Strange Behaviors

I’ve been in isolation for 54 days now, and it feels like I live in my own universe. Here is just a sample of some of the thoughts that have crossed my mind during this crazy time… May this act as a record so it doesn’t all disappear like a dream when we’re back to checking our phones while packed like sardines on the bus to work to avoid talking to each other.

  • Do I smell worse or is my sense of smell just getting stronger?
  • My shoes don’t fit anymore. Did they shrink?! (No they’re just swollen from sitting on the couch all day)
  • Falafel makes me gag. At least if I’m the one who made it. Possibly based on the fact that I mixed the tahini sauce in a jar that previously had mouthwash in it.
  • I don’t like those “virtual ensemble” videos* that are floating around. The point of ensembles is that we respond and interact with each other and the audience IN REAL TIME. We don’t need to find shitty replacements for everything we had in the before!! We need to find things that work with what we have NOW. *I’ve made one. And it was fun. So, there’s that.
  • Literally nothing drags me out of a funk quicker than a long one-on-one talk with a close friend. Laggy group video chats make me want to smash things.
  • Getting outside is a close 2nd, but I’ve learned biking is far superior to walking, because I can blissfully avoid all the couples. You can’t hold hands and force me off the sidewalk while riding bikes, motherfuckers.
  • With no work schedule to adhere to, you can just change all the clocks in your apartment to suit what time it is in your head. That being said, doing this caused an artificial “jet lag,” and a lot of confusion with friends in “different time zones” so I changed the clocks back and learned not to judge myself for waking up at 2pm.
  • I need more wigs.
  • Going on walks alone is getting old… there must be some way to force my cat to come with me… I should get him a stroller.
  • I’d rather follow all of Donald Trump’s medical advice during this time than live between two neighbor-couples who participate in the following activities, respectively, every single day: 1. Porn-grade sex (loud, obnoxious, and unrealistically enjoyable) 2. Romantic picnics on a blanket on our SHARED BALCONY, playing the same song on the ukulele over and over while singing along, and constant laughing. Like, Elmo from Sesame Street laughing. Adorable, joyful, but somehow I wanna strangle you laughing. What the fuck could possibly be that funny?! DID YOU TWO MEET IN A FUCKING DISNEY PRINCESS MOVIE???
  • Mainstream porn is horrifying.
  • Trimming my cat’s butt hair to avoid pee-absorption feels like I’m shearing a sheep, and is strangely satisfying.
  • Playing etudes on violin is actually kindof fun, if I change the voice in my head from “this needs to be perfect for a lesson with my judgmental asshole of a teacher” to “let’s just give my brain something to do other than staring at the grease stains on my kitchen wall!”
  • Drinking in the evening makes me sleep like shit. Drinking in the morning is self-love.
  • Also self-love: bras. My boobs have been KICKIN IT.
  • Kimchi is really fun and easy to make, and way cheaper and tastier than store-bought… but to get the ingredients, you need to risk your life in the tiny aisles of the Asian grocery store.
  • Speaking of cabbage, I have not had to hold in a fart for 54 days.
  • Dancing alone doesn’t interest me.
  • Talking to myself in whatever character pops in to visit however, does.
  • I resent ANY kind of scheduling coming from the outside world- but the more I stick to a loose personal schedule, the less time I spend contemplating my meaninglessness in the world.
  • Cutting your own hair is therapeutic and empowering.
  • I never look in the mirror anymore, but when I do, it’s FRIGHTENING.
  • I don’t like getting advice when I’m feeling low. I don’t care how much the thing that worked for you could help me- by telling me I should be trying something, the message I’m getting subliminally is “You’re not good enough right now.” I just want to be heard. This is a serious one, and something that’s going to change how I am as a friend going forward in a huge way.
  • I don’t miss shopping, or eating out… I miss people, and live performances. And hairdressers.
  • Cooking shows and the first two seasons of The Office (where I can pretend I’m Pam, and Jim is mega-crushing on me) are a lovely way to take a mental vacation from Covid.
  • Listening to a meditation podcast where you’re expressly told to sit up and stay alert, is a great way to fall asleep at night.
  • It means SO MUCH when a friend does something for you on your birthday above just writing “Happy Birthday” on your facebook wall, especially if you’re single and live alone. This inspired me to figure out all my friend’s birthdays and put them in my calendar, so I can have more than zero minute’s notice to do something special if I have the means.
  • You can try to group a bunch of things into one delivery online, but [name of company I’m ashamed I ordered from] will still ship each damn thing to you individually. I’m looking at you, box of 12 pens.
  • Because delivery guys are some of the only people I can still interact with in real life, I find myself yelling words of love and affection at them after they’ve delivered something like I’m at a Beatles concert in the 60’s.

