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.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

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

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

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

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

i

The boy—man, I suppose, but he’s closer in age to my son than me, so, boy—is 27, and he’s a reverse immigrant. Born in Calgary—but went back to his parents’ motherland before he was two and that’s where he grew up. Now he’s back. He speaks fluent Italian and awkward English with a heavy accent.

“Sexy accent, right?”

“Right.”

He’s home but he’s homesick. Funny, hey?

I understand.

We are speaking the universal language.

Music.

I know nothing about Italian music, but Czesław Niemen—the Polish equivalent of John Lennon, I’m not exaggerating—has a couple of songs in Italian. I share them.

Then I struggle to remember… there was this song… Piazza di Napoli? No, Ragazzo da Napoli… zajechał… some type of car… and she was a gold digger and he was happy to take advantage of her… confused motivation, but her local boy—who was singing the song—was pissed, and it was Communist Poland, so don’t fucking judge her—but of course, the singer and the audience do.

I think it’s a Niemen song, because I don’t really know very much about Polish music. Niemen. Rodowicz. Czerwone Guitary.

Skip a couple of generations: Sztywny Pal Azji.

That’s about it.

I can’t find the song.

I send my dad a text late at night. It makes no sense, in two languages:

“In which Niemen song does it go—Na piazza neapoli… zajechał (some kind of car) nananana…”

But that’s all he needs.

“Mirafiori. It’s a type of Fiat. Ale to nie Niemen.”

He finds it on Youtube:

I forget about the homesick Italian boy.

I’m wallowing in… nostalgia?

Perhaps. Not really. It’s not my nostalgia. This is not my youth. It’s my parents’ youth. My very early childhood. These songs were my Raffi, my Mr. Rogers. My mom played them in Libya.

In Italy.

With Canada, came choice and English-language radio. MuchMusic and MTV.

And then CDs from Poland. But it still was Niemen, Rodowicz, Czerwone Guitary.

I’ve told you before, I have a complicated relationship with my fatherland. I don’t love it.

I also realize—I don’t know it. It’s frozen to me somewhere in a 1981 I didn’t even experience firsthand, snapshots of rather traumatic memories.

ii

The artist is a decade or so older than me. She left Poland as a toddler. Doesn’t have the facility with the language that I have. Has a much stronger affinity to the country, the culture. A hunger for belonging that she fills there, not here.

A sense, maybe, that if she stayed there—she’d be complete? Or at least… belong.

Sean comments on it. I see it too. We talk about where her hunger comes from. She knows some parts of it, not all.

She asks me, “Where do you belong?”

And I don’t really understand the question.

iii

I’ve spent the last few weeks preparing materials for a Diversity and Inclusivity panel. The exercise kicked my ass a little. Talking about trauma is retraumatizing. And in the presentation of the panel I moderate, and in the presentation of the follow up materials and resources, I’m trying to achieve something really big. I don’t want to preach to the choir and I don’t want people nodding their heads and feeling good about themselves.

I kinda want to traumatize them, to force them to have an “Aha” moment whether they want to have it or not.

You: How very manipulative of you. And you were also doing a panel on consent, I believe?

Jane: Hush.

In the midst of it all, I watch Hannah Gadsby’s Nanette on Netlfix with Sean and I realize in a flash that a) that is what I’m trying to do in this panel and these materials and b) it’s nasty and mean and traumatizing but necessary.

I want to walk you to the edge of a cliff and then shove you over and have you feel fear of death and maybe see your version of god. Then yank you back to safety—give you a few minutes to catch your breath.

And then shove you off the cliff again.

I write like that too. In the novels, after the last time I shove you off the cliff… I catch you. Soothe you. Maybe even give you an orgasm.

But this panel does not have a happy ending. It’s ends with an invitation to keep on shoving yourself (and others) off the cliff.

Sorry.

iv

You are homesick for Colombia, for your Mom, your sisters. Home.

My ragazzo da Napoli is homesick for those same things. Also, the food.

My friend from Syria is going back home as soon as he can; he’s not even here while he’s here, and everything he’s doing here is about what’s back there. Home. Sister. Parents.

My parents are here—they were always there. I think that’s the thing. The place I belong, it’s not a place.

v

One of the problems with most attempts to “educate” people on diversity and inclusivity is that we fail to address, head on, honestly, that like attracts like.

We want to be with people like us. We are comfortable with people like us.

And an inclusive country/culture is one in which “like us” is just a really fucking big circle.

Take me.

I like to think that I like variety, diversity, hanging out with people who are NOT like me.

Drill into that a little… and virtually all of my closest friends, loves, the people I spend the most time with… are like me in the ways that really matter:

They’re immigrants, third culture kids, queers, non-conformists, freaky artists, existential angsters… who don’t belong.

They’re The Other.

We’re all The Other together.

Like attracts like.

Like relaxes with like.

And I guess that’s why “inclusivity” is the better word than “diversity.” It expands… like.

Does that make sense?

Perhaps not.

vi

My kids have lived a lifetime in the same place, in the same house. I’ve given them—what I didn’t have. Just in case, you know, that was the better thing to give them. I’ve had to fight myself to give them this. I don’t want to root. My default, preferred, nurtured mode is to keep on moving.

But I wonder if… my rooted kids will be less resilient.

Drop me into a new city, country, hotel, group, party—and I’ll assess, in just a few minutes, the rules and power dynamics of the room. And decide how—if—I want to play them.

I don’t always love doing this. But I know how to do it. Pretty much flawlessly when I apply myself. Practice makes perfect.

