That’s my story, and I’m sticking to it… no, wait, actually, let me change it…

I believe, rather ardently, in the power of story. If your religion is Christianity, his Islam and hers Wicca—and theirs veganism—my religion is story.

Story is, perhaps, not everything—other things must exist, else there would be no ingredients for story, and no one to tell stories to—but it is all-powerful.

The stories we tell other people, the stories we tell ourselves, they shape our reality. They change the past, define the present, and create the future. That, loves, is power.

Sometimes, in our interactions with other people, our stories clash. There’s a fight. Perhaps one loses and the other wins. Perhaps both break into bits and they create a new story from the flotsam and jetsam of both. Sometimes, two conflicting stories manage to meld into a cohesive—but tense!—single one.

One of the amazing thing about story is its fluidity, adaptability. In oral traditions, the story changes a little bit in every telling. And this happens even in our more rigid, current product-focused traditions. Look at all the remakes of movies, retellings of classical literature. Story changes. That is its nature.

That is its power.

Our personal stories are among the most powerful stories. And these can change too—we can change them. At will, almost. But it’s hard, because stories don’t exist without an audience, and we are rarely the only audience for our story. Family and friends, even if they don’t really like our old story, are used to it. They redirect us to it, in every interaction. Even when we are telling them a new story—they act as though they are hearing the old one.

That’s hard. And discouraging.

I think that’s why, when we are working to change a story, we look for new people. We want a new audience for the new story we are creating. We don’t want the tried and true audience that says, “No, that’s not what happened—I know this story, the Prince woke the Princess up with a kiss and they lived happily ever after, that’s what happens in this story, why aren’t you telling it like that?”

Because I’m changing it, love.

If you can’t listen to the new story without trying to pull me into the old one—that’s okay. It’s natural. I understand. I’m going to tell the story to someone else, who hears it.

The greatest gift we can give our friends and loves, when they are changing their story… is to listen to the new one.

Her: Suppose the new story is all bull shit?

Jane: It’s their story. Their bullshit.

This is, by the way, very hard. Terribly hard. Exceedingly hard. The closer you are to a person and the more enmeshed in their old story, the harder it is to really hear—never mind support—their new story. I’ve failed at this, in the most significant relationships in my life, so I’m not preaching to you from a moral high horse. It’s hard. So hard. Sometimes, impossible. And then, the greatest gift you can give your loves is the opportunity, space, encouragement to find a new audience for their story.

That’s my story and I’m sticking to it.

😉

“Jane”

Pandemic Diary: Of sentence fragments and their opposite, and also, parenthetically, purposeful procrastination

i

Me, in bed, much coffee, a bare foot sticking out from between tangled blankets, notebook, leaky fountain pen. Morning pages done but not yet quite ready to work—unfinished business? Sneezes—not COVID-19 and not a common cold—I think I’m allergic to my feather pillows, oh, but they are so comfortable!

Achoo.

Mentoring a writer and ripping her work to shreds in a big way. I mean—editing, but a new writer doesn’t understand the process and every correction hurts. Also—“But you use sentence fragments all the time!” True. But I do it on purpose, to achieve a certain tempo, feeling. You do it because you don’t understand grammar.

Ouch.

I need to learn how to deliver life lessons in a more gentle, supportive manner.

Except… successful, published writers need to learn how to survive criticism—even harsh, unjust criticism.

Just read the comments.

(Don’t read the comments.)

ii

I guess this is still a Pandemic Diary entry because the pandemic is still happening. But man-oh-man—boy-oh-boy—why do we not say girl-oh-girl, do you think we could make that a thing—it sometimes feels like it’s not, and I still don’t know if your grandma, your son, your immune-compromised system are worth all this—I wish you’d show me they were—but I suppose what all this is illustrating is that I am just not a very good, compassionate human being—I’m sorry (not-sorry), I fucking suck, aren’t you glad I’m not making policy decisions?

The above is an example of a run-on sentence that I can get away with in a blog post (but not in an article) and that Henry James could have kept on moving for pages and pages, but which you, beginning writer, need to chop into six simple declarative sentences.

You heard me. Six.

Maybe seven.

Chop.

Ouch.

iii

Achoo.

I’m sneezing again. Another cup of coffee. Almost ready to work. (<<<— Sentence fragment used to a purpose.) (<<<—Sentence fragment used to a purpose to illustrate the purpose of sentence fragments.) Yawn. Sneeze. Curl and stretch the toes of the foot peeking out from between the sheets. Sternly tell it that no, it does not get to crawl back under and snoozle.

It’s time to work.

Achoo.

Ouch.

More coffee?

“Jane”

Pandemic Diary: YYC Pride in Year One of the Pandemic

It’s sort of Pride Week in Calgary. Pre-2020, we had the best of all worlds, really: in June, while San Francisco, New York, Toronto, Montréal, Vancouver et al. celebrated Pride, some of us travelled there and some of us had micro events here, and meanwhile, we planned for the Labour Day Weekend, when Calgary has been celebrating Pride since 2009—because our June weather sucks, what with the rain and floods and what not. By mid-August, our Pride events were really in full swing and so the parade, held on Labour Day Weekend Sunday, and its after-party were really the end, rather than the beginning of a week—month—summer—long queer orgy.

Ah, the good old days.

Of course, no parade this year. But, today, Flora and I are going to an All-Ages Drag Brunch at the Twisted Element, which has transformed itself from a nightclub in which nothing happens until after midnight to a pub with table services and a kitchen, with a couple of fellow queers—(parenthetically, I really love being the mother of teenagers—they are way more fun than toddlers). Because we’re doing that, we’re missing the Pride Park Takeover at Pearce Estates Park, hosted by Here and Queer Events –but, like, you should go. Calgary Pride is also, of course, offering an assortment of events all through the week, some on-line, some live, all queer as fuck.

So while it will be a shoestring Gay Christmas this year, Glittery St. Nick will still ride through town in his ass-less chaps and the lesbian angels will sing… on Zoom, occasionally live, six feet away from each other…

Better than nothing, right? But oh, I want to dance, I so want to dance—especially as I was supposed to dance at a wedding in Warsaw today (Congratulations, Łukasz and Magadelna!) but the only way that will happen will be if someone throws a somewhat illicit house party—about which none of us will tell anyone anything because, well, y’all are judgemental pricks and, in your own way, as rabid and dogmatic and uncompassionate as the anti-maskers… there. I’ve said.

Sorry-not-sorry—unloving thoughts on the eve of Calgary’s love is love celebrations. But. Seriously. Don’t understand why getting basic human rights for LGBTQ+ people has been such a slog and we’re still fighting for every single gain—or why the queer community is so fractured and rife with racism, transphobia, bi-erasure, femme erasure et al.? Look at how well we’re tolerating different risk assessments and responses to the pandemic.

The anti-maskers aren’t the only culprits. Think about it.

I digress, but not really, because all roads these days lead to COVID-19. I’ve got my rainbow mask, I’ve got my rainbow kid, and we’re going to take our rainbow hearts and go do something rainbow and fun—and sanitize our hands thoroughly after.

And then I will dream about a crowded dance floor while spinning in a circle, alone, in my living room.

Unless you’re hosting a dance party. In which case, text me.

“Jane”

 

Melting, working, waiting: an August vignette without a moral

We are melting.

The thermometer has hit 33 degrees centigrade today—for my American friends, that’s 91.4 Farenheit, or, as we say in Viking Hell, fucking hot. The air is hot and still, although a windstorm swept through the city and the prairie last night. But it did not bring a storm or rain, nor did it break the heat wave.

I rather love it, to be frank. I wrap a wet scarf around myself when I do have to walk, I stay in the shade and in my cool hobbit-cave of a house. I sit under a tree by the river and watch it swim by lazily. I take Ender rafting—and yes, son, we will go again on Thursday—and we bike, early in the morning before it gets too hot, to get ice cream. Ice cream—yes, this is the weather for eating ice cream—no, actually, it’s almost too hot, eat it quickly, lick as fast as you can before it melts, savour it after…

I am working.

Deadline, and another one—and also this, that, and the other—and now I’m done, out of steam, it’s too hot, thirsty, sick of drinking water, cold tea? I stretch out in a makeshift chaisse lounge with a book, Stella Duffy’s continuation of Ngaio Marsh’s Money in the Morgue. It was not, from what I can gather, a great commercial success. But those of us who can’t get enough Ngaio buy it, read it—just as we devour third-rate Jane Austen retellings, Sherlock Holmes pastiches.

We all want more of what we love.

I am waiting.

I have done all the things, done my best, rolled the dice, stacked the deck, ran out of metaphors—hit send. Visualized, manifested—worked my ass off. Nothing left to do—nothing left to chance. But now, waiting. Waiting. I try to distract myself with ice cream and pleasure; fail.

I work.

I am working.

I am waiting.

We are melting.

“Jane”

Books in the Time of Corona: what’s on my shelves and what’s not, and the story it tells

First, an apology for the title slug. I know you’re all sick and tired of plays on A Love in the Time of Cholera. Still. There’s a reason we’re doing it.

Second… but really first:

i. A catalogue

I recently moved, and as part of the uprooting, I culled my physical books to the essentials. (Ok, I moved like 500 metres away, but hey, packing and thus purging was definitely involved.) Stress on the physical: thank gods for my e-readers, a library of thousands always in my pocket.

Still. I was pretty ruthless. Totally ruthless, actually. Goodbye, university textbooks. Goodbye, books from the “I was a teenage Wiccan” phase. Goodbye, big thick books that look good on my shelf and make me feel smart because I own them—but let’s be honest, I’m never going to read Infinite Jest. I tried. It’s unreadable. I read Gravity’s Rainbow—goodbye—and, frankly, wish I hadn’t, don’t remember what it’s about, and I’ll never get that time back.

Goodbye, all of Jeanette Winterson’s not Sexing the Cherry books. Goodbye, gifted books that missed the mark—goodbye, self-bought books that I read, don’t remember, will never read again. Goodbye, books I once loved but don’t anymore—that cull was the hardest.

