Game face on

i

Uniform. Ready? Ready. Game face on. Go.

I love clothes. Not for me the grey sweat suit. Or the understated beige sweater twin set (I have no idea what a twin set is, tbh, I keep on reading about it in books, but the characters who wear them invariably sound beige and unexceptional, and often wear a string of pearls with their twin set, and oh-my-god, it sounds boring as fuck, I’d rather be naked).  Clothes are my second skin, both an expression of my inner being and part of my crafting my outer mood and persona.

I am probably most myself when I present workshops on creative writing. Or when I go dance. I communicate, with my clothes, my brand and my expertise. My enthusiasm, energy, thirst and passion for life.

When I teach journalism and corporate communications, I tone myself down, a little. (They can’t handle all of me, never could.) Black and grey dresses, nun-like in their lack of exposed cleavage. Just the shoes, piercings, and hair, bit of jewelry, give me away.

If you see me wearing yoga pants and a T-shirt, and I’m not going to a yoga class or the gym, or not helping a friend paint or move house—I’m not chilling or comfortable in my skin. I’m a wreck. The news is as bad as when you come to my house and see a shining kitchen floor.

Like a cat, dog or primate, the glossiness of my fur informs you about my health.

Yesterday, I wore pajamas under my snowsuit as I drove Cinder here and there. This was not an act of freeing “I don’t give a fuck.” It was the result of, between the things that had to be done, not having the energy to step into the shower and out of pajamas into yoga pants.

None of it felt good.

The glossiness of my fur tells you if I’m happy, excited, confident, passionate… healthy.

But. This is true too: “fake it til you make it,” that’s a thing. Putting that work uniform, dance uniform, writer uniform—it helps craft the mood, the persona even if you (I) really don’t want to do the thing you need to do. Actors embody that capacity the most, I think. As do athletes. The corporate suit fills a similar role for lawyers, bankers, accountants, CEOs; the old school white lab coat did it for dentists, doctors.

Don’t wanna, don’t wanna, don’t wanna, can’t do it—fine, here I go. Uniform on. Game face on. Ok. Let’s rumble.

When you (I) absolutely cannot force yourself to put that uniform on? That’s when things are really bad.

ii

At the Teaching Excellence Foundations course on the organizations at which I teach offers its instructors, we spend a great deal of time talking about the teaching persona. I think it’s adorable how the newbies think all you need to succeed is authenticity.

Almost as naive as thinking all you need is love.

Most of the time these days, my authentic self is limp dishrag that doesn’t want to get out of bed.

Fucking move get out of bed. Shower. Uniform. Game face on. Go. Do the things.

iii

When things were at their absolute worst with Flora last spring—just before I took her out of the hospital and to Wales, against medical advice, to honour a promise—I went to get a long overdue haircut. My hairstylist is an artist and a genius (Rose Mossa, 403.283.8281). She performed another of her miracles. She made me look amazing.

One of the first people to see me after the haircut said, “Great hair! You look so good! I was a little worried when I heard what was going on, but things can’t be so bad, hey?”

We’re not friends anymore. She doesn’t know why. And I know it’s unfair. After all, I got the haircut to look good, to help myself feel good. And it worked. My fur looked glossy and slick. Surely, she made a fair assumption.

Except… do you understand…

No. I suppose you don’t. And I don’t have the spare bandwidth to talk about it.

Haircut. Uniform. Game face on.

iv

Text to my aman cara: “When on day 8 of an at-home suicide watch, you go to see the family therapist, and she says ‘what about your self-care?’ and you bludgeon her to death with her clipboard, that’s justifiable homicide, right?”

Her response: “Holy fucking shit!!”

She’s my temperature check. Ok. It’s not just me. That was a ridiculous thing for the fucking therapist to say.

I didn’t kill one of the medical professionals who are trying to help us and Flora, by the way. I just, again, really wanted to. And this happens so often that I’m starting to think—perhaps it’s not incompetence but design. Perhaps she is on purpose making herself the target, the centre of my rage.

I showered on Tuesday. I will probably shower today, maybe. When I am not trying to keep Flora alive, I am at work. When I am not at work, I am holding Ender—who is not ok. Making supper. When there is no critical task that needs to be done, no child that needs me—God I hope Cinder is ok because there’s nothing of me left for him—I sit very still. Body limp, mind empty. Move not, think not. Rest in-between the contractions.

Don’t ask me to do more.

The time will come—and I can tell you this, I know things are stabilizing—I guess there’s an advantage of this being a cycle—because I can see that the time will come when I can think about… art and music and fun and play and shiny things. But right now? Asking a person who is in survival mode what they’re doing for self-care is asking them to do more… when they barely have the capacity to do what needs to be done.

Don’t invent more tasks for me, ok?

v

Game face on. Uniform.

I schedule all of us—except for Ender, who loves his mop of unruly hair—for haircuts on Monday. Cinder’s been asking for a haircut for weeks. I can barely see through my bangs. We were supposed to take Flora in for a trim in September but what with one doctor’s appointment and another and another…

Appointment for haircut.

Such a normal, ordinary thing to do.

The effort involved in making that telephone call, to make those appointments? I can’t even… What it will cost me to get Flora, Cinder, myself there, and Ender safely stowed? Don’t even.

When you see me after the haircut? Absolutely, say, “Oh-my-god, amazing hair, your hairdresser is a genius!” (Rose Mossa, ladies, gentlemen, and non-binary noble folk, 403.283.8281) But stop there. Don’t tell me things must be getting better. Save pronouncements on my feelings and my situation for—like, me. Flora. Let me tell you how I feel, what I feel—if I feel up to going there. Otherwise, after we finishing adoring my hair (and it will be amazing), let’s talk about the poets of Shiraz, American war crimes, and how we can save independent journalism.

Uniform chosen. Game face on.

Go.

“Jane”

 

Happy birthday (the war’s not over)

January 6

i

She’s 15 and we’re still at home.

ii

This past November, I was anticipating that December would be hard. Anniversaries always are. In December—which wasn’t great, but which wasn’t so bad, it could have been so much worse, things had been so much worse—I started to look forward to a New Year. A new leaf, a blank slate. I like those milestones: January 1, Mondays, the first page of a new notebook.

I made plans.

I fantasized, very conservatively. But still. I did.

I envisioned a future.

And now, again, life occurs in 15 minute increments.

And existing in most present moments is unbearable.

iii

She laughs with joy as she comes downstairs and sees her birthday door. This is a happy moment.

iv

At the weekly meeting of the Parents of Children Who Haven’t Died Yet But Who Very Well Might—But Don’t Worry Be Happy Because Suffering Is All In Your Head—we often talk about the challenge of appreciating the happy moments, the lulls between shitstorms. On this particular day, those of us in the room are all mothers who came to motherhood biologically. (The group is usually all mothers; a father comes every once in a while. But rarely. Let’s save that reality for another story.) And so, we all relate when I talk about contractions. About how you get through 12, 24 hours of labour by riding through to the head of the contraction, breathing, screaming to endure—and then, in that brief, holy space between pain and pain, resting as fully as you can. Not thinking about the next contraction. Not thinking when will this end. Not thinking, not thinking, not thinking, not wondering when, if, they baby will crown, will it live, will it thrive, will it be an artist, engineer or hobo. Not thinking, not dreaming. Just…. resting.

Body limp, mind empty.

(If you’re in labour for more than 24 hours, woman, get an epidural for fuck’s sake. But I digress.)

(I digress because she’s 15 and we’re at home, and this is a happy moment.)

Body limp, mind empty. Rest. And here comes the contraction again, ride that motherfucker to the top.

When I use that metaphor at the meeting of the Parents of Children Who Haven’t Died Yet But Who Very Well Might (—Bet Your Bottom Dollar the Sun Will Come out Tomorrow or the Day After or the Next Week, Month, Year, Probably, Eventually, Keep on Hoping, Why Are You Despairing? Bet Your Bottom Dollar!), everyone nods and sighs and says, so true, we all learn to rest and live in those spaces between contractions-crises.

Today, as I write the idea out—body limp, mind empty—fuck people, what’s wrong with you?

Body limp, mind empty.

That’s how you get through 12, 24 hours of labour.

But that is no way to live.

vi

Flora wanted to spend her seventh birthday at West Edmonton Mall Waterpark. I found a great package deal on the Fantasyland Hotel and waterpark, but it meant going to Edmonton four or five days after her actual birthday. The seven-year-old decided to delay her entire birthday so that she could celebrate it the way she planned, at the Waterpark. She did not open her presents. She did let us sing happy birthday to her and blow out the candles on her birthday cake—but did not let us cut it. We transported everything to Edmonton; celebrated a few days later.

She was seven years old. IT still blows my mind. Can you imagine, getting your birthday presents, and keeping them, wrapped, untouched, in your room for four days? At seven years old? I’m not sure I could do it at 45…

vii

How do you live in perpetual crisis?

I’ve interviewed people who’ve lived in war zones, refugee camps. I’ve talked with rape survivors and victims of ongoing domestic violence. Most of my extended family has vivid memories of living under martial law, in a police state, in fear of that knock on the door—in the middle of the night—that ends everything.

People live in this, through this. They love through this, they fall in love in this. How?

Humans are amazing survival machines. We habituate to just about anything.

We survive.

viii

On Saturday night, my aman cara comes to hold me, love me, bring supper, because, as I sit on the couch holding Flora, I can’t even summon the energy to call Skip the Dishes. She comes back on Sunday—I’m on a board conference call , then Ender demands a 6 p.m. bedtime (he is so not ok) and so my aman cara comforts Sean and then helps him make 15 rainbows for Flora’s birthday day.

(It’s a tradition in our family—we did it first for Sean, when he was going through a crisis—decorated a door for his 38th birthday with 38 hearts, on each of which we wrote a thing we loved about him. When Ender’s birthday came two weeks later, Flora did his door—it was his fourth birthday, and she cut out four big hearts for him. Her birthday came next—Sean papered the door with hears for her. Now we had a tradition—and a Cinder who was turning 13, and did not want any rainbow hearts on his door, what the fuck? Flora and Sean made 13 bombs. And so it has gone. For her 15th birthday—15 rainbows. Each one drenched in tears and love.)

When Flora was in the hospital, my aman cara, my mother, and a handful of friends fed us, took care of Ender, did everything they could to help us get through. People are good, and people are amazing in a crisis.

So long as it is short.

You know this.

Your toleration for a friend’s heartbreak, divorce trauma, grief for the death of a parent? It has an expiration date.

It’s like that for personal crises; it’s like that for meta-global, political crises too. A tsunami or an earthquake devastates a region? We rally, give, donate, support… go home. A civil war rages for two years, two decades? God, is that still going on? I’ve stopped paying attention.

And in the meantime, two years later, that region far away hit by that earthquake, to which you’re not paying attention anymore? There are still people there who are homeless, who have no reliable water supply, who are still in crisis.

The people in the crisis, they can’t stop paying attention.

But even they become habituated to it. Accept it as their new normal.

How fucked up is that?

viii

She insists on going to school and I spend six hours wondering if my child will come home.

There are precautions in place. I know she arrives at the school. I know she doesn’t miss classes. She checks in with me at lunch. In-between messages, I exist in soul-draining uncertainty.

ix

Crisis. The new normal.