The people in the room will enjoy their experience with me very much. And I’ll probably enjoy them. And I won’t think of them again when I leave. It will be easy to leave. Easy to walk into another room. (Also, easy to pass through that room without connecting with anyone, almost invisible, like a ghost, I can do that too.)

Unrooted.

(I am probably exaggerating for poetic licence. I’ve lived in the same place for 13 years now. I will be here for at least 10 years more. I think it’s for the children, but I suppose it’s for me too. But I think… I think if you yank me out of this soil and transplant me somewhere else… you’ll find my roots were very shallow. And they’ll thrive elsewhere. My kids? Their roots are deep, deep, deep.)

vii

The ragazzo da Napoli…

Him: You know I’m not actually from Naples? I’m from…

Jane: Hush. Don’t give me facts that fuck up the crafting of my narrative. You’re not longer real–you’re a character in my story, and you need to be a homesick, naive boy from Naples for the story to work.

Him: You’re a little strange.

Jane: Roll with it.

…is too young, I think, to really know how rooted or unrooted he is. And he thinks that I’m making a simple thing too complicated. Home is home, and also food, and speaking of, what Italian food do I like to eat, did my mom learn to cook Italian while we lived in Rome?

I think the answer is probably no—I don’t think of Italian food when I think of Italy. We ate, in Italy, Polish food. Potatoes, beets, and all the meat you could dream of: kotlety made with ground pork–mmmm, schabowe. A post-Muslim country pork orgy–except when the Jewish emigrants and Hungarian expats came over. Then, gulasz. Beef strogonoff.

“And in Libya?”

Sardines, saltine crackers, rice that had to be sifted for maggots. And caviar.

Contraband sausage.

But that’s another story.

viii

While in Denver, I make a friend who sorta lives in Orlando, but travels all over the United States for work. Orlando isn’t really home, even though his parents live near there. The rest of the family is in New York. The move to Florida was their big emigration.

I find it a bit odd that an African American family would move… like, South. You know?

He asks me if he can go “angry black man” on me for a while. I consent.

… and I can’t tell you, I can’t imagine…

But I don’t have to imagine what it’s like to be from someplace that causes you pain with its history and politics, I know what it’s like to not belong, I know what it’s like to have a very complicated relationship with the place that’s supposed to be home…

In immigrant and ex-pat communities, you’re generally supposed to be extra-proud about where you’re from. It’s sort of the thing, right? Identity. Patriotism. Bla bla.

Political dissidents tend to walk a more complicated line, of being simultaneously proud of what their country was/could be and critical of its current politics.

 “We’re all political dissidents now.”

Are we?

Third culture kids occupy a different place still. We are, I think, hyper-critical of everything. The old home, the new home, all the homes in-between. Because our experience of the foibles of the homeland, wherever it is, is untempered by love and romantic attachment.

We love, I think—our parents, our friends. The aunts and cousins we visit when we go back to our parents’ home. The people we meet in our new homes. But places, countries?

I don’t know.

Ender: Can you turn down the volume on that song?

Flora: Or, like, stop listening to it on a loop?

Cinder: Just find her headphones.

Sean: She’s sorting something out. It’s part of the process. Let her be.

(My Greek chorus.)

I’m sorting out this:

My Poland is frozen in this moment, in which one could go to jail for listening to this song:

But people listened. Gathered for live performances of it. Fought and died for the right to, you know… THINK freely and critically and be able to express those thoughts in art and in life.

They fought… for the right to WORK, really. The right to live, exist… unfettered by oppressive dogma.

Watching the perversion of all of that by the current government of post-Communist “free” Poland is disgusting.

And the third culture kid says, “What is there to love in you, Fatherland?”

And answers, “Nothing.”

ix

The ragazzo da Napoli shakes his head.

“My head is full of stereotypes about broody Slavs, moody Jane.”

I shrug.

“My head is full of stereotypes about Italian dagos. Do you drive a Fiat by any chance? A classic 1978 Mirafiori?”

“Shut up. And stop playing that old song. Let’s go eat.”

“Italian?”

“No. It’s no good here. Sushi?”

“Maybe… or, there’s this new Afghani restaurant I’ve found. They cook with love, and the whole family works there. It feels like home. Let’s go there.”

Deal.

x

Here, if you want to learn how to play Ragazzo da Napoli, you can do so here:

https://teksty.wywrota.pl/tekst-chwyty/39836-jacek-zwozniak-ragazzo-da-napoli.html

(The music is actually a cover of Italian singer’s Drupi’s 1978 hit Provincia.)

And here are the lyrics (my shitty English translation follows):

Ragazzo da Napoli zajechał mirafioriC a C a
Na sam trotuar wjechał kołami,C A d G
Nosem prezent poczułaś, już taka jesteś czuła,d G d G
Że pomyślałaś o nim “bel ami”.d G C G

On ciemny był na twarzy, a prezent ci się marzył,
Za dziesięć centów torba w Peweksie. 
Ty miałaś cztery złote, on proponował hotel
I nie musiałaś zameldować się.

Ty z nim poszłaś w ciemno damo bez matury,F G C a
Koza ma prezencję lepszą niźli ty.F G C a
Czemu smutną minę masz i wzrok ponury,F G C a
Ciao bambina, spadaj mała, tam są drzwi.d G C a

On miał w kieszeni paszport, sprawdziłaś a więc znasz to,
Lecz on nie sprawdził, ile ty masz lat.
On mówił “bella blonda”, a zobacz, jak wyglądasz,
Te włosy masz jak len, co w błoto wpadł.

Jak w oczy spojrzysz teraz swojego prezentera,
Co dyskotekę robi i ma styl.
Straciłaś fatyganta, chciał kupić ci trabanta,
Czy warto było za tych parę chwil?

