Privilege, burnt quesadillas, and betrayal

i.

I spend Friday dealing with school board bureaucracy, driving here and there, getting forms signed, proving to yet another bureaucrat that Flora exists, and—my favourite—sitting opposite a woman who does not know how to type with all ten fingers, OMFG, how does she have this job?—as she inputs the information I just wrote out on a paper form into a computer.

I feel a little tetchy—my time is precious and it is being wasted here—deep breath—the things we do for love—I squeeze Flora’s hand. Done and done, the girl will be starting her high school classes a semester early.

A few weeks earlier, Sean and I were engaged in a similar form-gathering, filling-out, and cat-herding process to get Cinder enrolled into a metal-working program at the local polytechnic, giving him a taste of post-secondary life while still in high school.

Both times, as I finally cleared the final hurdle and declared victory, I came face to face, again, with our ridiculous privilege.

Stop cringing, fellow white friend—take race and skin colour out of the equation for a minute, and just think about this. That particular Friday, all the things that I had to do—they all had to happen before 3 pm on a regular workday. I am so lucky I am, for the most  part, mistress of my own work hours. I can run to one appointment at 11:10 and then cross the city to another one at 11:45, and then circle back to wrap up some more form signing at 2:00. I don’t have to take a sick day, vacation day—or lose a day’s pay—although, to be honest, all through that Friday, I am grinding my teeth at the reality that all this shit that I could do online that I’m being forced to do in person means lost time, lost work that I will have to make up on the weekend, and where will that time come from?

Still. I am able to make that time on a weekday.

Most working parents aren’t—or when they do, it comes with a financial penalty.

Most immigrant parents do not start with jobs that give that that kind of flexibility. Most working class, poor parents can’t afford to take a day off to battle bureaucracy. That’s privilege.

So is this: I am an over-educated woman, who can shake my pile of degrees at the average teacher or bureaucrat and cow them into submission. I understand how the system works, and how to work it. I don’t take “This is the policy” for an answer. I don’t take “No” for an answer when it harms my children. My education—which is a gift from my parents, by the way, and is therefore generational privilege—means I question, challenge and navigate the system. I make it work for my children, rules be damned.

But I can make it work, because—privilege.

Not everyone has the same capacity, ability, access.

Flora and Cinder are benefiting from privilege they were born into.

Will they recognize this when they are older?

ii.

Ender wants a cheese tortilla, and I tell myself to fucking focus, so I don’t burn it, because there is no such thing as multitasking.

Here’s the problem: I put the pan on the element, and I need to heat it up a bit, right? So, I do. Watching a pan heat up is fucking boring. I’m writing, I turn back to the computer… Fuck. The pan is smoking, so hot. I turn down the heat, grab the tortilla, Ender’s fake cheese… put it on the open. Turn to the computer.

The smoke alarm goes off…

So I’m not going to do that this time. I watch the pan heat up… turn my attention to the sink. Fuck. Too hot. Take it off the element, let is cool down. But then, stay focused on it as the tortilla browns, and the cheese melts.

It’s perfect.

There is no such thing as multitasking.

I wish I found watching pans heat and tortillas brown fascinating. Or at least fulfilling.

But, I don’t.

iii.

I’ve been busy, and you haven’t been around much, and as always when we don’t spend a lot of time in which other’s sight and arms, I forget how much I love you. It’s not the same for you, I know—you miss me, long for me, and when we are together, you don’t need to spend any time at all remembering who I am, or how you feel about me.

When I don’t see you for a while, I forget all the feelings. I’ve tried to explain this to you, others, before. They don’t quite understand—neither do you.

I understand, now.

iv.

On Saturday, I wake up with no voice—I fall asleep at 7 pm, Ender beside me—wake up at 9 am. The voice is back, but there’s also some snot. I am not happy—I do not have time for illness, a fuzzy mind, on the schedule.

Also, I’ve been taking these stupid cold showers purely in order to avoid the flu, and now I feel betrayed.

Ok, they’re not so much cold showers as… after my delicious, wonderful HOT shower, I turn off the hot tap and stay in the stream as the water runs cold and then leap out of it, and throw some of the cold water onto my face, and my exposure to the cold is for like, maybe 10, 15 seconds. But still.

Don’t make fun of me. As far as cults and weird quirks go, my cult is fairly harmless and my quirks don’t generally damage others.

But this cold—I feel betrayed.

Still.

I have learned this, from children and animals: when they fall sick, they sleep and heal. Nothing else.

So.

I sleep. I heal.

And tomorrow, I probably won’t let the water run cold after my delicious hot shower, because, betrayed.

 You: But you just said you weren’t doing it right.

Jane: You’re not suggesting I stay in the cold stream longer, are you? Because that’s just not happening.

v.

I have a lot of things to do, and I want to do none of them. The chinook winds are blowing like mad outside—most of the snow on our driveway is gone. The glass panes are rattling. It feels like spring even though it is January.

Ender: Cheese tortilla?

Jane: Seriously? Another one?

He’s hungry. Or bored. Or needs love.

I provide.

Then stretch myself on the couch, wrapped in blankets. Sleep. Heal.

xoxo

“Jane”

Anger as Fuel: Latin History For Morons, Microaggression Defined, Calgary Artist Eman Elkadri’s Social Justice Art #raceissues

Flora and I are watching John Leguizamo’s Latin History for Morons. It’s funny and heartbreaking—the same style of comedy-but-not that Hannah Gadsby presents in Nanette. The premise of the piece is god-awful (in the heartwrenching sense): Leguizamo’s son is experiencing racially motivated bullying in school. And so here’s the thing: this is John Leguizamo’s son. If an American Latino boy can be privileged, surely, that’s this kid. His dad’s not just wealthy—he’s a fucking Hollywood star. He’s famous. A celebrity. Untouchable. Should that not afford some sort of protection against… no. Apparently. not.

Flora’s disgusted. Later, appalled. Finally, she says, “Is that the history the world? White people fucking up and oppressing and killing everyone else?”

“Well, first they did that to each other,” I say. “I mean, when they were landlocked in Europe. Oh. And then there was Attila the Hun. And Genghis Khan.” I come from the part of Europe most exposed to their attention; if you look carefully, you’ll see the results of wartime rape and pillage in my cheekbones. “And the Moors and the Ottomans did some white people oppressing for a while. Sorta.”

“But they didn’t stay. Or exterminate,” Flora points out.

“They didn’t stay. Or exterminate,” I agree. I don’t want to argue the point—at this juncture in time, human history is white people fucking things up for all other people. Even in places where brown people, black people, and rainbow people are scarring each other—they’re doing it against the backdrop of white European colonization and imperialism, white American economic warfare.

And I don’t want to do anything to undermine… her sense of responsibility. I am so glad that her go-to position isn’t, “But I didn’t give anyone smallpox!” “I’m not the one who didn’t colonize North America!” “I didn’t participate in the slave trade!”

That’s not the point…

Flora sighs.

“I’m glad we watched it,” she says. “But it was hard.”

I agree. And love her so much. And suddenly, have hope, because she is not atypical—well, perhaps in some ways—but in this way, she is not. She is typical of her generation.

They’re going to change shit. I know it.

In December, I re-connect with a woman—let’s call her Anne—about my age, a little younger, born in Calgary, but with more melanin in her skin than I have, who has recently become aware of the price that shade of skin, coupled with her uterus, have extracted from her over the course of her education and career. I met her for the first time three, more, years ago, before she’s aware. She wasn’t benefiting from the horrors from colonization—indeed, she was being actively penalized by their enduring heritage—but she didn’t question them. She accepted them as “just the way things are.” She was earning $30K a year less than her less experienced, male, white colleagues? Ouch, wow… but… that’s the way things are. Right?

That’s the way things are.

But that’s not the way thing should be. And she’s done. She’s not putting up with that shit.

“I got really angry,” she tells me.

“Anger is fuel,” I tell her.

By the way—it was a white male colleague, who was out-earning her, who pointed the phenomenon to her and who first put to it the words, “This is not right.” So if you’re wondering what your role in addressing injustices, racial, gender, other, is when you benefit from them, it is, very simply, this. To say, “This is not right.” Not, “That’s just the way it is.”

And then, do something about it—support the people who are doing something about it.

At the very least, get the fuck out of the way of the people doing something about it.

Anne and I meet again the first week of January, at the opening of the Race Issues, a fantastic comic art exhibit by Calgary artist Eman Elkadri. Supported by The Canadian Cultural Mosaic Foundation and ActionDignity’s Youth PLACE project, the exhibit presents the microaggressions faced by Canadian racialized youth in… well, meme form. It is outrageously effective, as art and as social change.

Microaggression is a term Flora is familiar. But one she has to explain to her father.

You: And me.

Jane: Microaggression is the casual degradation of any marginalized group.

I think of it as death by a thousand—ten thousand cuts. This isn’t that one big awful moment when the bus driver tells Rosa Parks to vacate her seat because a white person needs it or Gandhi gets thrown off the train in South Africa because he’s riding in a first-class carriage. This is… all the thoughtless, off-the-cuff everyday things. So small in the moment that the perpetrator—who is wearing a shirt with Gandhi’s “Be the change you want to see in the world” and absolutely loved the Dr. Who episode about Rosa Parks—isn’t aware she’s done something harmful.

And the recipient of the microaggression… often struggles with the validity of their pain. Anger. After all… it was just a question.

They were just making conversation, right?

They didn’t really mean it to be… offensive…

That off the cuff-remark about Asian women drivers… It was just a joke, right?

For fuck’s sake, not this again…

Really?

He didn’t just say that, did he? Yes, he did. Yes he did…

Ok, that was not a micro-aggression. That was pretty macro.

Most microaggresions are more subtle. Like this:

But they cut hard, and close. Like this one:

Flora: Hey, is that why you gave ma an impossible to spell and pronounce Polish name?

Jane: What? To dent your white privilege a little, and teach you compassion?

Flora: No, I meant more as revenge. Making me suffer because you suffered.

Jane: God, no, what sort of monster do you think I am?

She’s 14, so I am the worst monster that ever was—although, as she is now under Leguizamo’s influence, I think she’d cede I am not as bad as Columbus and Cortés.

At Race Issues, I talk a little bit with the artist. I thank Eman Elkadri for the work she’s doing, and I hope I don’t come across as condescending, a privileged old white woman patronizing a younger one. I hope not. I don’t know. My taste of Canada’s and the world’s racism has always been mitigated by the lack of pigmentation in my skin—and augmented by the privilege of education and relative economic stability. My taste of sexism was always mitigated by my confidence and the gifts my father gave me.

I miss my chance to take Flora to see Eman Elkadri’s art, but I show her the images online.  She’s silent for a while, then asks me about the artist’s age. I don’t know, exactly. Young, because the Canadian Cultural Mosaic Foundation is an organization for the young: “We are millennials and Gen Z activists who are working to improve race relations in Canada.” (I suspect that’s why they’re going to be successful.)  Similarly, The Youth PLACE project focuses on the young, by engaging “racialized youth to inform, create, incubate and implement approaches to address the systemic racism and day to day barriers that they face.”

“Mid-twenties?” I hazard. I tell her about CCMF.

“Why is it the young people who have to change the world?” Flora demands.

“Because the old who were trying to change the world get too beaten up and exhausted to keep on fighting—and the ones who were comfortable with the way things were just get more comfortable and resistant to change as they get older.”

I’m so fucking wise.

Flora: You’re so fucking wise.

Yesterday, she thought I was too stupid to live, so I preen.

Eman Elkadri and my friend Anne talk for a while. I melt into the background, lose myself in the crowd—oh-my-fucking-god, there are so many people—the little gallery is packed—and they are so young—they are so going to change the world—art is powerful—I get dizzy, step outside, and watch the people and the art through the dusty window.

In an interview with The MetroStar, Eman Elkadri talks about her own awakening, which took place in a university class. “We would go around and talk about our experiences with racial issues, and it made me realize, wow, when I was younger, racism did happen, but I put it on the back burner and tried to change myself.”

That was Anne’s experience too. Anne was born here—as, I think, was Eman, though I am not sure, and I don’t ask. But this story is so common to me now: born here. Canadian by birth, by right. But not by sight. “Where are you really from.”

I am not born here. But I don’t get the “Where are you originally from?” question until people hear my name.* Anne, Eman—they get it on first sight.

Not cool. Not right.

Let’s change that. Now.

“Jane”

*PS I have a long rant inside me about what you can say instead of “Where are you from,” and perhaps one day, I’ll share that with you. But if you think you ask that question in pure innocence and curiosity, consider this: When people meet me as Jane, they never ask me where I’m from. Nor do they hear an accent. But when they meet me as Marzena… I have an accent. And they cannot talk to me about anything else, until they ascertain where I’m from. Fascinating, no?

PS2 View the full slide show of Race issues HERE, find out more about the Canadian Culture Mosaic Foundation HERE, learn about John Leguizamo’s Required Reading for America (shorthand; Eduardo Galeano’s Open Veins of Latin America, Howard Zinn’s A People’s History of the United States, and Charles Mann’s 1491) HERE, and watch the trailer for Latin History for Morons below:

About Race Issues: This project was created in partnership with Canadian Cultural Mosaic Foundation; Artist’s Statement

The images and stories presented within these comics symbolize a disconnect between the perception of an equitable Canadian society and the very real experiences of Indigenous peoples of this land and racialized Canadians. Although diverse cultures do coexist and thrive within Canada, many individuals cannot help but feel that their identity is constantly compared and contrasted to whiteness. It is up to all of us to be more conscious of the ways we treat each other, and to avoid the use of microaggressions by being more aware of how biases, stereotypes, and misconceptions frame the way we interact with others. Differences are what make our country such a vibrant and unique place to live, and we all have to learn to embrace people that look, speak, and act differently than we do. When we choose to acknowledge that our personal experiences are not universally shared by everyone, we will no longer react in ways that “other” people for not being just like us. We exist within a time and generation where there is no one way to look or speak Canadian, and it is important that we continue to challenge the assumption that there is.

Source: http://www.canadianculturalmosaicfoundation.com/race-issues.html

 

 

The year will end on a Monday (Week 52: Guilt and Gratitude)

i

It’s the last Sunday in December, the last Sunday of 2018—tomorrow is the last day of the year. The year ends on a Monday, as it began. My 52 week experiment is over. The commitment met—on some weeks joyfully, on some weeks reluctantly, each word typed out in a spirit of anger, resistance. Also—practice.

Was it a good exercise? Yes. For me. For you, I don’t know. But then, it was never about you.

You: It never is.

Jane: It sometimes is. Just not this time.

It’s the time of year for reflection, and a time of year that, for the past 13 years, has carried for me the shadow of heartbreaking grief. This year, the shadow has seemed fainter, and that made things easier, until it didn’t—I don’t want to forget. Memories, even the awful ones, are all that we have of the past.

You: Not true. You know that.

I suppose. We are, after all, made of the past. Nothing else.

The faintness of the shadow comes from the demands of the present. Flora’s going through a rough patch, I’m starting a new job and two new projects. I am moving, moving, thinking about the future and so busy in the present, the past lessens its hold.

A little.

I don’t want to be busy. This past year, I was supposed to look for sustainable rhythm (assignment to self) or some other such unicorn. It proved as elusive as unicorns usually are. But I did learn a lot about my process—my blinders—my guilt.

Imagine motherhood, marriage, life without guilt.

Sean’s been off work this week and doing the heavy lifting at home. I’m grateful. And guilty. And, aware that come the New Year, new job and projects notwithstanding, the heavy lifting will be mine again. And I’m afraid. And resentful.

And, guilty for feeling resentful. Which makes me short-tempered and snappy and then, again, guilty for being…

I used to blame those first 14 years of a Catholic upbringing on my finely developed sense of guilt, but it runs even deeper than that. Because you’ve got it too…

Funny thing about guilt: guilt cannot really co-exist with gratitude. It crowds out gratitude, diminishes it. I’m not sure it works the other way around.

Wait.

It does.

Epiphany.

Gratitude.

ii

The holiday week has no Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, Friday, Saturday… Sunday. The days get jumbled and confused. My weekly rhythm and routine come undone. And the only one of the kids who is really enjoying it is Cinder. The holiday week offers a break from the routine of school for him, as it does a break from the routine of work for Sean.

For Flora, Ender, Ender and me—it just takes away the anchors we use to organize our time. Flora comes undone. Ender is clingy. I’m… angry, not working enough. Guilty.

Jane: We should have gone to Cuba.

The lack of routine in a new place at least comes with novelty. And an active search for a new routine…

iii

How we spend our days is, of course, how we spend our lives. What we do with this hour, and that one, is what we are doing. A schedule defends from chaos and whim. It is a net for catching days. It is a scaffolding on which a worker can stand and labor with both hands at sections of time. A schedule is a mock-up of reason and order—willed, faked, and so brought into being; it is a peace and a haven set into the wreck of time; it is a lifeboat on which you find yourself, decades later, still living.

Annie Dillard

So I’m writing about this again in one of my projects, and I’m dealing a bit with this with Flora-and always, myself—and Sean would like Cinder to spend less time on video games.

But when I need a rest from the world, I reread Jane Austen—how is that different or better?

I understand Cinder.

Sean understands Flora.

Ender… he’s a mystery.

Sean: He’s love.

He is love.

 

iv

The year ends much as it began. Some changes. Some statis. Some joy. Some pain.

A sudden clarity, followed by fog and clouding.

Hello, 2019.

