.

And anyways, I’m saving my Memoirs of a Brief Affair for a different day in June. Today I am way too busy.

One of the most important things about having a boyfriend is he is there to reassure you that the welt and/or welts on your groin are not herpes or cancer. Just like the doctor said all seventeen times you waited and paced around the ER or walk-in clinic waiting room.  Someday I plan to conquer and master Friction, Exfoliation and Pubic Hair Removal. That day was not last Friday.

Poor The Boatman. He had to stand in for the Married Man as the recipient of my Performative Text Messages. Just like the Married Man and just about everyone in the world, he is not as good a correspondent as me.

Performative Text Messages

Erica, Friday, 12:56 PM:
I am going to quit masturbating for one week to see if the problem with my sex drive is the Prozac or overthinking linked to typical erectile dysfunction.

No one writes back. I have a hard time focusing. It seems I need three coffees and one nap every day.

I bought several moisturizing and exfoliating products for the bumps on my crotch. I thought that was a nice sentence.

Erica, Saturday 8:39 AM
Two groin bump photos. (Should I post these photos on the Internet? Such choices are always a toss-up.)

I am concerned about my groin welt. It hurts. It is hard underneath. No pus. (Pus is a surprisingly difficult word to spell.)

No tingles.

Yesterday I googled sarcoma.

Erica, Saturday 9:01 AM
I am feeling ignored. And I’m worried I have cancer.

Erica, Saturday 9:39 AM

My phD friend does not think it is cancer or herpes. I showed him the photos this morning at Olimpico.

Erica, Saturday 11:29 AM
What are you doing? The thing about iPhones is that you can tell when people read your texts. If you are too busy, you can copy and paste the following. “There, there. Head pat. I’m sorry you’re having a hard day. It doesn’t look like herpes to me and I don’t think you have cancer. I’m busy doing blank but I hope we can talk soon. Maybe you can have a nice performative cry in a bus shelter.”
Erica has a nice performative cry in the bus shelter on the corner of Bernard and Clark.
The Boatman, Saturday 2:55 PM

Hi Erica. Yes sorry, I was a bit occupied. (Dot, dot, dot: Erica omits something personal.) I’m not always up for immediate text reply. I find my phone takes a lot of energy out of me these days. Sometimes I’ll read a text but get sidetracked and then respond later. It doesn’t mean I don’t care about you. I do, very much! Good luck on your break from masturbation. It’s good to take breaks from things I think. I’m sure your welt is just fine. Did you get it from humping the bed too much? I’m off to trim the hedge and mow the lawn. I’m not happy about it.

Erica, Saturday, 2:59 PM
Okay thanks. I’m sorry about (dot dot dot) and that you have to do yard work. I am quite good at yard work and would have been happy to help you with it. I already failed at the masturbation break. I might go to a clinic tomorrow just in case but I am probably fine.

The Boatman, 3:07 PM
Sounds like a good plan. Thanks for the spiritual help with the yard work. I’ll send your crotch spiritual health through the ether.

End of Performative Text Messages.
My gift for yard worked emerged in the Performative Self-Love Letters. Once the Boatman took a photo of me holding the hedge clippers close to my crotch. The hedge is tall, the hedge clippers are orange, and I look so happy.

Yard work is one of my greatest gifts.
The End.
Post-Script: Performative Exfoliation with the Magic Eraser.

I do not recommend this, though recently one of my coolest friends gave it a go. She reported excellent and effective exfoliating properties.
“But it’s carcinogenic,” I said.
“How do you know?”
“It has to be. It’s Mr. Clean. And a graphic designer from Halifax who isn’t the Boatman told me.”

One of my coolest friends wondered if maybe the generic Magic Eraser brand was un-carcinogenic. I doubted it, and still do.

Mr. Clean Magic. Discover all the Cleaning Possibilities!
Post-Script Two
Groin Welt Update: Omitted until further notice.
Welcome to June’s exfoliating and explosive transformative creativity.
Transformative and Performative.
If you don’t know what performative is, ask.

