Pandemic Diary: What is normal?

August 4


A few normal things from the past couple of weeks: I have an in-person interview, I meet a client face-to-face (well, across a room, but still); I go to a restaurant; I take an Uber; I shop at Canadian Tire; I take my kids out for lunch; Flora and I spend hours looking for the sketchbook that defines her as an artist in a local art store—and not online.

None of it feels normal, though. We wear masks in the stores, my hands burn from the sanitizer. The client and I do not shake hands. The entire time I’m in the Uber, I’m torn between

a) gratitude that this dude is working because I’m too drunk to drive,

b) guilt that I’m endangering his health by providing yet one more contact point of potential infection,

c) mild fear the previous passenger was a COVID carrier and so now, because I’m doing this normal thing, I might accidentally get the virus and infect and kill your grandma,

d) low key hate for your grandma and your auto-immune deficient cousin and also, your respiratory illness suffering son,

e) guilt at the hate, because what sort of monster is this selfish (me),

f) OMFG, it’s just an Uber ride—can you just relax and go with it already?

I don’t know. Maybe. Let me see. No.

Because none of it is normal.


It just is.

At some point, surely, this low grade stress will recede? Perhaps, even, disappear?

I don’t know. Maybe. Let me check. No. Still there.


A few normal things from today: coffee. Morning pages. Lunch with Cinder and Flora. Nap. Work. The work feels like a slog and that’s the new normal too. But maybe the old normal as well. Was it ever easy?

I don’t know. Maybe. Let me check. No. Often a slog, often hard.

Sometimes, joy.


A few moments of joy from today: coffee (it was exceptionally good). Lunch with kids. The discovery of James Runcie’s Sidney Chambers murder mysteries and their televised Grantchester version. A cool afternoon breeze. Cardamom in my afternoon tea. The flowers you brought me dropping their petals on the table.

Good things, normal things. Happy moments.



When everyone’s a special snowflake… (Week 51: Normal and Narcissistic)


Morning. The sun is not up yet. Winter. Darkness. Solstice has come and gone but the days will not get noticeably longer until February so it’s still very dark and my morning’s writing births another unpublishable post. Big ideas. Inadequate expression. Inevitable violation of another’s privacy, unforgivable.

How do I make the idea… impersonal and thus shareable? I cannot. Abstract ideas are useless.

I like to be useful.

I think every being does.

You: Except for her.

Jane: That’s mean.

You: What’s she good for?

Jane: She’s … she’s so very ornamental.


the world owes you nothing

Do your thing. Follow your path. Do what you love. Keep this in mind: the world owes you nothing. It doesn’t owe you riches or fame or even a semblance of recognition. It doesn’t even owe you a living. Sorry.

The world—society, market, people, however you want to operationalize or anthropomorphize the concept—has a right to demand that your art—product—vision—is of use to it… and to refuse to buy it, laud it, use it, if it’s not.

The world owes you nothing.

The world owes me nothing.

Do your thing anyway. Be useful on the side so you can pay the rent, buy food, and the  occasional shiny thing (or trip to Cuba). But know that the world owes you nothing, not even appreciation. In this recognition lies freedom. In clinging to some sense of entitlement lies unhappiness. Misery. Possibly madness.

“Hand-crafted by non-conformists,” Cinder’s pierogi tray


I’ve figured out how to salvage one paragraph from the morning’s writing. Out of context, it reads as even more narcissistic than in the context. Still. Look what I do with it:

I am not prone to depression or anxiety, social or otherwise. I am not a highly sensitive person—just sensitive enough. Nor am I, despite what Flora sometimes suggests, a highly functional sociopath. I’m pretty sure I do not have borderline personality disorder. I definitely do not have any of the characteristics currently labeled and medicated as ADHD. I might be a little narcissistic, but then, who isn’t? We all think the world revolves mostly around us, and experience it from the limited point of view of ourselves (unless we “transcend,” but I’m pretty sure even that’s a potentially narcissistic illusion). I’m moody as all fuck, really clever with words and less so with numbers, and I’d be more likely to invent a story about why the sun rises and sets every morning and night than study the heavens to get them to reveal their natural mysteries to me. I’m easily overstimulated by crowds and noise, and I’m afraid of heights and small, dark places, but I venture into them anyway. I try to be open-minded, I can be judgemental—and I don’t think that’s a bad thing. I used to think I wasn’t very compassionate and empathetic, but then I realized I was, I just don’t like kittens and ugly babies and I’m pretty damn good at not letting the suffering of others paralyze me, because, once paralyzed, what good am I to you?

I think what all of the above makes me is… normal.

No girl ever wants to be called ‘normal,’ does she? She wants to be called ‘special’ and ‘amazing’ and ‘sexy’ and ‘passionate’ and a million other words that mean she’s unique. ‘Normal’ is just another word for ‘boring.’

Alexandra Potter, Me & Mr. Darcy

I am most definitely not boring. No worries there.


The world owes me nothing.

But what do I owe the world?

Babi’s pierogi production (and eating) factory



“Blood-splattered apron over velvet suit jacket kitchen selfie”


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

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

A moody story (Week 3: Ebb and Flow)

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

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

A good week (Week 6: Execute, Regroup)

Killing it (Week 7: Exhaustion and Adrenaline)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Slightly irritable and yet kinda happy (Week 37: Self-Improvement and Self-Indulgence)

It’s not procrastination, it’s process (Week 38: Back and Forth)

Pavlov’s experiments, 21st-century style (Week 39: Connectivity and Solitude)

The last thing I remember (Week 40: truth and um, not really)

All of life’s a (larval) stage (Week 41: Stagnation and Transformation)

Damn you, Robert Frost (Week 42: Angst and more Angst)

Speaking of conflict avoidance… (Week 43: Fight of Flight)

Halloween, Samhain, All Saints Day, Day of The Dead, Candy (Week 44: Neither Here Nor There)

Again with the silver-tongued Persians, and other stories (Week 45: Silence and language)

War, Famine, Pestilence, Mornings (Week 46: Mornings and the Apocalypse)

Time flies but the Christmas tree is up (Week 47: Status quo and Change)

I didn’t kill anyone–it just smells like it (Week 48: Guilt & Poison)

You have a bad memory, while I want to rest on a flower (Week 49: Mothers and Caterpillars)

Atheism, Spirituality, Boundaries, Slytherins (Week 50: This and That)


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