pondering stuff

it is not-quite-spring but the snow is mostly gone, reduced to salt-and-pepper-crusted mounds.

we have no cherry blossoms here to herald the end of winter, only crocuses, the modest, cheery crocuses that pop up even before the mud loses its icy cover.

when the crocuses come it is spring, for me, and i am a child again after school at my grandmother’s house and each year when they first pop through she takes me outside, deliberately, around the edge of the house to where they grow and we smile upon them. or they – bright things in the gray of the long melting season – on us.

one year i saw them first, making my way from school towards the tall yellow house and their purple and yellow-orange buds were there, popping through, and i saw them and ran in and she got her coat and i was proud, for seeing, for noticing.

they are out again. in that same garden bed at the house that is now just across the street and Dave spied them last week, out for a walk in the half-warm of the evening and i felt my face drop thirty years and i beamed and waved and pointed to show my children, Look! Crocuses!

the same damn crocuses. well, not really. but kinda.

last night after supper, we left the house and dug the Radio Flyer scooter and the little pedal-less run bike out from the new shed for the first time. found the helmets. still glove weather here, and matching sets were procured and we set off.

they elected to go downhill first, snaking down a sidewalk and around and over a block, then back three, the long way to the Lebanese grocery that is the neighbourhood corner store in these parts. it too is a relic of my childhood, though its owner is thinner and whiter of hair, now. he knows the names of all the teenagers who come in; accepts that i know his, though mine has long receded for him.

i introduce the children. Posey chooses chocolate milk. Oscar hands over the bill.

we are on the way back when we spy crocuses on another lawn, a few blocks from home. we stop, like pilgrims paying homage.

and then the children right their respective wheels and start off ahead of us, both still stumbling a bit, learning balance, finding their feet.

Two or three years, i said to Dave, apropos of nothing. That’s all there will be of these walks, like this. he nodded. a hockey net loomed in the middle of the street ahead and it did not look so utterly foreign as it would have even a few months back.

when you have small children, their age and size is the measure of the world.

to the parent of a tiny baby, especially the first time ’round, even older babies – those round, crawling, laughing ones – are enormous and strange. the window of parallel kinship is narrow.

i have never been able to see ahead, very well, with my kids…i’m always only barely keeping up with where we are. and so children who are older than mine, even by a couple of years, have for the longest time looked to me like mini-adults. smaller, yes, but impossibly old nonetheless. seven and eight and ten have been unimaginable worlds, for me.

do they need parents, these giant children? they stay up late. they wipe their own bums. they go places independently.

they have seemed another species, their families built on entirely different structures than my own.

’til now.

suddenly Oscar is almost six. i pick him up and stumble to adjust to the weight of him, long limbs, fifty-plus pounds of boy.

even Josephine stretches up up up, the soft baby roundness disappearing. her hand snakes up for mine on the stairs rarely now, but when it does, i grab it and marvel at the delicate bones emerging from what was once the softest, tightest grip.

we are entering a whole new phase.

suddenly those big kids we happen upon? the ones i’ve been unable to see as children?  they begin to shrink like Alice in Wonderland, to look…like kids again. long, gangly ones, less cuddly perhaps, but still so very much…kids. logic and proportion.

this is what happens when your babies are gone.

i thought it would be sad. it is in the sense that i would like to slow things down and stay and stretch the time out in this twilight of what has been.

but there is nothing for it. we grow up, all of us. it is the way of things and the alternative is far more terrifying, yes. but there is more.

in the strange, surreal nostalgia of this return to the neighbourhood in which i was a child, i am confronted daily with the ways in which we do not leave our childhoods but we carry them within us, layers of sediment.

in my daughter, i see the last days of toddlerhood and the bright, fierce emergence of a big girl to be reckoned with, but i see more. my last baby, tiny fuzzy bird-limbs splayed against the skin of my body as she slept.

i look at my son and see the big, big boy who karate chops his way through his days and reads and does not want to hold my hand in the hall at school anymore. and still, in the tilt of his head, the same curious, open spirit we first brought home: our rainbow baby, joy after sorrow.

it would be a terrible disservice to my children to keep seeing them through these lenses as they grow.

and it would be a greater disservice to stop.

the best gift my grandmother gave me, i think, in all the years in which she was my extra parent and my caregiver, was that she continued to see in me the child i’d been.

oh, i grew older and too cool and there was that time i slouched in the front seat of her little Datsun as we drove to junior high because i did not want the ruling clique to see me with my – ack – grandmother, as if having one were some sort of mortifying embarrassment…and i was by turns surly and frustrated and enamoured by all that i wanted to rush to embrace. she saw that. she honoured some of it, critiqued my mother for some, i know. but she did not mistake that prickly, uncertain becoming-adult for the whole of who i was.

