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

i.

When I am unhappy, and strangers on the street tell me to smile—or well-meaning friends tell me to focus on all the good things that are happening—I want to throw things at them.

When you are unhappy, I tend to tell you… to focus on all the good things that are happening.

Hypocritical, I know.

I think the lesson of all this is when we are unhappy—we are best unhappy alone.

No, no, wait.

I know—you know—that’s not true. That’s what the demons want you to think. They want you to stay unhappy alone, isolated.

So when you are with me when I am unhappy, when I am with you when you are unhappy—let’s give each other’s pain and grief and sad the space it needs.

“I know you’re suffering, and I’m here for you.”

(one of Thich Nhat Hahn’s mantras of loving speech)

That’s all I need. That’s all you want.

Fuck, why is that so hard to give?

ii.

The teenagers, my caterpillars, are going through some ups and downs these days, and my biggest job is JUST TO BE THERE, and I don’t think I’ve worked this hard at parenting since they were mewling, helpless babes in arms, except back then, I could solve almost every ill through the insertion of nipple into mouth.

There are no solutions now. There is only—“I am here for you.”

Confession: being there for you is really exhausting.

I want a mocha, a cigar, chocolate, Hafez.

Sean brings me Leonard Cohen.

It helps.

iii.

If the teenagers are caterpillars, Ender is still a pupa or larva. I’m mixing my insect metaphors a bit, and I can’t remember which comes first, the pupal or larval stage—and I’m pretty sure these don’t occur in the creatures that then metamorphose into butterflies. Anyway. He’s still my pupa, and most of his problems can be solved with a hug or a kiss. But while his existential angst is still in the future, what he wants most is… my presence.

Here I am.

iv.

Cigar. Turkish coffee. Cuba.

I’m daydreaming about Cuba.

Trying to figure out why it was so much easier to give them all my presence there.

And I’m still not sure. What is the expanse of silence? The relative lack of responsibility? The fact that I really did not put any pressure on myself to perform, to output, to create—to do anything other than be there, with them, and with the experience… and yet I created anyway?

Can I go back to that place again?

v.

Flora: Your blog is really boring now.

Jane: You are sentient and read it now. You’ve affected what I can write about, what I can share.

Flora: Thank you.

Jane: Of course.

vi.

I am preparing a writing workshop. One of my points—my big lesson to writers—is—ready?

“You’re just not that interesting.”

Writing about self is excruciatingly boring to read.

I’m sorry. 😉

The kids won’t let me write about them.

And I feel too aware of the transience and fragility of all things to get on a soapbox and dispense advice.

Don’t worry. This year only has 11 or so more weeks. Next year, I’m only going to talk in pictures.

xoxo

“Jane”

PS The pupa just turned nine. I be in shock.

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)

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)

—->>>POSTCARDS FROM CUBA

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A love letter to my flood plain

NBTB Love Letter to flood plain.jpg

This love letter begins, as every good love letter should, while I’m naked in bed…

No. Stop. Sorry. Not like this. First, this:

Prologue

There was this flood last year, and it changed us. So very profoundly. And we know it, feel it, breathe it. Tell it, to each other, to anyone who wants to listen (to many who do not).

But do we tell it, really? Our kids are collecting flood stories from the ‘hood to turn into an archive and into an anniversary performance piece. I tell mine… and it is not until I come back home that I realize that of all the stories I could have told, I chose the least important, least personal.

The safest.

“Makes sense,” my neighbour-the-poet says. “Of course it makes sense.”

Does it?

“What story did you tell?” I ask him, and he tells me. And I am shocked. “That one? Really? You could tell… you could share… that one? That part of you?”

He could, he did. Me? My eyes swell with tears. My most intimate story swims within me. I can tell, spin so many other stories. That one? I’m not even sure I want to hear it.

But there’s one part of my story that’s everyone’s story. It belongs to you, as much, more, as it does to me. Ready?

F-front door2

I.

I’m naked in bed, languorous, lazy, loved, and the psychic-who-lives next door delivers a hot breakfast to me and my love.

This is the magic of the place where I live, this place that I love so ardently that life elsewhere, life without it is hard to imagine.

This act of kindness-nourishment-knowing—it is not extra-ordinary. Not here. On this piece of flood plain where I live, this sort of thing just happens.

All the time.

This happens too: a book placed into my hand. “I just read it. You will love it.”

Always, an embrace when you need. Always, someone to help you move a couch.

Always, someone from whom I can borrow eggs, sugar, salt, a bottle of wine.

And this: emergency, panic. I need to leave my tiniest, who has never, ever been detached from my arms and my breast. And I leave him—with you, without thinking twice about it, I know you will love my precious and keep him safe for me.

“Potluck tonight?” “Gah, I have nothing to bring.” “Don’t worry. We have plenty.”

New Year’s. Summer Solstice (even last year’s one). Halloween. Impromptu sleep-overs all over; in the morning, a kid head-count. Six kids traipse down my stairs. There are five clambering up yours. “Does your mother know you’re here?” “I think so… oh, isn’t that her, at your door?” It is. “Coffee delivery!” Oh, yes.

