Pandemic Diary: On Day 23, like cabin fever but not

i.

As we finish week three and start week four of staying at home, I desperately need the sun to come out so that I can have my balcony available and so that my walks with the dogs are a pleasure and not a slog through a Viking Hell deepfreeze.

And then, I need a plan and routine for the next four weeks. That’s today’s task—to draw up routines, rhythms, and schedules.

I probably won’t follow them. But I like knowing that they’re there, and the very act of preparing them soothes me.

My to-do-list right now is substantial. I have outstanding marking and learning. Also, so much copy-editing, I can’t even. A set of galleys that should have been proofed yesterday. Also, taxes—thank you for the extension, Revenue Canada, but now I’m worried I’m going to do my taxes never—don’t you understand? I’m a freelance writer, I need deadlines!

And I also need the sun. I already said that.

And my alone time on the balcony.

ii.

I the evening, when the children are fed and I feel my tasks are in some kind of state of adequately pushed forward (or, I’ve accepted I will not get to them not today, I don’t want to), I begin the Covid19 Quarantine check-in on friends. I send some texts; as I do this, texts from others come in.

Some of my friends and loves don’t participate in this dance of connection and reassurance. They neither reinitiate nor respond. I check the news to make sure a 36-year-old mother of two is not among the dead. Nope, not this week. Good. I let them be.

You think I’m joking and I am, a little. But, after all, that is the purpose of our boring as all fuck texts. “I’m still here and me and mine are fine. You and yours?” “We’re here too.” We don’t use those precise words. “How are you holding up?” is probably my phrase of choice, although sometimes, I’ll just send, “Checking in…” or “Oooof.”

Sometimes, worded out, I send a link to a Youtube video, get a meme in return.

One of my loves has chosen to interpret self-isolation as a totally inward time—even by my standards—and there are no texts at all. Coping strategy, depression, or a self-created retreat in the middle of global chaos? Hard to know. Uncertainty makes all of us a little irrational. I try not to feel rejected—but, I do.

iii.

Another friend feels rejected because I’m unplugged from Facebook. “I miss your posts! I miss chatting!” she writes. I point out we still can. Privately. But we never have before—and, she doesn’t miss me enough to do that. Yet. She also feels rejected.

It’s all right. Weird times.

We are none of us rational.

iv.

Irrational, I extend my stay in bed  mostly because there is no one in the room with me.

Ponder silence. Isolation. Loneliness. Neither alone nor lonely, I am starting to feel disconnected. I need to hold your hand and hear her voice and see their face—and not as an image on my laptop screen.

I think—if I had spent three, four weeks—months—away from you in Cuba—I wouldn’t miss you. Not like this.

Irrational.

I yawn. Stretch.

Begin Week 4 by dragging myself out of bed.

Um. In another 15 minutes or so…

God, I need the sun to come out…

xoxo

“Jane”

Pandemic Diary: From one sanctimonious prick on a self-righteous soapbox to another

(not in any way an April’s Fool Day joke)
(not that it’s in the least bit funny)
(except for the video at the end)

i.

When all this started, one of my people called me a coronavirus denier. And perhaps I still am—not in the sense that I don’t think it’s real, but in the sense that I don’t understand numbers. I don’t understand the math, and at the moment, the cost of the solution—not just personally to me but, you know, globally, economically—is a bit… um… well. It’s a fucking high cost. Is it worth it?

Still. I do what I’m told. Stay home. Don’t touch things, don’t touch my face, don’t see my loves.

Talking to people who love people in Spain and Italy helps make it real.

Hearing the fear in my mother’s voice—she’s on the frontlines after all—makes it real too.

And my own inability to really comprehend what’s going on is keeping me humble… making me humble.

And that’s good.

The last thing the world needs right now is another sanctimonious prick pontificating from a self-righteous soapbox.

ii.

Child abuse and domestic violence rates are soaring, in Alberta, Canada, around the world—a fact that doesn’t need any explaining. For my children—even the two teenagers—this quarantine has been, so far, paradise.

(I know we’re not in quarantine, you sanctimonious prick pontificating from your self-righteous soapbox. The infected nursing homes are under quarantine. The uninfected ones are in lockdown. Returning travellers and people with even sniffles are in self-isolation. The rest of us are in an undefined limbo; might as well call it quarantine—don’t be a fucking pendant—I know it’s your way of dealing with the stress just as me yelling at you is mine, but come on. Polish some silverware or organize your stamp collection instead, please and thank you, fuck the fuck off.)

(You should actually all be very glad I’m in quarantine, by the way, and you can’t see me, cause I am hugely pissy this week. Also, trapped in paradise with my children…)

Ok, maybe paradise is too strong a word. I imagine Flora looking at me and rolling her eyes and giving me a list of all the things that suck in her life right now: no friends, no martial arts, no D&D games at the ‘Box. Nowhere to go, no one to see. But, from my unreliable point of view, her mental health is better than it has been in months, physical health ditto. She loves having her Dad at home—does her school work curled up in an armchair beside his makeshift home office. She’s finally getting enough rest—no guilt now about the mid-day two-hour naps her illness and med cocktail demand. The forced confinement has eliminated a lot of stressors—including, frankly, all the medical appointments. Necessary, but stressful and now—apparently, not that necessary, Mom and Dad can do all the things, cause, really, weren’t they doing 90 per cent of them before anyway?

(Not bitter, at all, but kind of wondering… at the end of this crisis, are we going to recognize what it is that parents, mothers actually do? As in, make the fucking world the go round? It’s ok, chill, I’m not getting on a soapbox—don’t want to be that sanctimonious prick.)

Anyway. A lot of the stressors are eliminated, and while so is her IRL social life—there are friends of Skype and group chats galore and a worldwide D&D community.

(If I were that sanctimonious prick who gets on that self-righteous soapbox—and, by the way, I know I was in the past, I am truly sorry—I’d tell today’s accidental homeschooling parents that now is not the time to limit your kids social media, for any reason. Stress on social. And before you do—whether as a punishment or in an attempt to get them to go outside—fuck, bitch, did you look outside and see the weather, why do you hate us, Mother Earth? never mind, don’t answer that, I know, sorry, sorry, sorry, really, you should just wipe us out and be done with it—look at how much texting, Facebooking, Zooming, Skyping and what-not you’re doing.)

In the kids’ paradise, we have been playing board games or card games almost every night—not all night, but for an hour or two. And it’s been a while since I’ve been able to make the five of us do something, anything together for a prolonged period of time. (That seven-year spread between kid one and kid three matters a lot in the teen years.) A while since I’ve particularly wanted to or had the energy to contrive anything difficult, fight the teenagers on anything non-life essential. Now, I put dinner on the table two or three times a week (come on, you didn’t think even a quarantine would make me do sit-down family dinners every night?) and, despite the fact that we’ve been cooped up in the house together all day, everyone sits down. Talks. Fights.

Plays games after.

Sean and the redheads watch movies together. Cinder comes out of his room to bother everyone… show us COVID19 memes and terrible, terrible jokes.

We walk the dogs, I make banana bread, Cinder makes cookies, Flora learns how to make cocktails (don’t tell Child Services).

Boring as all fuck, yes. It’s really all the kids need.

iii.

What do I need? At the moment, I still need more space and time. There is still too much to do. The second half of April will bring respite; what May will bring, nobody dares think.

What all of us need, though—the global we, not just my familial we—is the… ability? Permission? to see the current situation as fucking weird, not normal, unwelcome, frustrating—even as we do the best we can, and discover the occasional silver lining in this most unheroic, underwhelming suffering.

As I ponder the not-formal and fucking frustrating aspects of our current situation, I have a brief texting exchange with an acquaintance who is determined to look on the bright side of everything, including the corona quarantine. If I am—was—a coronavirus denier, she is a negativity denier. You’ve got a friend (or six) like that too, I’m sure. “Positive vibes only,” “When life hands you a lemon ask for another one, and make lemonade” types.

She is still living her best life, enjoying the ability to slow down and reflect on what’s really important to her, incredible period of self-growth bla bla bla bla bla—I terminate our exchange quickly.

“I’m glad that you are finding this such a wonderful time of personal growth. I’m gonna stay with the fear I have for my mother and my longing for more privacy and my wish for real time with my students and my painful desire for my loves. I prefer to feel all the things, you know?”

(This, by the way, is a lie—at many times over the past 15 months, I’ve wished to feel none of the things, and oh-god, no more pain, please but the “positive vibes only” people bring out my inner bitch with almost as much force as the sanctimonious pricks on soapboxes do.)

She doesn’t write back; she won’t write me back for months, years, maybe ever. I’m not “positive vibes only,” so she can’t have me in her life.

I don’t mind.

She too is not what I need.

iv.

So what does this coronavirus denier need? I don’t know yet. I know I want you—do I need you? It turns out, probably not. Interesting, no?

Bu the other, that—the pain rises, acute. That, I think I need.

We will see.

Now. Excuse me. The children need… me.

xoxo

“Jane”

PS For all my cabin fever people:

Pandemic Diary: A pissy note to my friends who aren’t working

So this global pandemic sucks and nothing is normal and we’ve all got to be patient with each other and I apologize in advance that I’m about to totally lose my shit on you… but, like… I’m working.

A lot.

Online.

Learning new programs and things in real time.

Changing all my course specs.

Cancelling this and rescheduling that, and revising all the things.

With three children at home, one of whom is trying to finish high school, one of whom has health issues that are now 100 per cent on me and her dad, and one of whom, the most extroverted of the lot, is bouncing off the walls.

I do not suddenly have more time to self-actualize, attend your online yoga class, or go to your virtual house party.

I realize that in week four, five or six or this—I might want to.

But right now? While you’re trying to “fill” time?

I’m barely staying on top of the things I have to do.

So fuck the fuck off, stop sending me “Here’s something we can do with all this time off!” invites, stop sending me “Did you get my email?” texts, and let me do my work.

Um.

I’m on edge, just a little.