What’s left was still heavy to move and comprises about ten shelf equivalents. But each of these books is loved. Important.

Like The Letters of Sylvia Plath and this little known book of the poet’s drawings:

I don’t actually own Plath’s The Bell Jar or Ariel. How is this possible? Note to self: must buy. Response to self: this is how it beings, hoarding, pack-ratting expansion. Don’t do it. Response to response to self: Shut up. I want my Sylvia.

All of my Polish books:

Some of these have travelled the world with my parents and me for almost forty years. The Polish translation of A.S. Lindgren’s Children from Bullerbyn (which used to belong to my dad’s sister, actually—she got it and read it the year I was born) and of Winnie The Pooh—the first “chapter” books I ever read. And, of course, Sienkiewicz, Mickiewicz, Orzeszkowa, Rodziewiczówna. Kapuścinski. The more modern poets: Zagajewski, Anna Świrszczyńska and Wisława Szymborska, not in translation.

This cultural heritage of mine, I have a very… fraught, complex relationship with. So much beauty, so much passion, so much suffering—so much stupidity, so much pain.

Governments do not define a national, a culture, or a people, I suppose. But in a democracy, they reflect the will and the hearts of the majority of the people, and, if the current government of Poland reflects the majority of the will and the hearts of the (voting) Polish people, they are repugnant to me and I want nothing to do with them. I am ashamed of them, of where I come from.

But I do come of them, from there, do I not?

Still. I keep the books. Including the one celebrating our first modern proto-fascist, Józef Piłsudski. History is complicated; ancestry not chosen.

Next, a shelf of all of my favourites.

All of Jane Austen, of course. Most of Nabokov. Virginia Woolf, because, well, it’s complicated. Susan Sontag’s On The Suffering of Others, and E.M. Forester’s Maurice—I gave up Room With a View and the others. J.D. Salinger’s The Catcher in the Rye, not so much because I’ll ever read it again but because it was so important back then. Anthony Burgess’ A Clockwork Orange, because nothing like it has been written before or since. Hunter S. Thompson’s Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas—I mean. I had to keep it, hero of my misspent university youth. I put him right next to Charles Bukowski’s Women, which isn’t great, but which… well. It taught me a lot about writing. Then, Jorge Luis Borges’ The Book of Imaginary Beings, which always makes me cry because a) it exists and b) I will never write that well.

Edward Said’s Orientalism, the only book to survive my “why the fuck did I keep all of these outdated anthropology and sociology and history textbooks for 25 years” purge. Margaret Mead’s New Lives for Old, which wasn’t one of them, but a later acquisition, kept in honour of the woman who dared live her life, do her thing. She wasn’t the smartest, the brightest, the most original—but fuck, she dared. Fraser’s The Golden Bough and Lilian Faderman’s Chloe Plus Olivia, both acquired in my teens—the first gave me religion for a while, while I freed myself of the Polish Catholicism in which I grew up (“freed” is an aspirational word; I suspect the religions we are indoctrinated into in childhood stay in our bones forever—the best that we can do is be aware when that early programming tries to sabotage our critical thinking and emotional well-being), and the second showed me I wasn’t a freak, an aberration, alone.

Next, The First Ms. Reader and the Sisterhood is Powerful anthology—original 1970s paperbacks bought in a used bookstore in the 1990s when I was discovering feminism. Monica Sjöö and Barbara Mor’s The Great Cosmic Mother—I suppose another Wicca-feminism vestige. I will never read it again, but way back when, that book changed my life, so. Here it is, with me, still.

And now, back to fiction: The Doorbell Rang, my only Rex Stout hardcover, although without the dust jacket, and a hardcover, old, maybe even worth something, with protected dust jacket intact, of P.G. Wodehouse’s Psmith, Journalist. Next to them, The Adventures of Romney Pringle and The Further Adventures by Romney Pringle, the single collaboration between R. Austin Freeman and John J. Pitcairn under the pseudonym of Clifford Ashdown. Written in 1902 or so, both volumes are the first American edition. In mint condition. Like the P.G. Wodehouse—and The Letters of Sylvia Plath, and the unique, autographed, bound in leather made from the butts of sacrificed small children or something, Orson Scott Card Maps in the Mirror short story collection, which is next-but-one to them on the bookshelf—they were a gift from Sean.

A lot of the books on my shelves, here with me now, are a gift from Sean.

Between them, a hard cover Georges Simeon found at a garage sale, and then G.K. Chesterton—Lepanto, the poem about the 1571 naval battle between Ottoman forces and the Holy (that’s what they called themselves) League of Catholic Europe, which I will never read again, but which is associated with a specific time and event in my personal history, so I keep it. Next to it, The Collected Stories of Father Brown, in battered hardcover, which I re-read intermittently, and which are—well. Perfect, really. Then, all of Dashiell Hammett in one volume. Then, almost all the best Agatha Christie’s in four “five complete novels” hardcover collections, topped with two multi-author murder mystery medleys from the 1950s.

Looking at this shelf makes me very, very happy.

Next, the one fully preserved collection. Before the move, these books lived on a bookshelf perched on top of my desk. Now, they are here, their “natural” order slightly altered because of the uneven height of this case’ shelves. The top shelf is, I suppose, mostly reference and writing books:

The Paris Review Interviews, Anne Lammott’s Bird by Bird, Neil Gaiman’s Make Good Art, Strunk and White’s The Elements of Style, and their ilk. At the end, a couple of publications in which I have a byline.

The next shelf, the smallest on the case, is a bit of a smorgasboard, but is very precious to me:

Do you see Frida and my Tarot cards? Also an Ariana Reines book that I really should give back to its owner…

Next, my perhaps most precious books.

Philip Larkin’s Letters to Monica and Nabokov’s Letters to Vera. Anne Carson’s If Not Winter: Fragments of Sappho. Four Letter Word, a collection of “original love letters” (short stories, they mean, pretentious fucks) from an assortment of mega-stars, including Margaret Atwood, Leonard Cohen, Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, Neil Gaiman, Ursula K. LeGuin… a strange assortment, really. But some lovely pieces in there. Some lame ones too—and I like that too. Even superstars misfire, every one in a while.

Then, Leonard Cohen, Pablo Neruda, Walt Whitman, Jack Gilbert, Vera Pavlova. Finally, Anaïs Nin’s Delta of Venus and Little Birds, and a bunch of battered Colettes. Henry Miller’s Tropic of Cancer right next to Colette, of course. Then, my Frida books.

The next shelf is full of aspirational delusions.

Farsi textbooks next to Hafez, Rumi and Forough Farrokzad translations. I will never be able to read Hafez in the original Persian. But maybe? Life is long. Maybe, one day, I will have time. Then, Jung’s Red Book, Parker J. Palmer’s A Hidden Wholeness, Rod Stryker’s The Four Desires, Stephen Cope’s The Great Work of Your Life, Thich Nhat Hahn’s The Art of Communicating (I failed), The Bhagavad Gita (still trying).

As I said, the shelf of delusions.

The bottom shelf is aspirational/inspirational, and also, very tall.

And so, that’s why my Georgia O’Keefe books are there, as well as The Purple Book, and Obrist’s do it manifesto. Perhaps there is room there for my leather-bound Master’s thesis, currently tucked away in the closet, right there, next to a course binder from SAIT? Then, all of my Spanish books, including Gabriel Garcia Marquez’s El Amor en los Tiempos del Cólera… which, also, one day, I will read in Spanish and actually understand. Life is long, right?

Next, not really a book shelf as such, but the top shelf of my secretary desk, where the reference and project books of the moment live.

The Canadian Press Stylebook has a permanent home here, of course. And I’ve got two copies of Canadian Copyright: A Citizen’s Guide there, one for me (unread, but I’ll get to it, I promise myself, again), one for a colleague. Both snagged from a Little Free Library, by the way.

Almost done.

In the bedroom, the books of vice.

A shelf of battered Ngaio March paperbacks, tucked beside them some meditation and Kundalini yoga books that I’m not using right now, but, maybe, one day, I am not ready to give up on this part of myself yet.  Below, a shelf of even more battered Rex Stout paperbacks.

I read and re-read these books—as did their original owners—until they fall to pieces. They are my crack, my vice—also, my methadone, my soother.

Below them, space for library books, mine and Ender’s:

I am finding Anna Mehler Paperny’s Hello I want to Die Please Fix Me unreadable, by the way. I pick it up, put it away. Repeat.

Will likely return it to the library unread.

Currently not on display: books by friends. Some here with me, some on the shelves in the Co-op house. There are a lot of those. Can one be ruthless… with friends?

ii. A reflection

Books, for readers and writers, are the artifacts that define us. When I enter a reader’s home, I immediately gravitate to their bookshelves. What’s on them?

What’s not on them?

What I’ve chosen to let go of, to not bring with me here tells me… a lot.

What am I going to do with this information?

xoxo

“Jane”

Pandemic Diary: What is normal?

August 4

i

A few normal things from the past couple of weeks: I have an in-person interview, I meet a client face-to-face (well, across a room, but still); I go to a restaurant; I take an Uber; I shop at Canadian Tire; I take my kids out for lunch; Flora and I spend hours looking for the sketchbook that defines her as an artist in a local art store—and not online.

None of it feels normal, though. We wear masks in the stores, my hands burn from the sanitizer. The client and I do not shake hands. The entire time I’m in the Uber, I’m torn between

a) gratitude that this dude is working because I’m too drunk to drive,

b) guilt that I’m endangering his health by providing yet one more contact point of potential infection,

c) mild fear the previous passenger was a COVID carrier and so now, because I’m doing this normal thing, I might accidentally get the virus and infect and kill your grandma,

d) low key hate for your grandma and your auto-immune deficient cousin and also, your respiratory illness suffering son,

e) guilt at the hate, because what sort of monster is this selfish (me),

f) OMFG, it’s just an Uber ride—can you just relax and go with it already?

