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

monday

Meh.

tuesday

… had a nice rhythm. Except for the afternoon of MATH HELL. But then, writer tribe in the evening, always good. In the interim… an attempt by someone (not me) to create drama. Sidestepped. Ruthless radical prioritization for the win!

wednesday

My mom’s over, and she’s telling me she’s leaving Monday, movers, help Dad, etc. The timing of the move’s not stellar—what with her being away, and it being the weekend of Sean and mine 18th anniversary on the 29th (happy anniversary to us, thank you). But the movers are coming on Friday, the 27th.

Jane: Oh, the 27th, that’s perfect—I’ll book the day off, and I can be available to Dad all that day for whatever he needs.

And then. My eldest.

Cinder: Book off? You don’t work.

There’s this sound I now make when they say that.

Jane: What the fuck do you think I do all day?

Cinder: I dunno. Meditate?

I just really don’t know what to do about this.

thursday

I’m sad and moody. Just because. Even spending time with you didn’t really help.

Moody. Feeling… out of step, out of synch. Not really here.

Sudden burst of productivity. Bam.

And… moody again.

Sheesha.

Numbing activity? Self-medication?

Whatever. Give it to me.

friday

… a spectacularly good day. Tell me—what is it, exactly, that makes the difference between a good day, like today, and a meh-day like Monday and a moody day like Thursday?

I really don’t know.

Was it the community potluck?

saturday

Sunbath in the morning, writing, coffee, cigar.

First rain of spring.

Mom-and-daughter date, first one in a long time. She spoils me rotten.

Writer tribe.

sunday

…all the feelings.

happy anniversary, my favourite motherfucking sadist

The good thing about Thursday was that I spent 30 minutes of it with the man who gave me back my mobility (my life, really) after I told him—“I want you to get me straight and get me walking again. Give me that, and I’ll deal with the pain.”

He took my at my word, and never once asked me not to scream so loud—although we did stop meeting in the public gym after the first couple of sessions. We didn’t discuss it, really. Just mutually agreed that working out of his home gym traumatized fewer bystanders.

He made me cry twice in the space of this 30 minute session.

MFS: It’s not really crying if the tears just stay in the corners of your eyes.

Jane: And it’s not really screaming unless the neighbours call the police?

Anyway. That was… holy fuck, babe, that was six years ago now.

Thank you.

 

gratitude

Thursday actually really wasn’t a bad day. Really.

I was just sad. Moody.

It was sunny but not sunny enough and not wintry but not springy enough.

I read Natalie Goldberg’s The True Secret of Writing and loved it and loved her and accepted her as a teacher. And accepted we wrote for different reasons.

And tried to figure out, exactly, why it was that I write.

I tried to tell you. You didn’t like how I framed it. You didn’t like the idea of my needing an audience.

When you write, you, like Natalie, write to make sense of yourself to yourself. Your journal is enough. Your blog is set to private.

Me, I think stories exist to be shared. An unshared story is an untold story—is not a story.

You: But then your entire value of yourself is in the hands of others. What if they don’t like your story?

On a good day, the answer to that is, it doesn’t matter whether they like it or they don’t like it. But it matters that they—at least some of them!—hear it.

Because otherwise… it doesn’t exist.

You: If the next sentence out of your mouth is, “And so I don’t exist,” I will throw this pillow at you.

I say nothing.

Am grateful that you exist.

the sketch of an idea

…actually, I’m not going to share it with you, but, yes, it has been a productive week.

Productive doesn’t always mean happy. But it does bring with it a measure of tranquility.

I wish—I do wish I knew how to find tranquility in stillness.

Cinder: So all that meditation isn’t working, hey?

Jane: You are still in the doghouse over your last comments.

Cinder: Go meditate some more.

I meditate on how much the Buddha pisses me off. Write furiously afterwards.

Sean: If I tell you that you’re doing this whole meditation thing wrong, will you get angry?

Jane: No. I realize I’m doing it wrong. I don’t want Enlightenment if it comes at the price of detachment. Remember? The Buddha was a psychopath.

… speaking of psychopaths…

The teenagers come into the kitchen at 8 pm on Friday night as Sean and I are talking about BIG PHILOSOPHICAL THINGS.

(Including, for reasons I won’t go into, psychopathology.)

And join in the discussion.

For hours.

Ender crawls into my lap at about 10 pm.

Ender: Bed!

Jane: A few more minutes, babe. Cuddle up here…

Teenagers are like wildlife. You don’t wanna spook them when they come close to you by being… too enthusiastic. Nor do you want to be the one to walk away, you know? Who knows when next that magnificent wild animal will deign to visit with you?

introvert versus extrovert

On Saturday, my mom and I go out for coffee and to wander all the vintage clothing stores in Kensington. She spoils me rotten—I have a new wardrobe for my conference #gratitude #abundance even a purse. I do manage to buy her the $2.75 coffee. But not lunch.

We have a great time—I want to be very clear on this. We have a great time.

When we part—she is energized and she will carry that energy into her interaction with the world, my dad.

I am exhausted and overstimulated, and I don’t want to talk to my children, and go hide from them on the balcony with a cup of tea and chocolate, even though there is no sun warmth there anymore.

Introvert. Extrovert. Defined.

 

submission

I am reading Zadie Smith’s Swing Time, and she stops me dead:

What do we want from our mouthers when we are children? Complete submission.

Oh, it’s very nice and rational and respectable to say that a woman has every right to her life, to her ambitions, to her needs, and so  on—it’s what I’ve always demanded myself—but as a child, no, the truth is it’s a war of attrition, rationality doesn’t come into it, not one bit, all you want from your mother is that she once and for all admit that she is your mother and only your mother, and that her battle with the rest of life is over. She has to lay down arms and come to you. And if she doesn’t do it, then it’s really a war…

Zadie Smith, Swing Time

I read the paragraph to Sean; he frowns a little.

she really said this to me…

Flora: Mom? Did you always suck at doing the dishes, or is it something you practiced getting bad at so that the rest of us would do them more often?

I give her the stink eye.

But I’m not mad.

The truth is actually quite complicated. And what she said… it’s kind of part of the truth, too.

all the feelings

On Sunday, I had all the feelings. The morning was perfect, the afternoon productive (although not in my favourite way), the evening, the demons came.

I meditated.

Cinder: Like I said, I don’t think it’s working.

Jane: It’s this or smoking marijuana, and I don’t want to set you a bad example.

Confession: I really love saying shit that makes them shut up and do this, “What did she mean, exactly?” thing with their brains.

ruthless, radical prioritization

… yeah …

For the record. Please. I’m not a bitch and I’m not a machine and I’m not an automaton without feelings.

But I score off-the-charts on executive function / capability, and I know precisely how precious my time and my energy are.

I love you.

I’ve got to go do things now.

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)

Looking for Nothing By The Book multi-media Postcards from Cuba project?

This was the first “listening” postcard:

and here’s all of the first three series—->>>POSTCARDS FROM CUBA

 

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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

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

in brief

Monday I spent in bed with a sick Ender, break for walk in the sunshine, reflections, the question—what do I want?

Tuesday, like a bolt of lightning on a bright sunny, a reward for kindness, I suppose—a chance to peer into my father’s soul 30 years ago. OMFG, what a gift, what a surprise.

What a price.

Worth it.

Wednesday, torture. Tequila.

Thursday, no sun, no spring, no hope, cruel clarity. But I worked.

Friday, I prepared the balcony for spring. It’s coming, it was in the air today, yes! I cooked love. I got love. Then missiles over Damascus; frantic texts to family. Everything’s different when you watch it from up close—nothing’s black and white.

Saturday, writer tribe, a cop who may or not be a sociopath—the question, really, was he born like this or did his job make him like that? I teeter on the edge of asking the question, come close. A few hours with my love and Frida. Then, an old friend in the sunshine; I think about buying a cigar. No. Instead, Japanese scotch—or do I mean whiskey? Sushi. Reflections on how we aged; how we changed… not at all.

Sunday… I think Sunday is going to be full of surprises. It’s not over yet.

knock, knock

Jane: Who’s there?

X: Opportunity.

Yes.

Yes, yes, yes, yes, yes!

Wait.

Radical prioritization.

Sometimes—often—no.

But today? YES.

negotiated self

William James (brother of Henry, the novelist, and Alice, the diarist, who would have been a novelist had she had a penis or been born even 50 years later) posited that in any interaction between two individuals, there were six persons present (six men, actually—not his fault, I asuppose, as Ursula K. Le Guin so sharply observed, women hadn’t been invented yet… anyway… I’m paraphrasing him to be more inclusive, because now I exist and so do you).

