Killing it (Week 7: Exhaustion and Adrenaline)

highlights

Monday – launch one, two hours, fifty people, wow, full house, standing room only, congratulations, omfg, I’m so exhausted—you came—chocolates—thank you—awkward introductions—it’s all good.

Tuesday – a 12-hour Facebook party, how did I think this was a good idea? But it was—she’s so happy, and so am I.

Wednesday – radiostar—this actually isn’t so hard—a scattered afternoon because another reading in the evening—mom can you check this math assignment for me—I don’t have any clean socks—I kill it.

Thursday – I don’t want to get out of bed, honestly, but I do and then, all the things, the pace of the day doesn’t stop—community meeting in the evening—yes, take me for sheesha and then make me forget EVERYTHING for at least a few hours.

Friday – professional hat on, meeting face, sales girl—watch me go—oh fuck I forgot the books the business cards the notes—doesn’t matter, watch it go out of the ball park—sometimes all the stars align. But now I have to walk to the post office… and will you love me tomorrow?

Saturday – I’m just really really tired and I don’t want to do anything, but I have to set one more thing in motion. Two. Also, I have this other idea…

Sunday – No!

explanations

Actually… I kind of like that vague-blog above. It gives you a sense of the pace of the week, anyway, right?

It was a full week.

And I’m so fucking tired.

But also, very happy.

I am ridiculously, outrageous, goal-oriented. When I get things done… it feels really, really good.

Let go of the fruits, Arjuna? I don’t know. (Bhagavad Gita reference. Again.)

but maybe I should tell you…

No, actually, I won’t.

 

reading

Wired for Story by Lisa Cron, which is brilliant.

Some stuff on branding which is boring as all hell and a book on disruptive marketing that is… well. Not particularly disruptive. Just… you know.

I don’t want to say boring.

Yawn.

Also, billionaire romances. Don’t ask. I have to. I said I would.

 

writing

Yes.

In my head.

On Monday, I’m going to sit down and let it flow.

I’m not, by the way, procrastinating. I’m damming.

You should try it.

Don’t do the thing you want to do for… one day… two… a week… a month.

EXPLOSION!

children

Still three.

weather

Fucking awful. Please take me to Cuba.

future

xoxo
“Jane”

PS This:

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)

—->>>POSTCARDS FROM CUBA

A good week (Week 6: Execute, Regroup)

I.

On Sunday, I had an idea; on Monday, I executed; on Tuesday, I had results. On Wednesday, I worked like mad; on Thursday, I found out I didn’t have to; on Friday, I regrouped. On Saturday, I thought perhaps I’d fall in love—on Sunday, I will be disciplined.

II.

Cinder writes his first quizzes of the semester. An 87.5% in math, 92% in science, no holes punched in the walls. I’d say “unschooling for the win,” except for all th eholes punched in the walls last semester.

You: Not feeling too smug?

Jane: No. Satisfied—but not smug.

III.

Much of this week, I spend in Viking Hell. By which I mean it is so cold your snot and tears freeze before you finish locking your front door.

Still.

It’s pretty.

IV.

I am reading this:

Also, these:

Which do  you think is more fun?

V.

Jane: Come here. Talk to me. I feel I neglect you horribly these days.

Flora: I’m quite happy being neglected. Except for food. Can you please go buy some groceries?

Jane: But it’s minus 100 outside!

I ask Sean to stop at Safeway on his way home from work.

It’s like taking down a mammoth, 21st century Homo sapiens style.

VI.

From the process journal (Friday):

“forgot to…”

OMFG.

“Forgot to” … WHAT?

I don’t remember, I don’t remember, I don’t remember.

Wait. … Maybe?

No.

Or…

Fuck.

What did I forget?

VII.

“She tells me I seem so very open. I tell her it’s only because she doesn’t know me well enough to see how much I don’t tell.”

I tell other writers nothing is sacred, and to never fall in love with their words.

But I quite like the promise of those ones.

*

Until Saturday night, it was a really good week; I only cried a little. Then I cried a lot.

It’s a good thing I planned to be disciplined, on Sunday.

You: I hate it when you vague-blog.

Jane: I hate it when you don’t appreciate how hard it is for me to share as much as I do share.

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)

—->>>POSTCARDS FROM CUBA

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

take 1

Monday not much happened, Tuesday I missed you, Wednesday I don’t know, Thursday I felt the dam trembling, Friday it burst, Saturday I pushed through—it’s Sunday, I don’t want to work.

take 2

Monday: “I am very productive in the morning. Also cranky.”
(wait, is this not a direct contradiction of take 1? apparently…)

Tuesday: Facebook frustration, Tinder swiping, checking email just because, coffee, overcommitting to plans, sheesha, cigars, having judgemental thoughts about people, not feeling like working, not walking the dog.

(this is a list in the process journal—I can’t quite figure out WTF it is—then I realize it’s a list of bad habits. Mine or yours? I wrote it—Tuesday—I don’t remember the context at all.)

Wednesday: “Do I have faith in this goal? Am I just not that hungry?”