Twój ragazzo forda capri ci nie kupi,
“Buona notte” pewnie też nie powie ci.
Jeszcze wierzysz, że dla ciebie śpiewa Drupi
Ciao bambina, spadaj mała, tam są drzwi.

Poznałaś Europę, więc nie mów do mnie “kotek”
Ja nie wiem, co volkswagen, a co ford,
Nie jestem tak bogaty, nie wezmę cię do chaty
I przestań mnie nazywać “my sweet lord”.

Ty nie będziesz moją Julią Capuletti,
Inny wszak niż ja Romeo ci się śni,
W żadnym calu nie wyglądam jak spaghetti,
Ciao bambina, spadaj mała, tam są drzwi.

Gdy ci pizzę stawiał rzekł “Prego, mangiare”
To pamiętać będziesz po kres swoich dni,
Tęskniąc za nim, jak panienka za dolarem.
(original line: Tęskniąc za nim, jak złotówka za dolarem.)
Ciao bambina, spadaj mała, tam są drzwi.

ENGLISH:

The boy from Naples rode up in a Mirafiori
He rolled the wheels ride onto the sidewalk
Your nose smelled a present—you’re just that sensitive
And you thought about him “bel ami”

He was dark on his face, and you were dreaming about that gift
A ten cent purse from the duty-free store
You had four zloty, he was suggesting a hotel
And you didn’t have to show your documents to get in

You went with him into the dark, lady without a high school diploma
A goat has better sense than you
Why such a sad face and a grim gaze
Ciao bambino, fuck off baby, there’s the door

(“spadaj mala” is more like “get out of here, little one,” but “fuck off baby” is the intended meaning)

He had a passport in his pocket, you know because you checked
But he didn’t bother to check your age
He said, “Gorgeous blonde,” but see how you look
Your hair’s like flax trampled  in the mud

How will you know look in the eyes of your [hometown boyfriend]
who throws dance parties and has style
You lost a serious contender, he wanted to buy you a Trabant
Was it worth it for those few moments?

(Trabant=shitty East German car, “spark plug with a roof))

Your „ragazzo” won’t buy you a Ford Capri
“Buona notte” (good night) he won’t tell you either
You still believe it’s for you that Drupi sings
Ciao bambina, fuck off baby, there’s the door

You got to know Europe, so don’t call me „kitten”
I don’t know the difference between a Volkswagen and a Ford
I’m not that rich, I won’t take you in
And stop calling me “my sweet lord”

You won’t be my Julia Capuletti
After all you dream of a Romeo different than me
In any case, I don’t look like spaghetti
Ciao bambina, fuck off baby, there’s the door

When he bought you pizza, he said, “Prego, mangiare”
You’ll remember that to the end of your days
Longing after him (chasing him) like a chick chases the dollar
(alt line: Longing after him (chasing him) like the zloty chases the dollar)
Ciao bambina, fuck off baby, there’s the door.

xoxo

“moody Jane”

More about my struggles with the Fatherland: Dear Fatherland: the pallbearers were probably not skinheads, but I don’t know, and reflections on grief, roots, and love

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

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

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

This week disappears.

I have no real deadlines. A couple of rewrites. Follow-ups. Post-conference crash. Am I tired, sick, or just slow? Slow. The smoke is bad. I go to yoga, meet a friend for yucca fries, solo sheesha date, take Flora shopping, cuddle Ender a lot, I want a time-out, a vacation—I grab a night—Co-op birthday party, yes, I washed the kitchen floor but the stairs are fuzzy, ha ha.

3 families, 8 kids, tribe

I think the kids are happy this week except when Flora slams the doors or Cinder won’t leave his room.

Teenagers.

Sean has a shit day at work—I’m leaving for the night before he comes back, try make it a little better with baked apples and a curry soup.

A friend is stepping back from the world. “I need to take care of myself,” she says. “I don’t protest. “If I don’t, nobody else will.”

I pause, ponder if it’s a request, a cry for help. Is she saying, “Take care of me, a little?”

But healer and caretaker are not my archetypes.

I want to build a world in which you’re taken care of, I whisper. Taking care of your individual needs drains me.

Hypocritical?

I suppose. Or, realistic.

I rip through two books. Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine by Gail Honeyman:

… and I tell everyone I know to read it, best thing I’ve read in years, Sean complies—we argue about it.

and Bellewether by Susanna Kearsley:

so fun, so well-done, and my name shared space with hers in a recent conference promo, so I’m doubly pleased now. She is as good as I remember, I am as honoured.

Today, I might clean the living room. Then again, I might not.

Fun times.

Lazy pen.

This happens too—a text from a “friend,” while Sean and I are out on a long overdue date, Afghani food, look, they have sheesha (this is a bad idea, already so much smoke in the air because BC is burning), then a stroll through a new-to-us Indian spice mart—we are in heaven, looking up the names of beans (who knew there were so many varieties of mung beans and chickpeas, how, exactly, are they different?)—I don’t buy a kitschy Ganesha statue but I think about it—a text from a “friend.”

Friend. “Friend.” Facebook friend.

I suppose, ultimately, I mean acquaintance.

Friend used to be such a meaningful word. Don’t you think?

Anyway.

Text.

Quotation marks.

I only hear from her when she wants something. This time, she wants to borrow my car.

I’m perversely happy I can’t help. Because, of course, I’d say yes. Resent it.

I had to borrow my neighbours cars for eight months this winter.

Hypocrite?

I don’t think so.

I don’t only talk to them when I need something.