Day 17 here. x

Not all of us are experiencing the constraints of the pandemic the same way. Nothing is normal and we’ve all got to be patient with each other and I apologize again for yelling at you … but, like… I’m working.

“Jane”

 

Pandemic Diary, or Suffering for the sake of covidiots; selfish like all the rest of them

I feel selfish because I want to see one of my loves and I want them to argue with me that this state-encouraged self-isolation and social distancing is not a  full-on lockdown and quarantine, and surely, we could go for a walk? Six feet apart, exquisite torture but better, better than insipid text exchanges of COVID-19 memes, news stories, and porn.

I feel selfish because their interpretation of what the health authorities want us to do is perfectly reasonable and is, in fact, what I’m doing with everyone else in my life, my mother—the ER nurse in direct touch with the pestilence daily—included.

But I want to make an exception here, and I want them to make an exception here, and they don’t and I feel selfish, unloved, unreasonable.

I feel particularly selfish—and unreasonable—when I see packs of covidiots breathing on each other in crowded public spaces. What’s the point I demand of myself, of this sacrifice of mine when those fucking idiots… because my sacrifices are not for me and mine. We are low risk, strong as bulls—when we get sick, we will survive this, perhaps not even notice that we are ill. The thing that will kill my most vulnerable child is not COVID-19, of this I am fairly certain.

I am not doing this for me and mine.

I am doing it for the vulnerable in the human herd, and for the health care workers like my mom.

When the herd shows me it doesn’t deserve to live, it’s hard to deprive myself of the people I love.

And what should be a very easy, no-brainer act of staying at home—and deriving pleasure and satisfaction from a phone conversation, a Skype date—becomes a chore, a grind.

A resentment.

The resentment festers, the desire festers.

And I feel selfish.

We all have things, habits, people that are easy to give up right now, and others the loss of which wounds. Me, I thought I’d miss coffee shops and sheesha lounges more. And I do miss them, a little. But not so much that I’ve gone to one since things started going weird here in early March.

But I miss my love and our time together and if they were willing, I’d break all the rules to see them, and not just six feet apart.

And that, ultimately, makes me no different from the covidiot wandering the aisles of the Home Depot where my dad still works (plumbing repairs are an essential service in the time of toilet paper hoarding), touching every single fucking pack of screws, and then rubbing his cheek, touching his nose.

I hate him.

I feel selfish.

I yearn.

I am grateful, I suppose, my love’s will is stronger than mine—no, I am not—why do they not miss me as I miss them?

I feel selfish.

I stay home anyway.

xoxo

“Jane”

 

We’re all interconnected and I wish you’d all screw off and give me some privacy!

Day 12, 13 of the Apocalypse–sorry, I mean Quarantine–no, not that, because I don’t think we were actually sick with the ‘rona and now we will never know—Day 12… Day 13, actually of semi Self-Isolation—because can you really call it self-isolation if there are five of you isolating together?-Day 13 of semi-self-isolation, and OMFG, am I ever sick of people…

I like to argue that Jung and Freud were wrong about everything, and when I argue this with people, they usually throw Freud under the bus but defend Jung. The blond Nazi sympathizer from Bern—granted, they don’t usually use those precise words—had some penetrating insights. Synchronicity, for example. I demolish that one in two sentences.

Introverts and extroverts! they rally, certain they will be triumphant.

Sometimes, I argue that this division too is artificial—if not precisely a figment of Jung’s fecund mind, at the very least a gross oversimplification of what is a continuum not a Box A or Box B, 1 or 0 kinda switch.

But at Day 13 of the Apocalypse—er, Self-Isolation—I can tell you this: my love of parties, coffee shops, and sheesha lounges notwithstanding, I am so an introvert and I am sick to death of all you people.

(One probably should not use the “sick to death” metaphor during a global pandemic, hey? Note to self made for future posts.)

I’m not talking about my family—yet. (Although at Day 30, I plan to self-isolated myself in a hotel for a day, if hotels are still open… oh god, they won’t be, will they? I will pitch a tent in the backyard. Note to self, order a tent online while non-essential delivery services are still a thing. To all the mothers, active parents isolated with their fams: imagine, a day without having to talk to anyone or to tend to their moods or needs, OMFG, yes, yes, yes, bring it on…)

(There was a moment, a couple of days ago, when, as I neurotically pondered whether the tickle in my throat was a psychosomatic sore throat again or a genuine manifestation of covid19, I did have the thought that if the worst happened and I ended up in a hospital on a ventilator at least nobody would talk to me or ask me to feed them or explain shit to them, and if the price of that would eventually be death, fine, I’d take it.)

(But I digress. That really is another post.)

I’m not sick of my family yet (most of the time). What I mean is—I’m having more interactions with my various professional colleagues via Zoom and Microsoft Teams and the other wonders to technology and the internet than I did before the crisis. My students, whom I loved to see once or twice a week, are now constantly in my inbox or on my phone. People I haven’t heard from in months or years–everyone wants to reconnect and set up a Google Hangout, a Discord Channel, stream this that or the other, hold a Netflix party.

Enough already.

My Apocalypse requires more silence.

I unplug from Facebook and Twitter earlier in the week. My friends freak out. “Everything ok?” Well, no. Global pandemic, accompanied by a world economic crisis, my 68 year-old mother a fucking frontline worker in all this, much stress and anxiety, sick kid at home and all doctors’ appointments by phone for the foreseeable future—I need to process all of this in silence, away from your noise and memes.

Typical introvert response?

I don’ t know.

My response.

Online interactions with people have always exhausted me. I might even enjoy them in the moment—afterwards, my mind and heart feel the way my body might feel after scarfing down a bag of Doritos. They don’t sate my need for real people. And I’d like to make explicit here: I do, really, like in the flesh people. My friends, my lovers, my students.

My colleagues.

In small, digestible doses.

Face to face.

Six feet away is doable.

On screen, on phone 24/7?

I’ve never liked it; I fucking hate it now.

Day 13 of the Apo—um Isolation. My first “team” meeting starts at 11. Another at 5. Another at 7. In-between, phone calls and texts with students. And children, dogs, partner, supper, chores, an attempt to carve out silence, space for my work.

I hope it’s a warm, sunny day, so I can sit on the balcony for a while.

Alone.

I have a few introvert friends who are currently in solo self-isolation. They are not happy, they are getting lonely.

I have one uber-extroverted love who, after four days, was screaming into a cup.

I do realize that this weird-ass, so not-normal situation is different for the people who are physically totally alone than it is for those of us who are with our families.

I would, on the balance, much rather have this problem I’m living than that one. I may be an introvert—but I am also a social mammal.

Falling asleep to the sound and smell other beings is soothing, biologically necessary.

Still.

I do hope it’s a sunny day today and that I can sit on my balcony, alone.

For a while.

xoxo

“Jane”

Pandemic Diaries: What is my mission? What’s yours?

Before I unplugged from the world (Hi, World), a friend shared this video from Chris Hadfield with me.

Mr. Hadfield’s four pointers:

  1. Understand the actual risk.
  2. What are you trying to accomplish? What are your objectives? What is your mission for right now?
  3. What are your constraints?
  4. Take action: start doing things.

My childless friends plunge into debates about what their mission is. And, for me… It is such a ridiculous question, as a parent, is it not? My primary mission, for the next x weeks or months, is, as always, to keep my children safe, sane. Alive.

My bar on what that means has dropped a lot over the past 18 years–18 months. In isolation, my children will not be eating–because I will not be making–nutritionally optimized, free range organic beautifully presented meals, for one. For two, they will be spending a lot of time playing video games, watching YouTube and Skyping with friends–no screen time (or social media) restrictions for them. (Despite the rather strict screen time and social media restrictions I myself am following.)

And with all of that slackness, laxness, low bar–ensuring their well-being will take up a lot of my time. Most of my time. Ender’s 10 and acting, in most moments, as though he is four. Cinder’s about to turn 18–and what a time to enter adulthood, no?)–Flora’s still really sick (doctor’s appointments by phone for the  next few weeks, and how effective will that be? who will the actual medical support team be? Me, Sean.)

(Parenthetically, one of the reasons I had to unplug: listening to people whine about how they’re struggling to fill time was filling me with rage, and who needs more impotent rage now? I need to shepherd, focus, my energy.)

My secondary mission is, of course, my work. (And how it kills me that we all agree it’s my secondary mission and that, if I named it ahead of my family obligations, the world would end.) I am one of the lucky ones. I still have work–in some cases, more work, in all cases, more difficult work. The organizations that couldn’t afford to fly me for a workshop and were not interested in an online webinar all, suddenly, are experts in online class delivery.

Online teaching–and learning–is much harder than in-person teaching, by the way. There’s a reason we fork out large sums of money to be in a room with Julia Cameron, Michelle Obama, Cheryl Strayed. (Kevin McDonald.) So figuring out how to do it well is a key goal of this secondary mission for this accidental teacher.

My real work–the writing–is both unaffected and utterly hammered. There’s no real reason I can’t continue with the timelines I’ve set myself. And I expect I will… although my motivation to do that work is, to be frank, in the toilet.

Why does it matter, what is the point?

As I write, I realize the message I’m sending myself here is that my mission has not changed. And so, reflecting on this, I need to pause and reconsider. Is that fair and reasonable? Because, actually, everything has changed. For the first time in my kids’ lifetime, there is a global pandemic–and one that is affecting lives in every country around the world in a time of unprecedented global connectivity and communication. The attempt to control/respond to this global pandemic has altered many key aspects of our lives. It has shrunk our worlds to our houses–and the outdoors, for some of s still, so long as we keep away from other people venturing into the outdoors. And don’t touch anything.

This is not normal.

And doing normal, everyday things in a so-very-not normal environment–this is both necessary… and very hard.

Very, very hard.

So, the first thing that has to be done, I think–is to recognize that doing normal things right now–eating, shopping, working, sleeping–is hard.

Second thing: My primary mission is to shepherd my kids through this crisis, and its aftermath–with the awareness that nothing is normal. What is normal is the exacerbation of Ender’s clinginess, Cinder’s anger, Flora’s illness.

