the ship has turned

I try not to complain too much in this space, but if you know me in person (ahem, Duchessers on the opening weekday shift), you've heard me air more than a few grievances over the last two-and-a-half years.  It has been really hard. By 'it', I mean all of it, or what has seemed like all of it. And by 'hard' I mean nigh on unbearable.

There has been the (naively unexpected) struggle to stand up under the weight of adult responsibilities. Owning, keeping, and renting a house is, it turns out, more than we signed up for. When mushrooms started growing out of the baseboards in my study last spring, I thought that I might have finally reached the end of my rope. Then the rain in August happened; we left in the middle of the night and over four months later returned home. I lost most of my garden last year. I almost lost my most important person. There has been the battle to keep our relationship healthy, alive, existent--and I spent much of the winter battling against Tim rather than for him. I did damage that terrifies me. There has been a five-year history of panic attacks, anxiety, and depression to start recovering from, and redeeming, and this has seemed like a doomed project. In January I wrote: the more I notice my problems, the more I delve into my own mind, the harder it is to act normal. I feel like I am giving body to a latent, restless ghost of craziness which has just been waiting in my head for me to fully incarnate it. There's been the daily pressure of living on a low income. There's been the daily impossible decision to try to produce creative work when I could be earning money instead. There's been this incredibly long, drawn-out quest for a bachelor's degree, and a point last August when I thought I'd decided I wouldn't finish it. There have been fucking long winters. There have been hopes and plans buried alternately under clutter, under snow, under raw sewage, under red tape, under the covers, under pages of lists, under my own hands.

--------

On Tuesday morning, Tim and I had just returned from the mountains. Tim's parents, who had been keeping Simpkin for us, were supposed to be delivering him home any minute. Tim sat down at his desk, looked at his screen and said, "Lizzie, you are really, really not going to like this". I knew instantly. A window screen had come off in the night; Simpkin was gone; they'd only just noticed. Tim's mum came to pick us up so we could search and call for him.

Is is my temperament, or the sympathy-enabling super-connectivity of the world, or a human penchant for rehearsing grief that made it familiar? I felt I could have been the one reading the email to Tim. I knew it all. I knew that within days I would be at a vet or the SPCA to identify a piece of roadkill that had once been the sweet, brave cat I once adopted. I would not have been surprised to see a bloody, furry lump on the side of the street in St. Albert where Tim's parents live.

Except that right now, Simpkin is asleep on our bed and has been all day.

When we got to St. Albert, we were out of the car and calling. I looked under cars, tried to look through the planks into neighbors' backyards, looked under bushes and porches. I circled the block. It started to get hot and I started to feel sick. There was a forecast for temperatures above 30 C. We searched the overgrown backyard again. The shed. The room downstairs with the open window in case he came back. Then I sat on the front steps and cried. Tim brought me water and made Simpkin an entry in a missing pets database. We decided to print off a poster with a picture Tim's sister had taken before Simpkin disappeared, then go home. The printer wasn't working. We ate bowls of Vector cereal and Tim went downstairs to try to print from the desktop computer. I went back outside. I looked under the shed again. Tim came out, holding a printed sheet. "I  don't know if this is any good--he looks black." I heard something and called, interrupting Tim. I heard it again. I called. Tim said, "I think it's a bird, but try again." A sad, cracking quack more than a meow. We thrashed aside raspberry canes. I went around to check the other side of the patch, and when I ran back Tim was holding a spitting, hissing Simpkin aloft. I ran inside for the crate while Tim pinned him down--Tim's mum had been watching from the window and was already handing it to me at the door of the bathroom. We let Simpkin into the crate and took him inside to recover. My anger and muteness toward Tim's mum had disappeared. Everything could be good again. We brought him home, cleaned his ears, sprayed him with water for heat exhaustion. Here he is. He is fine.

"I'm so glad I went back outside. He might have died of exposure--it was so hot and those bushes are so thick."

"Yes. It would have been sad to find a little cat skeleton out there in the winter when the foliage died back."

I almost howled at the thought.

--------

Of course, I was convinced that we had not only lost Simpkin, we were once again being made calamity's bitch. But I think there has been a change.