Today, I want to smoke cigars in the smoke and drink Scotch and Turkish cofee and read Czeslaw Milosz—listen:

LOVE
by Czesław Miłosz

Love means to learn to look at yourself
The way one looks at distant things
For you are only one thing among many.
And whoever sees that way heals his heart,
Without knowing it, from various ills.
A bird and a tree say to him: Friend.

Then he wants to use himself and things
So that they stand in the glow of ripeness.
It doesn’t matter whether he knows what he serves:
Who serves best doesn’t always understand.

via BrainPickings.org

–maybe Jack Gilbert (yes!) and not do very much else.

But.

Perhaps I’ll clean the living room. And sweep the stairs. They are fuzzy.

But.

Perhaps not.

“Jane”

Sunnyhill Housing Co-op, August 18, 2018
Happy 40th Birthday to Us!

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)

—->>>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

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

i

This past week, I had a Wednesday deadline and a conference that started on Friday, and so really all that existed was Thursday. Monday I wrote. Tuesday, I played hooky—rafting with the kids. Wednesday, I wrote. Thursday, I pondered why I exist. Friday, Saturday, and Sunday, I was building a tribe.

On Friday, before leaving for the weekend, I cover all the windows in the house with blankets. The heat wave is kicking our collective asses here. I like it hot, really, but last week finally hits too hot for me. The house is not built for this type of heat, I murmur as I dig up more blankets. We are living in a den. Thank goodness my writing space and the basement bedroom are in cool enough to breathe in.

For unclear reasons, I think about Ecuador.

The nights are already coming too soon. No more midnight sun.

I’m reading Gail Honeyman’s Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine and Steven Pressfield’s The Artist’s Journey. Except when Sean and I take turns reading Birds of Alberta to Ender at bedtime.

Sean: I didn’t think it was possible, but this book is more boring than the Reptiles and Amphibians of Canada.

He’s wrong. Do you know how many salamander species and sub-species there are in Alberta and their identifying characteristics?

I do.

I don’t find this is knowledge I really needed at the moment. But there it is. Perhaps it will come in handy at my conference.

Her: I’m a herpetologist.

Jane: Really? Have you ever seen an encina in the wild?

Her: Why yes, two years ago, when I was…

Everything has a purpose, nothing has a purpose.

Albert Einstein, allegedly, said that we have one fundamental choice in life. We can live as if everything is a miracle… or as if nothing is a miracle.

I was raised Catholic so the word “miracle” is laden with meaning and baggage—as well as a strict papal—definition. I don’t believe in Catholic miracles.

But I do believe we have this choice: to live life as if it and we have a purpose. Or to live life as if it doesn’t, and we don’t… and if we don’t… why live?

So.

I wake  up. Stretch like a cat and ponder getting a more comfotable mattress. Think about the things I need to do today, their order. Climb up the two flights of stairs to the bathroom.

Pee.

“The first thing you do in the morning sets the tone for the day.”

Come on. We all start the day with a piss. It’s a physical necessity, not a magic eight ball.

Scrape my tongue (TMI, I apologize, but btw, it’s probably the most useful thing I’ve learned from Ayurvedic cookbooks). Brush teeth. Drink water. Make coffee. Let the dog out to pee—do not lose it when I see a pile of shit by the balcony door. She has no opposable thumbs—I’m not sure she has much of a brain, either—she can’t let herself out. She’s my responsibility.

Clean up the shit—literally, but that can be a metaphor. Wash my hands.

Write.

Today, the first page is private, whining-fear-reflection. Then, this. After? Conference. I won’t have a chance to write again today. But that’s ok. I’ve done enough to keep th ehabit and to stay connected to the purpose.

Now—one more cup of coffee. A few pages of Elinor. A shower. Meditation. Breakfast (Eggs!). Pack.

And… go.

ii

I went. It was good. Repeat two more times. Crash.

iii.

[deleted]

iv.

Everything has a purpose. I have a purpose. And if I don’t… well, I have to live as if I do.

And… go.

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)

—->>>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

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

from the process journal

Lists, lists, lists, write them all down.

Lists, lists, lists. But first, more coffee.

what happened this week?

Monday, I mixed up days and times, showed up for an interview 24 hours early, oops, better early than late. But then, a surprise Moscow Mule in the middle of the day—that was lovely. Drove gaggle of teenagers to the Secret Spot. Thunder. Hail. Tarp. Goofs. So happy.

Sean: I can’t believe you left them by the river in the middle of a hailstorm.

Jane: I only pick fights I have a chance of winning.

Tuesday, I did ok. Sheesha date with Sean in the evening, Tarot cards. Kids just chilling, calm. I taste happy.

Wednesday, I should have worked but I didn’t. Instead, moody, angry, clouds gathering. In the evening, a trip to the 1920s with someone new—an awkward encounter en route with someone old. Thoughts in  duty, responsibility, red flags—burlesque dancer bodies.

The less said about Thursday, the better. To be fair, it came with a trigger, but the trigger came very late in the day and just accelerate the spiral, did not cause it.

Work? Ha.

I made three suppers worth of meat though—lamb meat balls with cumin, mint, and lemon, also fresh garlic, so good, crispy fried chicken from deboned halal drumsticks, and prepped cornish hens and veg for roasting on the cooler morrow.

Take that, bad, no good day. Still functional.

Friday, a little better, not much. No work.

Today is Saturday. And I’m writing if not quite working, so that’s something.

 

judgemental confessions

Flora: Do we get the judgemental genes from Mom?

Jane: Yes.

Sean: But you should have seen Mom’s friends in university. Compared to them, she’s an angel of tolerance.