And for my secondary mission? Missions, really, because the teaching and the writing are two separate things, and while one makes the investment in the other possible, it doesn’t really fit into it seamlessly. Secondary missions… I don’t know, to be honest. I’ll let you know when March and April wrap up, and I deliver a cohort of students safely to the other side of the semester.

Right now, I’m just grateful there is still money flowing into my household independent of the government’s bailout package.

Not everyone is that lucky.

And that, I think, will be my tertiary mission–and perhaps yours, if you are lucky like me. Make sure that those who aren’t so lucky are getting help.

How are we going to do that?

Jane

 

On the gentle art of inconveniencing yourself for the good of the herd…

draft one

I guess this is Day Nine in self-isolation, nine days since the five of us have really seen other people.

My mom came by to drop of soup yesterday, and we waved to each other from about 12 feet away. I saw neighbours while walking the dog, and we chatted for a while, standing in a triangle, six feet between us all.

Surreal.

Yesterday, today, my motivation to do much is pretty low. I mostly want to lie in bed and do nothing. Of course, I am sick. It’s probably not COVID19, just a sore throat, mild sniffles. But in this time, the least sniffle makes one—and the people around one—paranoid.

draft two

Morning of Day Nine in self-isolation. One of my loves got home last night and will not be spending the apocalypse away from her husband (and all of us!) in Colombia. Of course, we cannot see her for the next 14 days, and in 14 days, god knows what all this will look like. But I feel better knowing that she’s closer.

This is why this social distancing and self-isolating for the good of the herd is so fucking hard…

I put my Facebook and Twitter accounts on prolonged pause today. Not, actually, because of too much news. There’s been plenty of both necessary and good news in my feed: grants for artists, tools for online learning, free streaming concerts and conferences. I’m unplugging because the level of judgement people are throwing at each other in the face of this [adjective deleted] pandemic is sapping my will to do my part of flatten the curve.

I know why they’re doing it. They’re scared. They feel out of control. The things that most of them need to do to keep themselves safe(r) and to keep others safe(r)—and it’s this last thing that we’re doing, people—are so very… unheroic.

Wash your hands. Don’t touch your face. Don’t touch anything, actually.

Stay home.

Not hard, right?

Just… unheroic. An action that is an inaction, and we are so very bad at that. So, Inactive at home, we look at the people who aren’t at home (yet) and get self-righteous and indignant.

And vice-versa.

Frustrating.

On Day Nine of self-isolation, thanks to social media, I don’t miss people.

I can’t fucking stand them.

So.

Unplug.

Instead of opening Facebook or Twitter for my news, go straight to the CBC, Washington Post, and Guardian websites—but only later in the day, after I’ve done the day’s most essential tasks, and only for a little while.

Take the dogs for a walk. Feel the sunshine on my face.

Try to think life is worth living and protecting your life—you, stranger over there—is worth some inconvenience on my part.

(This is easier to do when you don’t act like a total ass. Hence—I’m unplugging.)

Text and call my friends, family. Interact with real people, not internet strangers.

Hello, Day 10. We can do this.

Jane

PS Can you still call it self-isolation when it’s five of your self-isolating together? Asking for a friend…

A love letter to this tiny, messy, imperfect house

Pen. Paper. Coffee.

Dogs going crazy.

My little son on the computer. Living room turned into gym.

I love my house.

I really love my house.

It is a very imperfect house. It is too cold in the winter and too hot in the summer. The windows have no 90 degree angles and rattle in the wind. The doors stop shutting—or refuse to open—at random times. The furnace overheats half the house and ignores the other half. The kitchen floor slopes, and the kitchen sink plumbing does not–we keep a special plunger under the sink and use it much, much too often. The toilet plugs up all the time too, and the wall between our bathroom and the neighbours bathroom might as well not be there.

There’s only one bathroom, too, and it’s on the third floor. Also, it’s, for Canada and North America in 2020, a very small house. One thousand square feet spread out over three poorly designed levels.

Also, it’s built on a flood plain.

Also, I love it.

 

I love the couch in the kitchen and the two punching bags (And no couch) in the living room. I love the word-search shower curtain in the bathroom (although I loved the Periodic Table one more) and the bookshelves filled with all the things, in all the rooms I love the overflowing Lego bin.

The messy spice drawer.

I love being in my house. I see so much of it as an extension of myself. It reflects me. My values. My life.

I don’t love cleaning it, and I do wish, much of the time, that it was cleaner. Also, emptier. More minimalist. But, really. Even when the kitchen’s a disaster and new life is sprouting in the bathroom—it has happened—I love it.

I change it up all the time too. Repurpose spices, move furniture around. Paint of decorate this wall, that door.

The house is an ongoing, eternal work in progress.

I remember when Sean and I bought our first house, just as Cinder was born—we expanded so much time, energy and money to get it “just right.” Two years later, there was a toddler who destroyed everything in sight and a new baby and a new work reality.

Three years later, we moved. To this very imperfect house.

Which we’ve never tried to get perfect.

But which we love, very much.

Right now, many people are spending more time at home than they usually do. If I dared give them advice, I’d say, reflect on how your house fits you. Now that you’re living in it 24 hours a day—is it your second skill? Or is it a hotel room you can’t wait to leave?

But I don’t dare give advice anymore, so I won’t.

Just this: #staythefuckhome.

Jane

Navel-gazing in the time of corona

Flora says today is Day Six. I say, it’s still Day Zero. Day One will come when it’s official. When they say, “Lockdown.” What’s happening now, it’s like practice, a trial run. And, for a family that has homeschooled and worked from home most of their lives, the change is not so great.

The low-grade anxiety kind of sucks.

My incredible selfishness and existential despair suck. Try as I might, I cannot stop thinking that the loss of 15 per cent of the population, over 65 or otherwise, is no bad thing. If I made the rules? I’d let it burn. I’d let them die.

(My love says I’m being a hypocrite; I say this, but I would never act like this. That is why I love them. They think I am a much better person than I really am.)

At the same time. I’m really quite relieved that the people in charge of the world at the moment feel otherwise.

I think.

I think.

Tomorrow, I will deliver my first online lecture. I’m not really stressed about it. I’m pretty sure nothing will work as it ought to. And also, that my students won’t actually be able to focus or learn anything. To be frank, I see the purpose of the lecture to be purely psychosocial:

Hey I’m here. How are you doing?

Today, I will try to finish my marking. I will make meals and clean up puddles of dog pee. Ask Cinder if he’s done any school work (he won’t have). Wish Ender wasn’t so fucking clingy all of a sudden—why? why? why? Smile with relief when Flora connects with a worldwide online D&D gaming community.

Nothing has changed, not really.

This has changed:

I will find inexpressible relief in the fact that this new crisis is communal. Everyone is going through it. It is not my own personal hell.

#staythefuckhome

Jane

Paradigm shift: choices, agency, uncertainty

I’m supposed to be marking, an assortment of business profiles and a couple of overdue entertainment reviews; also, re-grading some advertorials.

I’m also supposed to be incorporating beta-reader and development editor comments into novellas that are supposed to launch… like, way too soon.

And I’m supposed to… well, it’s a pretty long list. It usually is.

Instead, I’ve spent the last few days figuring out how to move the rest of my outstanding course on-line, and in-between, re-organizing spaces in my house.

It’s a very soothing task, reorganizing spaces.

Cinder joined me in this exercise today. The closure of his martial arts class and the Y affected him much more than the uncertainty over what’s happening with school. He examined the living room—crowded with Lego—and asked if it could be reorganized so that there’d be a clear work-out space for him.

Done.

In the process, we found a new storage solution for Ender’s nerf guns.

That child of an anti-gun mother, by the way, has way too many weapons. It’s ridiculous.

Flora’s been chilling and napping.

It’s kind of funny how the past four days seem… well, none of them seemed long individually.

We have been a work-at-home, homeschooling family all of our lives, really. The current two in high school, Sean with a full-time job, and me with out of house classes to teach two or three times a week thing is new.

So it’s not really like we’re home significantly more than we usually are.

And we’re not really stressed or anxious. Not really.

Ok, a little.

Because—media, and press conferences, and closures, and wah.

And also, uncertainty—how long will all of this last?

So. As we’ve been hearing—schools closed, campuses closed, libraries closed—I think we’ve all been struggling with the uncertainty of… for how long.

Funny thing about stress—if you know how long something awful will last, and you know that it will definitely end by a pre-determined time… it’s so much easier to endure, and plan for.

Anyway. Our home arrest, if that’s what it will come to, will not be significantly different than our regular life. For me, Cinder, and Ender anyway.

But there is a big psychological difference between spending a lot of time at home because you want to… and spending all your time at home because you have to.

Choice, and even the perception of choice, is a huge thing.

I choose to stay at home to do my part in containing the speed of the spread of the pandemic.

There. That wasn’t that hard, was it?

xoxo

Jane

Game face on

i

Uniform. Ready? Ready. Game face on. Go.

I love clothes. Not for me the grey sweat suit. Or the understated beige sweater twin set (I have no idea what a twin set is, tbh, I keep on reading about it in books, but the characters who wear them invariably sound beige and unexceptional, and often wear a string of pearls with their twin set, and oh-my-god, it sounds boring as fuck, I’d rather be naked).  Clothes are my second skin, both an expression of my inner being and part of my crafting my outer mood and persona.

I am probably most myself when I present workshops on creative writing. Or when I go dance. I communicate, with my clothes, my brand and my expertise. My enthusiasm, energy, thirst and passion for life.

When I teach journalism and corporate communications, I tone myself down, a little. (They can’t handle all of me, never could.) Black and grey dresses, nun-like in their lack of exposed cleavage. Just the shoes, piercings, and hair, bit of jewelry, give me away.

If you see me wearing yoga pants and a T-shirt, and I’m not going to a yoga class or the gym, or not helping a friend paint or move house—I’m not chilling or comfortable in my skin. I’m a wreck. The news is as bad as when you come to my house and see a shining kitchen floor.

Like a cat, dog or primate, the glossiness of my fur informs you about my health.

