Clean and Elegant

Clean and Elegant

Friday, 28 April 2017

The Best Thing I've Ever Done

On the radio and in real life, parents are frequently telling me that, without a doubt, having children is “the best thing they have ever done.” Absolutely, I believe them. Though my conviction that I do not want children is nearly pathological, I do feel some remorse at the knowledge that my eternal tits will never expand and acquire the mind-blowing capacity to squirt the gift of life across the kitchen. People tell me there is time to change my mind. While we’re waiting, if anyone is wondering about the best things I’ve ever done, this is what I’ve come up with so far.

 

One

 
“Yours til the merry goes round.”
 
1992 to approximately 1994
Grade Three and Grade Four
I am seven to nine years old.
 
Every morning, I religiously wake up as soon as the hands of my Mickey Mouse watch reach 6:30. I walk my beloved husky dog Emma, and upon returning, immediately cover a few spoonfuls of oatmeal with a two-inch layer of yogurt and brown sugar. While I was walking the dog, I mailed a letter, and now it is time to write another one. The letter is for my grandparents, Olga and Julius Schmidt. They live in a manor in Dominion City, Manitoba. Each letter begins with “Dear Grandma and Grandpa, How are you? I am fine.” Generously I fill them in on all the fascinating details of my seven to nine-year old existence. Swim meets, Christmas pageants, violin lessons, chapter books, and excellent jokes.
 
For example, “What goes, ‘ha, ha, ha, PLOP!? Answer: Somebody laughing their head off.”
 
Ha. I sign off each letter with, “Yours ‘til plus something charming and delightful, such as, “Yours til the jelly rolls, Yours til the banana splits, or Yours til the merry goes round.” I meticulously decorate each envelope with Mr. Sketch Smelly markers. My grandfather, nearly ninety used to call me his “personal correspondent.” Both of my grandparents cherished these letters. On my end, these epistolary efforts were totally spontaneous, wholehearted and sincere.
 
It’s always nice to remember
Back when you used to be a darling.


 
Two
 
“It’s a hard time for you.”
Montessori School Bathroom,
May 2014, 28 years old.
 
In Nova Scotia, my Ontario-bred French is considered to be exceptional enough to teach three to six year olds how to sing some cheerful, catchy songs about robots and  how to push in their chairs, wash their hands and have a snack in French. As the French assistant, I was only allowed to speak English in the bathrooms. The theory was that it was already frustrating and traumatizing enough to wet or poop your pants at school. Some strange lady yattering away at you in a foreign language as you try to navigate through three-year-old fecal chaos would contribute to unnecessary overwhelm. So in the bathroom, I spoke English.
 
One little boy who often found himself navigating fecal chaos also struggled quite a bit with transitions. If the Tidy Up Bell rang and he was in the middle of something and not ready for it, impressively distraught meltdowns would ensue. Could I ever relate to this. For the one year and ten months that I worked at the Montessori School, the seven minutes leading up to when I had to head out the door were among my most hideous. Me and the Boatman, my boyfriend at the time, had actually devised a bribing system that would reward me with imaginary stickers every time I did not unravel entirely. Eventually I could convert a certain number of imaginary stickers into new pens. Not every morning brought me any closer to earning new pens.
 
So I completely understood where my bathroom friend was coming from. (And he happened to be one of my favourites.)
 
One morning, yet again, his sphincter timing was off, and there we were, in the bathroom as the tidy up rang.
 
“Oh no,” sobbed my little friend. “Tidy up!” His face was so sad.
 
I looked at him straight in his teary eyes and said, “This is a hard time for you, isn’t it?” The psychologists, they call this “mirroring.”
 
“Is a ard time for me,” he repeated, weeping, but nodding.
 
During my year or so at the Montessori School, I’m afraid I was sometimes grumpier than I needed to be. I was so grateful for the kids like this one who showed me I was not actually dead inside and that in fact, my heart could melt. And that moment in the bathroom, I totally nailed it.
 
Three
 
“Do you want some lemonade?”
Rue Waverly, Mile End
Summer of 2016, 30 years old.
 
On my side of Waverly, there’s a little old lady named Lena who brings out her chair and sits on her front stoop from the moment the sun comes out every morning. Sitting on the porch and watching people go by, this is what they call, “The Mile End Dream.” But I often wondered if maybe Lena was lonely.
 
“Do you want some lemonade?” I asked her one afternoon. I was procrastinating some project by buying Perrier. (Highly badass.)
 
“Oh okay,” said Lena. “The same as you.”
I came back with some lemon flavoured San Palegrino. As we consumed our carbonated beverages, Lena told me about her life in a combination of French and English and Italian.
 