I don’t know. Maybe. Let me see. No.

Because none of it is normal.

Still.

It just is.

At some point, surely, this low grade stress will recede? Perhaps, even, disappear?

I don’t know. Maybe. Let me check. No. Still there.

ii

A few normal things from today: coffee. Morning pages. Lunch with Cinder and Flora. Nap. Work. The work feels like a slog and that’s the new normal too. But maybe the old normal as well. Was it ever easy?

I don’t know. Maybe. Let me check. No. Often a slog, often hard.

Sometimes, joy.

ii

A few moments of joy from today: coffee (it was exceptionally good). Lunch with kids. The discovery of James Runcie’s Sidney Chambers murder mysteries and their televised Grantchester version. A cool afternoon breeze. Cardamom in my afternoon tea. The flowers you brought me dropping their petals on the table.

Good things, normal things. Happy moments.

xoxo

“Jane”

“Tell all the truth but tell it slant”–a break from the Pandemic Diary

Sometimes, posts, articles, opinion pieces—ideas for novels, stories—go nowhere. You keep on putting words down on paper—or screen—but they don’t really connect. There is no spine—no blood. They are stitches in an inanimate rag doll that, no matter what you do, will not come to life.

When that happens, I think the idea is not yet finished incubating. It’s not ripe, not baked.

This is draft three of today’s post. Draft one ate itself. Draft two started out strong. But in the end, had neither legs nor heart.

Draft three, to be frank, is not turning out much batter. I’m coming at it sideways. I’m starting to tell the story by talking about how some stories don’t want to be told. Aren’t ready to be told.

My advice as an occasional professional writing instructor in such cases is to—move on. Accept that right now, this is a rag doll. Throw it away or put it in that drawer (or file folder). Move on to something else, anything else.

But sometimes, an untold story stands in the way of all the other stories waiting to be told.

Does that make sense?

I think this story—it’s not going to come out in this third draft either—is such a story.

I’ve been in this situation before, with bigger work. After the flood, when I carried a novel inside me but I thought I was supposed to write a memoir about the flood and trauma. Was it a year, then, of false starts? And then, finally, the novel, in bits and pieces, out of order. But all there, all out. Even when it was done and sold, I thought I had left so much untold—and I thought, again, that I was supposed to write another story about the flood. But I wasn’t—I was supposed to write about an artist who couldn’t see colour, another novel, fiction that told the true story better than a memoir could. That one took months of fake starts, three near-complete first drafts thrown out, so many attempts to come at the story sideways, before it finally came, and I was able to move on to other work.

So now I know how to write around the story that isn’t yet ready to come. “Tell all the truth but tell it slant,” as Emily Dickinson wrote, “Success in Circuit lies.” I explore its themes and problems in indirect ways, in other work. It’s a way of working on other pieces while the untold story demands that you give it all your attention.

“Hush, beloved,” I coo to it. “This is all about you. Don’t you see? Everything I write, think do these days? It’s all about you. Everything.”

I tell students and other writers to not anthropomorphize their work. To not think of their stories, novels as their babies. That way lies madness, because of the publication process involves many, many people telling you that your babies are stupid and ugly, totally useless, nobody wants—also, have you thought about loping off your child’s right leg and sticking it in its left ear?

Madness.

I don’t think of my work, while I’m working on it or once it’s finished, as my progeny.

But I do, while immersed in it, think of it as my lover. I woo it. It seduces me. We experience great joy and misery together. We drown in each other, cannot exist without each other—all is bliss, even the shitty, bad parts have a perverse joy to them.

Then the work is done—some satisfaction—and then… I’m done, and the work is done with me too. It has moved on to being the beloved of readers, and I have moved on to the next idea, the next story…

(This is what makes submitting, promoting, marketing, all of that so hard. It’s like pimping an ex-lover. “Was really into them at one time. Can’t really remember why anymore. Um. Fuck. Let me think. What was it about them that stopped my breath, made my heart pound, soaked my panties? Um… Any chance we could talk about my current flame, my current WIP?”)

We’ve moved on, the flame has burned out, the mutual passion is gone… but that doesn’t diminish the fact that when I was in the work, it was everything to me.

Tell the truth at a slant.

Draft three.

Closer. Not quite there yet, but closer.

Close enough?

xoxo

“Jane”

Retreat in the Time of the Pandemic: The Mostly Uncensored–Ok, I Lie, I Totally Censored It, What, You Think I’m Stupid?–Process Journal

July 15, 2020

I’ve spent the last seven days unplugged and locked in my friend’s apartment, writing. Well, not literally locked in. I left for walks and things. But mostly I wrote. Also napped. But mostly wrote.

The documentation of the process is exhaustive and exhausting, and it’s mostly for me, and not really for you–but if you’re struggling with shit, and reading about other people struggling with shit makes struggling with shit easier for you? Dive into my diary.

As you’ll discover somewhere around Day 6 or 7–writing doesn’t actually exist until a reader reads it. 😉

But now that I think about it–most of what I’ve written isn’t really appropriate for the eyes of internet strangers. So here’s the deal–y’all can look at the pictures. 😉

If you’re in one of those places, though, and your life will be utterly incomplete without the voyeuristic experience of ‘watching’ me pick at my scabs, email me at nothingbythebook@gmail.com and ask for the password to the protected posts. I might give it to you.

Or not.

Fun and games. 😉

Yours in the struggle,

“Jane”

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RETREAT IN THE TIME OF THE PANDEMIC DIARY; Table of Days

Retreat in the Time of the Pandemic, Day 1: In which our heroine wants to be alone (protected)

Retreat in the Time of the Pandemic, Day 1.5: In which the heroine arrives at her destination, and needs wifi to watch porn (protected)

Retreat in the Time of the Pandemic, Day 2: In which our heroine doesn’t matter (yeah, this one too)

Retreat in the Time of the Pandemic, Day 2.5: In which our heroine plays with bad gardening metaphors (protected)

Retreat in the Time of the Pandemic, Day 3: In which our heroine defends her addictions (protected)

Retreat in the Time of the Pandemic, Day 3.75: In which our heroine tries hard not to identify with Virginia Woolf (protected)

Retreat in the Time of the Pandemic, Day 4: In which our heroine regrets this, but not the other (protected)

Retreat in the Time of the Pandemic, Day 5: In which our heroine is a writing machine and also, actually wants to work (protected)

Retreat in the Time of the Pandemic, Day 6: In which our heroine tortures a client and finishes all the things (protected)

Retreat in the Time of the Pandemic, Day 7: In which our heroine counts words and embraces uncertainty (protected)

Retreat in the Time of the Pandemic, Day 7.25: In which our heroine has one year to live (protected)

Retreat in the Time of the Pandemic, Day 7.75: In which our heroine changes her mind and jumps in a river (protected)

You: Navel-gaze much?

Jane: Too much. It does seem to an essential part of the process though. 

Pandemic Diary: Creative process in uncreative times—especially when that creativity’s supposed to pay the bills…

In the process journal: A page and a half of rambling about—I’m not quite sure, either why I hate Facebook or why I hate people. Big X. Note to self: “This is not going anywhere.”

Visit to JuliaCameronLive.com. Surely, my guru has something for me? Yes. “The Power of Creativity in the Time of the Coronavirus.” Goddammit, she just peddles the Morning Pages, again, and you know, I haven’t stopped, although I do do them wrong intermittently, even though Julia says there is no wrong way to do them. The second tool she offers—another standby. Artist’s Dates. But of course. What else would Julia recommend, has the woman had a new idea in the last 30 years?

“It is my hope that during this period of uncertainty we lean into our creativity, awakening our spirit so that we feel more deeply alive.”

Ugh. Julia. Did you just tell me to lean in? Also, I feel dead inside, and also, I want to smash things not lean in or create—I feel betrayed.

Next stop: Maria Popova’s Brainpickings.org. “A Young Poet’s Love Letter to Earth and to the Double Courage of Facing a Broken Reality While Refusing to Cease Cherishing This Astonishing World in Its Brokenness.”

No. This does not suite my mood at all. Next? Who can I try next?

Matt Inman’s The Oatmeal, of course.

Well. That’s more like how I feel… except it’s probably not what I need.

Oh. “Eight Marvelous & Melancholy Things I’ve Learned About Creativity.” Yes. This. Let’s have a read…

Oh. Matt.

“In the context of your work, you don’t matter.”

Ouch. WTF?

“If you’re like me, then my advice is to buckle up, motherfucker, because you’re destined to die under a mountain of false starts and sad, exasperated poetry. You’re destined to put your personal life in the backseat while your creative spirit gets blackout drunk and takes the wheel.”

from the The Wondrous Utility of Self-Loathing” section

 

Actually, yeah. That helps.

So do the parts about killing your darlings and not making babies, and the business of art.

But especially, that. Thanks, Matt.

Except… I still don’t really want to do the work.

I don’t want to get out of bed, have a shower, turn on the computer.

I’m doing a tech/social media detox starting tomorrow and I’m claiming I’m doing it to clear my head and get myself into a creative space fuelled by boredom—but honestly? I just don’t want to do the social medial and marketing aspects of my work.

I don’t want to do any of the work.

And usually, I’d give myself the advice to just ride the allow period, it’s part of the process, just read poetry, smoke cigars, dance naked in the kitchen—but I don’t want to do any of that either.

When I say I want to smash something: I want to smash that feeling, that mood.

Myself.

Next? Hafez:

Last night, pansy addressed flowers and itself displayed
My swinging in this world, so and so’s hair would braid.
My heart was a treasure chest of secrets, the hands of fate
Closed and locked and its key, to my Beloved bade.
Physician sent the broken me to my Beloved and said
My panacea and cure, only by Your hands are made.
May he be healthy, and happy, and in bliss
That his healing hands upon the needy laid.
Take your own advice, O incessant counselor
Sweet lover and wine, whosoever forbade?
Passed by poor me, and towards my rivals strayed
Said, “my poor Hafiz has given his life, I am afraid.”