Yesterday, I wore pajamas under my snowsuit as I drove Cinder here and there. This was not an act of freeing “I don’t give a fuck.” It was the result of, between the things that had to be done, not having the energy to step into the shower and out of pajamas into yoga pants.

None of it felt good.

The glossiness of my fur tells you if I’m happy, excited, confident, passionate… healthy.

But. This is true too: “fake it til you make it,” that’s a thing. Putting that work uniform, dance uniform, writer uniform—it helps craft the mood, the persona even if you (I) really don’t want to do the thing you need to do. Actors embody that capacity the most, I think. As do athletes. The corporate suit fills a similar role for lawyers, bankers, accountants, CEOs; the old school white lab coat did it for dentists, doctors.

Don’t wanna, don’t wanna, don’t wanna, can’t do it—fine, here I go. Uniform on. Game face on. Ok. Let’s rumble.

When you (I) absolutely cannot force yourself to put that uniform on? That’s when things are really bad.

ii

At the Teaching Excellence Foundations course on the organizations at which I teach offers its instructors, we spend a great deal of time talking about the teaching persona. I think it’s adorable how the newbies think all you need to succeed is authenticity.

Almost as naive as thinking all you need is love.

Most of the time these days, my authentic self is limp dishrag that doesn’t want to get out of bed.

Fucking move get out of bed. Shower. Uniform. Game face on. Go. Do the things.

iii

When things were at their absolute worst with Flora last spring—just before I took her out of the hospital and to Wales, against medical advice, to honour a promise—I went to get a long overdue haircut. My hairstylist is an artist and a genius (Rose Mossa, 403.283.8281). She performed another of her miracles. She made me look amazing.

One of the first people to see me after the haircut said, “Great hair! You look so good! I was a little worried when I heard what was going on, but things can’t be so bad, hey?”

We’re not friends anymore. She doesn’t know why. And I know it’s unfair. After all, I got the haircut to look good, to help myself feel good. And it worked. My fur looked glossy and slick. Surely, she made a fair assumption.

Except… do you understand…

No. I suppose you don’t. And I don’t have the spare bandwidth to talk about it.

Haircut. Uniform. Game face on.

iv

Text to my aman cara: “When on day 8 of an at-home suicide watch, you go to see the family therapist, and she says ‘what about your self-care?’ and you bludgeon her to death with her clipboard, that’s justifiable homicide, right?”

Her response: “Holy fucking shit!!”

She’s my temperature check. Ok. It’s not just me. That was a ridiculous thing for the fucking therapist to say.

I didn’t kill one of the medical professionals who are trying to help us and Flora, by the way. I just, again, really wanted to. And this happens so often that I’m starting to think—perhaps it’s not incompetence but design. Perhaps she is on purpose making herself the target, the centre of my rage.

I showered on Tuesday. I will probably shower today, maybe. When I am not trying to keep Flora alive, I am at work. When I am not at work, I am holding Ender—who is not ok. Making supper. When there is no critical task that needs to be done, no child that needs me—God I hope Cinder is ok because there’s nothing of me left for him—I sit very still. Body limp, mind empty. Move not, think not. Rest in-between the contractions.

Don’t ask me to do more.

The time will come—and I can tell you this, I know things are stabilizing—I guess there’s an advantage of this being a cycle—because I can see that the time will come when I can think about… art and music and fun and play and shiny things. But right now? Asking a person who is in survival mode what they’re doing for self-care is asking them to do more… when they barely have the capacity to do what needs to be done.

Don’t invent more tasks for me, ok?

v

Game face on. Uniform.

I schedule all of us—except for Ender, who loves his mop of unruly hair—for haircuts on Monday. Cinder’s been asking for a haircut for weeks. I can barely see through my bangs. We were supposed to take Flora in for a trim in September but what with one doctor’s appointment and another and another…

Appointment for haircut.

Such a normal, ordinary thing to do.

The effort involved in making that telephone call, to make those appointments? I can’t even… What it will cost me to get Flora, Cinder, myself there, and Ender safely stowed? Don’t even.

When you see me after the haircut? Absolutely, say, “Oh-my-god, amazing hair, your hairdresser is a genius!” (Rose Mossa, ladies, gentlemen, and non-binary noble folk, 403.283.8281) But stop there. Don’t tell me things must be getting better. Save pronouncements on my feelings and my situation for—like, me. Flora. Let me tell you how I feel, what I feel—if I feel up to going there. Otherwise, after we finishing adoring my hair (and it will be amazing), let’s talk about the poets of Shiraz, American war crimes, and how we can save independent journalism.

Uniform chosen. Game face on.

Go.

“Jane”

 

Happy birthday (the war’s not over)

January 6

i

She’s 15 and we’re still at home.

ii

This past November, I was anticipating that December would be hard. Anniversaries always are. In December—which wasn’t great, but which wasn’t so bad, it could have been so much worse, things had been so much worse—I started to look forward to a New Year. A new leaf, a blank slate. I like those milestones: January 1, Mondays, the first page of a new notebook.

I made plans.

I fantasized, very conservatively. But still. I did.

I envisioned a future.

And now, again, life occurs in 15 minute increments.

And existing in most present moments is unbearable.

iii

She laughs with joy as she comes downstairs and sees her birthday door. This is a happy moment.

iv

At the weekly meeting of the Parents of Children Who Haven’t Died Yet But Who Very Well Might—But Don’t Worry Be Happy Because Suffering Is All In Your Head—we often talk about the challenge of appreciating the happy moments, the lulls between shitstorms. On this particular day, those of us in the room are all mothers who came to motherhood biologically. (The group is usually all mothers; a father comes every once in a while. But rarely. Let’s save that reality for another story.) And so, we all relate when I talk about contractions. About how you get through 12, 24 hours of labour by riding through to the head of the contraction, breathing, screaming to endure—and then, in that brief, holy space between pain and pain, resting as fully as you can. Not thinking about the next contraction. Not thinking when will this end. Not thinking, not thinking, not thinking, not wondering when, if, they baby will crown, will it live, will it thrive, will it be an artist, engineer or hobo. Not thinking, not dreaming. Just…. resting.

Body limp, mind empty.

(If you’re in labour for more than 24 hours, woman, get an epidural for fuck’s sake. But I digress.)

(I digress because she’s 15 and we’re at home, and this is a happy moment.)

Body limp, mind empty. Rest. And here comes the contraction again, ride that motherfucker to the top.

When I use that metaphor at the meeting of the Parents of Children Who Haven’t Died Yet But Who Very Well Might (—Bet Your Bottom Dollar the Sun Will Come out Tomorrow or the Day After or the Next Week, Month, Year, Probably, Eventually, Keep on Hoping, Why Are You Despairing? Bet Your Bottom Dollar!), everyone nods and sighs and says, so true, we all learn to rest and live in those spaces between contractions-crises.

Today, as I write the idea out—body limp, mind empty—fuck people, what’s wrong with you?

Body limp, mind empty.

That’s how you get through 12, 24 hours of labour.

But that is no way to live.

vi

Flora wanted to spend her seventh birthday at West Edmonton Mall Waterpark. I found a great package deal on the Fantasyland Hotel and waterpark, but it meant going to Edmonton four or five days after her actual birthday. The seven-year-old decided to delay her entire birthday so that she could celebrate it the way she planned, at the Waterpark. She did not open her presents. She did let us sing happy birthday to her and blow out the candles on her birthday cake—but did not let us cut it. We transported everything to Edmonton; celebrated a few days later.

She was seven years old. IT still blows my mind. Can you imagine, getting your birthday presents, and keeping them, wrapped, untouched, in your room for four days? At seven years old? I’m not sure I could do it at 45…

vii

How do you live in perpetual crisis?

I’ve interviewed people who’ve lived in war zones, refugee camps. I’ve talked with rape survivors and victims of ongoing domestic violence. Most of my extended family has vivid memories of living under martial law, in a police state, in fear of that knock on the door—in the middle of the night—that ends everything.

People live in this, through this. They love through this, they fall in love in this. How?

Humans are amazing survival machines. We habituate to just about anything.

We survive.

viii

On Saturday night, my aman cara comes to hold me, love me, bring supper, because, as I sit on the couch holding Flora, I can’t even summon the energy to call Skip the Dishes. She comes back on Sunday—I’m on a board conference call , then Ender demands a 6 p.m. bedtime (he is so not ok) and so my aman cara comforts Sean and then helps him make 15 rainbows for Flora’s birthday day.

(It’s a tradition in our family—we did it first for Sean, when he was going through a crisis—decorated a door for his 38th birthday with 38 hearts, on each of which we wrote a thing we loved about him. When Ender’s birthday came two weeks later, Flora did his door—it was his fourth birthday, and she cut out four big hearts for him. Her birthday came next—Sean papered the door with hears for her. Now we had a tradition—and a Cinder who was turning 13, and did not want any rainbow hearts on his door, what the fuck? Flora and Sean made 13 bombs. And so it has gone. For her 15th birthday—15 rainbows. Each one drenched in tears and love.)

When Flora was in the hospital, my aman cara, my mother, and a handful of friends fed us, took care of Ender, did everything they could to help us get through. People are good, and people are amazing in a crisis.

So long as it is short.

You know this.

Your toleration for a friend’s heartbreak, divorce trauma, grief for the death of a parent? It has an expiration date.

It’s like that for personal crises; it’s like that for meta-global, political crises too. A tsunami or an earthquake devastates a region? We rally, give, donate, support… go home. A civil war rages for two years, two decades? God, is that still going on? I’ve stopped paying attention.

And in the meantime, two years later, that region far away hit by that earthquake, to which you’re not paying attention anymore? There are still people there who are homeless, who have no reliable water supply, who are still in crisis.

The people in the crisis, they can’t stop paying attention.

But even they become habituated to it. Accept it as their new normal.

How fucked up is that?

viii

She insists on going to school and I spend six hours wondering if my child will come home.

There are precautions in place. I know she arrives at the school. I know she doesn’t miss classes. She checks in with me at lunch. In-between messages, I exist in soul-draining uncertainty.

ix

Crisis. The new normal.

