Category Archives: Cynic

I still hate construction.

The construction site gets so quiet after 3 pm. I’m working for another hour, but many other trades are gone for the day. It’s nice. I’m perched halfway up an 8′ ladder, wiring a complex control panel, near a floor-to-ceiling window that has finally been uncovered. Before today, the entire building was dark because of the thick white plastic shrinkwrap that sheathed the scaffolds around the outer walls. Now most of that’s come down, and I’m in line with the setting sun… Albeit with a terrible view of highway and ugly industrial buildings.

I still hate construction.  But now I know that there’s so much else out there, which makes it almost okay… At least, no where near as depressing as when I worked on the giant new hospital, on my first electrical job.  My crew has two different construction sites on the roster right now, as well as a million other small assignments in offices and institutions and the like, and so I’m not here every day, or even every week.

When I do end up having to put in several days in a row at this site, I really feel it… Not just in my body, but also in my mental state.  There’s just so much hopelessness around a lot of these other tradespeople, leaking from their pores along with the stench of cigarettes and shitty food.  I know, I know, stereotypes… And yet.  And yet there’s something there, you know?  A kernel of truth, about hard working class jobs, and lives, and the men for whom that is reality.  (Yes, it’s all men, I’m one of three women among the 300 or so workers here: There’s another electrical apprentice, and a drywaller.)

And as for how it affects my body, well… I spend a lot of time studying my hands, when I’m on breaks and when I’m washing up at home after work. The outer edge of each of my index fingers is cracked raw at the top joint, from pulling insulation off of wires.  The tips of each thumb are also split in two or three places, especially at the edge of the nail. I wear bandaids, layered with electrical tape for durability, and then paint them closed with liquid bandage each night.  I also use moisturizers all the time, everything from thick creams that come in a tube, to the handmade salve my friend gave me.  Does it help?  I don’t know. The cracks still happen.

Of course, my finger tips also cracked when I worked in coffee shops.  My hands were rarely as filthy back then, but regularly exposed to toxic cleaners and the acidic oils from coffee beans.  Was that any better than drywall dust and wire-pulling lube?

Overall, I’m not terribly bothered by the rough state of my hands.  I’ve never been one to wear nail polish, or maintain long nails, or even wear rings. (As of yesterday, I’ve started wearing my wedding ring on a light chain around my neck instead of on my hand when I’m at work, after hearing a totally awful story about an accident with another apprentice and his wedding ring catching on something… Too terrible to share, too risky to ignore!)  It’s just so weird, to watch them get rougher and rougher.  It’s one of the few changes I can actually see progressing as I continue down this path.  I know I’m getting  stronger, because I can now easily do things that were difficult a few months ago, but it’s not like I suddenly have rippling biceps or any other physical marker of this. My hands, though, they are looking like they’ve got a story to tell.

Tomorrow night is the company holiday party

Tomorrow night is the company holiday party, and I gotta tell you, I’ve been experiencing a bunch of anxiety over it. Adding to my stress is the hard time I’m giving myself for feeling anxious… The wretched voice in my head keeps saying “JUST DON’T LET IT BOTHER YOU!!!”

Which, frankly, is stupidly useless advice.

The fact of the matter is, it’s one thing to be out at work, and quite another to walk into a company event with my genderqueer spouse on my arm (and in fancy formal dress at that). For most folks I’ve met in the trades, the theory of my being queer seems pretty easy to accept, or at least it comes off that way. (Let’s avoid discussing the rumours of what’s said behind my back, shall we?) What I’m not too sure about is how my coworkers will react when they meet Oats: Luckily, she’s exceptionally house-broken and quite charming, but I know from previous experiences that she is nothing like what they are expecting.

(Why? Well, for one, she’ll look better in her suit than they do in theirs… But also because a lot of straight folks seem to expect me to date women who are femme like me, and Oats is instead a very dapper sir… Just the way I like ’em!)

So? Fuck ’em, right?

Right!

Except that this is my job, and this is my trade, and I actually really like it.

And every day that I don’t hear some homophobic remark, I get a little more tense, waiting for it to happen. Anticipating. Because after hearing so much anti-gay bullshit at trades school and at my old construction job and wherever else, I simply don’t believe that it’s not going to happen here.