Today my grandparents on my mum's side stopped by to tell me that they are distributing some of the proceeds from the sale of their house in town. Later in the week I will be receiving several thousand dollars. First I thought: This is the beginning of the end. They are sharing out portions of their estate. On the heels of my premature feelings of fear and grief and (already) denial: an inappropriate, wild sense of relief. Something good has happened. And I thought: This is the beginning. The ship is beginning to turn. After this torturous year, someone has come to my rescue. Someone is easing this weight on me. Now things are possible. 

(It is characteristic of my grandparents to come to my rescue.) The money means that I can pay off my student loan and my credit card and still have enough left over to cover my next semester of tuition--because I am going back to school in September. If I get my usual grant from the government, most of the year's tuition will be paid for. I can almost certainly graduate without debt.

For now, I am reeling. I am tempted to chastise myself for these past months of bitterness and despair, but I mostly just want to share the good--fantastic, lovely, iridescent, delicious--news. Thanks for sticking with me. Sailing on.

xx Lizzie

crash


Like Emily, I've spent the past day and a half struggling against my own incapacitated state. Wednesday afternoon, heading home, needing supper right now, I crashed my bike. It's so odd to find oneself crying in a parking lot, a grown adult and it doesn't make a difference. I scraped and bruised my hand badly enough that I've missed two days of work in the cafe--largely two days of work in general, since my hand is swollen, raw, weeping, and swathed in strips of tea towel. I've been able to do very little except read. I'm nearly through Independent People.

Since I was going to be in bed anyway, yesterday seemed like an excellent fast day. I've resumed the intermittent fasting experiment I began two summers ago, combining it with lifting, cycling, mindfulness, L-theanine, and research on stress to try and make further progress on some of the mind/body health issues I've been aware of for some time. The goal is always the same: to be healthy, sane, happy. And wasn't it a severe blood sugar crash that made me unable to keep my balance? Among other things, regular small fasts can help the body learn to self-regulate blood sugar levels. So fasting and resting and nursing my wounds seemed like a good itinerary. But I was miserable all day: exhausted, cold, irritable, unable to concentrate. There was a mountain of work I had to do and I was either unable or unwilling to do any of it. Time was a bitch, sluggishly running away from me. Nothing makes me more angry or more anxious than a "wasted" day.

Today does not seem wildly better. My hand is still swathed. The house is still a mess. I'm eating blueberries and whole milk. I'm reminded of how horrible I felt when I was coming off anti-depressants. I got the flu. I've come such a long way since then. I am so much stronger. I am so much more capable, less embarrassed. Tim wants me to come outside. He says it's beautiful. He's wearing short shorts and a blue t-shirt. He's beautiful. I feel ugly, pale, and reclusive; soft and slimey, a bandaged snail.

I'll go outside though.

ETA: How could I forget how great boredom and restlessness can be for creative output? I spent my entire childhood waiting for something to happen. I never really made anything happen--I didn't know how. I failed a lot. But I also got into this little habit of writing about the fine-grained and torturous in life and boredom and relationships, and it really has served me well.

All to say: two new poems this afternoon and a sketch for a bit of graphic design I'll be needing soon . . . 

medieval sleeping

I'm up at 2:30 am to drink fennel tea and knit. It's been a long week and I have a few things to say:

This introversion thing is real. I realize this when I wake up at midnight in order to sit alone not-talking.

Too many days have gone by without my being able to do this. My balance is off. I ache. I am confused and helpless. I can't see myself or anyone else. By the time I finished work yesterday, I was hardly functioning. Introverts are in vogue at the moment, but it is still a tiny bit socially unacceptable to announce that you feel strung out and unhinged and hungover from too much social interaction, especially if you work in customer service. Well, I feel all of those things. Sometimes I resent the fact that so much of social energy is used up by my job and not with my friends. Sometimes going for coffee is the last thing I want to do. Sometimes a party is a house-sized hell. Sometimes I find it difficult to live with my own partner. Sometimes I find it difficult to live with my cat.