I think, honestly, we’re all judgemental. We have brains, judgement, discernment. We are supposed to use them. There’s a difference between judgement and intolerance. I look at you. I listen to your story—of course I form a judgement of some sort, good, bad. Even indifference is a judgement.

Flora doesn’t care about the nuances of judgement. She’s flipping through photo albums. The year is 2009. My brother’s wedding in Poland.

Flora: OMG, this entire family is white. That is so weird.

Canadian child.

Jane: They’re all Polish.

Flora: But look at them. They’re all so pasty white. Look, I totally don’t look like a vampire by comparison.

Jane: They have cloudy winters in Poland. And, it was a very rainy May and June that year.

Flora: And nobody has any eyebrows.

Well. That I can refute. I present the bushy eyebrows of her maternal grandmother’s family-which I’ve inherited, as has Cinder.

Flora: And your boobs are gigantic!

Jane: I’m six months pregnant!

Well. Five. But with baby number four, so I look… well. VERY pregnant. And the boobs are gigantic. Bigger than my head—which is also rounder than the face I’m used to seeing right now—in every picture.

I tell Flora how, when you’re pregnant, one day, you wake up, and your breasts defy gravity and pop out of your bra, and hurt so much, don’t really enjoy the aesthetic effect. And you don’t let your lovers touch them.

Flora: Remind me why people have children again?

Immortality, baby. Immortality.

radical honesty and radical compassion, draft 1

I have a friend who practices radical honesty. She’s utterly committed to living in and expressing her truth.

She hurts people a lot.

What I admire the  most about Cheryl Strayed is that she practices radical compassion. Read Tiny Beautiful Things or listen to the Dear Sugars podcast for edification.

I practice neither radical compassion nor radical honesty, but of the two I would choose compassion. Because little lies are what makes the world go round, don’t you think?

You: Do you lie to me than?

Jane: All the time.

Me, myself and I are hanging out in my head practicing radical honesty with each other—except, really, it’s just wanton cruelty. I demand one of us lets me have some delusions and dreams. The other two laugh.

I am meditating again, and it’s not going well. I mean—I mean, I am fighting myself to sit to breathe, to stay. I don’t want to be there with myself (never mind me and I).

But. I must. Fighting myself is part of the process (don’t ask what process, I really can’t elaborate). Sit. Close them eyes. Breathe. You only have to do this for three minutes.

After the timer dings, I stay still for a few seconds more. See? That wasn’t so bad. What are you afraid of?

Radical honesty.

When untempered with radical compassion, it is a destroyer.

Sean: I know I’m not supposed to tell you you’re doing meditation wrong…

Jane: Hush. I’m breathing.

(July 24, 2018)

radical honesty and radical compassion, draft 2

Mmmm. Wow. A little too honest. Let’s let that one sit for a while in the darkness of the computer filing system.

(August 3, 2018)

professionals suck it up

Her: How was the rest of your wee? Are you feeling better?

Jane: All right. I think I will work today.

Her: That means you are finally feeling rested? 🙂

Jane: It means I have four days to write five articles and I’d better get off my whiny ass and get them done.

I work with gritted teeth on Saturday until I hit a bit of flow—ride it for a while—try to prolong it. Fail. Pull out my laptop at a Sunday wedding between the ceremony and reception. Sneak off to the car during cocktail hour and pound the keys for a bit; arrive late for dinner.

Deadlines. I fucking love deadlines.

(Like, seriously. Not ironically.)

 

sunday

I’m at a wedding in the mountains, a setting so majestic and beautiful even I believe in gods as I breathe the mountain air—mere laws of sicnece could not creative this—a divine breath was necessary, if only in the human imagination.

Weddings are strange things—collections of strangers and best friends, family reunions, chosen family reunions, and “yes, we have to invite Aunt Augusta, honey, I know it’s your day and you hate her, but ‘she’s family.’”

… a radically honest and untempered with compassion essay on love and marriage follows—I write it, decide not to share it, and that’s my act of compassion.

Also, I lose my phone. Which is my camera, daytimer, watch, newspaper, library, connection to the world.

Whatever will I do?

xoxo

“Jane”

PS I found my phone. Dare I confess to you how very much I wanted it to stay lost?

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)

—->>>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

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

the week, in brief

Monday—it’s ok, it’s ok, everything is ok. Tuesday—so fucking mopey, kill me now. Wednesday—a little better, maybe, anyway, I’m getting shit done—but I don’t want to talk to you. Thursday—ugh. Friday—all the things, solo sheesha date—hello, self—sleep. Saturday—fucking done, now writer tribe, children, art, Guinness. Sunday—it’s too hot, but we go to the Glenbow anyway, hello, how are you.

real things

Cinder wrote his English 10 final on Thursday—year one of high school officially over, praise the Lord. Jane finished her shitty first draft of the new WIP on Saturday. That felt good for about seven minutes. Flora was mopey on Friday, so we went on our first girl date in forever. It was nice. Fuck, her brothers are noisy. I sorta understand why she complains so much about them, even when they’re being “good.”

I interviewed four local superstars, experiences that left me energized. The purpose of passionate people, I think, is to infect others with their energy. To make us see—look, here is a life well-lived. Appreciate it, laud it. But I think too often, the side-effect of these lives is to make us feel bad about ourselves. We don’t think, “Here is a life well-lived, and that’s awesome” and use that as fuel to lift ourselves up. We think, “Here is a life well-lived… and oh-my-god, my life is shit by comparison,” and we tear ourselves down.

I don’t think that, by the way.

Their stories fire me.

They also tire me, though. Just a little bit. I’m still trying to find a place to rest.

big things

I am writing and thinking about radical honesty and radical compassion, and my overall dislike to the word radical. I think, in the end—radical and dogmatic are basically a synonym.