Feel free to comment with something bizarre or life-changing you’ve thought/tried during isolation!

Avoiding the Quarantine Crazies

Okay. So we are all starting to get used to this new, slower pace of life. But that doesn’t mean it’s getting easier. Sometimes I’ll think I’m actually starting to enjoy all this time to myself to relax and work on whatever project my heart desires, then within hours, I’m spiraling into a lonely self-pitying anxiety funk.

I know I’m not alone in this, but I am observing that we all have different coping mechanisms to deal with these funks. I think a lot of us are turning to booze, cannabis, netflix binges, masturbation, or wild sex romps if you’re lucky enough to be cooped up with a partner you still like… *Glares at lower neighbors menacingly* I consider all of the above to be “avoidance” techniques: ways to escape reality.

Some of us are traveling in the complete opposite direction, choosing to dwell in a constant state of terror: reading every Covid article the second it’s published and scouring Facebook to pick fights with anybody “too ignorant” to grasp the imminent danger of the current situation.

In my humble opinion, I don’t think either of these habits are completely wrong, but they definitely aren’t sustainable. We could be self-isolating for months. I think we owe it to ourselves to find a way to allow ourselves to be fully present, but not stressed the fuck out.

Even though I am single and live alone, and my family all lives out of province or country, I am coping relatively well with all this. Maybe it’s because I’m an introvert, maybe it’s because I spent a LOT of time alone as a child. But it may very well be because I am a master at extracting the good out of any situation. I’m going to share with you a list of all the things that are saving me right now, in the hopes they might help you too.

  1. When you’re feeling anxious, sad, lonely, or angry… put down that bottle of wine for a moment and just… acknowledge it. Sit down, close your eyes, take a few deep breaths, and scan your body from head to toe, paying attention to all the sensations happening no matter how small. I know personally when I’m feeling really anxious, I often feel a burning on my upper back between my shoulders. Don’t dwell on these sensations- and don’t label them as good or bad; just observe, and keep moving right the fuck along. This is essentially the technique of Vipassana meditation, which Jesus Christ himself apparently studied in India. And we all know Jesus had some pretty stressful fucking times. Did he complain once? No. Vipassana.
  2. On that note, Tara Brach has put together a great list of pandemic care resources on her website such as guided meditations and short talks.
  3. If you don’t have a live-in cuddle buddy, get yourself a gravity blanket!! I got myself this one last week when it hit me I may go months without a hug. I wrap myself in it every time I feel really anxious and I feel like a baby being swaddled. I got the 20 lb blanket even though I’m closer to 150lbs and it’s perfect. (You’re supposed to go with 10% of your body weight)
  4. Lots and lots of video chats, in all possible combinations. Mix it up! Start a Facebook thread with people you don’t know that well and start a video call! Dress up in an evening gown! Drag out your costume box and become a different character for every conversation! We are ALLOWED to get weird right now. We are re-writing all the rules people!!
  5. My freakin’ cat. Yes, he may be peeing on things more than usual because he’s not used to me being home 24/7, but it is nice to have someone to kiss on the lips and talk to nice to carry on a very normal human-cat relationship. Word on the street is the SPCA is desperate for people to adopt right now. As of the date published, the Montreal branch is still operating, and you can adopt by making an appointment.
  6. What else… okay a lot of people are doing live instagram shows right now, but my absolute favourite is Kate Bradley’s show “I Din Jus Wake Up.” You can catch it by following @redrandom and tuning in at 11am on weekdays. She is a staple in the Montreal Improv Comedy community and the show is hilarious. I don’t know about you but I don’t want to watch famous people I don’t know right now doing high-budget productions… I want to watch people in their pyjamas, drinking whiskey at 11am, yelling at their dogs and singing along to their in-house karaoke machine.
  7. Long walks. I don’t know how much longer this will be kosher, but as long as you can safely stay 6 feet away from people, going on 1-3 hour walks every day reminds me my muscles have a purpose other than bending over to pick up a chip I dropped on the floor before eating it. I particularly really enjoy watching other solo walkers sitting on a rock in the park, a smile on their face, just taking it all in. They get it. There is still so much beauty in the world.
  8. Okay so of course I still drink and smoke the green things and watch Netflix. Just, as little as possible. And I most definitely avoid anything too stress-inducing. Contagion? Pandemic?!? Jesus people what are you thinking?!? Here are my Netflix recommendations for creating a blissful bubble of ignorance for a little while: Self-Made. Please Like Me. Love is Blind. Feel Good. Queer Eye. Glow. Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt. Lady Dynamite. Brooklyn Nine-Nine. The End of the F***ing World. Sex Education. Freaks and Geeks. Lovesick. Salt Fat Acid Heat. Easy. And yeah yeah, that tiger show.
  9. If you follow me on Facebook, it may seem like I have been extremely productive. In all reality, I spend most of my days sitting around on the couch wrapped in a 20lb blanket. But what I’ve taken to doing on my whiteboard fridge calendar that was previously reserved for anticipating my crazy work schedule, is RETROACTIVELY writing one thing on it every day that I did that made me happy. ONE THING. I’m not making a list of all the things I want to do or should do, I’m just going about my day doing what feels right, and then usually by the end of the day, one things pops out as somewhat useful.