Solitude is not a luxury for me. Coming to this 3:00 am conclusion feels surprisingly rebellious. I am under enormous pressure to ignore my need for time alone, for personal work, for self-direction, for slow, for quiet. Even I have measured my level of mental health by my ability to cope cheerfully with social situations--and of course, being able to "cope cheerfully" is a necessary skill, something that makes my life easier. It's a mistake, however, for me to set the bar there, where I'm merely coping and not thriving.

On the cusp of three days off, a defiant list before bed.

To Do:

- spend a whole day reading
- walk in the cemetery
- take a weekend off from email, facebook
- binge-knit a sweater
- write on a non-project (i.e. do the work from which projects emerge)
- plan another solo trip
- plan a smaller dinner party
- make a new zine because I love to, not because it is a good career move
- protect my little routines
- do a fast day (for the first time in ages and ages)
- bake sourdough bread



(if you're curious about the post's title)

Reykjavik windows


Sunday morning wall planter--with egg

basement suite?
the first of Sunday's domestic windows

Iceland. On Sunday morning, I went for a walk and discovered the windows of downtown Reykjavik. I should have photographed more of them, but I was uncomfortable walking around with my tourist's camera on a strap, staring into people's homes. Good lord, couldn't I afford them any privacy? I fed my conscience some crumbs: They intended these windows to be peered at. In many, many houses and apartments, on the public side of the curtain, appeared little displays. Shop windows with nothing for sale, relics of Amsterdam, a lettuce.

(Why? Why here and not in Edmonton?)

Amsterdam

Christmas roofs

comics

above the egg

at the top of a hill, a grass roof

view from the hostel dorm room

my own window

favorite lettuce

I was charmed. In true character, on Sunday morning I was feeling anxious about being in Iceland. I wrote:

I've had a hard time being here. I've felt almost constantly that I am creating an inadequate experience for myself. I've been ashamed of needing to spend so much time alone on my bunk . . .  All useless, and really quite mean. I've seen and done a lot since arriving here, and I've had a Good Time (when not feeling paralyzed by shame, so much so that I couldn't even take photographs). 

When will I learn to be gentler?

Frakkastigur

view from other dorm window

Redwall
Redwall

that way



three old houses downtown

Sunday morning roofs and windows

concrete cathedral

some apartments 
pub window

In retrospect, the Sunday walk was a triumph. I was fretful. I felt lost and lonely. I felt like an imposter. Who was I? Those houses and windows and roofs illustrated so much of what I find beautiful and important to notice and cultivate in everyday life. Colours, lines, signs of people traveling, growing things, retreating home, displaying a chosen face, arranging their worlds. 

More pictures followed, so--more Iceland posts to come. 

the old view from here

A couple of days ago I sent off an angsty, stilted, apologetic email to one of my closest friends. I told her something I'd been keeping to myself--something I'd been afraid to admit to myself or anyone else, something that had been brewing for a long time. She laughed at me, gently, because she already knew. 

Tim knew before I told him. Perhaps, what with my idolization of certain musicians, you all saw this coming before I did. 

I'm not, well, straight. 

I wasn't going to write about it here. It seemed like a discussion out of place, smack in the middle of posts about knitting, food, books; more than that, I was afraid of offending you, the readers. I was afraid that bisexuality was the last straw. You were already putting up with my atheism, my non-feminism, my unorthodox marriage. I felt like I should apologize. 

But I think there's been enough apologizing. I'm not thirteen anymore, scared that a crush on a girlfriend would destroy my life and all prospects of future happiness (and send me to hell). I don't have much else to say on the matter, but I'm happy and relieved to be saying this much. I was sick of pretending. The four-years writer of this blog, the (nearly) 22-year old woman, the one still in love with Tim Put, the author of 200-odd poems, the homebody, the English student? She liked girls the whole time. 

status quo

A post of little eloquence.

It is February's fault. I am at loose ends, split ends, and split fingernails.

I quit a job I loved in spite of hating it. And we left our first little home in a neighborhood we never hated, but did not love quite enough. Winter arrived late. Taking the bus for the first time in six months brought it back very clearly--this city is not something I want to have to experience stripped of a sense of belonging to certain streets and shops. My ideal I is a bicycle commuter, a barista, a student, a local writer, a hipster--and all tied to our old neighborhood. You could say we've moved to a white trash area.

