So how’s the midlife crisis going?

This week Brené Brown’s The Midlife Unravelling has been hitting my feeds, and it’s well worth a read. I’ve been thinking lately that my crisis isn’t actually over and it was both validating and annoying to read something that made me realize…it never actually will be.

With this understood, I can get on with the job of living. From my front lines:

Physical Goals: I should be able to start running again this month, but I am taking it slowly. I’m using elliptical machines right now and I find I get to a point where the spot in my leg that actually broke hurts, somewhere between 25 and 30 minutes. So I stop.

This new method of respecting pain sits uncomfortably with me, because in the past I’ve had two modes: The “I’m too wounded/fat/stupid/uncoordinated/hurt” to do this mode, and the “to hell with it” mode where I would just push through any, you know, feelings until my body gave out and then rue it the next day. Finding the middle spot has been hard.

However, in doing a lot of upper-body work, I pulled a muscle, and that actually stopped me from doing some martial arts this week. My concern wasn’t so much the injury, but not doing both certain leg and certain arm things. I tell myself it’s because I’m staff and I have to present a higher standard of participation, but it was also just not wanting to look stupid.

I have found a new yoga class and it’s very different from gym yoga. Each class focuses on one sequence of moves, going deeper into them — not like yin yoga, but really working to perfect the understanding of that particular hatha cycle. I like it a lot.

Food-wise I’ve been eating medium-well; lots of veggies and generally whole foods, but also some snacking on Girl Guide cookies at night and a samosa/sweet onion roll addiction are not helping as I discovered Canbe Foods, which I have been driving past for about 10 years. Our farm share starts in two weeks. I keep not blogging so I hesitate to promise but I hope to post how that’s going.

I pretty much have had to give up alcohol, even beer and cider. For years I have pondered the mystery that I don’t get hangovers and tried to be careful not to drink too much because there were no natural consequences. Well, ha, ha, ha, now if I have even one drink my sleep is disrupted and I find that I am actually a Cranky Person the following day. This has led me to trying out Kombucha as something to have on the patio at the end of a hot day.

Family: I continue to enjoy the golden age of parenting when my kids are both old enough to amuse themselves a lot of the time and young enough to still want to be amused by their parents. (Although Noah is aging out of this rapidly.) I got to take a leadership course with Noah over the last 10 weeks and watching him participate and seeing different hints of the man he’s becoming was…amazing. I also hang out with Liam in the schoolyard each morning (no rush for the GO Train) and as one sample, he started talking to me about his take on Arthurian legend, in a fake Scottish accent no less, and it was…pretty glorious.

I can’t say that I’m engaged with work for fewer hours, but the geography changes things so much. I’m more present.

I gave up my gym membership (well I actually still have to do the paperwork, oops) and we got a family membership to the Toronto Pan Am Sports Centre. We’re there a lot all together and that’s…amazing.

Mentally,  one thing about leaping into supporting a martial arts organization as a career that I really hadn’t thought through what it’s like to work with a team that includes many late teens and early 20-somethings. I always joked that my career aged backwards like Merlin (note Arthurian reference): Seniors’ site, magazine for women at midlife, magazine for women, education-focused arts institution. But right now I find that my colleagues have aged backwards as well.

I have very few Gen X-Millennial conflicts to report; martial arts seems to bridge the gap. I do find myself reflecting more on the time in my 20s when it seemed like everyone I knew online was moving to Silicon Valley and sharing apartments and working weird new Internet jobs. I find my 20-something colleagues have the same sense of, well, chosen family that you might find historically documented in Microserfs, but they also seem more connected to their actual families than I remember feeling. But I was mostly getting married, so I was a bit off the usual track there.

I haven’t been writing as much as I would like to, but I have been writing more than I had in the previous oh, 5 years, so that’s a bonus.

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Luke Skywalker, losing his religion

That’s me in the corner
That’s me in the spotlight
Losing my religion
Trying to keep up with you
And I don’t know if I can do it
Oh no I’ve said too much
I haven’t said enough

-R.E.M.

I did manage to get Darth Boot (my ‘walking’ cast I’m not allow to walk in yet) into a movie theatre to see Star Wars: The Last Jedi. I think it will surprise no one that it’s the one holiday event I absolutely could not bear to miss. I’m going to have to see the movie again to decide what I Really Think about it but what stands out to me right now is Luke Skywalker, man.