One of my fighting points (I have many) with the family therapist at Flora’s out-patient clinic is that she wants me to simultaneously have hope and to stop resisting what is. Dialectical thinking at its best, but seriously? How am I supposed to accept… No, no, no.

No.

And yet. I know the bitch is right.

Sorry. Not a bitch—healer with a heart of gold. I just need to be angry at someone, anyone. And there she is, with her platitudes and really terrible metaphors and well-intentioned helplessness.

Crisis. Knives, razors, Tylenol and Nyquil, household cleaners under lock and key. I cut pickles for sandwiches with a butter knife as sharp as a spoon.

Cry at the ludicrousness of it all.

x

She comes home from school. I breathe.

xi

Birthday supper at a Korean restaurant in the evening. My parents are there. She seems happy, almost chatty, and I wonder if my parents buy it, or if they see what Sean and I see—the mask pulled on, the effort required. Earlier in the day, I was a guest panelist at a webinar. And I did the same: Five minutes til show time. Breathe. Game face on. Perform. Laugh. Don’t let anyone see you cry or bleed. Done. Collapse.

She’ll collapse when we get home, as will we all.

But right now, as she eats bulgogi and thanks Grandma for her presents and lets Cinder tease her that she’s, how old? 13?—game face on.

Which is a reminder, I suppose, that awful though this is, it’s not as bad as the first five, six months of 2019, when none of us could put the game face on for anything.

But then, there’s also this consequence—game face on. Go see friends. Go do normal things.

A text: “Saw Flora today! She looks great! So happy that she’s doing better!”

Except when she comes home—she collapses.

xii

She’s 15. She’s home. She’s still at home.

“Jane”

Post-script I was going to embed a video of John Lennon’s “Happy Christmas (The War Is Over)” below. You know which one I mean. The one that comes with all the warnings. And that will rend your heart. Because as I do my best to keep one child alive, and the spectre of war and hate pushes on me from the outside, I know only one truth: every soldier, every civilian, every victim of war is somebody’s child.

Why does this reality not infuse every decision we make, politically, personally? Somebody’s child.

Our provincial government is cutting 500 nursing jobs. Let me tell you, having spent 12 months in the belly of the system now–there are many thing wrong with it. But it is not overstaffed.

Every fired nurse? A nurse that’s not able to help someone’s child when they need help.

She’s home. The war’s not over. But she’s 15. And she’s still at home.

Suffering, loving, living… home

i

Pen, notebook, coffee, my comfy chair. This should be a happy moment except that upstairs, a child wants to die.

Yesterday, she sees tear-streaks on my face. “Have you been crying? Why are you upset?” My lips make words. “It’s hard to watch you suffer.” She puts a hand on my arm. “I don’t want to invalidate your feelings,” she says, parroting Dialectical Behaviour Therapy scripts, “but it’s hard to suffer.” Her tone is condescending.

I kiss the top of her head. I can’t say, “I know.” She hates that, always says, “Do you?” or “How can you?” or screams, “You don’t know.”

i don’t know.

Yesterday, we kept her alive.

Today’s task is the same.

I am confused, caught off-guard by this. It’s not new—the depression, the darkness, the suicidal ideation have been part of what she’s struggled with as she’s battled what I still think of as “the real illness.” The symptoms of that have receded, are finally responding to treatment. I had thought the accompanying darkness was situational. Caused by the illness, and why not? Who could endure what Flora has been going through for the last two years and not wish for release, however final?

I misunderstood, again, everything.

Tomorrow, Flora turns 15.

Tomorrow, Flora will turn 15.

Tomorrow, Flora will turn 15.

Please, child, daughter, love, please turn 15 tomorrow. Sixteen the year after. Kiss a girl, a boy. Fall in love. Go to Wales again—test for your second degree black belt. Find, follow your passions. Genetically modify pigs so that they have wings. Do all the things. Live. Please.

Motherhood—parenthood—is this relentless process of finding out you don’t control your children. You can’t protect your children. You can do all things… and you still cannot save them from “the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune.”

You cannot save them from themselves.

Flora. Turn 15. Live.

You can only love them.

ii

On Friday morning, Sean takes Flora to an emergency appointment with one of her doctors, who is concerned enough that she essentially says, take her to the hospital. If you can’t get her in the car, call an ambulance.

Sean spends the day with her at the hospital. Triage. Resident. Psychiatric nurse. Psychiatrist.

I’m in an all-day instructors’ course. I learn shit until 10:30 a.m., at which point I get the call from Sean that they’re on their way to the hospital. I have no idea what happens after that. I’m nominally in the classroom. I even talk to my chair about my winter schedule. Get my ID card. There’s a tour. Ironically, we visit Student Development & Counselling Services. Talk a lot about mental health. I can’t breathe. I will not leave her in the hospital again, I will not, but oh-my-god, suppose I don’t and she dies?

I text something along those lines to Sean. His answers are clipped. Triage. Resident. Psychiatrict nurse. Psychiatrist. Waiting.

Finally—coming home.

iii

I don’t want to talk shit about our medical system because I am so grateful for universal free healthcare, and I know the system is full of well-intentioned healers who want to help people. Nobody goes into nursing, medicine, psychology, psychiatry because they want to be a bureaucrat, gatekeeper or hateful asshole.

The system just turns them into that…

I don’t want to talk shit about the youth mental health ward where Flora spent most of last spring either.

But I will.

Yes, she got help. Assessment, diagnosis, the beginning of treatment.

She was also traumatized and emotionally abused.

We might as well have put her in jail.

vi

Home.

Flora’s not happy at home. When she talks to the psychologist, doctors, psychiatrists, she tells them she hates her life at home. Doesn’t get along with her brothers. I don’t know what she says about her parents—she saves that for when I leave the room. The little I do hear is hard enough to take. I don’t know what I could have done to have given this child a more stress-free, trauma-free, happy childhood.

I don’t know what I could, should do differently now.

Not cry in front of her now, maybe, but fuck me, I have no reserves left and the tears just come when they want to. I need to save my energy for the battles, conversations, emotional labours that matter.

v

Home.

Friday night, I sleep in Flora’s top bunk so that she’s not alone in the night. Saturday night, Sean does Friday evening, he watches movies with her while I feed us, put Ender to bed Check on Cinder. The boys are not doing well. Ender is clingy, behaviourally regressive. Cinder, fully my son, is disassociating, directing impossible to articulate fear and anger at schoolwork—“stupid and not worth doing”—and inanimate objects, there are new holes in walls.

Saturday morning, we sell Ender to a friend and neighbour, and go look at puppies. I need another living, needy, vulnerable thing in the house like I need… I can’t even find the appropriate metaphor. But when we ask Flora what she needs, what might help, a dog into whose fur she could bury her face is all that she can express.

Our dog is a very selfish emotional support animal. Also, she thinks she’s Ender’s. Also, I will grasp at any straw.

We don’t come home with a puppy. Flora has moments of happiness during the search, I think, but also much longer moments of despair. When we get home, Sean takes Cinder to a movie. I sit on the couch with Flora. Hold her for hours.

vi

In the hospital, staff are not allowed to touch the kids—unless they’re restraining them, that’s ok.* The kids aren’t allowed to touch each other either. The kids also have to spend chunks of each day in “quiet time” in their rooms, doors closed. That’s supposed to be part of their therapy. It’s also the go-to punishment. Isolation. Staff can’t handle you? You’re not behaving?

You’re locked, alone, in your room.

The first week Flora’s at the hospital last spring, the kids start a riot to protest what they see as an unjust punishment of one of them. They’re all forced to spend the rest of the day in their rooms.

In isolation.

I am not a nurse, doctor, psychologist, psychiatrist.

But I am a child, mother, wife, friend, lover, boss, teacher, neighbour, colleague. Human.

And I can tell you without any equivocation that the key to good mental health is love and connection.

Not isolation.

vii

Home.

The psychiatrist from the hospital ER calls Friday night, Saturday night. Promises to call again Sunday. Talks to Flora. Sean.

He calls on his free time, after his shift is over.

The people who work in the system? Most of them, healers with hearts of gold.

He’s talked with Flora’s outpatient medical team. Is worried that he made the wrong call not insisting on admission.

I know he didn’t.

I don’t know if we can keep her safe.

I don’t know what else we need to hide, put away. I don’t know the right things to say.

I don’t know if we can keep her safe.

But we can keep her loved.

“Jane”

Post-script: Sean talks to Flora for hours. Short conversations, interspersed with hugs, silence, life. Trying to make all of us accept that the hospital is not the worst option. It’s the second worst option, and the worst option is unthinkable, unacceptable. If you can’t keep yourself safe, if we can’t keep you safe—will you tell us? Will you choose to go?

She promises.

But she’s only a child. What a burden to bear.

Flora, child, love, most beloved.

You will turn 15 tomorrow.

Turn 15 tomorrow.

* * *

We are still home.

She danced, who is she?

Morning phone call, panic, shitty morning. I don’t give you details, because her story is private, even though it is also part of my story. Shitty morning, shitty afternoon. She seems fine then, functional and stable. Me, I play chauffeur, deliver Flora and Ender to their happy places, then cancel lunch with friend-could-be-lover, will not find out now. Try to move out of the past moment that was genuinely shitty—that morning—into the actual present moment—this afternoon—that’s really not so bad, except, emotional hangover, exhaustion, spiralling “I can’t go on like this” thoughts.

What happens? Hard to say. Sleep. Fake meditation. (It’s like meditation, but I listen to an audiobook of a story that I know really well while doing it. Shut up, purist. Anything that works to get me out of despair, I do.) Food. A Philippa Gregory novel. Handholding via text from a friend. I can’t say I let go of the pain, more like I let it burn out. I need to let it burn out so that when it comes again tomorrow, it will be fresh. This makes no sense, except that it does: when the next shit episode in this ongoing shit crisis happens, I need to react to it, and to it alone. Not to the last 12 months of it.

This is not just hard, it’s impossible. Still. One tries. Burn away, pain.

Shitty morning, hangover afternoon. Evening. I’m supposed to dance. How do we do this, I ask Sean. I mean, really? How do we dance, laugh, live a normal life when our child suffers like this?

He had no real answers. He doesn’t want to dance either. He forgets to laugh even more than I do, I think, for all that his detachment from the horrors of each shit moment seems better… in the moment.

But. We decide to dance

Child safe, stowed, watched, loved.

This is a happy moment. Dance.

It works.

Oh-my-fucking-god, it is ever so hard. Because the memory of the past shitty moment—a year’s worth of them—presses. Hard. The anticipation of the next shitty moment taunts. They are inevitable. They will come.

In this space between them, I dance.

* * *

In my Instagram and Facebook feeds, you will see me dancing. You will not see the shitty moments. The camera curates them out. Bear that in mind when you see me in life—bear that in mind when the peak moment compilation of your friends’ carefully curated online personae make you sigh over the relentless ordinariness of your life.

I am not convinced that we are not our thoughts. I’m pretty sure we are little else. But this I do know for sure: we are not our Facebook posts and Instagram stories. And life is not a Twitter feed.

* * *

This is a happy moment. Dance.

That was a shitty moment, series of moments, shitty minutes becomes shitty hours, days, weeks, months. Don’t deny it. Let the pain burn.

Dance.