And so when we are together, you and I:

  1. You as you think you are
  2. You as I think you are
  3. You as you really are
  4. I as I think I am
  5. I as you think I am
  6. I as I really am

Currently, in the theory of the negotiated self, psychologists argue that there is no such thing as the self as it really is—that the self is always constantly negotiated in social interactions. Always negotiated. Never absolute.

I think they’ve just told us we don’t really exist.

Pinch me.

Kiss me.

Am I here?

turkish delight

I have a friend named Fatih, and there’s a neighbourhood called Fatih in Istanbul that’s now Syria away from Syria—and I’m writing about a woman named Matilda, and I give her an ex-husband called Fatih.

My friend is not impressed. Fatih the fictional character is not… well. He’s short, for one. And has many other flaws (and possibly, a very small penis, although we haven’t gotten to that part in the story yet).

Fatih: If you give Fatih a very small penis, our friendship is over.

Jane: Well, he’s comic relief.

Fatih: A small penis is not funny. Just change his fucking name!

But I have to call him Fatih, because, you see, Matilda is very fat, and there’s a scene with in a little convenience store in which the clerk calls her Fatih’s Fat Matilda, and OMFG, do you hear that cadence?

My friend is not impressed.

I shouldn’t have told him anything. Sigh.

(the above story, by the way, isn’t actually true, not exactly)

(but it’s a good story, and I will keep on telling it, until everyone believes it’s true)

unschooling looks like this

Jane: Ender-love-of-mine, please understand this. I have no desire to teach you to read until you really, really, really want to learn. When you are ready, when you want it—I will sit here with you for hours. But if you just want to go play Minecraft—go. I have nothing vested in this: I will not fight, make you, force you.

(I’m paraphrasing myself.)

Ender: I want to learn!

Jane: Then you have to look at the fucking letters and not make faces at the mirror.

Ender: How do you spell fucking?

Fuck.

Parenting fail, again.

Unschooling win. (This was on Thursday. In case you care. I don’t.)

why natives hate tourists

I’m reading Natalie Goldberg still—Thunder and Lightning: Cracking Open the Writer’s Craft this time—and still arguing with her in my head (in this book, she really admits to me her novel as shit, a thinly disguised memoir that took her nine years to write and that her New York editors, despite the phenomenal success of Writing Down the Bones, pushed to revise and revise, and kinda sounded reluctant to publish, and to be honest, I’m kind of gleefuly here, I whisper to her, “Ha, Natalie, //I//  know the difference between fiction and memoir, //I// know how to write a story that’s not about me and my neurosis, //I// know how to keep the reader up all night with events I’ve never experienced—only imagined… and I can take that from idea to clean draft in weeks not years, ha, ha, ha—okay, yes, I’m arguing with the Goddess of North American Freefall Writing, sorry, but despite all the voices in my head, sometimes it gets a little lonely inside the work…)

Anyway. I’m reading Natalie Goldberg and she’s quoting Jamaica Kincaid:

That the native does not like the tourist is not hard to explain. For every native of every place is a potential tourist, and every tourist is a native of somewhere. Every native everywhere lives a life of overwhelming and crushing banality and boredom and desperation and depression, and every deed, good and bad, is an attempt to forget this. Every native would like to find a way out, every native would like a rest, every native would like a tour. But some natives—most natives in the world—cannot go anywhere. They are too poor. They are too poor to go anywhere. They are too poor to escape the reality of their lives; and they are too poor to live properly in the places where they live, which is the very place you, the tourist, want to go—so when they natives see you, the tourist, they envy you, they envy your ability to turn their own banality and boredom into a source of pleasure for yourself.

Jamaica Kincaid, A Small Place

A few thoughts: I have spent much of this terrible winter wishing to be back in Cuba, occupying the responsibility-free role of tourist, not-native, not-of-this place person. Now I remember the shame and guilt that came along with the pleasure. Right.

And I remember how important it is for me to have a life, build a life from which I don’t want to escape—from which I don’t need a vacation.

(Can you think of anything worse—more banal, to use Kincaid’s word—than living your life FOR your vacation? Ugh. No, no, no. Not me.)

I also think—I must read everything Jamaica Kincaid has ever written. This is what I do when I suddenly, violently fall in love with a writer, a voice. I drink her, drown in her, until I’m sick of her. And then I leave her—but she never leaves me.

(This is  why we read, why I write. Why musicians compose and play, why artists create. It’s the only everlasting, unconditional love there is—falling in love with, using up art—giving yourself up to be loved, to be used.)

(That was either a profoundly deep thought, or a stupidly pretentious one, but I’ll let it stand.)

canadian spring

…is here. I think it’s here.

But I’m afraid to take the winter tires off my car just yet.

…good thing I didn’t…

and also, this

How I spent Sunday night. Existential angst notwithstanding, life is good.

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)

—->>>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 cage is will, the lock is discipline (Week 14: Up and Down)

monday

… started and ended in tears, but in-between, it was a good, good day. It flowed. Isn’t that kind of amazing?

tuesday

… was a hard day. I struggled—to focus, to breathe, to do. I took Ender swimming, drank in his joy. Made a good supper. Struggled. If you ask me about what, why—I can’t even really tell you. It was just a hard, hard day.

I’m reading Natalie Goldberg’s The Great Spring: Writing, Zen, and This Zigzag life. Also, Karen S. Wiesner’s Writing the Fiction Series and Jesse Warren Tevelow’s Authorpreneur.

Meh. I don’t know.

Mostly, I think despite writing about them for the better part of two decades… I’m not an entrepreneur. And I’m not an entertainer either.

I’m not so sure, today, Julia Cameron’s Artist’s Way Koolaid notwithstanding, that I am an artist.

Who am I?

Natalie is writing… memoir. Again. As always. I lie in memoir. Again, as always. So I suspect everyone else does too. But maybe she doesn’t. Maybe it’s all true. Maybe she really remembers things like this… (She doesn’t. It’s all story. I know.)

But—there are some true things there. She really loves, loves, loves some of the places she has lived in. Taos, New Mexico in particular. (She writes as if she loves them—which is more or less the same thing, as far as the reader and posterity and manufactured history is concerned.)

I wonder what it would be like to really love… a place.

I don’t love my city. I don’t mind it. Sometimes (not in February or March, or this fucking snowy April, why?), I like it, a lot.

And I love my tiny little patch of it, my Sunnyhill, my hill, this bit of river, wilderness, the Common, my weed patch.

But this city? Not so much. Have I loved any place I’ve ever lived?

I tell people I loved Montreal. But I didn’t, not really.

Today, I don’t love anything. It’s one of those days.

Struggling.

The day will end.

Maybe, as it ends, in the end, I will love. Or. Cry.

Sleep. Will Wednesday be better?

wednesday

yes.

thursday

Thursday starts with a disappointment. No, that’s not quite true: Thursday starts with my morning pages, this habit Julia Cameron inculcated in me about four years ago now. And say what you will about Julia (there are moods in which no one is more critical of her than I), in the four years since I’ve been doing morning pages, I’ve written four novels, dozens if not hundreds of poems, and my creative non-fiction output has been… beyond steady.

So Thursday morning starts with my morning pages. Then the disappointment. I text you to share it—Julia taught me that too. Before her, I used to suffer alone and be proud of it. You say, this time, all the right things. Almost.

You: What did I do wrong this time?

Jane: It doesn’t matter. You tried.

You offer to come over, to offer solace in person. I refuse. I don’t want you to hold my hand while I weep. I don’t even want to weep. I have plans for the day—a routine and tasks—and I don’t want them derailed by a text, an unplanned disappointment… or even your visit.

When I make decisions like this, you sometimes think I don’t love you. It’s not that at all. It’s just that… I know I have to follow my schedule, my planned rhythm. Today HAD to be a work day. I am two weeks, more, behind because of my illness. So. Thursday, I work. I am disciplined, and that soothes me much more than talking with you about what sucks would.

In the granola-New Age-voodoo circles that I move in, people place a high value on flexibility and spontaneity. They equate them with creativity and freedom, and they define freedom as lack of structure, lack of planning, lack of… routine.

I value freedom too. But I define it different. Not as a lack of constraint or structure. Nor as chaos. Freedom is… the freedom to do the work, live the life I want to live—the passion I want to embody.

And that kind of freedom requires discipline.

Internal discipline. Self-discipline.

My self-discipline manifests in routines, rituals, commitments to self… and following through on those commitments.

I like a touch of chaos, too, of course. There is a lot of chaos, creativity, unpredictability in my life. But what makes my life and its creative chaos possible—makes me thrive in it—is routine and discipline.

