On the price of peace


A text from London: “Have you heard, how are you feeling, wanted to check in on you, knew it would hit you hard.”

I haven’t heard. But now that I have, I’m fine. The impending death, current suffering of someone I’ve neither seen nor thought about in twenty, more, years doesn’t pain me.

Does it?

Should it?

The feelings come after: some shame and guilt at not joining the frenzy of concern, care and support for an old friend. Narcissistic concern that perhaps I am broken beyond repair. Why don’t I care?

Sometime around Christmas 2018, my world shrunk down to my three children, the sick one more than the others, and there was nothing left for anyone else.

The tank is still empty, there is no reserve, no extra space in my emotional bandwidth.

And I’m not sure that this is a bad thing.


Person I can’t wait to get away from: Well, this was lovely. I hope I get the chance to dance with you under the stars.

You won’t. Jesus. Were you at the same date I was? I can’t wait to get away. In the 45 minutes that it took me to finish my matcha latte, the person sitting opposite me found it necessary to tell me that I should take yoga, have my hormones checked, drink less caffeine, teach my parents better communication skills, stop throwing money away by renting, embrace minimalism, get out of my neighbourhood more, be less guarded and be more open to manifesting what I want in life.

I focus on manifesting a quick end to the date and debate if I should complete the circle of unsolicited advice by explaining to him why he is single and will probably die alone, albeit while doing yoga and not drinking caffeine.

I don’t.

I actually love dating in my (so very late) 40s. I’m confident, experienced, uninvested in the end result and while I’m perhaps not sure what I want – after all, life offers almost infinite variety – I’m crystal clear on what I don’t want.

Don’t want that.

Do you?


I am not as unaffected by the news of my old friend’s ill health as I initially think. I had loved him once. If 30 years ago – even 20 – he had needed one of my kidneys, I would not have hesitated.

The grief comes in dreams and nightmares. I mourn in my sleep.

When I wake up, my world contracts and focuses again: Flora. Ender. Cinder. More or less in that order. Even though Ender is the youngest, it is still Flora’s life that is most fragile.

With all three of them, the prevalent, daily worry: am I short-changing them? Am I giving enough? 

Flora, Ender, Cinder. Writing. Work.


I used to be able to give other people, friends and strangers, more. Something. I remember that person and I value her.

I would like to be her again.

And perhaps I will be.

But not yet.


My lover is far away right now and I miss them and I miss the person I am when I am with them. They see in me a person capable of kindness and love and compassion. They think I love enough. It’s a nice, comforting feeling.


I compose a text: “Hey. It’s Jane. I just heard. Much love.”

So lame. Not enough. What’s the point?

I don’t press send.


Mondays and Tuesdays, I aim for a 6:30 start at work so that I can log off at 2:30 guilt-free and go pick up Ender from school. I could outsource the school pick up to a classmate’s mother or to my own but that 20 minutes in the car, side by side, is precious. I get the fresh memories from the school day, I get to be there while he processes the day. Then we do homework – I occasionally work a little bit more in-between relearning algebra, trigonometry and grade eight science.

Until last month, Mondays and Wednesdays, instead of lunch, I’d drive Flora to her Chem 30 class, also for that 20 minutes of precious time in the car.

Wednesdays and Fridays, I drive Cinder to the train station at 6:45 to shave an hour off his commute to school. We don’t talk much, because it’s early in the morning and we’re both cranky and sleepy. But it’s something.

Wednesdays and Fridays, I work from home so Ender and I can keep on unschooling. Thursdays, a long day in the office to make up for my scattered professional attention on Wednesday-Friday.

Tuesdays and Fridays, I take care of my spine by letting Pilates instructors torture me.

Thursdays, Fridays and Sundays, the kids and I eat supper together, sometimes watch movies or play board games. I try to cook. These days, Flora and I spend Sundays meal planning, shopping and cooking something fancy.

Saturday nights, I walk or drive Flora to her D&D game (campaign? Meeting?) I have learned that “did you win?” is not the right question to ask when I go to pick her up at midnight. Recently, one of her fellow campaigners drives her home. I should be grateful, but I’m not, not really.

I’m hyper-aware there aren’t a lot of those Saturday nights, Sunday afternoons left.

It’s all borrowed time.

I write in the mornings, before I do anything else, cardamom flavoured coffee beside me. It’s not enough: I need to return to the habit of writing mid-day and in the evening. But neither the stories nor the deadlines are urgent right now. The ordinary time with my children –  and the time it sometimes takes to recover from it –  is.


Text from London: “Are you all right? You sound burdened.”

I’m not. I’m actually, on the whole, the happiest I have been in years, decades. I haven’t been inside a hospital in forever. I know exactly how I’m going to pay the rent – so long as my landlord doesn’t get greedy (or desperate) and decides to raise it. I go to sleep at 8:45 so I can wake up and write at 5. Sometimes, on Friday and Saturday nights –  Tuesdays in the summer –  I dance, sometimes, I go out for dinner or coffee or dates. Through it all, my priorities, my purpose are all crystal clear.

I’m at peace.

But empty.

That can be a thing.


I type out a text: “Hey. It’s Jane. I’ve just heard. Thinking of you. Realize nothing one can do or say that’s helpful… just thinking of you and sending love.”

I press send.

It’s so lame.

It’s not enough.

It’s something.

My heart aches.

It’s not enough –  I’m empty –  I’m at peace.



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