“Jane”

Post-script: Two days later, we are back in the hospital with Flora; I can’t breathe and I don’t know who the woman who danced on New Year’s Eve was.

Deep Texting Conversation with My Teenager

You don’t hear a lot about Cinder these days, I realize, so I thought I’d catch you up with what’s going on in his world via our text exchanges.

Jane: This is your boarding pass. Have a good trip.

Two weeks later:

Cinder: Landed.

Jane: Here.

Cinder: K.

Biking in Waterton Lakes National Park

2012

Next day:

Cinder: My course schedule is all fucked up.

Jane: You’ll have to see your counsellor, I guess.

Cinder: I guess.

Next day:

Jane: Supper’s ready.

Later that night:

Jane: Where are you?

Cinder: Home soon.

Next day:

Jane: Food. Caesar dressing or oil and vinegar?

Cinder: Caesar.

A few days later:

Cinder: Math 30-1 has a special textbook that’s $20.

Jane: Ok.

A few days later:

Cinder: Can I drop English 30 and take it online?

Jane: K.

Later that day:

Jane: Supper.

Next day:

Jane: Food.

Next day:

Jane: Food.

A few days later:

Jane: This is your Alberta Health Care number.

Cinder: Why are you sending this to me?

Jane: You’ll get a phone call. You’ll need it.

A few days later:

Cinder: Can you get toilet paper on the way home.

Jane: There is a shitload of toilet paper in the furnace room.

Cinder: Not a good place for toilet paper.

Jane: Alternative storage suggestions welcome.

Next day:

Cinder: Where are the bandaids?

Jane: What happened?

Cinder: Nothing. Where are the bandaids?

Jane: Bathroom, top cabinet.

Cinder: No.

Jane: Then we’re out.

Cinder: Can you buy bandaids.

Jane: Do I need to hurry home?

Jane: Are you bleeding to death? Is Flora? Is Ender? Is there a dead body in the house?

Cinder: Buy bandaids.

Cinder: And cookies.

A few days later:

Jane: Are you dead?

Cinder: No.

Jane: Coming home?

Cinder: Eventually.

Jane: Can I have an ETA? I’m stuck in the stairwell under Flora’s desk and I need help to move it.

Jane: Cinder? Hello? I’m really stuck!

Later:

Jane: Supper.

Next day:

Jane: Food.

Next day:

Cinder: There’s no food in the house.

Jane: Basement. Ramen, Annie’s. Cans of beans. Knock yourself out. There might still be a frozen pizza in the fridge.

Cinder: K.

 

Next day:

Jane: Mashed potatoes or garlic bread?

Cinder: Both?

A few days later:

Cinder: What’s my CBE password?

Jane: How the fuck should I know?

Cinder: Didn’t you write it down somewhere for when I forgot?

Jane: No. Reset it.

Cinder: What’s my CBE email?

Jane: Seriously?

Next day:

Jane: Supper.

Next day:

Cinder: Where are you?

Jane: Out. Why?

Cinder: There’s no food.

Jane: Pizza.

Cinder: There’s no fruit or salad things in the house.

Jane: Who are you?

Cinder and Flora on the one unsubmerged rock on our Common.

Next day:

Jane: Supper.

Next day:

Cinder: Can I have $20?

Jane: Cash?

Cinder: Yes.

Jane: Today?

Cinder: Yes.

Jane: Only if all the change in the change jar in front of the Buddha adds up to $20.

Cinder: Are we broke?

Jane: Experiencing cash flow difficulties.

A few days later:

Cinder: Can you proof my resume?

Next day:

Jane: Food.

Cinder: Not home.

Jane: Where are you?

Cinder: Out.

Jane: K. I’m gonna eat your steak.

Cinder: Coming home.

God, I love this 6 foot 3 baby of mine

xoxo

“Jane”

Manufactured Memories, for Suzie

I don’t want a pen pal, she doesn’t want a relationship, and we live 300 km apart, so really, we’re doomed, but we decide to play a game anyway, like Truth or Dare, without the dare part.

I set out the rules:

I ask a question. You answer it. Tell the truth, or lie—it doesn’t matter. How can I tell if you lied?

And then, you ask me. Only rule is, you can’t ask me the same question I ask you.

She agrees. But stipulates we shouldn’t lie. I shrug, although she can’t see it. What is truth, anyway?

She asks me to go first.

I ask, “What’s the worst thing you’ve ever done?”

And she tells me. It’s not so bad. But it’s honest and raw.

She asks, “Why do you hate Christmas?”

I give her the unvarnished truth; I suspect she wishes she hadn’t asked.

She asks, “Favourite childhood memory.”

I pause.

Think hard.

I’ve had, in many ways, an idyllic childhood. It’s only when I scratch and dig deep that I realize that much of it must have been hard. Displacement, poverty.

But I never felt, experienced the poverty. We were never hungry.

We always felt safe.

We always felt loved.

My parents really did create a cocoon around us. I make a mental note to thank them.

I search for a memory that makes a discrete story. I decide to go with a very early one.

It goes like this…

The taste of cherries

I’m on summer vacation in Poland from Libya, and it’s cherry season. We’ve spent the morning on my paternal grandparents “działka,’ essentially an urban community garden. Except in post war, Communist Poland, the działka provides, god, virtually all of the fresh produce for a city family, especially in the summer. If you didn’t have one, you made friends with someone who did.

I’m pretty little. Maybe six? I must be six, no more than seven, because my grandmother was dead by the time I was eight. And we come home from the działka, and we have so many cherries, and my grandmother and my great-grandmother, they are going to make cherry jam and preserves. But my brother and I, we just want to each the cherries. And they’re so ripe and juicy, every time we grab one, we stain our hands and faces and clothes.

So my grandmother, who is stern and particular, strips us down to nothing, and puts us in the bathtub… with a giant bowl of cherries.

And we eat them and eat them and eat them… our faces, hands, bellies are red from the juices. The tub is stained red. But oh-my-god, the taste of those cherries is still there on my tongue. I have never eaten something so delicious, before or since.

I don’t have a lot of memories of my grandmother—I was so little when we left, and she died soon after. Most of the stories I’ve heard about her—she was not a warm or loving or happy person. I don’t have any memories of her hugging me or kissing me or any gifts from her or anything.

Except this one. But this one is so delicious…

I treasure it.

Gorge myself on cherries every season. Often, they are sweet—they are never as sweet as in that memory.

I have a second favourite childhood memory. This one, I know is largely manufactured.

The donkeys

In Libya, we lived in a city, called El Marj. Most of the Eastern European foreign workers weren’t given free reign of the city—certainly the women and children weren’t. Most of us were housed in workers’ camps. Our camp was called the American camp, because it had originally been built for the Americans, I think. I can’t remember how many houses on it—it seemed huge to me back them. It was, after all, our entire world. There was one main road through it—barbed wire fence on three sides, and a stone wall on the fourth, separating us from one of the El Marj neighbourhoods.

Was there a gate? I don’t remember. Perhaps.

We kids were free to roam the entire grounds of the camp—we were discouraged from hanging out near the entrances or near the crack in the stone wall—that’s another story, we used to meet there for parlays with the Arab kids but neither our parents nor their parents liked for us to do that.

One day, in one of the corners of the camp, we found a mother donkey and her baby.

We=the assortment of camp kids. At any given time, there were six to twelve of us; I don’t remember who the other kids were at the time. Nor at any given time: we were interchangeable to each other, playmates of the moment. Anyone of us could be gone tomorrow. Polish kids, Bulgarian kids, a token Romanian—I remember we didn’t like him, he was the eldest, a bully, mean, until we put him in an old rusted barrel (they were all over the place) and rolled him all over the camp, beating the barrel with sticks.

(Um, Mom and Dad, if you’re reading—you didn’t read that part. IT NEVER HAPPENED.)

We had no idea how the donkeys got into the camp—maybe the mother could have jumped the fence, but her baby? Maybe the gate was open—or maybe there was no gate.

She was in pretty rough shape, lots of scars and wounds. The Libyans were pretty hard on their animals.

We cleaned her up, and took the ticks out of her eyes and where we could find them on her and the baby’s body (there were a lot of ticks, swollen with blood). And we got them food and water.

I can’t remember what we fed them. Most of our mothers grew vegetables and flowers while we had water, so we probably raided the gardens. Sometimes, we didn’t have water and had to drive hundreds of kilometres to get drinking water. Then, the gardens withered.

In my memory, we kept the donkeys hidden from the adults for weeks. But I expect it was only a few days. The big kids, we rode the mom. And we put the two little guys (my brother and the another little boy) on the baby. I remember this, distinctly.

When I say rode, I think I mean we got on the donkey’s backs and sat there and maybe the donkey walked around a little…

Memory is a funny thing. I don’t remember how this story ends and I refuse to ask. One day, the donkeys weren’t there. Did their owners come back? Did they escape? Did someone see them, and “steal” them? Did someone come to the adults, tell me, give us our damn donkeys back? Did our parents let them go, chase them out? I don’t know.

(Dad, if you know—don’t tell me. I don’t want to know.)

In my story, we keep them and take care of them forever, and everyone lives happily ever after.

She likes the story. A lot.

But now she wants her next question.

I ponder for a bit.

Then ask, “What’s the most creative lie you’ve ever told, and why?”

I hope it’s going to be a good story.

xoxo

“Jane”

Two in high school, one at home equals… I don’t know, I’m really bad at math

Last week, I started drafting a post celebrating and documenting Calgary’s Pride 2019 and telling you why it is we march—and why if you don’t get that it’s political, that all the joy and dancing and laughter and singing around Pride is so political, then you shouldn’t come to our glitter party—but I couldn’t make it funny or even particularly convincing. So I shelved it.

The week before that, I wrote three very long essays about why I hate the family therapist that’s part of Flora’s medical team. Short-hand: She doesn’t understand. Me, Flora, our family. I don’t like her. I don’t respect her. I don’t want to listen to her, and I can’t hear her even when she gives me something of value, because I really need to be able to be angry at someone, hate someone, blame someone, and she’s the ideal candidate for the task. But I couldn’t make it empathetic or compassionate. It just sounded mean, and I didn’t want to come across as mean. Just… pissed and misunderstood.

We live here, how lucky is that?

Then, some good things happened, but I didn’t even try to write about those, because I didn’t want to jinx them. I jinxed some of them anyway. Alas.

And since Tuesday I’ve been trying to compose a “Back to School” post. My first-ever, because this is Cinder’s first “Back to School” year—my boy’s in grade 12, y’all. And it’s Flora’s first-ever “to school” year—she did it, we did it, she made it to regular school on day 1 just as she decided way back before BAM! Surprise! Curveball!

Flora’s first day of school; yes, that is her unicorn costume

And, Ender’s first year at home alone. I mean, with me, but you know what I mean. I don’t count, because I’m an adult. His first year at home alone without his siblings. He missed Cinder desperately when Cinder went to school last fall—I found this odd, because it seemed to me Cinder spent most of his time in his room anyway, playing computer games and punching holes in walls—but apparently just having him in the house was… nice.

I’m trying not to overplan and overpanic. He’ll be fine. He’s got buddies in the hood, and a homeschooled buddy just two doors over.

Cinder planning his semester (who is this kid??)