The difference is all of 30 blocks, so why do I hardly recognize myself? I've bought more clothes in the past two weeks than I did in the past year preceding them. I work in a different cafe, living off cereal, and I'm sure I've gained five pounds. I haven't written a word or taken a picture or sewn a stitch. But I have gotten my nipples pierced--is this something you'd rather not hear? It's hot though. Today I am dressed all in black. (I just want to be Lisbeth Salander.)

I feel a disconnect. If I've learned anything of myself, it's that I need a home.

Dear

blog ladies and men, I miss you very much. I will make my way back here.

The real life of going places, speaking to people, and moving money is far more 3-D, far more threatening and potential than usual. The external has been requiring all of my energy, while the internal wilts. There is so much to show and tell. When?

But I will be back. Please know that I'm still reading; thank you all for continuing to write. Two of you have just met your new babies. Two of you are still waiting. All of you are crafting examples of art and art-in-life that make me want to burst with pride. You stun me. I cherish these pieces of your worlds and thoughts.

xx

Lizzie

slough

I'm sorry for being absent. I've been hit with a bout of depression (so different from my daily fight with moodiness) which forced me to take it seriously (too seriously), since I couldn't get out of bed.

Randomly, my world closed up until I couldn't fit in it. Then I shriveled up too.

It's only been a few days. I haven't been to the doctor; this has happened before. Perhaps to you as well?

Today I think I see a way up and out.

December 16

I'm suffering one of my least favourite types of doldrums today.

I've planned to stay home for the day in order to make things and read and write, but I feel like a "housewife". I feel unintelligent, lazy, frivolous, and obscure.

"Do I have nothing better to do than knit Hogwarts scarves, bake cookies, read A Brief History of Time and write poetry? How disgustingly female."

Let me spend fifteen minutes fixing up my hair and applying mascara, and I'll feel even worse.

Let me wash even one dish and I might just collapse into a puddle of daytime television. (Except that we don't own a TV, and I've never had any desire to watch even ten minutes of a soap opera.)

But I'm fighting it. I'm about to go off and put on makeup before washing a whole sink full of dishes. Because life goes on. Because Tim and I eat three times a day, and he washed up yesterday.

Because I'd rather spend hours working on homemade presents than extra hours at a minimum-wage job paying for store-bought presents.

Because a clean space is good for the body and soul.

Because ceremonies and holidays are significant for our species, and because pfeffernusse constitutes about half of "Christmas" in my memories.

Because I love to invent and create, because I love to be alone, because you must not feel guilty simply for being alive.

journal excerpt: October 30 (pumpkins and personal information)



Two things, both cause for hope and evidence of growth:

First, on Tuesday, unexpectedly, I realized I had started menstruating again. It's been almost exactly a year since I stopped taking the pill, and it's good to know that my body is no longer afraid for its life. It's finally saying that it's healthy, strong enough to carry a fetus, to spare a little blood every month. I actually feel as though I have received a grateful, congratulatory message. And I am, perhaps stupidly, proud of my little ovaries and uterus for rallying like this.

Second, yesterday evening, after supper, after we'd watched Troy and Laura had gone home, Tim and I sat on the kitchen floor and carved our pumpkins.



Mine started out as a LOTR elf, and ended up as a Hindu goddess. Tim made a face on either side of his - a goomba, and a slit-nosed, mawing leer. For almost exactly a year, any event we have tried to make festive or special has dissolved into a fight, and been followed by sickening resentment and disappointment. But somehow last night was cozy and fun.

We admired each other's progress, though we felt slightly competitive. We sat in companionable silence. We shoveled off the floor together. We extinguished every light in the house to admire the jacks once they were lit. Simple happiness, our sense of conspiracy - I've missed that desperately. It's been too long.

a sweater for Justina




This is my second sweater. It's for my friend, Justina the artist, and she is trading me a painting for it.

It's one of the many things I have wanted to complete, so I can move on, so I can create new things, but I have been forced to linger on it. And on Godel, Escher, Bach. And on an empty bank account. And on old poems and stories. And on bookshelves. And on 149 pounds. And on this notebook that seems to contain nothing but To-Do lists. And on an insidious awkwardness and distance between me and Tim. And on a job that sends me home crying at least once a week.