Ghazal 113
Translation © Shahriar Shahriari
Los Angeles, Ca January 23, 2000

Um. I don’t know how you’re interpreting that, but I sure hope it’s not the way I’m interpreting it…

I’m running out of gurus. Colette? Frida? Jane? Anaïs? Can one of you please send a demon down (or up, I guess?) to yell at me and tell me to get to work?

Her: The blog’s not work?

Jane: No. One, I don’t get paid for it; two, whining about how you can’t, don’t want to work is not work. Get with the program here.

What I have learned, over a career that now spans two centuries and three decades—I’m not really that old, not yet, I was just almost a child prodigy—almost a true story—is that the only cure for when you don’t want to work?

(You’ll hate this.)

It’s to start to work. Open the notebook—laptop. Get the dry paintbrush out of the jar. Pick up the rake. Fold the first sock.

(I probably meant to write towel—but I like that image—and who folds socks, by the way? Anyone?)

That, in the end, is the difference between the professional and the amateur. The working artist and the wanna-be artist. The published author and the eternally aspiring one.

One learns to work when they don’t want to work… and the other doesn’t.

I don’t want to work.

I don’t want to play, either.

But. Here I go.

Words.

xoxo

“Jane”

Pandemic Diary: Celebrating Canada Day with gratitude, and pain

 

 

i

You are, perhaps, curious as to how my decision to make fewer decisions and to just execute is going. Remain curious—curiosity is what keeps us young. I have, as of yet, nothing to report. One major decision made, but not executed. And the rest of life—not miraculously changed. Still. I am getting out of bed in the morning even though I don’t want to.

Today is Canada Day, and national holidays for immigrants and children of immigrants are a time not so much of patriotism but of reflection and gratitude. I am very grateful that my family landed here when I was ten. I am grateful for the closed border to the United States (sorry, American friends) and free public health care. I am grateful for Flora’s medication, Sean’s dental benefits. Cinder’s job.

Ender’s love.

All the self-help books are right, you know. Gratitude helps. “I am grateful” is a powerful phrase.

I am grateful.

I am an adult Third Culture kid with a twist, which means I was born in one country, spent my formative childhood years in another (three others, actually) and then finally landed in the True North (which I keep on leaving, because, Third Culture kids do that). I am grateful for all of those experiences. They make change and uncertainty the norm.

They normalize that nothing is forever.

Nothing is forever.

Everything passes.

But we celebrate permanence, not transience. You know what I mean? On this July 1, we celebrate 153 years of the apparent permanence of the Canadian Confederation, not its fragility.

Not what it replaced.

ii

I am grateful I am here.

But when I look at the history that brought me here, feeling gratitude gets harder. Am I supposed to be grateful for the 50 years of the Soviet-Communist oppression of my natal land that made my parents’ immigration a survival imperative? The germs-and-gun genocide that effectively cleared the Americas for the first waves of colonizers who established the nation that offered us sanctuary?

When I practice meditation and yoga nidra, I practice a form of intention setting called sankalpa. It’s a fancy Sanskrit name for affirmation—manifestation—intention. (Don’t mock me. You smoke week, she binges on Netflix, I future-plan while breathing in the moment. We all have different coping mechanisms.)

In the yoga nidra practice, before you set the intention, you are supposed to feel nothing but gratitude for all the things that brought you to this moment, this place.

That… instruction has always been a stumbling block for me. And it’s th ekey reason I stopped the practice in 2019. Grateful for my child’s suffering? Grateful for this pain? Fuck you, Buddha and Krishna, and don’t you dare say a word, Jesus, this is why I am an atheist.

Breathe.

I am grateful I am here.

I am grateful I am alive.

I am grateful my daughter is alive.

I am grateful we survived the various really shitty things that life threw at us. In 2020, 2019, earlier.

But grateful for the shitty things? You can take that fatalistic ideology and shove it up your left nostril. Then plug it.

iii

So on this Canada Day—I am grateful I am here.

But I acknowledge that I am here in large part because of terrible historical injustices, driven by foul ideologies.

I am aware of the suffering these have caused. Continue to cause.

I guess I am grateful that I live in a time when we are, as a nation, as a people, becoming aware of the injustice of this suffering, and the need to address it.

Pro-actively, passionately.

At a time when global events (pandemic!) and personal stresses (don’t ask, but you’ve got them too, right?) make it difficult to get out of bed.

I am grateful for this painful awareness.

Happy Canada Day.

xoxo

“Jane”

PS Enjoy this gorgeous rendition of O Canada by Calgary choir Rev 52:

And then–because the world needs more Canada:

Grateful.

But also–committed to change.

Pandemic Diary: Decision fatigue is killing me, and so are empaths

i

I’ve figured out why everything has been so much tougher the last few weeks, even though, theoretically, it should have been getting easier.

Ready?

(I am so full of insight.)

It boils down to this: decision fatigue. In March and April, and into May, when everything was cancelled and closed—and the weather was shit—things were very hard and frustrating, but our decision-making wasn’t taxed. The directive was clear: stay home, flatten the curve. And even if you didn’t want to stay home—well, everything was closed, so there was nowhere to go. Except for the grocery store and the liquor store (my poor liver). The big decision we faced on most days, in my privileged family anyway, was what board game we’d play that night—or maybe, shake things up, movie? Or, enough family time already, everyone go hide in their own rooms.

These days? There are options and no clear directives—plus a lot of mixed messaging about what’s safe, what’s irresponsible—what’s allowed. And so, every time you step out the door… decisions.

Decisions, decisions, decisions, decisions.

Wear a mask? Just take it with you to put on in the store? Nobody else is wearing a mask, fuckers, and you happen to know you’re COVID-free cause you just got tested so you’re only wearing the mask to protect them and you don’t need it and they clearly don’t care about protecting you, so why inconvenience yourself for those selfish motherfuckers? Get that coffee and croissant for take-out? Or risk sitting down, eating in—even if you’re not really concerned about your own safety, you’re thinking about the wait staff, other customers. Is your presence causing them stress? Are these genuine feelings, a true sense of risk or just paranoia induced by excessive media consumption?

Touch of cabin fever hits you, and you can go—to the parks or to the mall, or hey, the library is opening tomorrow. Should you go? Wait? Haircut? Yes? No? What’s the right thing to do? Fuck it, I can’t take it anymore, I’m just going to stick my tongue down the throat of a stranger whose risk-profile and safety practices I don’t know at all—ok, I won’t, but OMG, I understand the people who do and I just don’t want to think about what the right thing to do right now is anymore.

Decision fatigue.

I have some larger, more important decisions to make these days and the brain, it hurts, it is tired, so I don’t, I put them off. I’d cut myself some slack on this paralysis except if everyone in the world cuts themselves some slack for the next two years and does nothing, because decision fatigue and also, don’t not want to get out of bed, we are fucked.

I have, incidentally, very high executive skills (I’ve been tested; if there’s such a thing as excessive executive functioning, that’s me). That means I gather data, analyze it, make a decision quickly—and act on it immediately.

I try to tap into that part of myself now: it seems to be buried under something. Not scar tissue—more like piles of wet toilet paper, snotty Kleenexes. I can get at it, if only I get all these soggy used Kleenxes out of the way.

If only.

Decision fatigue.

It’s real.

It kills.

ii

If decision fatigue is killing me, so are empaths. This pops into my newsfeed:

OMG, so true.

My insincere apologies to everyone who goes around identifying themselves to all and sundry as an empath, usually in the first two minutes of a conversations… you’re not.

Stay with me. Empathy is real and critical, and it’s something that makes the world a better place, and we need to teach it, foster it, and act out of it.

But a lifetime of experiences had now taught me that anyone who says, “Well, I’m an empath, so all this is really extra hard for me,” is actually a self-centred, selfish prick to whom the most important thing is their own feelings.

Self-awareness, of course, isn’t a bad thing. (Well, maybe. Too much self-awareness, as you and I both know, leads to too much drinking, other things.) But wallowing in your own navel while telling yourself and others that you’re deeply affected by the feelings and suffering of others—come on. Get your head out of your ass, look around and instead of shouting from the rooftops (I mean, I suppose, social media platforms) about how much the suffering of others is affecting you… fucking DO something about their suffering.

Just a suggestion.

Empath fatigue.

It’s a thing too.

iii

Grateful that I am not an empath and that I own, for the most part, my narcissistic tendencies—by the way, owning your boundaries and telling people who violate them is not narcissism, it’s self-preservation, fuck the fuck off, I may not be a fragile empath but I have feelings too and you’re stomping on them—I try to solve my decision fatigue problem.

Mostly, I think I need to make fewer decisions—which means I just need to commit to some consistent actions. And execute them.

Ok. I got this.

Maybe…

No. I got this. I got this.

Execute.

Get out of bed.

xoxo

“Jane”

PS If you wanna read that Empath Fatigue Twitter thread: https://twitter.com/RebeccaRennerFL/status/1276673896150859776

 

Pandemic Diary: The kids are all right

I don’t know for sure if K-pop stans reserved tix for the Tulsa rally as an act of protest and resistance. Mostly, I think Trump is a liar, and that one million tickets thing? A lie. But never mind that. He doesn’t matter. Really. The Orange Beast doesn’t matter and I’m not saying that just because I’m Canadian. He’s old, and he doesn’t matter—and neither, frankly, does your Grandmother, except for the fact that you love her and want her to die peacefully in her own bed and not choking on phlegm on a ventilator. Grandma’s not gonna change the world, not now. And neither is Trump: he’s old, he’s gonna die soon, worry not.

What matters is the kids—and the kids are all right.