He’ll be fine. Me? Here’s the funny thing that most people don’t get. When Cinder went to school, I did not suddenly magically have more free, non-kid time. Because there were still two kids at home (and one of them was about to need 24/7 care but let’s not go there again, not now, not yet). And now, with both Flora and Cinder in high school—I do not magically have more kid-free time. Because, there is still… Ender. And an Ender who no longer has two older siblings to hang out with during the day, to distract, to bug, to annoy, to fight with.

And then there were three…

We survive our first week solo relatively well. Tuesday and Friday are a half-day, and on Wednesday, we have lots of errands, and Thursday is a beautiful day, so we spend a lot of time outside, and then, the weekend, and a sleepover with his cousins and all his friends on the Common.

And today is Monday, our first week of five full days of no Flora and no Cinder at home.

We’re gonna be ok.

I think.

Ender’s “not back to school” lunch

Our coping strategies are very similar. I decide to reorganize the homeschooling supplies and purge the stuff that we are definitely never ever going to use again. Ender reorganizes his Lego shelf—to make room for the new Lego sets he’s planning to receive for his birthday, my eternal optimist.

We read a book together, then I read alone.

I do laundry, because it’s Monday and it’s raining, and that’s what you do on rainy Mondays when you have a dryer and a large drying rack.

He sorts his Lego, then starts uploading Minecraft mods.

I scour the house for chocolate. For fuck’s sake, surely, there’s an untapped stash of chocolate somewhere?

(There isn’t. I eat a handful of chocolate chips instead.)

There aren’t very many chocolate chips left in the house, because Cinder was doing midnight baking…

He asks for three lunches.

I answer an email, then text, from a new homeschooler who wants some advice on learning plans and unschooling. I’m not sure if what I tell her will be helpful. Because in the end, my “proof of concept” is unique to me and my family.

I think a lot about my work. Write some new words. Delete a few. Write a bit more.

I ask him if he wants to go swimming. Or something?

He shrugs. “Maybe go for ice cream? Later? I’m busy now.”

I go back to my computer. Tickle the keys.

Write.

Invite the nervous new homeschooler over for coffee.

Write while I wait.

Happy rainy Monday.

The path less travelled

xoxo

“Jane”

Me and my “baby,” at the Passport Office

Finding Water, grateful for Julia Cameron, kinda whiny anyway

I’m re-reading Julia Cameron’s Finding Water: The Art of Perseverance, one of her “sequels,” if I can be permitted to call them that, to her revolutionary creative recovery program, The Artist’s Way. I have a cynical suspicion that both Finding Water (2006) and its predecessor Walking in the World (2003)—as well as Cameron’s myriad The Artist’s Way spin-offs, including The Prosperous Heart (2012), The Artist’s Way for Parents (2014), It’s Never Too Late to Begin Again (2016)—were written more at the behest of her publisher than her muse. “Julia!” I imagine the publisher saying. “We need The Artist’s Way 2!” “But I said all I have to say on this in the last book!” Julia protests. “Julia! The people want—need—more! Also, money!” And she sighs, and she looks at her 12-week structure, and she thinks, sure, I can come up with another variant of this, and she writes. And writes some more…

What you need to know: Neither Finding Water nor Walking in the World are nearly as good or life-changing as The Artist’s Way. Because she did give it all away in that first one: the “sequels” are just refinements. Not as good, not as profound. And yet, I re-read both every couple of years as part of my The Artist’s Way refresher. And when I do, I always find something “new,” something I need to hear, learn, affirm at that particular joint in my artistic journey, personal life.

And on this week’s trip with Julia Cameron—the woman who, six, seven years ago now, gave me permission to think of myself as an artist, and what a frightening thought that was—I find Julia’s mid-life insecurities reassuring. I love reading about her sudden foray into music and piano lessons at age 45. Her attempt to stage musicals in New York City in her fifties. I’m not clear if they’re successful or not. I rather think they’re not, or she’d give me the happy ending now, wouldn’t she? Or is she holding it back so that I value the process regardless of what happened to the final product?

When I teach writing (or marketing, for that matter), I draw on a lot of Julia’s ideas, and I’ve read and re-read her so many times now that you’d think nothing would be new… But today, this, if not new, is necessary, and it lifts my heart. Julia says:

One of the greatest disservices we can do to ourselves as artists is to make our work too special and too different from everybody else’s work. To the degree to which we can normalize our day, we have a chance to be both productive and happy. Let us say, as is often the case, we are resistant to getting down to work. We have a choice. We can buy into our resistance—Writer’s block! Painter’s block!—or we can simply say, “I don’t feel like working today, and I’ll bet an awful lot of other people are in the same boat.”

I don’t feel like working today.

I don’t feel like dealing with my shitty first drafts or my marketing analysis or my synopsis or anything, and OMFG, the taxes, I don’t want to do that either. My process for today, I decide, is going to be reading Julia. Because, today, I need to read about how on some days (months) she doesn’t feel like working (more than 20 books later), I love reading about her shitty first drafts, and agent’s rejections of her novels. This is Julia-fucking-Cameron, after all, author of The Artist’s Way, the former Mrs. Martin Scorsese, if anyone should have people beating a path to her door for a book, any book, surely it should be her—how many copies of The Artist’s Way has she sold? (Four million, at 2016, and she still can’t place every novel.)

I find this reassuring. Not because Julia’s suffered and struggled—if I could take that away from her, from anyone, I would. It’s just… reaffirming. Nobody’s entitled to success, fame, an easy ride, an easy second or seventeenth contract. We do the work… because we must do the work.

I’m corrupting young minds part-time these days, teaching journalism courses at a post-secondary institution to “aspiring” writers, artists, photographers, journalists. I’m giving them all I’ve got a la Annie Dillard, although sometimes, I worry I’m teaching skills as obsolete and unvalued as typewriter repair. I hope the core of what I’m giving them is still valid. They want to know how I built a freelance career, and most of what I did, had to do, could do, doesn’t precisely apply to them. But this does—I sent out 97 pitches before I sold my first story.

…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.

Annie Dillard, The Writing Life

Their reaction to this story—most are horrified—tells me what their odds of succeeding are in whatever career or artistic path they choose.

Perseverance. How hard are you willing to work for this thing you love?

My industry has always been an industry of attrition. We the survivors, the “success” stories? In some ways, we’re the idiots who persevere well past the point of reason.

One of my favourite things about re-reading The Artist’s Way and Finding Water etc. are the encounters with the quotes Julia (I feel we’re on a first-name basis now, it’s been so many years) sprinkles in the margins. It’s here that I first “heard” George Nathan say that “Art is the sex of the imagination,” and Irving Layton assert that “If poetry is like an orgasm, an academic can be likened to someone who studies the passion stains on the bedsheets.”

Yesterday, I read this:

It is not irritating to be where one is. It is only irritating to think one would like to be somewhere else.

John Cage

Where I am right now is not awesome. Irritating doesn’t begin to describe it. The family therapist, who is part of Flora’s ever-growing medical team, and whose job, I think, is to medicate me without drugs—although, really, I keep on waiting for her to give me a marijuana prescription, it’s the most useful thing she could do, except, of course, she doesn’t need to, I can just go to the Co-op and get it—well, except that weed isn’t really my thing, but, OMFG, every time I think about the family therapist, I want to get stoned, where was I? The family therapist tells me not to think of this time as the new normal. She says this is still the crisis, a stage, things will get better. Also, things have been much—much—worse. She counsels… hope, and focusing on the future.

I wish I could fire her. I’m not sure if she’s incompetent or if I’m just being obtuse. But I can’t live on hope. I can’t endure today simply by thinking that tomorrow—next month—next year—2024—will be easier, better, more functional.

Thich Nhat Hahn—my favourite monk—and the Jewish Buddhists I read (seriously, so many of the modern American Buddhist teachers come from the Jewish tradition—why is that? I should find out) want me to be able to enjoy the sun on my skin, the beauty of a flower—Flora’s excited smile as she puts together her Pastel Goth wardrobe for high school. And I do. This, right now, is a happy moment. Unfortunately, odds are pretty good it will be followed by an hour in hell, and that hell is not all in my head, fuck you, Bodhisattva Junior.

Breathe.

When the hours in hell outnumber the happy moments by a substantial factor, I dream of running away, and I apply for a job in Dubai, an arts residency in the mountains.

You: Yeah, what happened with that?

Jane: Didn’t get the job in Dubai. Got the arts residency.

I am very excited about the residency. But I’m also aware that the 12 days in the fall that I will spend away from the demands of my life, while giving me time for focused work and, also, uninterrupted sleep, will not change anything, in the present, in the long term. In fact, they can damage the work I need to do in the present. “I can suffer now, I can sacrifice now, because I get those 12 days soon!”

This is the way most people think about their shitty jobs and vacations.

This is not the way I want to live my life.

Neither does Julia. In the week of Finding Water I’m reading now, her doctor notes that she’s tired and recommends renting a cabin in the country for the summer, so she can get away from it all and write.

I didn’t want to rent a cabin in the country; I wanted to write right where I was, smack in the middle of New York City. I wanted to write about the excitement of the flower district, the garment district, the antique district. I wanted to write about exactly where I was planted, in the rich soil of a bustling metropolis. I wanted to write, period.

I had a lust to simply lay some track, to put some words to my experience, to try to achieve an optimistic balance by putting things onto the page.

I must be serene in the place where I am planted.

Me too, Julia, me too. (No hashtag.)

So, I’m trying to figure it out. To make the present inhabitable, fulfilling. So many things completely beyond my control and unpredictable. What can I change, affect? What anchors, routines, predictability can I create? Where can I thrive?

I’ve kept writing in the mornings, my Morning Pages as Julia taught me in The Artist’s Way all those years ago. (Six years now? Seven?) Trying to jump from the pages to creative, constructive work when the mornings are calm. But life does not always allow this, and I cannot pressure myself. “I must set my own gentle pace,” Cameron writes in Finding Water. Something else, someone else is setting my pace. I must accept it and work with it. Not hope that tomorrow, maybe, next month, maybe, for fuck’s sake, next year, surely, will be better.

What can I do today?

Sometimes, only the basics. Morning pages, Flora’s current morning routine, Ender’s breakfast, potato chips and pickles for lunch. A meditation session that turns into a nap, because, interrupted sleep. Apologies to the dog for not taking her out for a walk—ok, fine, five minutes, to the end of the alley and back, hey, we did it!

Sometimes, a 12-hour marathon. I try to take Saturdays away, mini-arts residencies, maxi-Artist’s Dates. Sometimes, work, work, work, work, and I am so happy—fucking family therapist and her bubble baths as self-care suggestions—just because she hates her job, can she not imagine that what I want, more than anything, is more time for mine?

Sometimes, silence.

Today, a few hours with Julia.

Julia says,

When joy is elusive, we must actively seek it out. We must put ourselves with people and things that bring us delight. Sometimes, when we are at our most depressed, it can be difficult to even recall the joys in life. It is for this reason , that one more time we must take pen in hand. Turning to the page, number from one to fifty. Now list fifty things which you love.

Do it.

xoxo

“Jane”

PS If you’re in yeg or yyc or thereabouts, Julia Cameron is coming to Edmonton on October 5! Of course I’m going.

