Writing

Love Songs Don’t Lie: the Death of Romance, and a Valentine’s Day Playlist

Romance is dead. It was a devastating realization for someone who grew up on stories like the Phantom of the Opera and Wuthering Heights. I spent my childhood swishing around with stars in my eyes, writing my own love story in my head–my soulmate would see me in the opposite box at the opera, across a ballroom crowded with waltzing couples, drinking espresso at a sidewalk cafe, and instantly fall in love with my tumbling waves of raven hair, my fiery russet eyes, my almond-creme skin. He would find me irresistibly charming, witty, talented, and whisk me off to Paris, or New York, or Carpathia to love me til death and beyond. Every year, I waited for it to happen. It wasn’t an if, it was a when…

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But ten years later with a string of volatile, unstable relationships behind me, I had lost faith. Romance was just another fairy tale, something reserved for novels and cinema, not something that happened to real people in everyday life and anyone who said otherwise was delusional. Those who had magical stories about meeting their partners were embellishing for presentation. There was no Heathcliff, there was no Erik, and my youthful ideas about true love were an embarrassing blip that time would eventually strike from the record. The stories I once loved now seemed pathetic. I told myself that it was all in the spirit of childhood fantasy, that I had simply grown up. So I swapped sighs for cynicism and swept it all behind me.
And then, one day, I found myself crying on 1st Avenue. It had suddenly occurred to me that I had resigned myself to a life of dull mediocrity, where things were convenient and accessible. Love songs and sonnets aren’t created from ambivalence. I had been moved to tears by a love song, one I had heard hundreds of times before—I realized that the romantic had never died, I had simply hidden her away. Romance is delicate, fragile. It can be wounded easily, and takes time and care to recover. I’ve always advocated self-invention, creating art out of life, yet I had completely ignored that particular plot point, leaving it all to chance in an often-hostile setting. But I also don’t believe in coincidences—standing that morning on the sidewalk, blinking back tears as I listened to lyrics, I knew something had been set in motion. I had opened up to the Universe, and the Universe never misses an opportunity to set things right.
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If we’re being completely honest, part of me never stopped believing in love: I’ve always thrilled at vampire stories, paranormal romances—hell, I even stalked out wedding blogs. And despite a lifetime of truly disastrous events, Valentine’s Day has always been one of my favorite holidays. But since that fateful morning, I can fully count myself among the faithful. I love hearing about how couples met, I emotionally invest in relationships between fictional characters, and there have been many, many repeat performances of my sidewalk waterworks. It may sound sappy, naive, or radically uncool, but I believe my life is richer for it. It can be scary to open yourself up to something that might feel like nothing more than a pretty idea, but if you don’t take the risk, you’ll never see the reward. Believe me, I know what it’s like to be hurt, disillusioned, let down—it’s been worth every second of sadness to appreciate the happiness that can come from putting your trust into another human being, and watching the magic that happens when two people believe in a feeling.
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This Valentine’s weekend, whether you find yourself banding together with friends, painting the town with a lover, or comfortably at home with family, consider your emotions. Where do they come from? Are they from the heart, from the core of your soul? Have you dredged whatever deep, labyrinthine recesses you hide under the surface? Or are you sitting safely in the shallows, feeling from the surface? Open up. The Universe is listening.
If you need some inspiration, I put together a Spotify playlist to serenade you. Inside, you’ll find some heartbreaking love songs, some smoldering seductions, songs for soulmates, and just-for-the-moment lovers. No matter where you are, there’s magic to be found: it turns out, love songs don’t lie.

 

Illustration from the Shadowscapes Tarot, by Stephanie Pui-Mun Law
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Metamorphosis

New Skies and Uncharted Paths: the Magic of New Years

Oh, what a ride it’s been! We’re closing in on the final hours of 2013 and in just a few more days we’ll be staring into the glittering newness that is 2014. These post-holiday days are perfect to sit back and reflect on the lessons we’ve learned, the goals we’re going to set, the places we’ve been, and where we want to go. For some, New Year’s Eve is a time to celebrate the passing of the old year with friends, drowning fears and anxieties at the bottoms of ever-full glasses; for others, it’s a chance to ring in the new year with a romantic flourish, staring into the eyes of a lover or counting down the minutes to midnight to fall into the arms of a pretty stranger. To me, New Year’s Eve is one of the most magical nights of the year, so thick with potential that intentions hang in the air in front of us. It begs for contemplation, divination, and meditation.

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2013 was a year of facing truths. Challenges were posed and met head-on, revealing strengths and talents we never knew we had. We found our way out of the darkness, learning how to shine all on our own, banishing shadows of doubt from our path. Not everything we saw was beautiful–we’ve witnessed true ugliness at times, but as long as we learned to cast it aside and look for the lesson, nothing was in vain. We’re stronger people for the experiences we’ve had. 2013 reopened wounds for me–it was full of fear, sadness, and profound loss. But it taught me how to grieve, it strengthened my resolve, showed me that I have stores of courage. It taught me that I am a dazzling, magical creature that rises out of desolation and regenerates endlessly. 2013 brought back my magic. I won’t let that magic slip away in 2014. I plan on reading every tome that falls into my path, seeking new knowledge and stretching my magical muscles regularly using new and exciting methods and tools. I will tune my instrument, add to my repertoire, and build my understanding of my personal universe and how to control it.