“57 years married Good man. Since eleven years gone.” This was Lena’s husband. They had two children, “one boy, one girl.”
“No boyfriend, you. You live alone? Costs too much.” I told her I lived with two roommates.
“That’s good. Otherwise, costs too much.” But she still seemed insistent that I look for one good man, one boyfriend.
I tried to keep visiting Lena over the winter. Despite being a terrible cook, one time I even brought her some soup.
“Eighty-seven years me. Eighty-eight. 1926 Day of Saint Antonio.” Saint Antonio stands on a table in her dining room, surrounded by vases of dying and artificial flowers and some framed photos of her grandchildren.
“It’s a lot for you to clean this all by yourself,” I once asked her.
“Oh, not too bad,” said Lena. “I do just a little bit every day.”
Yes, quite a little bit. The last time I went inside Lena’s house, there were fruit flies flying through the hall and into the front living room. The air did not smell magnificent. Lena was in the kitchen eating some sort of ravioli pasta that maybe her son had brought her. The fruit flies, it seemed were coming from a slice of rotting honey dew melon. Lena didn’t want to throw the whole thing out, so I helped her cut off the offending layer and watched her eat the rest. This was back in December.
All through January, February and March, I just could not manage to knock on the door. I did not feel like facing Saint Antonio, or the fruit flies. Every time I passed Lena’s house, I would feel kind of guilty, and hope that she was okay. Then the sun came back out and there was Lena back on her porch. She was wearing the same outfit she wore all last summer and into December, with some extra wool socks, and a sweater.
“Hi Lena,” I said.
“Oh, it’s you. Since a long time you not come. Where you live now?”
“Oh same place.” I pointed a few houses down.
“You live alone?”
I told her about my roommates, to which she approved. “Otherwise, cost too much.”
As I said goodbye and walked through her gate, she called out, “One good man you find. Good man. Boyfriend.”
Probably I could have done a little better with Lena. But there’s still time. If you want to visit Lena, hit me up and I’ll give you her address. Or you can just look out for her a little old lady living the Mile End Dream on Waverly. Bring her cookies, bring her bagels, bring her coffee, bring her soup. Or apples. Or just ask her how she’s doing and let her tell you about her husband, and how the rent and the chauffage cost too much.
 
Four
 
Where is Emma Fillipoff
Asking People About Their Lives
September 2015
I am 29 years old.
 
2015 was a pretty prolific year here at the Ecstatic Adventures of the Exuberant Bodhisattva. In an effort to be less self-absorbed, and because I love talking to people, I started this series called, Asking People About Their Lives. The format was unstructured conversations with people I found interesting and then I would transcribe the interview and convert it into a relatively coherent and readable article.
 
For my third interview subject, I met with my beloved grade-six French teacher Shelley Fillipoff. In November of 2012, Shelley’s daughter Emma went missing in Victoria, BC. Emma’s story is frightening, perplexing and haunting. We still have no idea where she is, or what happened.
Shelley was amazingly generous and candid in her account of Emma’s life and the months leading up to her disappearance. We sat on her couch for over three hours. So many moments, I felt so stunned.
 
I turned the interview into a nine-part blog series called, “Where is Emma Fillipoff.” In addition to Shelley’s account, I tried to include all the facts and perspectives I could find. Although some of the titles evoke Reader’s Digest, and of course things can always be improved, I am really proud of how focussed and dedicated I was to this project. I even persevered and triumphed through finicky formatting which I always used to outsource to my ex-boyfriend.  On a sadder note, we are close to where we started on the search for Emma Fillipoff. I never knew Emma all that well, and yet I often dream of her. When I wake up, I always wish I had more answers.



Where is Emma Fillipoff (One)


Five
 

L’Arche Montreal

2005-2007

I am 19 to 21 years old.
 

When I was nineteen years old, I was desperately seeking God slash Jesus and also inner peace. I knew about the transformative healing there was in taking care of people with intellectual disabilities, and so I quit McGill and moved to L’Arche. There I lived and shared my life with five people with intellectual disabilities, and two or three other assistants. One of my favourite parts was helping Isabelle with her morning routine. Isabelle has cerebral palsy and does not move all that much. If we wanted to make it in time for her 7:15 school bus, I had to fill her feeding bag with Peptamen by 6:05. As I rolled Isabelle down the wooden ramp to meet her busdriver Cynthia, I remember feeling like every person and every crevice of life was so important. And it all felt so connected.
 

After two years, I left L’Arche to finish university. This decision came with quite a bit of conflictand guilt. As though I was so essential, and I was leaving my people behind.

 

And yet the truth is, there was no need to feel selfish.
Someone will always show up to be with Isabelle.
But the possibility that I could show up for myself with the same grace and wholeness as Isabelle did,
This seemed more precarious and unlikely.   
 
Six
 
Valentine’s Day 2017
I am 31 years old
 
I mailed a French novel from the Dollar Store to my mother. The novel was called, “Ma Mercedes contre un tracteur, Tome 2.” I made a card and wished my mother a Joyeuse Saint-Valentin in French. She was thrilled.

