Sunday, September 26, 2010


I was out running tonight. I took my cell phone with me for two reasons. The first reason is my husband who thinks that if I ever happen to be attacked when I am out jogging at night the attacker will stand back and give me time and space to make a quick phone call to the police. The other reason is because of J, my niece, who is still slightly nervous about being left alone in the house once it's dark outside, even if only for an hour. Since Shawn was out she wanted me to have the phone so she could call me if she needed me.

Now about the phone. The phone is smarter than I am. It's not my phone, it's Shawn's phone. Or it was until he decided it wasn't smart enough for him and dumped it for a better one. He gave me the old one. I find it very intimidating. I haven't figured out how to use it for anything other than making phone calls and receiving text messages and email. But it has about fifty other applications that I have never opened.

Anyway. Because I do not know how to use the phone properly there's a problem with it I have not addressed. The phone makes the same sound when it is receiving an email as when it is receiving a text message.

So there I was jogging in the dark. It had been almost an hour and I was coming to the end part where I turn back onto my street and then the phone made that blipping sound that means text message and/or email. So I fished it out of my pocket to check because I was thinking about J at home alone and wondering if she would send me a text message instead of calling me if she needed something. But it wasn't a text message, it was an email, one of those automatic ones that you get when someone posts a comment. So it was an email that said it was from Jerry and it said, But you, my dear, are becoming more and more important. A giant you are bound to become!

And for some reason that overwhelmed me so much there that I started to get all teary and so I stopped running and started to walk, picturing myself giant and strong, and that made me get all choked up more. But when you have been running for the last hour it makes you breathe fast. And then I couldn't get enough breath because I was being a bawl-baby instead of an athlete, and that made me make sounds a little bit like a Canada goose... which made me laugh at the same time which made me make sounds like a very excited Canada goose. And then the man who was in his garage tidying up poked his head out and said, Are you okay? I said, Yes (honk) thank you.

Thank you Jerry. (Honk honk.)


look right through me, look right through me

On Bermuda Shorts Day 1993 the guy who sat behind me in English class told me he was shrinking. It was the first time he had spoken to me the whole semester, and this was the last day of class. The professor had scheduled an exam for that day, which wasn't very sporting of her in my opinion, but was her prerogative. I suppose she figured if we decided to come to class under the influence it wasn't her problem. Maybe she didn't know that you were supposed to spend Bermuda Shorts Day in the beer garden.

I didn't go to the beer garden until after that exam, but the guy who sat behind me in English must have spent his morning differently than I had. He wasn't just drunk, he was on something that was giving him the sensation of shrinking and when I pulled out my chair to sit down he said to me very plaintively, Can you help? I'm shrinking.

I sort of thought he was joking but when I looked him in the eye I could see that he was actually a bit frightened. I said, I don't think you are. He said I am, I'm shrinking, and held out his hand to show me. His hand was trembling and I felt very sorry for him because I knew he wasn't going to do well on his exam and he needed someone to hold him steady so he wouldn't get any smaller. And then the professor told us to take our seats so I couldn't say anything reassuring.

Even without hallucinogenics I think I know what he meant. I have that feeling sometimes too, that I am dissolving away and might entirely disappear. I might become so small no one can see me.


Friday, September 24, 2010

something I've been meaning to tell you

1. K moved back to the Netherlands a long time ago. I forgot to say so. He first moved back to his wife, then together they went to Holland. He left me a note. The name he called me that I thought meant "pest" was actually "meisje" which means something like little girl. He also left me his watch, the one that helps me sleep.

2. I looked forward to Christmas in Kensington only because of the lights.

But in the shops Christmas lights framed the windows even in August daring winter ever to return and frost the panes. If anyone can see us then they think we are a couple holding hands and shopping when in fact we are nearly strangers. On 4th Street things get darker toward the Mission Bridge and I remembered watching bats becoming entangled in the nets over Fish Creek where as children we were taught about ecology and the interconnectedness of living things. If anyone can see us here we are romantic as I stretch out over the water making wishes on reflected stars, his hand to help me keep my balance. In fact we have only twenty more minutes behind us, the understanding that men walk on the outside of the sidewalk, and I am looking for bats, not wishes. His hand on my back means he is impatient. By the time we are across the bridge he has forgotten which side of the sidewalk his dead mother taught him to use and I am shivering with cold. It is cold even in August on the prairies.