Spoilers ahead, of course

This piece about Depressed Asshole Luke appeared on my Facebook feed is a great take on it. In summary: Luke as a character is kind of astonishing because in the middle of the epic Star Wars universe, he’s allowed to have what is a very non-epic reaction to loss and screw ups. And in this writer’s view, “The failure crushes what’s left of him and then Luke Skywalker surrenders to depression and fucks off forever, just like you or I would.”

But as I’m in the middle of a midlife crisis involving a career switch, I have a different view from basically the same road. I suspect this line is generational. So I’ll just put it out there: Luke is maybe one of the most Gen-X characters ever.

From his whiny unwillingness to invest in Leia and Ben’s Rebellion until his own family is killed, to his commitment to his absent father’s essential goodness with a little soupçon of “but I can do it better,” Luke definitely had that vibe. He didn’t take Yoda too seriously. He created his own little rebel family, and found his own sister to boot. Then he signed up for Jedi Master and set to work building his career.

And then, of course, the corporate world goes to shit. Turns out senior management i.e. the Jedi Order was a bunch of idiots. Who does Ben Solo take for a mentor? The self-obsessed, culture-defining, Boomeresque Darth Vader. Luke is essentially middle management, trying to create balance in the force, caught between the colossal screw up of the generation before him and the untrained, kind of whiny generation after him. (Kylo Ren, Millennial Sith.)  And what does Luke have to pass on to Ren? That the Jedi represent a string of failure and bad choices. He’s invested everything, including his own failure, in a religion and organization that…means nothing.

All that work to get to the top and it turns out the top is really just about eating the young. The only way to win is not to play.

Yoda confirms this, with the kind of smarmy self-assurance only those already dead, or those who actually got union-powered pensions, can deliver. Or as my favourite Despair.com would say:

mistakesdemotivator

(I might point out that Luke’s retirement plan involves milking creatures and fishing on a remote and stony island. This is pretty much the backup plan I have repeated to myself at stressful career moments, although mine is more like “cash out my real estate and run away to Thailand.”)

So how does Luke resolve this?

Well we all see myths through our personal lenses but I’m going to say…he realizes it’s all narrative. Luke becomes the hero the Resistance needs – but through the power of story alone. It’s not the Jedi religion or whoever owns the best blasters who saves the day but one guy, meditating on a rock, who understands that the human story is both ethereal and powerful — and creates one for others.

The Boomers thought that they would change the world, but instead they drove it into the ground. The Millennials are probably going to save it. But it’s the detached and ironic Gen-X who keep the tradition and tell you what it all means. (At least according to Vanity Fair which, what-ever.) It’s just a laser sword, dude. All right, fine, at least think about where you’re pointing it.

I have a feeling that the next film will deliver on Rose Tico’s promise that “That’s how we’re gonna win. Not fighting what we hate, saving what we love.” Which is all well and good, if you love the right things.

A few other notes:

  • Love that it’s midlife battle-axe women who come up with all the plans, even if theirs suck just as much as the men’s.
  • I wasn’t blogging when I saw Justice League but one day I might have to write about the use of “Everybody Knows” in both Pump up the Volume and JL.
  • Miss you, Carrie Fisher.

Mini-review: Ricki and the Flash

ricki-and-the-flash-reviewSo say Joanna from Kramer vs. Kramer didn’t actually come back and fight for custody of her child and win because she was the mom and instead she moved to California and became an 80s rocker chick and then came back home once she got kind of old, and smoked pot with Dustin Hoffman while spewing great Diablo Cody dialogue…but it all rang hollow because no one really bothered to flesh out any emotions other than guilt sucks, following your dreams is great, but it sucks when your kids suffer, but they’ll be all right because a strong black woman (see: nuanced discussion) will stepparent them.

Then you’d have a movie where all the parts are kind of fun and worth seeing if you don’t actually think too hard, but at the end you really actually do feel like you just spent a wedding with your narcissistic boomer mother and you’re left with that sort of fuck it, family’s family, but it’s hell feeling.

