Pandemic Diary: Come on, honey. Just have a bubble bath, there’s a good girl

So I’m in the bath and…

Actually, I’m not in the bath, but I had the idea for this post in the bath, and I had this perfect lead all worked out, but now it doesn’t work… but I don’t want to let go of it.

If one of my students or reporters filed a piece that began like this, I’d fail/fire them—okay, I wouldn’t, but I’d give them a very stern talking to, and remind them that “You don’t matter—the story matters,” and also, “It’s never about you—it’s about the reader,” and also, “Don’t fall in love with your fucking sentences, leads, metaphors, turns of phrase—their job is to serve the story, not to show the reader how witty you are—YOU. DON’T. MATTER.”

But this is my playground and I don’t have an editor (nyah-nyah-nyah) or an advertising manager (but that might actually be a mistake), and so—I’m in the bath and…

I’m in the bath, and it’s actually very nice and relaxing, and as my body relaxes, suddenly, anger comes, spikes and explodes, a mini-tsunami of rage inside me, threatening to spill over into the bathwater, and I remember with loathing how the family therapist at Flora’s clinic had nothing in the tool box she’d offer me except baths and I remember, very specifically, how en route to what would be our last joint meeting with her, I told Sean that if she said “have a bath,” I would conjure up a tub right there in her office and drown the bitch in it, what the fuck was wrong with people that they think self-care equals hot baths? And what the fuck is wrong with people that they think the solution to systematic, structural meta-problems is… self-care? The health care system is failing my child, the patriarchy sucks, our modern society is built on racism and genocide, capitalism is unjust, we’re raping the Earth—we’re raping our girls and women and most of our vulnerable with most of our policies, social structures, actions—hey, take a step back. Chill. Breathe.

Have a bath.

The bath is actually very nice, by the way. My new tub is, although short, really deep, and I’m submerged up to my shoulders ,and I even bought some stinky bath salts—I’m pretty sure someone, perhaps a whole village, was exploited in their production and procurement chain, but hey, whatever, don’t think about it. I’m not actually thinking about it. Well, I am and I’m not—I’m crafting a pissy, bitchy, angry post in my head and suddenly, I’m totally relaxed and perfectly happy, because that is the way the writer mind works—and I kind of want to get out of the tub NOW so that I can run to my computer and start writing NOW—but I’m finally starting to enjoy this stupid bath, so I should probably stay. Can I keep the whole piece in my head, sentence by sentence, paragraph by paragraph, until I get out?

It’s fading, dammit, as the anger fades. Probably, though, if I plug back into the tsunami of social justice anger… there we go. Ok. Open with the family therapist anecdote—build towards that whole “Upset with racism? Genocide? Underfunded classrooms? Incompetent politicians? Don’t worry—have a bath” thing, and then carry that through to the punchline: when we tell people (women especially) to take a bath, to engage in self-care, instead of actually supporting them with the shit they’re going through, we’re essentially making them personally responsible for… well, everything. And perpetuating the status quo.

No. Wait. Almost there—I mean, yes, that’s the thrust, but that’s NOT how I want to do it. Back track to that last punchy paragraph.

The patriarchy sucks, our modern society is built on racism and genocide, capitalism is unjust, we’re raping the Earth—we’re raping our girls and women and most of our vulnerable with most of our policies, social structures, actions—hey, take a step back. Have a bath.

There we go.

Have a bath. It won’t make anything better, but it will replenish you. And you’re important. Taking care of you is important. You need to take care of you before you take care of the world. So have that bath. Fill it with luscious unguents.

Full disclosure: When I first thought that last sentence (in the bath), I got stuck on ungulates, which are—I’ll save you the trip to google—hoofed mammals, while an unguent is a soft greasy or viscous substance used as ointment or for lubrication—and the lesson there is that you should just say bath salts, bath bomb, rose water or almond oil—because a) specificity rules and b) so does simplicity—the simple word is always best. And neither ungulate nor unguent are (most of the time) the word you’re looking for.

So have that bath. Fill it with bath salts. Light a candle.

Focus on yourself.

Not on the world and what’s wrong with it and what must be done to change it.

Hey, do you see what they’re doing there?

Meditate. Do yoga. Go to the gym. Sculpt that body. Discipline your mind. Make yourself your project. You can change you—focus on that. It’s better that way. Less frustrating.

Less… dangerous.