the spring i was thirteen i had big pink glasses and a Frankie Says Relax tshirt and my jean jacket collar and my shoulders were all turned up against the world most of the time. we lived there with her, that year, and it was a hard year and my mother did not know what to do with me and i did not know what to do with anything and my grandmother was nearly eighty-one and unused to having two extra people in the house.

but when the crocuses came out she met me at the door, as ever, and her eyes were bright and they did not say you told your mother to fuck off this morning before school.

they said, simply, it’s you. it’s spring. come see the crocuses with me.

and so we did.

it is April. twelve springs this year since i’ve seen myself reflected in her eyes, and mostly – even living here – she seems like memory. time does that. my children grow and i wax wistful and i know these early days will soon feel gone and historical and…simply done.

yet there they are, the crocuses, those same damn crocuses, kinda. and they remind me that my babies remain in the long limbs of the children in front of me, as the child who once welcomed spring flowers remains in me. and i suppose my grandmother does too.

and so we wave at the flowers, and some part of me is waving to the grownups in these tiny bodies still beside me, holding my hand.

for almost six years now, i’ve written here. at least a few posts every month. sometimes, in the heady old days, twelve or more. but always a few.

i kept going because i was afraid if i stopped, i’d stay stopped.

until this month. i’ve been busy, under deadlines, distracted. three weeks went by. bless me internets, for i have sinned. it’s been nearly a month since my last blog post.

the words piled up in my throat and it felt strange, not to write, but also kinda…freeing. like unintentionally walking out a door and just keeping on going, collar turned up into the wind, not looking back.

yeh. self-aggrandizing fantasies. i was totally Bob Dylan, 60s-version, in soulful black and white. maybe i’d walk on ’til i found me some Allen Ginsbergs & men in heeled boots to hang with on suitably seedy streetcorners.

Photo courtesy of vvanhee

suddenly i can see why old rock stars get grumpy about playing their ancient #1s over and over and over again, no matter how much gas those hits have put in the car over the years.

old identities trap us, in a sense, like flies in amber.

and in the radio silence of the past month i wondered what it would be like, to close this door.

if i stopped, who would i be? what would i miss?

this is my brain on inertia.

the longer i hang on out here on the misty flats of the so-called long-dead personal blog, the more i suspect the radio silence – whenever it creeps up and swallows another of us – never comes from having nothing to say.

it comes from getting out of the habit of speaking.

and then the shame and fear creep in and we doubt ourselves. and maybe we stop. maybe we walk away. maybe we try to become experts on something people clearly want to listen to, instead.

because what value can there be, in just…writing?

i talk in my head all the time; stringing long disjointed narratives that trail out and weave tiny baskets of madness in my head, like waking dreams.

i assume you do this too. don’t crush this illusion for me, please. let’s just call it our little secret.

(well, ours and my neighbour’s, who caught me today as i scraped spring-wet slush from the sidewalk, words leaking aloud. i spun around and smiled, tried to look normal. she gave me a remarkably kind look as she scuttled back indoors. perhaps i should make her a pie. though my pies might be scarier than my muttering).

but that muttering? it’s a private activity. i don’t assume that everybody wants to hear every thought that runs through my head.

it’s just that the longer i go without filtering it somehow, without speaking aloud, without writing, the less i can tell the difference between what i need to say and what’s just noise.

Dave went to India last week. i work at home, so i didn’t talk much in the time he was gone. i mean, i talked to the kids, but my kids are small and forcing them to act as sounding boards and filters for the kaleidoscope blur inside my head seems…inappropriate. and he & i talked on the phone, but…he was half a world away. in a place i can barely imagine. and nine time zones removed.

by the end of the week, between his absence and my extended blog vacation, i was totally, absolutely fine…but unsettled, unsteady. i was Lassie, ears permanently pricked. Timmy, are you down the well?

and then i knew i couldn’t stay stopped. i couldn’t walk away.

this space steadies me. here, i make myself look in the mirror. here, i make myself speak.

when i do, i am lucky enough – sometimes more, sometimes far less, but still lucky – to find my words received, and reflected back slightly differently. this space is where i force myself to believe that i have something to say.

oh sure, i have my niche spaces. they’re easier: they’re focused. i write about academic research or open online courses or upcycling and renovating and i understand going into those posts what i want out of them.

here, i seldom do.

this house of who i am when i’m online? this lived experiment? has many rooms.

Twitter’s still where i spend the most time: i can work and play there, both. Facebook’s the kitchen party, where the old friends are and the longer conversations unfold. LinkedIn is the parlour with the plastic still on the furniture. Pinterest is the guest room i wish i had.

the theoryblog? it’s my study, with the door propped open because i don’t want to be alone.

but this blog is truly mine own…a space i no longer have in my embodied life. it’s my bedroom circa adolescence: the place where i am still working out who i want to be, the place from which all those other public identities got their voice.

and so i’ll stay here, try to stay in motion, try to keep speaking. not because the words are always important. but because the writing them matters. to me.

what online spaces matter to you? why? and how do you keep Timmy out of the well, in your own head? 


i watched the clock turn to midnight last night after everyone was asleep and i petted the cat and i thought, there it is.