What? Your kids suck? I’m not gonna say, you should have done a better job raising them because… what? Oh, your kids are ok. Other people’s kids though—oh, and the grandkids! Your grandkids suck. So again, babe. Who raised them kids who are raising your grandkids? And, anyway, you’re wrong. The kids are all right. More than all right. And the very fact that all you do is complain about them, it’s a sign that your time has passed. You too don’t matter: you’re over. Like the tantruming president of our Southern neighbour, you too are going to die soon. The kids are going to take over.

And thank Sheela Na Gig (google it) for that, because the kids are all right.

OMG, babe, seriously? You’re gonna continue to shit on your own progeny? No wonder they hate you. But fine. Your kids suck. My kids are all right, and they’re going to save the world.

And you’d better hope that I’m right. We’ve had our shot at it, and we’ve spent two to four generations—depending on how you count—going rather aggressively in the wrong direction. Gen Z, it’s gonna right the ship. Frankly, the best that we can do is to not get in their way.

ii

Flora—your future overlord, you heard it from her mother first—resents this burden. But also, accepts it. Her expectation that salvation—or even lukewarm support—will come from above, from people in power, from society’s “elders,” is very slim. I lie. It’s non-existent. She doesn’t expect anything from her teachers, and less from her government. You can blame me if you like—but the cause is greater than my anarchist parenting.

She is 15 now, and she was 11 in 2016. Look at the leadership example the most powerful people in the world set before her in those formative years. How stupid would she have to be to put her future in their hands?

iii

Ender, age 10, still genuinely believes all you need is love. Cinder wants money, has a job: knows that while love is great, you also need resources. Flora’s the big picture thinker who’s going to figure out how to get the resources to feed the army that’s gonna reshape the world. With love… but tough love. The revolution is going to leave tantruming dinosaurs behind.

So before you bitch about kids these days, remember:

  1. We made them. You made them.
  2. They’re gonna take over. They always do. That’s the natural order of things.
  3. They’re all right.

They’re more than all right.

And you’d better hope I’m right. Cause they are our only hope.

xoxo

“Jane”

The family that protests together gets tested for COVID-19 together…

 

Pandemic Diary: Helplessness tastes like sand; eat chocolate instead

I feel fat, which means I am very unwell and about to stop eating. My mouth feels full of yesterday’s food and I feel layers of fat and flesh obfuscating my soul. My belly–I grimace at it in the mirror–looks large and swollen.

I feel shame.

It is possible that I’ve put on a few pounds over quarantine. I’m drinking too much, people who love me are feeding me a lot of chocolate and ice cream—and chocolate croissants, with chocolate and ice cream on the side—and the other day, Cinder made lasagna, delicious, poisonous cheese and gluten, and I devoured it, gastrointestinal discomfort be damned.

So it is possible that I’m heavier. Fatter. Flabbier. But that I am having these thoughts, drowning in these thoughts? It has nothing to do with my actual weight or body shape. And everything to do with my mental health, which is, at best, shitty.

Yours, too? Yeah. I’m not well and neither are you. Nor is she. He. Them. Not to mention our therapists.

Flora’s medical team, notably her psychologist and our family therapist, fuck up big time last week. I lose it with them in a pretty spectacular way. Hang up in a fire of righteous anger that has still not burnt out.

Later, while not letting go of the anger—it’s still burning, hot—I recognize that everything I’m feeling? They’re feeling too. They’re not well either. Nobody is. So how can we help each other?

 

Over the weekend, we hold the first YYC Queer Writers meet-up since COVID. Via Zoom, still, cause half of us are waiting on post-protest COVID-19 tests (we are a cohort of socially responsible anti-racists and anarchists) and the other half don’t have the energy or will to leave the house or couch. We love each other and hold space for each other… and almost all of us break down.

I remember thinking, writing, when all of this started that the fact of this being a communal, global crisis rather than my personal tragedy helped. It kept me from navel-gazing and drowning in personal sorrow as I had the year we were trying to save Flora’s life.

I lied.

This is worse. Broken people helping broken people, mutual salvation stories? It’s the stuff of films and fantasies. Empty people attempting to fill their wells from other empty people end up drinking sand.

Yesterday’s meal, coats my gums, tongue, saliva even though I’ve brushed my teeth, once, twice, thrice. It tastes like sand.

 

The sun is out and it’s a beautiful day. Yesterday, there was rain, hail, flash flooding and a tornado warning. I looked at the pictures from around the city on my phone and then, the rising level of water in our alley—“Are we going to have to evacuate again?” Ender asked., “We need to go clear the drain, Mom, now, hurry,” and there we were, in the alley, clearing debris off the storm drain so the torrents of rain would have a place to go.

And I thought—no more. Seriously, you throw one more thing at me this year—I fucking quit, no more, no more.

We don’t flood or suffer hail damage, but other parts of the city aren’t as lucky.

I think about them, helpless. What if they felt like me—no more, one more thing, and I fucking quit—and then, one more thing, fist-size hail stones breaking house windows?

No more. I’ve got nothing left to deal with this. I quit.

I know you feel this too. And many of you are going through much worse things than I am. I have work—not stable work, mind you, thanks, Jason Kenney, for delivering on all your election promises to eviscerate education, appreciate it—but still. For now, work. And, despite the incompetence of her therapists, Flora is doing well. Cinder is working and thriving. Ender is love. The call just came—I don’t have COVID-19, so there’s that. Also, even if I ever get it—I have a robust immune system and I’ll probably just have the sniffles. Of course, I did just see the other day that obesity is one of the contributing risk factors to complications and death. And I am now fat—need to stop eating. On the other hand, a few weeks in a hospital bed—I could use the rest. Death? I probably wouldn’t die and if I did—honestly, kitten, right now, it’s difficult to get motivated about living, so, you know. We must all die sometime.

This is bad. Right? You do not want mothers, people with responsibilities—the normally resilient people who get shit done, who keep calm and carry on and do all the things to think like that, do you?

I think about this, a lot: if things are this hard for me right now, how hard must they be for people with no house security, no food security? For those families who have lost family members to COVID-19—run-of-the-mill cancers—police violence—domestic violence?

What I don’t think about, much: the future. Do you ? Can you visualize it? It eludes me, and that’s frightening. So I turn my attention to what I can control.

I feel fat. I feel the flesh on my belly, my ass and it repulses me. I can control that, make that disappear.

I can stop eating.

My form of self-violence, self-harm.

Deep breath.

An act of immense will: I eat some chocolate as if it were a Communion wafer and take the dogs and Flora for a walk in the sunshine instead.

xoxo

“Jane”

 

Pandemic Diary: Getting out of bed to protest–also, to make breakfast–during a global pandemic

i.

Another day of not wanting to do things, not wanting to get out of bed, not wanting to teach the workshop I so lovingly designed, not wanting to deal with dogs, children, family.

Sean takes our beast for her early morning walk and when I finally come up to the kitchen to start my day’s work—don’t want to do it—he is on his hands and knees washing the kitchen and living room floor. “Pee or puke,” I ask, don’t really care. “Muddy paw prints,” he says. He didn’t want to walk the dog either, doesn’t want to start his day washing the kitchen floor. I should feel grateful.

I don’t.

I do wonder—did he want to get out of bed?

Probably not—the whole world does not want to get out of bed right now.

But. We do.

ii.

Something good: yesterday, after Flora and I get back from the Black Lives Matter vigil and Sean picks up Cinder from work—Ender is violating lockdown rules and having a sleepover with his grandmother and cousins, ssshhh, don’t tell the self-appointed sanctimonious “deprive yourself of all human contact until there’s a vaccine” quarantine police—we kind of reaffirm the beauty, the power—the necessity—of the ordinary. We take our furry beast for a rumble on the hill. Then, Sean makes us gin and elder flower tonics in badly washed martini glasses. We sit on the balcony watching a storm approach. So many things we should tak about, but this calm before the storm is precious, and we are exhausted.

So. We don’t.

The teenagers come down to join us. And take us on a trip down memory lane… and alos, carefully, tenderly… look to the future.

When I start to chase Flora to bed a couple of hours later, she protests.

“I’m enjoying family time!” she says.

We look at anti-racist memes on Insta and Twitter together for a while longer.

I am, in the middle of battle and uncertainty, very briefly, at peace.

iii.

Out of bed. Pen. Notebook. Coffee. But this is not  a happy moment, for I don’t want to do any of the things that usually bring me joy, and the things to which deadlines are attached I want to do even less. Also, I hate people, all people, even you, and hate is an ugly, exhausting emotion, I want it gone.

Coffee. Pen. Paper. Words. My prayer, my meditation.

Halfway down page two, I feel at peace.

It’s gone by the halfway point of page three. Still. It’s something.

iv.

Something’s got to give, break, crack, change.

The Black Lives Matter protests  in the streets, peaceful in Canada and most other countries, intermittently crossing the line into fire and violence in the US, are an external manifestation of this individual, internal feeling in my heart, perhaps in yours. They are the foment—not yet the explosion. Not yet the change.

Something’s got to give.

The pressure is building.

v.

I get out of bed, pen, paper, coffee, words, and then, all the things, because, one day, Cinder and Ender’s children—Flora does not plan to use her uterus—will ask me, “What did you do in 2020, Babciu,” and I don’t want to say, that was the year I didn’t get ouf of bed, that was the year I suffered, whined, complained, wanted to be over.

But it’s very hard. I wonder if I’ll remember to tell them that.

I did the things we had to do. But it was very hard. 2020, the year that you will remember as the year that changed the world? That was the year that it was very hard to get out of bed.

But.

I did.

xoxo

“Jane”

PS Yesterday’s vigil in yyc can be viewed here: https://www.pscp.tv/w/1mnxelybwwNJX?

Pandemic Diary: Protests in the time of the Pandemic

(Note: this isn’t really a post, it’s a collection of notes from my journal.)

i.

June 1

My son turned 18 last week and, you know, when he walks down the street? Takes the bus to work? Gets pulled over by the police for any reason, goes to a bar with friends? (OMG, my baby can go to a bar with friends now, when did that happen—right, last week!)

I never worry that he’ll be shot by the police.