One of my fighting points (I have many) with the family therapist at Flora’s out-patient clinic is that she wants me to simultaneously have hope and to stop resisting what is. Dialectical thinking at its best, but seriously? How am I supposed to accept… No, no, no.

No.

And yet. I know the bitch is right.

Sorry. Not a bitch—healer with a heart of gold. I just need to be angry at someone, anyone. And there she is, with her platitudes and really terrible metaphors and well-intentioned helplessness.

Crisis. Knives, razors, Tylenol and Nyquil, household cleaners under lock and key. I cut pickles for sandwiches with a butter knife as sharp as a spoon.

Cry at the ludicrousness of it all.

x

She comes home from school. I breathe.

xi

Birthday supper at a Korean restaurant in the evening. My parents are there. She seems happy, almost chatty, and I wonder if my parents buy it, or if they see what Sean and I see—the mask pulled on, the effort required. Earlier in the day, I was a guest panelist at a webinar. And I did the same: Five minutes til show time. Breathe. Game face on. Perform. Laugh. Don’t let anyone see you cry or bleed. Done. Collapse.

She’ll collapse when we get home, as will we all.

But right now, as she eats bulgogi and thanks Grandma for her presents and lets Cinder tease her that she’s, how old? 13?—game face on.

Which is a reminder, I suppose, that awful though this is, it’s not as bad as the first five, six months of 2019, when none of us could put the game face on for anything.

But then, there’s also this consequence—game face on. Go see friends. Go do normal things.

A text: “Saw Flora today! She looks great! So happy that she’s doing better!”

Except when she comes home—she collapses.

xii

She’s 15. She’s home. She’s still at home.

“Jane”

Post-script I was going to embed a video of John Lennon’s “Happy Christmas (The War Is Over)” below. You know which one I mean. The one that comes with all the warnings. And that will rend your heart. Because as I do my best to keep one child alive, and the spectre of war and hate pushes on me from the outside, I know only one truth: every soldier, every civilian, every victim of war is somebody’s child.

Why does this reality not infuse every decision we make, politically, personally? Somebody’s child.

Our provincial government is cutting 500 nursing jobs. Let me tell you, having spent 12 months in the belly of the system now–there are many thing wrong with it. But it is not overstaffed.

Every fired nurse? A nurse that’s not able to help someone’s child when they need help.

She’s home. The war’s not over. But she’s 15. And she’s still at home.

Suffering, loving, living… home

i

Pen, notebook, coffee, my comfy chair. This should be a happy moment except that upstairs, a child wants to die.

Yesterday, she sees tear-streaks on my face. “Have you been crying? Why are you upset?” My lips make words. “It’s hard to watch you suffer.” She puts a hand on my arm. “I don’t want to invalidate your feelings,” she says, parroting Dialectical Behaviour Therapy scripts, “but it’s hard to suffer.” Her tone is condescending.

I kiss the top of her head. I can’t say, “I know.” She hates that, always says, “Do you?” or “How can you?” or screams, “You don’t know.”

i don’t know.

Yesterday, we kept her alive.

Today’s task is the same.

I am confused, caught off-guard by this. It’s not new—the depression, the darkness, the suicidal ideation have been part of what she’s struggled with as she’s battled what I still think of as “the real illness.” The symptoms of that have receded, are finally responding to treatment. I had thought the accompanying darkness was situational. Caused by the illness, and why not? Who could endure what Flora has been going through for the last two years and not wish for release, however final?

I misunderstood, again, everything.

Tomorrow, Flora turns 15.

Tomorrow, Flora will turn 15.

Tomorrow, Flora will turn 15.

Please, child, daughter, love, please turn 15 tomorrow. Sixteen the year after. Kiss a girl, a boy. Fall in love. Go to Wales again—test for your second degree black belt. Find, follow your passions. Genetically modify pigs so that they have wings. Do all the things. Live. Please.

Motherhood—parenthood—is this relentless process of finding out you don’t control your children. You can’t protect your children. You can do all things… and you still cannot save them from “the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune.”

You cannot save them from themselves.

Flora. Turn 15. Live.

You can only love them.

ii

On Friday morning, Sean takes Flora to an emergency appointment with one of her doctors, who is concerned enough that she essentially says, take her to the hospital. If you can’t get her in the car, call an ambulance.

Sean spends the day with her at the hospital. Triage. Resident. Psychiatric nurse. Psychiatrist.

I’m in an all-day instructors’ course. I learn shit until 10:30 a.m., at which point I get the call from Sean that they’re on their way to the hospital. I have no idea what happens after that. I’m nominally in the classroom. I even talk to my chair about my winter schedule. Get my ID card. There’s a tour. Ironically, we visit Student Development & Counselling Services. Talk a lot about mental health. I can’t breathe. I will not leave her in the hospital again, I will not, but oh-my-god, suppose I don’t and she dies?

I text something along those lines to Sean. His answers are clipped. Triage. Resident. Psychiatrict nurse. Psychiatrist. Waiting.

Finally—coming home.

iii

I don’t want to talk shit about our medical system because I am so grateful for universal free healthcare, and I know the system is full of well-intentioned healers who want to help people. Nobody goes into nursing, medicine, psychology, psychiatry because they want to be a bureaucrat, gatekeeper or hateful asshole.

The system just turns them into that…

I don’t want to talk shit about the youth mental health ward where Flora spent most of last spring either.

But I will.

Yes, she got help. Assessment, diagnosis, the beginning of treatment.

She was also traumatized and emotionally abused.

We might as well have put her in jail.

vi

Home.

Flora’s not happy at home. When she talks to the psychologist, doctors, psychiatrists, she tells them she hates her life at home. Doesn’t get along with her brothers. I don’t know what she says about her parents—she saves that for when I leave the room. The little I do hear is hard enough to take. I don’t know what I could have done to have given this child a more stress-free, trauma-free, happy childhood.

I don’t know what I could, should do differently now.

Not cry in front of her now, maybe, but fuck me, I have no reserves left and the tears just come when they want to. I need to save my energy for the battles, conversations, emotional labours that matter.

v

Home.

Friday night, I sleep in Flora’s top bunk so that she’s not alone in the night. Saturday night, Sean does Friday evening, he watches movies with her while I feed us, put Ender to bed Check on Cinder. The boys are not doing well. Ender is clingy, behaviourally regressive. Cinder, fully my son, is disassociating, directing impossible to articulate fear and anger at schoolwork—“stupid and not worth doing”—and inanimate objects, there are new holes in walls.

Saturday morning, we sell Ender to a friend and neighbour, and go look at puppies. I need another living, needy, vulnerable thing in the house like I need… I can’t even find the appropriate metaphor. But when we ask Flora what she needs, what might help, a dog into whose fur she could bury her face is all that she can express.

Our dog is a very selfish emotional support animal. Also, she thinks she’s Ender’s. Also, I will grasp at any straw.

We don’t come home with a puppy. Flora has moments of happiness during the search, I think, but also much longer moments of despair. When we get home, Sean takes Cinder to a movie. I sit on the couch with Flora. Hold her for hours.

vi

In the hospital, staff are not allowed to touch the kids—unless they’re restraining them, that’s ok.* The kids aren’t allowed to touch each other either. The kids also have to spend chunks of each day in “quiet time” in their rooms, doors closed. That’s supposed to be part of their therapy. It’s also the go-to punishment. Isolation. Staff can’t handle you? You’re not behaving?

You’re locked, alone, in your room.

The first week Flora’s at the hospital last spring, the kids start a riot to protest what they see as an unjust punishment of one of them. They’re all forced to spend the rest of the day in their rooms.

In isolation.

I am not a nurse, doctor, psychologist, psychiatrist.

But I am a child, mother, wife, friend, lover, boss, teacher, neighbour, colleague. Human.

And I can tell you without any equivocation that the key to good mental health is love and connection.

Not isolation.

vii

Home.

The psychiatrist from the hospital ER calls Friday night, Saturday night. Promises to call again Sunday. Talks to Flora. Sean.

He calls on his free time, after his shift is over.

The people who work in the system? Most of them, healers with hearts of gold.

He’s talked with Flora’s outpatient medical team. Is worried that he made the wrong call not insisting on admission.

I know he didn’t.

I don’t know if we can keep her safe.

I don’t know what else we need to hide, put away. I don’t know the right things to say.

I don’t know if we can keep her safe.

But we can keep her loved.

“Jane”

Post-script: Sean talks to Flora for hours. Short conversations, interspersed with hugs, silence, life. Trying to make all of us accept that the hospital is not the worst option. It’s the second worst option, and the worst option is unthinkable, unacceptable. If you can’t keep yourself safe, if we can’t keep you safe—will you tell us? Will you choose to go?

She promises.

But she’s only a child. What a burden to bear.

Flora, child, love, most beloved.

You will turn 15 tomorrow.

Turn 15 tomorrow.

* * *

We are still home.

She danced, who is she?

Morning phone call, panic, shitty morning. I don’t give you details, because her story is private, even though it is also part of my story. Shitty morning, shitty afternoon. She seems fine then, functional and stable. Me, I play chauffeur, deliver Flora and Ender to their happy places, then cancel lunch with friend-could-be-lover, will not find out now. Try to move out of the past moment that was genuinely shitty—that morning—into the actual present moment—this afternoon—that’s really not so bad, except, emotional hangover, exhaustion, spiralling “I can’t go on like this” thoughts.

What happens? Hard to say. Sleep. Fake meditation. (It’s like meditation, but I listen to an audiobook of a story that I know really well while doing it. Shut up, purist. Anything that works to get me out of despair, I do.) Food. A Philippa Gregory novel. Handholding via text from a friend. I can’t say I let go of the pain, more like I let it burn out. I need to let it burn out so that when it comes again tomorrow, it will be fresh. This makes no sense, except that it does: when the next shit episode in this ongoing shit crisis happens, I need to react to it, and to it alone. Not to the last 12 months of it.

This is not just hard, it’s impossible. Still. One tries. Burn away, pain.