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In 2013, I learned how to be a World-Weilding Web Warrior and met fabulous friends both new and old in the City of Roses. I traipsed after ghosts and gods and visited one of my oldest friends in the ever-magical Crescent City. This year, I plan to take more of America by storm, drinking in new and different skylines and sunsets, but I also plan on expanding my literal horizons, bringing myself to the shores of new and foreign lands. I want to breathe the air of my ancestors, walk the same ground as my beloved’s forebears, feel their wind, learn their magic, sleep their nights. I want to smell every perfume in Paris and Milan and taste every tea in London and Kiev. In 2014, I firmly intend to make this happen. My wanderlust has been too long unsatisfied, and 2014 is going to be my Super-Sagittarian Gypsy-Witch Wonder Year full of new skies, uncharted paths, and changing winds.

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So while will ring in the new year surrounded by beautiful strangers in festive streets or huddled with close friends in dark clubs and bars, I’ll be lighting candles and flipping cards, setting my intentions and channeling all my positive energies to make 2014 the best year yet. Not just the best year, but the Wonder Year…

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Metamorphosis

Handcrafted Happiness: holiday misery and gifting handmade

Since just after midnight the day after Halloween, we’ve been barraged with a constant stream of Christmas commercials. Whether it’s in glossy print between magazine articles, on during breaks in our favourite television must-sees, or spoken rapid-fire by a radio DJ, we’ve heard about every product, every sale, and every shopping destination within fifty miles. Our inboxes have been flooded with messages boasting the best deals, our mailboxes are stuffed with catalogs, and everywhere we look there’s something newer, better, and shinier than what we originally set out to find. We’re on holiday overload and it’s exhausting. During a time of year when we should be sitting back, reflecting on our year, and enjoying time with our most beloved friends and family members, we’re fighting each other for parking spots at the mall and resenting the togetherness that might be keeping us away from the necessary shopping. It’s enough to drive even the most level-headed person mad.

Working in the retail and service industry, I see some of the season’s worst moments unfold right in front of me. It’s hard not to resent the holidays when it turns people into monsters before your very eyes, but it has an uncanny way of changing people. Suddenly, having friends is a chore. Family members are needy money-drains, more obligation than joy. Loved ones are reduced to a check mark on a to-do list, the sooner done the better. And there’s no living with anyone until that list is completely crossed off. But it doesn’t need to be that way. The thing is, the people who love us want us to be happy–and if buying gifts makes you miserable, they would probably rather you not!

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In the past, I’ve felt that gifting handmade presents to my friends and family was a cheap cop-out, and handing them homemade trinkets felt like a let-down. After all, they spent hard-earned money on me, searching the malls and shops until they had found just the right trinket: I had spent a few hours at my work table, scribbling down pictures and words. For some pieces, I went big and bought frames. But the reception was never as chilly as I anticipated. In fact, people seemed to like receiving paintings or pencil drawings. Years later, there was no greater thrill than receiving a handmade piece from my artsier, craftier friends. Art is no small effort. It can brighten a room, liven up a workspace, start a conversation between people where words might have never happened. There’s something truly magical about holding a personalized gift in your hands; you can almost feel the thought and effort seeping out of it. Knowing the amount of time and care put into creating a singular, unique piece especially for you is intoxicating.

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A drawing or painting of something beloved by a friend or family member is a wonderful gift–try painting an ornament or sculpting a small trinket for their tree. If you’re not an artist, don’t worry! There are plenty of ways to show you care with something handmade. Find their favourite stones and make a piece of jewelry, or decorate something for their home. Use colourful paper to modge-podge the outside of a jar candle, or cover a pillar candle with epsom salts for a wintery effect. Sift through Facebook photos to find a favourite snapshot or dive through their Instagram for pictures of pets, vacation memories, or hangout snaps and print them on photo paper. Then, make a frame from found objects or simply paint one from your local craft store to personalize it. Don’t fret if you aren’t crafty–a tin of cookies is a classic handmade gift. Bake a few batches of gingerbread, sugar cookies, pinwheels, and whoopee pies and tuck them into a colourful tin for transport: everyone loves a sugary holiday treat.

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This year, I spent my time in a veritable mad science lab sniffing and mixing and pouring to concoct the perfect perfume for my friends, infusing it with healing stones and topping it off with decorative labels. I probably spent more time working on it than I would have picking up things at the mall, and fragrance oils aren’t necessarily cheap, but it saved me the stress and anxiety of battling other shoppers for that perfect sweater or pair of gloves. I’d much rather spend my time off tucked into a cozy, sweet-smelling corner listening to Spotify radio and contemplating my friends’ favourite smells than hustling through department stores, grabbing things just to have a package to hand off on Christmas Day–and at the end of the day, it saves more than just me from the holiday stresses–no one really wants another pair of clearance gloves or a discounted scarf anyway!