Thursday: “Too many ideas, not enough focus.” (But I feel loved. So there’s that.)

Friday: Drip campaigns, branding, secrets. Tell me secrets? Tell me more secrets? Rhythm, routine, rest.

Saturday: Cinder passes a pair of Adidas gym pants on to me. They’re too big.
(I type “gym” because I can’t seem to be able to spell athletic. Oh hey, look. I did it.)

Sunday: 5 am wake up. Fuck that. But, I can’t.

take 3

Wednesday: I have a new sankalpa. But I’m not going to share it with you. It’s too bold, too big. Too personal.

And I’m afraid.

take 4

Friday: I am actually a very good, loving person. And I’m very good at connecting with people, connecting people with each other. I’m not sure where this “I’m hard and prickly” story about myself came from.

Flora is developing her own “I don’t like people,” “I don’t want to meet new people” story. My social butterfly, my empath. I don’t know where it’s coming from. Or how to stop it.

Jane: Want to meditate with me?

Flora: Isn’t it bad enough one of our family joined a cult? We really don’t need two.

Jane: I think being part of a cult all together would make us stronger. As a family.

I haven’t, btw—I feel I must reassure you too—joined a cult.

But, month fourteen of daily meditation.

There is no enlightenment. Not much tranquility and non-attachment happening either. And some of this:

Flora: OMG, you’re going To Buddhist hell as well as Christian hell!

Jane: Well, it’s a good thing I’m an atheist then. And stop reading over my shoulder!

Anyway. It’s all good.

non-sequitur: We’re reading Jeff Smith’s Bone to Ender. It’s almost as brilliant as Calvin & Hobbes.

take 5

Wednesday: Cinder gives Ender his “broken” Lego. The Lego is broken because when Ender was three and Cinder 10, and Lego was still precious to the big brother, Ender and a friend of his disassembled almost every single one of the Lego sets Cinder had spent the previous five years building and treasuring on his shelves.

I’ve never seen my eldest so angry, not before and not since. (And I’ve seen a lot of anger this year).

He still won’t forgive Ender’s friend. (He comes from a long line of grudge holders. On both sides, it seems.)

But it looks like he’s forgiven Ender.

The passing of the Lego makes me feel a little weepy…

So does this:

Cinder: You can throw out this blanket.

It’s an ugly ancient comforter, more holes than fabric, most of the stuffing gone, the little that remains balled into lumps.

It was a hand me down to us from Sean’s mother during our first winter back in Calgary when Cinder was a baby. It was the comforter I wrapped around us when we were in the nursing chair… it eventually became the main comforter on his bed.

It looked like shit a decade ago, four years ago it was totally coming apart.

After the flood in 2013, when my mother was cleaning our house, she was so appalled by it, she bought Ender a new one—and threw the old one in the dumpster.

Sean and I had to go dumpster diving for it at midnight, dig it out from amongst other flood debris. Wash it. Dry it.

Let Cinder love it, hold on to it, a little longer.

I don’t quite trust that Cinder is ready to let it go. He wasn’t six months ago, the last time he did a deep clean of his room.

I leave it on the landing for most of the day.

Sean: Why is this ratty blanket here?

Jane: Cinder wants to throw it out.

Sean: Oh…

Milestones are so weird…

My son is also getting rid of a pair of gym pants. Fairly new. Too small for him.

I try them on.

They’re too big for me.

OMFG, baby. When did this happen?

take six

You text me this quote:

 “We do not need to learn to let go. We just need to recognize what is already gone” Suzuki Roshi

I hate Buddhists.

interlude

Rabindranath Tagore was the first non-European to win the Nobel prize for literature. Did you know that? But he wasn’t really a poet. He was a mystic, who happened to be a writer. So I think.

Keep me fully glad with nothing. Only take my hand in your hand.

In the gloom of the deepening night take up my heart and play with it as you list. Bind me close to you with nothing.

I will spread myself out at your feet and lie still. Under this clouded sky I will meet silence with silence. I will become one with the night clasping the earth in my breast.

Make my life glad with nothing.

The rains sweep the sky from end to end. Jasmines in the wet untamable wind revel in their own perfume. The cloud-hidden stars thrill in secret. Let me fill to the full my heart with nothing but my own depth of joy.

Rabindranath Tagore

take seven

This week has no cohesion, no unifying story.

It is a mix of productivity and sloth.

Calm and pain.

Learning and resistance.

Perhaps it’s a week of oppositions? But that’s too neat.

No.

It simply has no cohesion.

It ends with a snowstorm.

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)

—->>>POSTCARDS FROM CUBA

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

monday

I.

…looked a lot like Sunday except I DID ALL THE THINGS ID DIDN’T WANT TO DO.

Well, one category of them, anyway.

Yay, me.

Also, Ursula Le Guin died and I spent much of the day loving her.

Here are two of my favourite ULG features from BrainPickings:

II.

Michelle Obama is coming to town as a guest of the Calgary Chamber of Commerce on March 23. The cheap seats are $200 and I’ve spent so much imaginary money lately, I can’t tell you… There’s no way. I can’t. I won’t.