Me and my own copy of the dollar store novel, which was so riveting I would never ever re-gift it.

The End.

Yours Forever,
Erica J. Schmidt


Exuberant Bodhisattva on Facebook
Twitter: @mypelvicfloor
I Let Go

Bodhisattva Business Ventures:

Deep Cleans by Erica J. Schmidt (@deepcleanswitherica)
Montreal Hippie Threads (@mtlhippiethreads)
Instagram: montrealhippiethreads



Where is Emma Fillipoff (One)
What People Really Need
Yours Til Ekam Inhales


What I Think About When I Think About Brand Name Q-Tips


Monday, 24 April 2017

Fat Days for Boys

My last two short-term sources of relative sexual gratification expressed a surprising amount of angst and insecurity over the ostensible body fat they perceived around their bellies. It turns out that this is a pretty excellent way to land yourself onto my no-go list, as is saying I kiss like an iguana, and as are baboon jokes.


The way I see it, I am the only one who gets to have body angst in a relationship. I win the Fat Day Monopoly.

You may have heard that on October 29, 2015, I turned 30 years old and cancelled all Fat Days from that day forward.

 
This was a nice thought.
 
In fact, I really try to keep my fat days to myself.  Because even on the days when I fail to get myself into the tiny Asian-sized tie-dye pants, the notion that I am at all overweight, is both ridiculous, and obnoxious and just shut up.


I only caused one hole
in these tie-dyed pants
and it's not
in the crotch.
Just shut up is what I feel inclined to say to my dude friends when they exhibit low-grade symptoms of Manorexia.
 
But just as my angst, self-loathing and food belly feel totally real, I’m sure theirs do too.
 
What the fuck should we do about fat days?
 
Last February I showed up in Mysore, India, ready to eat grilled cheese sandwiches. Triggered by a thali in Varanasi (the holy city of auspicious funeral pyres), 1.5 months of persistent liquid shits and an ensuing eating head trip had made a big chunk of me disappear. And there I was, Erica’s version of Emaciated for the 273rd time in my life. 


 
Here I am in Kerala
looking half dead
on a motorcycle.

“Achieving” my champion adolescent weight always comes with a bag of conflicting and tumultuous feelings.

 
Shame is there: Oh here we are again, 22 years since the first time I tried to burn calories by eating a single boiled egg for breakfast and counting six thousand and one steps as I walked the dog. 31 years old. Not menstruating, and an emotional fuck-job.

Overcome by backpacks
and
radiating diarrhea.
(Bangalore)
Photo by the Stunning and Exceptional Photographer, Maansi Jain

And then the quiet and embarrassing pride: Can you see me? I’m so thin. I both crave and abhor the attention I get at my thinnest: “Oh wow! You’re so skinny. What happened?” This one from a former yoga teacher: “I don’t think I’ve ever seen you this thin. This must really be your thinnest. Oh, but you look good!” How helpful, and thank you! Though I had kind of been hoping to evoke a cross between a Holocaust victim and cancer patient. Maybe throw in some AIDS. Damn these biceps, this baby face. Even sinewy and gaunt, they can’t pull off Concentration Camp.


In our culture, weight loss is so coveted that sometimes it feels as though nothing could be more riveting than the conversation about how someone got skinnier.

 

“She looks like she’s starving.
How
fucking
fascinating.”
 
Our world often associates being an emaciated bone rack with glamour and sexy. I can only speak for myself, but countless unplanned studies have shown that for Erica J. Schmidt, dropping more than six or seven pounds under a certain comfortable window totally fucks up my already fragile set of precarious coping skills. And this is why I am somewhat of a strong advocate against anorexia or manorexia or any version of fucking up your eating. I can empathize with your manorexic belly angst, but let me tell you, it really gets in the way of the thorough and life-changing fuck we all need.
Also:
 
Leg humping with
a side of squishy belly
is
some of my favourite.
 
Mysore is an interesting choice of refuge for getting your eating back on track. In 2014, I spent three months in this birthplace and mecca of Ashtanga Yoga. For over seven years, I had devoted the mornings of my life to this highly structured, sweaty, dynamic and time-consuming practice. Ashtanga Yoga brought me deep joy, some serenity, a sense of accomplishment, community and belonging, and eventually some rather persistent and hideous sensations and noises in several of my joints. While my three months practicing with the Guru’s grandson, were beautiful and delightful, not long after the end of my trip, I felt compelled to quit just about every stable facet of my life:
 
The Boatman, my favourite ex-boyfriend,
and the former leading man of this blog,
(Who by the way does not have manorexia);
Halifax; and,
Ashtanga Yoga.
 
I was such a junkie,
This was really quite surprising,
But I honestly
don’t miss it
all that much.   
 