12:00am, January 24th.

Lordy, lordy, look who’s forty.

forty is the number that has no clear connection to the girl who never quite wanted to grow up and become a woman. yet still, here we are. i have become. i am.

forty was the last age visible from youth, the last outpost of relevancy, of recognizability. Beyond Here There Be Dragons. had you asked me when i was seventeen, the year my mother turned forty, i’d likely have dismissed the whole vulgar contingency with a wave of my hand. forty? ha. i don’t care if i live that long.

youth is stupid. or at least brutally myopic. and we are not so linear as we look, at seventeen.

youth is harder than middle-age. the old people have apparently been hoarding this little secret, keeping it all to themselves. you wake up, and you’re forty, and you still feel not so different from twenty-two except you have some sense of where your life is going and how to get there and you actually think you can do it and you’ve finally learned to maybe value what you think and it is forty years in the desert gone and you are free.

i want to stand on hilltops or fall to my knees and thank unearned fortune and whatever blind luck got thrown in the bag that i have landed here, safe thus far.

i took photos of my hands, turning forty years old.

they are dry, in this January light. they are rough and practical and need their cuticles attended to, and the years are starting to show up and dance and sing show tunes all over them. i see my skeleton clear and clawed, beneath the skin. i see my mother’s hands, and those of my daughter.

the old guitar callouses are almost gone, now: my thirties ate them. they brought a fleshy puff above the ring finger on the left hand, instead. it came with pregnancy. it does not seem to plan to leave.

the rings under the fleshy puff – the engagement ring, the wedding and anniversary bands – belonged to one of my grandmothers. i have worn them twelve years now. next week, i will bring them home to the house she lived in as a newlywed. i will paint walls that once were hers with these hands and i will smile at the dust that somehow binds us there, together.

the bracelet on my wrist is new, yet a relic. my other grandmother’s button collection: two tins of bright plastic buttons, saved nearly twenty-four years. we found them this past spring when my grandfather died. my cousin had a set strung for each of the daughters and granddaughters, and mine are red, my favourite colour. they jingle. they bring me joy.

these hands have touched skin and keyboards and the walls inside my head. mostly gently. not always gently. they’ve wiped asses and washed dishes and typed poetry and dried tears and sketched out rooms and worlds and the words “i love you” on the backs of tiny children trying to sleep. they’ve done cartwheels, even last summer.

you cannot see those things, but they are there, as much a part of them as bones.

we are paper-thin, my friends. we slide and float, finding our way. we gather dust. it makes us richer, thicker. we get crumpled. we roll. we leave ourselves behind all over the place. we accumulate and shed and we begin to belong to all the bounty we carry along with us.

maybe someday my hands will turn eighty years old. maybe tomorrow they will be dust. if i knew, would it make a difference in what i do with them today?

i think maybe i’d still be here in the middle of my birthday, struggling to spit out words, to mark something i can barely name.

forty is a gift.

it feels wrong and indecorous, to get to think about aging. and cake.

i am distracted with thoughts of Susan.

our friendship fits the analogy. paper-thin, yet rich.  i only met her once.

last spring, she took me to the Library of Congress, a pilgrimage. the charming old tour guide straight from Central Casting asked the group of seniors and high school students and…well…us…if anyone was, oh, twenty-eight. and he looked straight at us most gentlemanly-like, and the both of us tittered like a bad episode of The Golden Girls, and i said no, thirty-nine. and she said, no, thirty-seven.

today i am forty. and she is in hospice far away.

it is not right, and it is not fair, and i do not understand and i have lived long enough to know i never will.

there are a thousand people out there sending love. her oldest and dearest friend Marty shares her with us, posting high school pictures and wedding pictures: fleshing out the story of Susan before she was Whymommy. and my heart says rage, rage, but Susan is doing that just beautifully herself, with grace and courage and all i seem to be able to do is sit here and stare at my hands and wish they were holding hers and yet they cannot and it is not my place and all this roils around in the sidecar of my brain and what keeps clunking out is this one small thought.

we are not so linear as we look.

and so i hold Susan in my hands, with hope and love. i hold all the generosity and dignity and kindness she has brought into my life, all the dust of words and friendship that has rubbed between us these five years. all that crumpling and bounty in the small of this dry hand, between one grandmother’s rings and one grandmother’s buttons.

and i think how blessed and grateful a thing, to be forty today.

when i first knew Dave, he was a cocky 22 year old with a scruffy black notebook always in hand. i asked him once – because my own writing was then so closeted i turned pink anytime i cracked the spine on my journal – what he wanted to write for.

did he have an end in mind? a great novel? an opus? a garret to freeze in?