Shitty morning, hangover afternoon. Evening. I’m supposed to dance. How do we do this, I ask Sean. I mean, really? How do we dance, laugh, live a normal life when our child suffers like this?

He had no real answers. He doesn’t want to dance either. He forgets to laugh even more than I do, I think, for all that his detachment from the horrors of each shit moment seems better… in the moment.

But. We decide to dance

Child safe, stowed, watched, loved.

This is a happy moment. Dance.

It works.

Oh-my-fucking-god, it is ever so hard. Because the memory of the past shitty moment—a year’s worth of them—presses. Hard. The anticipation of the next shitty moment taunts. They are inevitable. They will come.

In this space between them, I dance.

* * *

In my Instagram and Facebook feeds, you will see me dancing. You will not see the shitty moments. The camera curates them out. Bear that in mind when you see me in life—bear that in mind when the peak moment compilation of your friends’ carefully curated online personae make you sigh over the relentless ordinariness of your life.

I am not convinced that we are not our thoughts. I’m pretty sure we are little else. But this I do know for sure: we are not our Facebook posts and Instagram stories. And life is not a Twitter feed.

* * *

This is a happy moment. Dance.

That was a shitty moment, series of moments, shitty minutes becomes shitty hours, days, weeks, months. Don’t deny it. Let the pain burn.

Dance.

“Jane”

Post-script: Two days later, we are back in the hospital with Flora; I can’t breathe and I don’t know who the woman who danced on New Year’s Eve was.

Some words of wisdom from the House of Snot & Vomit

I got a house of puking, snotty, feverish children over the holidays—Flora went down just before Christmas an barely made it through the Christmas Eve festivities, Cinder felt a tickle in his throat on Christmas Day and was down for the count on Boxing Day, and Ender woke up on the 27th puking. Today, Flora’s recovered but weak, and the boys are still fading in and out of consciousness between bouts of hydration and med top-ups.

And I love it.

Because, this sickness? I know what to do, how to help. Liquids and Tylenol to knock down the fever, Gravol and ginger for the tummies. Rest, baby. Have some tea. Let’s cuddle and watch a movie. I know, that cough is killer. Gargle with salt water, eat some honey.

I don’t make New Year’s resolutions, but I do like to set intentions. My intentions for 2020,  as I’ve already shared, are to love more, play more, and also, rest more.

I am not so good at resting. And the secretly fabulous thing that happens when the kids—especially the little guy—are sick like this? I get to rest. I mean, there is all the laundry and tea making. But what they need the most—especially Ender—is for me to sit beside them on the couch and to love them. And so, I rest.

Wait.

Did I just say I want my kids to be sick more in 2020? No, no, no, no. Enough illness. Really.

Just…

More love.

More play.

More rest.

xoxo

“Jane”

 

All the good things in the year from hell, or, conscious loving

i.

You better watch out
You better not cry
You better not pout
I’m telling you why
Santa Claus is coming to town…

Christmas songs—you can’t really call them carols these days, can you?—are on the radio, Christmas tree and holiday displays glut stores—and the most beautiful time of the year is just around the corner.

I hate Christmas.

I used to love it, of course, as most children from fairly functional homes in which Christmas is a time of feasting and gifting and treats do. And then I didn’t, and for more than a decade I thought it was because of the crass commercialism and overall grossness of the holiday—its utter separation from anything religiously meaningful or spiritually uplifting—you know, the usual.

And then, a few years ago, I realized that my intense hatred of Christmas coincided rather perfectly with the loss of my baby. I started bleeding on Christmas Eve. By December 29, he was dead, and I was alive, but didn’t really want to be. But nobody really let me cry or pout, because I had a toddler to take care and a husband, also work, and we might not be British, but “stiff upper lip” and “don’t let them see you sweat” are genetic mottos in my family of origin.

Recognizing the source of the pain and negative feelings did not transform me as it did the Grinch. But at least now, I know that I spend December marking that awful anniversary, and I expect to be sad, and I sit with my sadness.

His name was Kieran Adam.

Flora was born a year and a week after his death. That was, I guess, the first Christmas I hated. She was a high-risk pregnancy to boot. The first ultrasounds told us to prepare for a Down Syndrome baby with a heart defect. The birth of my daughter in her utter physical perfection on January 6 was a gift and a miracle.

But it did not make any future December any easier.

Flora’s health issues, manifesting in secret only to herself through 2017, and in bits and pieces to us through 2018, exploded on us on over the Christmas holiday break in 2018.

I have a novel, as yet unpublished, written in 2016, in which one of the refrains is, “Bad things happen on Sundays in December.”

I hate it when I’m unintentionally psychic.

ii.

He’s making a list,
Checking it twice;
Gonna find out who’s naughty or nice.
Santa Claus is coming to town

I’m making a list of good things that happened in 2019. Because, although the overall theme for the year is, “What the fuck, God? This is why I don’t believe in you, you fucking asshole!” … there were good moments.

Just as I expect there were good moments in 2013. But I didn’t make a list, so all I remember is the flood.

Anyway. Good things that happened in 2019:

  • Sean took Flora to Harry Potter World in Orlando, in January, even though, as we neared to the trip, she was getting sicker and sicker, and we had no idea how she—or he—would cope. (It was a really rough, rough trip… but it had good moments. And she got to see Harry Potter World while still young enough to love it. Later that year, she’d turn into a cynical teenager.)

  • Cinder spent the Winter semester taking Physics and Biology at school in the mornings, and welding, pipefitting, and metal working at the local Polytechnique in the afternoon, a balance that worked extremely well for him—and let us get away with not parenting him when the shit hit the fan with Flora’s health.

  • I started teaching at the Polytechnique, and found I really enjoyed it. And, I taught a bunch of other writing courses, and participated in some very fun literary community things.

  • Flora got her fucking black belt! And, she and I got to see Wales and Cardiff Castle. And the Sherlock Holmes Museum in London. Also Buckingham Palace, Westminster Abbey—but not Big Ben, because he was wrapped up—the Natural History Museum, the Tate, and, best of all, we spent time with one of my dearest and oldest friends and his fam.

  • And then, my London friend came through Calgary briefly, and we had sushi, and all was right with the universe for a few hours.
  • I got to spend six days in New Orleans! If I hadn’t had the conference paid for and booked well before Flora’s health started to unravel, I wouldn’t have gone. As is, I’m not sure I really enjoyed it—I was frayed and exhausted and, childless in New Orleans, I slept 12-14 hours a night, and had a hard time being with people. Still. I met a musician who showed me the French Quarter, and an artist/university arts professor who drove me all over and gave me a beautiful history lesson, and dozens of local artists doing cool things, and a whole bunch of authors I adore. I sat next to Charlaine Harris, got trapped in an elevator with Sylvia Day, stalked Sonali Dev… so good. And, New Orleans, New Orleans, New Orleans. Even through my fog, it was magical. I will definitely go back.

  • On the plane to New Orleans, I wrote a short story (the first thing I had been able to write since Flora got ill), and on the plane from New Orleans, I created a supercool project for one of my pen names, and that felt really good.
  • One of the people who was instrumental to Flora’s medical team while she was in the hospital transferred to the outpatient clinic that would be taking over Flora’s treatment, and fast-tracked our transfer, intake, and all of those things, and provided critical continuity of service and support.
  • Ender learned to read! Negligent unschooling for the win, cause god knows I wasn’t teaching him anything in the first seven… eight… nine? months of 2019.

  • Despite all the shit—Flora nailed her math and English courses! And, passed Phys Ed. Unschooling for the win again, and that’s a story for another time to be told in some detail.
  • We got a chunky tax return! Finally, an upside to being poor! It took us until July… August? to file our taxes. (Fuck off, Aunt Augusta. Flora ended up in the hospital in March; not even Revenue Canada expected us to be on time. And, I’ve got to say—I love Revenue Canada. The two times in my life that life sideswiped me so hard that I couldn’t be functional—it’s not that they don’t want their pound of flesh and the accompanying paperwork. Of course they do. But so long as you keep them in the loop with what’s happening, they don’t nag you. Much.)

It looks like garbage. It’s someone’s life. We really rushed to clear the debris off the streets and driveways in advance of the city crews’ trucks coming. Because it was killing people.

  • I did make it to my fourth When Words Collide festival in Calgary in mid-August, and I took Flora with me, and it was a good weekend.

  • Also… Beakernight! And that’s all we really to say…

  • I didn’t get that job in Dubai that I didn’t really want that would have turned our lives upside down but that seemed like such a good opportunity that if I had gotten it, turning it down would have been really hard.
  • But, I got into the Investigative Journalism Intensive at the Banff Centre for the Arts, and, my 12-day stay there was fully funded, and I had the most amazing time, and I met the most amazing people.

  • While I thought I wasn’t writing, I wrote three novellas. They’re not very good novellas, mind you. But. They’re something and they’re practice. And I’m really enjoying the process of revising them.
  • Sean got As in all his psychology courses. Even statistics!
  • My dad’s pacemaker insertion and follow-ups all went very well.
  • Oh, Pride 2019! It was amazing! And, I danced! So much! Tequila! Also, YYC Queer Writers put out another anthology and raised enough money to send one kid to Camp fYrefly. Go, us!

  • A good friend was made a judge and there was much celebration.
  • We took care of a gorgeous German shepherd puppy for two weeks this summer, and then again in November. We all got a temporary big dog fix—and after she’s gone, our house feels so big and hair-free!—and we’re able to help a friend in this small way, and I am so grateful for that. (Parenthetically, I’ve been a shitty friend this year. Aunt, sister, neighhbour. Unfortunate, but true. Still. A time and a place for everything.)

  • I attended a workshop with Julia Cameron, the woman who gave me the courage to call myself an artist. Also, to return to journaling and the joy of writing privately (writing publicly makes you a better writer; writing privately is necessary for the soul, and also, to strip self-indulgence out of your writing so that you can be less self-indulgent when you write publicly). Also, the tools to write my second novel, more or less. She was old and frail, and very much of her era. I still loved her.