Notice I added a couple of frowny-face “fails,” because while infuriating at the time, they were essential to my finally conquering said goal the next day. (That question mark for anybody wondering marks the day when I will probably erase more weeks out of my work schedule.)

You know what, I’m going to stop at 9. Because those are legit all the things that are getting me through this, and a 10th thing would be trying too hard. And this time is all about “less is more.” Let’s be okay with ourselves at our laziest, at our saddest, at our most vulnerable. If other people are being super productive and you’re not, who the fuck cares. If you see people enjoying meals with their loved ones and you’re all alone, let yourself feel sad. But don’t run to the booze the second you feel uncomfortable. Try to figure out how to give yourself what you’ve turned to other people and vices to get up until now. Trust me, you have everything you need.

How to be Sick and Single

Despite getting the flu shot a month or so ago when I thought for a hot second that it would make me immune to coronavirus, I came down with a nasty cold this week. Most people have the luxury of taking a few days off of work when they’re sick, but I’m a freelance musician! So you better believe I’m marching that cold into work and sharing my germs like it’s Christmas because orchestra subs don’t get sick leave. If you miss one rehearsal, you miss the whole week and hence the whole week’s pay. Do I care about my colleagues enough to forfeit $substantial amount of money that I depend on to pay my 4-figure rent just so they don’t catch my minor cold? No, no I don’t.

Lucky for me (and my 80 or so colleagues) I had 2 days off before the week’s concert cycle began to shank my cold, and I think I did a pretty amazing job. I don’t think I’ve had somebody take care of me when I was sick since I was young and still living with my mom, and I’m okay with that. I’m not saying I wouldn’t love it if a guy I was dating brought me some soup and a flash drive full of movies to watch together while slowly rubbing my back; but I am REALLY good at taking care of myself, so I thought I’d share some tips.