I am happy with the varied, flexible and creative movement practice and meditation I have been able to come up with; my spine feels almost wonderful, almost all the time; I enjoy more reasonable amount of sleep; and I now feel free of the OCD that tended to arise when I had the obligation of performing close to the exact same ritual close to every fucking day.
 

Having said that, in all their neuroses, Ashtangis remain some of my favourite people. Ernest, sincere, hardworking, self-deprecating, although they may be disproportionately committed to their cause, they are often quite fun, funny and lovely. I returned to Mysore for the friends, familiarity and trust that most of the restaurants would not cause cholera. Lucky for me, a beautiful long-term Canadian practitioner and excellent Eating Ally was in town.
 

One time over lunch at the Sixth Main, my friend was talking about the struggle to be a healthy role model for newer younger practitioners and the trend to take up radical non-eating regimes in the quest for lightness, purity and the breezy lithe body that seemingly bends and folds and balances with no effort.

 

Slurping up my bowl of noodles I blurted out, “I just don’t find weight-loss inspiring.”
 
“Thanks,” said my friend. “I’ll gonna make sure I remember that.”
 

Me too, I’m gonna make sure I remember that.

Upon returning to Canada, yet again, my cells bounced back to something stronger. This body, it never deserts me, and I am so grateful. Although I would not necessarily reward myself with a trophy for the Poster Girl of Liberated Eating Habits, life has brought me other lovely prizes, and I do feel entirely committed to cutting through the bullshit and arriving at a deeper love, for your cells and for mine.

 

Friends, your Fat Days, they are not inspiring.
Come on people, what else ya got?



The End.


In honour of this blog post,
I took a picture
of myself
with no pants on.


Exuberant Bodhisattva on Facebook
Twitter: @mypelvicfloor
I Let Go

Bodhisattva Business Ventures:

Deep Cleans by Erica J. Schmidt (@deepcleanswitherica)
Montreal Hippie Threads (@mtlhippiethreads)
Instagram: montrealhippiethreads



The Benefits of an Ashtanga Yoga Practice, Part Two
Are You Strong and Are You Skinny?
Finally, and undoubtedly, I feel grateful for my life








Friday, 21 April 2017

Three Quickies, including, I still wish I was Miranda July

I saw Vincent, Robbie and
the Married Man*
floating amidst
my mitochondria** and
Golgi Apparatus**


Some people they
end up
in your cells.
Who put them
there?
Oh I think
it was me.


Asterixes from the Title:


*Also, I dreamt that the Married Man sent me a video of his hot and edgy wife with excellent legs dancing on a stage in tie-dyed pants with her (and the Married Man's) perfect and perfectly dancing children.
"See,
she's not as obnoxious
as I made her out to be,"
was what
the Married Man wrote.


**Two of the only parts of the cell I remember from Grade Nine Science class beyond the cell membrane and the nucleus. My teacher's name was Ms. Rumball and she called my mom to tell me how loved the cell model I made out of paper maché. It was all her favourite colours, purple, turquoise and teal.
I really really really
love purple too.


On Not Using Brand-Named Q-Tips


I composted
the clumps of
toilet paper
filled
with ear wax.


I still wish I
was Miranda
July


What does it mean
to take care
of someone?
What does it mean
to be seen
and
held?
All my life
is a physical outlet.
I still wish
I was Miranda.


The End.


Don't forget
there's a tie-dye sale
tomorrow!


On the Yard Sale Strip
of Bernard
between Waverly and St. Urbain.
9ish to 4ish
Earth Day, April 22
Free Cookies.


Exuberant Bodhisattva on Facebook
Twitter: @mypelvicfloor
I Let Go

Bodhisattva Business Ventures:

Deep Cleans by Erica J. Schmidt (@deepcleanswitherica)
Montreal Hippie Threads (@mtlhippiethreads)
Instagram: montrealhippiethreads



Five Days of Creative Recovery
What I think about when I think about brand-named q-tips
Performative Crying in Alleys



Wednesday, 19 April 2017

Caffeinating and, Falling in love with some stranger's spine.

Caffeinating and,
Falling in love
With some stranger’s spine.
 
Falling in love
With some stranger’s spine
Is so easy.
 
My ears
smell like
Apple Cider Vinegar.
 
My whole life,
A Eustachian
Salad
Dressing.
 
I just learned
The word
Eustachian
yesterday,
and now
I’m showing
off.
 
Stress-resistant
Makes me think
Of raincoats
And
a Mickey Mouse wristwatch.
 
And hyphens.
 
Most of our mothers
messed up potty training.
I’m pretty sure
mine didn’t
wrap my stroller
up in plastic.
 
Falling in love
With some stranger’s spine
Is so easy.
 
Wonder at
Their dissolving
ear wax.
I prefer
To avoid
Tight deadlines.
 
Soon the stranger
Will be leaving
With his spine
And his sneakers.