Anyway. In all likelyhood, it’ll all be fine, we’ll have fun, no one will be rude to us, and nothing bad will happen. In all likelyhood, I’ll look cute in my dress and high heels, Oats’ll be the perfect handsome date, and we’ll win one of the outrageous door prizes that are totally outside our lifestyle. (Can you still use a Wii if you don’t own a television?)

Here is the best coping skill I’ve found: Every time I start into an anxiety spiral worrying about the bad stuff, I remind myself of all the people I’ve met in trades who’ve talked to me about the queers in their lives. From the way they’ve each approached me, I get the feeling that for a lot of these guys, it’s a big deal for them to talk about it.

Of course, for some it’s old news: There was the journeyman who casually told me that his son is gay and has too many piercings, which seemed to concern him more than the queer-thing… And there’s Astro, with whom I hope Oats and I will sit at the party tomorrow.

But I also had a trades classmate tell me how upset he was that his favourite cousin tried to commit suicide after the family reacted badly to his coming out. And on a more positive note, another guy at trades school wanted advice on how to best impress this bisexual girl he was crushing out on, when she invited him out a date to the local gay bar. Then there’s my coworker who revealed that when his mother married her girlfriend last year, he was the only one of his siblings to attend the wedding (which was now causing problems between them and him). I could go on, but you see my point: We’re everywhere.

‘Tis the season for therapy

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Coldframe in the winter rain, rows of tiny lettuces growing

Truth be told, I’m doing much much better with my mental health compared to how I usually feel this time of year.  And maybe that’s why I’ve started going to therapy: Yeah, I’m feeling shitty, but still have enough energy to try to get help.

I’ve gotten counselling in moments of crisis in the past, but this is the first time I’ve sought out some serious head shrinking as part of a general self-care regimen.  Which is scary.  When in crisis, it’s pretty easy for me to go into someone’s office and just wail about whatever specific trauma has me all fucked up.

But going in there when I’m holding it all together?  Tricky, tricky, tricky.

I found my therapist the usual way: Asked a lot of friends.  Fuck, I love the West Coast!  OF COURSE, everyone has several recommendations, because we heart therapy, hardcore.

I chose mine based on the fact that she’s a pagan, and also because she specifically made mention of respecting “all genders” several times throughout her website, which was a relief from the usual “we welcome clients of different sexualities” or whatever, that I read on other websites.  Just a little nod to those of us who don’t subscribe to the gender binary, but enough to make me feel like I could do this.

And I am, I am doing this:  I’ve only had two sessions, and I won’t pretend that it’s radically changed my life, but it’s… Nice.

Insipid, I know, but I’m not feeling terribly eloquent.

Okay, here’s one thing I will tell you about, that came from therapy:  I realized that I’m not that worried about my stepmom, despite her health scare… I mean, she’s getting the best healthcare in the country, and she’s youngish, and they caught the polyp early.  Selfish person that I am, what’s really stressing me about the whole situation is what it’s bringing up about my place in our family.

Of course I want to go visit during the couple months that my stepmom will be recuperating, but then I really don’t, because I don’t want to set a precedent.  I don’t want them to rely on me, to be that sort of daughter who’ll fly in at a moment’s notice and take care of them. Because this is only the beginning, the start of my four parents’ decline in health… And I love them so much, but I also love my life here on the other side of the country.  If I go, it’s giving fuel to the idea that that’s where I belong, that I’m supposed to spend my life with this family-of-origin as opposed to my family-of-choice. (An idea, I might add, that is most vocally supported by my father and my older sister, and more quietly by others in Ontario.)

Le sigh.

How has therapy changed my experience of this revelation?  Well, in the past I’d get really anxious about such things, so full of angst that I’d get insomnia, fretting over my choices late into the night.  Instead, I just feel sad.  There’s a lot of grief in my heart, grief for the things my family and I haven’t shared since I moved away over ten years ago.

And yet I’m so damn confident that I’m where I need to be, that I spent those ten years doing what I needed to do, that I can’t really get all ramped up and stressed about it.  Instead, I kinda just want to cry.  Which is actually a huge improvement, because crying is something I can do, and afterwards I feel better.

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View inside the coldframe: Tiny little lettuces, so far surviving the nightly frosts

Why #2: Capitalism.

(For Why #1, click here)

Oh, hey, I live here.

