art

Asher Penn: Producer of Maggie Lee’s Documentary Mommy

I love watching documentaries but sometimes it can be hard to find ones that are exciting, interesting, and that tell really personal stories. I believe there’s lots of them out there, I just don’t always know where to find them.

If you’re a docu-film-fan like myself, please watch Maggie Lee’s MOMMY (click here for a link to rent or purchase the film on Vimeo–it’s worth it! I spent $15 to see it tonight at The Cinematheque–my first time seeing a film there–and it was worth every penny).

The movie is 55 minutes long. Mommy involves Maggie Lee telling the story of her mother’s life as well as her own, and letting us see what Maggie Lee experiences in the aftermath of her mother’s death. The film is funny and honest. It is also sad, touching, and heartbreaking. It made me feel a lot of things and it made me reflect on my own relationship with my mom, because I can’t imagine what I’d do if my mother died suddenly.

This film is unique from many other documentaries that I’ve seen in that it has beautiful, vibrant visuals: words, drawings, colours, flashing lights and other artistic creations that make Mommy that much more engaging and gorgeous to watch (Maggie Lee is a successful artist so these touches make sense). As well, I want the soundtrack to the film (at the Q and A after it we were told it’s on Spotify). The music was energizing, painful, and fun. The movie is so much more than just a few things, and the many things it is are superb. I have a short attention span, but this film held my focus throughout. I love Maggie Lee and how vulnerable she was in letting the viewer see what she went through after losing her mother.

Mommy was so easy to watch and the film sped by too quickly–I wished there was more!

After the viewing, I talked to Asher Penn who produced and took part in the creation of the film with Maggie Lee. Asher is currently working on a documentary about Gabor Mate. Watching film to overcome feeling like a freak or an outsider is something Asher suggests doing: I agree!

Socially Awkward and Sober

img_8601

It’s been close to 8 years since I’ve drank alcohol. I’m an alcoholic and as such I choose to abstain from alcohol because, for a variety of reasons, I was never able to “handle my alcohol” and often ended up making a fool of myself while in a blackout state.

I don’t want to drink again. I don’t like the taste of alcohol, so I don’t miss alcohol. I think I abused it in part because of how damn socially awkward I am, not because wine is delicious or anything like that.

As a kid I was really confident, outgoing, and never thought twice about what I was going to say or do. For most of elementary school I was popular, but as puberty hit my confidence plummeted. I had a strict mother, so flirting or dating boys was something I was taught not to do, and that affected my social status. By grade 7 how sexy a girl was started to become what the boys were interested in, and so since I didn’t look or act sexy my social stock was weak and I felt like a loser.

Anyways, by the time I hit high school I was full on uncool. I remain that way to this day. I didn’t have my first kiss until I was 18 years old. Due to my negative relationship with alcohol via how I saw it affect my father (he went to rehab multiple times during my childhood and struggled to stay sober) I took the perspective that I would never drink. Then one day when I was 19 my impulsive brain changed its mind and I decided I wanted to drink.

img_8482

I thought I’d throw this in because I love this pic of myself.

The first night I drank I got totally out of control, which lead to my house getting trashed during a party, and the cops getting called. My mother and sister hated me when they came home from Toronto the next morning to find their home in quite a different state than they’d left it the day before.

I could only remember bits and pieces of my first night drinking and that night was definitely an indication of how almost all of my future drinking experiences would unfold.

The thing is I have a lot inside of me that I’d like to let free. For example, by dancing like a ma-ni-ac. But since I was uncool and didn’t feel confident, I was incapable during my early 20s of letting myself go wild while sober (for the most part I’m still incapable of doing this in front of anyone who isn’t a close friend or my boyfriend). Also, since I viewed most other people as more attractive than myself, anytime I was in a party or social environment with any people who weren’t close friends I immediately started drinking copious amounts to try to help myself relax and feel more comfortable around the people I was intimidated by.

Then I’d act a fool and feel very ashamed the next day. Then I’d feel even more self-conscious and nervous the next time I entered a social environment, especially if the same people I’d been blackout drunk of in front of before were there, so the cycle would continue and the need to use alcohol as a social lubricant, or more appropriately social flood, carried on.

Eventually, I reached my breaking point and was able to admit to myself that I was an alcoholic and the only way to ensure that I didn’t get super drunk ever again was by stopping drinking entirely.

The plan worked because I haven’t had another drink of alcohol since I quit at age 24. I still continued to have an addiction to marijuana that only came to an end 2 years ago, so it’s not to say I  abstained from drugs after I quit drinking, but I didn’t have a substance to rely on that took away from my self-consciousness and stopped my incessant stressed-out internal dialogue like I did with alcohol.

I think I thought that the longer I was sober I would suddenly become relaxed and totally at ease when going to a party or meeting new people.

But that hasn’t been the case. I still feel minor levels of panic when entering a party or entering situations where I don’t know the people. It might not seem like that on the surface because my approach is to push on through and be openly friendly and enthusiastic, but I’m usually feeling a lot of fear at the same time.

One thing I was able to overcome 2 years ago was my fear of dancing in public. Now I’m able to go out to clubs sober with other people or alone and dance my heart out.

It’s the social situations with groups of people that still really freak me out.

Part of this is because I am definitely not a “chilled out” person. I’ve got A LOT of energy, which is both a gift and a curse. What sucks is when I’m around people either at a new job or at a party and someone tells me to “chill out”, “relax”, “don’t be nervous”, “don’t let them see your fear” (this last one was told to me by a work supervisor before I started to teach a new, high-level class and it immediately caused my stress level to spike because it indicates that I am showing my fear and somehow need to make it immediately disappear–not possible). Also, before I was okay with dancing sober it used to make me so uncomfortable when I wouldn’t be dancing and the dancing king or queen who seems to have no fear of dancing in public (but I also noticed the only people who ever tried to force me to dance when I wasn’t up to it were drinking themselves…coincidence? I think not.) would point me out and try to get me to dance.