TICKETS HERE

PS2 Here’s a recent New Yorker article on Julia Cameron’s utility to 20-somethings in an age of self-promotion:
https://www.newyorker.com/culture/cultural-comment/the-artists-way-in-an-age-of-self-promotion

PS3 And here’s a recent New York Times article on Cameron, kinda an overview/homage:
https://www.nytimes.com/2019/02/02/style/julia-cameron-the-artists-way.html

If any of my students are reading this, and you’ve clicked on the above article and read it, please note: if you ever write a sentence like this:

“On a recent snowy afternoon, Ms. Cameron, who has enormous blue eyes and a nimbus of blonde hair, admitted to the jitters before this interview.”

I will fail your ass. Today’s lesson. WTF, NYT?

Halfway to 90: on flying, smashing the patriarchy, and other dreams

I turn 45 this  month—this week—this day, hey, it’s today!—and I suppose now, when you call me middle-aged, I can’t say fuck off, because what else is this? My native language has a much better term for this time of life—it translates as “in the strength of life,” and it’s a term that’s applied, incidentally, exclusively to men. Regency English has a similar and similarly gendered term—Jane Austen’s men in their 40s and 50s are “in the prime of life and still as handsome as ever.” The women, of course, enter the “danger years” before their mid-twenties. Thank you, patriarchy.

I mean, actually, fuck you, patriarchy.

I don’t mind getting older. I won’t mind being old. Let me tell you, I plan to be the most bad-ass granny that there ever has been.

But I’m experiencing some reluctance–ok, massive refusal–to take on that middle-aged label.

Flora: Now you know how I feel.

Jane: This has nothing to do with being a middle child.

Flora: The point is the middle sucks.

It totally doesn’t. The middle is fucking fantastic, or should be. I’m finally not too young for the titles and keynotes and responsibilities. No one is saying with doubt in their old, gravelly voices, “Well, you seem qualified… but do you think you can really hand it?” and forcing me to find a way of saying, “Grandad, just cause you in the prime of your life are intimidated by the task doesn’t mean I won’t breeze through it, ok?” in a way that is both submissive and just sufficiently confident—not too arrogant, not too threatening, look at me, I’m Goldilock’s “just right” bowl of porridge, really.

Right now—I am Goldilock’s “just right” bowl of porridge. In another decade—15 years max—I’ll be qualified but past it, out of touch—too old, and also, too expensive. So, I’ve got to milk this next decade, this middle for everything I can get out of it. In the middle, my hard-done-by middle child, you have both clout and (comparative) youth. Experience and energy. The ability to connect with the generation that preceded you—because they raised you—and the generations that follow—because you birthed them.

Yes. This is a good place to be, except for, patriarchy.

Him: Again with the male bashing.

Jane: No. Never.

I have sons, a husband, brother, father, colleagues, friends, the occasional lover with a penis. I will not shit on men—neither all men nor most men. When Flora, in her nascent, emergent feminism, says, “Men suck,” I redirect her. Men are human, good and bad, as are women. The patriarchy, though? The patriarchy sucks ass, and I will shit on it without reservations. It hurts everyone, male, female, non-binary, young, old.

Its oppressions, for women, become more evident with age. Think you don’t need feminism, my pretty Millennial, because your law school class was more than 50 per cent women? Come talk to me when you’re trying to make partner, and tell me it’s an even playing field. Get a little older, a little more experienced—work a little harder. No, a lot harder. Have a baby or two. Then come tell me how easy it was to smash that glass ceiling, tell me how it feels to realize, in your prime, your male colleagues are out-earning you while underperforming. Tell me then how you’re navigating the reality of working in a system that still doesn’t understand the consequences of having employees that have and use their uteruses for something other than monthly PMS cramps.

Her: You know, you’ve been immensely successful. Show me one glass ceiling you haven’t smashed.

Jane: I broke all the rules. And I’ve been privileged. And supported by an extended family. And to be arrogantly frank—I’m exceptional. And it’s still been hard. And what I’ve done—it’s still, in 2019, possible only for the exceptional, the privileged, and the supported. I want it all to be better, and easier for my daughter.

Flora: But aren’t I exceptional too?

She is. Fuck, yeah, she is. Flora and I are 30 years apart. That’s a generation gap and a half, and not just because she’s a digital native and I’m a Luddite who not-so-secretly rejoices every time I kill my cellphone with melted chocolate.

(I’ve replaced it. I still think… perhaps I shouldn’t have.)

But she’s going to have to deal with all shit I’ve had to deal with. All of it. My path was easier than my mother’s–hers, easier than her mother’s, thank you, first-wave and second-wave feminism. Flora’s? I don’t think the needle has moved forward at all in the thirty years that separate us on gender equity—in some ways, it’s moved back. Yes, she can be a geneticist, neurosurgeon, or overlord of the universe (her current life plans). And she will be. Will it be as easy for her as it would be if she had a penis? Fuck, no, and don’t you dare whine, you over-privileged white male, that you’re not getting all the seats and all the prizes right now. You’re still getting more, and you’ve been getting more for centuries, in some cultures, millennia—and while you’ve been getting shafted in other ways (cry, brother, cry), it’s really time to own the immense economic and political privilege you’ve enjoyed. Her brothers will have an easier time in almost any career they choose—even in the female-dominated careers like nursing and teaching, they will have it easier because they are “special” (but in a good way).

(When you’re the only woman in a boardroom, loves, you’re not special—you’re either invisible or you’re that steel-balled cunt.)

(I’ve always chosen to be the steel-balled cunt. But wouldn’t it have been great… if I could have just done my job.)

And they will certainly have an easier time balancing the demands of career and family.

But I (surprise!) digress. I’m 45 today, halfway to ninety, officially middle-aged and then some—because my plan is to check out at 78, do not make plans for my 80th birthday, kiddies, let’s have a big bash at the 78 mark, cause I’m not sticking around much past then—45 and I suppose no longer a young woman to anyone… except when I’m visiting a nursing home or crashing Senior’s Day at the Grand Opening of a new Safeway on Vancouver Island.

When Flora and I are in Wales, a tour guide in Cardiff Castle takes us for sisters. He’s 80, half-blind and demonstrably deaf. Flora’s appalled. I can’t be flattered. Did I mention, he’s half-blind.

Flora: You’re kind of pretty, but you do not look that young. Like, ever.

Teenagers keep that “in the prime of life” ego in check better than anything. Perversely, I invite more punishment.

Jane: How old do you think I look?

Flora: 43? Maybe 42. In a good light, when you’ve slept well.

From the mouths of babes.

I am 45 today and I’m both vainer and more confident than I’ve ever been in my thirties, twenties, teens.

I don’t deny or hide the laugh lines, crow’s feet, the sharp crease in my forehead, most of the grey hair (most… I like my blonde fringe, and when there is more grey, especially if it goes white, I’ll sprinkle with with all the colours of the rainbow). I don’t wax or bleach my little moustache. I kinda like it (it makes kissing better, I’m pretty sure).

So I don’t deny or hide those signs of age, and I again have the body of an athlete, bar the softness in the post-partum belly and breasts, but I’ve made peace with that half a decade ago.

I don’t hide my age.

But, I am vain, and I do want all those aging part to still be… you know. Sexy. Attractive. Sizzling hot. Because I am…

Him: Middle –aged?

Jane: Fuck off.

Her: In your prime?

Jane: Precisely.

In my prime, professionally, creatively, sexually.

Fuck you, patriarchy.

Flora: Can you please not write about sex? Your children read your blog and it’s embarassing.

Jane: You don’t have to read it.

Forty-five. Middle-aged. Question: did the term “middle-aged” always sound so… frumpy, milquetoast? Or did we make it so, post 1950s and 1960s, when we as a culture started to worship youth?

Her: I think you’re losing your train of thought and the thrust of this essay.

Jane: Perhaps. I hear memory goes as you age.

The past six months have been the hardest six months of my life. I feel, much of the time, like a limp dishrag. Overwhelmed, overextended, exhausted—ill-equipped and inadequate, to boot. And yet, with all of that—this is me, in my prime, at the height of my powers—watch me take this load and learn to fly with it. Because I will. Because what I am capable of at middle age is exponentially greater than anything I dared dream in my untested youth.

Happy birthday to me.

Still my anthem:

xoxo

“Jane”

PS And this is my … epigenetic anthem if you will. Mom, thank you for showing me how to play with matches.

English translation:

You’re underage, your dad’s oppressing you
Taking your nascent power away
Checks your notebook and your pockets, controls
To put out what burns inside

When on Saturday for a party
You whet your appetite
Daddy’s lounging with a beer,
and says,

Hey, baby, don’t go crazy
You’re only sixteen
It’s too early for soirees
The time for night clubs will come
Don’t play with matches
The heat will burn you
Sit at home in the evenings
When a party tempts you
Eh, baby, don’t carouse
One exam after another
That’s life, baby
That’s life

When a wife you’ve been for twenty something years
And your husband collects postcards or stamps
Sometimes you dream of a pub or a bar
With the Argentinian tango after supper
When you want to run out
For a cocktail and a coffee
The husband with achy joints
From behind a newspaper, will say to you
Hey, baby, don’t go crazy
You’re fifty years old
It’s closer not further
What the world had to give you, it already did
Don’t play with matches
The heat will burn you
Sit at home in the evenings
When a party tempts you
Hey, baby, don’t carouse
Cook, clean, do the laundry
That’s life, baby
That’s life

Today you sit quietly in your corner
With a kind little smile on your face
Over cheesecake, homemade jam, your knitting
You no longer dream of anything
Only when it smells like roses
Suddenly you believe that
God himself there above
Quietly whispers to you, hey!
Hey, baby, go crazy
You’re eighty years old
Burn something and pour
The world gave you so little
Play finally with matches
Let the heat burn you
Don’t sit at home in the evenings when a party tempts

Eh, baby, go crazy
Take what you want with greedy handfuls
That’s life, baby
That’s life

Because laughing is good, even when it’s hysterical

File under “things we never thought we would say to our children”:

Sean: The hand sanitizer is not for throwing at your siblings!

+

Sean: Stop! If you go that way, you’re just going to run into more naked people in wheelchairs.

+

Sean: Do not put mustard packets down your mother’s shirt! Do not put mustard packets down my shirt! Do not…

Cinder: I am pointing a mustard packet AT your shirt, and you must do whatever I tell you to.

 

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

Note from process journal: “FIGURE SHIT OUT.”

Right. Getting on that. Right now.

Note to self: NOT AT ANY PRICE.

Note to children: I LOVE YOU. DON’T SET THE HOUSE ON FIRE WHILE I’M OUT.

Note from SIL: 28 hours in labour.

Text from Sean on Saturday: Dad said he will be here on Monday and Tuesday.

Text from my Dad: “You are always on my mind. Have a puff for me.”

Ha.

You know what? Let’s end with this:

xoxo

“Jane”

2018

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

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

A moody story (Week 3: Ebb and Flow)

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

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

A good week (Week 6: Execute, Regroup)

Killing it (Week 7: Exhaustion and Adrenaline)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

—->>>POSTCARDS FROM CUBA

The best things in life and on the Internet are free, but content creators need to pay for groceries with money. If you enjoy  Nothing By The Book content, please express your delight and support by making a donation via PayPal:

PayPal - The safer, easier way to pay online!