Someone else’s mother sneaks into my house while I have a doctor’s appointment and washes my kitchen floor. Because.

This place where I live binds people, builds people.

The idea of losing it is unbearable. Unacceptable.

F-The Boat

II.

We were never in real danger of losing it. Our streets were not ripped to shreds. The water was out of our houses in a few days—it did not linger for weeks. We are rebuilt. But. In those first days, when the water came—before it receded—before we got back home—we did not know. And we were not rational. And I was terrified.

I could not, would not lose you.

F-Rubber boots

III.

I must have loved you before, of course I must have. But this is when I really fall in love with you: when you are at your ugliest. When there is still knee-deep (wait, over here it’s higher, people are wearing hip-waders and getting soaked) water in Sunnyhill Lane. When there are army trucks rolling down Seventh Avenue. When the air smells of diesel and the vibrations of pumps and generators drown out voices. You are covered with mud and silt and fuck-is-that-sewage? and your streets are lined with the debris of a hundred, thousand lives and you look destroyed and ugly and I love you so desperately nothing but saving you matters.

F-Garbage2

IV.

“Christ. It looks like Kandahar,” you say. I look at you, unseeing. I would say, stupid exaggeration, get some perspective, come on, except I’m covered foot-to-toe in mud and so is everyone around me, and there are mountains and mountains of walls-doors-furniture-it’s-not-garbage-it’s-our-lives piled up between the apple trees, and the Red Cross has just delivered a stack of disaster relief kits. We tear through them scavenging for facemasks. Hoping for crowbars. Ha. A mop and a bucket? What the fuck?

F-ARC Disaster Services Kit

V.

You have been, to me, a sanctuary that consisted of a lane, a garden, a Common. A handful of neighbours. You become my everything. As I struggle to save you and you come to save me, you grow. You transcend what you were. You become…

You become a million beating hearts. An army of citizens covered in mud. I love you as I have never loved anything before. And I love them, desperately, passionately, fully, because they are saving you. You are them, they are you.

There are no boundaries.

F-Many Hands Make Light Work

VI.

Then, we all go home.

We come back to our gutted homes; you go back to your unscarred ones. Or go on to help other communities. To High River (which still rends my insides).

We go/come home. But we are all changed.

See, we all love you now in a way we could not even imagine before. You are not just our homes and our communities. You are not just our paths and our riverbanks and our parks and our buildings, our bridges, our streets, our landmarks. You are, of course you are, all of those things. But most of all, you are us. We are you. And we know you—ourselves—so fully and so intimately. There is no theory-to-be-tested, no promises-to-be-fulfilled. There is no uncertainty over what we will-can-could do when asked: we have done it. Everything that had to be done? We did it.

We saved you. You saved us.

F-Battling the mud

VII.

We are changed. But not all of us know this as fully-intimately-undeniably as those of us who lost and saved know this.

“I lost nothing. I did not help. I was unaffected.”

I walk with him on the river paths—because I hardly ever walk anywhere else—and he claims to be unaffected. And thus… unchanged. And I see, suddenly, how damaged he is. He had no personal loss, he says. He was not covered with mud. Your tears.

I cover him with mine.

He claims to be unaffected… but as he watches me cry into the river… unaffected?

No such thing.

We are all affected.

F-Our house debris

VIII.

This place where I live, this place that I love beyond the pall of all reason, this place that builds and binds, this place of jerrybuilt-during-a-past-boom townhouses, this place where dandelions bloom and little children grow up and old people grow older, this place is mine, and it is me.

This place is precious because it is loved, so loved, all the more so because it was threatened, almost-lost, saved. And as I love it, caress it, press it into me—each walk on its streets, each rediscovery of each of its crevices, curvatures, indentations an act of gratitude, acceptance, surrender—it grows. It becomes your place, our place, you, us.

This place is us, a million beating hearts.

F-Evening shift at SHL

IX.

“If it floods again, will we leave? Will we move?”

“I can’t. I can’t. I can’t even think that.”

F-O on Flooded Common

X.

I have loved and was loved and have eaten and felt loved again, and now I must get out of bed, find clothes, do things. But for the moment, for one more moment, I remain naked, languorous, wrapped up in you. And I need to tell you: I have loved you before this, for so long. But I did not really know how much until you were wrecked, destroyed, broken. And I did not truly value you, see the truth of you until you saved me/I saved you.

My most beloved: thank you.

F-Reunited

un-Epilogue

So. I tell the part of my flood story that’s our flood story, I write it as an imperfect love letter to my imperfect piece of flood plain, which I love, passionately, in all its faults, with all its warts, frustrations.

I am so very, very grateful. Love, gratitude, vulnerability, appreciation, surrender swim inside me, fill me, leak out through my tears.

And my own, innermost flood story, the one that I’m not sure even I want to hear? It is so very simple, really. And it is this: a year ago, I could not feel like this. I would not write like this.

I would not cry like this.

I could not love like this.

NBTB-I love you