May you be full of gratitude.

xoxo

“Jane”

2018

The year started with a Monday; so does every week (Week 1: Transitions and Intentions)

Easier than you think, harder than I expected: a week in eleven stanzas (Week 2: Goodness and Selfishness)

A moody story (Week 3: Ebb and Flow)

Do it full out (Week 4: Passions and Outcomes)

The Buddha was a psychopath and other heresies (Week 5: No Cohesion)

A good week (Week 6: Execute, Regroup)

Killing it (Week 7: Exhaustion and Adrenaline)

Tired, petty, tired, unimportant (Week 8: Disappointment and Perseverance)

Professionals do it like this: [insert key scene here] (Week 9: Battle, Fatigue, Reward)

Reading Nabokov, crying, whining, regrouping (Week 10: Tears and Dreams)

Shake the Disease (Week 11: Sickness and Health… well, mostly sickness)

Cremation, not embalming, but I think I might live after all (Week 12: Angst and Gratitude)

Let’s pretend it all does have meaning (Week 13: Convalescence and Rebirth)

The cage is will, the lock is discipline (Week 14: Up and Down)

My negotiated self thinks you don’t exist–wanna make something of it? (Week 15: Priorities and Opportunity)

An introvert’s submission + radical prioritization in action, also pouting (Week 16: Ruthless and Weepy)

It’s about a radical, sustainable rhythm (Week 17: Sprinting and Napping)

It was a pickle juice waterfall but no bread was really harmed in the process (Week 18: Happy and Sad)

You probably shouldn’t call your teacher bad names, but sometimes, your mother must (Week 19: Excitement and Exhaustion)

Tell me I’m beautiful and feed me cherries (Week 20: Excitement and Exhaustion II)

A very short post about miracles, censorship, change: Week 21 (Transitions and Celebrations)

Time flies, and so does butter (Week 22: Remembering and forgetting)

I love you, I want you, I need you, I can’t find you (Week 23: Work and Rest)

You don’t understand—you can’t treat my father’s daughter this way (Week 24: Fathers and Daughters)

The summer was… SULTRY (Week 25: Gratitude and Collapse)

It’s like rest but not really (Week 26: Meandering and Reflection)

It’s the wrong question (Week 27: Success and Failure)

On not meditating but meditating anyway, and a cameo from John Keats (Week 28: Busy and Resting)

Hot, cold, self-indulgent as fuck (Week 29: Fire and Ice)

In which our heroine hides under a table (Week 30: Tears and Chocolate)

Deadlines and little lies make the world go round (Week 31: Honesty and Compassion)

That’s not the way the pope would put it, but… (Week 32: Purpose and Miracles)

And before you know it, it’s over (Week 33: Fast and Slow)

Ragazzo da Napoli zajechał Mirafiori (Week 34: Nostalgia and Belonging)

Depression is a narcissistic disease, fentanyl is dangerous, and knowledge is power, sort of (Week 35: Introspection and Awareness)

I’m not gonna tell you (Week 36: Smoke and Mirrors)

Slightly irritable and yet kinda happy (Week 37: Self-Improvement and Self-Indulgence)

It’s not procrastination, it’s process (Week 38: Back and Forth)

Pavlov’s experiments, 21st-century style (Week 39: Connectivity and Solitude)

The last thing I remember (Week 40: truth and um, not really)

All of life’s a (larval) stage (Week 41: Stagnation and Transformation)

Damn you, Robert Frost (Week 42: Angst and more Angst)

Speaking of conflict avoidance… (Week 43: Fight of Flight)

Halloween, Samhain, All Saints Day, Day of The Dead, Candy (Week 44: Neither Here Nor There)

Again with the silver-tongued Persians, and other stories (Week 45: Silence and language)

War, Famine, Pestilence, Mornings (Week 46: Mornings and the Apocalypse)

Time flies but the Christmas tree is up (Week 47: Status quo and Change)

I didn’t kill anyone–it just smells like it (Week 48: Guilt & Poison)

You have a bad memory, while I want to rest on a flower (Week 49: Mothers and Caterpillars)

Atheism, Spirituality, Boundaries, Slytherins (Week 50: This and That)

When everyone’s a special snowflake… (Week 51: Normal and Narcissistic)

—->>>POSTCARDS FROM CUBA

nothingbythebook @ gmail.com

When everyone’s a special snowflake… (Week 51: Normal and Narcissistic)

i

Morning. The sun is not up yet. Winter. Darkness. Solstice has come and gone but the days will not get noticeably longer until February so it’s still very dark and my morning’s writing births another unpublishable post. Big ideas. Inadequate expression. Inevitable violation of another’s privacy, unforgivable.

How do I make the idea… impersonal and thus shareable? I cannot. Abstract ideas are useless.

I like to be useful.

I think every being does.

You: Except for her.

Jane: That’s mean.

You: What’s she good for?

Jane: She’s … she’s so very ornamental.

ii

the world owes you nothing

Do your thing. Follow your path. Do what you love. Keep this in mind: the world owes you nothing. It doesn’t owe you riches or fame or even a semblance of recognition. It doesn’t even owe you a living. Sorry.

The world—society, market, people, however you want to operationalize or anthropomorphize the concept—has a right to demand that your art—product—vision—is of use to it… and to refuse to buy it, laud it, use it, if it’s not.

The world owes you nothing.

The world owes me nothing.

Do your thing anyway. Be useful on the side so you can pay the rent, buy food, and the  occasional shiny thing (or trip to Cuba). But know that the world owes you nothing, not even appreciation. In this recognition lies freedom. In clinging to some sense of entitlement lies unhappiness. Misery. Possibly madness.

“Hand-crafted by non-conformists,” Cinder’s pierogi tray

iii

I’ve figured out how to salvage one paragraph from the morning’s writing. Out of context, it reads as even more narcissistic than in the context. Still. Look what I do with it:

I am not prone to depression or anxiety, social or otherwise. I am not a highly sensitive person—just sensitive enough. Nor am I, despite what Flora sometimes suggests, a highly functional sociopath. I’m pretty sure I do not have borderline personality disorder. I definitely do not have any of the characteristics currently labeled and medicated as ADHD. I might be a little narcissistic, but then, who isn’t? We all think the world revolves mostly around us, and experience it from the limited point of view of ourselves (unless we “transcend,” but I’m pretty sure even that’s a potentially narcissistic illusion). I’m moody as all fuck, really clever with words and less so with numbers, and I’d be more likely to invent a story about why the sun rises and sets every morning and night than study the heavens to get them to reveal their natural mysteries to me. I’m easily overstimulated by crowds and noise, and I’m afraid of heights and small, dark places, but I venture into them anyway. I try to be open-minded, I can be judgemental—and I don’t think that’s a bad thing. I used to think I wasn’t very compassionate and empathetic, but then I realized I was, I just don’t like kittens and ugly babies and I’m pretty damn good at not letting the suffering of others paralyze me, because, once paralyzed, what good am I to you?

I think what all of the above makes me is… normal.

No girl ever wants to be called ‘normal,’ does she? She wants to be called ‘special’ and ‘amazing’ and ‘sexy’ and ‘passionate’ and a million other words that mean she’s unique. ‘Normal’ is just another word for ‘boring.’

Alexandra Potter, Me & Mr. Darcy

I am most definitely not boring. No worries there.

iv

The world owes me nothing.

But what do I owe the world?

Babi’s pierogi production (and eating) factory

xoxo

“Jane”

“Blood-splattered apron over velvet suit jacket kitchen selfie”

2018

The year started with a Monday; so does every week (Week 1: Transitions and Intentions)

Easier than you think, harder than I expected: a week in eleven stanzas (Week 2: Goodness and Selfishness)

A moody story (Week 3: Ebb and Flow)

Do it full out (Week 4: Passions and Outcomes)

The Buddha was a psychopath and other heresies (Week 5: No Cohesion)

A good week (Week 6: Execute, Regroup)

Killing it (Week 7: Exhaustion and Adrenaline)

Tired, petty, tired, unimportant (Week 8: Disappointment and Perseverance)

Professionals do it like this: [insert key scene here] (Week 9: Battle, Fatigue, Reward)

Reading Nabokov, crying, whining, regrouping (Week 10: Tears and Dreams)

Shake the Disease (Week 11: Sickness and Health… well, mostly sickness)

Cremation, not embalming, but I think I might live after all (Week 12: Angst and Gratitude)

Let’s pretend it all does have meaning (Week 13: Convalescence and Rebirth)

The cage is will, the lock is discipline (Week 14: Up and Down)

My negotiated self thinks you don’t exist–wanna make something of it? (Week 15: Priorities and Opportunity)

An introvert’s submission + radical prioritization in action, also pouting (Week 16: Ruthless and Weepy)

It’s about a radical, sustainable rhythm (Week 17: Sprinting and Napping)

It was a pickle juice waterfall but no bread was really harmed in the process (Week 18: Happy and Sad)

You probably shouldn’t call your teacher bad names, but sometimes, your mother must (Week 19: Excitement and Exhaustion)

Tell me I’m beautiful and feed me cherries (Week 20: Excitement and Exhaustion II)

A very short post about miracles, censorship, change: Week 21 (Transitions and Celebrations)

Time flies, and so does butter (Week 22: Remembering and forgetting)

I love you, I want you, I need you, I can’t find you (Week 23: Work and Rest)

You don’t understand—you can’t treat my father’s daughter this way (Week 24: Fathers and Daughters)

The summer was… SULTRY (Week 25: Gratitude and Collapse)

It’s like rest but not really (Week 26: Meandering and Reflection)

It’s the wrong question (Week 27: Success and Failure)

On not meditating but meditating anyway, and a cameo from John Keats (Week 28: Busy and Resting)

Hot, cold, self-indulgent as fuck (Week 29: Fire and Ice)

In which our heroine hides under a table (Week 30: Tears and Chocolate)

Deadlines and little lies make the world go round (Week 31: Honesty and Compassion)

That’s not the way the pope would put it, but… (Week 32: Purpose and Miracles)

And before you know it, it’s over (Week 33: Fast and Slow)

Ragazzo da Napoli zajechał Mirafiori (Week 34: Nostalgia and Belonging)

Depression is a narcissistic disease, fentanyl is dangerous, and knowledge is power, sort of (Week 35: Introspection and Awareness)

I’m not gonna tell you (Week 36: Smoke and Mirrors)

Slightly irritable and yet kinda happy (Week 37: Self-Improvement and Self-Indulgence)

It’s not procrastination, it’s process (Week 38: Back and Forth)

Pavlov’s experiments, 21st-century style (Week 39: Connectivity and Solitude)

The last thing I remember (Week 40: truth and um, not really)

All of life’s a (larval) stage (Week 41: Stagnation and Transformation)

Damn you, Robert Frost (Week 42: Angst and more Angst)

Speaking of conflict avoidance… (Week 43: Fight of Flight)

Halloween, Samhain, All Saints Day, Day of The Dead, Candy (Week 44: Neither Here Nor There)

Again with the silver-tongued Persians, and other stories (Week 45: Silence and language)

War, Famine, Pestilence, Mornings (Week 46: Mornings and the Apocalypse)

Time flies but the Christmas tree is up (Week 47: Status quo and Change)

I didn’t kill anyone–it just smells like it (Week 48: Guilt & Poison)

You have a bad memory, while I want to rest on a flower (Week 49: Mothers and Caterpillars)

Atheism, Spirituality, Boundaries, Slytherins (Week 50: This and That)

—->>>POSTCARDS FROM CUBA

nothingbythebook @ gmail.com

Atheism, Spirituality, Boundaries, Slytherins (Week 50: This and That)

i

No preamble at all:

I feel very conflicted about my current spiritual practice, because, you see, I’ve spent three decades of my life as a proud atheist (the first fourteen years as a born Catholic). My atheism has never been a central part of my identity, as it is for, for example, the rather terrifying (and unhappy) Richard Dawkins. But it’s definitely been part of the mix in the Sorting Hat.

(I’ve never taken the Harry Potter sorting hat quizzes, by the way, but my family assures me, with no hesitation, that I’m a Slytherin. That makes all four houses represented in our nuclear family of five: Ender and Sean are Hufflepuffs, Flora says she’s a Hufflepuff but she’s really a Ravenclaw, and Cinder is definitely a Gryffindor.)

I’ve never been a cynical atheist either, usually thinking the world beautiful and fascinating even when it is nasty and cruel. The caterpillar becoming a butterfly: how fucking awesome is that? The theory of evolution to explain it—thank you, Darwin! My atheism has never been devoid of wonder and gratitude. (Only briefly, perhaps in late adolescence, when, in love with a cynical atheist, I tried to be cynical too—but, fortunately, it did not stick. Cynicism, you see, is neither attractive nor creative. You can’t make amazing shit, discover new things when you’re busy scoffing at the world.)

Anyway. So now I sit and breathe—me, the woman who always hated yoga and scoffed at meditation (almost cynically, tis true) and who will still tell you that if yoga really was the path to enlightenment, then India would be the most enlightened, peaceful, perfect society in the world and, well, caste system, sorry, you lose, you don’t get to claim enlightenment, wisdom and compassion if you have the caste system and I’m not even going to touch on the sexism. And I still think the Buddha was a psychopath and a really shitty father, and no, I can’t forgive him for leaving his little boy—what do you think your abandonment did to him, you asshole, and how much meditating did he have to do to let go of the suffering caused by his father just fucking off?

But still. I now sit and breathe. Once, twice a day. Still, alone—and suddenly part of everything that ever was and will be, holy fuck, what a feeling, and then, again, alone.

I don’t find myself in the stillness. Me, I’m always here. What I find is the rest of the world and  my very insignificant, ordinary, yet critical and magical place in it.

So.

I sit.

And breathe.

And once or twice a week, I go and I sit and breathe and chant and wave my arms around and otherwise do ridiculous things with a group of other people who are sitting and breathing and chanting and breaking down their ego. There is nothing sexy or athletic about the yoga I do—and not a single leotard or crop top in sight, by the way, although palazzo and harem pants seem to be all the rage at the moment. And I have to admit that on some level, this is my church. That being amidst other people who experience that same moment of something or other, stillness or belonging or unity or dissolution—their presence amplifies the experience. Alone-not-alone. I like it. I want it. Maybe, I even need it, although that’s still hard to admit.

I sit and breathe. Sometimes, I lie down and breathe. Walk and breathe. Yesterday, I sat on a damp, sunny hill, my back against the trunk of a tree, cold winter sunshine on my face and in my eyes, and I breathed. Then I smoked a cigar. Breathed some more.

You: Jesus, if you try to argue that cigar smoking is part of your spiritual practice.

Jane: No. It’s an indulgence, a vice. And a short-cut.

But it achieves the same thing. Time slows down, I slow down, everything else recedes, there is only the breath and the smoke.

My  morning pages are still part of my spiritual practice (year five now). And I don’t flinch every time I say “spiritual” (although, fuck, isn’t it a pain when the way other people use a word spoils it for you?). So be it. I’m a spiritual ape. I think the natural laws and yet unknown mysteries of the universe are amazing. I don’t mind, some of the time, giving them the word “divine.” After all—cosmic dust, promiscuous electrons—and that liquid caterpillar in its chrysalis—how are they less divine than the flour-free chocolate cake you made me just because you love me?

You: Chocolate cake?

Jane: Chocolate cake is divine. And so is Hafez’s poetry and the seashell ear of a child.

You: I think you’d better wrap up this essay while you still have a point and before it degenerates into utter self-indulgence.

Possibly already too late. But, time is pacing, relentlessly, and I still want to sit and breathe a while before I start doing all the things.

ii

The doorbell rings at 9 am.

Ender: Yes, you can come in. But only stay three or four hours, ok? When you’re here the whole day…

Friend: It gets boring?

Ender: It’s just too much. I need a break and some me time.

Sean overhears them. Is amazed—“Isn’t that amazing that at  nine, he can articulate that?” But then, this is my son. Earlier this week, I am seated in a loveseat at Lounge XVIII with her. The loveseat opposite us, separated from ours by a low table, is empty. The lounge is very crowded; two young men ask, politely, if we mind if they sit there. She agrees. I nod. Why not, the table separates us—and the lounge is very crowded. It is a kind, NICE thing to do.

The two young men are very young. Very drunk. Very friendly.

Too friendly.

Jane: So, you are very welcome to sit there, but we’re on a date here, and I actually don’t want to interact with you, so if you could just talk to each other and not to us?

They are… muzzled, muted. And actually, after a period of awkward prolonged silence, get up and join someone else’s table.

Her: I can’t believe you said that.

Jane: Did you want to spend the whole evening making conversation with two drunks?

Her: No, but…

No buts.

Boundaries.

I spent years teaching Flora about boundaries, how to recognize them, respect them, communicate them—how not to feel bad about having them. It was an upstream battle (forgive the mixed metaphor), because our culture works very hard at breaking down girls’ and women’s boundaries.

Nice girls smile and say yes.

Bitches have boundaries.

Well. So be it.

I am not a nice girl, and I’d rather raise a bitch than a victim.

iii

Mornings. Mornings. Mornings.

My routine in 2019 is about to get two mornings on which I have to be somewhere, perky and ON, by 8 am, which means I’ll have to get up at 6 am, which means…

Ugh.

I’m not sure I can do it. Ok, let me rephrase that. Of course I know I can do it. I will do it. I must do it. Can I do it unfrazzled, unhurried, unresentful? Taking my time for my morning pages and scalding hot coffee, my shower and my meditation, a proper breakfast?

You: Probably not.

See, this is what I’m afraid of. My story for the past 20, 30 years has been that I don’t do mornings. The last time I tried to change this and create an intense early morning work routine, I almost went crazy. (Fall 2017… to be fair, there were other reasons compounding the crazy. But getting up before 6 am did not help.)

It’s not even, I think, that I mind getting up early. Today, I was up at 7 am, and no one made me, there is no place I need to be by 8 or 9 or even 10. But… I’m just not… I’m not fast or focused early in the morning. I move like molasses or a sloth that needs to empty its bladder but, ugh, the bottom of the tree is such a long way away, is there no other way to pee? In the mornings, I move slow and I don’t like to be hurried. Hence, I’m thinking 6 am wake up time to make my 8 am commitment, not 6:30 or 6:45, which, technically, might be enough… but really isn’t. I want time to move at my sloth-molasses pace. But that means, waking up so early.

Will I do it?

We will see.

iv

Sit.

Breathe.

Boundaries.

Mornings.