  • I spent a mind-blowing weekend with Kids in the Hall’s Kevin McDonald learning all about sketch comedy. Do you know what the common characteristic of geniuses in their domain who are also good people is? This: “This is everything I know. Take it, and do great things with it.”

  • I took Flora to a concert celebrating 50 years of Stonewall, and she now knows all about Marsha P. Johnson. Oh, and I got to see Thorgy Thor and the Thorchestra performing with the Calgary Philharmonic Orchestra, and that was pretty amazing.

  • I smoked a lot of sheesha, alone, occasionally with a good friend… and was able to call it research…

Most critically:

  • Despite all the suck-ass challenges, Flora made it to regular high school and is killing it.

  • My parents did what they always do, and showed them, rearranged their work scheduled, and helped us out whenever we needed it, with childcare, driving, food, and accepting my anger, silence, and other difficult emotions.

  • Sean and I fucking kill it in a crisis. There are stats on this—shit like we’ve been through this year breaks up marriages. And we still look like drowned rats, and we’re exhausted as fuck. And we seek our comfort elsewhere, not with each other—because we’re rather empty, so how can we? But. Through all of this, neither of us has blamed, resented, guilted or otherwise maligned or cut down the other. We’ve supported each other as best as we could, tag-teamed, given relief when we could, and tried to time our collapses so they did not happen at the same time. So far, so good. Easy? Fuck, no. But we’re still here.

I’m fairly certain that even if things get harder (but how about there’s a stretch of easier, for just a little while?), we will make it through. So. That’s a good thing.

More cryptically:

  • The full moon delivered a letter I didn’t know I had been waiting for. Thank you, Sufi poets.

And that’s the list. And you know what? I bet if I checked it twice, I’d find more stuff to add…

And yet… funny/sad thing: my godmother died in 2019, and Sean lost a favourite uncle. I think, we hardly noticed those losses—any more than we noticed, were capable of really celebrating, the arrival of a new nephew, the development and growth of our kids’ other much loved cousins.

Because our one bad thing was so fucking bad.

iii.

He sees you when you’re sleeping
He knows when you’re awake
He knows if you’ve been bad or good
So be good for goodness sake

When Flora first heard this song when she was four or five, she looked at me with her big googly eyes and said, “Is Santa a Stalker?”

This is the kid who identified Sting’s “Every breath you take” song as problematic when she was seven, and who had problems with “Baby, It’s Cold Outside” long before last year’s … I don’t know what to call it. Awakening, I suppose.

I was just at a concert with one of my loves at which a voice coach, more or less of my vintage, and one of her students—more or less of Flora’s—performed the song, after an introduction in which the voice coach acknowledged that they argued about the “political correctedness” of the lyrics. The teenage boy thought they were appalling and didn’t want to sing the song. The voice coach said, “It’s a great tune.” She prevailed. He sang with the occasional grimace on his face.

I’d like to meet his mother, because kudos to you, woman. Our kids are gonna change the world, right?

iv.

With little tin horns and little toy drums
Rooty toot toots and rummy tum tums
Santa Claus is coming to town
Santa Claus is coming to town
Santa Claus is coming to town

He sees you when you’re sleeping
He knows when you’re awake
He knows if you’ve been bad or good
So be good for goodness sake
Goodness sake

I haven’t been good this year, fuck off, Santa Claus, I don’t want to be.

I’m looking at my list again, checking it thrice. And thinking about how, as you read it—as I read it—sure looks like I had this fantabulous year, right? My Instagram feed is beautiful. Welsh castles and smoking cigars on beaches, rubbing shoulders with celebrities.

Can I please be allowed to say this: it’s been a shitty, shitty, god-awful year. For half of it, I didn’t know if my child would live, how she could live. For the second half of it, I’ve been caught between hope and fear, and moving through life in a state of such emotional exhaustion, to which not even the sleep-deprived nights of early motherhood compare. For all of it, I’ve suffered.

There’s a Buddhist saying, apparently popularized by Haruki Murakami—but I think both Sylvia Boorstein and Thich Nhat Hahn use is—that pain is inevitable but suffering is in your head.

Perhaps. That doesn’t make it any less real. We are our bodies and our minds and, perhaps, some ineffable essence that binds them. We are real.

Suffering fucking sucks.

In the support/training group for parents at Flora’s clinic—I call it, not affectionately, “The Support Group for Parents Whose Children Haven’t Died Yet But Are Suffering So Much They Want To, and Some of Them Will, And How the Fuck Are We Supposed to Not to Suffer with that Hanging Over Us?”—the Pollyanna family therapist tells me that suffering lies in resenting the new normal and sanity lies in celebrating the little victories.

I think there’s a special place reserved in Buddhist hell for family therapists that have read the pop-psychology excerpts of Buddhist sutras, peppered them a little with Eckhart Tolle and Byron Katie and the like, and mouth them at parents while, perhaps, pondering with what photograph they might best couple them so they look good as an Instagram meme.

I’m unfair. They’re doing their damn best, I know, and after all, what can you tell a parent to make them feel better about witnessing, constantly, their child’s suffering?

“Love less” is really not an option.

v.

You better watch out
You better not cry
You better not pout
I’m telling you why
Santa Claus is coming to town
Santa Claus is coming to town
Santa Claus is coming
Santa Claus is coming
Santa Claus is coming to town
(Coming to town)

“Love more,” however, is probably where salvation lies. And where suffering becomes bearable. It doesn’t end, you know. A life devoid of suffering is a life devoid of love. When you love, you suffer. But you also experience the joy that makes you see God, if that’s your shtick—or, in the case of atheists like me, understand the purpose, meaning of a godless life, understand why you are alive.

Loving is not always easy.

Isn’t that a mindfuck? It’s a new thing for me. Loving mine has always been effortless.

Not in 2019.

In 2019, loving has been work. It’s required work, consciousness, effort.

vi.

Santa’s a busy man he has no time to play
He’s got millions of stockings to fill on Christmas day
(Santa Claus is coming to town)
(Coming to town)

I’ve always been quite good at work. At girding my loins and gritting my teeth and doing the shit that needs to be done.

My lesson from 2019 is that the hard work of conscious loving through a crisis and suffering that may never end requires intense play.

For me, much of my most precious play is also my work. In that, I am so lucky.

But it’s also dancing a tequila-infused night away on the rooftop of Broken City (that mountain of a woman, yes, I’m going to put her into a story), reading poetry in bed (but see, that’s also work), smoking sheesha with a fellow writer while not talking about writing at all, drinking coconut-infused stout in a quiet booth in a crowded bar with beautiful people (and thinking, I can use that story about her body builder Tinder date in my novella)… laying in your arms listening to the murmur of city traffic—I can totally pretend it’s a river or an ocean—and not thinking at all for a while.

I think it’s going to be a really tough Christmas. Anniversaries are always tough. I see it already in Flora’s eyes, mood. She’s remembering last year, with her body if not consciously with her mind.

Sean and I remember too. I feel the tenseness, anxiety in my throat, in my spine.

I think about the difference between feeling and doing. And how you can’t always—often—usually—help how you feel. You can affect what you do—not always, I’ll grant you. But often.

Grit teeth. Gird loins. Love more.

Play Christmas music for Ender, because he loves it. Think about Kieran Adam, and cry, a little. Go to the kitchen, and maybe don’t think about the things that happened in it last December, but feel them, you can’t help but feel them. Then, think about the good things. Or, don’t think.

Thinking isn’t always necessary or desired.

Read Hafez. Write a poem. Revise a story. Prepare a slide show for the next workshop.

Text a lover.

Remember you have a son in high school hungry for career guidance, searching for his life’s purpose. Give him love, time, attention.

Love more.

Acknowledge that you suffer to a purpose, and you suffer because you love, and you’d rather love and suffer than not suffer and not love.

Love more.

(Santa Claus is coming to town)
(Coming to town)

“Santa Claus is Coming to Town,” Lyrics by Fred J. Coots and Haven Gillespie
…and, to close let’s enjoy this video by Mariah Carey

xoxo

“Jane”

I believe I can fly

 

It’s a sunny but cold Tuesday in December, and I pack Ender, also a lunch that consists mostly of oranges, into the car. Maggie the runty Boston Terrier I don’t really love—but oh, Ender loves her and she loves him too, they are littermates—jumps into the car with us. Fine. It’s not so cold that she will turn into a dog icicle when I leave her in the car while we explore the Reynolds-Alberta Museum. And she loves car rides. Also, she loves Ender, and he already has his arms wrapped around her. She’s coming.

I trudge back into the house for some pillows and blankets, make them a nest. Have everything? Child, dog, lunch. Water bottle. Ender’s wearing his rainbow crocs—I toss a pair of winter boots into the trunk in case we get stranded on a rural Alberta road and have to walk somewhere. The car’s 12 years old and plucky, but still. December on the prairies. Snowstorms come, ice sneaks up on you, cars flip.

Final check… child, dog, lunch, water bottle, winter boots.

Coffee.

We go.

The Reynolds-Alberta Museum is 246 km, or two hours and twenty minutes, away from Calgary, in the metropolis of Wetaskiwin. It’s dedicated to the spirit of the machine, and it’s full of tractors and vintage farm equipment, old cars, and also, planes. And that’s really all I’m going to tell you about it, because this is not a museum review.

I like the cars. They remind me of Cuba.

Ender likes the planes best.

On the way there, Ender snoozes most of the way, Maggie in his arms. I listen to Martha Beck’s The Joy Diet, and bemoan that I am now the kind of person who listens to books like The Joy Diet. Remember when I used to be the kind of person who just enjoyed living her life? Where is she?

She’s at the Reynolds-Alberta Museum, taking a selfie in a tractor with her 10-year-old son. Hello, me.

He’s very, very happy.

Did I mention he likes the planes best?

When I brought Cinder here—I think I brought Cinder here? Surely, I brought Cinder and Flora here when they were younger—he was fascinated by the insides of  all the machines and spent hours playing with the hands-on gears, pulleys, inclined planes, and levers.