Prior to his mother's death I spilled cranberry juice on the kitchen counter, smoked cigarettes with his mother on the deck, and spoke with her in French I thought I had forgotten.

Afterward I helped his sister empty out the closets, roast marshmallows in the fireplace, made jokes at the reception with his father who had taken too much pain medicine. He laughed. He had taken seven pills.

And after his father went to bed alone for the first time in forty years, we crossed the Mission Bridge and slipped into the darkened house. I went with him to the downstairs bedroom, another weak attempt at humour and further evidence that we live - because I fear we are dying too and I have nothing else to give him of any value that I know yet inside myself. For the first time I hear his accent, French Canadian, when he says marionette.

His impatience coupled with my trance and I tried not to think too hard. Our gazes do not meet. If anyone sees us now we are a married couple twenty two years in; we have forgotten how we met and what we once liked about each other. We touch each other only to check if we are alive.

He left six days after the funeral. He asks if I still smoke. I really don't anymore.

3. Shawn and J have a new game. When they laugh together I am satisfied somehow when I have no idea what is so funny. It means they love each other without me and I do not have to be part of everything. I like sometimes to be apart from both of them because I want to love them both from up close and from far away.


Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Drop a stone in the abyss

I don't have a scanner so you're not getting the picture where I look like Flavor Flav although seriously, that's the one I like best. So here's me, real me. Real like I'm the kind of person who lets my dogs kiss me on the mouth and I know it's gross and I totally don't care.

I feel weird about this so I think I'll probably take these back down in a couple of days. So feast your eyes while ye may. Hah.

(I'm the one without the tail who needs a haircut and a fashion consultant.)


Monday, September 20, 2010

you'll look like a photograph of yourself taken from far far away

Picture day. My school very generously buys a small package of pictures for every staff member which I find bizarre. Do adult people really want portraits of themselves? I have three years worth of them in my desk drawer.

2007- That was the year I moved here and was caught in a rain storm walking to school on picture day. My hair in that photo is like a wild animal trying to escape the confines of the cage the picture frame tried to impose upon it.

2008 - That was the year the office manager gave me about fifteen keys on a ring for the theatre because she finally decided to trust me. I must have been proud of that ring of keys because I am wearing it around my neck in this photo looking a bit like Flavor Flav with his giant clock. I know what time it is.

2009 - That was the year I returned to work ghostly and wan after spending half the summer staying in my parents' basement while attending university summer institute. This picture is classic Dorian Gray; it reveals what I will look like when I am eighty.

2010 - I do not know what today's picture captured but I am fairly sure it was something I meant to keep to myself.


Sunday, September 19, 2010

When it's my time to throw the next stone, I'll call you beautiful if I call at all.

This is meant to answer a question.

But I do not know the answer, not really, even though I have been thinking about it and trying not to answer the question with more questions. First of all I do not think I have striven to avoid being hurt because being hurt occasionally seems inevitable when you allow yourself to be vulnerable. And I do not know any alternative to being vulnerable. That kind of resulting pain, though it twists you in the moment, is pain you can live through... and later on it turns into memories that do not hurt at all. Instead they put an interesting frame around your learning and you really rather treasure it. This I know for certain.

But maybe it is simpler than that. Maybe you are asking me about deception in which case there is always the option not to engage in the first place. If you play rough you will get hurt - so don't play? Maybe that's all it means, in which case I am all in favour of sitting out because I do not like to play those kinds of games because I have no skill, offensive or defensive. But that is probably an oversimplification of a very complicated question. I can be insensitive but more often I am oversensitive, both of which may result in hurt feelings, which is never my intent.