Morning pages. Coffee. Work sprint one—do day’s critical task here. Breakfast. Shower. Meditation. Reading with Ender. Work sprint two, the less-creative-but-necessary-task—these are the anchors of my morning, the building blocks of my morning routine. They make it possible for me to be FREE to take two hours of the middle of my afternoon to go to the Y, to my culty yoga… or to spend the afternoon smoking sheesha and staring out a window… Return to chores, kids,  and work sprint three (mundane tasks) in the hours that abut prepping supper or cleaning up after it.

Flora’s martial class, three times a week. Chore? No. Routine. Focused one-on-one time with my girl—sometimes all she gets from me, that time in the car, but sometimes, that’s all she wants, needs. And for me: an hour and a half, every Tuesday, Thursday, Friday to write-read-proof-reflect.

The Y on Monday and Friday, Kundalini yoga on Wednesday and Saturday.

Anchors.

Have you noticed, though, that when people say, “You’re so disciplined!” it’s this odd compliment? They’re not sure if they’re giving you (me) a compliment… or telling you (me) that you’re boring.

Freedom to do what you want, if you what you end up doing is squandering your time and passion and talent, is worthless.

You:  I’m not mad you didn’t want to see me on Thursday.

Jane: Good.

What was this little segue about?

Disappointment. Discipline.

Routine.

Freedom.

interlude: The Great Spring

It will not stop snowing in Calgary—no one has told the weather gods that it’s April and for fuck’s sake, enough with the unique snowflakes, give us some boring, same-everyday sun and some green grass and leaves and shit, will you?

I’m still reading Natalie Goldberg’s The Great Spring: Writing, Zen, and the Zig Zag of Life.

I start reading it on Monday, and it disappoints me. I don’t like it. I bitch to Sean about how all Natalie knows to write is these stupid memoir vignettes (and who wants to read those?), self-indulgent blog posts really (shut up), and who is she to be a writing teacher anyway? She’s only written one novel. And nobody’s read it. It’s probably bad.

Sean shuts me down. Not intentionally—I think he’s a) trying to be fair to the Great Natalie Goldberg, author of Writing Down the Bones who changed the way writing is taught in North America and b) trying to redirect me from what we both know is a destructive unproductive place: envy, resentment, anger, defensiveness, insecurity.

I turn my anger and resentment towards him and to go bed crying. And hating Natalie and the literary establishment that made her god. With only one crappy novel under her belt.

But I keep on reading the book.

I finish it on Wednesday, and by Thursday, I think it’s good. I also realize that for Natalie, writing is not what it is for me. It is, in the end, a spiritual practice for her. Another way of reaching Zen. Enlightenment. Ironically—for one who is a writing teacher—writing is not really about communicating. Sharing with an audience. That purpose of writing is, to Natalie Goldberg, secondary.

But I think our commitment to practice—writing practice—is similar. In one of the closing chapters of the book, “Lost Purse,” students ask Natalie for… what else, the secret to writing.

The students say:

“I have to be trust myself!”

“I have to have courage.”

“Speak from my heart.”

“Know myself!”

Natalie sighs.

Crinkles her nose.

“No. No. No. Not even close. It’s not about how you feel.”

“You. Have. To. Pick. Up. The pen—and write. Just. Write.”

“For years, that’s all I’ve been saying. If it’s hot out, write in the heat. If it’s cold, pull on a sweater and write. … Act. … Writing doesn’t ask you to be any different from who you are right now. Not better. Not more.”

Pa-dum-pam.

friday

I finally feel myself. Awake. Mind sharp. My faith in my capabilities mostly back. My demons, caged.

Funny, you know, I use a few metaphors with my demons—in all of them, they are contained. Not banished. Not invisible—I am not safe when I can’t see them. No, I’m safest and happiest when they’re caged—not lurking in the shadows of the edges of my consciousness. Caged, contained—the cage is my will. They exist. I acknowledge them. I see them—I put them in the cage. The lock on the cage, what is it?

I suppose it’s discipline.

Back to discipline again.

Such a loaded word these days. Perhaps it always was.

I often wonder—is it an innate quality or something that needs to be—that can be—cultivated? When does discipline—of the self—morph into self-repression? Or inflexible near-OC behaviour?

Why am I thinking about this?

I guess because I’m planning, effectively, a 31-month—33? maybe 36 actually… fuck, my math sucks, probably even more… 40?—a 31+ month experiment that will require more sustained discipline than I’ve deployed in my life for a while. Can I do it?

Sean says cautious things.

Jane: You don’t think I can do it.

Sean: That is not what I said!

Ok. It isn’t. But that’s what I heard. And it’s fair. What I’m planning is bigger, x7, and longer, x10, and scarier, and harder than all the crazy shit I’ve done so far, and it requires a tenfold leap of faith and…

You: Can you just tell us what you’re planning?

Jane: No. I don’t want your advice. God knows I don’t need a reality check. Or input from—excuse me—lay people. Full of opinions but no experience.

You: What are you saying?

Jane: Your opinion and input will carry no weight with me.

You: Bitch.

Jane: And I can’t afford to be infected by your fear or doubt.

You: Like I said—bitch.

Whatever. I prefer… self-aware.

speaking of self-aware

I’m taking a course that requires me to take the Myers-Briggs / Jungian personality test.

I come out an almost perfect midline personality (I’m also, btw, on every test I’ve ever taken, 51/49 right-brained and left-brained):

  • Introverted (I) 61.11% Extroverted (E) 38.89%
  • Intuitive (N) 53.66% Sensing (S) 46.34%
  • Feeling (F) 55.88% Thinking (T) 44.12%
  • Judging (J) 53.33% Perceiving (P) 46.67%

Except, as you see, the introvert is in some ascendance over the extrovert. (If you want to take the free version of the test, btw, here ya go: http://similarminds.com/jung_old.html

Jung, by the way, coined the terms Introvert and Extrovert, as well as synchronicity. Jung was an introvert, and Freud was an extrovert, and there you probably have the root cause of their break-up.

All week, I’m reading The Introverted Entrepreneur: Amplify Your Strengths and Create Success On Your Own Terms by Beth L. Buelow.

This resonates:

Introverts are internal processors. Their primary source of information and point of reference comes from within themselves. This doesn’t mean that they are self-absorbed or oblivious to others: they simply rely first and foremost on their inner thoughts to guide them. … When an introvert receives information, she takes it in and flips it around in her mind until it’s right side up enough to be shared with the world.

I’m not always an introvert. But I’m always an internal processor.

Sean: I know.

(He’s not.)

I’m also reading Seth Godin’s We Are All Weird: The Rise of Tribes and the End of Normal

and I find myself thinking that, ultimately, there are two kinds of people. People obsessed with slotting everyone into Category A and Category B…

…and people who think Category A and Category B aren’t sufficient. Should we perhaps subdivide Category A into A1, A2, A3, A4 and so forth?

I want to be neither.

You: Unique snowflake.

Jane: I want to recognize and worship everyone as a unique snowflake.

You: That doesn’t sound like you.

Jane: You don’t really know me.

…the landscape of you and me

When I am still feeling ery said and sick and unsupported, I text with my friend the practicing Buddhist almost-monk. Er, nun. About life, sex, relationships, dharma.

She says:

“You’re brilliant and adorable and wonderful and everything is going to work out perfectly. Smooch snuggle kiss.”

And also:

“What would happen if there was nothing to fix, nothing wrong, nothing ‘fucking complicated’ about you?”

Jane: I would be terribly boring and that would be even worse.

Ego.

I want to be a unique snowflake.

Demons: You are utterly ordinary.

*I also take the DISC test. Here are my scores:

week versus day

When I am having a bad day, I will sigh and cry, “Will this day never end!” And, when it is a very very bad day (like the Wednesday of Week 12), I will actually go into bed, turn off the lights, pull the covers over my head, and wait for the day to be over.*

*I have three children, of course, so this is generally a figurative rather than a literal act.

When it’s a bad week… month… you can’t do that.

Anyway. It wasn’t a bad week. Or even a rough week. It just had some… you know. Rough spots. Bad thoughts.

You: And that disappointment.

Jane: It’s all good. I’m already over that. It’s Sunday.

I was happy on Wednesday. Productive on Thursday and Friday. Playful among all the chores on Saturday.