Flora: I think you called me a bitch.

Jane: I said I was raising you to have boundaries.

Flora: And then…

Jane: How about… I’m trying to inject a bit of Slytherin into your Hufflepuff.

She’s not convinced. But trust me. The Slytherin do have some redeemable qualities, and not just because Alan Rickman played Snape.

Jane: You’ll thank me. I’m pretty sure, eventually, you’ll appreciate this.

Thank me, blame me.

Breathe.

xoxo

“Jane”

Professor Slytherin Glasses ;P

2018

The year started with a Monday; so does every week (Week 1: Transitions and Intentions)

Easier than you think, harder than I expected: a week in eleven stanzas (Week 2: Goodness and Selfishness)

A moody story (Week 3: Ebb and Flow)

Do it full out (Week 4: Passions and Outcomes)

The Buddha was a psychopath and other heresies (Week 5: No Cohesion)

A good week (Week 6: Execute, Regroup)

Killing it (Week 7: Exhaustion and Adrenaline)

Tired, petty, tired, unimportant (Week 8: Disappointment and Perseverance)

Professionals do it like this: [insert key scene here] (Week 9: Battle, Fatigue, Reward)

Reading Nabokov, crying, whining, regrouping (Week 10: Tears and Dreams)

Shake the Disease (Week 11: Sickness and Health… well, mostly sickness)

Cremation, not embalming, but I think I might live after all (Week 12: Angst and Gratitude)

Let’s pretend it all does have meaning (Week 13: Convalescence and Rebirth)

The cage is will, the lock is discipline (Week 14: Up and Down)

My negotiated self thinks you don’t exist–wanna make something of it? (Week 15: Priorities and Opportunity)

An introvert’s submission + radical prioritization in action, also pouting (Week 16: Ruthless and Weepy)

It’s about a radical, sustainable rhythm (Week 17: Sprinting and Napping)

It was a pickle juice waterfall but no bread was really harmed in the process (Week 18: Happy and Sad)

You probably shouldn’t call your teacher bad names, but sometimes, your mother must (Week 19: Excitement and Exhaustion)

Tell me I’m beautiful and feed me cherries (Week 20: Excitement and Exhaustion II)

A very short post about miracles, censorship, change: Week 21 (Transitions and Celebrations)

Time flies, and so does butter (Week 22: Remembering and forgetting)

I love you, I want you, I need you, I can’t find you (Week 23: Work and Rest)

You don’t understand—you can’t treat my father’s daughter this way (Week 24: Fathers and Daughters)

The summer was… SULTRY (Week 25: Gratitude and Collapse)

It’s like rest but not really (Week 26: Meandering and Reflection)

It’s the wrong question (Week 27: Success and Failure)

On not meditating but meditating anyway, and a cameo from John Keats (Week 28: Busy and Resting)

Hot, cold, self-indulgent as fuck (Week 29: Fire and Ice)

In which our heroine hides under a table (Week 30: Tears and Chocolate)

Deadlines and little lies make the world go round (Week 31: Honesty and Compassion)

That’s not the way the pope would put it, but… (Week 32: Purpose and Miracles)

And before you know it, it’s over (Week 33: Fast and Slow)

Ragazzo da Napoli zajechał Mirafiori (Week 34: Nostalgia and Belonging)

Depression is a narcissistic disease, fentanyl is dangerous, and knowledge is power, sort of (Week 35: Introspection and Awareness)

I’m not gonna tell you (Week 36: Smoke and Mirrors)

Slightly irritable and yet kinda happy (Week 37: Self-Improvement and Self-Indulgence)

It’s not procrastination, it’s process (Week 38: Back and Forth)

Pavlov’s experiments, 21st-century style (Week 39: Connectivity and Solitude)

The last thing I remember (Week 40: truth and um, not really)

All of life’s a (larval) stage (Week 41: Stagnation and Transformation)

Damn you, Robert Frost (Week 42: Angst and more Angst)

Speaking of conflict avoidance… (Week 43: Fight of Flight)

Halloween, Samhain, All Saints Day, Day of The Dead, Candy (Week 44: Neither Here Nor There)

Again with the silver-tongued Persians, and other stories (Week 45: Silence and language)

War, Famine, Pestilence, Mornings (Week 46: Mornings and the Apocalypse)

Time flies but the Christmas tree is up (Week 47: Status quo and Change)

I didn’t kill anyone–it just smells like it (Week 48: Guilt & Poison)

You have a bad memory, while I want to rest on a flower (Week 49: Mothers and Caterpillars)

—->>>POSTCARDS FROM CUBA

nothingbythebook @ gmail.com

You have a bad memory, while I want to rest on a flower (Week 49: Mothers and Caterpillars)

I have in my notebooks, Word documents, half a dozen sketches about this week. Reflections on consent, privilege, and race. Reflections on social media, connectivity, and mob mentality—and Facebook in particular—I think I’m opting out, by the way, loves, but more on that later in the month. Reflections on teenagers and their pain and beauty. Reflections on the second adolescence that is my forties, and perhaps yours. Narcissistic reflections on what I want, what I don’t want.

Not very much angst about who I am. That, I know and you’d think everything would just flow from that. Yet, it doesn’t.

Ender: You are my Mama.

I am. And so many other things, my little love. But always your Mama, yes.

This little love of mine is nine, but when he curls up in my arms he might as well be three. I wonder if all third or last babies endure this prolonged infantalization. Sometimes, I fight it—I wish he was a tween—fuck, what a terrible word, btw, made up, imagined life phase, too-fleeting and ephemeral to matter except to marketers. And sometimes, I am so grateful I still have my baby that I am still the mom who can fix almost everything with a hug and a kiss.

Not as easy any more with the teenagers.

Sean: They’re good kids.

They’re amazing kids. But they are now metamorphosing caterpillars, caught in the limbo between childhood and adulthood, a time that was never easy and that now seems impossible.

When I meet people nostalgic for that first bloom of youth, that first adulthood, I always think they must have very bad memories. Who on earth would miss that excruciating pain of that first self-discovery and those first attempts at self-actualization?

It’s bad enough the second and third time around.

You: You in a cocoon, metamorphosing again?

I wish. There is a certain appeal in being recombinant liquid swooshing around into its next incarnation in the protective cover of a chrysalis. No. I’m no not metamorphosing. That metaphor does not fit right now.

But I’ve been running, flying very hard and I need to take a break. Rest on a flower.

Her: Just one? You’re not lusting after a meadow full of flowers?

A meadow sounds nice. Sunshine.

This week, the notebooks are full of sketches like this. This one is no better or worse than the others; representative, I suppose. And probably should not be shared either. Technically, it’s just not very good, and I’m paying a lot of attention to technique these days.

Still.

I’m also committed to a certain production schedule and deadline.

So there you go.

“Jane”

2018

The year started with a Monday; so does every week (Week 1: Transitions and Intentions)

Easier than you think, harder than I expected: a week in eleven stanzas (Week 2: Goodness and Selfishness)

A moody story (Week 3: Ebb and Flow)

Do it full out (Week 4: Passions and Outcomes)

The Buddha was a psychopath and other heresies (Week 5: No Cohesion)

A good week (Week 6: Execute, Regroup)

Killing it (Week 7: Exhaustion and Adrenaline)

Tired, petty, tired, unimportant (Week 8: Disappointment and Perseverance)

Professionals do it like this: [insert key scene here] (Week 9: Battle, Fatigue, Reward)

Reading Nabokov, crying, whining, regrouping (Week 10: Tears and Dreams)

Shake the Disease (Week 11: Sickness and Health… well, mostly sickness)

Cremation, not embalming, but I think I might live after all (Week 12: Angst and Gratitude)

Let’s pretend it all does have meaning (Week 13: Convalescence and Rebirth)

The cage is will, the lock is discipline (Week 14: Up and Down)

My negotiated self thinks you don’t exist–wanna make something of it? (Week 15: Priorities and Opportunity)

An introvert’s submission + radical prioritization in action, also pouting (Week 16: Ruthless and Weepy)

It’s about a radical, sustainable rhythm (Week 17: Sprinting and Napping)

It was a pickle juice waterfall but no bread was really harmed in the process (Week 18: Happy and Sad)

You probably shouldn’t call your teacher bad names, but sometimes, your mother must (Week 19: Excitement and Exhaustion)

Tell me I’m beautiful and feed me cherries (Week 20: Excitement and Exhaustion II)

A very short post about miracles, censorship, change: Week 21 (Transitions and Celebrations)

Time flies, and so does butter (Week 22: Remembering and forgetting)

I love you, I want you, I need you, I can’t find you (Week 23: Work and Rest)

You don’t understand—you can’t treat my father’s daughter this way (Week 24: Fathers and Daughters)

The summer was… SULTRY (Week 25: Gratitude and Collapse)

It’s like rest but not really (Week 26: Meandering and Reflection)

It’s the wrong question (Week 27: Success and Failure)

On not meditating but meditating anyway, and a cameo from John Keats (Week 28: Busy and Resting)

Hot, cold, self-indulgent as fuck (Week 29: Fire and Ice)

In which our heroine hides under a table (Week 30: Tears and Chocolate)

Deadlines and little lies make the world go round (Week 31: Honesty and Compassion)

That’s not the way the pope would put it, but… (Week 32: Purpose and Miracles)

And before you know it, it’s over (Week 33: Fast and Slow)

Ragazzo da Napoli zajechał Mirafiori (Week 34: Nostalgia and Belonging)

Depression is a narcissistic disease, fentanyl is dangerous, and knowledge is power, sort of (Week 35: Introspection and Awareness)

I’m not gonna tell you (Week 36: Smoke and Mirrors)

Slightly irritable and yet kinda happy (Week 37: Self-Improvement and Self-Indulgence)

It’s not procrastination, it’s process (Week 38: Back and Forth)

Pavlov’s experiments, 21st-century style (Week 39: Connectivity and Solitude)

The last thing I remember (Week 40: truth and um, not really)

All of life’s a (larval) stage (Week 41: Stagnation and Transformation)

Damn you, Robert Frost (Week 42: Angst and more Angst)

Speaking of conflict avoidance… (Week 43: Fight of Flight)

Halloween, Samhain, All Saints Day, Day of The Dead, Candy (Week 44: Neither Here Nor There)

Again with the silver-tongued Persians, and other stories (Week 45: Silence and language)

War, Famine, Pestilence, Mornings (Week 46: Mornings and the Apocalypse)

Time flies but the Christmas tree is up (Week 47: Status quo and Change)

I didn’t kill anyone–it just smells like it (Week 48: Guilt & Poison)

—->>>POSTCARDS FROM CUBA

nothingbythebook @ gmail.com

I didn’t kill anyone–it just smells like it (Week 48: Guilt & Poison)

Flora: Mom? Did you  kill someone in the bathroom?

Jane: Yes. Can you smell the blood—or just the lye?

I’m not sure I actually know what lye smells like. If it has a smell. It probably does: most things that have the power to dissolve a body—or truly clean soap scum and potential mildew off a shower wall—do.

Ender: Mom? I have to go pee.

Jane: Go pee. Just don’t close the bathroom door.

Ender: I’m afraid.

Jane: It’s fine. Just don’t close the bathroom door and don’t breathe too much.

He holds it, for longer than he should.

Cinder: What are you making?

Jane: Vegetable soup.

Cinder: That looks like whale fat.

Jane: It’s chicken stock, with fat from the bone marrows.

Cinder: Whale fat.

Jane: You know what? You don’t have to eat it. But you can stop commenting on it, now.

He saunters out of the kitchen, fake-hurt, fake-upset… with an undercurrent of shame under it all. I keep on making the soup.

It’s sort of a domestic day, I suppose. Clean the bathroom, make pork chops for lunch and soup and spaghetti and meatballs for dinner. Laundry, and sweep out the entryway. In-between, all the work things… I end up not reading with Ender, twinge of guilt. But in the evening, I dance it away. It’s all right.

Guilt.

Every mother I know exists in this fairly constant grip of guilt, between the demands and obligations of the house, the needs of the family… and, not even her own needs, but the obligations that come with needing to work for a living. Whatever the job. Layer on to the job the passion and desire to do it well, to do it often, to move up whatever hierarchy exists in it… guilt, guilt, guilt. Always pulled in two, three directions.

Generally, when the house guilt sets in, I tell it to fuck off. When the work guilt sets in (as in, I should be doing MORE work), I can manage it rationally: I look at what I do do, and tell myself, firmly that it is more than enough.

But the kid guilt? Fuck. It pulsates in me, through me constantly.

You: Benign neglect. Aren’t you an advocate of benign neglect?

Jane: But when does one cross the line into active neglect?

It’s your fault, you know. Not individual you. The global you, the social you, that hasn’t yet figured out what it means to be a woman and a mother in the twenty first century, and you demand a kind of Mother Monster that does it all—and loves it, too, but absolutely loves her children and her home MORE and can demonstrate this by neglecting her work. And herself. But not too much. Because if she’s not pretty and well-taken care of physically, she loses her value too.

I’m rambling. All these thoughts seemed so much clearer as I walked the hill, taking a short break from the house, the children, and the work, and trying to reconnect with self.

Self had me thinking of all the books and movies in which the female character resents the male character’s commitment to his work, workahalic, you’re never home, you don’t have time for me and the children… because, of course, she has no commitment to hers. I remember, specifically, the passage in the Emma Jung biography, in which the author tries to make the reader sympathize with Emma (and despise Carl) because, on their first trip to Vienna, Carl spent all his time with Freud and Emma was left to tend for herself in the hotel room—or at the Freuds’ dinner table.

As I read the passage, I actually screamed at the book, “He went to Vienna to meet Freud! The pre-eminent person working in his field, his only potential mentor and real colleague! THAT WAS WHY HE WENT TO VIENNA! What did you expect him to do? Hang out with Freud in his ‘free’ time, while making Emma’s pleasure trip to Vienna his chief concern?”

But she did. She—the author—totally did. And she assumed the reader—the female reader, because after all, men don’t read biographies of women, particularly when their only claim to fame is being married to a man—would feel the same.

Poor neglected wife.

Bad selfish husband.

I am, much of the time, the selfish husband—except that I need to “balance” (there’s no such thing) my near-obsessive passion for my work with my love for my children and my concern that I don’t short-change them… because everything I see around me tells me that whenever I do anything other than hyper-focus on them, I am not doing enough.

You: Breathe.

Jane: I should have never told you about my culty yoga.

Breathe.

Dance.

On the dance floor, in the rhythm, in the noise, in the primal movement of the body, I shed the guilt. For a while. It will come back in the morning, in the kitchen. The sink, the dirty counters.

Sean: Go work in your space. Not here.

And here’s the thing: my male partner could not be more supportive. My parents could not be more proud of me. In theory, the people around me, the people who really matter—they don’t put any of this on me.

They don’t have to. I’ve internalized the prison and the prison guards, as has every woman. And when I act in defiance of them—which I do every day, else I would perish, else there would be no self, no me—guilt.

Guilt.

Sean: I think the lye has made you stoned. In a bad way.

Jane: Perhaps. I always feel housework is very bad for my mental health. I won’t clean the bathroom again.

Sean: That’s not what I meant…

The lye really is stinky.

It’s not lye, by the way. There is no lye in the stinky stuff I spray on the shower once every two years to take off all the grime and crap eco-friendly cleaners and microfiber cloths leave behind.

But there is poison.

xoxo

“Jane”

 

PS A few words about lye:

A lye is a metal hydroxide traditionally obtained by leaching ashes (containing largely potassium carbonate or “potash”), or a strong alkali which is highly soluble in water producing caustic basic solutions. “Lye” is commonly an alternative name of sodium hydroxide (NaOH) or historically potassium hydroxide (KOH), though the term “lye” refers to any member of a broad range of metal hydroxides.