Facebook message from my dad:

I will gift you Michelle’s Obama ticket! Happy Birthday! Something changes within you when you meet great, good people! Love You!

The mantra I am practicing, do you remember, my sankalpa, is:

I ask for what I need. It comes to me.

I accept it with reverence and gratitude.

I accept.

With reverence and gratitude.

III.

We carve out a night of pleasure in the middle of obligation and chaos, and it is good.

tuesday

Up at 5 am but back in bed before six. A phone call. Another. Coffee. Burritos. More? Cheese tortilla? Fine. Lunch and second lunch for everyone—the interviews I need to conduct happen in-between.

We have to get Cinder to a math test across town. Car2Go or Uber? The little smart cars get stuck in the snowbanks; their tiny tires are useless on the ice.

Uber.

The driver’s name is Michael. The car smells like dog. But we’re on time.

A text from the back seat of the Uber:

Jane: Have to take C for his math final—I kicked out the boys, because Flora’s too cranky to supervise them both. They’re heading to your place. Or the Common.

A response from my neighbour:

np — They’re here now. Don’t worry.

I love my hood; I love my tribe.

Cinder’s test runs for 2 hours and 45 minutes. I read a billionaire romance—for work, not pleasure. It should be both, but it’s not—it hurts. This female fantasy of someone with bottomless pockets to take care of ME so that I don’t have to worry about… bills, job, LIFE… it’s so shaming, it’s so disempowering, it’s so relatable…

Do you ever, btw, wonder what rich people worry about?

You: Money.

Jane: True. I guess… there’s never enough.

What an awful, awful thought. Ugh.

I pretend to work in the cold high school hallway. So cold. Sterile. It smells funny. It’s a little re-traumatizing. Why do we make these spaces in which our children, your young people spend so many hours so… aesthetically bankrupt?

You: You’ve seen what office cubicles look like, right?

Right.

Sean checks in with me as I slog through the romance. Reports on Action: Feeding the Children.

Sean: I fed Flora pierogies. Cinder can have a frozen pizza, and I think Ender’s supper is going to be ham buns.

I end up making him another burrito when Cinder and I get back home after his test, with 30 minutes to spare before I have to take Flora to her martial arts class. Our Uber drive’s name is Emil and he pronounces my name correctly and triest to catch my eye as he does so—he wants me to comment on it, he wants to tell me where he’s from. His story. But I can’t. Suddenly, I have a deficit of words and thoughts and feelings, and I sink into the backseat of his RAV4, Cinder beside me, in silence.

Cinder’s not sure he passed his test. “It was difficult,” he says. “I didn’t remember everything. There were a lot of questions where I just didn’t know…”

I find words. And they’re good ones.

The driver smiles at me in the rearview mirror. I smile back. He’s just told me he’s a parent; no words necessary.

The drive to Flora’s martial arts class and back—always, these days, in a car borrowed from one neighbour or another—is all the focused attention my Unicorn gets from me these days. We talk a lot about pop music.

Flora: There haven’t been any good new songs for a while. Weeks. Months.

I agree.

“Hotel California” comes on.

Jane: I like this one, still.

A throwback not to my teenhood or childhood, but to my parents’ teenhood, childhood.

Flora rolls her eyes. She doesn’t say, “You’re so lame, Mom.” But she thinks it; no words necessary.

Back home. So late, so tired. Sean’s cleaned the kitchen before leaving for the night—I don’t send him a thank you text but I think it.

Ender’s ready for bed.

Where’s the electric toothbrush?

Fuck, we need a new toothpaste.

Jane: Calvin & Hobbes?

Ender: Yes… We were… here…

We read Calvin & Hobbes—I remember I forgot to let the dog back in after I let her out to pee—“Flora! Check on Maggie!”—“Mom! How could you! She’s frozen!”—lights out—bedtime.

I sit beside Ender until his breath tells me he’s asleep.

Kiss the foreheads of the other two.

Think about reading; I have this book on my phone:

…and I’m still not done re-reading The Great Work of Your Life, but the billionaire romance has sapped me.

Sleep.

wednesday

I.

Sean’s first day of his new job. Squee!

Jane: I’m so excited! Text me at lunch to tell me how it’s going!

Flora: What’s going on?

Jane: We have a job! Benefits! Money coming into the bank account on a regular basis!

Flora: Dad has a job. We just spend his money.

Ok. I don’t want to tell you I lose it with her here. But I do.

Her words feel like a slap.

An undoing of EVERYTHING I’ve tried to teach, model, live.

I deliver a scathing post-post-modernist feminist anti-capitalist critique of what she said, the insiduous, unexamined thoughts behind it, and how thinking like that harms women, men, children, families and the world we live in.

Then I burst into tears. And stomp off.

Behind me, I hear Sean murmur, “You know your mom works, right? Harder than I do? And makes money? And we’re all in this together?”

They do and they don’t, I suppose. At the end of the day… they don’t see my work. They don’t see me leave for work.

And I’m the one who makes the fucking burritos for lunch.