You: Suddenly a centrist?

Jane: An inadvertent iconoclast.

meditation

I miss Cuba.

Fuck, do I ever miss Cuba.

And it’s summer and hot now, and so I can’t pretend it’s about the winter.

I don’t actually miss Cuba as Cuba, you know. Much as I rag my children about it—I also like being able to flush toilet paper down toilets, drink water from a tap, and just run to the grocery store for things I want and need—or imagine I need—at my leisure.

But I miss—I miss the silence. I really miss the silence.

I miss the time and space I had to be in my head.

… and yet… I sabotage my chances at solitude ALL THE TIME.

Interesting, isn’t it?

And is it solitude I want… or that particular solitude I had in Cuba?

Or do I just want to smoke cigars and drink Cuba Libres every day?

Maybe I just don’t know what I want.

No. I do.

the teenagers

…keep on surprising me. When did they get this clever? And why do they always want to have those in-depth, earth-shaking conversations at 10 pm or midnight, when my eyes are closing and my brain is foggy?

The teenagers are also humbling me. I decide they are the Universe’s way of making sure the average human doesn’t get too full of herself as she hits her peak. I mean, really. Here I am, and, all my whining and whinging notwithstanding, I’m pretty together. I’m doing some awesome shit. I’m, if not quite at the peak of my creative powers, pretty close to seeing how to reach that summit. I fucking rock.

Enter teenager and the “OMFG can my mother possibly be this stupid?” look.

Sigh.

Flora’s particularly good at it.

Every once in a while, she pays me a backhanded compliment.

Example:

Flora: You’re not as lame as most moms.

At least Ender still thinks I’m perfect.

Cinder: Enjoy it while it lasts.

Jane: I will.

Cinder: You’re not lame. You’re just weird.

Well. There is that.

on housework

I start cleaning the kitchen—on Monday—and then, of course, as a result, I rearrange all the furniture and throw shit out and change things—and then end up sitting under the kitchen table, not weeping exactly, but just pondering… how long that pasta sauce has been under that baseboard and how much effort should I expand on dealing with it, and if I don’t… does it really matter?

Flora: Are you crying?

Jane: No.

Flora: Are you hiding?

Jane: Maybe.

Flora: Do you want some chocolate?

Teenager or not, she loves me.

Cinder: Like I said, weird.

Ender: Pillow fort!

On that note… next week, I will try to be less self-indulgent.

Maybe. 😉

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)

—->>>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

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

i

I’m in Denver, Colorado this week—fire and ice—when I’m outside, the sun beats down on me and threatens to melt me down into a pool of biomass, human goo—when I’m inside, the air conditioning freezes and shatters my atoms—I am not a body but a collection of icicle shards.

You: Are you having a good time?

I don’t know.

I think, after I leave, I will tell you—Yes! I’ve had fun. Right now—I am glad I’m here. I want to be here. It’s important to be here. But am I having a good time?

I don’t know about that.

ii

I’m away from my fam this week and I miss them—don’t miss them.  I don’t miss them in the mornings when I can be utterly selfish and just about me and do all my own things. I miss them at bedtime for a while—nobody to give goodnight kisses to, however will I sleep?—but then crawl into bed when I please as I please, knowing no one will wake me up in the night—yes. It be heaven, just a little taste of heaven, my darlings.

I love you, my darlings. But I am treasuring these slices of solitude.

iii

Busy-not-busy, tired-not-tired, missing-not-missing, what do people want? People want to be loved and understood. They want to belong.  They want to be part of something greater than themselves; among them, a few also want to contribute to this thing greater than themselves.

Most basic needs, those.

Moses gave them stone tablets and a codified religion.

What am I giving them?

(Don’t worry, I’m too lazy to start a new religion. But everything boils down to this, really: people want to be loved, understood, to feel they belong… to have a chance to contribute—often in as small and effortless way as possible—to THE THING. Wait. That gives me an idea…)

iv

Busy-not-busy-busy-not-busy. Do I want it this much? I don’t know. Not at any price.

v

I’m meeting dozens, possibly hundreds, of people every day. I’m listening. Trying not to talk too much but to really listen. Look for seeds, beginnings. Try to figure out—what will I nurture when I get back home? How do I choose?

You: I thought your motto was “why choose.”

Jane: You always have to choose. Something.

Sometimes, I panic. Today, I won’t.

vi

So many ideas. Not enough time. But that’s not true. I have all the time there is—I have all the time I need—I have everything I need, and when I don’t have something, I ask for it.

vii

I’m home.

Post-conference crash.

Thinking about radical honesty and radical compassion—I’ll tell you about it later. Missing strangers. Reluctant to see friends. So much to do.

I have all the time I need.

Breathe.

xoxo

“Jane”

PS

You: Self-indulgent as fuck.

Jane: And that, my love, is the beauty of a not-for-profit blog.

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)

—->>>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

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

Cliche of the week: less is more.

Moving on:

Busy, busy, busy, busy—no. Stop. I hate feeling busy—I hate using the word ‘hate’—should I just say ‘don’t like’? It doesn’t matter—semantics—STOP!

My friend Lisa says reframe it. ‘When I tell people I’m busy, I feel frazzled, When i acknowledge life is full at the moment, but these are all the things I want or need to be doing right now—that’s different.’

I like that.

‘I like to keep busy,’ he says. I make big eyes.

‘Why?’

I’m not really busy right now. Really. All things considered—24 hours in every day, seven days in the week, and I sit on the balcony every day with my notebook or  my books, occasionally smoke a cigar.