Or even treated unfairly by them.

I mean, I have a lot of other worries. Obviously. I’m a mother.

That one?

Never, ever.

I never worry that my son will be shot by the police.

My Black American friends? They’re devoured by that fear every time one of their kids, loves, siblings walks the street.

I never truly understood this until this week.

I will never be able to really comprehend that fear—or how emotionally damaging it is. Simply imagining it causes me pin.

How did we build a world in which that is a thing?

More importantly: how do we change it?

ii.

June 2

I am still having a hard time getting out of bed. Doing anything. Moving.

But this week, I am attending, children in tow, Black Lives Matter protests, marches, a vigil.

I haven’t been inside a store or a coffee shop since they’ve re-opened. Not getting a hair cut this summer. Not holding any parties. Wearing a mask to the grocery store so that your Grandma doesn’t die, choking, because we’re out of ventilators.

Because everyone has the right to breathe.

iii.

June 3

As the Black Lives Matter / George Floyd protests were escalating in the US and beginning in Canada and around the world, I ran away for a day to Kananaskis Country, an expanse of wilderness, mountains, lakes and hiking trails about an hour’s drive from my city.

Yes, Paradise.

That’s privilege, by the way. White privilege: being able to run away. Step away from the conversation, conflict about race.

Black people, people of colour do not get to take a break from that reality.

That’s privilege. And so is this.

On the way to Paradise, my friend and I stopped at a gas station and my friend, who had been driving, discovered he had left his wallet at home.

“Don’t worry,” I said. “They give you 24 hours to produce a driver’s licence when they pull you over.”

“They give YOU 24 hours to produce a driver’s licence when they pull you over,” he said, handing me the keys. “I’m not a white girl, remember? Here. You drive.”

Later, I tell the story to Flora. As I get to the part when I say, “They give you 24 hours to produce a driver’s licence,” she interrupts me.

“Wow, what a white privilege thing to say.”

I’m proud of her.

And ashamed of our world. Because, people, how fucked up is that? We know the police will go out of their way to NOT give me a ticket. To not inconvenience me.

My friend? He’d better not step over any lines. Ever.

We need to change this.

iv.

June 4

It’s the moment before I open the laptop, reach for the phone. The day is still ok. I’ve done my morning pages, cuddled the Ender and the dogs. An drinking coffee. Am thinking, I might do things today. Today might be a beautiful day.

I reach for the laptop, I check my newsfeeds—I fuck it all up.

I don’t know how to navigate this right now, people. Under most circumstances, I’d shut the tap off. But right now, that acts smacks more of cowardice than self-care. I think of my Black activist friends—and strangers—who just can’t do that. I think of the parents, families of George Floyd. Breonna Taylor.

David McAtee.

So many names I don’t know, didn’t notice, didn’t pay attention to. The Washington Post reports that since Jan. 1, 2015, 1,252 Black people have been shot and killed by the American police.

1,252.

(You should read/listen to this, by the way: https://www.npr.org/2020/05/29/865261916/a-decade-of-watching-black-people-die)

I am a conflict-avoidant coward. I am not an organizer. And I think most of the time, I’m a shitty ally, too wrapped up in my own story to really pay attention to the experience of others.

The least I can do right now is to bear witness.

I see your pain.

I see the injustice.

I don’t know what the fuck to do, honestly.

But. I witness.

Jane

Pandemic Diary: If this is the test, I’m failing–you?

I am afraid to look at the news today. I don’t want to read about George Floyd’s murder, or the subsequent white violence against Black protesters. I don’ want to read about the next act of despotism or terror committed by the white supremacist narcissist currently residing in the White House. I don’t want to read about the continued evisceration of my province’s education and health care systems—continuing unabated as health workers and educators have to put in 150% to keep things going—and the dissolution of its barely extant environmental protection legislation by my local moral-less Trumpling. COVID-19? Don’t want to read about that either, nor about the elder abuses the military has discovered in Ontario’s long-term care homes. Don’t want to know, read, see, anything—don’t want, come to think about it, don’t want to, don’t want to get out of bed.

Children. Students. Dogs. Work.

All the things.

Must do.

All.

The.

Things.

One of my students writes a piece criticizing an editorial that says mental health issues will become paramount after the pandemic ends. What the fuck? she essentially says. What do you mean, after the pandemic? How about now?

Things really weren’t that great on the mental health front before the pandemic—for my generation, anyway, she argues. Finally taking mental health seriously because the entire world is fucked? Too little, too late.

Too little, too late, never enough: my newsfeed—fuck, I have to turn off the news tap, again—is full of pap about mental health supports. But let’s face it—during a global crisis, when everyone is traumatized… how helpful, how resilient is your therapist, really? Any chance that she has her shit together any more than you do?

I don’t think so.

Texts with friends: “How are you?” “You know.” “Yeah, me too.” Why burden each other with details? Nothing we can do to lessen each other’s burden. She knits, you mediate, I write. Sean runs. My dad builds me a ranch—I asked for a gate; both the ask and the execution a coping mechanism. My mom makes soup. A lot of soup. Gallons of soup. Delivers it to the grandchildren she can’t see. Flora makes a conspiracy board. (Not about the Plandemic—I may have fucked up a lot of things in my life, but I did teach my children how to think critically and how to evaluate sources; I gotta tell ya people, nothing makes a journalist mother prouder than a teenager who says, “I haven’t fact-checked this yet, do you know if it’s legit?”)

Cinder punches holes in walls and wanders the hill at night—the new job is a life-saver, and I don’t care about the virus germs he might be bringing home, the man child needs to work. Ender—this week, I’m worried about him. This week, he’s not ok. This week, suddenly, he is lost, frightened, alone.

I set him loose on the Common when he hears other voices; I don’t tell him to keep his distance.

I gotta tell you, kittens, this week? I’m not sure if prolonging your Grandma’s life a few more years is worth this. I’m not sure if keeping my parents safe is worth this. I’m not sure if keeping my kids healthy is worth this.

Unacceptable thoughts, reprehensible feelings. Still, do you not think that there would be fewer Walmart-camo militants storming malls, legislatures and hot tubs (when did these become the icons of freedom?) if we were allowed to express these frustrations without being judged by the Quarantine Martyrs?

What’s so hard about staying home? Keeping six feet away from strangers, friends? What’s so hard about wearing a mask? Not getting a hair-cut? Ordering take-out instead of dining in, Zoom meetings instead of in-person workshops, online teaching instead of being in the classroom?

My “quarantine” is the quarantine of a privileged, employed person, what’s so hard about all of this?

Nothing.

Everything.

Thanks for adding guilt at my frustration and inability to deal to my plate of negative feelings, you sanctimonious “What’s so hard about staying home?” meme-sharing prick.

Sorry, that was meant to be a thought not a holler. Reprehensible. Fuck you, I don’t like you either.

Nothing.

Everything.

Today, I have a bunch of Zoom one-on-one calls scheduled with students, during which I will be trying to teach them shit they’re clearly not getting from me and the course material via on-line delivery. On my own unpaid time, by the way, thank you, Jason Kenney, for cutting my employer’s hamstrings just before they asked me to run this marathon, appreciate it, hope you get the pox and die—also, I wish cursing worked, can someone find me an immoral witch? Not one of these granola Neo-Pagan types: I want eye of newt and newborn blood in the pot, and…

Reprehensible thoughts. Because, there I will be, trying to teach, but also, really, saying, over and over again, this: “I know you’re not really functioning. I know you’re unmotivated. I know getting out of bed is hard. I’m right there with you. But you’ve got to do the work anyway. This is the test—you don’t want to. You think it’s pretty much impossible for you to do one more thing. But you’re going to do it anyway. I don’t want to get out of bed to have this conversation with you. And I don’t want to grade this work that you don’t want to do. Yeah, we’re all in this together, and if one more person says this to me, in any context, I too will need to exercise all my self-restraint to not spit in their face. Come on, honey. Deep breath, admit you hate this, you hate me, you hate Grandma, and now, get some words down on the page for me. One sentence at a time. Do the work. Write the story. It’s shit, it doesn’t matter, it’s done. File.”

I’ve told Cinder—in a split grade 12 year this semester and in the fall—that if this whole semester, year is a write-off? If he can’t pull it together enough to finish it? No big deal, That’s, frankly, the normal, healthy response: to not be able to focus on Math 30 when nothing else is right.

I can’t give myself, or my students, the same advice.

“This is the test. Do the work anyway. You don’t want to. You think you can’t. Do it anyway.”

Funny thing, at this point, I don’t even know what I miss, what I want. I just know what I don’t want: no more bad news, please. No more Zoom calls. No more statistics, directives, speculations. No more, no more, no more.

What’s so hard about this?

Nothing.

Everything.

All right.

Enough.

Negative thoughts, emotions acknowledged. Expressed. (See? Me, functioning as my own therapist.)

Time to get out of bed.

Do all the things.

But today? I’m not gonna check my newsfeed. I’m not gonna read the news.

xoxo

“Jane”

Pandemic Diary: Happy Pandemic Birthday to Me… and all 20 million of you…

Pandemic birthday, and perhaps that’s reason enough to feel mopey, the pandemic birthday coming on the heels of a pandemic Mother’s Day, pandemic Anniversary—what a mindfuck—pandemic Name Day, Easter. Nothing is normal, nothing is right, so why should this birthday be any different?

I feel beaten up and old—and also, fat and doughy—and unhappy, worse, meaningless and purposeless, a story without a plot, an editorial without a call to action. I’m lost in the saggy middle of my novel, and I have no faith that the editor will fix this mess, because, after all, I am her.

Happy Pandemic Birthday. 😦

Things to remember on a mopey pandemic birthday:

  • I am loved.
  • I am not alone.