The short answer is I do not avoid being hurt, I embrace it and I learn from it.


Thursday, September 16, 2010

I swear I'm going to bite you hard

Jenny is coming to visit me this weekend. I was not able to see her this summer when I was visiting home, and I am so happy she is coming here. I love Jenny, love love love Jenny. I met Jenny about twelve years ago when we both belonged to the same acting ensemble company. We toured together, we slept in the same bed, we missed planes together, we ate the world's best stuffed mushrooms in a restaurant in a tiny town near the North West Territories. Most importantly, we wrote together. We wrote a script together which was successful enough to allow us to live like this, on tour, though neither of us wanted to, for a good long time. I love Jenny.

Jenny is the smartest person I know when it comes to words. She knows how to put words together so they say exactly what she means with not even the slightest room for misunderstanding. Her words are razor sharp, like Brynja's shoes. When I write with Jenny I am excited about writing because I love making her laugh, I love trying to match her wordplay. Jenny is the funniest person in the entire world. I'm sorry that you haven't met her because you deserve a good laugh. Jenny words things in ways that make me laugh until I feel pain because Jenny, of all the people in the world, is the one who best understands both the subtlety and the power words contain - and knows exactly how to select the ones that connect a person with all the senses. When I can make Jenny laugh with my words I feel as though I have accomplished something very impressive.

Another thing about Jenny is that she is a single mom. When she decided at thirty-five that the right man wasn't going to happen in time she went and paid for IVF and became pregnant with her little girl. All very businesslike and decisive. And I do not think there is a better mother anywhere. Jenny and Baby N will be here tomorrow in time for dinner.

This means I have to do things I do not normally do - like vacuum the floor and think about what we will eat for dinner. But it's worth it. Maybe I will be one of those exuberant airport lunatics jumping up and down and waving a big sign that says WELCOME JENNY!!!! Probably not... because I am too lazy to make a sign and have to be in the right mood to jump. But that's how I'll feel anyway.


Tuesday, September 14, 2010

i just want to dance in your tangles to give me some reason to move

This is Pepper. He's a Norfolk Terrier, my parents' dog. When I was visiting them this summer so we could attend my sister's memorial service, I spent a lot of time in this park walking and/or running with Pepper. He doesn't get tired, at least not that I managed to discover. My parents' house backs on this park. Nice isn't it? But I do not miss it. It's buried in snow most of the year.

There are other things I miss. I miss the great big sky. And I miss loud thunderstorms and I miss there being space, countryside between cities, so when you're driving you can tell when you have left the city limits and when you are entering somewhere new. I miss the lonely ache when I feel November bearing down and the daylight shrinking away; I miss the first cold day the furnaces kick in and the air is filled with the scent of their awakening sighs. I miss 17th Avenue and maybe I miss those sassy black and white magpies that steal dog food. I miss Colleen.


let your losses dangle off the sharp edge of a century

I had a meeting with my supervisor today which I found calming. Oh yeah, she's a counsellor, she knows how to talk to lunatics. I have been experiencing a mild sense of panic combined with a stronger sense of impending doom while looking at my calendar between now and Christmas feeling certain I have scheduled more hours a day than there actually are available to me. But talking to her about hours required for my internship was helpful. The fact she has confidence it can be done made me feel better. She also said nice things to me about how well-suited she figured I was for counselling which was probably just counsellor-kindness but it was still reassuring because I used to think I was well-suited to teaching theatre and I had no awareness of the fact that I would one day come to hate noise. Maybe I should have sought an outside opinion back then.


My Drama program has grown enough that it was necessary to bring in a second teacher. She is not happy to be there and she is bitter about the fact that she wants to be teaching Art in that block instead of Theatre. I'm not exactly happy about it either, but I have really made an effort to share my stuff with her, to accommodate her gigantic filing cabinet that takes up half the back wall, and her strange quirks that included needing to remove all the red chairs from the theatre and replacing them with blue ones so the furniture would match. She also took away my brown pupil desk that I used to sit at while marking projects and replaced it with a blue one she found somewhere. Matching, apparently, is important to her. Because I do not give a rat's ass about what colour my chairs or desk are I said nothing while she made the changes she needed to make to the space so she would feel more in control of it.