Not always. Of course. Not always.

But.

Fuck.

Is that all Flora sees?

II.

Possessed, I reorganize the whole entire main floor. For once, this is not an act of procrastination. I have until Monday to file these two easy, easy easy stories—they’re totally written in my head anyway—that other thing I’ve drafted… it needs to marinate a bit.. I am not putting off anything important in order to scrub the floor and baseboards and drag the couch out of living room and into the kitchen.

Cinder: Love what you’ve done with the place.

Jane: Shut up.

Cinder: Should I test Dad and warn him you’re about to start a new book?

Jane: Fuck off.

Cinder: Should I help you move this couch over the bump?

Jane: Yes.

Cinder: I wonder what it would be like to grow up with normal parents.

Jane: Boring.

Wow.

My new space.

It looks really really good.

I’ve very happy.

I love beautiful spaces, places, things.

People.

III

It’s 8 pm and dark and cold, and Sean’s holding the stepladder and helping me climb into our community dumpster. He’s using my phone as a flashlight, and I’m really grateful that we now have compost garbage. I’m mostly stepping on broken toys. An old car seat.

We’re here because mid-day, I scored Cinder a new office chair. A beautiful $150 or maybe even $600 office chair that was no longer good enough for the accountant who occasionally used it. Unfortunately, in the process of wheeling it home over the ice, I busted one of the wheels.

Meanwhile, Cinder had exchanged his totally busted “this chair is trying to kill me” gaming chair for one of the arm chairs I moved out of the kitchen while making room for the couch.

He tossed the gaming chair into the dumpster. Its wheels fell off.

Its wheels would work perfectly well on the chair I just acquired.

See?

Anyway.

Dumpster.

Sean: See, this is the difference between being married and dating. This is not the kind of thing you do with strangers you meet on the Internet.

Jane: I suppose by the time you get to this stage, you’re not strangers anymore.

Sean: I see it!

I see another one. Five chair wheels acquired. Score!

Sean pulls me out of the dumpster as a neighbour’s car rolls past.

There’s something unexpectedly romantic about our brief walk home from the dumpster.

But when we tell Flora what we were doing, there’s only one thing on her mind.

Flora: So who gets the new  chair?

thursday

One of those days.

Process journal: “I feel lazy and dumb.”

But it ends with a bang.

Thank you, #writertribe.

Also, the Michelle Obama tickets go on sale.

Thank you, Dad.

friday

…starts with a surprise. Hello, shiny thing. Oh. Goodbye, shiny thing?

The unifying thread that runs through the Buddhist-Vedic-Mindfulness-As-Secular-Religion crap stuff books (just fucking write books!!) I’m reading right now is one of impermanence.

Transience.

Freedom and happiness, or at least tranquility =  freedom from attachment.

I really, really struggle with this because… I WANT. Oh, gods, yes. I DESIRE. CRAVE.

I love. I care.

I throw all of myself into everything I pursue. My work, kids, loves, community…

If I’m lukewarm about it… half-hearted? I just… don’t do it…

I’ve equated freedom from attachment with… detachment.

And I’ve been detached, and, honestly, my love, when I’m detached, I might as well be dead. You might as well be dead—I don’t give a fuck what happens to you…

That’s a terrible feeling. It’s emotional death. What person in their right mind would want to pursue it?

Ender: Mama mama mama I love you, and I’m never ever going to let you go.

Jane: Good.

I love love love him too. Except… I’m going to have to let him go. It’s easy to forget, not see it with him, yet. But his almost 16 year-old brother? His 13 year-old sister?

Loving them right now is 90% about letting them go.

Cinder: 99%.

Jane: Give me 10%. I’m driving you to your fucking finals.

Letting them go does not diminish my love for them. It even, perhaps, intensifies it.

(This is the magic, you know, of maternal love. This gross squishy wailing pooping peeing thing exits your body, enter your life—and you overflow, drown in love. And think—I can’t possibly be feeling something this big, this intense. How can there be more? And yet there is more. And more. And more.)

Attachment.

Detachment.

Passion.

Letting go.

Fucking mystics, why do they make everything so complicated?

In re-reading Stephen Cope’s The Great Work of Your Life, I have a glimmer of what it is they mean, maybe. Cope is paraphrasing the Bhagavad Gita’s prescription for happiness (or at least a meaningful life).

It has four pillars:

  1. Look to your dharma. (Purpose in life.)
  2. Do it full out.
  3. Let go of the outcome.
  4. Turn it over to god.

Number four is hard for an atheist—the internal dialogue goes something like ths: “There is no God, gods. The Universe is an intricate, amazing thing, but if I say, ‘Turn it over to the Universe,’ Bill Nye will come and kick my ass and, really, it just means the same thing. So turn it over to who, what?” and I spin and spiral and spin and spiral and I just let it go and go back to focusing on numbers two and three.

  1. Do it full out.

Yes. Fucking watch me.

  1. Let go of the outcome.

Really? How?

Can I?

Sometimes, I do.