  • Start stockpiling bones NOW. Chicken bones, you weirdo. Plop that carcass of whatever bone-laden roast you made for dinner in a freezer-safe ziplock bag and into the freezer. Then as soon as you have a free day to chill at home, make a bone broth* in your instant pot. (If you don’t have one of these, get one! You can make things that take hours on the stove in a fraction of the time) *If you’re vegetarian, stockpile the ends of all your veggies: peels, cores, roots, whatever; and make a veggie stock. Chuck a whole bulb of garlic in there, it’s a natural antibiotic.
  • Save 1 litre of this bone broth and whip up a chicken soup (Or do this at your next convenience, but I like to just do it all in one evening while trying to dance to afrobeats and drinking vodka)
  • Now take your freezer-safe ziplocks and freeze all the goodness you just made into 2 cup portions. Next time you’re sick, you’ve already got buttloads of homemade soup and broth to sip, made by the person who loves you most! *wipes away a small tear*
  • At the first sign of a tickly throat, start popping Cold-FX twice a day. I swear this stuff works though at $25 a bottle, you might as well just buy whisky
  • Get yourself to a grocery store before you become a walking snott blanket and stock up on gatorade, saltine crackers, oranges, lemons, ginger, honey and trashy magazines. You won’t really need the gatorade or crackers for a cold, but they’ll come in handy the next time you drink too much tequila/eat bad sushi/contract a trendy virus
  • Every morning for the duration of your cold, blend or shake about 1 cup of orange juice, a tablespoon of lemon juice, a teaspoon of honey, a knob of grated ginger, and a pinch of cayenne and drink before you eat anything.
  • Use your cold as an excuse to bail on ALL the things
  • Put on your best fleece onesie and order enough food from UberEats for 8 people. Tell them you won’t be needing 8 plastic fucking forks though because that’s bad for the environment. 2 will be fine. (Your UberEats driver mustn’t know you are eating all this food by yourself)
  • Have the food delivered directly to your blanket fort.
  • Coerce your cat into the blanket fort and use a wrestling hold to force him to cuddle. If no cat is available, fill up a hot water bottle and hug it, whispering “I love you” until it feels real.
  • Then, when you inevitably have to go to work still kindof sick, there’s nothing wrong with taking a little Sudafed to give people the illusion that you are healthy. Just don’t be a dick; use hand sanitizer every time you fuck up and sneeze or cough into your hand like an animal, and don’t ask to try a sip of your friend’s oat milk latte.

Two Words

Last night, a cartoon about kids going through puberty made me download a dating app. I’ve been single for 4 months, and have the intent of staying that way for quite a while longer or at least until I can iron out why I seem to be drawn to men who are possessed by the black goo from “Stranger Things;” but something about watching teens navigate their very first romantic encounters made me cross over from “I can’t look men in the eye” to “I’ll briefly consider our 20 year marriage together while scrolling through pictures of you squatting next to a lion and soulfully playing guitar on the edge of your unmade bed before sliding you into the discard pile.”

I am WAY pickier on dating apps than in real life, because I just can’t bear the thought of meeting up at a restaurant after days of texting back and forth, having illuminating conversations about spirituality and music and ways to SAVE HUMANITY only to find out that in real life, all this man really loves is the sound of his own voice. So I’ve developed a kindof short hand for interpreting dating profiles to save me from spending a precious evening suffering through a bad date instead of chocolate-dipping a whole box of strawberries and eating them by myself:

  1. Picture of him holding up a cat by it’s armpits, face-to-face, with his mouth wide open feigning surprise (this is weirdly common): Incapable of a mature romantic relationship with a woman, who will inevitably express disappointment at some point which will send him into a shame-spiral and cause him to either withdraw or hurl blame at her rather than just apologizing, so chooses the company of his cat who loves him unconditionally, porn addiction and all; not to mention, has zero regard for feline hind leg support
  2. More than 1 gym selfie: Has made up for his lack of intelligence with muscles, and will have nothing interesting to talk about at dinner
  3. Not smiling in any of his pictures: RUN, this guy is just looking for a manic pixie dream girl to cheer him up for 2 months before plummeting back into the depths of his brooding self-centered existence
  4. Says he is looking for a “down-to-earth” girl who just wants to enjoy the simple things in life: Looking for someone to do his laundry and listen to him talk about his boring-ass day at the office
  5. Super super hot: See #2 but add “bad in bed”
  6. His answers to all the questions are short and basic: YAWN not only is this guy going to have nothing to talk about, but he is going to respond to my delightful essays of texts which I’ve curated just to make him laugh with “cool.” 8 hours after I send them.
  7. Playing the violin in one of his pictures: This is an immediate discard* because either he’ll be threatened by my violin BADASSNESS or he’ll want me to give him free lessons (*I’m assuming violin is a hobby; if he’s professional, there’s a 95% chance he’s crazy)
  8. Under 5’7″ AND under 25: He is not grown in ANY of the ways, and will compensate by texting waaay too many kissy face emojis and patting my head while calling me “his little girl”
  9. His “thing that most people don’t know about me” is “I tried stand-up comedy once”: Oh God, he’s not funny, but he’s going to try to give me “notes” on my material because he has “experience”
  10. Wearing a tight-fitting suit showing off his giant muscles and tiny package with a tropical skittles toned shirt, arm-in-arm with two of his equally-outfitted business school buddies: Closeted gay