You: “But how much should I give?”

Jane: “I get $1 each time a sell a traditionally published book, so my bar’s set really low, love. Want to buy me a cup of coffee? That’s $4.75 if you’ll spring for a mocha or latte. Bottle of wine? My palate’s unsophisticated: $19.95 will more than cover it.”

If you’d like to make a contribution but have PayPal issues, email me at nothingbythebook@ gmail.com and we’ll work something out. J

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

PART I

i

13 is hard.

Do you remember?

I remember it as the year of tears. I couldn’t stop crying.

Flora’s 13 now.

I remember, I remember—but mostly, I hide from her, because faced with her volatilty, I want to yell.

Thank goodness she has a Daddy who knows how to talk to her.

ii

13 is fascinating.

We are in the line-up at Starbucks, Flora and I. I’m thinking about the story I’m not writing. Flora, I assume, is thinking about what she wants to order.

But no.

Flora: What is the most dangerous drug?

Well. I’m about as qualified to answer this as I am to answer her questions about serial killers.

Jane: I don’t know. I guess, judging by what I’ve seen of addicts in the hood… I’d say crystal meth.

Flora: Mmm.

Jane: But… there’s this thing that happens, in the media and in the cultural zeitgiest. There’s a fashionable worst drug ever. You know? In the 1960s and 1970s, it was heroin. And then in the 1980s, it was cocaine. And then, cocaine was not so bad, but crack—rock cocaine—was the worst, there was no hope of a cure of the addiction, it was a death sentence. And now, crystal meth is the worst thing ever, and marijuana is a cure-all.

I should perhaps highlight at this point that neither Flora nor I are cursed with low-pitched, mumbly, hard-to-hear voices, and the acoustics in this particular Starbucks are quite good.

The man in line in front of us turns around.

Scott: In the 60s and 70s, people served long jail terms for marijuana possession.

Jane: I think in some places in the US, they still do.

Scott: Obama pardoned most of them when he became president.

Then he flushes.

Scott: Sorry. I do psych counselling and support at festivals. So I know a lot about… this is sort of hobby horse of mine…

Jane: Then perhaps you can answer this young woman’s question. What is the most dangerous drug?

He really, really thinks hard about it. Heroin, he says, is really dangerous again, but that’s because it’s being laced with fentanyl. And, crystal meth—well, yeah, not so good. And then, when they add fentanyl to it…

Scott: They’re adding fentanyl to everything.

I don’t actually know how to spell fentanyl; I have to google it.

Scott: So really, the gist of this all is—you’ve got to trust your source.

And he shuts up and looks at me and my 13 year old daughter.

Flora: Thank you.

Scott: Um… yeah.

He looks at me. Awkward smile,

Scott: Sorry?

Jane: Thank you. No worries.

iii

Flora orders her fancy drink.

Barrista: Size?

Flora: Um…. medium?

Barrista: Grande?

Flora: Sure.

Barrista: Name?

Flora: What?

Barrista: Your name? For the drink?

Flora looks at me.

And I laugh.

Jane: What’s your Starbucks name gonna be, baby?

Flora’s real name has fewer letters than mine. But it also has a Z pushed up against a consonant that means your poor anglophone tongue will never figure out what the fuck to do with it, and the two vowels at the end are NOT pronounced the way you think they should be.

Flora: Cat.

Barrista: Is that with a C or a K?

Flora: C.

We shuffle over to the “pick up your drink” side of the counter.

Flora: Fuck. I should have said with a Q.

Jane: Or, with a silent X.

Flora: Oh, look. The drug dude’s name is Scott.

Jane: With one t?

Flora’s brow is furrowed.

Flora: I need a Starbucks name that they will know how to spell.

Jane: They ask me how to spell Jane all the time.

It’s true. They like to put a y in it. An extra e, n, an assortment of the above.

iv

While not doing my work, I watch He’s Just Not Into You. It has some fucking brilliant parts.

“So trust me when I tell you that when a guy is treating you like he doesn’t give a shit, he genuinely doesn’t give a shit. No exceptions.”

Scratch guy for person, and there you have it.

Mothers—for the love of your daughters’ future relationship functionality—when a little boy kicks her sandcastle over at a playground, when her 11 year old class mate snaps her bra—don’t tell her he’s treating her disrespectfully because he likes her. Tell her that he’s an ass who doesn’t know how to treat people with respect—and not worth crying over, much less lusting after. And then call his mother and father and tell them to teach their son some manners, and a functional mode of communication.

You: How do you know this and I don’t?

Jane: I have a father who treats me like a queen, remember?

PART II

i

Something is coming, churning. I’m on its verge and I feel it—what is it? Boom! Sometimes, it happens like that and sometimes, it sneaks in. Peekaboo. Did you see me? Yes, you’re right, here I am.

I don’t know how the breakthrough will come but I do feel it coming. I tell you about it, you tell me about yours… I’m not sure we mean the same thing by breakthrough but that, I think, is the curse of the human species. We never really know what the other is talking about.

ii

You can’t save people.

Someone I love is crying in front of me, unbidden tears, and says, “You have no idea what it is like to live with someone who has depression.”

I laugh. Like a slap.

I have no idea.

I wish.

But these stories, we don’t talk about them, because they are not ours to tell.

I tell her, the one thing I’ve learned—you can’t save people. They have to save themselves. All you can do is love them. Make sure they know you’re there for them when they come back.

And take care of yourself, because if you don’t take care of yourself, they sure as fuck won’t take care of you.

Depression is a narcissistic disease.

Sean: I’m the tone who told you that.

Jane: I know. It helped.

Betrand Russell who, I think, struggled with depression himself, knew this. The major thrust of his 1930 The Conquest of Happiness—both a prescient and a dated read, and yes, one can be both—is that happiness lies not within introspection… but in engagement with the outside world.

Martin Seligman’s PERMA model—Sean attends a seminar about it this week at the U, and we spend a little bit of time discussing the Flourish author’s insights—really says more or less the same thing.

Like most things described with acronyms, it’s kinda simplistic, but, for what it’s worth, here it is:

  • P-Positive Emotion
  • E-Engagement
  • R-Relationships
  • M-Meaning
  • A-Accomplishment

You can read more about it here.

I like a lot about Seligman’s work, except for the P part of his model—because the negative emotions, frankly, have a role to play in engagement, relationships, meaning and accomplishment too, and if you don’t know how to work with them, through them, well, then, you’re fucked, baby. But the point I’m trying to make here—which perhaps is one of the reasons I’m such a shitty meditator—is that the more you look within, the outside world becomes less and less important and real. And as the world recedes, all that exists is you and your suffering, your demons take center stage, and it becomes easier—it becomes self-evident—that what you need to do is walk into the English channel with rocks in your pockets.

Fuck you, Virginia Woolf, you coward, Lenard would have loved you through another bout of your “terrible times,” he would have endured it, for you.

And fuck you, Sylvia Plath. Did you really think your children would be better off without a mother?

No. Of course you didn’t. You didn’t think. The outside world, reality did not exists. There was only the suffering self.

Depression is a narcissistic disease.

Except those of us who don’t suffer from it but suffer alongside those who do… aren’t allowed to say so.

Because we just don’t understand.

Like a slap, the curse of the human species—we always think each of us is so fucking special and nobody can possibly understand what happens inside the Other.

Anyway.

You can’t save people.

This, I know.

iii

I finish writing a bad story and I feel good about it for five minutes, than bad about how bad it is. I text Sean.

Sean: I’m sure you’ll like it better in revisions. You know hating your first draft is part of your process.

Not always. Occasionally, there is a good, beautiful first draft. But not this time. I stare at the computer screen, chewing lip. Decide to scrub the grease off the kitchen cupboards.

iv

I am feeling unsympathetic today, and I think all you depressed, anxious people should pull up your fucking socks, get a British stiff upper lip, and just get on with things.

I know I’m not supposed to think that.

I’m supposed to take a deep breath, dip into the well of unconditional love, and be your rock.

Crash.

Boom.

Guess what? The well is empty.

And now what?

unsympathetic bitch selfie

v

Two or three years ago, I write a bad poem. I don’t remember much about, except this line:

I danced with a man who hadn’t suffered…

People who haven’t suffered are pretty happy.

But they are also, usually, insufferable.

I find this really funny.

vi

Her: You just don’t understand.

Jane: You don’t actually want to be understood.

Think about it.

vii

Crash.

Boom.

Enlightenment, breakthrough.

You can’t save other people.

All you can do is love them.

And take care of yourself first, like in those airplane safety instructions, you know? Put on your oxygen mask first.

That is not this week’s breakthrough. That, I’ve known for a while.

I try to share it with the person I love who needs to hear it. Bu I can’t save her either. She needs to figure it out herself. I can just be there.

viii

The six mantras of loving speech, by Thich Nhat Hanh:

  1. I am here for you.
  2. I know you are there, and I’m happy.
  3. I know you suffer, and that’s why I’m here for you.
  4. I suffer. Please help.
  5. This is a happy moment.
  6. You are partly right.

(The Art of Communicating)‎

I am here for you.

Except, sometimes, I’m not, because I have to go be there for myself. Do you understand?

Yes, no.

Suffering people, when things are bad, understand, feel nothing but their pain. You can’t take this burden off them.

You cannot lighten it.

And you know what? They don’t actually have the right to ask you to lighten it for them. Do you understand that?

Now, where’s that fucking oxygen mask? Put it on.

ix

It’s rainy and it’s sunny and there’s a rainbow and I don’t think the city has looked this beautiful to me for more than a year.

Boom.

Crash.

There is a crack within.

That’s how the light gets in.

Peekaboo.

Well, hello there, breakthrough.

You are not what I was expecting, at all.

You: Buddha was a psychopath, depression is a narcissist, and you?

Jane: I’m thinking I’m an empathetic sociopath. What do you think?

You: You’re something, all right.

I’m something. Something amazing.

And so are you.

But I can’t save you.

Understand?

xoxo

“Jane”

PS I don’t think this piece actually worked. This seems to be my week for shitty first, second, and third drafts. Sorry.

PS 2 Happy Pride! I danced all week. My feet and back ache, and it’s not the motherfucking sadist’s fault—he’s only responsible for the fact that my shoulders and chest hurt so much it’s hard to type. Happiness has some very strange components sometimes. 😉

2018

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

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

A moody story (Week 3: Ebb and Flow)

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

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

A good week (Week 6: Execute, Regroup)

Killing it (Week 7: Exhaustion and Adrenaline)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

—->>>POSTCARDS FROM CUBA

The best things in life and on the Internet are free, but content creators need to pay for groceries with money. If you enjoy  Nothing By The Book content, please express your delight and support by making a donation via PayPal:

PayPal - The safer, easier way to pay online!

You: “But how much should I give?”

Jane: “I get $1 each time a sell a traditionally published book, so my bar’s set really low, love. Want to buy me a cup of coffee? That’s $4.75 if you’ll spring for a mocha or latte. Bottle of wine? My palate’s unsophisticated: $19.95 will more than cover it.”

If you’d like to make a contribution but have PayPal issues, email me at nothingbythebook@ gmail.com and we’ll work something out. J

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

My Twitter feed informs me that a new study from some psychology department at some famous university has found that having one lazy day a week lowers your risk your heart attack, stroke, depression, death etc etc.

