The last few Christmases I’ve been approaching the holiday with a theme in mind which streamlines my search process. This year my theme has been books. Nearly everyone on my list will be receiving a book of some kind. During one of my many trips to the bookstore, I was flipping through a cooking/lifestyle hybrid (one of the many variations of Goop) where the author was encouraging the reader to treat suppertime as a ritual. It sounded so great when I was reading it, like cooking would be this warm and relaxing activity to look forward to at the end of every day. Unfortunately during the weekdays, by the time I get home, knock all the snow off my boots, and let my glasses defog, I’m relieved to be home and exceptionally unmotivated. When I am preparing food, it doesn’t feel soothing and affirming. Instead my back hurts and my eyes burn from chopping an onion while I use as little dishes possible to minimize cleanup. I always thought of it more as the weekday routine which is a very different perspective. After thinking about it some more, I think it comes down to mindfulness. While preparing a meal, if you consider the ingredients, the method, and ultimately the reason you’re making yourself food, it gives the task a greater purpose. When we actually take the time to think that we are nourishing ourselves, it takes on a greater purpose. And it is important. At this time of year, we aren’t getting much sun, it’s cold, and the holiday season can be emotionally difficult for some people. It’s at these times it becomes so important to actively take part in self-care and that includes diet. It really is surprising how a change of perspective can impact your approach to daily things.
Once I started thinking about rituals, I started thinking about how important they are during the holidays. Before Christmas, I watch the same three movies. I decorate a real tree, which this year, the cat knocked over. Another big one is that usually our family has a meatless Christmas Eve. On a community level, Winnipeg has a ton of holiday rituals. The Santa Claus Parade is what typically kicks the season off in Winnipeg. I’ve never actually attended, but I have gotten stuck in the resulting traffic more than once which is all part of the experience. The Nutcracker at the RWB is wonderful and what makes it so special (to me) is how its set in a house on Wellington Crescent. The Canad Inns Winter Wonderland has a beautiful display. The nice thing about that one is that you can enjoy it from the car if it’s frigid out, which happens. This year I want to go for a drive through the Linden Woods neighbourhood because a co-worker told me that certain streets will create a theme and go all out in decorating their houses. And of course, everyone’s favorite: the first snowfall. Although not holiday-themed, the first snowfall is a classic Winnipeg ritual where everyone grumbles about everybody else forgetting how to drive in the snow. No matter what, it’s always a disaster. On the bright side, for office workers, it also ends up being a pretty relaxed workday because half the office doesn’t show up, and the other half shows up late and leaves early. Possibly not so much for health care workers (as people slip and hurt themselves) and the snow clearing crew. No matter what though, we all know what we’re in for.
No matter what your rituals are, it’s important to not just go through the motions. At this time of year especially, it’s important to stop and remember the why.
I’ve always been an indecisive person. Yesterday when I was leaving the house, I was trying to decide what shoes to wear, and I suggested a pair to Mike who made a non-committal comment. I was second-guessing myself when I realized what I was doing. Sometimes it makes sense to get a second opinion, like if you’re coordinating colours or a doctor says they need to amputate a limb. In this case however, I was deciding what shoes to wear to drive to my girlfriend’s house. Most people don’t decide, they just put on whatever shoes are handy and go. It can be frustrating on a daily basis when for example I get overwhelmed by menu options. It can be crippling when I freeze with uncertainty. I hate choosing when it impacts other people. If forced into making a decision, I need reassurances. If I walk into the restaurant first and have to choose the table, once we sit down, I’ll ask “Are you sure this is okay?” “Is there a draft?” “Do you wish we had chosen to sit by the window?” It’s irritating for me and for other people and can end up ruining my own enjoyment because I’m fretting the entire time.
Sometimes it seems like Winnipeg’s has a similar problem. We are the opposite of Star Trek, tentatively remaining where everyone has already been. We look to other cities, admiring their ideas and initiatives and agree that we should plan for the future. So we think about it. And think about it. And study it. And think about it some more. City council was debating light rail transit in the 1970s. Fifty years later, we continue to talk about how great it would be except that we (still) can’t afford it. Instead of accepting Bus Rapid Transit, City Hall orders study after study of rapid transit systems. Glen Murray commits to bus rapid transit, secures funding and then leaves office. This in turn allows Sam Katz to be elected and he scraps the plan. More studies are ordered. 8 years later, the first BRT corridor opens. Over 50 years worth of hemming and hawing and we have one BRT corridor to show for it. Of course in a political system, it’s not as easy as one person coming in and Making an executive decision. There are negotiations, compromises and trade-offs. These are big decisions with price tags and public opinion polls attached to them. The problem is that this is not unchartered territory. Rapid transit isn’t new. We have studies out the wazoo on this. Despite our best efforts, we’re slowly developing a BRT system.
The next controversial issue that we can look forward to agonizing over is reopening Portage and Main to pedestrians. When pedestrians were banned from the intersection in the 70s, a study concluded that Portage & Main was no longer viable to both pedestrians and cars. I wasn’t able to find detailed information, but I assume the study results were based on how the intersection was structured at the time, without taking into consideration alternative changes such scramble intersection. Ultimately, the city closed the intersection as part of a deal with a developer. An indoor pedestrian walkway was dreamt of as a way for Winnipeggers to be able to comfortably walk around downtown without worrying about losing a finger or a toe to frostbite. Apparently the original proposal was a pedestrian walkway above Portage and Main which is fun to imagine. The original proposal was rejected and the project became an underground walkway resembling a wheel. In exchange for the developer to build the underground structure, the city promised to keep the intersection closed for 50 years to ensure pedestrian traffic in the shops. This was a very expensive undertaking which is why the city committed to closing the intersection for so long. 37 years later, now that we take our underground walkway for granted; removing the barricades is our new dream. Things have changed. I’m not sure that in the 1970’s, the city thought our downtown would suffer so badly. They didn’t know we would be struggling to solve an urban sprawl problem. Maybe they thought transportation would have evolved into something completely new. Back to the Future 2 would be released ten years later and showcased hover boards in 2015. Anything was possible in the new millennium.
Of course, we’re all Winnipeggers at heart so while downtown changed, we haven’t. In 2015, City Hall commissioned a study to examine the issue. The results of the study should be presented to City Council sometime in 2017 so brace yourselves, this conversation is just getting started.