I am Terrified of Ghosts Even Though They Don't Really Exist

A photo of a person in a traditional ghost costume (sheet over their head with eyes drawn on), sitting on a bale of hay in the middle of an empty field.
Photo by Tandem X Visuals.

It's Halloween, so I'm going to talk about ghosts.

I don't believe in them at all, but also, I very much fear them, which means I also definitely believe in them.

I haven't had any traditional hauntings myself, but people I know and love and trust have seen and heard things that they could not explain. These stories scare me enough I genuinely don't want to hear them and will absolutely leave the room if I have to.

Some people say ghosts are nothing to be afraid of, that we can talk to them, even befriend them, but my imagination and gut feelings cannot abide that as an option.

Instead, I try to pretend they don't exist. Occasionally, I take comfort in reading debunkings of ghostly experiences.

I know, for example, how easy it is to mistake light catching the corner of your eye for something more or how sleep paralysis explains many nighttime "encounters" with the paranormal. Our minds fill in the blanks with stories and we are primed with enough spooky ones to pull a Mulder and jump right to the other-worldly.

The one thing that's always gotten me, however, is that deep sense of foreboding that can relate to ghostly presences. Sure, sometimes it's primed: I've been told a house is haunted, and now I feel like some creepy presence is watching me. But sometimes, it just arises as if out of nowhere and I suddenly feel like I am not alone.

Well OH MY WORD it turns out that intuition-like feeling may just be low-frequency soundwaves that hit our bodies and make us feel like doom is upon us. Freaking. A.

Also, apparently these kinds of experiences are a side effect of CARBON MONOXIDE POISONING. So that's something to actually be afraid of.

Aren't bodies wild? We feel vibrations or breathe in poison and then suddenly feel like a spirit from the nether realm is hovering just over our heads, watching us.

Now if only this knowledge would actually help overcome that terrible, terrible feeling.

Have a spooooooky Halloween!

An animated gif with a cartoon of a real ghost floating up and down next to a person dressed in a ghost costume. The real ghost calls the person a poser.

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Making Romantic Rejection Way More Fun

An animated gif with the text "it's not me it's you" in multicolours

I've decided to start re-casting all my romantic losses in a more entertaining light.

Now, instead of people meeting me and (somehow) not instantly falling madly and desperately in love with me, doing everything in their power to keep me, they simply had some random dealbreaker that they just couldn't get over and doesn't that make rejection more fun?

The rules are that it has to be something that actually kind of bugged the person (or at least that you could legitimately imagine bugging them) and not actually the reason they gave you for not wanting to date. And it can't be something that makes you feel even a little bit bad about yourself!

Now, instead of a bunch of men who, basically, didn't have strong enough feelings for me (legitimate, but also whatever), we have the guy who couldn't handle that my bookshelf is arranged by colour; the one who couldn't get over the fact that my bathroom was mid-renovation and had a plywood floor; the guy who loved everything about me except the fact that I decided to get a cat and not a master's degree, which he genuinely saw in opposition to one another (okay, that one's a cheat, that's actually almost exactly what he said to me...)

Honestly, it does make rejection more fun.

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Wag the Dog

"You can't make a dog happy by forcibly wagging its tail. And you can't change people's minds by utterly refuting their arguments"
- Jon Haidt

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It's Hard to Focus with Christa David

If you're looking to buy me some art, maybe something by Christa David? Her pieces are not only stunning, but they have names like "you showed me love. thank you." and "it's hard to focus. i know."

Collage art by Christa David. It looks like two people with monarch butterflies for heads.

A collage by Christa David.

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Instructions on Being

The song Instructions on Being by Tank and the Bangas should probably be all our mottos for living. Listen. Read the lyrics.

by Tank and the Bangas

Don't ask me about God.
Don't ask me when am I graduating.
To repeat what I said when I'm singing.
Don't ask me about my religion,
or why I don't faithfully go to church anymore.
I don't like questions with answers that make me feel stupid.

These are the things I think about in the shower,
when my empathy is running a race with the water.
I think about things like, I need to exercise more. Is my hair growing? Is my ability showing, is God a man or a woman?
I don't look at myself too long.
I'm afraid that I won't like how
honesty and accountability look up too close.

I tend to shove things in the biggest of closets,
and pretend that I bought a home without any doors.
I'm not the easiest person to walk through.
I'm selfish.
But I'm honest with myself, when I feel like hearing
what truth sounds like with a jammer and a hammer and a jigsaw, truth.

I am just as insecure as I am confident.
I barely believe in my own brilliance or my beauty.
I need current confirmation in my friends,
and I look for it in their faces.
Are you pretty today? My god, are you lovely.
I'm a star who doesn't pay her light bill.
I wish that my mother told me that I was incredible at 10,
maybe I would believe it at 23.