i think he laughed. and paused. and then he said, i want to be interviewed by Peter Gzowski.

if you lived in Canada through the 80s and 90s, maybe you know what that means. Gzowski was the lion of CBC morning radio. me, i barely came out of my self-imposed radio-free cloister in time for the end of the man’s career; i passed much of my misspent youth under the impression that radio was merely a commercial haven for swaggering DJs, Rick Astley, and my mother’s beloved Saturday Night Hoedown. but my liberal arts education eventually bequeathed me the CBC at the height of Gzowski’s reign. he accompanied a whole generation of us X-ers into the mornings of our adulthoods, with his courteous curiosity and his capacity to make everyday corners of our huge, vanilla country seem absolutely riveting. he did it not in soundbites but in long, drawn-out conversations that always always made me wish i were the third cup of coffee at that table for two voices.

so when Dave said Gzowski, i understood. Gzowski was not about fame, per se, or writing as discipline and craft and greatness. Gzowski, as a definition of success, was about access; the honour of sitting at the table where the big story was being told.

Dave was an early adopter of the 21st century outlook on creative expression. art, like technology, is not an end in itself; it is simply what it affords us. it is – or can be, if one is lucky – a seat at the table.

in the old model, singular greatness was supposed to be both its own reward. it was also supposed to launch one to fame and fortune, but it was vulgar to consider those goals. success was entirely a vertical game.

Gzowski was my first introduction to the idea that it might be more horizontal, more about voice and access and participation in a conversation than some mysterious process of coming to exist on whole new planes of merit and grandeur.

Peter Gzowski died almost ten years ago, on my thirtieth birthday.

yesterday, a couple of weeks before my fortieth (mercy), i got closer to Dave’s old dream than i’d have imagined possible, back then. i was on the CBC’s The Sunday Edition. national radio. a seat at the big table.

i’ll never meet Gzowski, but an hour in the CBC studio talking to Ira Basen, with his convivial, intelligent questions? hearing myself on national radio talking about momblogging and monetization?

i was honoured. and flattered. as The Pogues taught me long ago, when you live with someone years on end, you kinda end up taking their dreams as your own. being on The Sunday Edition is my idea of doing Dave proud. and myself.

and it was as cool as i’d have thought it would be. almost.

it is almost impossible – as almost anybody in momblogging will tell you – to talk about momblogging without treading on toes. we’re the Fight Club whose fights and divisions and hurt feelings stem almost entirely from breaching the unwritten rule of not talking about Fight Club. we are a community that hasn’t really been a single community for years, like most in social media. but we still get lumped together  – even by many of us, me included – under the convenient if always controversial and slightly pejorative handle of mommybloggers, and we bristle and feel misunderstood and wonder what the hell we have in common.

even in polite Canada.

the documentary explored The Great Monetization Divide of Mommyblogging. i liked it. my sense was that Ira tried hard to treat both sides of the monetization conversation respectfully.

my voice ended up on the non-monetization side of fence: a partial truth, but you dance in a two-sided polka and you end up in pants or a dress, i suppose. narrative conventions dictate that there BE two sides, given equal air.

i see it more like this: i haven’t monetized this blog, but i do get to speak at conferences, and the blog has gotten me paid work in other venues. i see myself as a part of the networks and economy that make monetization possible.

i said that, but not all of it made it to air. that’s okay. it’s not the CBC’s job to represent me to the world.

that’s MY job.

for me, social media has been about taking the Gzowski model and truly, uh, horizontalizing it: giving regular people platforms on which to publicly tell their own stories and host their own conversations about their riveting corners of otherwise seemingly vanilla worlds.

these platforms are built of people. networked audiences, in peer-to-peer relationships.

social media also has vertical channels, avenues by which ordinary folk can sometimes find seats at tables that were once closed. this too is a sort of democratizing force, compared to the old models of how people got their voices “discovered.” these vertical channels of brand and big media are also increasingly the business engine by which social media sustains itself.

most of us whose audience aspires beyond an intimate network of friends are invested in both the vertical and the horizontal. but that’s what’s getting lost in the increased polarization between monetized and non-monetized camps.

i hear the critique on both sides; personal bloggers are indulgent crap. monetized bloggers are sell-outs. you can be a friend, but my peers are professionals, now. we’re splitting ourselves down the middle based on horizontal or vertical aspirations. and i’m tired of feeling like i’m caught in a bad divorce.

truth is, you can’t have social media without the peer-to-peer connections. then it’s just media, my friends. and there are never going to be jobs for all of us in a traditional media economy. i think we’re stuck with each other, building horizontally as we build vertically, unless we want the whole shebang we’ve built on these peer-to-peer connections to come crumbling down.

a non-monetized blogger benefits from the profile gained by vertical national exposure. people with entirely vertical aspirations need  build enough horizontal peer-to-peer buzz and profile that they begin to stand out to those peering in from the vertical towers. BECAUSE WE’RE IN THE SAME REPUTATION ECONOMY. that’s what social media IS.