Tissue digestion

Sodium or potassium hydroxide can be used to digest tissues of animal carcasses. Often referred to as alkaline hydrolysis, the process involves placing the carcass or body into a sealed chamber, adding a mixture of lye and water and the application of heat to accelerate the process. After several hours the chamber will contain a liquid with coffee-like appearance,[5][6][7] and the only solids that remain are very fragile bone hulls of mostly calcium phosphate, which can be mechanically crushed to a fine powder with very little force.[8][9] Sodium hydroxide is frequently used in the process of decomposing roadkill dumped in landfills by animal disposal contractors.[6] Due to its low cost and availability, it has also been used to dispose of corpses by criminals. Italian serial killer Leonarda Cianciulli used this chemical to turn dead bodies into soap.[10] In Mexico, a man who worked for drug cartels admitted to having disposed of more than 300 bodies with it.[11]

Source: Wikipedia

 

2018

The year started with a Monday; so does every week (Week 1: Transitions and Intentions)

Easier than you think, harder than I expected: a week in eleven stanzas (Week 2: Goodness and Selfishness)

A moody story (Week 3: Ebb and Flow)

Do it full out (Week 4: Passions and Outcomes)

The Buddha was a psychopath and other heresies (Week 5: No Cohesion)

A good week (Week 6: Execute, Regroup)

Killing it (Week 7: Exhaustion and Adrenaline)

Tired, petty, tired, unimportant (Week 8: Disappointment and Perseverance)

Professionals do it like this: [insert key scene here] (Week 9: Battle, Fatigue, Reward)

Reading Nabokov, crying, whining, regrouping (Week 10: Tears and Dreams)

Shake the Disease (Week 11: Sickness and Health… well, mostly sickness)

Cremation, not embalming, but I think I might live after all (Week 12: Angst and Gratitude)

Let’s pretend it all does have meaning (Week 13: Convalescence and Rebirth)

The cage is will, the lock is discipline (Week 14: Up and Down)

My negotiated self thinks you don’t exist–wanna make something of it? (Week 15: Priorities and Opportunity)

An introvert’s submission + radical prioritization in action, also pouting (Week 16: Ruthless and Weepy)

It’s about a radical, sustainable rhythm (Week 17: Sprinting and Napping)

It was a pickle juice waterfall but no bread was really harmed in the process (Week 18: Happy and Sad)

You probably shouldn’t call your teacher bad names, but sometimes, your mother must (Week 19: Excitement and Exhaustion)

Tell me I’m beautiful and feed me cherries (Week 20: Excitement and Exhaustion II)

A very short post about miracles, censorship, change: Week 21 (Transitions and Celebrations)

Time flies, and so does butter (Week 22: Remembering and forgetting)

I love you, I want you, I need you, I can’t find you (Week 23: Work and Rest)

You don’t understand—you can’t treat my father’s daughter this way (Week 24: Fathers and Daughters)

The summer was… SULTRY (Week 25: Gratitude and Collapse)

It’s like rest but not really (Week 26: Meandering and Reflection)

It’s the wrong question (Week 27: Success and Failure)

On not meditating but meditating anyway, and a cameo from John Keats (Week 28: Busy and Resting)

Hot, cold, self-indulgent as fuck (Week 29: Fire and Ice)

In which our heroine hides under a table (Week 30: Tears and Chocolate)

Deadlines and little lies make the world go round (Week 31: Honesty and Compassion)

That’s not the way the pope would put it, but… (Week 32: Purpose and Miracles)

And before you know it, it’s over (Week 33: Fast and Slow)

Ragazzo da Napoli zajechał Mirafiori (Week 34: Nostalgia and Belonging)

Depression is a narcissistic disease, fentanyl is dangerous, and knowledge is power, sort of (Week 35: Introspection and Awareness)

I’m not gonna tell you (Week 36: Smoke and Mirrors)

Slightly irritable and yet kinda happy (Week 37: Self-Improvement and Self-Indulgence)

It’s not procrastination, it’s process (Week 38: Back and Forth)

Pavlov’s experiments, 21st-century style (Week 39: Connectivity and Solitude)

The last thing I remember (Week 40: truth and um, not really)

All of life’s a (larval) stage (Week 41: Stagnation and Transformation)

Damn you, Robert Frost (Week 42: Angst and more Angst)

Speaking of conflict avoidance… (Week 43: Fight of Flight)

Halloween, Samhain, All Saints Day, Day of The Dead, Candy (Week 44: Neither Here Nor There)

Again with the silver-tongued Persians, and other stories (Week 45: Silence and language)

War, Famine, Pestilence, Mornings (Week 46: Mornings and the Apocalypse)

—->>>POSTCARDS FROM CUBA

nothingbythebook @ gmail.com

Time flies but the Christmas tree is up (Week 47: Status quo and Change)

I don’t really know what happened to this week’s Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, Friday—they flew by, proving, again that Einstein is right and time is relative. On Saturday, I played with my writer tribe and was reminded that 2018 was a very, very VERY busy year. That I remember. And today, I will chill and enjoy the snow and cold and not do very much at all. I can see the moon out the West-facing kitchen window—and it’s 8 a.m.—and it’s almost full and so beautiful. There’s a line of grey-pink light below it—the sunrise reflecting off the white of the mountains, I suppose. The noises around me are homey happy noises: the furnace kicking in to thaw the house a bit, the dog licking out every last bit of her breakfast from her bowl, the Ender murmuring to himself as he sets up his computer.

Ender has discovered magic, and is watching magic shows on YouTube. The still-illiterate nine-year-old has also discovered Siri and voice recognition. “Search for How to Magic,” he tells the computer. He’s never going to learn to read, I moan. But. He will. He will.

His elder brother, who didn’t read more than “CAT,” and that, with effort, until he was 11.5, is in Grade 11 and kicking ass in his science classes. Watching YouTube videos to supplement his Physics and Chemistry instructions—because the YouTubers explain things better than his textbooks or his teachers.

Of course, he also plays video games while watching the YouTube videos and while texting with his friends, and I wonder how that can be a thing, but I also realize—technology has rewired this generation. For good or for bad, this is how they are. And I think in some ways, they cope better with this stimulation and interconnectedness than we do…

Sean: Where’s Flora?

Jane: She went out.

Sean: Where?

Jane: She didn’t say. She said, “I’m going out.” I said, “Where?” She said, “I dunno.”

Sean has a minor Daddy freak out.

Jane: She went in the direction of Rosie’s house. And then they probably went to pick up Morgaine and Estelle, and they’re all hanging out together.

Sean: Why didn’t she just say so?

Because she wants privacy. I try to explain, but Sean is like Ender and never wants to be alone or inaccessible or unfindable. Cinder and Flora are like me. Every once in a while, they need to disappear.

On Monday, I taught the last class of my eight-week course, and one of my students gave me chocolates and another almost cried, and all of them told me sweet things, and I found myself incredibly moved and astounded by how much I enjoyed the experience—and yes, very eager to repeat it. But for now, I will have Monday nights free and I will use them to disappear.

I do wish, by the way, that there were places one could disappear—sit and be and work or play—without having to spend money on drinks and food. Art galleries, yes, but they all close so early, and malls, I suppose, but they are so noisy and full of people focused on either acquiring things they don’t need or wasting time, and the air is so bad, and then there is the outdoors, of course, but this is Viking Hell, and while the outdoors is very beautiful from the vantage point of my couch where I’m swaddled in an electric blanket, I don’t want to get lost in it at night with my notebook or laptop.

And I should smoke less sheesha and I don’t drink coffee at night anyway—and look, this is me, sabotaging my “free” Monday nights before they even happen.

No, on Monday nights, I will smoke sheesha and drink coffee—or tea—or nurse a beer and I will disappear in public places and tend to myself.

Until I teach again. I will teach again.

On Tuesday, I saw Naked Girls Reading perform The Worst Things I Ever Read, and I “met” for the first time The Golden Age and they were amazing, and I laughed, and I refueled.

On Wednesday, I tried not to totally and completely lose my shit with a racist and agist education system the purpose of which is to reinforce not just the status quo but the status past… So I’m tutoring an adult immigrant woman from Cameroon who needs to pass her English 30 equivalency to get into a nursing assistant program. She’s smart, articulate and will be totally excellent at her job. Her English is solid—she can communicate complex ideas easily and she will have no trouble communicating with either patients or doctors. What she is having trouble with is analyzing culturally irrelevant, context-free poetry and memoirs. I think she hires me to teach her grammar and essay structure. That, we cover in the first two sessions—did I mention, she is very smart. What she actually needs me for is to tell her… who Anne Page, Sara Lee, and Laura Secord were, because they’re in a poem that’s she’s being tested on. Except Laura Secord is not there as Laura Secord but as the box of chocolates, and Anne Page was never actually real in the first place, and the English tutoring lesson turns into a cultural history lesson that I’m too young to know myself and need to turn to Google for help, and…

Then there’s the 19th century memoir that’s so fucking racist, I’m ashamed to decode it for her. How is this on the curriculum, in 2018?

But, more to the point, how is suffering through this analysis going to make her do her job better?

It’s not. It’s a hoop she has to jump through if she wants the job. It’s the Social Sorting Hat. And the Social Sorting Hat favours those who… well, first, made the social sorting hat, and next, were raised and educated by those who made the social sorting hat.

Anyway. Sorting Hat. Sean and Flora are going to Harry Potter World in January. They think they’re both Hufflepuffs—I think Sean’s right about himself, but Flora’s probably a Ravenclaw. Ender, I think, is also a Hufflepuff. Rowan’s probably Gryffindor.

They tell me I’m a Slytherin without even a pause or a reflection.

I sigh.

I’m not evil, you know.

I’m just very clear-sighted and unsentimental.

It doesn’t mean I don’t love or I don’t suffer. It just means that when I suffer… I still get all the shit done. And when I love… I don’t lose sight of how wrong for each other we are. 😉

On Thursday, I teach again. And I realize that while I do really love this, it can’t come at the price of writing. But a balance, I will find a balance.

On Friday, I am sentimental. Just for a little bit. And the kids strong-arm me into putting up the Christmas tree.

And on Saturday, I get these socks:

Ender: Mama? I learned a new magic trick. Want to come see?

Jane: Coming.

xoxo

Jane

2018

The year started with a Monday; so does every week (Week 1: Transitions and Intentions)

Easier than you think, harder than I expected: a week in eleven stanzas (Week 2: Goodness and Selfishness)

A moody story (Week 3: Ebb and Flow)

Do it full out (Week 4: Passions and Outcomes)

The Buddha was a psychopath and other heresies (Week 5: No Cohesion)

A good week (Week 6: Execute, Regroup)

Killing it (Week 7: Exhaustion and Adrenaline)

Tired, petty, tired, unimportant (Week 8: Disappointment and Perseverance)

Professionals do it like this: [insert key scene here] (Week 9: Battle, Fatigue, Reward)

Reading Nabokov, crying, whining, regrouping (Week 10: Tears and Dreams)

Shake the Disease (Week 11: Sickness and Health… well, mostly sickness)

Cremation, not embalming, but I think I might live after all (Week 12: Angst and Gratitude)

Let’s pretend it all does have meaning (Week 13: Convalescence and Rebirth)

The cage is will, the lock is discipline (Week 14: Up and Down)

My negotiated self thinks you don’t exist–wanna make something of it? (Week 15: Priorities and Opportunity)

An introvert’s submission + radical prioritization in action, also pouting (Week 16: Ruthless and Weepy)

It’s about a radical, sustainable rhythm (Week 17: Sprinting and Napping)

It was a pickle juice waterfall but no bread was really harmed in the process (Week 18: Happy and Sad)

You probably shouldn’t call your teacher bad names, but sometimes, your mother must (Week 19: Excitement and Exhaustion)

Tell me I’m beautiful and feed me cherries (Week 20: Excitement and Exhaustion II)

A very short post about miracles, censorship, change: Week 21 (Transitions and Celebrations)

Time flies, and so does butter (Week 22: Remembering and forgetting)

I love you, I want you, I need you, I can’t find you (Week 23: Work and Rest)

You don’t understand—you can’t treat my father’s daughter this way (Week 24: Fathers and Daughters)

The summer was… SULTRY (Week 25: Gratitude and Collapse)

It’s like rest but not really (Week 26: Meandering and Reflection)

It’s the wrong question (Week 27: Success and Failure)

On not meditating but meditating anyway, and a cameo from John Keats (Week 28: Busy and Resting)

Hot, cold, self-indulgent as fuck (Week 29: Fire and Ice)

In which our heroine hides under a table (Week 30: Tears and Chocolate)

Deadlines and little lies make the world go round (Week 31: Honesty and Compassion)

That’s not the way the pope would put it, but… (Week 32: Purpose and Miracles)

And before you know it, it’s over (Week 33: Fast and Slow)

Ragazzo da Napoli zajechał Mirafiori (Week 34: Nostalgia and Belonging)

Depression is a narcissistic disease, fentanyl is dangerous, and knowledge is power, sort of (Week 35: Introspection and Awareness)

I’m not gonna tell you (Week 36: Smoke and Mirrors)

Slightly irritable and yet kinda happy (Week 37: Self-Improvement and Self-Indulgence)

It’s not procrastination, it’s process (Week 38: Back and Forth)

Pavlov’s experiments, 21st-century style (Week 39: Connectivity and Solitude)

The last thing I remember (Week 40: truth and um, not really)

All of life’s a (larval) stage (Week 41: Stagnation and Transformation)

Damn you, Robert Frost (Week 42: Angst and more Angst)

Speaking of conflict avoidance… (Week 43: Fight of Flight)

Halloween, Samhain, All Saints Day, Day of The Dead, Candy (Week 44: Neither Here Nor There)

Again with the silver-tongued Persians, and other stories (Week 45: Silence and language)

War, Famine, Pestilence, Mornings (Week 46: Mornings and the Apocalypse)

—->>>POSTCARDS FROM CUBA

nothingbythebook @ gmail.com

War, Famine, Pestilence, Mornings (Week 46: Mornings and the Apocalypse)

My least favourite thing in the world—after War, Famine, Pestilence, and… what is the name of the fourth Horseman of the Apocalypse? I canna’ remember—is to wake up tired. You know? You open your eyes, reluctantly, you finally force yourself out of bed—also reluctantly—and then you—well, I—drink a glass of water that’s magically supposed to rehydrate and energize me (it doesn’t), reach for a notebook and pen, pour myself a cup of coffee (lover, I’ve come back to you), and… too often, the first words I write are, “Morning. Tired.”

I have now given up turning myself into a morning person or even a morning tolerant person. My Kundalini yoga cult wants me to wake up two and a half hours before dawn—fucking sadists. I crawl out of my bed, reluctantly, between seven and eight—which, at certain times in Viking Hell is almost two and a half hours before sunrise—but I don’t really wake up until I feel the sun shimmering on my skin through the dirty glass of the windows.

Anyway. That tired in the morning feeling? It doesn’t happen every day, but it happens too much. For no good reason. I don’t have a wee child keeping me up at night. I go to bed quite early and I don’t gorge on electronics beforehand. Sleep, when it comes, is deep. Nightmares, fairly rare. And, even when I do all the right things—morning. Tired. Not fully awake. Don’t want to get moving, going yet. Don’t make me.

I guess, theoretically, no one is making me. The pressure is all internal. (Well, and a little bit, Ender.) I feel I ought to… because the rest of the world is moving. And I am here, on the couch, notebook and pen, coffee, writing. Not even writing THE WORK but just making words and sentences, no one will read, practicing my scales, stretching on paper. Yawning on paper. When I put the notebook away—more coffee (lover… yes)—andI pick up my laptop, I stilll feel a little—yawn, moan—but once I start to work, I”m good. I go. And when I finally break the first sprint, between 9:30 and 10:30 am—depending on how much Sean fed Ender for breakfast—I am awake and not tired.

So maybe this being tired is part of my perfectly functional morning routine.

I don’t know. It doesn’t really feel like a functional feeling.

Yawn, moan.

I want to go back to bed.

But.

I don’t.

xoxo

“Jane”

PS Conquest. The fourth Horseman of the Apocalypse is Conquest. Interesting. War and Conquest. Wait. I just figured out what Conquest is a euphemism for. Ugh.

2018

The year started with a Monday; so does every week (Week 1: Transitions and Intentions)

Easier than you think, harder than I expected: a week in eleven stanzas (Week 2: Goodness and Selfishness)

A moody story (Week 3: Ebb and Flow)

Do it full out (Week 4: Passions and Outcomes)

The Buddha was a psychopath and other heresies (Week 5: No Cohesion)

A good week (Week 6: Execute, Regroup)

Killing it (Week 7: Exhaustion and Adrenaline)

Tired, petty, tired, unimportant (Week 8: Disappointment and Perseverance)

Professionals do it like this: [insert key scene here] (Week 9: Battle, Fatigue, Reward)

Reading Nabokov, crying, whining, regrouping (Week 10: Tears and Dreams)

Shake the Disease (Week 11: Sickness and Health… well, mostly sickness)

Cremation, not embalming, but I think I might live after all (Week 12: Angst and Gratitude)

Let’s pretend it all does have meaning (Week 13: Convalescence and Rebirth)

The cage is will, the lock is discipline (Week 14: Up and Down)

My negotiated self thinks you don’t exist–wanna make something of it? (Week 15: Priorities and Opportunity)

An introvert’s submission + radical prioritization in action, also pouting (Week 16: Ruthless and Weepy)

It’s about a radical, sustainable rhythm (Week 17: Sprinting and Napping)

It was a pickle juice waterfall but no bread was really harmed in the process (Week 18: Happy and Sad)

You probably shouldn’t call your teacher bad names, but sometimes, your mother must (Week 19: Excitement and Exhaustion)

Tell me I’m beautiful and feed me cherries (Week 20: Excitement and Exhaustion II)

A very short post about miracles, censorship, change: Week 21 (Transitions and Celebrations)

Time flies, and so does butter (Week 22: Remembering and forgetting)

I love you, I want you, I need you, I can’t find you (Week 23: Work and Rest)

You don’t understand—you can’t treat my father’s daughter this way (Week 24: Fathers and Daughters)

The summer was… SULTRY (Week 25: Gratitude and Collapse)

It’s like rest but not really (Week 26: Meandering and Reflection)

It’s the wrong question (Week 27: Success and Failure)

On not meditating but meditating anyway, and a cameo from John Keats (Week 28: Busy and Resting)

Hot, cold, self-indulgent as fuck (Week 29: Fire and Ice)

In which our heroine hides under a table (Week 30: Tears and Chocolate)

Deadlines and little lies make the world go round (Week 31: Honesty and Compassion)

That’s not the way the pope would put it, but… (Week 32: Purpose and Miracles)

And before you know it, it’s over (Week 33: Fast and Slow)

Ragazzo da Napoli zajechał Mirafiori (Week 34: Nostalgia and Belonging)

Depression is a narcissistic disease, fentanyl is dangerous, and knowledge is power, sort of (Week 35: Introspection and Awareness)

I’m not gonna tell you (Week 36: Smoke and Mirrors)

Slightly irritable and yet kinda happy (Week 37: Self-Improvement and Self-Indulgence)

It’s not procrastination, it’s process (Week 38: Back and Forth)

Pavlov’s experiments, 21st-century style (Week 39: Connectivity and Solitude)

The last thing I remember (Week 40: truth and um, not really)

All of life’s a (larval) stage (Week 41: Stagnation and Transformation)

Damn you, Robert Frost (Week 42: Angst and more Angst)

Speaking of conflict avoidance… (Week 43: Fight of Flight)

Halloween, Samhain, All Saints Day, Day of The Dead, Candy (Week 44: Neither Here Nor There)

Again with the silver-tongued Persians, and other stories (Week 45: Silence and language)

War, Famine, Pestilence, Mornings (Week 46: Mornings and the Apocalypse)

—->>>POSTCARDS FROM CUBA

nothingbythebook @ gmail.com

Again with the silver-tongued Persians, and other stories (Week 45: Silence and language)

Mmm. Let’s start with this:

Unschooling looks like this:

Flora: Mom, in what grade was I supposed to learn how to calculate the circumference and area of a circle?