(I’m not sure how one lows one’s risk of death… after all, we all die. Eventually. It’s sort of a given, and the people who don’t accept that piss away their entire lives unhappy.)

“Keep the Sabbath day holy.” Right?

That’s the whole point of Wayne Mueller’s quite lovely book Sabbath: Finding Rest, Renewal, and Delight in Our Busy Lives, parts of which I’ve read intermittently over the past very busy year (two?), during which I feel I’ve been keeping nothing particularly holy…

This Sunday, though, I collapse.

My body experiences an exhaustion so intense it feels almost like pleasure—in the morning, I stretch out on the sofa in the kitchen, I do my morning writing prone, I’m not sure I have the energy to get a cup of coffee… but it feels so good.

Ender wakes up. Cuddles. Breakfast.

We are out of clean dish towels, too, so when I go downstairs to let the dog out to pee, I pop a load of filthy kitchen laundry into the wash. First need to take Sean’s clean laundry out of the dryer—in the process discover a pile of laundered bedsheets. Decide to change the sheets on our bed, cause they’re getting kinda gamey.

Back upstairs. I’m up, so… I pour myself a second cup of coffee.

The doorbell rings. A friend for Ender.

I let him in and follow him upstairs. Sit down again, fingers on keyboard—just a few small tasks to get down on paper in draft form before…

It’s Sunday, day of rest, I have an event planning meeting ten to noon, right—shower, clothes—Ender wants second breakfast, just cereal baby, Mommy’s gotta go.

My event planning meeting takes place in the basement community room of a Coop grocery story. We’re planning When Words Collide, a genre reader-writer con. We’re kind of amazing—we’re sold out. And the festival doesn’t happen until mid-August… but we’re in such good shape for it, we cancel the July meeting.

I multi-task at the meeting—sending out the action-emails decisions at the meeting propel me towards, because I know that when I get home, I will stretch out on the sofa in the kitchen and want to do NOTHING.

But first—I have a lunch appointment. I need to break someone’s heart, tell them I don’t want to be their friend or lover. I could say nothing, do nothing… let the connection wither, peter out, disappear.

But I like things to be clear.

It’s not awful, but it’s not fun either.

Home, home, I want to go home and rest.

But first—I’m by the Co-op. What do we need? Eggs, bread, bananas. Any fruit or veg on sale? The peppers are very cheap… but I’m too tired to sort through them and find the ripe-yet-not-rotten ones.

Home.

Flora’s up, Cinder’s gaming, Ender’s hungry.

I make him a ham sandwich. Flora claims to have eaten. Good.

Laundry into dryer. Towels into washer. Are there dirty towels in the bathroom? I go up—yes. Also, the toilet is kinda gross. Where’s the Vim?

Scrub.

Couch. Stretch. Yes. No. Wait. Not yet. Supper. What the fuck am I going to feed everyone for supper?

Frozen chicken thighs, black beans, garlic, potatoes going a little soft. Oven. Done. Good.

Sean comes home in time to open the oven for me. Asks me about my day, my lunch.

Makes me a better one.

I finally make it back to the sofa… eat my papadums and hummus in a prone position. Yes.

I was thinking I’d go into Inglewood and put up posters today, but it’s raining, and… I don’t want to get off the couch.

Cinder stomps around upstairs. Angry. Video game, biology? I don’t know; I don’t want to know; I don’t want to go up—I want to lay on the couch and DO NOTHING.

But maybe I’ll walk with Cinder to meet his math tutor. Just to move this lazy body a bit. Wake up.

Sean drives him instead. I stay on the couch. The bottle of Alberta Dark Horse Whiskey he got me for my birthday is almost empty—I blame the math, by the way, have I told you? High school math has driven me to drink.

Still. There’s enough for a half-shot. I pour it. Handful of cashews.

“Mom! I’m hungry!”

“Cheese tortilla?”

No. He wants a ham sandwich. Good thing I bought that bread.

Sean comes back and asks me if I want to go for a walk in the wind. I don’t, not really, but I should. I stumble downstairs—the dog follows me, thrilled.

A short walk.

We talk about Inglewood. Posters?

But when we get home, he irons and I go have a bath with P.G. Wodehouse.

Sofa. Sean’s still ironing. I’m flat on my back in the world of Jeeves.

Texts from people wanting things.

I close my eyes. Tomorrow. I’ll take care of those things, tomorrow.

Cinder comes back—needs help with biology now. But that’s Sean’s baby so I stay on the sofa.

Flora now does her laundry, transfers the clean kitchen laundry to the top of the dryer and the bath towels into the dryer. Good. I try to remember if, when I stripped our bed this morning—did I remake it? Or did I just strip it?

I could go downstairs and check, but, stairs.

I do the dishes instead. Realize that sometime while I wasn’t paying attention—perhaps while I was in the bath—everyone ate supper. It looks like the potatoes-chicken thighs-black beans thing turned out really good.

But I don’t want meat. I want bananas and chocolate chips.

I mix them with granola and coconut milk, also some walnuts, and that is my supper.

Sofa. Jeeves and Wooster. Also, Twitter.

But I’m too tired to be funny or interactive.

Ender on my lap, stretched out. Sean at my feet. The dog.

We’re talking about scary geopolitical shit and history and what the world will look like for our children, and we don’t know—I want to disappear back into P.G. Wodehouse.

Biology’s done, Cinder’s gaming. Flora’s out of sorts, she’s not sure why. Hugs.

“Bedtime?” I ask Ender. He’s not sure. But agrees.

Sean does too. Goodnight kisses all around; Ender and I go up to bed, Sean goes down.

Bedtime reading is Moomin. I love Tove Jansson.

It takes the boy a long time to fall asleep. I listen to old sad music from a sad friend as he tosses and turns.

He doesn’t fall asleep until 9:44. I come downstairs. Flora’s kneeling in front of the fridge.

“I’m hungry, but I don’t want to eat more chicken,” she says.

I offer to make her a cheese tortilla before I go to bed—she folds into my arms in a gesture of gratitude.

Tortilla.

I stretch out on the sofa for a few more minutes.

A day of doing nothing, when you have children and responsibilities, looks like this.

xoxo

Jane

2018

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

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

A moody story (Week 3: Ebb and Flow)

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

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

A good week (Week 6: Execute, Regroup)

Killing it (Week 7: Exhaustion and Adrenaline)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

—->>>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

 

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

in brief

Monday, I turned 44 and I did all my favourite things, went to bed happy. Tuesday, I shared good news with the world, also did math with Cinder, was not so bad. Actually, it was AWFUL, and yet, not so bad. Wednesday, weepy, no real reason, every reason, maybe I missed you, maybe I missed me, but I went to yoga so that was good. Thursday, Cinder turned 16 and I felt so small and so shocked. My giant baby. Friday, a good day productive but well-paced. Saturday, overcast, and I don’t know, yoga, sheesha, or bed?

I chose Rex Stout.

numbers

This week, I turned 44 and baby turned 16, and my mother couldn’t stop saying, “44!” which I suppose I get—my being 44th is rather ardent proof she’s not…

When I look at Cinder, it’s not so much his age that astounds me as his size. I mean—I grew, HATCHED this giant. That used to be inside me, that came out of me. I am… well, astounded.

I’ve told you before, love, that existence or non-existence of God is irrelevant to me because, caterpillar. I mean: the metamorphosis of a caterpillar into a butterfly is miraculous and divine enough on its own—there is no need for more.

This week, I feel the same about the journey of the of the human from egg+sperm to baby, toddler, teenager!

It’s a little harder to see old age as a miracle and I suppose that is the task I will set myself as I age. I hope I will find something divine in wrinkles, brittle bones, and white hairs. And that aching knee and malfunctioning hip…

apropos nothing in particular

I miss you.

censored

[————————————]

Sometimes, I really miss the freedom of blogging anonymously.

xoxo
“Jane”

2018

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

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

A moody story (Week 3: Ebb and Flow)

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

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

A good week (Week 6: Execute, Regroup)

Killing it (Week 7: Exhaustion and Adrenaline)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

—->>>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:

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

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

monday

paying the price for overdoing it on sunday, will I never learn?

(probably not)

BUT I actually… can I tell you? Can you handle this?

I’m enjoying the sick. (Well, except for the sharp pain in my throat and chest.)

I was SO FUCKING TIRED.

Ok. This time, I’m going to rest until I get better.

The only thing I’ll DO today is some tax-related receipt hunting.

(I did it. It was exhausting.)

And now… an evening of stillness and silence.

And… it’s not boring.

Ok, it sort of is.

But in a nice way.

W-O-W.

tuesday

I’m so sick of being sick, I can’t tell you.

I possibly disease her.

Her: I think I’m getting sick. What were your first symptoms? Sniffles and a sore throat?

Jane: No, I started with existential angst, the conviction that nothing in the the world was worth doing, and narcolepsy.

Never really had a runny nose–and the sore throat kind of came after the hacking and coughing.

But all my colds go to my soul and lungs and not my sinuses.

Hack.

Angst.

Hack.

Overheard as I go up the stairs to the bathroom to cough/pee/puke (my stomach’s fine—I’m just coughing so hard, none of the sphincters work when the hacking gets going):

Sean: What the hell are you doing!

Flora: He swung at me!

Sean: That is no reason to attack him with a crochet needle!

Flora: I didn’t attack him! I just pointed it in his direction!

Sean: As he was swinging at you! I get that he’s annoying you, but if you punctured his stomach with that, you could have killed him!

I don’t quite know which “he” Flora was threatening. It doesn’t matter. I decide not to interfere.

Hack.

But I pull myself together enough—and medicate myself enough—to attend a friend’s event. I try to keep my coughing contained.

Sleep the night through… although there are some rather odd dreams.

wednesday

The coughing subsides but the existential angst gets pretty intense.

Ender keeps on interrupting his video game playing to give me hugs. Little empath.

I take Cinder to his math midterm. Try to breathe in his stress and anxiety, and, on the out breath, send him my love.

Spend his test trying to clear my chakras. Pretty sure I fail, wail in existential angst instead.

I was going to tell you more about my Wednesday, because I thought it might be instructional. But as I try to put it into words, it just feels self-indulgent.

It ends like this, though—in bed by 6 pm, I’m trying to accept a) that I’m really really sick and b) I just need to rest and everything will be a little better tomorrow and c) I am NOT alone and unsupported and abandoned and my friends aren’t all awful people who don’t give a fuck about me and don’t understand how difficult on the ego and heart EVERYTHING I’m doing right now is (even though it feels like that, because, did I tell you, when I am sick, it’s always in the lungs and soul) and d) cough-hack-wheeze, fucking hell, no more coughing, I CANNOT STAND THIS—and Sean tries to console me, but what can he do? Life is not worth living and I will probably die of this horrible cold anyway and I just want to lie here alone in the dark and feel sorry for myself.

Sean: Text me if there’s anything I can do for you.

Jane: ((moan)).

(You think that’s the end—that’s just the set-up.)

Fading in and out of sleep—cough, hack wheeze—sneeze—fucking hell, I AM NOT DEALING WITH CONGESTED SINUSES ON TOP OF THIS, is it not bad enough that I’m pretty sure what I need to do tomorrow (if I live) is get a job as a barista at Starbucks (they probably won’t hire me, I never did learn how to foam milk properly) or a greeting clerk at Wal-Mart (it wouldn’t be so bad, right, maybe I could try to unionize them, get fired, sue them, and find purpose in life that way)—suddenly, lights, Sean.