the divide between monetized and non-monetized? i think it’s a fake one, a trap we’re party to constructing and leaping into.

remember Jon Stewart in 2004, shrieking at that little Crossfire turd in the bowtie and his so-called liberal foil? YOU’RE HURTING AMERICA! ?? yeh. remember that?

we don’t have to play along with the theatre that divides us by pretending we have nothing in common. a whole lot of us have both horizontal AND vertical aspirations.

but maybe we don’t know how to talk about it. maybe we don’t hear about it on the radio, or even see much of it on Twitter. we start thinking about social media as us and them.

so the CBC documentary? great for me, so long as all those of us who heard it didn’t walk away even more convinced that the polarization is natural and inevitable and hopeless. and moreso, so long as, if we did, we don’t just leave the conversation there.

because the beauty of social media is that sure, an industry giant can explore us and reflect us back to ourselves. but our platforms let us pull up to the table and join the conversation: our critical reflection comes as part of the deal.

social media gives us access: lets us all talk to Gzowski, in the figurative sense. i don’t want to sell that short.

can we talk about Fight Club? or blogging? or whatever the hell we ought to call it, from here on in? tell me what YOU want from social media, for 2012. tell me what YOU’RE invested in, out here.

can we split this conversation beyond the two camps, once and for all?


Oh how I wish I were a trinity, so if I lost a part of me, I’d still have two of the same to live
But nobody gets a lifetime rehearsal, as specks of dust we’re universal
To let this love survive would be the greatest gift that we could give.

– The Indigo Girls

the seasons of endings always make things feel so fragile.

separation. leaving. d-d-divorce: the word that only gets easy to use when it’s over. these all come as a surprise, every time, even when maybe they shouldn’t. when you are outside the circle of two, there are always permutations of possibility, of choice, beyond your capacity or your point of view. i try not to assume i know what people will do. i have been wrong before.

this past week or two, though, there have been five announcements. FIVE. five separate endings. friends and acquaintances, each with their own stories, who came to the end of their own particular ropes of embeddedness, at least in the incarnations they knew them.

my heart swelled up like a balloon. for each heart involved, but for hearts in general. so many broken dreams. by the fourth, i was gasping. with the fifth, i felt the wind blow through everything.

Dave looked at me and said, eyebrow raised, anything you want to tell me?

because that’s the problem with endings. they remind you that the structures which hold you are not pre-ordained.

(okay, maybe yours are. i won’t argue.)

a friend says, it’s over, and – if you are me, at least – you nod and your forehead wrinkles and you try to smooth it out and look really calm and unshocked and like you totally have the shoulders to take this whole conversation and the horse it rode in on.

and you do. it is their tragedy or release. or both.

but in that one first moment, you are always faking it. the human brain is just plain surprised by the math. even when you stand outside the circle, One becomes Two is monumental logic.

(even if it IS you, in my experience, it comes as a surprise. oh, you say, shaking with shock or relief or betrayal or just the surreality of that impossible absence, the empty place where the other was.)

when there’s something in the water and relationships are crashing like flies, people don’t much like that reminder about their own velvet bonds. one of the cruelest things about going through a divorce or separation is the way people pull back, as if you’ve gotten cooties. they don’t want to tread, true. but they also don’t want you to be catching.

and the truth of it is, you ARE.

because like living things, relationships die. and they die like dominoes, one-two-three. Domino Theory works far more potently behind the closed doors of everyday houses than it ever did in geopolitics. the abrupt turns in others’ maps have a profound weight, a shock, like a seismic event.

i remember the first time. i was still in college, slogging through those first years of my so-called adulthood, my hands out and groping blind for some shape of a life that might await me. first love. then first relationship. not precisely with the same person. i was late coming to it all and i dove in headfirst and found myself floundering, gulping, aghast and naked. you cannot stand so easily when you have given a part of yourself away, i learned.

and then a bunch of friends split up all at once and you find yourself in a bus with a Walkman and The Waterboys, weeping aloud at the writing on the wall.

it happened again when i was twenty-eight. i had been around a block or two and thought i knew better than to build my nest on the structures of other people’s stability. then friends split and a mentor left her long-time husband and my knees went weak because in the holes they left behind i recognized my own unhappiness, and an abyss.

my marriage was over within the year.

it’s not that simple, of course.

my marriage ended in the damp, cool dining room of a cheap Bangkok hotel, over white triangles of toast served with jam and canned whipping cream.

as with a long illness, this death had been coming. the year before, looking into the abyss had horrified me. but i kept peeking, worrying at the scab that tried to grow over the view. i had no map, no model for what i was looking for. i knew i loved him, though too much like a brother. i knew i felt smaller and smaller the longer we stumbled along. i knew i felt contempt settling into the cracks between us and the idea of living like that for another fifty or so years made the panic rise up in my chest.