But I’m looking forward to Monday. My mini New Year. Blank slate.

kids report

I do want to tell you that this week, I was a very present mother and I experienced minimal guilt. Ender and I read every day—with a view to him mastering the art, not just at bedtime. I sprayed Bactine on Flora’s had when she cut it falling down in the alley and I paid attention to her fully when I played her chauffeur. I encouraged Cinder to NOT rush into his math test until he understood the material, and I helped him figure out how to identify the range of a quadratic equation (thank you, Khan Academy, fuck you, official math textbook). Ender and I went swimming, too. Everyone seems happy, thriving.

Can I sustain THAT for 31-36-40 months?

Maybe.

And I can’t start until I believe the answer is yes.

You: Idiot.

Jane: Shut up.

You: Also, hypocrite.

Jane: Fuck off.

I know… I know… the secret. Chunk it. Think in segments. Days—weeks—months (hours and minutes). Chapters—scenes—paragraphs—sentences—words.

Buildings blocks.

But I need to see and trust and commit to the big picture.

You: Well, I think you should…

Jane: Shut up. I did tell you, did I not? I don’t want your advice.

I’m just sharing some of doubt and process and demons because I’m tired of you thinking I have no feelings.

But that’s another story.

Ender: Mama! Tortilla?

Sigh.

Jane: Coming.

It’s the sixth cheese tortilla I’m making him today…

i’m hungry

When Flora says “I’m bored,” she means her demons are rattling the cage and she needs to be held and loved and told she exists and is an important, unique snowflake.

Ender’s code phrase is “I’m hungry.” When he says he’s hungry, he means “I need you to show me that I’m important to you and that you will take care of me.”

So while, when Flora says, “I’m hungry,” I can tell her to eat an apple or go scavenge in the fridge, when Ender says, “I’m hungry,” I have to make him the fucking tortilla.

And not grumble if he doesn’t eat it all.

It’s sort of a metaphor.

These days, though, he’s going through a growth spurt, so he eats most of the love I make for him.

When Cinder experience existential angst, he punches holes in the walls, runs up and down the hallway, or throws himself on the floor and cries.

He’s the kid I understand best.

(I leave it to you to slot us into the Introvert/Extrovert categories if you like)

I love them all so much it hurts.

speaking of pain

I’m now 100% sure the Buddha was wrong about pain, suffering, and desire. Cowardly rather than enlightened, actually. So is that… a meditation fail? Or my own enlightenment?

lifestyle

Sean’s trying to diplomatically describe to Flora why we don’t spend a lot of time with a family with whom it would be… convenient, let us say, for us to have more of a relationship with.

Sean: In case you haven’t noticed, they don’t really share our hippie lifestyle.

Flora: Wait. We’re hippies?

Sean: The only reason we don’t live in a tent on Vancouver Island and shit in a hole in the woods is because I’m here.

Jane: Hey!

Flora: OMG, you’re right. I never thought about it. If it was up to Mom, we’d be like Pippa’s family and travel around the world in a camper van, wouldn’t we?

Ok, so that’ s been my dream since I’ve been, like, 12, and I’ve been trying to figure out how to make it happen with them for years, and those three months in Cuba were the closest I managed to come to it, and…

Flora: I love you so much, Dad.

Jane: Hey!

Flora: I love you too, Mom. But you know what else I love?

Cinder: Toilet paper and flushing toilets?

Flora: Word.

Ungrateful bastards. (For context, see POSTCARDS FROM CUBA)

saturday

On Saturday, a stranger from Egypt helps me articulate an odd truth about myself,* we put together Cinder’s bed,** and Sean and I take a trip to the 1920s, where I taste Virginia Woolf (she’s too sweet, I tell the bartender, and he sours her with a twist of lemon) and Sean puts Daisy Buchanan to his lips.

*It’s not an epiphany, exactly, but it’s this…

You: Another thing you’re not going to share?

Jane: No, you can hear this one.

I don’t expect people to be there tomorrow.

Ponder the implications of that for a minute or two…

**When I say we… I guess I really mean Sean and Cinder, although I helped carry things up and down the stairs, and cleaned the gooey corners in the teenager’s room.

Also, there was this:

Cinder: Mom! We lost a dowel! Where is it?

Seriously. How the fuck should I know?

But. Here’s the thing:

Jane: It fell on the second landing—I’ve put it in your room on the Lego shelf next to the castle!

Also, this:

Sean: We need the vacuum cleaner!

Jane: It’s broken! Broom?

Sean: No! Gum and a pencil!

I’ll leave the “why” to your very capable inference capabilities.

i really said this to my son

Jane: While you’re up and I’m here sitting on my ass, could you get me my Guinness from the fridge?

Cinder: Doesn’t it have wheat it in?

Jane: It’s my binge day.

Cinder: Isn’t it illegal for me to get you alcohol?

Jane: I can’t send you to the liquor store to buy me beer. I can send you to the fridge.

Cinder: It still sounds sketchy.

Jane: For fuck’s sake just get me my beer!

sunday

I know exactly what I want.

And how to get it.

Oh, if only I could package that feeling in a pill, tonic, or mantra…

xoxo

“Jane”

PS This week, I’d like to give the last word to Seth Godin. Two non-sequiturs, but they connect dots for me:

“Some people are more comfortable believing that there are no edges, that everywhere is like it is right here. That they are normal, that everyone is normal, and that ignorance is bliss. If everyone could just be normal (like them), they’d be happier.”

“I’m running out of patience for people who would further their personal or media goals by dividing us in exchange for a cheap point or a few votes. If members of a tribe encourage schisms and cheer on the battles, is it any wonder that it’s hard to create forward motion? When we’re not in sync, power is dissipated.”

Seth Godin, We are All Weird: The Rise of Tribes and the End of Normal

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)

—->>>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:

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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

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

in brief

On Monday, I manifested abundance, on Tuesday, I shopped for olives, on Wednesday, I learned ALL THE THINGS, on Thursday, I vibrated, on Friday, I chased bliss, on Saturday, i incubated, and on Sunday, I was dutiful. Crashed.

actually, what matters the most…

On Friday night, Cinder came back from Kelowna, with bleached-blue-pink hair and a bad cold, and a lot of stories.

Jane: How was your trip?

Cinder: Good.

Sean: Did you have fun?

Cinder: Yes.

Jane: What did you do?

Cinder: Stuff.

Shut up. For him, that’s eloquent.

The stories will come, in blurts and jokes, over the next year or so. Or maybe not.

Not everyone has to be a storyteller.

but if you are a storyteller…

…your life has very limited meaning without an audience. I mean, you can talk to the voices in your head, of course, but apparently that’s not considered super-healthy. To that end, I’m reading this:

Your A-Game by Damon Suede and Heidi Cullinan. I’ve had the chance to meet both these peeps in the flesh last year, and will be meeting them again soon, and when I do, I will slobber them with wet kisses—ok, maybe just awkward hugs—because, yes, thank you.

speaking of slobber…

On Friday, my photographer-artist friend sent me this picture:

Artist: Helen Frankenthaler circa 1956

and this quote:

“I’ve seen women insist on cleaning everything in the house before they could sit down to write… and you know it’s a funny thing about housecleaning… it never comes to an end. Perfect way to stop a woman. A woman must be careful to not allow over-responsibility (or over-respectabilty) to steal her necessary creative rests, riffs, and raptures. She simply must put her foot down and say no to half of what she believes she “should” be doing. Art is not meant to be created in stolen moments only.”

― Clarissa Pinkola Estés

related

On Sunday, Sean scrubs the stove top and the kitchen floor around the stove and sink.

Jane: Thank you.

Gratitude is easier this week. It is in no way related to my meditation practice.

happy egg

On Sunday, it’s Easter, but it’s so fucking cold, we cancel the Easter Egg Hunt for the community kids. They’d be heartbroken, if it wasn’t so cold outside that if they ventured out,  THEY’D PROBABLY DIE!

You think I’m exaggerating.

I might be exaggerating. Just a little.

But OMFG, it’s April and it’s so cold, and I want to go back to Cuba.

Flora: Here. Have some chocolate.

incubating

So what was happening this week, professionally, creatively: I was collecting… eggs. LOL. Seeds. Ingredients? Something. Yes. I was definitely collecting.

Not making the connections between them yet. But. Collecting.

because

On Monday, my friend from a lifetime ago (we agreed not to do the math; it makes us feel old) and I decided that even if life did not have meaning and purpose, we had to live as if it did. Because otherwise, what’s the point?

Flora: Experience?

Jane: Just for itself?

Flora: Why not?

Jane: … it just doesn’t seem… you know… enough.

Apparently, I’m not just a shitty Buddhist and an apostate Christian, but I’m kind of a terrible hedonist, too.

Flora: Well, that’s why I believe in magic and unicorns.

Cool. Wish I did too.

But. I don’t.