Jane: I dunno. Do you need to know how to do it now?

Flora: No. Just wondering.

Jane: It’s got something to do with pi and radius. Ummm… Let me think…

Flora: It’s fine. I got it. I googled it.

Sometimes, it is that easy.

Other times, the eldest child wants help with physics homework and makes you sit at the kitchen table with him he googles stuff, AND THAT’S REALLY HARD. ;P

What else? Monday, I taught, Tuesday, I played, Wednesday, I worked, Thursday, looked-like-play-felt-like-work—and I’m so sorry about that other thing—Friday, I juggled, Saturday, I tried to be lazy and it almost worked.

What else?

A quote from Olga Broumas:

She who loves roses must be patient and not cry out when she is pierced by thorns.

I sent it to a boy who desperately wants to fall in love. He can’t flip the pronoun; doesn’t understand what I’m talking about. It’s ok.

What else?

I’m supposed to be more open and honest with the people I love about what I feel, but fuck, it’s hard. I really don’t like telling you things. I prefer to write very very long stories, and bury the truth in a line on page 276.

Him: I found it.

Jane: Mmmm… no. You just think you did.

This is Rumi:

Silence
is an ocean. Speech is a river.
When the ocean is searching for you, don’t walk
into the language-river. Listen to the ocean,
and bring your talky business to an end.
Traditional words are just babbling
in that presence, and babbling is a substitute
for sight.

Also, this:

Silence is the language of God, all else is poor translation.

Those damned silver-tongued Persians, still wrecking havoc with my heart.

Still.

She who loves roses…

My parents are celebrating their 45th anniversary this weekend. Five years short of half-a-century. Crazy, isn’t it? Forty five years. Depending on the decade—month, week, day—I have seen them happy, unhappy, in love, fighting, angry, compassionate, furious, forgiving…

What they have taught me: “true” love takes a fuck load of work. Make a Disney movie about that, why don’t you?

On Tuesday, after a writers’ meeting and before a is-it-a-date-or-is-it-therapy, I smoke sheesha and write some bad poetry. Six redeemable lines. I send them as a gift, hidden in six bad verses. She accepts them in the spirit of gratitude in which they are written.

Her: And still, none of it is about me.

Jane: No. I’m sorry.

Back to Rumi:

You left ground and sky weeping, mind and soul full of grief. No one can take your place in existence, or in absence. Both mourn, the angels, the prophets, and this sadness I feel has taken from me the taste of language, so that I cannot say the flavor of my being apart.

Still.

Ender throws himself into my arms and I drown in his love, and Cinder is out all night, but then safely home, and Flora smiles at me and then delivers a scathing social critique of everything she’s ever seen on Netflix. Girls’ lunch out with my mom. Left-over macarons for Ender. Sean and I cuddle on the couch—you come for a visit.

All is well.

2005

xoxo

“Jane”

2018

The year started with a Monday; so does every week (Week 1: Transitions and Intentions)

Easier than you think, harder than I expected: a week in eleven stanzas (Week 2: Goodness and Selfishness)

A moody story (Week 3: Ebb and Flow)

Do it full out (Week 4: Passions and Outcomes)

The Buddha was a psychopath and other heresies (Week 5: No Cohesion)

A good week (Week 6: Execute, Regroup)

Killing it (Week 7: Exhaustion and Adrenaline)

Tired, petty, tired, unimportant (Week 8: Disappointment and Perseverance)

Professionals do it like this: [insert key scene here] (Week 9: Battle, Fatigue, Reward)

Reading Nabokov, crying, whining, regrouping (Week 10: Tears and Dreams)

Shake the Disease (Week 11: Sickness and Health… well, mostly sickness)

Cremation, not embalming, but I think I might live after all (Week 12: Angst and Gratitude)

Let’s pretend it all does have meaning (Week 13: Convalescence and Rebirth)

The cage is will, the lock is discipline (Week 14: Up and Down)

My negotiated self thinks you don’t exist–wanna make something of it? (Week 15: Priorities and Opportunity)

An introvert’s submission + radical prioritization in action, also pouting (Week 16: Ruthless and Weepy)

It’s about a radical, sustainable rhythm (Week 17: Sprinting and Napping)

It was a pickle juice waterfall but no bread was really harmed in the process (Week 18: Happy and Sad)

You probably shouldn’t call your teacher bad names, but sometimes, your mother must (Week 19: Excitement and Exhaustion)

Tell me I’m beautiful and feed me cherries (Week 20: Excitement and Exhaustion II)

A very short post about miracles, censorship, change: Week 21 (Transitions and Celebrations)

Time flies, and so does butter (Week 22: Remembering and forgetting)

I love you, I want you, I need you, I can’t find you (Week 23: Work and Rest)

You don’t understand—you can’t treat my father’s daughter this way (Week 24: Fathers and Daughters)

The summer was… SULTRY (Week 25: Gratitude and Collapse)

It’s like rest but not really (Week 26: Meandering and Reflection)

It’s the wrong question (Week 27: Success and Failure)

On not meditating but meditating anyway, and a cameo from John Keats (Week 28: Busy and Resting)

Hot, cold, self-indulgent as fuck (Week 29: Fire and Ice)

In which our heroine hides under a table (Week 30: Tears and Chocolate)

Deadlines and little lies make the world go round (Week 31: Honesty and Compassion)

That’s not the way the pope would put it, but… (Week 32: Purpose and Miracles)

And before you know it, it’s over (Week 33: Fast and Slow)

Ragazzo da Napoli zajechał Mirafiori (Week 34: Nostalgia and Belonging)

Depression is a narcissistic disease, fentanyl is dangerous, and knowledge is power, sort of (Week 35: Introspection and Awareness)

I’m not gonna tell you (Week 36: Smoke and Mirrors)

Slightly irritable and yet kinda happy (Week 37: Self-Improvement and Self-Indulgence)

It’s not procrastination, it’s process (Week 38: Back and Forth)

Pavlov’s experiments, 21st-century style (Week 39: Connectivity and Solitude)

The last thing I remember (Week 40: truth and um, not really)

All of life’s a (larval) stage (Week 41: Stagnation and Transformation)

Damn you, Robert Frost (Week 42: Angst and more Angst)

Speaking of conflict avoidance… (Week 43: Fight of Flight)

—->>>POSTCARDS FROM CUBA

nothingbythebook @ gmail.com

Halloween, Samhain, All Saints Day, Day of The Dead, Candy (Week 44: Neither Here Nor There)

i

I’d like to make it really clear that Halloween is my absolutely favourite celebration-fiesta-event-thingie. But…

Flora: So, like… have we made all the holidays just about candy?

Jane: Define “we.”

Flora: Western society.

Jane: Yes.

Not that there’s anything wrong with candy, especially free candy. Except, perhaps the sugar crash that children experience on November 1… which adults take a step further an transform into utter self-loathing. Still. Before the crash, there’s the high. (And therein is some kind of not too deeply hidden metaphor for life, the universe, and everything.)

da’ boys

ii

I am helping an adult ESL learner with a grade 12 essay. Her teacher has told her that her essay must consist of 4 paragraphs, and that each paragraph has to be eight to 11 sentences long.

Jane: Your teacher is an idiot who doesn’t know how to write.

Student: But…

Jane: Fucking, seriously, Henry James and David Foster Wallace can get away with writing 11-sentence paragraphs, but only because they’re both dead and nobody really reads them.

Student: But…

Jane: A paragraph is supposed to be as long as it needs to be. A paragraph is a tool used to organize your ideas–and, to communicate with your reader. The purpose of a paragraph…

Student: But I had seven paragraphs in my essay before, and the teacher docked me marks.

Jane: As I said, your teacher is an idiot who doesn’t know how to write.

I am not loving teachers very much at the moment. Don’t get me started on Cinder’s chemistry teacher.

Jane: Honey? I met your chem teacher at the parent-teacher interviews.

Cinder: And?

Jane: If you fail chemistry, it’s probably my fault. I’m sorry.

Cinder: Fuck, Mom. I told you not to go.

Sorry-not-sorry, but if you tell me most of your class failed the exam and didn’t know how to do carry out the assignment you gave them–I’m going to tell you to consider the possibility that this is the result of you not knowing how to teach your subject.

At this point, I’d like to say thank you, Khan Academy, Google, and Internet.

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iii

Flora is just about a black belt and now officially more flexible than me. Cinder is suddenly taking Mixed Martial Arts, Thai Kickboxing and Wrestling–I guess he decided being 6’3 wasn’t intimidating enough. Their 44 year old mother still has better technique than the two of them, and she gets a little high on this for a brief moment.

my foot. really

Ouch.

That didn’t hurt, exactly, but it might. I recount the incident to the motherfucking sadist who, since April 2012, has been ensuring that I can walk upright and with controlled pain.

MFS: I’m always very proud when you get cocky, but you know it doesn’t end well.

Jane: I know. But it felt really good. Can you check to make sure I didn’t dislocate anything?

MFS: No. But I can do that psoas release you love so much.

I scream. He smiles with pleasure. I walk home, erect, strong.

iv

The motherfucking sadist and I celebrated six years together this past April, and next April it will be seven (watch Jane do math). I have, over the years, referred to him every single person who has ever whined to me about their back, shoulder, neck etc pain, or expressed a serious desire to be fitter, stronger, healthier.

Most don’t go.

Those that do… go for a while… love it… don’t persist.

MFS: Not enough pain.

Jane: Yup.

I don’t mean, by the way, that he doesn’t inflict enough pain on them. That, after all, is his specialty. I mean that there isn’t enough pain… to not going. You know what I mean? My motivation, the reason I keep on going back, gritting my teeth, doing all the things–it’s because the consequence of NOT experiencing the pain he inflicts is experiencing the pain of NOT being able to walk.

If your motivation for not going is a slight twinge in the hips or back that reminds you that you’re aging, or a slightly protruding potbelly, or flabby triceps… well, I wouldn’t go for that either.

Jane: I do occasionally dream that you’ll be able to fix me forever and I’ll just be strong and healthy without having to do any of the work.

MFS: I hear there’s a pill for that.

There isn’t. But, as Flora points out, Western society is working on it.

da’ girls

v

I’m waiting for this post to meander back towards the topic of Halloween et al. It don’t want to. It wants to delve into goal-motivation-conflict, pleasure and pain, life and death–here we go, life and death, death, sugar skulls, jack-o-lanterns.

Candy.

The children give me all their Coffee Crisps. I can’t really eat them any more–and when I do, they are not as delicious as the Coffee Crisps I remember from my childhood–fuck, I have gotten old without noticing–but I accept the tribute with gratitude. Stash them away in my studio.

Flora: This is where I get it from.

Jane: What?

Flora: My candy hoarding skills.

da’ girl went as a homicidal Red Riding Hood;
she killed the fucking wolf and she didn’t need to be rescued

The hoarding, she gets from her dad. The ability to not eat her Halloween candy for months and years–yeah, that’s probably me.

Flora: Also…

Jane: What?

Flora: Do you think I could beat you in a fight now?

Jane: Not yet. I still outweigh you and I’m meaner. But another decade. Two max. I am going to get more brittle.

She looks at my critically.

Flora: 15 years, Mom. You’ve got 15 years, and then I’m taking you down.

Sigh. The young are cruel.

I suspect I’m lucky if I’ve got a single decade. Still. Erect. Strong. Mostly pain free.

Grateful.

xoxo

“Jane”

2018

The year started with a Monday; so does every week (Week 1: Transitions and Intentions)

Easier than you think, harder than I expected: a week in eleven stanzas (Week 2: Goodness and Selfishness)

A moody story (Week 3: Ebb and Flow)

Do it full out (Week 4: Passions and Outcomes)

The Buddha was a psychopath and other heresies (Week 5: No Cohesion)

A good week (Week 6: Execute, Regroup)

Killing it (Week 7: Exhaustion and Adrenaline)

Tired, petty, tired, unimportant (Week 8: Disappointment and Perseverance)

Professionals do it like this: [insert key scene here] (Week 9: Battle, Fatigue, Reward)

Reading Nabokov, crying, whining, regrouping (Week 10: Tears and Dreams)

Shake the Disease (Week 11: Sickness and Health… well, mostly sickness)

Cremation, not embalming, but I think I might live after all (Week 12: Angst and Gratitude)

Let’s pretend it all does have meaning (Week 13: Convalescence and Rebirth)

The cage is will, the lock is discipline (Week 14: Up and Down)

My negotiated self thinks you don’t exist–wanna make something of it? (Week 15: Priorities and Opportunity)

An introvert’s submission + radical prioritization in action, also pouting (Week 16: Ruthless and Weepy)

It’s about a radical, sustainable rhythm (Week 17: Sprinting and Napping)

It was a pickle juice waterfall but no bread was really harmed in the process (Week 18: Happy and Sad)

You probably shouldn’t call your teacher bad names, but sometimes, your mother must (Week 19: Excitement and Exhaustion)

Tell me I’m beautiful and feed me cherries (Week 20: Excitement and Exhaustion II)

A very short post about miracles, censorship, change: Week 21 (Transitions and Celebrations)

Time flies, and so does butter (Week 22: Remembering and forgetting)

I love you, I want you, I need you, I can’t find you (Week 23: Work and Rest)

You don’t understand—you can’t treat my father’s daughter this way (Week 24: Fathers and Daughters)

The summer was… SULTRY (Week 25: Gratitude and Collapse)

It’s like rest but not really (Week 26: Meandering and Reflection)

It’s the wrong question (Week 27: Success and Failure)

On not meditating but meditating anyway, and a cameo from John Keats (Week 28: Busy and Resting)

Hot, cold, self-indulgent as fuck (Week 29: Fire and Ice)

In which our heroine hides under a table (Week 30: Tears and Chocolate)

Deadlines and little lies make the world go round (Week 31: Honesty and Compassion)

That’s not the way the pope would put it, but… (Week 32: Purpose and Miracles)

And before you know it, it’s over (Week 33: Fast and Slow)

Ragazzo da Napoli zajechał Mirafiori (Week 34: Nostalgia and Belonging)

Depression is a narcissistic disease, fentanyl is dangerous, and knowledge is power, sort of (Week 35: Introspection and Awareness)

I’m not gonna tell you (Week 36: Smoke and Mirrors)

Slightly irritable and yet kinda happy (Week 37: Self-Improvement and Self-Indulgence)

It’s not procrastination, it’s process (Week 38: Back and Forth)

Pavlov’s experiments, 21st-century style (Week 39: Connectivity and Solitude)

The last thing I remember (Week 40: truth and um, not really)

All of life’s a (larval) stage (Week 41: Stagnation and Transformation)

Damn you, Robert Frost (Week 42: Angst and more Angst)

Speaking of conflict avoidance… (Week 43: Fight of Flight)

—->>>POSTCARDS FROM CUBA

nothingbythebook @ gmail.com

Speaking of conflict avoidance… (Week 43: Fight of Flight)

What? We weren’t? Let’s talk about it anyway.

I don’t like to fight. I don’t like conflict, healthy or unhealthy. I can’t really differentiate between the two types, to be honest. People start to right and I feel sick to my stomach, my heart rate accelerates, and I’m pretty sure the world is going to end AND I NEED TO GET OUT OF HERE NOW, GET THE FUCK OUT OF MY WAY—I am running for my life.

When I am pushed into a corner and forced to fight—please don’t do this to me, really… Because I have a terrible choice now. I can shut my eyes and cover my head with my hands and just let you do your thing and hope that it is over soon… or I will fight AND I WILL FUCKING DESTORY YOU. I know this. I don’t choose to not fight because I am afraid. I don’t fight because once I fight—the world will end. I wlll say and do all the things. I will win—I will survive. Youwill not. What a victory. You will not exist—your love, definitely, will not exist.

You: I see.

Jane: You don’t.

There are, apparently, other ways of dealing with conflict. Negotiation, the Third Way, Fierce Conversations, bla bla bla. I read the books. They give me tools that I can use with ease in unimportant clashes with unimportant people—sorry, with connections that, if severed, will not really cause me much grief.

I love you and I will not fight with you.

You: I see. Well, that explains a few things.

Jane: Doesn’t it?

Ender loves to fight. I hide from him in the bathroom. Cinder is like me—that is why there are so many holes in the walls in his room and two punching bags in the living room. Flora…. I am not sure. I’m worried I already broke her—that she has modelled and internalized my rather stellar conflict avoidance skills. I think, if I remember the toddler an the preschooler accurately… she loved to fight…

Anyway. I’m not sure, what if anything, I will do about this.

Do not come any closer.