Ender pokes at all of them with mild interest, and returns to his aesthetic enjoyment of the vintage cars. He likes the colours, the lights, the moving parts, the things that go—but he’s not particularly interested in their insides. Me neither. Let’s just look at shiny things.

Look! The workshop! A welder!

We watch the sparks for a while, but neither of us, to be honest, is interested by the science behind the process.

We spend a lot of time in the airplane hangar. As I’ve said twice before—he really likes the planes.

And they are rather magic, if you think about it. First production-style automobile—1885 or so. First manned flight, 1903. The Ford Model T didn’t roll off the assembly line until 1913.

And before the end of World War I, humans were killing each other from airplanes.

Ah, progress.

Fun Fact:

The first country to use [airplanes] for military purposes was Italy, whose aircraft made reconnaissance, bombing and artillery correction flights in Libya during the Italian-Turkish war (September 1911 – October 1912). The first mission (a reconnaissance) occurred on 23 October 1911. The first bombing mission was flown on 1 November 1911. (Source: Ferdinando Pedriali. “Aerei italiani in Libia (1911–1912)”(Italian planes in Libya (1911–1912)). Storia Militare (Military History), N° 170/novembre 2007, p.31–40, via Wikipedia)

I do not give Ender a history lesson. But I tell him a little bit about the speed of these inventions. He doesn’t really care. He’s starting to get concerned about Maggie. Wants to know how long she’s been in the car.

Two hours.

Too long, he decides. Also, he’s done with the museum. We trudge outside, across the prairie field dotted with melting snow, so very well suited to being a rural airport. Car. Dog.

She bounds out of the car like a crazy person—er, animal?—and runs around the empty parking lot. Pees on a clump of snow.

Ender tries to give her some water to drink, but she’s too excited. Runs a few more loops. Then leaps back into the car.

“Is she cold?” Ender asks. I shrug. It’s not pleasant, despite the still-shining sun. The winter winds on the prairies are brutal. But, although she is definitely a creature of comforts—she’s convinced the electric blanket on our couch exists for her pleasure—she is, above all, a pack animal. She’s not taking any chances on being left behind.

We drive back as the sun sets. Maggie snoozes in Ender’s lap. He gazes out the window for a while. Then pulls out his iPad and watches a show. Falls asleep with headphones on, the dog in his lap.

I listen to The Joy Diet. Don’t really hear much of anything. Through the rearview mirror, I see Ender’s happy face.

He had a good day.

So did I.

This is a very prolonged happy moment.

xoxo

“Jane”

“I’m crushing your head!”

So, this happens.

Yeah, that’s me, right there beside Kevin McDonald. Comic genius Kevin McDonald. Of The Kids in the Hall fame, and a toilet-paper roll of post-Kids credit. Comic genius. Formative influence of my misspent childhood.

Also, really nice guy.

One of the things that Kevin does now is travel the country and the continent teaching sketch comedy. I don’t write or perform sketch comedy. I don’t even write comedy. (Really. When I’m funny, it’s almost always not on purpose. Which is both sad and funny, which sort of makes it totally funny, because comedy works best in juxtaposition with tragedy. See? I learned shit this weekend.) But I’m a Kids in the Hall fan, and a Kevin McDonald fan, and I guess I feel I’m running out of time to meet my heroes? And I want to do it even if they disappoint, because they’re old and wrinkly and have feet of clay and bruised egos?

(I’m talking about Julia Cameron. In case that was too subtle for you.)

(I do feel I’m running out of time. This is a new feeling for me. I always used to think life is long. As 2019 comes to an end… it’s not. It’s not.)

Kevin does not disappoint. He spends the Saturday and Sunday of last weekend teaching me and fourteen other writers at the Alexandra Writers’ Centre Society all about sketch comedy. I drag him out of the room once to pace the hallway with him and drill him about pacing. Because sketch comedy is 90% about pacing, mastering pacing… He doesn’t say that, by the way—he says everything is about story—but the pacing part is what really jumps out for me. He shows me how to split a scene into beats. And here’s the beautiful thing about a brilliant teacher: I kinda knew about beats. I kinda knew a scene, to work, had to have a beginning, middle, and an end—a purpose, a climax, a satisfying conclusion. I mean, I did know that. I teach that.

The way he explained the beats of a scene—worth the price of an MFA.

Except, I bet you they don’t teach you that in academic creative writing programs, because, sketch comedy…

So. Weekend learning and laughing with Kevin McDonald. Heaven.

Also, a concert by One Voice Chorus, celebrating the 50th Anniversary of Stonewall, to which I drag Flora. So that she knows about Marsha P. Johnson climbing up a lamp post and dropping a purse full of bricks on a police car and drag queens knocking over a paddy wagon and the triangle street and why Pride is political.

In-between, some not-so good things happen.

I try to hold the centre.

I’m not sure I succeed, to be honest. One moment, I am able to text back to a friend, “Pretty much best weekend ever.” The second moment…

Breathe. Life is complicated and many-faceted.

But also short.

Breathe. Don’t look too closely, because, really, being in the moment is a load of crap at times like this. Endure.

Find peace and escape between the pages of a Neil Gaiman book.

(This one: The View from the Cheap Seats: Selected Non-Fiction by Neil Gaiman)

Not quite back in the centre. But, focusing on the laughter and the learning. Feeding my hunger.

Thinking about my heroin, and my work, and making Ender and Flora lazy sushi for supper, and Cinder, porkchops. He’s having a hard semester: I see that he is at a loss, not in his centre. This is process, it’s the age, it’s part of what must be right now. But… Trying not to worry too much about him, six months from turning eighteen. Legally adult, and then what? What changes? Anything, everything, nothing?

It was, I tell myself firmly, an amazing weekend. I had a great time. There were some rough moments. But there were more good ones.

I gotta tell you, I’m rather tired of giving myself—not to mention others—pep talks and affirmations and validation.

Id wants to climb up a lamp post and drop purses of bricks on everything. And then, crush all your heads.

Super-Ego reminds me Freud’s theories have been almost completely discredited by modern psychology which is, like, real science—experiment-based blah blah blah.

Ego suggests I should watch some Kids in the Hall sketches on YouTube and stop overthinking shit. Because this precise moment, right now? It could be a happy moment. Or at least the memory of a happy moment.

I’m a little worried Id might win.

Send chocolate.

Chocolate and Raspberries photo by Lisa Fotios via Pexels

xoxo

“Jane”

Work, heroin, and a heroine named Clementine

I’m busy with my work and with my heroin, and on the periphery of my consciousness…

You: Heroin?

Relax, I’m not a junkie, it’s a metaphor.

And not even for sheesha, weed or cigars. But can you please stop fixating on that? Sometimes a metaphor is just a metaphor. Also, I don’t want to explain, and also, I don’t have to. Where was I?

I’m busy with my work and with my heroin, and on the periphery of my consciousness, something ends and something begins, other things stir, marinate. I feel them pulsating on the membrane of…

You: Pulsating on the membrane?

Jesus, if you’re just going to interrupt me and ask me to explain every single turn of phrase—come on. Pulsating is a good word. And I’m pretty sure you can pulsate on a membrane. But fine. It’s too fine a phrase, too self-conscious and it would probably come out in the edit anyway. Let’s try that again.

I’m busy with my work and with my heroin, and on the periphery of my consciousness, something ends and something begins, other things stir, and marinate. I know I can’t force them—in fact, I need to very carefully not pay too much attention to them. Sort of like parenting the eldest teenager—I need to be aware, and present, but in absolutely no way hovering. There-but-not-there. I can do that, because, busy with my work and my heroin.

I am putting off calling the therapist and making my next appointment. One, because I’m writing and that feels way better than talking to her about yucky things. Two, because if I’m not writing, and if I’m not with the kids, I want to be with my heroin, and ok, fine, I realize, short-term solution and I should call the fucking therapist, fine, hold on, I’m making the appointment… Next Saturday, 4 p.m., now leave me alone.

Where was I? I’m busy with my work and with my heroin, and on the periphery of my consciousness, something ends and something begins, other things stir, and marinate, and I can’t remember for the life of me where I was going with this. I don’t even remember what ended and what begun. Was it a real thing? Was it a metaphor?

I’m not high. Or low. I’m playing. This, by the way, is the reason why this blog has no advertising on it. Because how on earth would I slide in a plug for Nando Chicken into a post such as this if I had to?

I’m busy with my work and with my heroin, and on the periphery of my consciousness, something ends and something begins, other things stir, and marinate, and the scent of Peri-Peri sauce—Nando’s? Damn right, Nando’s!—wafts into my nostrils.

I have no idea why I’m thinking about Nando’s. There’s one near the Lebanese/Syrian sheesha lounge that I love, but the only time I’ve ever eaten at a Nando’s was in Horsham, UK, because a friend had gift cards he needed to use up. Of course, the other night I did eat delivered Swiss Chalet chicken—for much the same reason, except this time, coupon, not gift cards. And we did talk about ordering from Popeye’s or Nando’s instead but the coupon carried the day.

See, now if Nando’s was paying for this post, they’d be pissed because I mentioned Swiss Chalet.

You: Sure you’re not high?

Jane: Maybe a little. I’ve been enjoying my heroin, a lot.

(Metaphor, seriously, a metaphor.)

(Let’s pretend I said sugar. You can relate to that better, yeah?)

(But really, it’s heroin, pure, unadulterated, perfect heroin. Methadone is for people who want to quit.)

You: Jane? I think you need to go back to not writing.

Jane: Baby? Fuck off. I’m demonstrating why freefall writing is a useful form of exercise, but is not the way to write a novel.

I’m busy with my work and with my heroin, and on the periphery of my consciousness, something ends, something else begins, and a heroine name Clementine starts to take form.

She hates her name. In high school, they called her Clammy Clemmy. Kids are little assholes. So now, she goes by Tina. But then…

Ha.

She needs to marinate some more. Because I have a shitload of revisions to do. And I need to get through them this week so that I have time for my heroin on the weekend…

Ever yours,

“Jane”