In fact, more than 20 million people share this specific birthday with me, and so, over the last 2.5 months, some 1.5 billion people have celebrated a pandemic birthday—and before all this is truly over, everyone will have had one—you ready to surf the second wave?—and… You know what? As a cheer-up strategy? That does not work at all. “I’m unhappy but so is everyone else in the world.” “Well, I’m dying of the Spanish flu but so will 50 million others.” “The Holocaust is a bitch, but at least 6 million other Jews are dying with me…” Yeah. No. Also, now I’ve brought up the Holocaust, which, let’s face it, should put everything into perspective, because, fucking seriously, I’m mopey about what? Physical distancing guidelines meant to keep me and my fellow citizens alive? Snap out of it, bitch. Let’s reframe…

  • I am not alone.

My family made a birthday door for me, and got me two chocolate croissants and a tangerine slice peel clematis, also, lots of chocolate wrapped in a beautiful blue and gold pashmina. There are happy birthday emails and texts and phone calls and even though it’s raining, I know my parents will come and visit me on the porch and maybe you will come and we will go for a walk and know what? If we go for a walk, fuck it, let’s have a $1200 hug, because it’s my birthday and I’m not sure I can do this anymore.

How was that “things to remember on a mopey pandemic birthday” list coming along?

  • I am loved.
  • I am not alone.

When all this started (pandemic, not my life) (I don’t really remember when my life started, do you?), I actually welcomed the opportunity to be mostly alone. It had been very hard to make social small talk or engage in casual interactions given the shit we were carrying in 2019.

Conversations like this:

Them: How are things?

Me: Child sick, not so good.

Them: What about other things?

Me: What other things? Did you hear what I just said? Child sick.

Her: Hey, what are you up to? Wanna hang?

Me: Shuttling between home, hospital, and when I remember, work. I have no time to breathe.

Her: Come on, you could use a break.

Me: Fuck off you deaf bitch.

Him: What’s new?

Me: Nothing. Everything’s fine. Nice bean dip. Please, tell me more about how your kitchen renovations are ruining your life and how hard three days without a working dishwasher are.

aren’t, you know… fun. So, enforced solitude really wasn’t a bad thing—especially when that enforced solitude was solitude as a family of five. I retreated into it with relief—frankly, craved more of it. (Maybe I’d get infected, sick, or at least compromised and I’d have to quarantine alone, without my beloved family? Yesssss… Don’t you dare fucking judge me, Aunt Augusta. I love them to pieces, but this is a very small house.)

Craving, seeking deeper solitude, I killed my social media connections for more than a month—I should probably do that again. When I read your Facebook posts, I hate you, think all of your friends are pathetic losers, and have no hope for the future of humanity. Somehow, when we hang out in person, your loveable qualities are enhanced and your lack of critical thinking, poor judgement, and overall stupidity somehow muted. Fuck. Sorry. See? Even thinking about social media—Facebook, especially, Twitter a close second—makes me a bad person.

Where was I?

  • I am loved.
  • I am not alone.

Right. When I look at the physical distancing and other safety guidelines proposed for the summer of 2020—and god knows how much beyond—I want to weep. I don’t need festivals, bar services, or even restaurants, although I do miss my coffee shops and sheesha lounges. I’m ok never going to a mall again as long as I live. Even museums, art galleries, my beloved bookshops—fine. I don’t need them.

But. I need dinner parties and pot lucks. And house parties with overcrowded kitchens. Sleepovers. Work bees. Taco Tuesdays at Yvonne’s and Whatever Charlotte is Learning to Cook Mondays at Valerie’s, I’m Feeding People Soup and Crackers Wednesdays at my house. I need my people—even the ones I haven’t been able to talk to much over the past year—back in my house.

In my arms.

A pandemic birthday with no hugs?

Fuck it, no, no, no, what’s the point?

So. Mopey.

Very, very mopey.

I’ve been offended by the right-wing and libertarian anti-lockdown protests. Not because they want to kill your grandma. But… look at it. Assholes agitating for haircuts and retail therapy. The right to leave their spittle around stores and public places.

Nice priorities, people.

Except, of course, those aren’t really their true priorities. They’re just the things that are easiest to express, protest, point to. From the conspiracy theorists on both the left and right to the sanctimonious pricks running around city parks with a metre ruler and shaming members of a large extended family for not maintaining physical distance, we’re all missing the same thing.

So, what those gun-toting, flag-waving, misinformed, uneducated and unenlightened (“What do you really think of them, Jane?”) freedom-to-be-selfish-as-fuck warriors are really agitating for when they want to hold a 1000-person Go Topless Jeep Driving Beach Party (you think I’m kidding, this is a real thing) in the midst of a pandemic that’s killed more than 330,000 people worldwide, 95,000 of them in the United States?

Their need to have a beer with their buddies in their backyard. Their need to belly bump, high-five, and drunk-wrestle in a manner that’s in no way homo-erotic, why would I even suggest that?

The need to connect, physically, with other human beings.

This is a big thing to take away from people.

Things to remember on my crappy pandemic birthday:

  • I am loved.
  • I am not alone.
  • I have people in my house and my covid cohort to hug and hold.
  • I am eating a delicious chocolate pain from Sidewalk Citizen for breakfast. I have a second one to eat for lunch.
  • My little son has been Skyping with his cousins since 7 am. He’s spent more time “playing” with them online in the past 2.5 months than he has “live” in the first 2.5 months of 2020, or perhaps even all of 2019. And this is good.
  • My daughter is still sleeping and this quarantine is giving her the space in which to rest, sleep, heal.
  • My eldest is enjoying is first day off this week from his first real job, and he’s going to turn 18 in a few days as a working man, how awesome is that?
  • A skinny, mostly hairless Goblin dog is curled up beside me in my writing chair, wrapped up in my bathrobe, purring. Well, snorting. Exuding peace and contentment, anyway.
  • A furry, still-damp from her morning walk beast of a puppy is snoring quietly on the floor by my feet.
  • Sean just made a second pot of coffee and, because he’s working from home, when he comes upstairs, I’ll get a coffee refill without having to get up off my lazy, mopey ass.
  • FedEx just called and my birthday Doc Martens are getting delivered today.

  • That chocolate croissant was really good.
  • Even though it’s raining, I can still have a cigarillo on my balcony this afternoon. And, maybe, Turkish coffee.
  • I don’t have to make dinner today, because, take out.
  • I am not alone.
  • I am loved.

And… with all of that? Still mopey. Still not happy. And that’s ok. Because nothing is normal, nothing is right.

But we trudge on. Do the best we can.

I am loved.

So are you.

xoxo

“Jane”

 

 

 

On this Mother’s Day: Imagine a world in which mothers stopped doing all the things

Mother’s Day has been a rough celebration for me—definitely in 2019, but really, increasingly so over the past five years, maybe even decade, more. I don’t do well with unacknowledged hypocrisy, you know, and this what Mother’s Day is to me: social hypocrisy run amok. Mothers celebrated in memes, photos, videos, song, through gifts, cards, brunches… and then left to clean up the mess made by the party.

Flora hates is—hates it—when I acknowledge that parenthood, motherhood is hard. I get her. When I first became a mother, and my  mother offered me support and respite care for my littles, saying, “I know how hard it is,” I hated and resented it—her—too. She’d say, “I know it’s hard, you need a break,” and I’d hear, “It was hard to have you, it was hard to your mother.” And then, I’d think, “She wishes she hadn’t had me, what the fuck.”

I do not regret having my babies. I would—hard as it has been—do it all over again, only maybe… sooner. Even closer together. I do not regret the sleepless nights, sore nipples, temper tantrums—and while I wish I could have just the happy, proud moments without the weeks in  hospital for Flora, the holes in the wall from Cinder, the three years of not being able to walk after Ender, the almost daily, paralyzing “Am I enough? Am I doing the right thing?” anxiety I have for all three of them—those dark moments are the price of the good ones, the cost of admission to this not-so-secret club.

I don’t regret motherhood, I don’t regret my babies—one of whom is now twice my size, two of whom now have bigger feet than I do, and one of whom is already smarter and more insightful than I ever was.

(Yes, I’m talking about you and your scary big brain, Flora. No, I’m not saying your brothers are dumb, why would you go there? I’m saying that I can still outthink them. I haven’t been able to outthink you since you’ve been seven.)

I don’t regret, not any of it. I’d do it all, all over again—yes, my darling girl, even if I knew ahead of time what 2018, 2019… and the first weeks of 2020 would bring. Without a moment’s hesitation.

But I wish someone had told me how hard it was really going to be. And that it wasn’t going to be hard for a year or three or ten—but forever.

Wait.

My mother tried to tell me. But I didn’t believe her, I wouldn’t listen…

Maternal love changes, everything. It must, of course: basic biology. It is pure evolution, the selfishness of genes in action.

And because it’s so basic, so big, so powerful, in a society that does not value the labours of motherhood and mothers themselves, but is happy to take advantage of them, maternal love fucks mothers over.

This is the part where Flora says, “See? You wish you didn’t have us!” And I scream, “No! I wish this goddamn culture, our schools, our workplaces, our medical system, every single one of our institutions didn’t simply assume that mothers would fill in all of their inadequacies. That mothers would pick up the slack wherever it exists, that mothers would make flawed systems and structures work—because that’s what they had to do to get their children through them.

This is what mothers do: whatever needs to be done.

(Look at this pandemic.)

Every single one of our modern social structures counts on—assumes—that it will be propped up by the unpaid labour of mothers.

(If you say, “But what about fathers?” or “But men also…” just stop, no. Today is not the day to discuss the glacial improvement in the de-gendering of childcare.)

Schools underfunded? It’s ok. Mothers will come in as classroom reading volunteers, lunch ladies, recess supervisors, organize bake sales and fundraisers for field trips and school computers.

Health care system overstrained? A nine-month wait list to get child to see the specialist, get a diagnosis, care, support? No problem. Mom will do all the things until then, quit her job, function as a 24/7 nurse, support worker, therapist.

No official day care supports by the governments or employers? Why bother? Mothers will find a solution, individually. They always do.

Suppose… just suppose, we didn’t?