Jane: Say that again?

Sean: He’s fine—but it will need a couple of stitches—I’m just going to take him to the Sheldon Chumir.

Cinder, playing with scissors. Cut. Blood. Stitches.

Ok, really, it’s just a little cut, comparatively. But it’s enough, bucket of cold water. Focus. Purpose. Hugs. Sean and Cinder leave, and Ender comes into my bed.

Laptop.

“What where you watching with Daddy, sweetie?”

Big Bang Theory. Season six or nine—I can’t tell, sick, confused. And you know, my brain hurts and my soul is on fire—but OMFG, how awful and sexist and UNKIND is that show? I shudder. But I suffer through two episodes with Ender. Then watch and listen to him fall asleep beside me.

The other two are back in a couple of hours.

Flora: Stitches? What? What did I miss? How?

Cinder’s almost proud.

Sean’s sniffly.

Fuck.

Cough. Hack. Wheeze.

thursday

Sean and Cinder leave the house at 6:30 in the morning in an Uber. Cinder’s taking the Greyhound to Kelowna to visit his pack for Spring Break—Sean’s dropping him off at the station. I get up to say goodbye… then fade back into a harsh sleep until Ender needs breakfast.

You bring me soup in the morning, and my mom takes the kids out for lunch, so for most of the day, I lie on the couch and plan my funeral. Cremation or embalment and an open casket?

My grandfather was embalmed. It was a little frightening… it was so clearly not HIM you know. Just a body.

Cremation, I decide.

In the evening, I’m supposed to be at three different places—want to be at all of them—thought I could somehow manage to put in an appearance at two, maybe even all three. But I can’t get off the couch. I could maybe crawl off. And get dressed.

One of the events is a friend’s book launch and let me tell you—Nabokov and I both keep track of who doesn’t celebrate our most special days with us, I know how important being there is.

I can do this. I can get up. Get dressed.

But I can’t drive.

Uber.

$$.

Demons.

OMG, why is trying to sort this out so hard.

I grasp at straws. He proposes a solution that complicates his life and really ruins his night. But he delivers me to the book store—I deliver congratulations. I think I might pass out in the car on the way home.

Home.

Sean’s not quite as sick I was… but well on his way. And working, pushing through, external schedules, no choice.

I feel a pang of guilt. Crawl up the stairs. Read briefly to Ender, cuddle him as he falls asleep.

Think about shiny things, and that I probably will live.

It’s just a cold.

friday

I have a date with Michelle Obama today, just me and 5 or 6,000 other Calgarians.

And I am not missing THAT no matter how sick I am, so I carefully coach my body into a state of suspension, hibernation. I do nothing. I move slowly. I make food. Slowly. I read The Artist’s Way, solace. Around noon I start to feel like I might definitely live—and I make myself go back to the couch and DO NOT START SPRING CLEANING or doing the taxes or writing or anything. Just… rest. Wait for Michelle. Wait for Michelle.

Michelle.

Yes.

And I’ll tell you why this was so important in some more detail another time (maybe) but for now, I’ll just tell you this: she is an antidote and good medicine.

I will definitely live.

saturday

Ugh, I’m not so sure about that. But Sean’s a deflated comatose balloon now, a hacking wet noodle, and he might die, so I guess I better rally myself so our kids have at least one parent.

Also, back before I started dying again, I made plans to go pick up a new bed for Cinder this morning, and so… my dad, his almost-antique truck (we call her “Molly”), a trip down south.

Shiny things.

It’s all good.

Back home.

My dad and I aren’t quite up to lugging the bed pieces up the three flights of stairs to Cinder’s bedroom (I check on Sean—not dead, but definitely not up to being actively vertical), so we unload them by the door and tarp them.

The local bottle picker (no longer homeless—long story, not fully relevant to today’s drama) volunteers to help me when I’m ready to lug them inside, as does my next door neighbour.

I am surrounded by people who support me and do things for me.

Gratitude.

Ok. I’m clearly getting better.

sunday

I need to not do much and take it slow today, so that I can shake this disease. But it’s hard, because it’s sunny, and the house is a mess, and the sunshine is coming through the Eastern balcony windows in a way that highlights all the dust and fingerprints on the windows.

I give the windows a half-ass wipe. Also clean the bathroom, because furry things are starting to think about growing in its corners.

Enough.

No more.

I will definitely live.

But I will also definitely rest.

My mind feels sharper—and I feel kinder—and I feel, again, that my existence has a not just benign, but beneficial purpose—but my body feels soft and not just muscle-less but bone-less. Walking up and down the stairs takes effort. Sitting takes effort.

I find a comfortable half-reclined position in my space. I’m going to stay here. Until Ender needs a tortilla or ham bun. Flora went to Safeway yesterday—they can eat buns and chips and bananas today while Sean fades in and out of conscious—in-between editing a video—and I… try very hard to not feel guilty about the fact that I’m NOT on deadline and I can just rest.

So many interesting emotions this week.

Grateful.

xoxo

“Jane”

PS And that’s what I wore to see Michelle.

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)

—->>>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

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

 

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)

But I love it…

Have I told you—have I told you that coffee loves me? I feel it—in every sip I take, as its aroma enters me through both my nostrils and my throat, even as it scalds my tongue with that first HOT sip—especially as it scalds my tongue—coffee loves me.

Oh, it loves me and it wants to share all the pleasures of the world with me and it fills me with zeal, joy, and adoration for all life.

Tea… tea doesn’t give a fuck. Really. Tea is all about itself. And the reputed kick of caffeinated varieties notwithstanding, in my mind, tea associates with the phlegmatic Brits, celibate too-Zen-for-love monks, Ayurvedic herbal concoctions.

Coffee is a passionate Latin lover, a conquering Turk.

OMG, fuck, yes, I know I have a problem. But let me sing the praises of my heroin.

I’m writing this while conducting an experiment of sorts. I made mug of herbal tea, sweetish. And a mug of dark, biting, bitter coffee—percolated until thick and chewy, OMFG, the smell. I was going to drink the tea… just smell the coffee.

The tea is mug is still full, the coffee cup half empty, and as my right hand writes, my left is curled around the ear of the coffee mug.

Compulsively, convulsively.

Co-dependently…

“Don’t leave me again,” the coffee whispers.

“Don’t cause me pain again,” I whisper back.

I think I’ve figured out how to drink the coffee without suffering—and in moderation too, I hope. I think? And as I cradle the cup in my hands and inhale the aroma—really, this is too intimate, avert your eyes because my toes are curling and this coffee cup and I are sharing a passion so intense it is sacrilege to look upon it and I haven’t even touched my lips its black liquid—as I cradle the cup, I wonder… have I failed? Should I have tried harder, longer? Fought more intensely against its seductive allure?

Should I have tried harder, longer to forget the tastes, the associations? Forge new ones?

(There is nothing—there are no associations worthy of those I have with coffee. There is no substitute, there is no methadone…)

Have I failed?

“Never,” the coffee whispers as it trickles down my throat. “I adore you and you came back to me.”

Fucking addictions.

I don’t know if I’m going to embrace, make peace with this one.

“I love you.” (The coffee’s seductive whisper.)

“Don’t hurt me again.” (My subjugated whimper.)

Maybe today’s cup isn’t the beginning of a new string of them. Maybe it’s just an anomaly… a brief fall off the wagon, and I will sanctimoniously and self-righteously get back on it again tomorrow. Or the day after.

Maybe…

“Don’t leave me again.”

It travels through me, fuels me, stimulates me.

Loves me.

I love it back.

*

I don’t throw the word “love” around lightly, you know. I love my children. Their father. You, even when I’m feeling pissy and neglected and estranged.

And coffee.

Fuck, I love coffee.

Flora: And what’s why I’m so glad I never started drinking it.

Flora, my most disciplined and thus judgemental child.

Ender: I’ll love coffee.

He probably will. He is my most passionate and hedonistic child, and coffee likes her lovers—er, drinkers—to have passions.

Cinder: Mom? Can you come help me with this?

Cinder. How much do I love you, my son? So much, I am relearning high school algebra for you. The answer, by the way, to “Why do I need to know how to factor polynomials” is —unless you’re going to pursue a career in engineering, possibly IT, or something like that—“So you can help you  kids with their math homework when they are in high school.”

Me, doing algebra, without coffee…

Help.

This is so so hard.

“Here, darling. Take another sip. It will make everything better. At least for a while. I promise.”

Fucking addition.

I mean addiction.

Addition isn’t that hard. Unless you’re adding imaginary unknown numbers related to each other in random mysterious ways.

Cinder: It’s not random and mysterious! There’s a pattern!

There is?

I don’t see it.

Where was I?

“You love me.”

“I love you.”

“Don’t leave me again.”

“I won’t.”

xoxo

Jane

PS The day after writing this post, I started reading Twyla Tharp’s The Creative Habit. I know, I’m a decade behind. But see, serendipity being what it is, I started reading just at the precisely right time that this particular paragraph resonated with me:

“BREW RUTS INTO GROOVES

A bad habit—that is, one that doesn’t produce good results—is a rut. Coffee is a rut for me. I need a cup or two every morning and I don’t know why. Part of it, I’m sure, is its addictive properties. But I don’t enjoy it that much.

At one point, I played a game of delaying my daily coffee until I produced something solid that day. No good work, no good coffee. I transformed coffee from rut to reward. To be honest, this didn’t last long. Within a month, I was back into my coffee, grind. I don’t know. You can’t be stoic and strong about everything. Some things in life are just meant to be enjoyed simply because you enjoy them. They are their own rationale.

But the mere act of thinking about my coffee rut had a transformative effect. I now regard coffee in a positive light. It’s my coffee groove.

Pick a “bad” habit—whether it’s coffee or reading the newspaper in its entirety every day to avoid writing—and do something to make it “good.” Realize that you don’t need elimination, so it’s working for you. Exercise the rut. Exercise the groove.”

Twyla Tharp, The Creative Habit, pg 208-209

I’m pretty sure that Twyla Tharp just said..

“Yes. She did. Come back to me. Now.”

Excuse me. Stop looking. Don’t judge. I have to go… grind some beans…

“Yes. Hurry.”

“I’m coming.”

J.

PS2 SOAPBOX. If you’re a Calgary citizen and reading this on October 16, vote. Preferably for Naheed Nenshi for mayor, because he’s awesome, but just get your ass out and vote, because democracy, while flawed, is the best system of government we have, and its price is citizen participation.

Informed citizen participation. Educate yourself. Especially on our school board trustees. Don’t accidentally, through laziness, contribute to the election of a sexist-racist-homophobe (ain’t it funny how it’s all three and not just one or the other/) hiding intolerance and hate under “back to the basics” “power to the parents” “family values” and the like rhetoric.

You: Yo, Jane, political all of a sudden?

Jane: I’m a little scared the world is going to hell, and not even my love for coffee can distract me from this fear.

Coffee: Darling. Don’t think. Just drink.

Jane: Um… I have to go.

You: You have a problem.

Jane: I have a problem. But I love it…