thus i had accepted the end of my marriage, even come to believe in its necessity. i had just not known how to perform the execution. i kept waiting for an accident. death by toast with canned petroleum product eventually sufficed. it was polite and sad and bewildering, when it came.

the death of a fragile thing is always sad, even when it unburdens you.

most of us in this culture no longer have maps for marriage and relationships. the old maps were that you got what you got and you sucked it up and made the best of it. it is better now, of course: most of us have more agency than our great-grandmothers in this regard. but a very different responsibility.

it is one thing to hold out resilience and endurance as the only choices, and to call them happiness. it is another to dangle fairy tales and infinite possibility. make your own way, we are told. and we do, the hordes of us, cobbling together our lives from hope and scraps and whatever lessons we’ve been handed. but it is hard to make maps as you go, especially ones that have no culturally-imposed limits. the road to happiness and love can be as broad and as deep as your imagination. this is a gift, people, and a curse.

it is a curse because our loves are always fragile things, vulnerable to the possibility of more. it is a gift because the possibility of more is mostly real.
i am less afraid of the dominoes these days. not because i am smug and sure that we will never be among them…i gave up on betting in those stakes a long time ago. i don’t believe in happily ever after.


my map is a wrinkled thing, now, scribbled in the margins, torn in a few places. i keep revising it as i go. it got easier to use when i stopped thinking it had to look pretty.

somewhere in the early days, when Dave & i were first together and it was heady and beautiful and oh-so-not-where-i’d-imagined-myself, i sat one day and looked around and tried to take stock of what it was that was working, finally, that was different from everywhere i’d been before.

i said it aloud to him and he laughed at me, because it was not the most romantic statement ever made:

i feel like i’m not looking over the back fence anymore.

there it was. and still is. such was my luck. i like to think i’d have found that place in life, on my own – and with age, i am slowly coming to it in multiple arenas – but he was a gift, indubitably. a messy gift, currently sporting a moustache.

thus on my map, “happy” is a messy country, populated with more resilience and endurance than i’d ever imagined it would need. and love is no longer a destination. it’s the luggage.

fragile, yes. but there is life after happily ever after, even after the dominoes topple. there is more, always more. just in case, in this season of endings, it helps to hear.

what does your map look like? what shapes it? how have these seasons of others’ endings – if they’ve come – impacted you?


domestic scene: evening. Oscar, pretending to be a busker.

actually, he says he wants to be a bucker. my mind runs through a stream of adolescent obscenities before the waving guitar gives him away. ah. bussss-ker, i intone. not, uh, never mind.

he is shirtless with his tiny guitar in the kitchen, one knee up on a stool, case spread out on the floor. give me money, he says sweetly, and i explain you can’t ask for money, honey, if you want to be a busker. you have to pretend you don’t care about the money. you ask, what would you like to hear?

he catches on quick, this child.

what would you like to hear, Mom? i know, um…Take Me Home Country Roads. would you like to hear THAT?

lovely, i say, trying to swallow a laugh. clearly we need to have a talk about giving people options. and he launches in a cacophony of chordless strumming and mostly-tuneless caterwauling, but i will say, damn, that kid knows ALL the words.

Josephine drops change she’s ferreted from the couch cushions into his guitar case like she hangs out in subway stations, or something. she shimmies around the kitchen with her arms flailing like a chicken. their heads bop. i shake my tailfeathers to the racket. somewhere above the clouds, John Denver smiles on us, his fingers in his ears.

these are the moments i feel like a good parent.

they’re ephemeral, fleeting. i want to tape ’em to the refrigerator, like the kids’ drawings, all colour and joy.

then girl child howls because she cannot wear the shorts she’s picked out, even though it’s November. the umbrage of a thwarted three-year-old needs its own Bible chapter and verse. i sigh, pry plaid from kicking legs.

i ought to have put the summer clothes away by now.

it is my job, i say to her, to make sure you are warm enough. it SNOWED yesterday, child. it’s cold. wear pants.

boy child loses two coats in two days at school, because it gets warm in the afternoons and he sheds it during recess. i tense up and i hear my voice stop just short of shaming but i want him to understand that money doesn’t grow on trees, to value what he’s given, to be appreciative.

it is my job, i say to him, to teach you to be responsible.

(i glare sidelong at his father, who still trails lost items out behind him like Hansel & Gretel. sometimes. Dave blushes appropriately.)

they wake at 5:40ish two days in a row. Daylight Savings Time: a cruel joke perpetrated on parents by society.

Dave got up the first morning. my turn. it is my job, i mutter to myself through the bleary ire of hibernation interrupted, to get out of bed in the middle of the night without eating anyone alive. ahem.

the thing that sucks about parenthood is that you’re the parent.

that voice, the deadly serious one, saying if you don’t finish your brussels sprouts there will be no Hallowe’en candy!? yeh, that’s you. or at least, it’s Dave. and it’s me.