But this week, I  live as if I do.

reading

I’m reading Toby Lester’s Da Vinci’s Ghost AND Catrine Clay’s Labyrinths: Emma Jung, Her Marriage to Carl, and the Early Years of Psychoanalysis. Not exactly at the same time—I tear through Da Vinci’s Ghost first, because I’m a little obsessed with the Vitruvian Man right now, and that’s the lens through which Lester is telling Leonardo’s story (so good)—and I plod through Labyrinths more or less after, because I thought I was going to be all into Jung and Jungian analysis right now, but I think I’m already over Carl, and Emma does not redeem him.

But. Da Vinci’s Ghost?

So Good.

I text this quote from the book to my friend the much too talented and frustrated artist:

She texts back: “The photo didn’t come. It’s not getting the orgasm I think.”

I know, on two different phones, an entire city apart, we are both peeing ourselves laughing, and Leonardo’s atoms are giggling somewhere out there too.

also, I drank Anais Nin

I did. She was delicious. Thank you for taking me there, my love.

angst report

Well. I think it’s there and maybe always will be. But remember what my friend and I decided on Monday?

You have to live as if life—LIFE with a capital “L” and your little life too—has meaning and purpose. Whether it does or not—maybe you will never know.

Fuck, faith is hard.

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)

—->>>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

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

In summary:

Monday was an emotional rollercoaster; Tuesday an emotional hangover. Wednesday—CRASH! Thursday, so, sick, I planned my funeral. (I wasn’t going to invite you, by the way. Just because.) Friday, I decided I was going to live; Saturday, I felt loved. Sunday, the coughing started.

To flesh things out a bit:

I got really, really, really SICK. I suppose it started to germinate Monday, poked through Tuesday, and flourished Wednesday and Thursday–those two days I felt so weak and exhausted that I essentially floated in and out of consciousness on the couch (thank goodness it’s in the kitchen, cause the kids still needed to eat).

Have you ever noticed that when your body is not well, your mind is convinced that there is NOTHING right with the world?

BTW, my OCD documentation indicates the source of my illness pretty clearly:

From the process journal, Sunday: “I needed to chill and rest but I felt GUILTY about it. I know this is ridiculous. I’ve worked so hard. I need to rest. But the guilt comes nonetheless. ‘Do More.’ No REST.”

Music, anyone?

I think this should be the soundtrack to this post:

On Friday, I explored my issues with the Buddha, in some detail:

According to most tradition, Siddhartha Gautama left—another word for this is abandoned—his wife and son to pursue wisdom and enlightenment. And, so we say 27 centuries or so later, he found it.

So I wonder… was his son proud? Did he grow up thinking, “Wow, my Daddy’s the Buddha!”

Or did he think of the Buddha as… “that bastard who walked out of my life and wasn’t that present when he was in it in in the first place”?

Sean: You realize every time you write something like that either your mother or my mother is going to call to ask if we’re all right?

Jane: I love you, darling, and you’re so fucking wise and insightful, but you’re not the Buddha and nobody thinks you are.

Sean: I love you, darling, but I also know you mostly write in metaphor.

True.

But there’s no metaphor here. The more I think about it, the more I think the Buddha was a selfish jackass who was afraid of life.

(Sorry, Cara.)

Flora: Does anyone in your yoga cult read your blog?

Jane: Probably not. Why?

Flora: Cause they should probably ex-communicate you.

Jane: I think only Catholics do that.

Speaking of Catholics—I’ve spent much of this sick week watching G. K. Chesterton’s Father Brown series on Netflix. (G.K., by the way, stands for Gilbert Keith—I know you were wondering, so I googled it for you.) I don’t know if it’s any good. I’m mostly unconscious as I watch it.

I really like how green England is, though. In spring. Apparently also fall and winter.

Outside my window, Viking hell is melting and creating ruts so deep, they trap SUVs. (On Wednesday, coughing and feverish and naked under my snowsuit, I try to dig a neighbour out of one of the ruts. Cinder, in shorts and a tank top—Canadian child—helps. We fail; need to call a tow truck.)

On Saturday, there was synchronicity up the wazoo:

…but I’m not going to tell you about that, because it was all too specific and requires too much backstory, and there was a horse involved. Also, Eric Carmen’s “Hungry Eyes” and a pie (pastry, of an undefined kind) topped with whipped cream and a burlesque dancer wearing an apron on which cherries whirled.

But no green beer.

Still. I decided I was glad I lived. And I felt loved. Which was a definite sign I was going to live and defeat this man cold.

Hack. Cough. Wheeze.

Oh, I forgot to tell you:

On Friday, I decided I was going to renegotiate my entire relationship with money.

I have a new sankalpa. And I’m soon going to be rich.

Yes, I was on drugs. Fuck off. I had a blinding, incisive insight.

You: Care to flesh that out a little?

Jane: Um, yeah, not really. Like Saturday’s synchronicity story (unintentional alliteration, by the way), it’s all too specific and requires too much backstory. But stay tuned: I’m sure I’ll spin it all into a cohesive narrative at some point. How can I not?

It seems to me I’m forgetting something…

I’m sure I’m forgetting something…

I was, after all, very, very sick.

Sean: Was?

Jane: Cough, hack, wheeze. I did sit ups and squats today AND went out for lunch with a beautiful woman AND articulated perfectly why “retirement” was intellectual suicide AND made supper AND did my laundry AND… OMFG, I’m so tired, cough, cough, cough, cough, cough…

I remembered!

Right. So I have a question for you. Do you think The Buddha Was a Psychopath: A Mindfulness Manual for the Rest of Us is a marketable title for a book?

This may or may not be related to my drug-induced paradigm shift re: money.

Cough.

Hack.

Wheeze.

xoxo

“Jane”

PS If I don’t make it, you can come to the funeral. Dress to the nines.

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)

—->>>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

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

sunday

Process Journal, 7 am: “OMFG, this is such a happy moment.”

I think I start to cry at 9:30 am. Jesus fucking Christ.

monday

The less said about Monday, the better. No, really. Let’s move on.

tuesday

I don’t know. Good, bad. Mixed up. Sad, ugly. The dominant theme is “abandoned,” which is interesting but I’m not quite together enough to explore it. And a fevered Ender—he needs to be in my arms, most of the day. But that gives me rest, is good.

I read Vladimir Nabokov’s Letters To Vera, an antidote and simultaneously a poison.

Cinder and I have a fight, sort of about math, ultimately, about power. I think we both lose.

I cry some more.

wednesday

am

I want today to be a better day, and I have pretty damn impressive will power. I do. Granted, this week it seems drowned by a flood of tears, but surely? I know the tips and tricks, tools and techniques to pull it off, pull it out.

The question is, do I want to?

I think, much as I disliked the past 48-72 hours, I needed them. Maybe I need one more sloppy, wet, weepy day. In Bone, Marion Woodman has a line:

“Don’t worry about my tears,” I said. “Better rolling down my cheeks than blocking my kidneys.”

Maybe this particular dam just needs to to… fuck I don’t know how to finish that metaphor, it’s stupid.

pm

I do some of the things but Ender has a relapse, we cuddle on the couch. You come to visit… I feel distant and don’t want to address it, I want to be inside myself right now; let me.

thursday

Thursday was… complicated.

friday

I don’t know. I suppose it was a transition day. I worked, juggled. But generally neither cried nor stressed.

saturday

I performed. Well. Do it all out, bring it all, spend it all.

I did.

I’m channelling Annie Dillard here, by the way, what she said was:

“One of the things I know about writing is this: spend it all, shoot it, play it, lose it, all, right away, every time. Do not hoard what seems good for a later place in the book or for another book; give it, give it all, give it now. The impulse to save something good for a better place later is the signal to spend it now. Something more will arise for later, something better. These things fill from behind, from beneath, like well water. Similarly, the impulse to keep to yourself what you have learned is not only shameful, it is destructive. Anything you do not give freely and abundantly becomes lost to you. You open your safe and find ashes.”

Annie Dillard, The Writing Life

In the evening, I took all my nutrients for the day in a pint of Guinness. Two. Three.

I’d do penance on Sunday, I decided.

But I was lucky; I didn’t.

sunday

Sunday was… perfect. Except in the night. Crappy dreams.

WEEK 10 APPENDIX

nabokov, i

When I was seventeen, I used to write on average two poems a day, each of them taking me about twenty minutes. Their quality was doubtful, but I didn’t even try to write better then, thinking that I was performing little miracles and that over miracles I didn’t need to think.

Now I know that, indeed, reason is a negative part of creativity and inspiration a positive one, but only through their secret conjunction is the white spark born, the electrical flicker of perfect creation.

