End of a Nine-Month Cycle

Data FileVery good news came along late this week at work, where I learned that my job is being realigned. Ostensibly, the rationale is to take advantage of the fact that I speak French, so whenever I go on vacation or if ever I’m sick (which has has rarely happened), everyone won’t be left scrambling to find a way of helping out francophone clients. Now I’ve been teamed up with another bilingual guy so we can work off each other. And the trade off is that I’ll be doing more than just client training, like helping clients to test data files and resolve “escalated” issues.

But better still — and I think that goes for everyone involved — I’ll be reporting to my previous supervisor with whom I get along immensely better than the one to whom I’ve been reporting for the last nine months.

It goes to show that perseverance (in the form of riding out a storm or a bad stretch) really does pay off. I also learned more in the last nine months about office politics and, yes, about myself. Both my strength and weakness is that I’m very trusting and always assume the best in people. That’s true in both my personal and professional life. On the one hand that’s good in that I care about much more than just my self interest; on the other hand, though, that’s bad because I’m invariably the last one to figure out that I’m being used or stabbed in the back. In that sense, I’m a lot like my father who couldn’t comprehend why there’s so much evil in our world.

Five years ago when I turned 40, I vowed not to accumulate regrets. In that time, I’ve made some good and bad decisions, and I’ve had some good and bad incidents fall upon me. But in the spirit of not accumulating regrets, I choose to look back only to draw lessons from those experiences and forge ahead, not to get stuck in the past and wallow in the what-ifs and could-have-beens. Because despite the ups and downs, I recognize that I still have far more to be grateful for than I have to regret.

A Queen, A Saint, and An Oratory

So what’s a city to do now that it has its very own saint?

Oratoire Saint Joseph
Saint Frère André Queen Mary of Teck

Pictured above are Saint Joseph’s Oratory (L’Oratoire Saint Joseph), Canada’s largest church founded by the now-sainted Frère André, which is located one block east of where I live on Chemin Queen-Mary, named so in 1910 after the queen-consort of then-reigning King Edward V.

Since the canonization of Alfred Bessette (a.k.a. Saint André de Montréal) last weekend, many have come forward with the suggestion of renaming Queen Mary Road Chemin du Saint-Frère-André. Privately, well before I even heard this suggestion, I had thought this change imminent. The problem as I see it, though, is that there are already a Rue du Frère-André and, moreover, a Chemin du Frère-André just off the oratory ground.

Merely adding “Saint” to Frère André for the renamed Queen Mary Road would exacerbate the already messy toponymy of my adopted home of Montréal. It took me a while to figure out that MANY are the streets that are non-continuous in this town. It’s little wonder non-Montrealers claim that they always get lost in and around Montréal!

For instance, Avenue de l’Hôtel de Ville and Rue de Bullion both stop at or near Saint-Catherine to restart further “north” at Ontario — the angle of the Island of Montréal is such that north is resolutely west-northwest but is called “north” to signify “north of the Saint Lawrence River” — while a whole whack of north-south streets from Rue Hutchison on the “east” to Avenue Stuart on the “west” get interupted by a mess of train tracks and wouldn’t come close to aligning even if they weren’t interrupted! Similarly, in the last year I discovered that a new short dead-end street off Rue Dickson far to the east is simply named Rue Ontario Est since it would align with that street if it weren’t for the one-KILOMETRE separation caused by more train tracks and a field of factories. And the highway numbering system in the metropolitan area is no better: the official Trans-Canada Highway comes in as Autoroute 40 in the west, turns to Autoroute 25 (requiring a formal exit from the 40) through the Louis-Hippolyte Lafontaine Bridge-Tunnel, but automatically turns to Autoroute 20 at the end of tunnel on the south side of the Saint Lawrence River.

But coming back to the Frère André versus Queen Mary question……

I tend to agree that the thoroughfare on which the oratory is located ought to be renamed after Québec’s one and only saint, while the existing minor streets already bearing his name should also be renamed to avoid confusion. However, the point at which my support wanes is when I read the arguments in favour by arrogant francophones like Gilles Proulx, who believe that it would be a much-needed antidote to Montréal’s “toponymie trop anglaise et, souvent, ridiculement britannique” (too-English and, often, ridiculously British toponymy). Proulx goes so far as offhandedly remark that he hopes les Anglosne rouspéteront pas trop” (won’t annoyingly oppose too much) renaming the thoroughfare from that old, long-dead ENGLISH queen to that even-older, even-longer-dead simple man of a Québécois who just got sainted, as they did when they successfully opposed the renaming of Avenue du Parc (Park Avenue) to Avenue Robert-Bourassa back in 2006.

I’m fucking French down to my marrow and I’m damned proud of it. But maybe because, unlike most Québécois, I actually grew up and lived most of my life outside Québec, I don’t feel the least bit threatened by les Anglos. Not only do I not see the need to brandish such nationalistic arguments, but I also think it’s disingenous to do so because it only opens up for all to see (and deride) that great big insecurity the Québécois hold about the richness and vibrancy of their culture. The pep talk has been going on for at least 50 friggin’ years, and you know what? We all get it already!