Seriously, think about it, just for 30 seconds.

Suppose mothers stopped doing all the things. Getting shit done, problems solved.

Not for a day, the way most women, their tanks empty, sometimes do—individually, or, occasionally, in a 24-hour daily mass protest.

But for the long haul. Perhaps, forever.

Imagine. What would happen?

The world would come to an utter standstill—or descend into utter chaos.

But, don’t worry.

It’s not an experiment or social action that you will see. Because it would make our children suffer—and we will do anything, everything for our children.

The worst thing about this on-ground frontline work is that it leaves most mothers too exhausted to fight the macro battles. I am not much of an activist, and that’s in large part because after I do all the things that need to be done—and then do my work for money, and then carve out slivers of time to do my work for love—then there are more things that need to be done, and cooking and housework and a crying child, a sick child, a frustrated child—I don’t have the energy to change systems, affect policies.

I am, very, very grateful to the people who do. But, too often, the fights they fight and the priorities they agitate for—they don’t reflect the reality of what I live. And me? I don’t have the bandwidth left to fill out the five minute online survey through which they try to find out what I really need.

So I’ll tell you today, ok?

I need a school system that isn’t driven by my unpaid labour. (I speak here as a homeschooling parent responsible for 100 per cent of her children’s education until high school—and appalled by the increase in my “schooling’ workload when my teenagers when to “real” school. Without parents’ labour, schools would not function. Is this fair to working parents, working mothers?)

I need a health care system that isn’t propped up by my unpaid labour. I won’t go into the details; I can’t right now. But if you’ve had a sick child—you know.

I need workplace cultures—and employment laws—that don’t penalize me for having family responsibilities. And that don’t assume my unpaid emotional labour and my integrity/ambition/determination will get the job done, no matter what obstacles are placed in my way.

I need reliable safe, and affordable childcare options that take the reality of workplace demands into account.

Most of all, I need a culture that doesn’t actively penalize me, judge me, despise me for not sacrificing all of me on the altar of motherhood.

Nobody objects to a woman being a good writer or sculptor or geneticist if at the same time she manages to be a good wife, good mother, good looking, good tempered, well groomed, and unaggressive.

Leslie McIntyre

I realize… I’m not going to get any of that, not in my motherhood journey anyway—Cinder is 18 this year, Flora 15, and my baby 10.5.

Sadly, though, I don’t think Flora’s going to get it either.

Flora: And that’s one of the reasons I just want to cut out my uterus now.

I remember my first Mother’s Day as a mother and what an amazing, amazing, incredibly joyous feeling that was.

These days, the feelings around Mother’s Day—and motherhood—are much more… complex.

I am very grateful for the tokens of love and appreciation from my children and their dad—who, in this fucked up patriarchal culture, does his best to lighten my load (but the solutions, people aren’t individual—they must be systemic!).

But I also think about all the challenges and frustrations of this path, and I also think about how I’ve experienced these challenges from a place of utter privilege. I’m overeducated (and white), and even when I think I’m poor, my line of credit (which is the result of my economic, educational, and social privilege) ensures my house security and food security are never threatened). I have an extended family to support me (thank you, Mom and Dad). I have a feminist partner and co-parent (I appreciate you a lot, Sean). I have friends who will pitch in with free childcare and meal deliveries when the world goes black (I love you very much, Paola, Dorrie, Valerie, Cathy, Lisa).

And with all of that… it’s rarely been easy.

Happy Mother’s Day to my fellow mamas. To my mama.

To me.

It’s too late for us, really, but do you think we can make the path easier for Flora’s hypothetical grandchildren?

Flora: I keep on telling you…

Jane: I said hypothetical!

Can we?

😦

“Jane”

 

Pandemic Diary, the Collection from Nothing By the Book

I am, of course, blogging the pandemic. What else would I be doing?

Below is a collection of my Pandemic Diary posts, from March 17, 2020 onward. I’d say, “Enjoy,” but they’re not really fun. Yet? Maybe eventually, I’ll get funny again? One can hope.

In the meantime: I’m documenting. You’re welcome. 😉 xo

Pandemic Diary: Paradigm shift: choices, agency, uncertainty (March 17, 2020)

Pandemic Diary: Navel-gazing in the time of corona (March 19, 2020)

Pandemic Diary: A love letter to this tiny, messy, imperfect house (March 20, 2020)

Pandemic Diary: On the gentle art of inconveniencing yourself for the good of the herd… (March 22, 2020)

Pandemic Diary: What is my mission? What’s yours? (March 25, 2020)

Pandemic Diary: We’re all interconnected and I wish you’d all screw off and give me some privacy! (March 26, 2020)

Pandemic Diary, or Suffering for the sake of covidiots; selfish like all the rest of them (March 28, 2020)

Pandemic Diary: A pissy note to my friends who aren’t working (March 30, 2020)

Pandemic Diary: From one sanctimonious prick on a self-righteous soapbox to another (April 1, 2020)

Pandemic Diary: On Day 23, like cabin fever but not (April 5, 2020)

Pandemic Diary: Easter has been cancelled; apologies (April 10, 2020)

Pandemic Diary: Even if we don’t exist, let’s pretend that we do (April 16, 2020)

Pandemic Diary: You can take your silver lining and shove it where the sun don’t shine (April 20, 2020)

Pandemic Diary: Evil thoughts on Day 40+ of the Cuarentana (April 25, 2020)

Pandemic Diary: You’re losing time, but don’t worry, I’m on it (April 26, 2020)

Pandemic Diary: Alberta reopens for petrosexuals’ golfing pleasure (May 3, 2020)

On this Mother’s Day: Imagine a world in which mothers stopped doing all the things (May 10, 2020)

Pandemic Diary: Happy Pandemic Birthday to Me… and all 20 million of you… (May 21, 2020)

Pandemic Diary: If this is the test, I’m failing–you? (May 28, 2020)

Pandemic Diary: Protests in the time of the Pandemic (June 4, 2020)

Pandemic Diary: Getting out of bed to protest–also, to make breakfast–during a global pandemic (June 7, 2020)

Pandemic Diary: Helplessness tastes like sand; eat chocolate instead (June 15, 2020)

Pandemic Diary: The kids are all right (June 25, 2020)

Pandemic Diary: Decision fatigue is killing me, and so are empaths (June 28, 2020)

Pandemic Diary: Celebrating Canada Day with gratitude, and pain (July 1, 2020)

Pandemic Diary: Alberta reopens for petrosexuals’ golfing pleasure

I don’t golf, so nothing in my life changed this weekend—you did hear that Alberta re-opened golf-courses on Saturday as part of its economic restart? That’s Alberta to me, in one action: who are we going to pander to? The rich! When are we going to do it? Now, now, now—they’re not so good at delayed gratification, and they need their golf courses open now.

I’m being unfair. Of all the social activities that can be done together and yet six feet apart—so long as you don’t share a golf cart, cause I’m yet to meet a golfer who shares golf clubs—golf is atop of the list.

Still. The optics fit in well with the priorities of the Alberta government.

My precious coffee shops, sheesha lounges and bookstores—also, my hairstylist, dear god, do y’all need a haircut as badly as I do?—may re-open as early as mid-May as part of a “safely staged” recovery plan through which, the politicians and pundits inform me, the world will slowly but surely go back to the way it was. Except, of course, it won’t, because, actually, we don’t really know what we’re doing and we don’t really know what’s next, and it’s all guess work, and uncertainty is hard—could we, at least, golf while the rest of you are sorting it out?

When I say “we” don’t know what’s going on and what’s coming, I mean, all of us. Everyone. From the people in charge all the way down to you and me. We’re all trying to sort fact from fantasy, best practices from delusions, whether we’re doing the sorting in our newsfeeds or during high-level briefings with epidemiologists and economists.

Do the epidemiologists and economists know what’s coming? I don’t know. I am, as you know, a borderline pandemic denier—or, to put it more fairly, I totally think there’s a pandemic happening but, frankly, it’s not deadly enough. There are too many of us and if 10 per cent of us disappear tomorrow, Mother Earth will throw a little party and then turn her attention to designing another plague that will clean house even more effectively.

Still, the part of me that recognizes the binding force of my social contract with you is staying home, wearing a mask to the grocery store, and limiting my mammalian social contact interactions to my small, safe covid cohort, and to walks—six feet apart—along with river with a handful of friends.

Having done that for—I’ve lost count, more than 40, fewer than 60—days, I’d rather do it for two, four more weeks than rush out to golf, shop, dance… and have to do it all over again, for another 60 days or more, through July and August.

I am, of course, neither an economist nor an epidemiologist, and most of the numbers about the pandemic’s infection, hospitalization, and mortality rates as well as its impact on the local and global economy make about as much sense to me as Donald Trump’s press conferences. But, from my layperson’s, mathematically impaired point of view, the world economy got such a profound kick in the gonads that two weeks more, two weeks less is not going to make much of a difference to its recovery. And Alberta’s economy, given the petrosexual fixations of its premier and ruling class, is going to recover never. So, really—wait! I figured it out!

Alberta’s economy is going to recover never—so we might as well golf now. Right? Suddenly, it all makes sense.

I don’t golf, so I didn’t golf yesterday and I won’t be golfing on Monday, but I don’t begrudge those who will be. Enjoy. Caress those golf clubs, breathe that fresh air, club those balls hard—soothe your aching petrosexual heart on the manicured, human-made unnatural landscape of the province that you so dearly love. I’ll be outdoors too, soothing my unpetrosexual heart in my own way, and not thinking about how you’ve fucked over the economy of the province I try to so hard to love.

I won’t be rushing out to do all the things on May 14th either though. I’d rather give up two, or four, more weeks of coffee shops and sheesha, art galleries and hairdressers—First World Whines, people, from us the so-very over-privileged, would the people with real problems please make us shut up?—and let others conduct the community transmission experiment.

You, however, should go out and do all the things, and maybe lick some door handles while you’re at it.

My experiment requires it.