This morning as I was getting ready for work, there was a piece on the radio about the skilled trades worker shortage. It’s a common theme, you’ve probably heard something about it: The journeymen are all speeding towards retirement age, and there simply aren’t enough apprentices coming along to fill the soon-to-be-available leadership positions. Listening to the on-air discussion, I grinned while lacing up my steel toed boots… Not only are there more and more trades jobs on the horizon, but us skilled trades workers are reaping the benefits of the effort of all those older workers!  These were mostly men, who negotiated contracts and wage standards meant to support their entire families, for which they historically were providing the primary income.  Which is to say, a “small” salary in the trades is a hell of a lot bigger than a “medium” salary in the world of administrative assistants… And let’s not even talk about the non-profit sector.

So here’s another reason why I chose to be an electrician: Because I wanted a living wage.

It’s fucking surreal sometimes, to really think about the fact that the best work I’ve done is also the stuff that’s contributed least to paying my rent. Earning enough money to not only cover my expenses but also get out of debt (and avoid getting further into debt) has been a huge distraction from all the excellent stuff I could be doing. You know when people say that they wouldn’t work if they didn’t have to? I simply don’t believe it. Oh, sure, I imagined they’d take a few months to veg out and clear their minds… But after that, I really do honestly have faith in the human desire to feel needed, to find satisfaction from doing something useful.  Wages get in the way of us finding our callings:  We’re too busy trying to make a living.

So anyway, yeah, capitalism’s not doing too well right now, in case you haven’t noticed.  Never having been a big fan in the first place, I can’t say that I’m terribly surprised:  It’s simply unmanageble, this twisted economic system.  Having said that, I’ve yet to visit the encampment of my local Occupy movement… Because I’m too busy working, at the first decent-paying job I’ve had in years.  How totally bougie of me, ha!

Seriously, though, it means a lot to me, to be able to count on making enough money for more than just my expenses…  And not just so that I can buy boots!  Hmmm… Actually, that’s a good example:  It’s a relief to be able to invest in quality footwear that will last me a couple years, instead of having to either continue to make do with the old (and literally crumbling!) pair or buy some crappy cheap thing that’ll need replacing in another few months.  It’s a small thing, but so important to my personal quality of life.  So: I have a steady union job, I’ll continue to get raises every six months as I gain experience, I’m learning useful skills that will make me increasingly employable, and I can afford decent boots…  This is how capitalism drove me to become an electrician.

The one that got away

I missed a phone call from my union. The battery on my phone had died and while I plugged it in to recharge, I neglected to actually turn the phone on again. The I got busy with simultaneously canning apple butter, making yoghourt, and brewing espresso, and the phone was the farthest thing from my mind.

So I missed out on a job.

ARG!

It was only an hour or so later that I got the message and called back the union dude who runs the job list. “Did I miss it?  Am I too late?” I asked.  The dude told me he was sorry, but yes, I’d missed the chance.

Fucking hell.

Overall, I’m frustrated with myself, because I should have been more diligent, should have kept my phone on.

On the other hand… Well.  If I wanted to, I could find a ton of excuses as to why it’s good that I didn’t get the job, so it’s probably better if I don’t spend too much time dwelling on it. Ambivalence, FTW! One thing I will say right now is just that the position being offered was with the biggest electrical contractors in town, and I’d really prefer to go to the shipyards instead.

On that topic, I’m watching the news reports like a hawk, waiting on the government’s decision on the federal shipbuilding contracts this September.  How ridiculous is that… Or rather, how revealing of the changes to my life since entering the trades!  Previously, my only comment on millions of dollars spent on naval infrastructure would have been to rant about the government’s misplaced priorities and to reiterate my own anti-militarization stance. Now, I’m all like, “I WANT A JOB!”  And I’d be likely to get one, if the west coast shipbuilding conglomerate wins their bid.  I’m still critical of the war machine, don’t get me wrong… But I also am pretty damn pragmatic, especially these days.

Hello from my island of solace

Dear friends, I’ve been ignoring you.

No, no, your protests are charming yet inaccurate: I’ve actually been completely ignoring you, for real.  I haven’t been reading your own blogs, I haven’t been following the reader stats here at FG HQ, I haven’t been checking my FG email address, let alone F@cebook… And I’ve been severely neglecting the Queer Canada Blogs project, even though I know that several folks have recently submitted suggestions for blogs to add.

Terrible, isn’t it?