 

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Luna, Metamorphosis

Evolution

I’m a firm believer in the power of newness. While I also believe that I am the sum of my experiences and that everything happens for a reason, I believe in the self-invention and a fresh, clean slate is the most inspiring thing I could possibly imagine. This is why I start each year with Resolutions.

Most people laugh when asked about New Year’s Resolutions. They’ll say things like, “I’m going to lose weight,” or “I’m going to go the gym,” or “I’m going to start cooking more,” each and every year. “New Year’s Resolutions are silly,” I’ve been told. “They never stick.” January 1st of 2010, I resolved to start a blog. January 1st of 2011, I resolved to become a vegan after about fifteen years of vegetarianism. January 1st of 2012, I resolved not to let my illnesses and weaknesses define me. I have followed through and stuck with each and every one of these resolutions, and this is only a small handful of the resolutions I’ve made over the years.

For a large part of 2012 I felt stagnant. I was stuck in one place, going no where that I could see, and while my life was moving around me I felt too bogged-down mentally to move with it. Worse yet I sometimes felt as if I was regressing, moving backwards to places I’ve all ready been and struggled to remove myself from. I was fighting battles I’ve all ready fought. Some of these battles have been victories, others are in stalemate, but I refuse to lose any of them. Perhaps that is why the “newness” of 2013 has felt so important in the weeks leading up to the New Year. In the last months of 2012, I wove myself something of a cocoon, tucking in to examine myself and calculate the vastness of the changes taking place. I’m ready for the next phase, not something completely different but the next cycle of who I am and how I live. An evolved and higher state of me.

Some of these changes will be superficial: I plan to pare down in 2013, streamlining my style and cultivating signatures. This obviously applies to my wardrobe, but to other areas of my life as well. I’ve been talking about working out a concrete budget, balancing my accounts by hand to avoid the trap of digital overspending. By focussing my attention on developing signatures, I’ll save money on impulse buys and failed experiments and be able to apply those funds to things I genuinely need or want to work towards.

Other changes will be invisible, running too deep to really see at a glance. These will be the changes that allow me to be the person that I really am, the person I see inside and want to share with everyone else. These are the changes that involve being more courageous, accepting and actually feeling my emotions even when they aren’t 100% rational, reducing my anxiety and developing healthy coping mechanisms. While they may not be evident to anyone but the people I interact closely with, these are the changes that will take the most work and have the biggest effect on my life.

Up until this point, Readers, I’ve kept you all at arm’s length under the guise of professionalism. Having labels and tags to strictly adhere to felt more proper, so if it wasn’t about lipstick or shoes I really had nothing to say here. But I have a lot to say. I’d like to let you in on other things that interest me, the things I do that might not involve powder brushes or outfit snaps. So here’s what I’ve decided: Metamorphosis was begun to document my self-discovery and transformation and I feel like that’s very relevant again. From here on, Metamorphosis will be something of a landing-pad for me. Every post I make will appear here, on this site. If you’d prefer to simply follow my beauty and fashion posts, I’ll be cross-posting them and only them on Bella Cantarella. If you simply want updates on my artistic endeavors, I’ll be cross posting them (hopefully with more frequency) over at Crypt Orchids. I’d like to update this page at least twice a week, and the topics I cover will dictate the posting schedule everywhere else.

I want to thank you all for bearing with me for the last few years. It’s been a thrilling, maddening, hair-pulling, utterly inspiring journey so far and I hope you’ll stay with me as it continues.

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Luna, Metamorphosis

Chrysalis

It’s been a hard year. Everyone I’ve spoken to has expressed that 2012 was a difficult year. I live in an area that was greatly affected by Superstorm Sandy, much of which is still struggling to rebuild, both physically and emotionally. While my home was not greatly damaged, I feel like I lost a large portion of my strength in that storm and every day I pick up a few more pieces. Prior to Sandy, though, I battled illness, lost a dear friend, and found myself facing some of my deepest fears. I feel like every last defense I had was broken down, leaving me completely exposed and vulnerable. And I know I’m not the only one who felt this way.

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Dear readers, 2012 has been a hard year. It’s okay to admit it, and it’s okay to stop fighting. Your energy is better used to transform the negative emotions, the pain, the feelings of weakness and uselessness into lessons learned–lessons about yourself, your coping mechanisms, your behavioral patterns, your surroundings. Reflect on those lessons and turn them into something useful, something you can apply to future situations and personal growth. You’ve made it this far: despite what you feel, you are very strong, and this will only make you stronger.

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2013 is hours away. With each passing moment, I’m more and more excited to welcome it. Things are all ready looking up: I write this under the supervision of a scaly new friend who reminds me every day of simple pleasures and the rewards of caring for another living creature. Khepri reminds me to cherish every moment spent with loved ones, because that opportunity is not always certain. Even the simplest moments–car rides, dinners, lounging, shopping–can become beautiful memories.

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Expect changes in this space. Changes to content, graphics, titles, everything. It’s been on my mind for a while, but I felt it too big an undertaking to start on while I was so emotionally unequipped to handle anything. But 2013 is rising, and it feels soothing. Hang in there. I will be.

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