Students have been dropping her class in droves complaining that she is too controlling. She is controlling, but the real problem, of course, is that they are used to me, the Queen of Chaos, and next to me everyone looks a little controlling. The reason I am not controlling is not that I am so free-as-a-bird relaxed, but more because I just do not have the skill to know how to make people do what I want them to do. I also have trouble caring about some things (for example, she makes them sit in three straight rows of ten, an idea that has never occurred to me in eleven years of teaching and never would have). It's creating some negative feelings. Today after school she asked me to quit talking to her students. Not that I dance through her classes waving and blowing kisses to her students or anything, but sometimes I have to leave my office and this requires me to walk through the theatre as there is no other exit. She would prefer me not to respond to the students who say hello to me as I walk by. I'm not sure how I am to accomplish this without being blatantly rude but I did not argue with her. Sometimes people surprise me and I have no idea what to say.


Sunday, September 12, 2010

I never wanted anything from you except everything you had and all that's left after that too

I have a treadmill in my living room that I do not use very often. I prefer running outside by far and now that I no longer live on the winter prairies I find it is possible to run outside most of the year as long as I am willing to get rained on, which I am. But somehow today I just wasn't up for getting wet and decided to use the living room treadmill.

As soon as I started I remembered why I hate it. J came into the room, sat down on the couch and looked at me. I asked her what she wanted. She said she wanted nothing. I told her to go away. Nicely. (Sort of.) She went away. A few minutes later Shawn came in and stood in the doorway staring at me. I told him to go away too without asking what he wanted. He ignored the request and instead decided to come into the room and stood behind the treadmill. He thinks he's soooo funny. After a lot of sexual remarks which I ignored he started pretending to run alongside me trying to make me laugh. I turned up my music and tried not to look at him. It was then he decided he was going to jump on the back of the treadmill behind me. I think he was picturing some kind of tandem-running thing where our strides would be equally matched.

Instead he hit the belt harder, perhaps, than he expected to, and was surprised by how fast it was moving. He lost his footing and was propelled rather violently off the end of the treadmill and onto the floor where he lay moaning and blaming me. It was very satisfying. I wanted to pretend not to notice that either but it was impossible. The comments and the miming were all things I had anticipated, but this slapstick bit was all new. Of course J had to come running to find out what all the noise was about and I turned off the treadmill and gave up and went outside where I should have been in the first place.


Wednesday, September 08, 2010

I saw the angel in the stone

Dana sent me a letter on Monday. I have not seen Dana in about fifteen years and the transformation in her voice is remarkable. I wasn't sure what was different at first but I wanted to know because Dana wasn't the kind of friend you lose touch with because you stop caring or become too different to remain close. I just somehow lost her. I think it was when she had a baby and moved back home with her parents, and I went off to university thinking I was the one who knew what I was doing.

Dana's voice has changed, it turns out, because she joined a seminary after her son's father committed suicide. She studied theology and counselling and now she has the same degree that I am working on, Masters of Counselling, except that hers has a theological grounding and mine will not. She has a theological grounding and I do not.

Sometimes I find my own lack of faith really depressing. And I do not know if I have no faith because I actually actively disbelieve or if it's just because I do not know that which I do not know. I haven't been taught, I'm a heathen.

Too much of what little I know makes me disdainful and mistrustful of organized religion. But compare that with the emptiness and I understand, still, why so many people pursue it.

There are other things to fill up that hole and most of the time that works for me. I believe in wonder, I am easily awed by my world. I like to watch letters go backward in the mirror and then reflect those back and forth repeatedly to see how small they can grow. I like kaleidoscopes, and birds, and fresh air.

But sometimes when things are bleak the hole grows too big for it to be closed up with these things and I wonder what else I am supposed to put in there to make it safe. Maybe I'm just supposed to put one of those orange cones in front of it and hope that not too many of the relationships that Matter to me will fall in.