And I know this—“let go of the outcome”—is a true, powerful thing. These two principles:

Do it full out

Let go of the outcome

–they are true. For me, anyway. When I do it (whatever it is) FULL OUT without craving an outcome beyond… DOING THE THING—when I DO IT—love you, love her, write this, do THAT—because it is the thing that my being knows needs to bed one and I don’t think abou the result—will you love me? will the story be good? will we succeed?—I am… happy isn’t even an adequate word.

I AM.

I AM.

Anyway.

Let go of the outcome.

Working on it.

saturday

productive morning, meandering mid-day, strange evening, restless night

I write about habits, context, credentials.

sunday

I try to write, and at some point actually do—finish my deadline work.

Don’t finish my “I’m exploring this idea, where will it go work.” Abandon it, actually.

But I end up spending some time with Sylvia Boorstein again, thinking about what she calls “kind speech.” (The Buddha, apparently, said “wise speech.” She likes kind speech better; softer now than I was even a year ago, I agree.)

That kind of speech, she writes, s “true and helpful and gentle.”

She adds, it “makes the mind feel safe and also glad.”

Also, this:

“When I am privy to disparaging critiques, even when they are not directed at me, I feel unnerved and my mind is roused into protective mode. I think of it as a basic survival response and I’m glad I have it so I can run away from real danger.”

But living in protective mode… it’s really, really draining.

Suddenly, I understand what my core issue with Facebook is.

I used to love it, after all. Defend it.

And now I’m trying to figure out how to pursue my career, goals… without it.

Interesting.

So interesting.

xoxo

“Jane”

PS Check this out:

… How very Victorian, Bernard. Of you, I expected no less. But Maria… with you, I am disappointed. Let’s file this under “research” … and ponder it a little. It fits so very well with my current projects…

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)

—->>>POSTCARDS FROM CUBA

A moody story (Week 3: Ebb and Flow)

monday

“Day of rest—sort of moody.”

tuesday

An idea. Two, actually. Fuck. Also, I roast a duck. She is beautiful and delicious; the kids eat Mr. Noodles instead. I don’t say, “Ungrateful bastards.” I don’t even think it. They were all conceived and born in wedlock, after all.

(This seemed really funny when I thought it. Sorry. A good editor would cut it.)

wednesday

The idea percolates. Goddammit. I don’t have time for this, I need to finish… Not now, not yet.

This phrase: “but not at any cost.”

Lunch with my dad. Reflections. Family. Origins. Conflict. Disappointment. Why are we here?

I know why I’m here.

I spend $2000 of imaginary money. Commit to spending $2000 more. Gulp. Do not think about the idea, I have no time.

Also: a date, a confession, a resolution. Oooh. I like that rhythm. Would it work as a book title?

You: This is very confusing.

Jane: I am very confused. Except for the brief moments when I am so-very-clear I can’t breathe.

thursday

“Today I need to be domestic.” First words in my process journal. Instead, I re-read The Great Work of Your Life by Stephen Cope, my favourite parts. Say yes to an opportunity, a new one. No idea for it yet—just the opportunity. The idea—two, now I need a third—grows.

Fine.

I’m not stifling it any more. I suppose it’s time. My spring is coming early this year.

friday

I write a first draft. Yes. I ask an editor for work (=money). Yes. I write blurbs (Yes!). I say… yes, yes, yes. OMFG how am I going to do it all?

I re-arrange all the furniture and books in my space. You know what’s coming.

Long walk, cigar, drink with a friend, sheesha with a lover, text from you.

Yes.

saturday

Yes.

sunday

“No back ups for 740 days.” Daily reminder from my laptop; I wish it would stop nagging me.

You: Fucking back up your work!

Jane: It all exists somewhere else too. Don’t worry. But yes. I’ll do that. As soon as I finish… mmm. Yes.

So I don’t actually finish or start anything on Sunday. Putter around. Throw out half my closet. Read a bit more from The Great Work of Your Life. Eat, walk in the sun, witness a human tragedy in the making, wasted life. Or is it?

From Brainpickings.org:

We have, each of us, a life-story, an inner narrative — whose continuity, whose sense, is our lives. It might be said that each of us constructs and lives, a “narrative,” and that this narrative is us, our identities.

If we wish to know about a man, we ask “what is his story — his real, inmost story?” — for each of us is a biography, a story. Each of us is a singular narrative, which is constructed, continually, unconsciously, by, through, and in us — through our perceptions, our feelings, our thoughts, our actions; and, not least, our discourse, our spoken narrations. Biologically, physiologically, we are not so different from each other; historically, as narratives — we are each of us unique.

Oliver Sacks, The Man Who Mistook His Wife For A Hat
Quoted in “The Building Blocks of Personhood: Oliver Sacks on Narrative as the Pillar of Identity,” Brainpickings.org

“Each of us is a… story.”

I like that.

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)

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

one

It’s Thursday, and Sean has an important interview on Friday at 3 pm. He’s nervous. I’m nervous. We’re all nervous. It’s a REALLY BIG DEAL and we’re all attached to the outcome.