I convince myself every day, every day
that I'm right where I'm supposed to be.
No matter how many credits short I am of graduating.
Do not stare at certain parts of my face.
I'm not sure how comfortable I am with such open flaws.
I've become pretty good
at covering up what isn't beautiful about myself.
Excuse my sarcasm, it's the ugly trying to come out in me,
ignore her, ignore her please.
I'm trying to figure out how to apologize to the person I am,
to forgive the mistakes that I've made, on replay.
Forgive yourself before you ever look for an apology.
I want to write everything that you're afraid to hear,
everything that you keep in that closet in your back.
I wanna break my pride's ankle with a sledge hammer,
anytime she gets too tall.
I wanna do open heart surgery on the boy who couldn't tell you,
I love you, Tank.
This is your reminder list.

One, fuck him, I love you.
Two, you are everything your mama forgot to tell you.
Three, forgive your dad, he has Alzheimer's.
Four, shut up, your little brother looks up to you.
Five, you should try fingerpainting somtime.
Six, stop looking for your reflection to wave back at you.
You are the same person.
Seven, stop looking for the congratulations in your mom's eyes.
She is proud of you.
Eight, record your heartbeat, and play it in reverse.
It sounds the same. You are still here.
Nine, your niece is holding fire for you in her hand,
just for your attention, she will burn herself with everything that you forgot to saturate with love. Call your sister.
Shut up. Admit to your friends why you are always crying.

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Animal On Tinder is Back Back Baaaaaack!

My Animals on Tinder series is baaaaaaaack! Posting on the @thereceptionistblog Instagram account, but here's a taste.

A cartoon drawing of a bird with a speech bubble saying, 'I might answer, I might not.'

A cartoon drawing of a turtle saying, "Just an ordinary guy looking for an extraordinary woman."

A picture of a dolphin saying "make me better."

A cartoon drawing of a fish saying, "bored bored bored."

A cartoon drawing of a jellyfish saying, "we are living in hell!!!"

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How to Enjoy a Dark and Rainy Pandemic Fall and Winter

Photo of a dark city street at night where it's raining. Two people are walking with umbrellas. There are red paper lanterns in the foreground.
Photo by Jack Finnigan.

I hate autumn. If you've been around this blog for a long time, you have been hearing about it.

The reasons are simple: while everyone else is getting excited about sweater weather and pretty leaves and pumpkin spice everything, I am watching the world grow dark, cold, and die all around me.

Seasonal depression is one of my mental squatters, so even though I do love some of the beautiful things that come with fall, I dread the fact that the external darkness and symbolic death of the world is mirrored by darkness and despondency in my brain.

The end of summer always feels like a wake, with a chill not only in the air but in my very soul, as the first horseman of my emotional apocalypse approaches.

The past couple of years, my reaction to the weather got pretty extreme as I tracked sunrise times and weather daily like a map to happiness, desperately dreaming of summer. (Shockingly, this approach did not help me feel better about my situation.)

This year, I decided to try a different approach. After all, research shows that people are happier when they are in the moment, even if "the moment" includes something unpleasant.

Two things influenced me to approach autumn (and its big, bad brother, winter) differently:

At work, we talk about circumstances versus problems. A problem is something you try to change. A circumstance is simply there. You can work with it, try to make the best of it, or just let it be.

The seasons are circumstances.

I have also been thinking about seasonal living, in general, this past year. What does it mean to live in a way that embraces the change seasons bring? I don't know the whole answer to that question, but I do know that seasonal living must, by definition, accept the circumstances each particular season brings.

Then comes the question: what are the circumstances of fall and winter, and what do I need to feel good given those circumstances?

Here's what I came up with:

One: It's cold and wet and I need to be, at the very least, warm and dry. But why stop there? Why not shoot for cozy? Other people seem to get a lot out of the coziness of the season, and don't I deserve that, too? In the past, I have really discounted physical comfort in my self-care and now I think it might be the most important thing.

In order to get there, I audited my closet and made a list of what I need to warm my heart by way of warming my body. On the list: some of those cozy "reading socks" from Chapters, new rain boots, and a nice umbrella that opens and closes at the push of a button.

Two: It's easy to isolate during the cold, rainy, dark nights and I need friendship. Time with friends is easy in the summer as everyone flocks outdoors. During fall and winter? (And a pandemic winter at that?) Not. So. Much. But it's so very necessary.

For this one, I have been working out plans with friends for how we will do regular visits while keeping COVID-copacetic.

Three: I need some kind of project or purpose. Something I want to do, work on, improve, or create. It doesn't have to be fancy or have any splashy result, just something to do that adds some focus and thus, a sense of meaning. (I am currently overthinking this one, but have given myself a deadline to just pick something by the end of the week.)

The other thing I am trying is a good old fashioned attitude adjustment. I am making myself notice the things that I genuinely like about this season.

