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

sunday

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

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

monday

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

tuesday

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

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

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

I cry some more.

wednesday

am

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

The question is, do I want to?

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

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

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

pm

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

thursday

Thursday was… complicated.

friday

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

saturday

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

I did.

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

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

Annie Dillard, The Writing Life

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

I’d do penance on Sunday, I decided.

But I was lucky; I didn’t.

sunday

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

WEEK 10 APPENDIX

nabokov, i

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

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

Vladimir Nabokov, Letters to Vera

notes on the discovery of the clitoris

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

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

“Clearly, this would require more study.”

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

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

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

nabokov ii

Text to Sean:

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

I guess all artists are a little petty.

Text from Sean:

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

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

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

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

kids and dharma

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

nabokov iii

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

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

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

The marriage survives.

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

nabokov iv

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

xoxo

“Jane”

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

2018

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

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

A moody story (Week 3: Ebb and Flow)

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

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

A good week (Week 6: Execute, Regroup)

Killing it (Week 7: Exhaustion and Adrenaline)

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

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

—->>>POSTCARDS FROM CUBA

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

monday

I.

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

Well, one category of them, anyway.

Yay, me.

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

Here are two of my favourite ULG features from BrainPickings:

II.

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

Facebook message from my dad:

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

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

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

I accept it with reverence and gratitude.

I accept.

With reverence and gratitude.

III.

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

tuesday

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

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

Uber.

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

A text from the back seat of the Uber:

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

A response from my neighbour:

np — They’re here now. Don’t worry.

I love my hood; I love my tribe.

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

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

You: Money.

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

What an awful, awful thought. Ugh.

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

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

Right.

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

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

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

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

I find words. And they’re good ones.

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

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

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

I agree.

“Hotel California” comes on.

Jane: I like this one, still.

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

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

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

Ender’s ready for bed.

Where’s the electric toothbrush?

Fuck, we need a new toothpaste.

Jane: Calvin & Hobbes?

Ender: Yes… We were… here…

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

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

Kiss the foreheads of the other two.

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

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

Sleep.

wednesday

I.

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

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

Flora: What’s going on?

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

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

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

Her words feel like a slap.

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

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

Then I burst into tears. And stomp off.

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

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

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

Not always. Of course. Not always.

But.

Fuck.

Is that all Flora sees?

II.

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

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

Jane: Shut up.

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

Jane: Fuck off.

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

Jane: Yes.

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

Jane: Boring.

Wow.

My new space.

It looks really really good.

I’ve very happy.

I love beautiful spaces, places, things.

People.

III

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

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

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

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

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

See?

Anyway.

Dumpster.

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

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

Sean: I see it!

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

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

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

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

Flora: So who gets the new  chair?

thursday

One of those days.

Process journal: “I feel lazy and dumb.”

But it ends with a bang.

Thank you, #writertribe.

Also, the Michelle Obama tickets go on sale.

Thank you, Dad.

friday

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

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

Transience.

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

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

I love. I care.

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

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

I’ve equated freedom from attachment with… detachment.

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

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

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

Jane: Good.

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

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

Cinder: 99%.

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

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

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

Attachment.

Detachment.

Passion.

Letting go.

Fucking mystics, why do they make everything so complicated?

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

It has four pillars:

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

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

  1. Do it full out.

Yes. Fucking watch me.

  1. Let go of the outcome.

Really? How?

Can I?

Sometimes, I do.

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

Do it full out

Let go of the outcome

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

I AM.

I AM.

Anyway.

Let go of the outcome.

Working on it.

saturday

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

I write about habits, context, credentials.

sunday

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

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

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

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

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

Also, this:

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

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

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

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

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

Interesting.

So interesting.

xoxo

“Jane”

PS Check this out:

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

2018

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

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

A moody story (Week 3: Ebb and Flow)

—->>>POSTCARDS FROM CUBA

A moody story (Week 3: Ebb and Flow)

monday

“Day of rest—sort of moody.”

tuesday

An idea. Two, actually. Fuck. Also, I roast a duck. She is beautiful and delicious; the kids eat Mr. Noodles instead. I don’t say, “Ungrateful bastards.” I don’t even think it. They were all conceived and born in wedlock, after all.

(This seemed really funny when I thought it. Sorry. A good editor would cut it.)

wednesday

The idea percolates. Goddammit. I don’t have time for this, I need to finish… Not now, not yet.

This phrase: “but not at any cost.”

Lunch with my dad. Reflections. Family. Origins. Conflict. Disappointment. Why are we here?

I know why I’m here.

I spend $2000 of imaginary money. Commit to spending $2000 more. Gulp. Do not think about the idea, I have no time.

Also: a date, a confession, a resolution. Oooh. I like that rhythm. Would it work as a book title?

You: This is very confusing.

Jane: I am very confused. Except for the brief moments when I am so-very-clear I can’t breathe.

thursday

“Today I need to be domestic.” First words in my process journal. Instead, I re-read The Great Work of Your Life by Stephen Cope, my favourite parts. Say yes to an opportunity, a new one. No idea for it yet—just the opportunity. The idea—two, now I need a third—grows.

Fine.

I’m not stifling it any more. I suppose it’s time. My spring is coming early this year.

friday

I write a first draft. Yes. I ask an editor for work (=money). Yes. I write blurbs (Yes!). I say… yes, yes, yes. OMFG how am I going to do it all?

I re-arrange all the furniture and books in my space. You know what’s coming.

Long walk, cigar, drink with a friend, sheesha with a lover, text from you.

Yes.

saturday

Yes.

sunday

“No back ups for 740 days.” Daily reminder from my laptop; I wish it would stop nagging me.

You: Fucking back up your work!

Jane: It all exists somewhere else too. Don’t worry. But yes. I’ll do that. As soon as I finish… mmm. Yes.

So I don’t actually finish or start anything on Sunday. Putter around. Throw out half my closet. Read a bit more from The Great Work of Your Life. Eat, walk in the sun, witness a human tragedy in the making, wasted life. Or is it?

From Brainpickings.org:

We have, each of us, a life-story, an inner narrative — whose continuity, whose sense, is our lives. It might be said that each of us constructs and lives, a “narrative,” and that this narrative is us, our identities.

If we wish to know about a man, we ask “what is his story — his real, inmost story?” — for each of us is a biography, a story. Each of us is a singular narrative, which is constructed, continually, unconsciously, by, through, and in us — through our perceptions, our feelings, our thoughts, our actions; and, not least, our discourse, our spoken narrations. Biologically, physiologically, we are not so different from each other; historically, as narratives — we are each of us unique.

Oliver Sacks, The Man Who Mistook His Wife For A Hat
Quoted in “The Building Blocks of Personhood: Oliver Sacks on Narrative as the Pillar of Identity,” Brainpickings.org

“Each of us is a… story.”

I like that.

xoxo

“Jane”

2018

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

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