Jane: Flora and I will do some magic at three. Draw a pentagram on the floor, sacrifice a small..

Flora: Child?

She looks at Ender poignantly as she says this, and the Unicorn’s eyes are so expressive, Ender starts to cry.

Sean: I will be very very upset if you sacrifice any small child, but especially if it’s MY small child.

Flora: But….

Sean: And it sets a dangerous precedent. Once he’s gone… who’s next in line to be sacrificed/ Hmmmm?

Flora: Cinder. The spells always call for the eldest child or the youngest child. For once, being in the middle has a bonus!

By now Ender is howling—fake crying but still—Cinder is threatening to burn Flora’s books—“WE NEVER EVER BURN BOOKS IN THIS HOUSE!!”—that’s my contribution—and Sean’s wondering if perhaps we should stop getting Flora witchcraft books out of the library.

I’m watching. Taking notes, obviously.

two

Hell froze over on Wednesday but after doing all the work and ruining supper (it wasn’t entirely my fault), I trudged through the cold and snow to have tea with a fellow artist.

I learned something important but it’s all confused inside me right now. It’s there… germinating. I suppose it’s a seed.

So thank you for that.

three

On Tuesday, we introduced Ender to Bill Waterson’s Calvin & Hobbes. Cinder had committed all ten years of the strip to memory by the time he was eight and Flora still sleeps with the complete editions we got her for Christmas—the year she was eight—under her pillow.

Flora: Under my bed.

Jane: Shall I look under your pillow to prove my point?

Flora: No!

Sean and I think Bill Waterson is a genius, and in our more dogmatic moments, believe Calvin & Hobbes should be mandatory reading for all parents—part of pre-natal classes, or maybe delayed till your kinder are three or four, but absolutely mandatory by the time they’re five. You see, Waterson captures so perfectly the inner life and logic a child, the interplay of reality and imagination. The fire and the helplessness, the freedom and the frustration…

I generally think I’m a pretty good parent for two reasons—the the first is that I remember. I remember not just being six and sixteen… but what it felt like to be six and sixteen.

I think one of the tragedies of modern prescriptive-scientific-lived-on-social-media-so-many-books-and-blogs-and-artciles-telling-you-what-you-SHOULD-do parenting is… that most people just don’t remember. They don’t remember what if felt like to be small.

They remember… facts, events, accurately or not. Things done to them, said to them. But they forget… how those things made them feel.

(The second reason, by the way, is that I’m selfish, in a self-aware way. More on that later.)

four

Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday,  I am super-productive, tying up all the loose ends, running, sprinting—pause, breathe—and then a prolonged interlude to ground myself, see that I’m almost done and revel in what I’m about to finish…

But even in the middle of it all, I take time—make time?—for pleasure and love, sheesha and hot tea, a lover’s embrace. Time slows down, suddenly, everything is possible, everything is clear—everything will get done.

I make time for reading too, not work-related reading (novels are now work-related reading and I do need to figure out how to reset that), but soul-nurturing reading.

You: I thought you were this hard-core atheist.

Jane: Hush. I have a tender little atheistic soul. Don’t crush it.

I read this:

“To love at all is to be vulnerable. Love anything and your heart will be wrung and possibly broken. If you want to make sure of keeping it intact, you must give it to no one, not even an animal. Wrap it carefully round with hobbies and little luxuries; avoid all entanglements. Lock it up safe in the casket or coffin of your selfishness. But in that casket, safe, dark, motionless, airless, it will change. It will not be broken; it will become unbreakable, impenetrable, and irredeemable. To love is to be vulnerable.”

CS Lewis, The Four Loves

It’s quoted in this book:

Ordinary Goodness by Edward Viljoen… I’m not quite finished the book yet, and I’m not sure I’m going to get to the end. It’s making me feel kind of bad about myself.

Jane: See, I just don’t think I’ve got a drive to be good. Or kind.

Sean: What do you mean?

Jane: I just don’t think I’m that good. The way he defines the word. And I don’t really want to be. All the “practice this” sections? About how to be this person who celebrates and lives and practices ordinary goodness and everyday kindness? I read them and I say, “Fuck, who has time for that? I’d rather be writing.”

Sean: You’re an artist.

Not, I suppose, an altruist. Or much of a humanist, really.

See? Selfishly self-aware.

It has some bonuses, I won’t lie. But also pitfalls.

five

On Monday, I do something not good. Unkind. Selfish. Not even to fulfill a burning desire—more a whim, temper of the moment—I do something that makes me so conscious of my selfishness and unkindness that I weep.

I’m not going to tell you what I did. One, it’s private, two, I’m ashamed, three, it doesn’t matter.

I do something not-good that, yes, potentially harms other people.

But here’s the thing:

Even before it harms them—it harms me.

I feel awful.

six

As Monday became Tuesday, Cinder forgot to put away the dishes before he went to bed.

“It was 2:30 in the morning!” he says later. “I remembered, but I was already in bed!”

He puts them way noonish—at least, they’re put away when I get back home Tuesday afternoon.