For example: because it gets dark earlier, I get more opportunities to see the glory of the moon. I love looking at the moon, but in the summer I rarely see it because I also love going to bed early. In fall and winter? The moon is there for me, dark and early.

A few weeks into fall, it seems to be working. I wouldn't say I love (or even necessarily like) the season, but I am feeling muuuuuuuch better than I have at this time in past years.

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Best. Pants. Ever.

I love this forever.

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Put Nature at the Heart

A photo of some poppies and a bright sky.
Photo by Henry Be.

People are always asking what they can do to turn this situation around. The truth is there isn't one single answer, though we can make a big difference by putting nature at the heart of our decisions.

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Lito's Kirie Art

Kirie is the Japanese art practice of cutting pictures, and artist Lito does it on leaves and the work is INCREDIBLE.

A photo of a person holding a leaf. The green leaf has been carved to show a scene where a crowd of people are looking up at a school of fish, in place of the clouds.

A photo of a hand holding a green leaf that has cut out in it a scene of cartoonish monsters.

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The Pandemic Isn't Going Anywhere, so I'm Changing My Personal Protocols Instead

A photo as if the viewer is sitting across the table from a woman who is wearing a health face mask and holding up a coffee cup as if to cheers.
Photo by Vince Fleming.

First, a caveat: I am writing all of this as someone living in a region that has followed reasonable COVID safety protocols since the beginning and has clear safety regulations for gatherings and businesses. Here, spread is mainly happening from social gatherings and workplaces that break protocol.

My friends! I have recently had a revelation regarding the pandemic: it's going to be around for a long time. That means I need to start letting myself do some things and enjoy life a little bit more if I'm going to get through this with a semblance of self.

Yes, I hunkered down for "Team Canada" with everyone else. I did my part to protect society by staying home unless absolutely necessary. Then, once things opened up and summer hit, I continued to do my part by only meeting up with friends outdoors, keeping distance, and not even considering indoor activities that weren't strictly necessary.

That means that despite things like movie theatres, restaurants, and dance studios being heavily regulated and allowed to open, I didn't even consider it.

The thing is that this is actually our lives now. If we can't start actually living and doing some fun things (with all these safety restrictions in place), then eventually you have to ask, what's the point? 

Nobody is actually asking us to stay hunkered down anymore. They are asking us to maintain physical distance, to wash our hands, to wear a mask, and to limit our close contacts.

We can do these things while seeing a movie! The movie theatre wouldn't be able to stay open if we couldn't! (Also, fun fact: you could live in the same house as someone and not be a close contact.)

I'm not saying we go out and run amok. We still can't have big ol' sweaty parties or do karaoke or kiss someone just because we feel like it. What we can do is wear a mask and follow an orderly protocol to walk into a theatre and sit six feet apart while an artist (who is twelve feet away or behind some plexi or on a screen) pours their heart out.

We can feel like a whole person with a whole life.

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I Am Living My Nightmare

A photo where all you can see is a blur of light and smoke in the middle with darkness around the edges. It's abstract and looks spooky and nightmarish.
Photo by JR Korpa.

I just realized that I am living the life I DREADED as a teen: in my mid-thirties, single, living alone, and I work in an office. (If you didn't read the word "office" with total disdain, go back and read it that way again. That's teen Andrea.)

These conditions were basically the worst things I could imagine.

Obviously, there are also things about my life that are great-great-great to the point that even my teenage self could have been excited for them. (I wrote a book! I have a cat who is almost as co-dependent for me as I am for her! I have lots of friends and we love each other deeply!) (I would also mention my amazing family, but teenage Andrea already had this amazing family, so it's not new.)

Still, the bones of my life are such that 15-year-old Andrea would have wailed in despair and possibly given up on EVERYTHING. (Why yes, I was voted "Drama Queen" in my graduating year, why do you ask?)

Sometimes I have a moment of realizing I'm living my past dreams. Those moments help me appreciate what I've got more. As it turns out, however, I'm also living my past nightmare.

Don't worry, it doesn't make me feel bad. It's kind of funny, I guess? That I catastrophized this totally reasonable existence as something that would mean my life was OVER? When really, it's life, so it's a mixture of great, sad, exciting, boring, meaningful, disappointing, and fine.

So apparently if I could go back and tell my past self anything, it's that my nightmare life is fine.

An animated gif of a woman holding two beers and clinking them together, cheersing herself.

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George Byrne's Sweet, Colourful Los Angeles

Before I went to LA for the first time, I expected it to be a city of dirty highways. I stayed near Venice Beach so instead I saw bright colours, beautiful palm trees, cute shops, and blue skies. George Byrne's Color Field series depicts that version of LA.

A photo of the side of a building - the main part of it is light teal, with a light/bright pink section on the lower half. Behind you can see bright yellow stairs and the blue sky. The whole thing looks like candy.

A photo of bright blue pool water with a bright pink inner tube floating in it.

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