But I’m too busy to weed my garden. Btw, that means I don’t want to do it.

Busy-not-busy, I do have a lot of balls in the air right now—a couple of them are flaming swords—and keeping them in motion requires effort and concentration.

But.

Also.

This:

Much of my time this past year, whether actively engaged in a task or not, has been spent in a state of potential availability. Waiting to be called, needed, interrupted.

“Mom. I need help—I don’t understand this math question at all.”

“Mom! I’m hungry!”

“Mom, I need a hug, I’m sad.”

I’m not complaining. Let me be clear here—I’m not complaining. I’m stating a fact, and I’m sharing an observation and an important one: it is only recently that I’ve started to realize and acknowledge that this state of… waiting… of being available… of simply being here if they need me… is… I was going to say exhausting, but scratch that. I’m not complaining, I’m not being negative. I’m acknowledging: this state, it takes effort. It takes effort. It is not restful.

Resting in the middle of motion; negative capability.

John Keats coined the phrase “Negative Capability,” saying that it is the essential characteristic of a poet, writer, artist and defined as “that when man is capable of being in uncertainties, mysteries, doubts, without any irritable reaching after fact and reason.”

I’ve been familiar with the phrase for a long time; it comes to the fore again this week. I share it with a few friends. And I try to see if there’s a way to applying it to my busy-not-busy-not-rested…. because I think I need to find a way to rest while I am, in effect, coiled in a spiral, waiting to be called into action.

“Mom!”

“Jane!”

“Coming, I’m coming.”

I have not been meditating or gong to yoga lately. Busy-not-busy, honestly, I just didn’t want to. The times I could have spent in silence and not thinking, I’ve been putting earbuds in and listening to Nero Wolfe stories I know off by heart. Numbing or reflection? I don’t know. One or the other, perhaps, both.

What am I afraid of, busy-not-busy?

Good news, bad news in the same day, same hour. Both feel disruptive—I’m going to meditate, I am. Lie down in the half-dark of my bedroom and do a long yoga nidra practice that doubles as a nap.

I tell Flora, Cinder, Ender.

“Do you need anything from me before I go downstairs? This meditation is an hour.”

Nobody needs me, wants me.

“Don’t come down, don’t knock on my door—don’t come down to put in laundry. I’ll come up when I’m done.”

Everyone nods.

I go down at 2:30 and I fade in and out of yogic sleep during the practice. IT is good.

3:10. The bedroom door creaks open.

“Are you done, Mom? Did you fall asleep? You said you’d come upstairs when you were done? I thought you forgot.”

That was not the 8 year old, by the way. That was the 16 year old. Math is done, but he needed help with high school English.

“Coming.”

Getting angry that your meditation practice is interrupted seems a little… ironic? So I don’t. On the surface at least.

 

Busy-not-busy, I think I am happy. It doesn’t look like happiness always. I think it is the happiness I want—laced with pain as well as pleasure, chokful of purpose.

But I am tired and I don’t want to be tired. I want to be rested.

And I want to rest in-between those moments of effort, because I can’t take a week in which to lay dead to the world on a beach.

Speaking of resting in-between:

I don’t romanticize my labours and births. They were long and hard and they hurt and I was so happy when they were over.

But. What I remembered with acute pleasure from the process: learning, eventually, to rest fully and completely between each contraction. I have never been so limp, so liquid, so totally non-effort as in that tiny space—four minutes, three, two… one—after the peak and before the beginning of the next wave, when there was no pain, no crescendo, just—nothing, stillness, rest.

It’s morning. Balcony. Sun. Coffee. Notebook. Pen. Sylvia Plath’s Letters beside (Sylvia Day on my mind).

Negative capability.

Footsteps on the stairs, and here comes Ender and Maggie.

“Mom! Where are you?”

“I’m here.”

I’m here.

Breathe.

This is perhaps the most important, most demanding part of my meditation practice.

I’m here.

Breathe.

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)

—->>>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 the wrong question (Week 27: Success and Failure)

I.

My friends and I, my loves and I, we spend a lot of time talking about the meaning of life. And I know—I really do know—that the meaning of life is to, you know, live the life. That’s it, really, and all the angst is superficially over-intellectualized crap that, if we could completely and totally let go of, we would be tranquil. I know this. Sean knows this. Most of us know this.

And yet, here we go again: Why are we here? What do we do this for? Is it enough?

I have an engineer friend who, when I go do this place, tells me sternly to shut up my monkey brain—and he’s not using the Buddhist concept here, he’s referring to my too-clever-for-itself monkey, whose immense curiosity and agility invented—well, everything, from the wheel to the nuclear bomb, and the unfortunate unintended evolutionary side effect of which (nothing in evolution, by the way, is intended, not really—it just happens—that’s the meaning of life—isn’t that marvellous and crazy?) is all this self-doubt and questioning and spiralling and chatter.

I don’t spiral much, not really, but when I do, it is quite spectacular.

Anyway, this day, we do not talk about the meaning of life. We eat pancakes and drink cocktails and then then have cherries and steak for lunch and demand a delivery of chicken and beer for supper. Somewhere in there, we make arrangement for smores.

We are, on this day, pretty much perfectly happy. All the existential angst is in the background. The foreground is—friends, food, drink, pleasure.

Would only every day feel like this.

wednesday

I was here…

…and I worked this:

Bucket list moments.

II.

I want you to read this:

My name is Wil Wheaton. I Live With Chronic Depression and Generalized Anxiety. I Am Not Ashamed.