Ahhhh…I would wonder, “Can’t you see I’m incredibly self conscious? Everyone isn’t a social butterfly like you…please leave me alone so I don’t feel even more weird than I already do”. I don’t think anyone had bad intentions in these situations–they’re enjoying themselves and probably just want me to enjoy myself in the same way they are–but it only lead for me to feel even more like a sober loser who is way too uptight and not easygoing like everyone else.

My body language is rigid, and I know that. I never know what to do with my hands. For example, I took a counselling course at UBC this summer. We had to videotape ourselves with a “client” (another classmate) and practice being a “counsellor” and critique how we moved and spoke and then receive feedback from the instructor about the same things. One of the first things my instructor focused in on during my first critique (thankfully I was able to greatly improve and “lean in” more by the last assignment) was how my body language was awkward and closed-off. I wasn’t surprised. I know that this is the way I appear to others and it was a minor consolation to have my instructor confirm this, because at least it shows my perception is not all in my head.

The point I’ve reached now though is I’m no longer entering situations like this and constantly repeating “relax” over and over to try to seem calm. I am hyper. I do have an excess of energy that doesn’t always flow out of me in a perfectly dispersed way. My body isn’t free-flowing and that’s OKAY.

I’m sober and I’m a socially awkward geek. I am who I am and I’m happy to have reached the point where I’m no longer trying to be something I’m not. Oh, and when it comes to the supposedly chilled-out people who have told me to slow my roll, are they really all that chill themselves if they’re telling someone else how they need to behave when I was just doing my own thing?

Peace!

Sydney Knows A Thing Or Two About Freaks: FREAKAGENT.com

IMG_3954

On this gloriously sunny New Years Eve day, I got shut-down by the first five people I asked to interview for VANISREAL.com. Thankfully, I continued to search, and I kept walking around looking for an interview subject. When I saw Sydney Gregoire, I thought her unconventional style was interesting and attractive, so I asked her if I could interview her.

The beautiful Sydney agreed. When I told her that my second question is, “If you’ve ever felt like a freak or an outsider, what helped you through it?”, she informed me that she owns an agency called FREAK (amazing) for local artists, and DJs. The website for the agency is FREAKAGENT.com.

As they say, great minds think alike!

These are some of the things Sydney said:

“I think meeting other freaks and outsiders in the city is probably the way to feel most normal in Vancouver, I think. There’s a lot of fun, creative people over here, so it’s nice.”

“I do actually run an agency called FREAK. It has local artists, visual artists, DJs, that sort of thing, so it’s all like the weirdos in the city. We get together and kind of make art together.”

Thanks to Sydney…it felt really nice to not feel like a freak while asking people if they’ve ever felt like a freak or an outsider (if that makes any sense)!

 

 

 

Victoria, Hiro, and Shlomo Think They’re Freaks and Outsiders…But It’s OK Because We All Are: I Agree!

IMG_3182

                  l to r: Victoria, Hiro, and Shlomo

I asked my usual 2 questions today, and the responses I got to the second one (If you’ve ever felt like a freak or an outsider, what has helped/is helping you through it?) was met with some invigorating responses.

Victoria said what’s helped her is, “The fact that everybody else is an outsider too. So we’re all from somewhere and that’s helped me.”

“We agree that it’s [Vancouver I’m assuming] a place for freaks, and that’s why we like it so much!”-Hiro

And to finish it all off Shlomo added, “Freak right out!” 

 

Oh, To Be Young Again

IMG_0073

(l to r: Brie, Austin, and Spec 187)

Ran into these youngsters on Main Street today (one of whom happens to be my neighbour-the tall guy with the hat) and they were gracious enough to let me interview them. Thanks to Spec 187, Brie, and Austin! I love their enthusiasm. It is infectious!

If you’ve ever felt like a freak or an outsider, what’s helped you through it? “I don’t know that I’m through it.”

I asked Josh the usual questions on Main Street in Vancouver today, and I was very entertained by his responses. I love it when people speak the truth, even if it involves them being vulnerable in order to do so. Josh definitely opened-up in a hilarious and honest way.

When I asked, “If you’ve ever felt like a freak or an outsider, what helped you through it?” His answer was, “Huh…I don’t know that I’m through it.

IMG_9920

I love that answer! I also often still feel like a freak or an outsider, and while that feeling is not permanent,  I don’t know if I’ll ever stop feeling awkward and weird some of the time.

Josh then went on to say, “I think that you can go in and out of stages of comfortability, you know, but I think that what gets me out of anything is just sort of the knowledge that I’m going to be OK. You know I like just sort of look at my past and figure out, have I got through shit before? And it’s like, yeah. Am I gong to get through this next shit? Yeah.

Being A Freak And An Outsider Can Be Freeing!

“Yes, I always feel like a freak, like an outsider. But again, at the same time it’s a very safe place to be, an outsider, actually, you have the freedom to be yourself and no one is going to come and tell you to stop being this.”-Patty 

Patty loves Vancouver...and she understands the sense of freedom that comes from refusing to fit in!

Patty loves Vancouver…and she understands the sense of freedom that comes from refusing to fit in!

Patty answers my usual questions:

1) What do you love about Vancouver?

2) If you have felt like a freak or an outsider, what helped you through it?