Ooh hold up. Mark, 36, is a graphic designer at a real place that issues real paychecks; he loves writing, astrophysics, cooking and other smart people things I can’t remember; he doesn’t need to show a pic of him standing in name brand workout gear in front of a gym mirror to see that he’s buff, and he doesn’t look like a serial killer. It’s a match! I get the ball rolling and send him a message:

“Hii! I love to write too! What kinds of things do you like to write?”

And I wait. If he really loves to write, he’ll have a super fascinating, thick juicy response and I won’t be able to help diving in and picking up on things that spark my curiosity and he’ll be so impressed with my intelligence and sense of humor that he’ll ask me out for a drink and we’ll say we only have time for one before we meet just to be safe but then we’ll stay at the bar until they close just sharing stories and gazing into each other’s eyes and the waiters will give us dirty looks while they sweep the floors until finally we’ll pay our bill and leave to roam around the streets of Montreal at night, taking in the warm early-Spring air and talking and trying to get the courage to go in for a kiss but we’re both enjoying each other so much that we want to WAIT for that moment because then we’ll never have our first kiss again, and in fact EVERY relationship benchmark from that point on will be last time we ever do it for the first time with someone…

He writes back, 7 hours later, with two words:

Existential Prose

And into the discard pile he goes.

Things that Drive me Bonkers

  • The sound of people chewing their food. Or really any use of their mouth other than talking that makes noise. I’ve literally broken up with somebody over this… while on a romantic vacation to PANAMA. You’d think I could have waited until we got back home but nope. Dude didn’t know how to eat shrimp tacos. (He also had anger issues and smelled like urine but that’s beside the point)
  • People who get annoyed when you mispronounce their name. “It’s Alaaah-cia, not Aleecia.” Get over yourself. There are literally hundreds of names everybody needs to remember on a daily basis. It’s not my fault your parents gave you the most pretentious sounding name EVER
  • Those tiny little hairs that get stuck in your eyeballs
  • The metro (also called light rail or subway in cities outside of Montreal) Subcategories:
  1. People who walk onto the train as though they’re on a leisurely moonlit stroll DURING RUSH HOUR and stop right in front of the door, as though nobody is behind them ALSO wishing to be transported somewhere
  2. People texting while walking, again, slowwwly during rush hour, thinking they’re multi-tasking when really they are making all 74 people behind them miss their connection or worse, end up in public transit jail (that should be a thing*) for dumping a blueberry breakfast smoothie all over their head. *I imagine it being like a school carnival jail where you actually just hang out and eat candy
  3. People who leave the SOUND ON to get 30 texts a minute from their BFF or watch full length trailers for the next bro-bait cinematic disaster. The last time this happened, I threw a pair of broken earbud headphones I still had in my purse onto the dude’s lap. I didn’t actually, but it would’ve been cool.
  • All women’s underwear
  • Chatty uber drivers. You know what I want to hear in those precious last moments before I’m bombarded by the constant stimulation of working in a professional orchestra? Not you.
  • People who don’t tell you they’re sick until halfway through a visit to your house after they’ve touched all the doorknobs and double dipped their chips in the salsa and made out with you
  • This one guy at work who did an impression of Herbert the Pervert from Family Guy on a tour bus in March 2019 and hasn’t stopped doing it since
  • Extroverts who claim “Oh I’m extroverted AND introverted. I love being around people and I’m usually the life of the party but I need a movie and a glass of wine at home alone once in a while!” Shut up you lost the real introverts at “I love to be around people”