I don’t, by the way, live with chronic depression and generalized anxiety. I live with chronic existential angst, which is a very different thing and manifests not in unhappiness, but in this bone-deep desire to make sure that my life matters, makes a difference, is neither cosmic accident nor irrelevant blip in the unfolding of the universe… contrasted with the awareness that actually, if the universe is the backdrop, I am an irrelevant blip, a cosmic accident, and any attempt to matter is arrogant, foolish, and pointless, oh-my-god-why-am-I-here?

Ender: Mom! I’m hungry!

I make the nth burrito of the day. This is, of course, one of the reasons that I am here. Is it enough?

I just think this is really funny.

III.

Sean: Maggie, we have something to tell you. This may come as a shock to you. You’re adopted. Jane is not your real mother.

The dog dances in circles on the floor and stares at him with a look of dumb love in her eyes.

Jane: Would you guys stop calling me the dog’s mother. Please.

Sean: Did you not hear me? I just told her she’s adopted. And broke her heart. The poor, poor puppy.

True story: I had a dog before I had kids. I loved her, probably too much.

This little thing? She’s just a dog.

I am NOT her mother.

Cinder: But she really, really loves you anyway.

I don’t. Not really.

The rest of them do.

Me… I think she’s ok.

Cinder: You are the favourite child.

Jane: Well… um… you know…

Cinder: Do you want to break the dog’s heart again?

Sigh.

Jane: Maggie? Walk?

She dances circles around me and stares at me with dumb love in her eyes.

tuesday

Fabulous book launch. Much joy.

IV.

2014 was sort of a hard year for me and mine, and I spent much of it in a fog of shock, but that does not excuse the fact that I saw this video for the first time last week:

So do you think Weird Al suffers from existential angst?

Or is he perfectly happy?

I’d really like to know…

V.

I’m lighting incense off the stove because I can’t find any lighters of matches in the house.

Cinder: There are like five lighters in the house. Why are you doing this?

Jane: Where are these lighters you speak of? In your room?

Cinder: In the bathroom, behind the jar full of nail clippers. There’s one only lighter on the floor of my room. And I need it to build a flamethrower.

I so didn’t hear that and you so didn’t read that.

Jane: Can you get me a lighter?

Cinder: Flora! Get Mom a lighter!

Jane: Dude! I asked you!

Cinder: But I hate the smell of incense.

Flora: So do I!

And Sean’s allergic to it, so I burn incense on the balcony or on the patio, when nobody else is around.

Secret incense burner, that’s me.

I smoke cigars on the balcony too—oddly, they complain about that less.

thursday

surprise delivery from Damascus

VI.

The ghosts from the past are extra active this week. Maybe there’s something in the air or in the stars. I am happy-sad, exhausted-mad, angry-hopeful. Also, resigned.

All at the same time.

The question she wants to explore with me this week is… success and failure. What is it, exactly? How do you define it? How do you measure it?

I yawn.

I can’t define success or failure. Nor do I want to. Because, although I don’t know very much, I do know this:

Those are the wrong questions. The irrelevant questions. Get bogged down, get lost in definitions and semantics if you want to.

This week, there is no success, there is no failure.

There is only being alive.

And I am.

xoxo

“Jane”

PS There is a box of cookies in my studio right now. It was bought here:

Hashtag… perspective.

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)

—->>>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 like rest but not really (Week 26: Meandering And Reflection)

monday

I want to crash, but instead, there is laundry and cleaning to do, and the children want supper. All right. All right. I cook and do battle with the kitchen.

I lose.

But. I do cook.

tuesday

I spend the day in gratitude. And, I almost rest. Almost.

wednesday

Errands! And, I rearrange my space. You know what’s coming.

But first—I drive out to visit a friend in the country and feed a nine week old calf from a bottle and meet a redneck with a heart of gold who gives me a cheap Indian cigar. Also, see baby owls learn how to fly. Beautiful.

thursday

A rough day. Damn anniversaries. I read Hafez.

friday

I fall to pieces.


“If There was Something To Desire,” Vera Pavlova

saturday

I lie on the ground. Dance on me; I will not get up.

sunday

I am Canadian.

newsflash!

I just arm-wrestled my 6’3 tall 16 y o son & won & I only had to cheat a little. ;P

In other news, the 13 y o-almost black belt is now officially more flexible than her elderly mother. But, I can still kick her in head. She wasn’t expecting that.

I can still kick the 8 y o’s butt at everything. Except for video games.

How brief the reign is.

overheard

Sean: And that’s the last time I bring you guys free syringes I scavenge at work!

Sometimes, I just don’t want to know.

Flora: I hate you! You’re ruining this hippy family.

That’s to Cinder. Who’s going to a real bricks and mortar school next fall. She disapproves. Me? Mixed feelings. But generally, I think he’s ready; he’s gonna be all right.

Cinder: Did you know that Hitler had literally one ball? There’s an article in The Guardian about that today.

We google it and verify the research, and then find this video:

We call it social studies.

other things

I don’t know, my love. Life can be good and one can be sad all at the same time, right?

Right.

I go to bed every night with Rex Stout’s Archie Goodwin. Nero Wolfe’s there, too, but it’s all about Archie.

this week

I don’t know, my love. I need to rest, I realize, but I seem to have forgotten how to do that.

I will stretch out in the sun every chance I get this week, like a lazy cat.

And on rainy days, I will smoke sheesha and dream.

Life can be good and one can be sad at the same time.

xoxo

“Jane”

PS

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)

—->>>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 summer was… SULTRY (Week 25: Gratitude And Collapse)

This week was too full and intense to be documented; in any event, it mostly belongs to the other Jane. But here is an homage to my heroines:

Thank you, my darlings.

“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)

—->>>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