Exuberant Bodhisattva on Facebook
Twitter: @mypelvicfloor
I Let Go, by Erica J. Schmidt ($2.99)

Performative Crying in Alleys
Why I am Like Jane Fonda
Dear Internet, Please be my boyfriend for five minutes.

Wednesday, 1 June 2016

The Budgie Exodus of Mile End

The day was quite performative.
But there’s lots of other news. For example, the Mile End is experiencing a Budgie Exodus.

On a poster on a telephone pole:

Perdu slash Lost. A little lovely blue-breasted budgie named Cloud. Her white wings are speckled with black. Have you seen her? Are all budgies named Cloud? My sister had a budgie named Cloud when I was in grade three and she was in grade six. As a child, I was somewhat afraid of birds. I’d cover my head whenever they were let out of their cages, terrified they’d poop on me. Or worse, that they’d stick their weird feet on my shoulders. Birds have very odd feet. Birds, hamsters, possibly ferrets. The Weird Feet Club. You have weird feet too. (Just then, I was talking to myself.)
Anyways, the night before Remembrance Day in grade three, my sister’s budgie Cloud had taken rather ill. Sticky feathers, diarrhea. Whatever happens to sick budgies, Cloud had all of it. One of the worst things about having pets is having to put them down when they are dying. Totally devastating. I guess that’s the good thing about birds, hamsters and other odd-footed creatures. They usually die on their own.
My sister did not want her beloved bird to die and so she and my mother joined voices and sang to the ailing Cloud. Their song choice was a great big tear jerker. Edelweiss, from the Sound of Music. Perfect for a dying white budgie.

“Small and white,
Clean and bright,
You look happy to meet me.”

I lay in bed and listened to them for what felt like hours. Despite their efforts, in the morning, Cloud was dead. More weeping by Mother and Sister. I was rather neutral about the whole thing. I took up weeping later in life. Grade five or six or seven.

We decided to bury Cloud in a shoe box in our backyard. I generously offered my multi-coloured parrot puppet to put in the box and keep Cloud company. The parrot puppet did not have feet. Cloud’s funeral involved more mourning renditions of Edelweiss.
“Blossom of snow may you bloom and grow.
Bloom and grown forever.”

And there in a shoebox in the ground behind our house on Mary Street, Cloud rested in peace.  

Twenty-three years later, similar budgies face similarly life-threatening perils. Cloud the Budgie is lost. Her picture is all over the cool streets of my cool neighbourhood. A couple afternoons ago, I bought a whole bunch of carrots at the Fruiterie de Mile End. The carrots were organic. On the way home, I ate them right out of the bag. As I walked down Bernard Street, I saw a poster written in a thick black marker, perhaps a Sharpie.

A phone number of someone who sadly got stuck in the 438’s.

I got catchy new Montreal digits on Monday. Got in with the 514's. Besides trying to reunite Cloud with her owner, it was the day's greatest accomplishment.
A chance to save the day. What a thrill! I went to the next nearest telephone pole to find Cloud’s poster. Shockingly, all of the slips with the telephone number had already been taken. How had seven people found Cloud already? So much for being a hero today.
Then on Monday, I came across Cloud’s poster on another telephone pole. This one still had a couple of slips with the owner’s phone number on them. I texted her my picture of the DID YOU LOSE YOUR BUDGIE POSTER.
Cloud’s owner texted back that alas, the ad was not for her budgie. She fears Cloud is long gone by now. But she very kindly offered to foster the found budgie.
“there are a lot of escaped pet birds flying around montreal this year,” Cloud’s owner texted. “it’s mind boggling!” She asked me to let her know “if anyone tells you they lost their green/yellow budgie (she’s not tame though so I doubt that’ll be the case, she’s definitely been neglected).
Friends and Fans of Mile End and Beyond: keep your ears open for the green and yellow budgie’s owner, keep your eyes open for Cloud, and if you have a bird of your own, keep your windows closed.

The End.

A lovely lady lent me her sunglasses at Olimpico
The Exuberant Bodhisattva
Twitter: @mypelvicfloor

All the Lonely People, Rainbows, the Big Black Dog and Sex
Performative Crying in Alleys
Obituary: Eliot, the Big Black Dog