I will not fight

RUN AWAY!

xoxo

“Jane”

2018

The year started with a Monday; so does every week (Week 1: Transitions and Intentions)

Easier than you think, harder than I expected: a week in eleven stanzas (Week 2: Goodness and Selfishness)

A moody story (Week 3: Ebb and Flow)

Do it full out (Week 4: Passions and Outcomes)

The Buddha was a psychopath and other heresies (Week 5: No Cohesion)

A good week (Week 6: Execute, Regroup)

Killing it (Week 7: Exhaustion and Adrenaline)

Tired, petty, tired, unimportant (Week 8: Disappointment and Perseverance)

Professionals do it like this: [insert key scene here] (Week 9: Battle, Fatigue, Reward)

Reading Nabokov, crying, whining, regrouping (Week 10: Tears and Dreams)

Shake the Disease (Week 11: Sickness and Health… well, mostly sickness)

Cremation, not embalming, but I think I might live after all (Week 12: Angst and Gratitude)

Let’s pretend it all does have meaning (Week 13: Convalescence and Rebirth)

The cage is will, the lock is discipline (Week 14: Up and Down)

My negotiated self thinks you don’t exist–wanna make something of it? (Week 15: Priorities and Opportunity)

An introvert’s submission + radical prioritization in action, also pouting (Week 16: Ruthless and Weepy)

It’s about a radical, sustainable rhythm (Week 17: Sprinting and Napping)

It was a pickle juice waterfall but no bread was really harmed in the process (Week 18: Happy and Sad)

You probably shouldn’t call your teacher bad names, but sometimes, your mother must (Week 19: Excitement and Exhaustion)

Tell me I’m beautiful and feed me cherries (Week 20: Excitement and Exhaustion II)

A very short post about miracles, censorship, change: Week 21 (Transitions and Celebrations)

Time flies, and so does butter (Week 22: Remembering and forgetting)

I love you, I want you, I need you, I can’t find you (Week 23: Work and Rest)

You don’t understand—you can’t treat my father’s daughter this way (Week 24: Fathers and Daughters)

The summer was… SULTRY (Week 25: Gratitude and Collapse)

It’s like rest but not really (Week 26: Meandering and Reflection)

It’s the wrong question (Week 27: Success and Failure)

On not meditating but meditating anyway, and a cameo from John Keats (Week 28: Busy and Resting)

Hot, cold, self-indulgent as fuck (Week 29: Fire and Ice)

In which our heroine hides under a table (Week 30: Tears and Chocolate)

Deadlines and little lies make the world go round (Week 31: Honesty and Compassion)

That’s not the way the pope would put it, but… (Week 32: Purpose and Miracles)

And before you know it, it’s over (Week 33: Fast and Slow)

Ragazzo da Napoli zajechał Mirafiori (Week 34: Nostalgia and Belonging)

Depression is a narcissistic disease, fentanyl is dangerous, and knowledge is power, sort of (Week 35: Introspection and Awareness)

I’m not gonna tell you (Week 36: Smoke and Mirrors)

Slightly irritable and yet kinda happy (Week 37: Self-Improvement and Self-Indulgence)

It’s not procrastination, it’s process (Week 38: Back and Forth)

Pavlov’s experiments, 21st-century style (Week 39: Connectivity and Solitude)

The last thing I remember (Week 40: truth and um, not really)

All of life’s a (larval) stage (Week 41: Stagnation and Transformation)

Damn you, Robert Frost (Week 42: Angst and more Angst)

Speaking of conflict avoidance… (Week 43: Fight of Flight)

—->>>POSTCARDS FROM CUBA

nothingbythebook @ gmail.com

Damn you, Robert Frost (Week 42: Angst and more Angst)

And, well, yeah.

(This was someone’s very brilliant Instagram posted and reposted until it came to me–if you know the original creator, please let me know so I can credit accordingly.)

“Jane”

2018

The year started with a Monday; so does every week (Week 1: Transitions and Intentions)

Easier than you think, harder than I expected: a week in eleven stanzas (Week 2: Goodness and Selfishness)

A moody story (Week 3: Ebb and Flow)

Do it full out (Week 4: Passions and Outcomes)

The Buddha was a psychopath and other heresies (Week 5: No Cohesion)

A good week (Week 6: Execute, Regroup)

Killing it (Week 7: Exhaustion and Adrenaline)

Tired, petty, tired, unimportant (Week 8: Disappointment and Perseverance)

Professionals do it like this: [insert key scene here] (Week 9: Battle, Fatigue, Reward)

Reading Nabokov, crying, whining, regrouping (Week 10: Tears and Dreams)

Shake the Disease (Week 11: Sickness and Health… well, mostly sickness)

Cremation, not embalming, but I think I might live after all (Week 12: Angst and Gratitude)

Let’s pretend it all does have meaning (Week 13: Convalescence and Rebirth)

The cage is will, the lock is discipline (Week 14: Up and Down)

My negotiated self thinks you don’t exist–wanna make something of it? (Week 15: Priorities and Opportunity)

An introvert’s submission + radical prioritization in action, also pouting (Week 16: Ruthless and Weepy)

It’s about a radical, sustainable rhythm (Week 17: Sprinting and Napping)

It was a pickle juice waterfall but no bread was really harmed in the process (Week 18: Happy and Sad)

You probably shouldn’t call your teacher bad names, but sometimes, your mother must (Week 19: Excitement and Exhaustion)

Tell me I’m beautiful and feed me cherries (Week 20: Excitement and Exhaustion II)

A very short post about miracles, censorship, change: Week 21 (Transitions and Celebrations)

Time flies, and so does butter (Week 22: Remembering and forgetting)

I love you, I want you, I need you, I can’t find you (Week 23: Work and Rest)

You don’t understand—you can’t treat my father’s daughter this way (Week 24: Fathers and Daughters)

The summer was… SULTRY (Week 25: Gratitude and Collapse)

It’s like rest but not really (Week 26: Meandering and Reflection)

It’s the wrong question (Week 27: Success and Failure)

On not meditating but meditating anyway, and a cameo from John Keats (Week 28: Busy and Resting)

Hot, cold, self-indulgent as fuck (Week 29: Fire and Ice)

In which our heroine hides under a table (Week 30: Tears and Chocolate)

Deadlines and little lies make the world go round (Week 31: Honesty and Compassion)

That’s not the way the pope would put it, but… (Week 32: Purpose and Miracles)

And before you know it, it’s over (Week 33: Fast and Slow)

Ragazzo da Napoli zajechał Mirafiori (Week 34: Nostalgia and Belonging)

Depression is a narcissistic disease, fentanyl is dangerous, and knowledge is power, sort of (Week 35: Introspection and Awareness)

I’m not gonna tell you (Week 36: Smoke and Mirrors)

Slightly irritable and yet kinda happy (Week 37: Self-Improvement and Self-Indulgence)

It’s not procrastination, it’s process (Week 38: Back and Forth)

Pavlov’s experiments, 21st-century style (Week 39: Connectivity and Solitude)

The last thing I remember (Week 40: truth and um, not really)

All of life’s a (larval) stage (Week 41: Stagnation and Transformation)

—->>>POSTCARDS FROM CUBA

All of life’s a (larval) stage (Week 41: Stagnation and Transformation)

i.

When I am unhappy, and strangers on the street tell me to smile—or well-meaning friends tell me to focus on all the good things that are happening—I want to throw things at them.

When you are unhappy, I tend to tell you… to focus on all the good things that are happening.

Hypocritical, I know.

I think the lesson of all this is when we are unhappy—we are best unhappy alone.

No, no, wait.

I know—you know—that’s not true. That’s what the demons want you to think. They want you to stay unhappy alone, isolated.

So when you are with me when I am unhappy, when I am with you when you are unhappy—let’s give each other’s pain and grief and sad the space it needs.

“I know you’re suffering, and I’m here for you.”

(one of Thich Nhat Hahn’s mantras of loving speech)

That’s all I need. That’s all you want.

Fuck, why is that so hard to give?

ii.

The teenagers, my caterpillars, are going through some ups and downs these days, and my biggest job is JUST TO BE THERE, and I don’t think I’ve worked this hard at parenting since they were mewling, helpless babes in arms, except back then, I could solve almost every ill through the insertion of nipple into mouth.

There are no solutions now. There is only—“I am here for you.”

Confession: being there for you is really exhausting.

I want a mocha, a cigar, chocolate, Hafez.

Sean brings me Leonard Cohen.

It helps.

iii.

If the teenagers are caterpillars, Ender is still a pupa or larva. I’m mixing my insect metaphors a bit, and I can’t remember which comes first, the pupal or larval stage—and I’m pretty sure these don’t occur in the creatures that then metamorphose into butterflies. Anyway. He’s still my pupa, and most of his problems can be solved with a hug or a kiss. But while his existential angst is still in the future, what he wants most is… my presence.

Here I am.

iv.

Cigar. Turkish coffee. Cuba.

I’m daydreaming about Cuba.

Trying to figure out why it was so much easier to give them all my presence there.

And I’m still not sure. What is the expanse of silence? The relative lack of responsibility? The fact that I really did not put any pressure on myself to perform, to output, to create—to do anything other than be there, with them, and with the experience… and yet I created anyway?

Can I go back to that place again?

v.

Flora: Your blog is really boring now.

Jane: You are sentient and read it now. You’ve affected what I can write about, what I can share.

Flora: Thank you.

Jane: Of course.

vi.

I am preparing a writing workshop. One of my points—my big lesson to writers—is—ready?

“You’re just not that interesting.”

Writing about self is excruciatingly boring to read.

I’m sorry. 😉

The kids won’t let me write about them.

And I feel too aware of the transience and fragility of all things to get on a soapbox and dispense advice.

Don’t worry. This year only has 11 or so more weeks. Next year, I’m only going to talk in pictures.

xoxo

“Jane”

PS The pupa just turned nine. I be in shock.

2018

The year started with a Monday; so does every week (Week 1: Transitions and Intentions)

Easier than you think, harder than I expected: a week in eleven stanzas (Week 2: Goodness and Selfishness)

A moody story (Week 3: Ebb and Flow)

Do it full out (Week 4: Passions and Outcomes)

The Buddha was a psychopath and other heresies (Week 5: No Cohesion)

A good week (Week 6: Execute, Regroup)

Killing it (Week 7: Exhaustion and Adrenaline)

Tired, petty, tired, unimportant (Week 8: Disappointment and Perseverance)

Professionals do it like this: [insert key scene here] (Week 9: Battle, Fatigue, Reward)

Reading Nabokov, crying, whining, regrouping (Week 10: Tears and Dreams)

Shake the Disease (Week 11: Sickness and Health… well, mostly sickness)

Cremation, not embalming, but I think I might live after all (Week 12: Angst and Gratitude)

Let’s pretend it all does have meaning (Week 13: Convalescence and Rebirth)

The cage is will, the lock is discipline (Week 14: Up and Down)

My negotiated self thinks you don’t exist–wanna make something of it? (Week 15: Priorities and Opportunity)

An introvert’s submission + radical prioritization in action, also pouting (Week 16: Ruthless and Weepy)

It’s about a radical, sustainable rhythm (Week 17: Sprinting and Napping)

It was a pickle juice waterfall but no bread was really harmed in the process (Week 18: Happy and Sad)

You probably shouldn’t call your teacher bad names, but sometimes, your mother must (Week 19: Excitement and Exhaustion)

Tell me I’m beautiful and feed me cherries (Week 20: Excitement and Exhaustion II)

A very short post about miracles, censorship, change: Week 21 (Transitions and Celebrations)

Time flies, and so does butter (Week 22: Remembering and forgetting)

I love you, I want you, I need you, I can’t find you (Week 23: Work and Rest)

You don’t understand—you can’t treat my father’s daughter this way (Week 24: Fathers and Daughters)

The summer was… SULTRY (Week 25: Gratitude and Collapse)

It’s like rest but not really (Week 26: Meandering and Reflection)

It’s the wrong question (Week 27: Success and Failure)

On not meditating but meditating anyway, and a cameo from John Keats (Week 28: Busy and Resting)

Hot, cold, self-indulgent as fuck (Week 29: Fire and Ice)

In which our heroine hides under a table (Week 30: Tears and Chocolate)

Deadlines and little lies make the world go round (Week 31: Honesty and Compassion)

That’s not the way the pope would put it, but… (Week 32: Purpose and Miracles)

And before you know it, it’s over (Week 33: Fast and Slow)

Ragazzo da Napoli zajechał Mirafiori (Week 34: Nostalgia and Belonging)

Depression is a narcissistic disease, fentanyl is dangerous, and knowledge is power, sort of (Week 35: Introspection and Awareness)

I’m not gonna tell you (Week 36: Smoke and Mirrors)

Slightly irritable and yet kinda happy (Week 37: Self-Improvement and Self-Indulgence)

It’s not procrastination, it’s process (Week 38: Back and Forth)

Pavlov’s experiments, 21st-century style (Week 39: Connectivity and Solitude)

The last thing I remember (Week 40: truth and um, not really)

All of life’s a (larval) stage (Week 41: Stagnation and Transformation)

—->>>POSTCARDS FROM CUBA

The best things in life and on the Internet are free, but content creators need to pay for groceries with money. If you enjoy  Nothing By The Book content, please express your delight and support by making a donation via PayPal:

PayPal - The safer, easier way to pay online!

You: “But how much should I give?”

Jane: “I get $1 each time a sell a traditionally published book, so my bar’s set really low, love. Want to buy me a cup of coffee? That’s $4.75 if you’ll spring for a mocha or latte. Bottle of wine? My palate’s unsophisticated: $19.95 will more than cover it.”

If you’d like to make a contribution but have PayPal issues, email me at nothingbythebook@ gmail.com and we’ll work something out. J

The last thing I remember… (Week 40: Truth and um, Not Really)

The last thing that happened is the thing we remember the most; it redefines how we remember everything that happened before.

I think that’s why real time documentation is so valuable. It’s a beautiful sunny Sunday but I am very unhappy and I want to tell you I had a horrible week, but of course I didn’t.

I have proof.

On last Sunday, I was full of smiles–also, new hat! Thank you, Mom.

On Monday, I thought Cthulhu was rising:

And it was beautiful. Also, so productive.

On Tuesday, this:

 

I live in Viking Hell, and I love it not. But. It is what it is.

On Wednesday, I dared think about driving. Think.

And I got all the kids winter boots without driving, so, Victory!

On Thursday, this made me smile:

even though I felt like this:

On Friday, I found out it was almost Christmas:

On Saturday, I didn’t get to go to this:


but I got to experience this instead:

And now, that I’ve finished thinking about how my week unfolded in real time, I’m not so sad. I might even go for a walk in the sun and remember that it is a beautiful day.

You: Hello, Pollyanna. Whatcha smoking?

Jane: Can you just enjoy my attempt at reframing?

Anyway. I guess it wasn’t an awful week. But it was kind of hard. But also, full of good things. Perspective is important, right?

Right.

xoxo

“Jane”

2018

The year started with a Monday; so does every week (Week 1: Transitions and Intentions)

Easier than you think, harder than I expected: a week in eleven stanzas (Week 2: Goodness and Selfishness)

A moody story (Week 3: Ebb and Flow)

Do it full out (Week 4: Passions and Outcomes)

The Buddha was a psychopath and other heresies (Week 5: No Cohesion)

A good week (Week 6: Execute, Regroup)

Killing it (Week 7: Exhaustion and Adrenaline)

Tired, petty, tired, unimportant (Week 8: Disappointment and Perseverance)

Professionals do it like this: [insert key scene here] (Week 9: Battle, Fatigue, Reward)

Reading Nabokov, crying, whining, regrouping (Week 10: Tears and Dreams)

Shake the Disease (Week 11: Sickness and Health… well, mostly sickness)

Cremation, not embalming, but I think I might live after all (Week 12: Angst and Gratitude)

Let’s pretend it all does have meaning (Week 13: Convalescence and Rebirth)

The cage is will, the lock is discipline (Week 14: Up and Down)

My negotiated self thinks you don’t exist–wanna make something of it? (Week 15: Priorities and Opportunity)

An introvert’s submission + radical prioritization in action, also pouting (Week 16: Ruthless and Weepy)

It’s about a radical, sustainable rhythm (Week 17: Sprinting and Napping)

It was a pickle juice waterfall but no bread was really harmed in the process (Week 18: Happy and Sad)

You probably shouldn’t call your teacher bad names, but sometimes, your mother must (Week 19: Excitement and Exhaustion)

Tell me I’m beautiful and feed me cherries (Week 20: Excitement and Exhaustion II)

A very short post about miracles, censorship, change: Week 21 (Transitions and Celebrations)

Time flies, and so does butter (Week 22: Remembering and forgetting)

I love you, I want you, I need you, I can’t find you (Week 23: Work and Rest)

You don’t understand—you can’t treat my father’s daughter this way (Week 24: Fathers and Daughters)

The summer was… SULTRY (Week 25: Gratitude and Collapse)

It’s like rest but not really (Week 26: Meandering and Reflection)

It’s the wrong question (Week 27: Success and Failure)

On not meditating but meditating anyway, and a cameo from John Keats (Week 28: Busy and Resting)

Hot, cold, self-indulgent as fuck (Week 29: Fire and Ice)

In which our heroine hides under a table (Week 30: Tears and Chocolate)

Deadlines and little lies make the world go round (Week 31: Honesty and Compassion)

That’s not the way the pope would put it, but… (Week 32: Purpose and Miracles)

And before you know it, it’s over (Week 33: Fast and Slow)

Ragazzo da Napoli zajechał Mirafiori (Week 34: Nostalgia and Belonging)

Depression is a narcissistic disease, fentanyl is dangerous, and knowledge is power, sort of (Week 35: Introspection and Awareness)

I’m not gonna tell you (Week 36: Smoke and Mirrors)

Slightly irritable and yet kinda happy (Week 37: Self-Improvement and Self-Indulgence)

It’s not procrastination, it’s process (Week 38: Back and Forth)

Pavlov’s experiments, 21st-century style (Week 39: Connectivity and Solitude)

—->>>POSTCARDS FROM CUBA

The best things in life and on the Internet are free, but content creators need to pay for groceries with money. If you enjoy  Nothing By The Book content, please express your delight and support by making a donation via PayPal:

PayPal - The safer, easier way to pay online!

You: “But how much should I give?”

Jane: “I get $1 each time a sell a traditionally published book, so my bar’s set really low, love. Want to buy me a cup of coffee? That’s $4.75 if you’ll spring for a mocha or latte. Bottle of wine? My palate’s unsophisticated: $19.95 will more than cover it.”

If you’d like to make a contribution but have PayPal issues, email me at nothingbythebook@ gmail.com and we’ll work something out. J

Pavlov’s experiments, 21st century style (Week 39: Connectivity and Solitude)

I’m reading a book set in 1936. Some of the characters have a bungalow in “the country”—this is Great Britain in the 20th century, so “the country” is an hour’s drive away from London in “bad” traffic—less by train. They don’t put a phone line in the bungalow, because part of the reason for having this retreat in the country is to get away from the phone. “It rings night and day in the London flat,” one of them says. “One can never get any peace.”

One can, of course, turn it off or simply not pick up. But it’s hard. We’re social, communicative and CURIOUS creatures. It is very very hard for us to give up social connection and information when it’s readily available.

