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Archive for March, 2009

Blah

After work on a Thursday night. Meg’s out of town for union meetings, Mica’s finished her math homework, and I’m sitting back on the couch with  a pot of chicken-coconut-peanut curry in my belly and the Donnas’ ‘Smoking Cheeba’ playing.

Started the day demonstrating to a conflict resolution practioner how her ‘process’ was in fact all about conflict, and amounted to little more than a first step towards discipline, a way for university bosses to silence their critics by other means. Ended the day in a two hour soul-eating meeting that accomplished absolutely nothing.

Living in boxes these days, as our move is just two weeks away now and the packing process well-underway. Stacks of books, stacks of items to be given away or donated somewhere.

It all adds up to a feeling of nothingness, an emptiness to my core. Not a bad feeling. Nothing negative to articulate. Nothing troubling to reflect upon. Just a dead, unfeeling place I’m in at the moment.

Drag. Cause the last while has been so fucking good, with some new adventures with Meg, lots of home-planning excitement, much love and appreciation for one another. And some good times with Mica, too, getting some game-playing, baking, cooking, talking, hanging out time in.

Today, though, I just feel  blah, like I can’t muster energy for or interest in anything at all.

Yeah. One of those.

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It is nearing the end of March. A few short days from the 18 month mark for Megan and I. A few short weeks from our new home together. And I am feeling so damn good about this girl and this relationship and this future we are building.

As we approach this new stage of our lives and of our life together, I’ve been thinking alot about the ways we build love and trust and closeness day by day. And I am so glad for the way things unfolded in this relationship, and continue to unfold. Meg wrote a couple of days ago about some of this, in her Open Love Letter that sure as hell made my day. She spoke of the birth of a new entity between us, love as a being of its own that has its own self, its own strrengths and vulnerabilities, and relationship-building as the nurturing of that entity above and beyond the individual persons. It’s a great image, and one that certainly resonates with me as a parent, as I imagine this being that is both of us and more than us and who we can either nurture or damage irrespective of what we think we are doing to ourselves.

So all this is in my mind as I count the days to a home that is ours together. And I think about the things that tend love. So often we talk about what brings us together, about the basic commonalities that make a relationship work. Common interests provide a basis for sharing daily activity. Some overlapping educational or professional histories provide the means to talk to one another rather than at one another about the ever-present mundane. Similar intelligences – emotional, psychological, whatever – make it just that much easier to communicate easily and effectively with one another. Shared life rhythms – from natural wake-up times to how one cooks and maintains a home – make the adjustment to shared space that much less contentious.

And all of this is true. All of this is important. All of this can make the difference between two lovers who find it easy to establish a shared life and two lovers who find it more challenging. We’ve talked about this alot, Meg and I, as we continue to discover how our similar patterns and similar assumptions somehow fit easily, so things that have in other relationships caused tension or reuired negotiation here just fall into place rather easily.

But that’s the basis. That’s the foundation. And while that is a necessary pre-requisite to a shared life, it is not necessarily sufficient. What is it that keeps things good? What is it that keeps a love vibrant and real? What is it that reminds us, every day, that this is the right place to be?

I don’t know the answer. But I guess for me it has alot to do with the little things, the little touches, the everyday gestures that seem insignificant in and of themselves but which over time can make all the difference.

Baths together every couple of days. Regular massages and times for touching. Lots of  ‘I love yous’. Moments taken to stop, slow down, and just look each other in the eye. A few minutes at the end of each day to read to one another before drifting off to sleep.

These are small things. These are no great effort. But because of that, they are so easily forgotten. And it seems to me that it is in these little gestures, these hardly noticeable moments, that love and intimacy are continually renewed. It seems to me that it is these little things that ensure we fall asleep and wake up each day knowing that we are loved. It is these little things that make sure that the routine of daily life together emphasizes the together over the routine.

Yeah. I’m a sap. Yeah, no one really needs to read this stuff. But so what? It’s what’s on my mind, and it’s good.

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Some days the realities of work appear in all their nakedness.

Far as jobs go, mine ain’t all that bad. I mean, I generally get treated relatively well, I make a good wage, I get benefits and lots of vacation time, and I have the flexibility in scheduling to facilitate the demands of parenting. On top of that, I work for a union, so much of what I do is stuff I believe is important, and never do I have the concern that my labour is lining the pockets of some vicious corporate entity.

Still.

Working for unions involves its own collection of compromises. Some are general – y’know, unions are part of the labout relations regime, they are organizations that ultimately serve organizational interest rather than class interest, they are full of all the contradictions of any formal leftist group, and more than their share of compromise and sell-out. Not the union I work for, in particular – but all unions, by their nature, by virtue of what they are and the history of struggle and conflict and sell-out on which “the union” is based.

But all of that I deal with on an ongoing basis. All of that is par for the course, and common among union staffers the world over – and among union members and elected reps, too. Sometimes, however, the conflict between supporting worker struggle and representing workers in a legal process just smacks you right in the face.