Vladimir Nabokov, Letters to Vera

notes on the discovery of the clitoris

In 1558, a Venetian professor, Matteo Realdo Colombo—he had studied anatomy with Michelangelo, btw, stumbled upon a mysterious protuberance between a woman’s legs.

So he was examining a patient and he discovered this “button” and he noted that she grew tense as he manipulated it, and that it appeared to grow in size at his touch.

“Clearly, this would require more study.”

After examining scores of other women, Colombo found they all that this same, responsive protuberance.

He reported his discovery of the clitoris to the dean of his faculty. And… he was “arrested, accused of heresy, blasphemy, witchcraft, and Satanism, put on trial and imprisoned. His manuscripts were confiscated, and his discovery was forbidden to be mentioned.”

Sources: The Anatomist, by Frederico Andahazi
referenced in Sex at Dawn, by Christopher Ryan and Cacilda Jethá

nabokov ii

Text to Sean:

Nabokov also noticed when his friends and colleagues didn’t show up to his readings… and resented it, years, later.

I guess all artists are a little petty.

Text from Sean:

It’s not petty. But non-artists don’t understand. But I guess the still resenting it years later part doesn’t sound so good.

Nabokov also had to beg for reviews. And money. (And work.)

When he was already regarded as the foremost writer of his generation, in several languages.

Sigh. Is this perspective, or a sign that I should get a “regular people” job?

kids and dharma

Discussing Stephen Cope’s The Great Work of Your Life, Sean and I make a discovery. Well. I notice—as he’s reading it, I didn’t notice it the first time—that all the dharmic lives Stephen Cope is examining, the great and the small, are single, childless people.

Then I stop. I’m wrong. Jane Goodall was married (twice) and had a son. Robert Frost had a whole gaggle of children. Marion Woodman, married. Gandhi had four kids too.

But the way Cope wrote the book—they might as well not have had them. Their children, their families do not figure in their dharma story—except, insofar as Mrs. Frost and Mrs. Gandhi and Mrs. Goodall (Jane’s mother) enabled them to live their dharma.

I get… kind of angry. And get a little homophobic: Cope is gay, at the time of writing of the book partnerless and childless. (Old, too, I add acerbically.) What does he know about a mother’s dharma?

“He says events change your dharma,” Sean says. He’s still on the Marion Woodman section of the book, in which Woodman embraces the wound, makes living with cancer her dharma (of the moment). “Children change your dharma too. Once you have them—they become your new dharma. Or part of it, anyway—they affect it. Hugely.”

As he says this, there’s an explosion of noise inside Ender’s bedroom and four eight-to-ten year old boys clamber down the stairs. Fully armed.

“I fought that, denied it for a long time,” Sean says as they run past us, down the stairs, and outside.

I don’t think I did. Or did I? I think… I always knew I had to ride both of these horses. That I would not, could not choose one over the other.

But it never was—still isn’t—an easy choice. Robert Frost never had to agonize over whether he’d be a poet or a father of four children. But I bet you Jane Goodall thought long and hard about the impact having little Hugo would have on her career, life, plans. She had to…

nabokov iii

Nabokov is in Paris… or somewhere. I can’t remember. Vera is in Berlin, on her own. with their one-year-old baby. He writes her a letter every day. Complains that she doesn’t write to him often enough.

He ends up having an affair later that year. Neglected.

From the perspective of time, it’s kind of funny.

The marriage survives.

But she never writes him as much as he writes her. Of course not.

nabokov iv

Maria Popova is writing about Zadie Smith on Brainpickings this week, and Zadie Smith is writing about Nabokov:

When I write I feel there’s usually a choice to be made between the grounded and the floating. The ground I am thinking of in this case is language as we meet it in its “commonsense” mode. The language of the television, of the supermarket, of the advert, the newspaper, the government, the daily “public” conversation. Some writers like to walk this ground, re-create it, break bits of it off and use it to their advantage, whereas others barely recognize its existence. Nabokov — a literal aristocrat as well as an aesthetic one — barely ever put a toe upon it. His language is “literary,” far from what we think of as our shared linguistic home.

Source: Zadie Smith, Feel Free
https://www.brainpickings.org/2018/03/08/zadie-smith-dance-lessons-for-writers/

I’ve told you about all the bad books I’ve read lately, right?

Zadie Smith tells me, “Nobody really expects to write like Nabokov.”

But… I’d rather have him as my model, mentor and inspiration, than The National Enquirer. Or my Twitter stream or Facebook feed.

And I think… I thinks she’s a little wrong about the dichotomy. What makes Nabokov Nabokov—for me, THE foremost writer of the 20th century, no one comes close—is that he used “the language of the television, of the supermarket, of the advert, the newspaper, the government, the daily ‘public’ conversation” in aesthetically perfect, transformative ways. Despite the fact that he read and claimed to understand Ulysses (and perhaps he did), Nabokov is perfectly, terrifyingly comprehensible.

I finish Nabokov’s Letters to Vera on Friday; it’s time to re-read… well, all of him. I’m going to start with Pale Fire. End with Lolita.

xoxo

“Jane”

PS It wasn’t a bad week, you know. Just not a simple one. And I’m really glad I let myself cry for three days. I needed it.

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)

—->>>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 the Postcards project and other Nothing By The Book content, please express your delight and support by making a donation via PayPal:

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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

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

monday

I write and then I vegetate except for when I do battle with the fridge—totally unfulfilling, but someone had to take that bitch down—rearrange all the furniture in the kitchen (and then put it back), go to yoga, do two loads of laundry, and murder all the dust bunnies hiding under our bed.

I also find my good water bottle and favourite vibrator, so, you know, it’s all worth it.

You: You’re not going to use that, are you?

Jane: I’ll clean it. Really, really well.

You: I don’t even want to look at you right now.

I also walk to Safeway in the sun with the Ender. Buy meat, bath salts, candles and flowers.

Ender: Candy?

Jane: Ok.

Ender: Drink instead of candy?

Jane: Sure.

Ender: The big bottle is cheaper than the little bottle. Look.

Sigh. Ok.

He carries a 2l bottle of Sprite all the way home, chugging from it at irregular intervals.

tuesday

i

[insert key scene here]

Fuck.

And what key scene would that be?

What?

Cryptic notes to myself are just so enchanting.

 

ii

True thing: marination is alchemy and it transforms a $1.76 (for two) steak into a masterpiece. The secret is plenty of lemon juice.

I have no lemon juice, but there is a very old lime on the counter.

Flora: Didn’t you just go to Safeway yesterday?

Jane: Hush. The alchemist is at work.

Key scene, key scene, key scene…

iii

Coffee with neighbour, friend of many lifetimes. The Ender roams in the background; the Flora is in the next room. Headphones on, but always listening.

We talk about almost important things, but fairly carefully.

iv

Lunch out. Big eyes that blink too much. Small mouth. Swollen lips. The  most delicious gluten-free muffin ever… that turns out to be gluten-friendly. Someone has a sense of humour, fucking bakers, I’d be so angry at you, except THAT WAS THE MOST DELICIOUS THING I HAVE EATEN in…. aaaah.

Suddenly, snow in the sunshine.

I decide the lunch with a beautiful woman, never mind the delicious white wheat flour muffin, OMFG, fuck being responsible, GIVE ME MORE—is indulgence enough, and I will not smoke a cigar today.

The snow and icy wind influence my decision. Just a little.

v

Science happens without much need for intervention, correction or encouragement.

Jane: So, you? Math?

Flora: Ugh.

Jane: I know. Just a little?

Flora: Shouldn’t you be teaching Ender to read?

Jane: Ugh.

Mostly, I’m hoping Minecraft teaches him.

Hey, it worked with Cinder.

vi

Flora peels the potatoes while I meditate.

But there’s a text from her on my phone when I come out.

Flora: Where did you go?

I decide to text her back, instead of finding her.

Jane: I was hiding in the basement. That’s where I usually am when you can’t find me.

I think I’m so funny.

vii

The invasion of the neighbourhood boys while I make supper.

Blue: Is Cinder doing math today?

Jane: No.

Blue: Thank god.

Pre-calculus math isn’t just ruining my life. It’s affecting the quality of life of everyone in the neighbourhood.

(I think I’m so funny. But… so does she…)

Her: Hey! New story idea! Harried mom has to trade sexual favours with hot young math teacher/tutor to help her child.  Just putting it out there.