Dana invited me to go to Rwanda with her in April or May. She goes twice a year to teach and counsel AIDS patients and children who have suffered sexual abuse. I am thinking about this now.


Sunday, September 05, 2010

I'm not sick, but I'm not well.

I have been doing something bad. You know those scammers that send you email telling you that they have 12 million dollars coming to them and they just need you to cash a small cheque and for your trouble they'll give you a cool million? Well I have been playing with one of those scammers. He started writing to me a couple of months ago, telling me how he needs my help and I have been writing back to him with questions about how to complete his requests, promising him I'm going to do it soon. He keeps urging me to hurry and offering me more incentives and more sad stories about how desperately he needs this money because his mother needs surgery and he is trapped in a foreign country and blah blah blah. I keep writing back telling him I'm going to go to the bank tomorrow but I just need him to give me a little more information or a bit more clarification.

He's getting impatient with me, I can tell, and sadly I think our pen pal relationship is nearly finished. He's losing faith in me and our summer together is nearly over. I know this has been twisted and wrong but I cannot feel bad for wasting this man's time when it's been so much fun. I have enjoyed getting his hopes up and making him think he's nearly there and then letting him down over and over again. I really really need to go back to work.


Friday, September 03, 2010

When you woke this morning you looked so rocky-eyed

So it's September, a terrible thing that happens to me every year at the end of summer. I do not want to go back to work. Especially, I do not want to try and complete my counselling practicum hours while directing a play and trying to pretend I am not using paid hours to do volunteer hours. My attitude is poor. I do not remember why I wanted a Masters degree.

I have been kidding myself that summer is not over by going to the beach a lot. I have been drinking beer in the daytime on the beach like someone who is anyone besides me, but breaking the law and wasting time feels good right now. I have no idea what I'm doing. But it's almost over, which is probably for the best.

And today I really cut loose and went to the passport office to get J's passport renewed. They wouldn't do it because she has the wrong kind of birth certificate, the kind that does not name her parents. Why this matters is beyond me. We have a court order that states we have sole custody, and we have her mother's death certificate. Apparently they want us to prove that no father is named on the birth certificate in spite of the fact that this hypothetical person would have no rights anyway. The man who explained this to me told me it made no sense before I could tell him so which I found frustrating. I wanted to be the one to point it out. He probably realized that it would deflate me to agree with me, which it did, and so I took my stack of papers home for the second time without making a scene and applied for yet another birth certificate for J, the drifting girl. I guess we'll need these documents in the future anyway when we start formal adoption proceedings.

As if to add insult to injury, in the mail I received two collection notices addressed to my sister threatening legal action and urging me to "conduct myself accordingly". Well, not myself. Herself. I am not sure why she had her mail coming to my house. I am not sure whether I am supposed to contact the collection agency and tell them what happened to her. I probably wasn't even supposed to open the envelopes but they had no return addresses. And I am trying to hold on to her, whatever pieces are left, collection notices and aggravations and messes. Oh, and her child.


We took Shawn's sisters out for dinner tonight to celebrate their 22nd birthday(s). We went for Indian food. Their choice, but I was glad. I don't know what it is about me and food. I eat cereal all the time, I mean all the time. And crackers. And apples and grapes and carrots. I eat things that are already ready to eat just as they are because I do not want the overwhelming responsibility of operating the stove or cleaning up dishes. This is stupid. But when you eat boring food like this all the time food stops being connected to sensory experience and just becomes a way of keeping yourself from dying. So I forget that food is good, that I like it, that it's fun to eat things that taste good. Before I moved here to the coast I didn't even know I liked Indian food because Indian food on the Winter Prairies isn't the same. Not the same as Indian food made by Indian people who know how to do it right. When I eat Indian food I remember that I like food. I think I have said this here before, maybe more than once, but I am only telling it to myself so I will remember what matters. And that's what will happen to you; that's what you get for being food. (I love you Margaret Atwood.)