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


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.)


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.



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.




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.


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.


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.


“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.


Cough. Hack. Wheeze.


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.




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.


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.


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.



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.


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.


Ok. I’m clearly getting better.


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.


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.




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


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)


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



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

Well, one category of them, anyway.

Yay, me.

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

Here are two of my favourite ULG features from BrainPickings:


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

Facebook message from my dad:

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

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

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

I accept it with reverence and gratitude.

I accept.

With reverence and gratitude.


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


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

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


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

A text from the back seat of the Uber:

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

A response from my neighbour:

np — They’re here now. Don’t worry.

I love my hood; I love my tribe.

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

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

You: Money.

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

What an awful, awful thought. Ugh.

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

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


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

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

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

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

I find words. And they’re good ones.

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

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

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

I agree.

“Hotel California” comes on.

Jane: I like this one, still.

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

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

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

Ender’s ready for bed.

Where’s the electric toothbrush?

Fuck, we need a new toothpaste.

Jane: Calvin & Hobbes?

Ender: Yes… We were… here…

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

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

Kiss the foreheads of the other two.

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

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




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

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

Flora: What’s going on?

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

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

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

Her words feel like a slap.

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

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

Then I burst into tears. And stomp off.

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

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

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

Not always. Of course. Not always.



Is that all Flora sees?


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

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

Jane: Shut up.

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

Jane: Fuck off.

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

Jane: Yes.

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

Jane: Boring.


My new space.

It looks really really good.

I’ve very happy.

I love beautiful spaces, places, things.



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

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

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

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

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




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

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

Sean: I see it!

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

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

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

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

Flora: So who gets the new  chair?


One of those days.

Process journal: “I feel lazy and dumb.”

But it ends with a bang.

Thank you, #writertribe.

Also, the Michelle Obama tickets go on sale.

Thank you, Dad.


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

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


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

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

I love. I care.

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

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

I’ve equated freedom from attachment with… detachment.

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

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

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

Jane: Good.

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

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

Cinder: 99%.

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

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

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




Letting go.

Fucking mystics, why do they make everything so complicated?

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

It has four pillars:

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

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

  1. Do it full out.

Yes. Fucking watch me.

  1. Let go of the outcome.

Really? How?

Can I?

Sometimes, I do.

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

Do it full out

Let go of the outcome

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




Let go of the outcome.

Working on it.


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

I write about habits, context, credentials.


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

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

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

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

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

Also, this:

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

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

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

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

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


So interesting.



PS Check this out:

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


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)