(and unless you’re a complete ass, then you too are stuck eating all your brussels sprouts, to set a good example. which is okay, because you’ve kind of learned to like brussels sprouts. and lost your taste for Hallowe’en candy. but those facts in themselves are A Trip, identity-wise.)

i school us all, keep things in line: myself most particularly. it’s not the disciplining the children i find challenging. it’s the disciplining myself.

i am my own private despot, repressing imagination and creative expression for the good of the system, the schedule. sometimes, it gets us to work on time. sometimes, it just gets us all worn out, staring at each other over hurt feelings and frustrations. Dave and i catch each other’s eye, vaguely bewildered, as if wondering when the real grown ups will come.

the thing that sucks about parenthood is that they ain’t coming. it’s all down to you, baby.

sometimes i hear my voice go UP in the act of shutting down the latest exercise in Dawdling or Not Listening and in the back of my brain i see Ally Sheedy, on break from shaking dandruff onto her doodled page. the black shag hair, black kohl eyes.

When you grow up, your heart dies, she says. and Anthony Michael Hall chirps out, My God. Are we gonna be like our parents?

the thing that sucks about parenthood is that sometimes the answer is Yes. because that’s the job. not just the moments you tape to the fridge, but the ones you’d happily shove under the fridge to mingle with the dust bunnies.

see, it’s true, really. you can’t care about the money much if you’re going to be a busker.

part of what we sign on for is teaching them how to function in the world, however we understand it. and modelling at least some of that for them, ourselves. which is the part that’s hardest. i don’t believe the system. i still think Judd Nelson is the smartest person in The Breakfast Club.

i still think it’s cool my kid wants to be a busker.

but if they don’t learn the rest of it, then it’s not much of a choice. not being able to function within the system is as much a cage the system itself.

i want them to understand enough of both sides to be able to choose, at least sometimes.

i want to foster enough agility of mind that they can think their ways around the binary and hopefully find paths i’ve never thought of.

i want them to be resilient and able to get out of bed and do what needs to be done, no matter which paths they take.

and so i stand there in front of them, those two small open faces, and i try. and mostly i fail to hit the mark, and i wish too many moments lost to the chasm under the fridge.

and that‘s the thing that sucks about parenthood. see, when you get old, your heart doesn’t necessarily die. but sometimes they’ll think it has, and yours will break but buck up and you will say, NO. you really do need to eat vegetable matter or sleep more than seven hours or not run across the street even though you think i’m horrible for saying so. i know. i get it. i own it. and then you smile at them and say, so can you play Take Me Home, Country Roads?

maybe, if you’re wild, you teach ’em to shake dandruff like a snow globe all over their kindergarten art.

or maybe you don’t. but you think about it.
(erm, tell me you think about it? even occasionally?)



where i’m from, the most beautiful days of the year are fall afternoons.

bright-gold and sunshot, they make glitter out of the crimson of dying leaves and children out of grownups.

i dare you to not scuff your feet along the sidewalks of October here on this sandy red mud rock, wearing clouds of fallen leaves like fluffy slippers. i dare you to stare down a leafpile and – six or sixty – NOT know that your legs are made to leap, to leave the earth behind, however briefly.

i spent a lot of years trying to be somewhere other than here.

but afternoons like this one i can’t remember Paris, or Bangkok, or San Diego. i remember these narrow sidewalks under my sneakers all the fall afternoon walks of my childhood and i am glad i came home.

three months from today i turn forty.

this occurred to me as i made my way across a field this afternoon, by a park where my children play. where i played a thousand years ago in a cabinet of my memory where the light is always an October afternoon, crisp and tart and fleeting like an apple just bitten.

the brown will come, says the beauty. it’s juiciest that way.

i walked a few paces with the thought of my own browning, letting it settle into my skin.

my skin has been feeling forty for awhile now. most of my friends have already turned the corner. i realized, as i kicked at a red leaf skittering across the grass ahead of me, that i can live with forty, and not just because it beats the hell out of the alternative. i think i can own forty. i think i may actually be a far better forty-year-old than i was a twenty-year-old. even if i haven’t entirely grown up. maybe because i know better now what grown up means, to me. what i care about. what i don’t.

i understand, now, that forty has exactly no mathematical relationship to whether you leap in the leaves.

the three months left of my thirties, though? they weigh BIG.

endings come heavy for me. last chances perch on my shoulders, armed with riding crops. i am motivated by a deep and abiding fear of regret, of longing for that which will never come again. so the idea that i have three months left to become the person i will be at forty is, for me, a powerful thing.