Jane: You know… that totally has legs…

Jane: Actually, fuck it as a story. I’m going to go out and seduce a hot young math tutor. And then, maybe, I’ll write about it. Win-win-win scenario. 😉

You think I’m kidding. Ha.

viii

I’m reading, simulatenously, Apartment Therapy by Maxwell Ryan, The Art of Organizing Anything by Rosalie Maggio, and Original Light  by Snatam Kaur). I should be reading billionaire romances. Four more to go… no, three—before March 7.

I’m not sure I’ll be able to persevere.

Sean: What’s the penalty if you don’t finish all the books you’re supposed to judge?

Jane: Eternal shame. You know I have to finish. I’m genetically incapable of not finishing. Sob.

(This is not funny. It is utterly tragic.)

(The Art of Organizing Anything is both funny AND tragic.)

ix

I steal Blue’s mother’s car to take Flora to her martial arts class. Then, for reasons I don’t quite understand, end up reading articles about / by Jungian analyst Marion Woodman.

I should be writing that missing key scene.

Reading billionaire romances.

Something.

Instead:

“The conscious feminine gives us the courage to love an acorn without knowing what an oak tree is.”    —Marion Woodman

And:

“Love is the true antitheses of fear. It expands where fear constricts. It embraces where fear repels.” —Marion Woodman

And this one is my favourite:

“Presence is holding love without twisting it into your desire.” —Marion Woodman

(Sean is reading the Marion Woodman part in Stephen Cope’s The Great Work Of Your Life, so I think I start googling her for context. And to find out if she lived or died.)

x

Sort of on topic:

synchronicity is “the simultaneous occurrence of events that appear significantly related but have no discernible causal connection.”

I think Carl Jung coined the word. Or at least redefined it.

“Jung believed that many experiences perceived as coincidence were due not merely to chance, but instead potentially reflected the manifestation of coincident events or circumstances consequent to this governing dynamic. He spoke of synchronicity as being an “acausal connecting principle.”

Source: http://www.thinking-minds.net/carl-jung-synchronicity/

I guess I might have been familiar with the concept before Julia Cameron, but it was really only after reading The Artist’s Way that I started to really think about synchronicity.

“When I teach and I explain to my students the concept of synchronicity, they may at first protest that such a concept seems too good to be true. Not wanting to be gullible, they exclaim, ‘Julia! Do you really believe the universe opens doors for us?’ I tell them yes, and I ask them not to believe me, but to keep track themselves of the instances of synchronicity they now encounter.”

Julia Cameron

So I’m thinking about synchronicity chiefly because she’s experiencing crazy synchronicity (and is a little worried, a little fey—is something bad going to happen soon?) and also because…

I don’t know.

 * * * [insert key scene here] * * *

wednesday

i

The morning starts with those thoughts. Is it worth it? Why bother? What sets them off is the Twitter account of a podcaster. I’ve followed a few friends who podcast. And now, Twitter keeps on suggesting podcast accounts I might be interested in.

THERE ARE SO MANY.

Ditto youtubers. Bloggers. Authors.

SO MUCH NOISE.

Maybe the biggest service I can do for the world is to shut the fuck up…

Listen. Instead of talking.

Read. Instead of writing.

BE instead of creating… things nobody needs, notices because they are too busy shouting about their own drama, trauma, passions.

Maybe I need to stop.

Maybe I should get off.

The thoughts crate a peculiar sensation. The opposite, perhaps, of the still-point yogis chase—although it feels still, too—I am very still—and the world is swirling around me, a cacophony of noise, podcasts, vloggers, bloggers, youtoubers, genre authors, critics, reviewers… trolls.

Everyone is talking, all at once.

STOP!

What will happen if I fall silent?

I should close my mouth and find out.

I close my eyes instead.

ii

I decide the key scene is not so much missing as buried.

I. CUT. HUNDREDS OF WORDS. MAYBE THOUSANDS.

Fuck, that felt good.

 

iii

Seesha. The Man On The Moon.

Searing sadness. Just such… searing sadness.

How is it possible to find happiness and rest and peace in the heart of such searing sadness?

But it is.

(a sense of safe place, I can’t explain it otherwise; a place of rest)

(I want to honour this moment, this night, this experience–I don’t yet know how)

thursday

Up too early. Smell of sex in the sheets, the air. Morning air so cold.

“What will you do today?”

“I have to finish a story…”

I finish more quickly than I expect; there is a smell of violets in the air.

I do all the things at home; take the train to the university. Russell Smith is speaking on what is authentic in art.

I’m… interested and yet disappointed.

And I’m so… frustrated by art and academics apparently working so hard to make themselves irrelevant.

You want to meet me in the evening; I say no. Choose solitude, home instead of you; you understand.

But instead, I end up in a bar with a bevy of artists.

We none of us know why we do what we do. We just… Compulsion, vocation?

I don’t know. And there is no answer at the bottom of the Guinness glass.

friday

I spend the whole day reading Marion Woodman’s Bone.

Well, I also help Cinder with science. Read Bone (Jeff Smith’s) to Ender. Make food, go to yoga (I think I hate yoga) (I think I hate exercise) (I definitely don’t like “the gym”) (please, spring, come soon). I think a load of laundry gets done somewhere in there. I might answer an email.

Oh, and I burn through a billionaire romance (I told you; don’t ask—it’s work; it’s necessary, but I’m NEVER going to do it again).

But mostly, Friday, I spend with Marion Woodman.

Bone seduces me, transposes me, transforms me.

“Returning to my self-discipline routine. Taking time and energy to do my exercises, walking half an hour every day, and gently dancing. Not relying on housework to give me the exercise I need. Feeding myself the vitamins and remedies… Not begrudging myself the rest I need. Visualization and mediation hold the days and nights together.”

Marion Woodman, Bone, December 18, 1993

“Thinking about passion and the dark feminine and how they are related to creativity and healing. This relationship is one of the biggest tasks of the Crone: holding he opposites in conscious aging—holding passion for life in balance with acquiescence in death, holding the spiritual womb always receptive to the creative spirit and choosing the new wholeness…”

Marion Woodman, Bone, October 7, 1994

This is not from Bone, but it is Marion Woodman:

“A mother who is identified with being mother has to have children who will eat what she gives them and do what she wants them to do. They must remain children.”

And this is Italo Calvino, on Carl Jung, quoted in Bone:

“Jung’s method, which bestows universal validity on archetypes and the collective unconscious, is linked to the idea of IMAGINATION as PARTICIPATION in the TRUTH of the world.”

(capitals mine)

In the evening, Edward Sorel reminds me that Carl Jung was a raging anti-Semite.

Boo.

There are no heroes.

Sean comes home in the evening bearing presents.

I change my mind. Go to bed with Vladimir Nabokov and Vera, and Frida, unopened, but beside us.

Sean joins us after his bath.

saturday

i

It’s two days before an anniversary I’m not going to celebrate. It’s fine. I’m fine.

Because, Leonard Cohen:

Take the word butterfly. To use this word it is not necessary to make the voice weigh less than an ounce or equip it with small dusty wings. It is not necessary to invent a sunny day or a field of daffodils. It is not necessary to be in love, or to be in love with butterflies. The word butterfly is not a real butterfly. There is the word and there is the butterfly. If you confuse these two items people have the right to laugh at you. Do not make so much of the word. Are you trying to suggest that you love butterflies more perfectly than anyone else, or really understand their nature? The word butterfly is merely data. It is not an opportunity for you to hover, soar, befriend flowers, symbolize beauty and frailty, or in any way impersonate a butterfly. Do not act out words. Never act out words.

[…]

Speak the words with the exact precision with which you would check out a laundry list. Do not become emotional about the lace blouse. Do not get a hard-on when you say panties. Do not get all shivery just because of the towel. The sheets should not provoke a dreamy expression about the eyes. There is no need to weep into the handkerchief. The socks are not there to remind you of strange and distant voyages. It is just your laundry. It is just your clothes. Don’t peep through them. Just wear them.

Leonard Cohen, Death of a Lady’s Man
Quoted in Brainpickings

ii

You text to see if you can come over.

Jane: Yes.

But you will have to compete with Vladimir, Vera and Frida for my attention.

I am a terrible friend.

iii

A cat n mouse game via text. I decide I definitely don’t matter, don’t exist.

iv

I try to convince Flora to eat expired yogurt.

Jane: It smells fine!

Flora: I can’t believe you’re trying to make me eat expired diary. What sort of mother are you?

Jane: You’re so lucky. When you live on your own and I come over–you’ll never be stressed about having to clean your house or what to feed me. You can feed me expired yogurt–well, you can’t, because I don’t eat diary, but you know what I mean–and…

Flora: I’m not feeding you anything when you come over. I’m gonna be like, remember that time you didn’t feed us lunch for six months? No snacks for you!