That’s pretty much what Ricki and the Flash is like. If you want to laugh a lot and contemplate whether Rick Springfield is hot and be prepared to feel just a little bit disturbed, I say it’s worth the price of popcorn. And I mean, Diablo Cody.

Work-life balance

I am on a slight hiatus while I follow a four year old around reminding him not to rub his eye and keeping him from doing headstands 5 hours after cataract surgery. It was a grand success! photo (62)

Batkid Begins: #SFBatkid’s recipe for success…besides magic

I saw Batkid Beginsthe feel-good documentary about the feel-good #SFBatkid event-gone-wild last night and it kind of blew me away.

If you don’t know the story of #SFBatkid, the trailer is the best way to bring yourself up to speed, but in summary: the Make-A-Wish Foundation had a 5 year old with a wish to be the “real Batman,” and they extended themselves to make it happen, and it went nuts on social media, and thousands people showed up to turn San Francisco into Gotham, and that went nuts on social media to a legendary level.

For me personally #SFBatkid had the same resonance that I figure it had for a lot of people: I spent a lot of time growing up wishing or pretending I was a superhero, and who doesn’t want that to come true for kids who have been through critical illnesses? And I was a huge Batman fan when the Michael Keaton film came out. (See my Instagram feed for how huge).

The documentary, besides being (and I say this without any ire at all) an 87-minute commercial for the Make-A-Wish organization (link goes to the Canadian site!) with ample plugs for the corporations that got involved, is also pitching human ingenuity. It talks a lot about the way people respond when they see possibilities instead of challenges. I found that really inspiring both personally and as I make professional choices.

So often we get trapped into what we can accomplish without risking failure. This movie is about thinking big, and having big work out in a huge way. (I mean…so you find someone to play Batman, and it turns out he has a wristheld projector he was engineering himself just hanging around his home….) It’s really about people and the magic they make for each other, and I would love to write more words about that but really, just go see the film. It does a great job.

The other lesson this film offers for anyone who wants to help things get reach on the Internet, is that some of the viral nature of this story came down, I think, to which influencers got involved. Two of the first volunteers to come on board for #SFBatkid were Eric (E.J.) Johnston and his wife Sue Graham, and they recruited Mike Jutan to play The Penguin. From my understanding of the film, Mike’s post on Facebook kind of started the viral impact going. And it was also clear, in the film, that Mike worked for Industrial Light & Magic, George Lucas’s studio.

Aha. Aha!

If you were going to choose a group of people to go, ahem, batshit crazy over turning a city into Gotham for a child to play Batman for a day, wouldn’t a network of high-achieving SF&F fans and movie creators and actors and special effects people be the perfect nucleus? I mean, who is going to be better at promoting this kind of thing than someone who describes working on the next Star Wars or similar thing as: “It is, without a doubt, my childhood dream come true to work at ILM. It’s everything I could have ever hoped it would be, and more.”

(Mike, by the way, is from Hamilton and went to Waterloo. Small world! Shoutout!)

Well, that’s what happened here. The yes people not only knew the other yes people in the way that high achievers do, but they were connected to the “well…sure why not?” people through content, in this case a love for superhero and Batman narratives in particular. And not just any content: Strongly visual content. Batkid Begins shows the shot of EJ Johnston rehearsing for the Batkid day with a cape billowing out behind him that Mike Jutan shared on his Facebook.

So here’s the recipe:

1. A strong and passionate group of people creating an experience people will want to share, sure, but also a perfect day for a single person, a little boy.
2. An influencer network ready to light up.
3. A strong story with a strong visual.
4. Magic.

The magic is necessary because as those of us who work on the web know, you can have all of the first ingredients ready to mix, but if something else happens that day, or Facebook’s algorithm changes, or even if it just wasn’t the right time…it may not happen. But this is a great start. Ninja level web success does not just mean finding the right platform and content, it means reaching the right people…who may not be following you online.

There are a lot of other things to learn from this film: What happens when an event goes crazy, how to leverage help from companies eager to help (it’s not just that Twitter and Apple got involved, but it’s that the Make-A-Wish team obviously were able to respond), and some amazing examples of real-time storytelling.

And oh, yes. Give people a way to make magic for others, and they will show up in droves.

I totally recommend this movie for digital content creators, superhero lovers, and people who want to make kids happy. So, pretty much everyone, right?