The mere fact the oratory this saint has founded is located on the street is sufficient argument, thank you very much. Don’t go lace it with a bunch of other crap. But it should also be kept in mind that, although Saint André de Montréal may be credited with a bunch of miracles, he is also remembered as a very simple and quasi illiterate man. I can understand why the “simple people of Québec” find that attribute equally inspiring, but it also, regrettably, plays into the “small” side of Québec that is often at the source of this people’s insecurity.

Ambivalences

I do love Montréal, and I am grateful to have a very good friend here in Cleopatrick, but as I mentioned to him recently, I wonder if it’s normal that, after two-and-a-half years in town, I haven’t made any new friends and he pretty well remains the only friend I have here.

Certainly there are a few factors to consider. First and foremost, although I work for a huge company, I work at home. I have very little in-person interaction with my colleagues. In truth, I could never imagine myself having to report to work inside some cubicle jungle in a downtown office tower. My productivity would plummet if I had to do that. However, this arrangement does cut into my chances of finding colleagues who could also become friends outside work.

Second, I may have been underestimating the impact of breaking up. Frankly, in the first few months that followed it, the overwhelming feelings I had were either of relief or thinking I had dodged what could have been a fatal bullet. But despite more time passing, I still get little flashbacks, almost daily, to pivotal moments that accumulated and accumulated and finally led me to the breaking point — that devastating realization that I was losing my soul, felt hollowed out, and on the verge of wanting to either scream or cry or both each morning as I stood in the shower. I still can’t come up with a plausible answer to that one, singular question: Beyond the obvious statement that love is blind, how and why did I let it all happen while very deliberately ignoring all the signs — some subtle, others obvious, and many just plain ugly and frightening — that normally would have sent me running the other way?

I think this second factor, juxtaposed with the first, is significant on many levels as I think about how I’ve been “behaving” when meeting and speaking with people casually, and how they, in turn, respond or react to me. I notice that if there’s the least bit of a connection, I completely dive into animated conversation as if I’m trying to quench a thirst following a long journey in the desert. Yet, at the same time, I recognize in that behaviour the “old” me that was temporarily lost. But then that contact almost invariably concludes with sincere words expressing a mutual interest in getting back in touch again later …and those intentions never materialize.

In part, the cards quickly get all messy by stated or denied ulterior motives. You know… You start thinking, “Is this person a [A] potential social friend, [B] “friend with benefits,” or [C] perhaps even more? What do I want?” Some of you might think that, at this point of my life, I’m still feeling too burnt by a Possibility C that I wouldn’t want another one, and you would be right …except, not necessarily for the reasons you may be thinking. For you see, I remember all too well how, no more than a year before I opted for C and took it to the maximum, I was convinced I would never consider anything more than a B. Today, I’m thinking I may have been right back then; however, at the same time, I keep my mind and heart open just enough to consider that a C is not only possible, but could be successful this time. I’m just not actively looking for it, and I won’t be shattered if it doesn’t come.

Cognitively, I recognize signs that may prevent a C from coming along. For one, I have a brother who is equally work-identified as I am and who, like me, can’t do otherwise. We can turn it all off and go on vacation, but when we get back, we fall right back into it. He was able to make his C work because she “allowed” him, didn’t resent that part of him and found her own interests to pursue, but not everyone can do as she does. Second, sometimes, when I do turn it all off, I can turn all Greta Garbo and I just want to be alone — pretty much as I’ve been for the past month after work. It can’t be easy for a C to live with that and not immediately think that C is somehow at fault and is being shut out. But I have always needed periods of solitude, and I can’t imagine that ever changing, either. And finally, I’m pretty sure I’m not capable of monogamy. There was a mutual agreement on this point with whom I thought was going to be my C for life, so we didn’t exclude playing together. I can’t imagine it would be easy to meet another C who feels the same way on that issue.

I guess that this year, after turning 45, I really started to think about where everything is heading — where I want to go and what I want to do. The only constant I can find right now is that I plan to stick to my job come hell or high water due to the belief that this really is only a bad phase. But for everything else, right down to where I’m living in Montréal, I draw a blank.

A Short Resurrection

Not that I’ve been dead, but you could be forgiven to have thought that I was. Certainly I let this poor blog die once again: only one measly post last month, and here we are in October already!

The good news these days is that I’m on vacation again — this time until the 13th — and I’m leaving tomorrow morning for Moncton, then Halifax. Although I’m told the leaves haven’t really begun to change in the southern Maritimes, they’re almost at their best throughout most of Québec, so the scenery as I’ll be driving tomorrow should be gorgeous. As much as I love Montréal, it will be nice to get away for a few days to see my mom and friends, as well as to clear my head and avoid doing computer stuff I shouldn’t be doing while on vacation. I still have to get the laundry done before leaving, and hope I’ll fall asleep at a decent hour before tomorrow’s 11-hour-or-so drive to Moncton.

Work is the main reason I haven’t been blogging lately. I’ve been productive and completing every task expected of me and then some. But it’s clear that, work wise, I’ll remember 2010 as the year my morale towards work took a massive nosedive. The sad part is that all it took to poison the well is shuffling one person into one position. But being work-identified as I am, I’ve been recoiling socially most of the time I haven’t been working.

Except that may be only one aspect of this anti-socia turn. I wonder if also……