So. Sabbaths, retreats, cottages without phone lines and wifi.

I have been struggling with this issue of constant connectivity ever since my mother bought me my first smart phone in 2013. (Mom, I am so very grateful, and I don’t know how we would have coordinated the post-flood clean up without it.) I had had a dumb cell phone more than a decade before that—I was an early adopter, I suppose—but then I lost it on a train between Toronto and Montreal in 2006, and decided to let it stay lost. Yes, it let me conduct interviews wherever I was. But it also made me available to clients and editors wherever I was. Fuck that. They did not need to have access to me on a Sunday afternoon when I was at the playground with the kids.

Now, of course, everyone expects to have access to everyone else 24/7 and freaks out if they don’t get an immediate response.

“Did you not get my text?”

“Are you dead?”

“Do you not love me anymore?”

Fuck that.

I’ve been guilty of getting infested with this anxiety myself. Fuck that. I don’t want to. I refuse.

I am going to use this connectivity, connection, communication and mind-blowingly unlimited access to information to my advantage. I’m not going to let it use me.

selfie with audiobook
headphones connect to phone
phone connects to ALL THE BOOKS IN THE WORLD

This isn’t a manifesto, really. It’s just reflection. When something keeps on making you unhappy… unhealthy… why would you keep on doing it?

it snowed in yyc this week

So if I don’t return your texts right away or don’t enter into the panic mode of your email within an hour—it’s not because I don’t love you. It’s because I’m reading books about the 1930s and writing books for the 2020s, and also, teaching Ender to read, braiding Flora’s hair, buying Cinder winter boots, and also, making soup and walking the dog and sitting in my studio with a book of Shamlou poems in my lap staring into space.

And all of those things need and deserve my attention. They world in my pocket, and my connection to you at a physical distance, is wonderful but it can wait and get its focus and attention when the world around me doesn’t need it.

on wednesday my Ender was sick sick sick
and my job was to sit beside him and hold his hand

I’m not flushing the cell phone down the toilet. I know I can’t—and I know we can’t go back. But, we can go forward, in a consciously chosen, intentional way. Not in a panic driven by pings, FOMO, texting tantrums, midnight email exchanges that could really have waited—should have waited—until tomorrow afternoon.

on friday I bought ALL THE FRUIT

I’m going to use this device, I’m not going to be its drooling Pavlovian bitch. You understand?

xoxo

“Jane”

on thursday I missed yoga and meditated here instead

2018

The year started with a Monday; so does every week (Week 1: Transitions and Intentions)

Easier than you think, harder than I expected: a week in eleven stanzas (Week 2: Goodness and Selfishness)

A moody story (Week 3: Ebb and Flow)

Do it full out (Week 4: Passions and Outcomes)

The Buddha was a psychopath and other heresies (Week 5: No Cohesion)

A good week (Week 6: Execute, Regroup)

Killing it (Week 7: Exhaustion and Adrenaline)

Tired, petty, tired, unimportant (Week 8: Disappointment and Perseverance)

Professionals do it like this: [insert key scene here] (Week 9: Battle, Fatigue, Reward)

Reading Nabokov, crying, whining, regrouping (Week 10: Tears and Dreams)

Shake the Disease (Week 11: Sickness and Health… well, mostly sickness)

Cremation, not embalming, but I think I might live after all (Week 12: Angst and Gratitude)

Let’s pretend it all does have meaning (Week 13: Convalescence and Rebirth)

The cage is will, the lock is discipline (Week 14: Up and Down)

My negotiated self thinks you don’t exist–wanna make something of it? (Week 15: Priorities and Opportunity)

An introvert’s submission + radical prioritization in action, also pouting (Week 16: Ruthless and Weepy)

It’s about a radical, sustainable rhythm (Week 17: Sprinting and Napping)

It was a pickle juice waterfall but no bread was really harmed in the process (Week 18: Happy and Sad)

You probably shouldn’t call your teacher bad names, but sometimes, your mother must (Week 19: Excitement and Exhaustion)

Tell me I’m beautiful and feed me cherries (Week 20: Excitement and Exhaustion II)

A very short post about miracles, censorship, change: Week 21 (Transitions and Celebrations)

Time flies, and so does butter (Week 22: Remembering and forgetting)

I love you, I want you, I need you, I can’t find you (Week 23: Work and Rest)

You don’t understand—you can’t treat my father’s daughter this way (Week 24: Fathers and Daughters)

The summer was… SULTRY (Week 25: Gratitude and Collapse)

It’s like rest but not really (Week 26: Meandering and Reflection)

It’s the wrong question (Week 27: Success and Failure)

On not meditating but meditating anyway, and a cameo from John Keats (Week 28: Busy and Resting)

Hot, cold, self-indulgent as fuck (Week 29: Fire and Ice)

In which our heroine hides under a table (Week 30: Tears and Chocolate)

Deadlines and little lies make the world go round (Week 31: Honesty and Compassion)

That’s not the way the pope would put it, but… (Week 32: Purpose and Miracles)

And before you know it, it’s over (Week 33: Fast and Slow)

Ragazzo da Napoli zajechał Mirafiori (Week 34: Nostalgia and Belonging)

Depression is a narcissistic disease, fentanyl is dangerous, and knowledge is power, sort of (Week 35: Introspection and Awareness)

I’m not gonna tell you (Week 36: Smoke and Mirrors)

Slightly irritable and yet kinda happy (Week 37: Self-Improvement and Self-Indulgence)

It’s not procrastination, it’s process (Week 38: Back and Forth)

—->>>POSTCARDS FROM CUBA

The best things in life and on the Internet are free, but content creators need to pay for groceries with money. If you enjoy  Nothing By The Book content, please express your delight and support by making a donation via PayPal:

PayPal - The safer, easier way to pay online!

You: “But how much should I give?”

Jane: “I get $1 each time a sell a traditionally published book, so my bar’s set really low, love. Want to buy me a cup of coffee? That’s $4.75 if you’ll spring for a mocha or latte. Bottle of wine? My palate’s unsophisticated: $19.95 will more than cover it.”

If you’d like to make a contribution but have PayPal issues, email me at nothingbythebook@ gmail.com and we’ll work something out. J

It’s not procrastination, it’s process (Week 38: Back and Forth)

i

Lazy, rainy Sunday. I want to wander aimlessly in the rain, maybe get cold, maybe get rain in my eyes.

Sean is driving around town looking for a heavy bag and boxing gloves. The giant 16 y o wants it; we hope it will lead to fewer holes in walls. And the 13 y o is almost excited about it too.

The eight-year-old is talking in baby talk again and it’s driving me up the wall, except when it’s not.

Jane: How am I going to carry you up to bed when you’re as big as Cinder?

The eight-year old is curled up in my arms as the 16-year-old stomps into the kitchen, a storm of hormones, imagined stresses, real fears. I am helpless. All I can offer is… presence.

A stocked fridge.

I can still solve all of the eight-year-old’s problems.

That’s something, right?

ii

Saturday night, I dance. Before that, I look at something that I’m afraid is ugly and unsalvageable.

It’s not that bad.

I can work with this.

Everything is going to be ok.

In the morning, my dad brings parowki and makowiec for breakfast. I make chickpea flour crepes.

“They’re not bad,” he says, shocked.

I talk on the phone with my mother. Her sister—my godmother.

I think I’m talking to ghosts.

iii

Friday night, Leonard Cohen, as interpreted by Les Ballets Jazz de Montreal.

OMFG.

I cry.

You can’t appreciate it unless you’ve seen it live, but here is a video:

Friday day, a house full of noisy, noisy boys.

I turn a chore into a break, a taste of bliss.

Hair cut for Flora—less than a centimetre of hair on the floor.

I tell Sean he has to make me look at the manuscript today, but he’s busy at work, he doesn’t.

Everything will be all right, eventually.

Right?

I’ll look at it. Eventually.

iv

Thursday, everything goes wrong, one thing goes right.

The lengths to which I go to not look at the mess I have to deal with are really amazing. I’m full of awe at the ingenuity I exert to not look at the shitty first draft.

I must.

I won’t.

I don’t.

Thursday is my Ender-free day. I piss it away this week. I do things that look like work. They’re not.

I’m not doing the thing I need to do

I must.

I won’t.

I don’t…

v

Wednesday’s kind of a rough day all around; I end up in bed at 7:30.

Ender: I had a great day!

Oh, good.

vi

Tuesday, I decide exercise is bad for you.

But I do all the things. It’s an experiment in discipline.

vii

How is it Monday already?

xoxo

“Jane”

2018

The year started with a Monday; so does every week (Week 1: Transitions and Intentions)

Easier than you think, harder than I expected: a week in eleven stanzas (Week 2: Goodness and Selfishness)

A moody story (Week 3: Ebb and Flow)

Do it full out (Week 4: Passions and Outcomes)

The Buddha was a psychopath and other heresies (Week 5: No Cohesion)

A good week (Week 6: Execute, Regroup)

Killing it (Week 7: Exhaustion and Adrenaline)

Tired, petty, tired, unimportant (Week 8: Disappointment and Perseverance)

Professionals do it like this: [insert key scene here] (Week 9: Battle, Fatigue, Reward)

Reading Nabokov, crying, whining, regrouping (Week 10: Tears and Dreams)

Shake the Disease (Week 11: Sickness and Health… well, mostly sickness)

Cremation, not embalming, but I think I might live after all (Week 12: Angst and Gratitude)

Let’s pretend it all does have meaning (Week 13: Convalescence and Rebirth)

The cage is will, the lock is discipline (Week 14: Up and Down)

My negotiated self thinks you don’t exist–wanna make something of it? (Week 15: Priorities and Opportunity)

An introvert’s submission + radical prioritization in action, also pouting (Week 16: Ruthless and Weepy)

It’s about a radical, sustainable rhythm (Week 17: Sprinting and Napping)

It was a pickle juice waterfall but no bread was really harmed in the process (Week 18: Happy and Sad)

You probably shouldn’t call your teacher bad names, but sometimes, your mother must (Week 19: Excitement and Exhaustion)

Tell me I’m beautiful and feed me cherries (Week 20: Excitement and Exhaustion II)

A very short post about miracles, censorship, change: Week 21 (Transitions and Celebrations)

Time flies, and so does butter (Week 22: Remembering and forgetting)

I love you, I want you, I need you, I can’t find you (Week 23: Work and Rest)

You don’t understand—you can’t treat my father’s daughter this way (Week 24: Fathers and Daughters)

The summer was… SULTRY (Week 25: Gratitude and Collapse)

It’s like rest but not really (Week 26: Meandering and Reflection)

It’s the wrong question (Week 27: Success and Failure)

On not meditating but meditating anyway, and a cameo from John Keats (Week 28: Busy and Resting)

Hot, cold, self-indulgent as fuck (Week 29: Fire and Ice)

In which our heroine hides under a table (Week 30: Tears and Chocolate)

Deadlines and little lies make the world go round (Week 31: Honesty and Compassion)

That’s not the way the pope would put it, but… (Week 32: Purpose and Miracles)

And before you know it, it’s over (Week 33: Fast and Slow)

Ragazzo da Napoli zajechał Mirafiori (Week 34: Nostalgia and Belonging)

Depression is a narcissistic disease, fentanyl is dangerous, and knowledge is power, sort of (Week 35: Introspection and Awareness)

I’m not gonna tell you (Week 36: Smoke and Mirrors)

Slightly irritable and yet kinda happy (Week 37: Self-Improvement and Self-Indulgence)

—->>>POSTCARDS FROM CUBA

The best things in life and on the Internet are free, but content creators need to pay for groceries with money. If you enjoy  Nothing By The Book content, please express your delight and support by making a donation via PayPal:

PayPal - The safer, easier way to pay online!

You: “But how much should I give?”

Jane: “I get $1 each time a sell a traditionally published book, so my bar’s set really low, love. Want to buy me a cup of coffee? That’s $4.75 if you’ll spring for a mocha or latte. Bottle of wine? My palate’s unsophisticated: $19.95 will more than cover it.”

If you’d like to make a contribution but have PayPal issues, email me at nothingbythebook@ gmail.com and we’ll work something out. J

Slightly irritable and yet kinda happy (Week 37: Self-Improvement and Self-Indulgence)

i

I have been thinking about all the things you’re supposed to do first thing in the morning. Eat breakfast as soon as you wake up. Wait, first drink a glass of water. Exercise first thing. Meditate ditto. Write before you do anything else… if we do all the things we’re supposed to do first thing in the morning, morning takes all day. Or at least, two hours.

I forgot to mention the cold shower, the body massage, the oil pulling. And, and tooth brushing, of course. Of course, brush your teeth…

I like slow, unhurried mornings. At the same time, I also really value my early morning productivity. When I start doing ALL THE THINGS first thing in the morning, I usually make a good dent in them by 10 a.m. And I feel accomplished, productive, peaceful, and not guilty for being lazy for the rest of the day.  And then, I can have breakfast, mediate, exercise, shower etc. etc.

Anyway. I’m sharing this with you because I’m trying a new morning routine. Which I won’t share with you because parts of it embarrass me a little. But my old morning routine, which was pretty functional for a long while, has suddenly stopped working.

So. I’m changing it.

Disrupting some habits.

Telling Julia Cameron I’m not so sure about those morning pages. Of course, I’m telling her so while I write my morning pages. Funny.

Telling my cup of coffee that I gave her up before and I can give her up again if she’s again become a destructive habit rather than a pleasure.

Yes, I talk with my habits.

Don’t you?

ii

I am writing in the kitchen. It’s Sunday morning. The teenagers are asleep. Sean is cooking oatmeal. Ender is watching a show on his computer. I don’t know where the dog is. The house is cold, because it’s barely zero degrees outside.

Hello September.

This is a happy moment.

another happy moment

iii

This Friday, we meet with the homeschool facilitator. After 11 years of homeschooling (if you start at Cinder’s grade one year, more if you start counting the day he dropped out of the second day of preschool), I’m blasé. She’s new and very enthusiastic. She wants to meet with us in January to discuss the kids’ halfway progress, help me fill out the report card. I sigh.

“We’ll come, of course, if you want us to,” I tell her. “But I don’t need it.”

“Some parents have a hard time filling out the report card,” she says.

“That’s because the report card is stupid,” I say. “I don’t actually fill it out. It’s designed by bureaucrats who understand neither homeschooling nor learning. It’s a waste of my time.”

I used to print out the report cards, fill in the kids’ names, and write N/A – see progress report across the rest of it in giant letters.

Then the report cards got longer and longer and I stopped printing them out. Save the trees.

I think I used to be a homeschool advocate. Now I’m just a “omg, institutions are so broken, I don’t even” crank.

But my facilitator is a functionary of the institution. I won’t punish her for having to do her job.

I won’t fill out the report card, though.

Facilitator: And what are you doing for language arts with Flora?

Jane: She’s working on her fourth or fifth novel, so… not much.

Flora: I might need to junk it, though. I don’t like my main character.

I’m having the same problem. We commiserate.

The facilitator doesn’t ask me what I’m doing for language arts with Ender. Which is good, because right now, that seems to consist mostly of him reading and writing “poop.”

Cinder went through that phase too.

I’m blasé.

I was going to show you how many meatballs Ender can eat at Ikea but I was too late

iv

I like my kids this week, although they’re also frustrating.

And I’m a bit on edge, everything irritates me.

I’m reading a lot about Ayurveda these days, so I decide my doshas are out of balance. Also, change of seasons. Or, peri-menopause.

Or, just overall fatigue.

But it was a good week. A full week. A productive week. A pivotal week.

Thank you, September.

xoxo

“Jane”

2018

The year started with a Monday; so does every week (Week 1: Transitions and Intentions)

Easier than you think, harder than I expected: a week in eleven stanzas (Week 2: Goodness and Selfishness)

A moody story (Week 3: Ebb and Flow)

Do it full out (Week 4: Passions and Outcomes)

The Buddha was a psychopath and other heresies (Week 5: No Cohesion)

A good week (Week 6: Execute, Regroup)

Killing it (Week 7: Exhaustion and Adrenaline)

Tired, petty, tired, unimportant (Week 8: Disappointment and Perseverance)

Professionals do it like this: [insert key scene here] (Week 9: Battle, Fatigue, Reward)

Reading Nabokov, crying, whining, regrouping (Week 10: Tears and Dreams)

Shake the Disease (Week 11: Sickness and Health… well, mostly sickness)

Cremation, not embalming, but I think I might live after all (Week 12: Angst and Gratitude)

Let’s pretend it all does have meaning (Week 13: Convalescence and Rebirth)

The cage is will, the lock is discipline (Week 14: Up and Down)

My negotiated self thinks you don’t exist–wanna make something of it? (Week 15: Priorities and Opportunity)

An introvert’s submission + radical prioritization in action, also pouting (Week 16: Ruthless and Weepy)

It’s about a radical, sustainable rhythm (Week 17: Sprinting and Napping)

It was a pickle juice waterfall but no bread was really harmed in the process (Week 18: Happy and Sad)

You probably shouldn’t call your teacher bad names, but sometimes, your mother must (Week 19: Excitement and Exhaustion)

Tell me I’m beautiful and feed me cherries (Week 20: Excitement and Exhaustion II)

A very short post about miracles, censorship, change: Week 21 (Transitions and Celebrations)

Time flies, and so does butter (Week 22: Remembering and forgetting)

I love you, I want you, I need you, I can’t find you (Week 23: Work and Rest)

You don’t understand—you can’t treat my father’s daughter this way (Week 24: Fathers and Daughters)

The summer was… SULTRY (Week 25: Gratitude and Collapse)

It’s like rest but not really (Week 26: Meandering and Reflection)

It’s the wrong question (Week 27: Success and Failure)

On not meditating but meditating anyway, and a cameo from John Keats (Week 28: Busy and Resting)

Hot, cold, self-indulgent as fuck (Week 29: Fire and Ice)

In which our heroine hides under a table (Week 30: Tears and Chocolate)

Deadlines and little lies make the world go round (Week 31: Honesty and Compassion)

That’s not the way the pope would put it, but… (Week 32: Purpose and Miracles)

And before you know it, it’s over (Week 33: Fast and Slow)

Ragazzo da Napoli zajechał Mirafiori (Week 34: Nostalgia and Belonging)

Depression is a narcissistic disease, fentanyl is dangerous, and knowledge is power, sort of (Week 35: Introspection and Awareness)

I’m not gonna tell you (Week 36: Smoke and Mirrors)

Slightly irritable and yet kinda happy (Week 37: Self-Improvement and Self-Indulgence)

—->>>POSTCARDS FROM CUBA

The best things in life and on the Internet are free, but content creators need to pay for groceries with money. If you enjoy  Nothing By The Book content, please express your delight and support by making a donation via PayPal:

PayPal - The safer, easier way to pay online!