Jane: Seriously?

Flora: Also, you’re not going to want to come over, because I’m going to have seven snakes.

Jane: Seven?

Flora: Seven. Crazy cat ladies are so passe. I’m going to be the crazy snake lady.

I don’t mind snakes, actually. It’s the smell of their liquid feces that turns my stomach. Did I ever tell you about the time we had cornsnakes and they escaped… and we never found them? I will, the next time you’re over, and sitting in a badly lit corner…

v

Saturday night. Sheesha with tribe–the YYC Queer Writers and I take over a Lebanese eatery and sheesha place. Make the owner uncomfortable. He knows me–doesn’t mind when I came alone or with one or two friends… when the queers take over two of his tables? He looks twitchy. Or are we projecting?

We are not their target audience. But it’s good to shake things up. Right?

An evening of unexpected blasts from the pasts, connections… glimmers of the future.

She comes and holds my hand, and…

Her: Ready?

Jane: Yes.

We go.

You: I’m going to strip you naked and paddle your ass raw for all this vague-blogging.

Jane: Promises, promises. But–seriously, this is all for me. When I’m here, on this page, in this space? I’m writing, playing, working out shit… for me. You get to have a peek. Appreciate that. Don’t ask for more.

I work at appreciating what I get. Don’t ask for more.

You: Liar.

No. Not really. Remember my original sankalpa? I’m still working with it, a little:

I ask for what I need.

I have everything I need.

I just… sometimes… often… want more.

But I have everything I need.

(Cohesive narrative be damned.)

sunday

The psychic who used to live next door is coming to dinner. I can’t wait. I miss her so much I can barely bear to hear her name spoken by people. (In the conversation with the bevy of artists on Thursday, I realize I have intense abandonment issues with which I deal by not attaching to people until I’m pretty sure they’re going to be around for a while. And then, when they leave… well. That’s the topic for another book… and another year’s or decade’s worth of therapy.)

But, she’s coming. I’ll feed her. Love her. Try to forgive her for leaving me. I haven’t yet; to be honest, I probably never will (I hold grudges).

Still.

I have everything I need.

Sort of.

xoxo

“Jane”

PS Jung 101 Courtesy of Sonoma U. Just in case I go Jungian on you, so we have a common language.

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)

—->>>POSTCARDS FROM CUBA

 

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

I.

It’s Sunday and I’ve no plans but to lie still and regroup. Will I?

Flora: It’s impossible for you not to have a project.

True. But let’s call Sunday’s project… rest.

II.

On Saturday, I worked very hard and you didn’t come, and I was… disappointed.

I guess that’s all I’ll say. And practice letting go of the outcome some more.

Find your dharma. Do it all out. Let go of the fruits of your actions.

“Do it all out,” I’ve got that down. Really. “Do it all out,” even when nobody’s watching, nobody cares, nobody comes.

On Saturday, I worked very hard, and you didn’t come and I felt very sorry for myself in the evening and cried.

Walk. Beer. Love. Sex.

Sean: I will take care of you.

True story: both my ultimate fantasy and biggest fear.

III.

On Friday, I was a superstar. Everyone came. (Not you. Strangers. Why is it easier to please strangers?). They loved me. I was exhausted. But also high.

Wine Bar. A beautiful woman. The snow and air crunched as she walked me home after midnight.

Yes. It was a good day.

IV.

Every day there was math. Daddy, help!

V.

On Thursday, I worked very hard. A meeting. Another. A moment of joy, captured by a friend’s camera:

(I must remind myself of this moment on Saturday. But I forget it, until Sunday.)

VI.

On Wednesday, I wrote and everything was right with the world.

VII.

Tuesday. Words. Deleting more than adding. Necessary. Email. Confirmation. Volley. Dodge. Return.

Busy.

I fucking hate being busy—this needs to stop.

Meeting. Learning. There is a purpose to all of this, right? There is a method to this madness?

VIII.

Monday. The family that goes on a frigid winter walk together… swears and suffers together.

Jane: Should we just let them have stayed home and played video games?

Sean: No. I’m pretty sure this is good for them. Us.

Cinder: I’m bored. Can I go home now?

Flora: I’m cold. Can I run ahead home?

Ender: I’m hungry!

On the plus side… there was no plus side. It was -100 degrees out.

In the morning, before the walk—I wrote. I said I’d start writing on Monday, and I did. 3500 new shiny words. Well, 4700. But I knew 2200 of them were garbage as soon as my fingers stopped moving.

I wrote before I read that email.

Rejection. Tears.

Do it all out. Let go of the outcome.

Right.

Krishna was a psychopath too.

an outtake

She’s showing me her husband’s texts. They’re lacking capitals. And periods.

She’s interpreting this as disrespectful. Lazy.

Worse, proof that he doesn’t love her or, in some perverse way, is now undeserving of her love.

I don’t know what to do with this situation.

There’s a part of me that wants to slap her or drop a bucket of cold water of her head. “It’s texting. Maybe he’s driving. Maybe he’s—imagine this—busy at work. It’s punctuation. Who the fuck cares?”

(I’m a writer. I don’t care. It’s texting. My texts are riddled with errors and omissions; his, her, your texts to me ditto. I don’t care. Unless you’re mean. I care then.)

Then there’s the part of me that knows it’s not about the missing periods and the lower case i.

She thinks he doesn’t love her. She’s worried she doesn’t love him. And she’s terrified. Fixating on the texts—the socks left on the floor of the bathroom—that he forgot to salt the mashed potatoes—that’s all easier.

I don’t know what to do with that either.

“What do you think he says to his friends when he complains about you?” I ask. “Do you think he shows them your texts?”

Ah, fuck. Wrong thing to say. Why did I say that?

When she gets up to leave, I’m pretty sure I’ll never see her again. Well. Maybe a year or two after the divorce. I realize—I know—she came to me to get something. Help? Perspective? Advice?

No. Understanding, compassion, an acknowledgement that it was ok to be pissed off about those missing periods.

I failed to deliver.

But she texts me a few hours late.

“Thank you for the coffee. I appreciate your time.”

Periods. Capital i.

I text back:

“you’re welcome”

Yes, I skip the period on purpose.

Yes, I’m a bitch.

Yes, I think about typing “your” instead of “you’re” but I can’t make myself do it.

IX.

It’s Sunday. No math today, thank god. He’s going to do science.

Some guilt.

Journal: “I’m not spending enough time with Ender. I’m not giving Flora enough attention. The house is a pigsty, and how many days in a row can I feed them frozen pierogies, imperfectly fried, before someone complains?”

(Sean makes steaks on Saturday and pork ribs on Sunday—I think that means I get one more week of pierogies.)

I don’t feel guilty about not giving enough to Cinder, though. The math time I’m putting in… Yeah.

Every time I help Cinder with his math though… I think about privilege.

Privileged people don’t understand privilege.

Cinder is so fucking privileged.

Think about it. Just in the context of the math.

He’s got two parents. With too many graduate degrees between them. Both of whom can sit down with him and give him the time and support he’s not getting from the textbook (which is shit) and the school (no comment). One of whom is home a lot, and has a sufficiently flexible schedule so that she can be there for the homework, the tests, the tears.

He has a grandfather. Also overeducated and NOT an artist and humanist—so he remembers high school math. Knows how to explain it. And has the time—and the love—to travel halfway across the city once or twice a week to help Cinder where I can’t.

On the days when we struggle with the sines and cosines and convergent and divergent equations and infinite series—and I don’t even want to look ahead in the book to see what’s next—I bring myself back to tranquility by thinking—We are so lucky.

So fucking privileged.

So lucky.

Today, I am extra lucky. It’s Sunday. No math.

X.

It’s Sunday and I’m wrapped in pillows and blankets, pens and pencils around me. I will write, maybe draw. Read? I don’ t know. Tired eyes.

I’m not so disappointed anymore. I mean—I am. I wanted you to come. To see what I do. To be excited about it with me, for me. But it’s ok. I’m not resentful (anymore—I was, on Saturday).

I accept that I don’t do what I do for you. I accept that what I do just isn’t that important or interesting to you. It’s a little challenging to not think that therefore I’m just not that important and interesting to you.

I’ll work on NOT thinking that. I know it’s not true.

Small, petty feelings.

They will pass.

My “tired” fuels them.

When I am full, there is no room in me for those small, petty feelings.

It’s Sunday.

Tomorrow, another Monday.

And I’ll be… next week, I won’t be busy.

I will think. Breathe. Play.

Write.

It will be good.

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)

—->>>POSTCARDS FROM CUBA

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”