While Cinder still sleeps, and the clean but un-put-away dishes litter the kitchen counter, Sean and I resist the urge to a) do his job b) be angry at him.

“Remind Cinder to put them away when he gets up,” I tell Sean as I head out the door.

“I’ll remind him eventually,” Sean says. “I’m not going to… ‘Good morning, you didn’t put away the dishes last night’—starting the day with being nagged about something you didn’t do last night and probably feel bad about forgetting to do… that’s not a very loving way to wake up.”

I kiss him and for a few minutes rest in the love of his arms.

He remembers what it felt like to be sixteen, six too.

seven

I remember trying to explain attachment parenting to some “this sounds fucking weird people” a decade, more ago, and saying something along the lines of, “Attachment parenting gave us this amazing, loving little son.”

I’d never say that now.

I’d say, “Attachment parenting made ME a better, more compassionate, more complete person.”

Caveat 1: I never treated it as a religion or dogma.

Caveat 2: I chose selfishly self-aware over martyr, for better or worse, every single time.

eight

Friday, we smoke seesha, Saturday, we play Bears versus Babies, and on Sunday, I have a fight with Cinder.

Well. Not a fight, exactly.

He gets angry. His anger infects me. I tell him that. He calls me a hippy, and I slam the stainless steel serrated knife I’m holding against the kitchen table, as he slammed his “switchblade-style” bottle opener against the table a few seconds earlier. I start to cry and he storms off to his room. I weep outside his door, barred. So angry, so helpless, why will he not tell me what’s wrong?

I drag myself away from his bedroom door to the kitchen. Go back to reading Sylvia Boorstein’s It’s Easier Than You Think.

Read this:

Even If It’s Senseless, Mushrooms Matter

My friend Alta’s life was a lesson to me, and her death was a lesson to me, too. She enjoyed good health for seventy-nine years, then quite suddenly she became desperately ill, and it was clear she would die very soon. She accepted this awareness with her normal consummate grace. That was half the lesson she taught me.

The other half was about what makes sense. On the last day Alta could talk to me, two days before she died, we talked about meaning.

“I’m thinking about the meaning of it all,” she said, “and it doesn’t seem very important. What do you think?”

“Maybe it’s ‘much ado about nothing,’” I said.

“Seems like that,” she replied, adding, “You did a good eulogy for your father.”

“I’ll do yours too.”

“I wouldn’t want to put you to any trouble…”

“Give me a break, Alta! What do you want me to say?”

“It doesn’t matter. Say anything you want.”

“How about if i give your recipe for the great marinated mushrooms you make?”

“That’s a good idea. They were very good. People liked them a lot.”

“Do you remember the recipe? You could give it to me now.”

“Not exactly. Look it up. It’s in my recipe box. Remember to say they shouldn’t be made more than four hours before you eat them. The mushrooms wilt.”

Mushrooms are as meaningful as anything else.

Sylvia Boorstein, It’s Easier Than You Think, pg 121

Cinder comes back downstairs to his computer. I get up, slowly. There is no anger in me. There is no anger emanating from the other room. But there is shame in me at my anger.

I go up to him and hold him, hug him.

He hugs me back.

We don’t talk, but that’s ok.

We talk later.

nine

Friday, I am trying to take some time for myself, but, children—the sheesha at the end of the day is a treat. Saturday, I run from event to event, overscheduled and frazzled, a little, but also happy.

I matter. I find out I matter, I hear I matter, I feel I matter.

And then, suddenly—I don’t.

Hello, weekend existential crisis.

ten

It’s Sunday so I no longer really remember what happened Monday (proofing) or Tuesday (proofing, an interlude for love) and all I remember from Wednesday is that it was too cold to live and yet we walked in the Ice Age anyway. Sean’s interview on Friday went well even though Flora did not sacrifice her little brother to the human resources gods.

On Sunday, I make the bathroom and a quarter of the kitchen shine. It deepens my existential crisis: I wish scrubbing kitchen counters mattered, was in the least bit fulfilling, changed the world—or at least filled my soul.

It doesn’t.

Does this? This scribbling, throwing of words into the cyber-ether?

Probably not.

Flora: Chocolate?

Jane: Thanks. I love you.

Flora: I love you too.

Sylvia Boorstein:

… when I love, I’m happy.

eleven

I guess the third Monday of 2018 will start with existential angst. But maybe not. God is not merciful—I’m not sure the universe exists—but my abstract concept of life has a wicked sense of humour.

Ender: I’m hungry!

Jane: Chocolate?

He says no. I give him a cold porkchop instead. He eats it while watching his older brother and sister play Minecraft.

Flora: I still say we should have sacrificed him.

Ender: Mom!

Jane: Flora!

Somewhere, an imagined God laughs.

And I smile.

Self-indulgently yours,

“Jane”

PS Last word this week to Sylvia Boorstein:

“We are VERBS not NOUNS
EXPERIENCES unfolding
STORIES TELLING THEMSELVES
as sequels to other STORIES
previously told.”

2018

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

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

monday, january one

“When the New Year starts on a Monday, are we doomed to a year of Mondays? Not an auspicious omen.”