Here’s today:

a group of part-time, non-tenured faculty who have collectively organized to push the university to fund more stable, more permanent positions. They did this on their own, because the union has no collective agreement language to help them. They organized, they fought, they won.

but in winning? Aha, there’s the rub. The employer gives them some of what they want. Comes up with some money and some proposals to address the concern, but not enough to fix matters for everyone. You part-timers want full-time stable work? OK. But there’s X numbers of you, and we’ll make Y numbers of positions. Solidarity put to the test, as is always the case in these scenarios.

so here’s where I come in. Workers come to me, cause they want to stand together as a group, tell the employer to piss off until the matter is resolved for everyone. They want to go bigger, involve more people, cause some disruption, move to more colourful protest.

me personally? I love it. They are fired up, they are ready to fight, they have shown that a litle collective action can get movement from the most instransigent employer, and I am encouraged by this fire and want to see it build and spread.

me as union rep? I know it’s taken years to get to this point. I know that at some point they will push too hard and the employer will push back. I know that if the boss gets fed up and simply pulls the money, or gives it to someone else, I don’t have a damn thing in the union stable I can do about it.

Caution restraint, and take the little gain you’ve made, hoping to build on it later. That’s my job, and in practical terms it really is the most reasonable and safest response. To do otherwise would be at best risky, at worst irresponsible. But to send that message, I simultaneously must dissuade the group from its collective, autonomous action. And that is a hard thing for me to do.

The workers want to fight on, risk the loss just to build the movement for another day. I need to manage the risk, find the compromise, somehow keep them just engaged enough that the spark doesn’t die but with enough of a damper that we can control it, pull back into retreat as need be, make sure we hold onto the little gains that have been achieved.

So I sit here now, after they’ve left. I managed to find a few places to suggest they can still push while warning them about what’s to be lost if they move too fast or push too hard. And I think:

if those folks never came to ask my advice, we might just see a major confrontation here that could inspire others.

if those folks talked to me like a stranger on the street, I would’ve been a whole lot more encouraging, and may well have wanted to be a part of whatever action ensued  myself.

if I didn’t spend my days on the minituae of collective agreements and labour relations, I would speak far differently to a situation like this.

But I am a union rep. I do know the system well. I do find myself thinking in terms of written agreements and potential risks, and what the law would do with this case should it somehow get there. And I do speak to them from that place – indeed, that’s exactly why they sought me out.

Yeah. It’s  a union. The union thing is what I do. And that means compromise. That means providing the answers the union needs to give, not the answers I am inclined to give myself.

But if it came natural, and if I didnt have to face these issues, they wouldn’t have to pay me to do it.  That is the nature of work, after all.

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Finding Home

Holy fuck it’s been crazy. For months now I’ve been waiting for my house to sell so Meg and I can find a place of our own, a little house for she and I and Mica to make home. We had a quick offer, and the deal fell through. We waited and waited and did countless showings and felt like things would never happen and got super-stressed about the constant moving back and forth and being stuck with a home we didn’t want and couldn’t really afford. If only, we thought, this house would sell, all would be clear and easy.

Then, of course, my home finally did sell. And with a move-out date of April 22, we started to focus on finding a new place for ourselves. The one on Charles we had previously offered on had fallen through when someone else stepped up with  cash in hand, so we were back to hitting the pavement. Lots of open houses, lots of viewings, lots of trips to the bank to talk financing options. Finally found a place about 10 days ago that seemed to solve it all.

Long story. Meg’s written about it here so I won’t bother with a re-cap of my own. But basically the house was falling apart, the sellers hadn’t bothered to warn us or the realtors, and we spent $500 on an inspection that killed the deal in minutes.

Back to square one. And with all this stress, and the prospect of being out of my own home in short order and nowhere to go, we both got real tense rel quick. After a day or so of simple panic and anxiety, we finally worked through our parameters for the new home – Meg moved on neighbourhood boundaries, I moved on price limitations, and we checked the listings again.

Lo and behold, a whole lot of stress and a little compromise from both of us and we found yet another possibility. Raced off to view it, fell in love, offered that night. Made the deal, hit the bank yet again, organized a new inspection and now will be finally lifting subjects this evening. Yes, that’s right. We have a new home.

Cute little place, with some gorgeous features including an awesome mosaic in the downstairs bath and an incredible master bedroom complete with in-room soaker tub. Completely unfinished basement so we can fix it up to our own specifications without too  much difficulty. Mica loves it, I love it, Meg loves it. A great location, on one of East Van’s nicest and most quiet streets, walking distance from Mica’s mom, close to friends of Mica’s and friends of ours, and still only 15 minutes walk from the Drive, the WISE Club, and the delis and small grocers of Hastings Sunrise.

Yeah. Finally. And it’s fucking perfect.

Lots of stress still, as we spend the next few days racing from bankers to lawyers to realtors to get all the paperwork done. But we know, this time, that it is all coming together. Our financing is approved. Our deal is made. Our inspection was great. And we have a super-quick move-in date – April 11, meaning some fast work now to get organized but only a few short weeks til we start the home-building for real.

Stressed. Busy. But so so happy.

Here’s pics of the new digs.

Whew!

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