Her: You just ruined baths for me forever. Thanks.

Jane: You’re welcome. Now get out of that tub, get your hands dirty, and change the world.

^^^that’s the punchline and the call to action, the perfect ending, and in my head—in the bath—the piece ends here.

But when I sit down at the computer to write it down, a second idea enters. A second layer manifests. A piece within a piece, a story with a story—a story with a dual purpose, but a single action call—and it’s my playground, so why not?

Get in the bath. Relax long enough for the rage to build. Then take it out with you out of that tub, use it as fuel—change the world.

xoxo

“Jane”

The portrait that defines us as a family right now…

Pandemic Diary: Protests in the time of the Pandemic

(Note: this isn’t really a post, it’s a collection of notes from my journal.)

i.

June 1

My son turned 18 last week and, you know, when he walks down the street? Takes the bus to work? Gets pulled over by the police for any reason, goes to a bar with friends? (OMG, my baby can go to a bar with friends now, when did that happen—right, last week!)

I never worry that he’ll be shot by the police.

Or even treated unfairly by them.

I mean, I have a lot of other worries. Obviously. I’m a mother.

That one?

Never, ever.

I never worry that my son will be shot by the police.

My Black American friends? They’re devoured by that fear every time one of their kids, loves, siblings walks the street.

I never truly understood this until this week.

I will never be able to really comprehend that fear—or how emotionally damaging it is. Simply imagining it causes me pin.

How did we build a world in which that is a thing?

More importantly: how do we change it?

ii.

June 2

I am still having a hard time getting out of bed. Doing anything. Moving.

But this week, I am attending, children in tow, Black Lives Matter protests, marches, a vigil.

I haven’t been inside a store or a coffee shop since they’ve re-opened. Not getting a hair cut this summer. Not holding any parties. Wearing a mask to the grocery store so that your Grandma doesn’t die, choking, because we’re out of ventilators.

Because everyone has the right to breathe.

iii.

June 3

As the Black Lives Matter / George Floyd protests were escalating in the US and beginning in Canada and around the world, I ran away for a day to Kananaskis Country, an expanse of wilderness, mountains, lakes and hiking trails about an hour’s drive from my city.

Yes, Paradise.

That’s privilege, by the way. White privilege: being able to run away. Step away from the conversation, conflict about race.

Black people, people of colour do not get to take a break from that reality.

That’s privilege. And so is this.

On the way to Paradise, my friend and I stopped at a gas station and my friend, who had been driving, discovered he had left his wallet at home.

“Don’t worry,” I said. “They give you 24 hours to produce a driver’s licence when they pull you over.”

“They give YOU 24 hours to produce a driver’s licence when they pull you over,” he said, handing me the keys. “I’m not a white girl, remember? Here. You drive.”

Later, I tell the story to Flora. As I get to the part when I say, “They give you 24 hours to produce a driver’s licence,” she interrupts me.

“Wow, what a white privilege thing to say.”

I’m proud of her.

And ashamed of our world. Because, people, how fucked up is that? We know the police will go out of their way to NOT give me a ticket. To not inconvenience me.

My friend? He’d better not step over any lines. Ever.

We need to change this.

iv.

June 4

It’s the moment before I open the laptop, reach for the phone. The day is still ok. I’ve done my morning pages, cuddled the Ender and the dogs. An drinking coffee. Am thinking, I might do things today. Today might be a beautiful day.

I reach for the laptop, I check my newsfeeds—I fuck it all up.

I don’t know how to navigate this right now, people. Under most circumstances, I’d shut the tap off. But right now, that acts smacks more of cowardice than self-care. I think of my Black activist friends—and strangers—who just can’t do that. I think of the parents, families of George Floyd. Breonna Taylor.

David McAtee.

So many names I don’t know, didn’t notice, didn’t pay attention to. The Washington Post reports that since Jan. 1, 2015, 1,252 Black people have been shot and killed by the American police.

1,252.

(You should read/listen to this, by the way: https://www.npr.org/2020/05/29/865261916/a-decade-of-watching-black-people-die)

I am a conflict-avoidant coward. I am not an organizer. And I think most of the time, I’m a shitty ally, too wrapped up in my own story to really pay attention to the experience of others.

The least I can do right now is to bear witness.

I see your pain.

I see the injustice.

I don’t know what the fuck to do, honestly.

But. I witness.

Jane