You: “But how much should I give?”

Jane: “I get $1 each time a sell a traditionally published book, so my bar’s set really low, love. Want to buy me a cup of coffee? That’s $4.75 if you’ll spring for a mocha or latte. Bottle of wine? My palate’s unsophisticated: $19.95 will more than cover it.”

If you’d like to make a contribution but have PayPal issues, email me at nothingbythebook@ gmail.com and we’ll work something out. J

I’m not gonna tell you (Week 36: Smoke and Mirrors)

Note from process journal: “FIGURE SHIT OUT.”

Right. Getting on that. Right now.

Note to self: NOT AT ANY PRICE.

Note to children: I LOVE YOU. DON’T SET THE HOUSE ON FIRE WHILE I’M OUT.

Note from SIL: 28 hours in labour.

Text from Sean on Saturday: Dad said he will be here on Monday and Tuesday.

Text from my Dad: “You are always on my mind. Have a puff for me.”

Ha.

You know what? Let’s end with this:

xoxo

“Jane”

2018

The year started with a Monday; so does every week (Week 1: Transitions and Intentions)

Easier than you think, harder than I expected: a week in eleven stanzas (Week 2: Goodness and Selfishness)

A moody story (Week 3: Ebb and Flow)

Do it full out (Week 4: Passions and Outcomes)

The Buddha was a psychopath and other heresies (Week 5: No Cohesion)

A good week (Week 6: Execute, Regroup)

Killing it (Week 7: Exhaustion and Adrenaline)

Tired, petty, tired, unimportant (Week 8: Disappointment and Perseverance)

Professionals do it like this: [insert key scene here] (Week 9: Battle, Fatigue, Reward)

Reading Nabokov, crying, whining, regrouping (Week 10: Tears and Dreams)

Shake the Disease (Week 11: Sickness and Health… well, mostly sickness)

Cremation, not embalming, but I think I might live after all (Week 12: Angst and Gratitude)

Let’s pretend it all does have meaning (Week 13: Convalescence and Rebirth)

The cage is will, the lock is discipline (Week 14: Up and Down)

My negotiated self thinks you don’t exist–wanna make something of it? (Week 15: Priorities and Opportunity)

An introvert’s submission + radical prioritization in action, also pouting (Week 16: Ruthless and Weepy)

It’s about a radical, sustainable rhythm (Week 17: Sprinting and Napping)

It was a pickle juice waterfall but no bread was really harmed in the process (Week 18: Happy and Sad)

You probably shouldn’t call your teacher bad names, but sometimes, your mother must (Week 19: Excitement and Exhaustion)

Tell me I’m beautiful and feed me cherries (Week 20: Excitement and Exhaustion II)

A very short post about miracles, censorship, change: Week 21 (Transitions and Celebrations)

Time flies, and so does butter (Week 22: Remembering and forgetting)

I love you, I want you, I need you, I can’t find you (Week 23: Work and Rest)

You don’t understand—you can’t treat my father’s daughter this way (Week 24: Fathers and Daughters)

The summer was… SULTRY (Week 25: Gratitude and Collapse)

It’s like rest but not really (Week 26: Meandering and Reflection)

It’s the wrong question (Week 27: Success and Failure)

On not meditating but meditating anyway, and a cameo from John Keats (Week 28: Busy and Resting)

Hot, cold, self-indulgent as fuck (Week 29: Fire and Ice)

In which our heroine hides under a table (Week 30: Tears and Chocolate)

Deadlines and little lies make the world go round (Week 31: Honesty and Compassion)

That’s not the way the pope would put it, but… (Week 32: Purpose and Miracles)

And before you know it, it’s over (Week 33: Fast and Slow)

Ragazzo da Napoli zajechał Mirafiori (Week 34: Nostalgia and Belonging)

Depression is a narcissistic disease, fentanyl is dangerous, and knowledge is power, sort of (Week 35: Introspection and Awareness)

—->>>POSTCARDS FROM CUBA

The best things in life and on the Internet are free, but content creators need to pay for groceries with money. If you enjoy  Nothing By The Book content, please express your delight and support by making a donation via PayPal:

PayPal - The safer, easier way to pay online!

You: “But how much should I give?”

Jane: “I get $1 each time a sell a traditionally published book, so my bar’s set really low, love. Want to buy me a cup of coffee? That’s $4.75 if you’ll spring for a mocha or latte. Bottle of wine? My palate’s unsophisticated: $19.95 will more than cover it.”

If you’d like to make a contribution but have PayPal issues, email me at nothingbythebook@ gmail.com and we’ll work something out. J

Depression is a narcissistic disease, fentanyl is dangerous, and knowledge is power, sort of (Week 35: Introspection and Awareness)

PART I

i

13 is hard.

Do you remember?

I remember it as the year of tears. I couldn’t stop crying.

Flora’s 13 now.

I remember, I remember—but mostly, I hide from her, because faced with her volatilty, I want to yell.

Thank goodness she has a Daddy who knows how to talk to her.

ii

13 is fascinating.

We are in the line-up at Starbucks, Flora and I. I’m thinking about the story I’m not writing. Flora, I assume, is thinking about what she wants to order.

But no.

Flora: What is the most dangerous drug?

Well. I’m about as qualified to answer this as I am to answer her questions about serial killers.

Jane: I don’t know. I guess, judging by what I’ve seen of addicts in the hood… I’d say crystal meth.

Flora: Mmm.

Jane: But… there’s this thing that happens, in the media and in the cultural zeitgiest. There’s a fashionable worst drug ever. You know? In the 1960s and 1970s, it was heroin. And then in the 1980s, it was cocaine. And then, cocaine was not so bad, but crack—rock cocaine—was the worst, there was no hope of a cure of the addiction, it was a death sentence. And now, crystal meth is the worst thing ever, and marijuana is a cure-all.

I should perhaps highlight at this point that neither Flora nor I are cursed with low-pitched, mumbly, hard-to-hear voices, and the acoustics in this particular Starbucks are quite good.

The man in line in front of us turns around.

Scott: In the 60s and 70s, people served long jail terms for marijuana possession.

Jane: I think in some places in the US, they still do.

Scott: Obama pardoned most of them when he became president.

Then he flushes.

Scott: Sorry. I do psych counselling and support at festivals. So I know a lot about… this is sort of hobby horse of mine…

Jane: Then perhaps you can answer this young woman’s question. What is the most dangerous drug?

He really, really thinks hard about it. Heroin, he says, is really dangerous again, but that’s because it’s being laced with fentanyl. And, crystal meth—well, yeah, not so good. And then, when they add fentanyl to it…

Scott: They’re adding fentanyl to everything.

I don’t actually know how to spell fentanyl; I have to google it.

Scott: So really, the gist of this all is—you’ve got to trust your source.

And he shuts up and looks at me and my 13 year old daughter.

Flora: Thank you.

Scott: Um… yeah.

He looks at me. Awkward smile,

Scott: Sorry?

Jane: Thank you. No worries.

iii

Flora orders her fancy drink.

Barrista: Size?

Flora: Um…. medium?

Barrista: Grande?

Flora: Sure.

Barrista: Name?

Flora: What?

Barrista: Your name? For the drink?

Flora looks at me.

And I laugh.

Jane: What’s your Starbucks name gonna be, baby?

Flora’s real name has fewer letters than mine. But it also has a Z pushed up against a consonant that means your poor anglophone tongue will never figure out what the fuck to do with it, and the two vowels at the end are NOT pronounced the way you think they should be.

Flora: Cat.

Barrista: Is that with a C or a K?

Flora: C.

We shuffle over to the “pick up your drink” side of the counter.

Flora: Fuck. I should have said with a Q.

Jane: Or, with a silent X.

Flora: Oh, look. The drug dude’s name is Scott.

Jane: With one t?

Flora’s brow is furrowed.

Flora: I need a Starbucks name that they will know how to spell.

Jane: They ask me how to spell Jane all the time.

It’s true. They like to put a y in it. An extra e, n, an assortment of the above.

iv

While not doing my work, I watch He’s Just Not Into You. It has some fucking brilliant parts.

“So trust me when I tell you that when a guy is treating you like he doesn’t give a shit, he genuinely doesn’t give a shit. No exceptions.”

Scratch guy for person, and there you have it.

Mothers—for the love of your daughters’ future relationship functionality—when a little boy kicks her sandcastle over at a playground, when her 11 year old class mate snaps her bra—don’t tell her he’s treating her disrespectfully because he likes her. Tell her that he’s an ass who doesn’t know how to treat people with respect—and not worth crying over, much less lusting after. And then call his mother and father and tell them to teach their son some manners, and a functional mode of communication.

You: How do you know this and I don’t?

Jane: I have a father who treats me like a queen, remember?

PART II

i

Something is coming, churning. I’m on its verge and I feel it—what is it? Boom! Sometimes, it happens like that and sometimes, it sneaks in. Peekaboo. Did you see me? Yes, you’re right, here I am.

I don’t know how the breakthrough will come but I do feel it coming. I tell you about it, you tell me about yours… I’m not sure we mean the same thing by breakthrough but that, I think, is the curse of the human species. We never really know what the other is talking about.

ii

You can’t save people.

Someone I love is crying in front of me, unbidden tears, and says, “You have no idea what it is like to live with someone who has depression.”

I laugh. Like a slap.

I have no idea.

I wish.

But these stories, we don’t talk about them, because they are not ours to tell.

I tell her, the one thing I’ve learned—you can’t save people. They have to save themselves. All you can do is love them. Make sure they know you’re there for them when they come back.

And take care of yourself, because if you don’t take care of yourself, they sure as fuck won’t take care of you.

Depression is a narcissistic disease.

Sean: I’m the tone who told you that.

Jane: I know. It helped.

Betrand Russell who, I think, struggled with depression himself, knew this. The major thrust of his 1930 The Conquest of Happiness—both a prescient and a dated read, and yes, one can be both—is that happiness lies not within introspection… but in engagement with the outside world.

Martin Seligman’s PERMA model—Sean attends a seminar about it this week at the U, and we spend a little bit of time discussing the Flourish author’s insights—really says more or less the same thing.

Like most things described with acronyms, it’s kinda simplistic, but, for what it’s worth, here it is:

  • P-Positive Emotion
  • E-Engagement
  • R-Relationships
  • M-Meaning
  • A-Accomplishment

You can read more about it here.

I like a lot about Seligman’s work, except for the P part of his model—because the negative emotions, frankly, have a role to play in engagement, relationships, meaning and accomplishment too, and if you don’t know how to work with them, through them, well, then, you’re fucked, baby. But the point I’m trying to make here—which perhaps is one of the reasons I’m such a shitty meditator—is that the more you look within, the outside world becomes less and less important and real. And as the world recedes, all that exists is you and your suffering, your demons take center stage, and it becomes easier—it becomes self-evident—that what you need to do is walk into the English channel with rocks in your pockets.

Fuck you, Virginia Woolf, you coward, Lenard would have loved you through another bout of your “terrible times,” he would have endured it, for you.

And fuck you, Sylvia Plath. Did you really think your children would be better off without a mother?

No. Of course you didn’t. You didn’t think. The outside world, reality did not exists. There was only the suffering self.

Depression is a narcissistic disease.

Except those of us who don’t suffer from it but suffer alongside those who do… aren’t allowed to say so.

Because we just don’t understand.

Like a slap, the curse of the human species—we always think each of us is so fucking special and nobody can possibly understand what happens inside the Other.

Anyway.

You can’t save people.

This, I know.

iii

I finish writing a bad story and I feel good about it for five minutes, than bad about how bad it is. I text Sean.

Sean: I’m sure you’ll like it better in revisions. You know hating your first draft is part of your process.

Not always. Occasionally, there is a good, beautiful first draft. But not this time. I stare at the computer screen, chewing lip. Decide to scrub the grease off the kitchen cupboards.

iv

I am feeling unsympathetic today, and I think all you depressed, anxious people should pull up your fucking socks, get a British stiff upper lip, and just get on with things.

I know I’m not supposed to think that.

I’m supposed to take a deep breath, dip into the well of unconditional love, and be your rock.

Crash.

Boom.

Guess what? The well is empty.

And now what?

unsympathetic bitch selfie

v

Two or three years ago, I write a bad poem. I don’t remember much about, except this line:

I danced with a man who hadn’t suffered…

People who haven’t suffered are pretty happy.

But they are also, usually, insufferable.

I find this really funny.

vi

Her: You just don’t understand.

Jane: You don’t actually want to be understood.

Think about it.

vii

Crash.

Boom.

Enlightenment, breakthrough.

You can’t save other people.

All you can do is love them.

And take care of yourself first, like in those airplane safety instructions, you know? Put on your oxygen mask first.

That is not this week’s breakthrough. That, I’ve known for a while.

I try to share it with the person I love who needs to hear it. Bu I can’t save her either. She needs to figure it out herself. I can just be there.

viii

The six mantras of loving speech, by Thich Nhat Hanh:

  1. I am here for you.
  2. I know you are there, and I’m happy.
  3. I know you suffer, and that’s why I’m here for you.
  4. I suffer. Please help.
  5. This is a happy moment.
  6. You are partly right.

(The Art of Communicating)‎

I am here for you.

Except, sometimes, I’m not, because I have to go be there for myself. Do you understand?

Yes, no.

Suffering people, when things are bad, understand, feel nothing but their pain. You can’t take this burden off them.

You cannot lighten it.

And you know what? They don’t actually have the right to ask you to lighten it for them. Do you understand that?

Now, where’s that fucking oxygen mask? Put it on.

ix

It’s rainy and it’s sunny and there’s a rainbow and I don’t think the city has looked this beautiful to me for more than a year.

Boom.

Crash.

There is a crack within.

That’s how the light gets in.

Peekaboo.

Well, hello there, breakthrough.

You are not what I was expecting, at all.

You: Buddha was a psychopath, depression is a narcissist, and you?

Jane: I’m thinking I’m an empathetic sociopath. What do you think?

You: You’re something, all right.

I’m something. Something amazing.

And so are you.

But I can’t save you.

Understand?

xoxo

“Jane”

PS I don’t think this piece actually worked. This seems to be my week for shitty first, second, and third drafts. Sorry.

PS 2 Happy Pride! I danced all week. My feet and back ache, and it’s not the motherfucking sadist’s fault—he’s only responsible for the fact that my shoulders and chest hurt so much it’s hard to type. Happiness has some very strange components sometimes. 😉

2018

The year started with a Monday; so does every week (Week 1: Transitions and Intentions)

Easier than you think, harder than I expected: a week in eleven stanzas (Week 2: Goodness and Selfishness)

A moody story (Week 3: Ebb and Flow)

Do it full out (Week 4: Passions and Outcomes)

The Buddha was a psychopath and other heresies (Week 5: No Cohesion)

A good week (Week 6: Execute, Regroup)

Killing it (Week 7: Exhaustion and Adrenaline)

Tired, petty, tired, unimportant (Week 8: Disappointment and Perseverance)

Professionals do it like this: [insert key scene here] (Week 9: Battle, Fatigue, Reward)

Reading Nabokov, crying, whining, regrouping (Week 10: Tears and Dreams)

Shake the Disease (Week 11: Sickness and Health… well, mostly sickness)

Cremation, not embalming, but I think I might live after all (Week 12: Angst and Gratitude)

Let’s pretend it all does have meaning (Week 13: Convalescence and Rebirth)

The cage is will, the lock is discipline (Week 14: Up and Down)

My negotiated self thinks you don’t exist–wanna make something of it? (Week 15: Priorities and Opportunity)

An introvert’s submission + radical prioritization in action, also pouting (Week 16: Ruthless and Weepy)

It’s about a radical, sustainable rhythm (Week 17: Sprinting and Napping)

It was a pickle juice waterfall but no bread was really harmed in the process (Week 18: Happy and Sad)

You probably shouldn’t call your teacher bad names, but sometimes, your mother must (Week 19: Excitement and Exhaustion)

Tell me I’m beautiful and feed me cherries (Week 20: Excitement and Exhaustion II)

A very short post about miracles, censorship, change: Week 21 (Transitions and Celebrations)

Time flies, and so does butter (Week 22: Remembering and forgetting)

I love you, I want you, I need you, I can’t find you (Week 23: Work and Rest)

You don’t understand—you can’t treat my father’s daughter this way (Week 24: Fathers and Daughters)

The summer was… SULTRY (Week 25: Gratitude and Collapse)

It’s like rest but not really (Week 26: Meandering and Reflection)

It’s the wrong question (Week 27: Success and Failure)

On not meditating but meditating anyway, and a cameo from John Keats (Week 28: Busy and Resting)

Hot, cold, self-indulgent as fuck (Week 29: Fire and Ice)

In which our heroine hides under a table (Week 30: Tears and Chocolate)

Deadlines and little lies make the world go round (Week 31: Honesty and Compassion)

That’s not the way the pope would put it, but… (Week 32: Purpose and Miracles)

And before you know it, it’s over (Week 33: Fast and Slow)

Ragazzo da Napoli zajechał Mirafiori (Week 34: Nostalgia and Belonging)

—->>>POSTCARDS FROM CUBA

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