The sentiment is not my own—it comes from the mouth of an acquaintance via an Internet meme.

I shrug.

My world does not divide into weekdays and weekends. And I like Mondays. Actually, I did just find out the Y cancelled my Essentrics class, which was one of my favourite things about Mondays.

Still.

Mondays are fresh. New. A new page in a new notebook. You know?

I like beginnings.

Revolutionary thought: I like Mondays.

Revolutionary suggestion: you could like Mondays too.

* * *

An intimate moment from my first Monday of 2018: I’m working with the same sankalpa I set myself in the fall of 2017 when I was drowing in too much work. It goes like this:

I ask for what I need and it comes to me.

I accept it with reverence and gratitude.

At the end of my meditation on the first Monday of 2018, I ask myself exactly what it is that I’m asking for. What do I need?

I ask for the courage to be myself.

Oh. Interesting. Now, that is interesting…

* * *

tuesday, january two

From my process journal:

It was an emotionally HARD day

but I WORKED and made FOOD;

also smoked a CIGAR.

* * *

wednesday, january 3

I am hyper-productive and yet putting the breaks on myself the entire day. Watching the pulse and the rhythm of the day. What’s driving it? What’s driving me?

In the morning, I create an amazing short story. By noon, I decide to break a heart (and also, decide that the morning’s amazing story is shit; I should trash it—but I don’t).

A quote from Jeanette Winterson:

True art when it happens to us challenges the ‘I’ that we are.

* * *

thursday, january 4

In the morning, I am the consummate professional and I sit down to write and finish and FILE a story without whining AT ALL about how much I don’t want to get it done. Watch. Me. Type.

Fuck. Done. Filed.

And it’s not even 10 am yet.

I ROCK MY WORLD.

I go to the Y for the first time since before my grandfather’s funeral.

Text Sean after:

Can’t feel my arms. Or legs. Or butt.

Don’t text:

Please come to the Y and carry me home.

But I think about it.

* * *

I ask for what I need and it comes to me.

I accept it with reverence and gratitude.

So, a sankalpa is basically an affirmation, except, you know, cooler cause it has a Sanskrit name.

(Note use of humour as a safety-distancing device—this isn’t really important to me because I can laugh at it—let me mock myself before you mock me.)

It’s usually translated as “resolve.” Rod Stryker, the author The Four Desires who introduces me to sankalpa defines kalpa as vow or “the rule to be followed above all other rules” and san as a connection with the highest truth.

I don’t know about the highest truth part. Or the rule part.

But resolve works. Resolve works.

Anyway. I’m practicing:

I ask for what I need and it comes to me.

I accept it with reverence and gratitude.

because I suck at asking for what I need. And often, when it does come to me… I fight it. Or accept it ungraciously, ungratefully. Resentful that I need your help.

I should be able to do everything alone, don’t you know.

* * *

Sean is doing this month’s high school math with Cinder.

I am so grateful.

I didn’t even have to ask.

* * *

friday, january five

From the process journal:

I have not done a lot of work today but I am very happy.

* * *

saturday, january six

My Unicorn turns 13 today. 13!

We celebrate all day.

For breakfast, she eats the tiramisu Sean and Cinder made for her last night. Ender’s present to her is all the candy left-over from his Advent calendar.

At some point I do laundry.

At dinner, we find out my mother, the hardcore ER nurse… doesn’t know what a marijuana leaf looks like.

Life is good.

* * *

sunday, january seven

I have so much to do today. Tomorrow. This week.

This year.

I look back at the first week of the year and… reflect? Evaluate? Something like that—I’m searching. For patterns, good and bad.

I don’ t make resolutions, you know. But I do make… commitments. There’s a difference. Right?

I won’t tell you what my commitments for 2018 are. Apparently stating one’s goals does not help one meet them.

It’s true; I read about it on the Internet. (In this article–Hush And Just Do It—parenthetically, I’m really glad the author isn’t my grandmother, and if you would like to talk to me about your hopes and dreams, intentions, darling—please do it. You know how you kill a relationship with a child, a lover, a friend? Say “I don’t want to hear about it until you fulfill it” when they start telling you about their dreams. Fuck. You know what? Don’t read the article. Apparently, I’m just sharing it with you because it ticked me off.)

I’m long-handing this post in the morning—I will type it up and post it at night, I decide, when I’m fried and tired of my other work. I have a 12,000 word anthology to final-proof today—once, twice… three times? A shitload of laundry to fold. A kitchen to excavate. A unicorn to tame, a vampire bat to chase outside, a manticore to charm…

But I also want to chill and read a book. Have a bath. Cook something good. Go for a walk in the sun.

Patterns. Rhythms.

* * *

I do stare at that post-script to my sankalpa from the first Monday of the year.

I ask for the courage to be myself.

Why, really, that? Now?

I kind thought I had THAT part of my self-drama pretty much worked out.

But no. Apparently, not yet.

I ask for the courage to be myself.

Well. Let’s see how all that goes next week.

xoxo

“Jane”