I just want to go forward. (And I am, but so slowly. More slowly than ever. Always forward, never back. But never enough. Is there a reward for this slogging? What do you think?)

journal excerpt: October 7

A disturbing realization--again--looking through my poems. Nature and the body are all I write about. Are they how I think as well? Is nothing else profound? Machines, cities, language, fear, money, the shrinking world, history--could I write about this, if I tried to? I think I must try, because I am too young to fall into a rut.

Peter-Pan

Growing my hair out means a lot, lately. I'm doing it because, as I said to Tim this morning, "I think it looks more grown up".

I want to grow up.

I am twenty years old and it would be trendy here and now to put off growing up for about ten years; but I am not interested.

The idea of a professionalism that has very little to do with the corporate world appeals to me. Focus, confidence, self-possession, ability, style.

There are a thousand different ways I can stop playing the child. I can, for instance, stop wearing ripped hoodies and using a can of hairspray a week.


following in the footsteps of The Noisy Plume

mint tea






Today.
Today I feel:

- hung to dry
- rusty on the violin, but this is only because I actually practiced
- cold, with a headache
- hemmed in by new spiderwebs in all the windows
- reluctant to go out
- domestic/eager to bake an apple pie with a few from the 30-pound box of apples which was unexpectedly delivered to me on Monday by a regular (a beekeeper) at the cafe and which I carried 2 miles home without bruising a single one
- like a giantess, filling my house, but lovely nonetheless
- hopelessly un-genius
- hopeful for the products of hard work
- caught in overlapping birth-and-death cycles, none of them at the same point
- disappointed in myself
- glad for Winter coming, for Christmas tea and oatmeal sweaters, but also afraid
- like my jeans fit
- in love with Quince and Co.'s patterns and wool, planning
- icy and Scandinavian
- collegiate
- tired and hungry, but not lethargic
- loved more than I've earned
- very quiet

I leave tomorrow.

I don't know what to expect, and so I have nothing to say. Perhaps when I return.

Now, more than ever before, I feel that this, here, is my home. A real home, to grow in, not stifle in. Which is why I will leave before I come back. But I love to settle; I know what I want, and it does not trap me. It beckons me. I have just washed the windows and made granola and now I have to go.

I miss Tim already.

Thank you for hearing me

Thank you for hearing me
Thank you for hearing me
Thank you for hearing me
Thank you for hearing me

Thank you for loving me
Thank you for loving me
Thank you for loving me
Thank you for loving me

Thank you for seeing me
Thank you for seeing me
Thank you for seeing me
Thank you for seeing me

And for not leaving me
And for not leaving me
And for not leaving me
And for not leaving me

Thank you for staying with me
Thank you for staying with me
Thank you for staying with me
Thank you for staying with me

Thanks for not hurting me
Thanks for not hurting me
Thanks for not hurting me
Thanks for not hurting me

You are gentle with me
You are gentle with me
You are gentle with me
You are gentle with me

Thanks for silence with me
Thanks for silence with me
Thanks for silence with me
Thanks for silence with me

Thank you for holding me
And saying I could be
Thank you for saying "Baby"
Thank you for holding me

Thank you for helping me
Thank you for helping me
Thank you for helping me
Thank you, thank you for helping me

I am Charlie Brown

"Everything I touch gets ruined."

On the flip side, decay and destruction.

Last night, I spilled water on my keyboard, and now my laptop refuses to chirp happily and blink to life.

The transplanting is necessary because my tomato plants are yellow and stunted.

Two nights ago, I dropped our blender. It too died.

The batch of sourdough on the counter smells slightly alcoholic.

And I even threw my newly-finished, beautiful sweater into the wash (on gentle), and shrunk it too small to put on.

If I have to buy a new laptop, I will not be able to afford Ethiopia. I am ashamed to say that I am living paycheque-to-paycheque as it is. (Though, as of the last one, my debts are basically paid off.)

I am afraid to touch anything. I am hopping on my bike for a cappuccino, and taking my journal.