The thing is, the whole world is terrible.  Usually, that’s what this blog is about:  One odd queer rambling on about her relatively-privileged life on a fucked-up planet. Not exactly catchy, I realize, but my marketing department is rather small.

In this terrible world, there are islands of solace, and I’m currently relaxing on one.  Physically, in that I live on an island, and mentally, in that I’ve become extremely preoccupied with the minutia of daily life.  I’ve put my attention on a very short leash, and it’s not wandering much farther than making food, sewing clothing, reading books, tending the garden, and playing with the dog.  I spend all my internet time devouring how-to instructions: Tailoring, dehydrating, sausage-making, lamp crafting, reupholstering, permaculture, website design, raising goats, collecting maple syrup, etc etc etc… If it’s a skill I could possible find useful at some point, I’m reading about it.

The way I see it, I’m using this period of unemployment to shore up my resources for future times of need:  When I next have a job, I’ll likely be too busy for testing recipes or learning new DIY skills, not to mention being emotionally worn out by the toll of the usual sexist/homophobic crap that often is found in trades-based workplaces.  With that in mind, now is the time to stock the pantry!  Literally, in that I’m filling my shelves with preserves, and figuratively, in that I’m filling my mind with reminders of all the inspiration and hope I’ll be needing.

“Why doesn’t she blog more about the stuff she’s making?” You may wonder.  Well, the thing is, I want to… But I want to do it under my real name, so that I can use it for promoting the workshops I’m teaching, and maybe even someday make a little bit of pocket money from those initiatives.

Also, I’d like to have a blog that I can share with folks when they hear I’m a blogger and want to know what I write.  Often I’m cool with telling random hipsters about this anonymous little domain, but in a job interview…?  Yeah, it’d be good if I could show those people something a little less personal.  Also, my mom!  She knows I blog: She asked me point blank last time she was here, and all I said was “Yes.”  Ha!

So that’s what I’m up to.  I miss you!  And I kinda miss the fervour I feel when I’m really on a roll and blogging a lot on this site, even though it’s often born from frustration or confusion or another general attempt to process something I’ve experienced. It’s so nice to be able to avoid that right now!  And I’m not taking this chance for granted.

For now, I’m still here, but not here, because I’m oh-so-very exactly where I am.

collecting cavities like nobody’s business

Lately, I’ve been having a bunch of dental work done, cuz I have the time and am finally covered by Oats’ extended health benefits.   I last had my teeth checked and cleaned by a professional around four years ago, also known as the last time I had extended health benefits (at that point, it was because I was still a student at the university).

As a side note, isn’t it completely weird that dental isn’t part of the Canadian universal health care?  There’s so much data out there about how maintaining healthy teeth prevents all sorts of other illnesses, and yet we’ve got to pay out of pocket for dental work… Which means people like me try to squeak by with just flossing and brushing.

(For more on this topic, please check out the awesome Leah Lakshmi Piepzna Samarashina’s piece “Things to do if you are a hustling class artist or other person with no trust fund or much of an economic safety net“.)

Considering how long it had been, my teeth looked pretty great, or so said the dental hygienist who gave them a thorough cleaning.  However, that wasn’t enough to save them all.  My old dentist, who was friendly and cheap and had an office right out of the 1970s (or so I imagine… I wasn’t alive yet in that decade), didn’t believe in removing wisdom teeth until they were infected:  I had one that got all swollen and so he took it out, but said he’d rather leave the rest.  My new fancy dentist barely glanced at the remaining three before simply stating that they were collecting cavities like nobody’s business, and it wasn’t really worth it to keep them in.

Now looking at two of these teeth, a couple days after the extraction, I see what she means:  I had no idea how completely disgusting they’d be.  I’ve got one left, but it’s impacted so requires me to be put under by an oral surgeon.  For these two, my dentist simply numbed my gums then yanked like hell, with some twisting thrown in for good measure. Once she saw them, she laughed and said that if she’d know how curved the roots were, she’d have insisted on the oral surgeon taking them out too.  I’m glad my teeth are so amusing… I’d like to continue to be amused by them, by making them into pendants that I could wear on a chain around my neck, but Oats thinks it’s too strange.  I don’t know… I first thought of it when she was taking me home after the surgery, a time in which I admit I was in a bit of a haze, but after two days of sleeping I still like the idea.