Schmutzie was asking today about life lists.

i don’t have one. i did a lot of stuff when i was younger, largely motivated by that abiding fear of regret and longing. a lot of it was reckless and excessive and beautiful. occasionally it was all three at once.

it doesn’t mean there isn’t lots left undone: it’s just not out there, for the most part. (except that marrying David Bowie bit. save the date. i’ll get back to you.)

it’s in ME. and i feel like i’m on the verge.

i didn’t really get it when we moved back here nearly seven years ago. i’d been gone fifteen years, nearly half my life. i came back because i gave up on the perfect elsewhere, but i didn’t know i’d stumble upon all these ghosts of my younger self here, at every corner.

we took the kids to a playground on Saturday, at my elementary schoolyard. an accidental stop, a space i’ve barely thought of in a quarter century or more. i stood there in the expanse of green with my children racing around me and marveled at time and memory, at what survives. i ran my bare hands over metal rungs i once swung from, looked off to the fence where my friends and i huddled over our first cigarettes, all swaggers and coughs. i marvelled how small the equipment had grown. i wrapped my thirty-nine-year-old body around a bar and flipped upside down, to show Oscar – or myself – it could be done.

and all around me, ghosts, of children grown for twenty years. here, i am more tied to who i’ve been than anywhere in the world.

not all umbilica give life. some are simply tethers, ties to station and subject positions that one no longer even sees as choice.

i am from a small place. a good place, but a small place. i left, and travelled, but mostly where the wind blew, and where the jobs were. i grew up simply and completely NOT knowing you could just move to New York, visas and muggers be damned. i was nearly thirty before i met someone with intentions to move there, and i remember gaping at her like she’d just discovered electricity. she was seven years younger than i. we were in a hostel in Amsterdam. we had just left a sex shop. but it was the idea of New York as a viable address that left me agog, fired all the neurons in my brain.

oh, i said to her, nodding like i met New York-bound people all the time. and then i understood that try as i might and go where i would, i’d never outrun myself or where i came from.

i am from a family in which fatalism is a positive coping mechanism. one should not let one’s aims get too high above one’s means, and one should make the most of what one has. i believe the latter to my core. i have only just begun to see the trap in the former.

i grew up waiting to be tapped on the shoulder. to be sprung from the limitations of means and capacity to imagine bigger aims: that is acceptable. that is not getting above your station. that is properly demure, not arrogant or boastful or silly or laughable. i grew up believing the world was mostly meritocracy.

i grew up not knowing how to set goals, or plan longterm, or strategize to understand and utilize the systems by which choices are constrained in our culture.

i grew up thinking if i were good enough, a fairy godmother would come along. probably take me to New York or London or Kathmandu. make me a writer. or a thinker. or something.

and i grew up thinking if the fairy godmother didn’t come, that was that. it wasn’t in me.

i seem to have grown old and foolish enough to believe i was wrong. i have three months left until i am forty, and i am done waiting.

not for New York, or London, or Kathmandu, so much. not right now. their fall afternoons can’t be better than here.

but i’m writing, and sending stuff out, for the first time in my life. academic stuff. semi-literary stuff. still not the brand book idea i had an agent for a year ago and choked because i was too shy to push. that will have to come after my dissertation, so go the rules of my funding. but still. i somehow, simply, didn’t think i could. i clicked ‘send’ this afternoon and i laughed and thought, shit, that wasn’t so hard.

there will be rejection. that used to terrify me. i don’t think it does so much, anymore. i have three months to get used to it. and i will eat up all advice – unless you’re suggesting The Secret – with gratitude.

my thirties have been the hardest and best decade of my life. they brought me birth and death, took me further from home than i’d ever imagined and brought me back. i want to end them able to look the little ghost of myself at the playground in the eye and say, i did okay by you, kid. i grew up into somebody not afraid to try, and fail.

that’s who i want to be when i’m forty. i have three months.



Toronto. Blissdom Canada, year 2.

i had fun. saw some of my favourite people, had interesting conversations, danced, got kissed by a yam puppet, and sat on a panel with Nora Young of CBC Radio’s Spark. i can die happy.

i also realized that social media is slipping through our fingers.

tonight, the night after the morning after the morning after, what i miss is the people. the sitting up late, perched on staircases or outside in the blue air, talking. connecting. cementing tentative bonds of recognition.

that’s what conferences are for: the connecting.

i like to think that’s what social media is for, too. (i mean, not ONLY that. i haven’t been asleep since 2006. i like the word brand, may gawd strike me down).

but after Blissdom this year, for the first time, i have real misgivings about the future of social media.

i think we mighta sold the farm, Virginia. and we didn’t even notice.

once upon a time, long long ago before anyone had invented the term SEO, there were days when social media was mostly about peers. finding ’em. creating relationships.

online platforms were a means of finding others and their ideas, of network-building, and sharing. the connections grew rhizomatically, like weeds, node threading to node without formal goal or overarching strategy. it was a bit of a jungle.

there were always metrics: ways to judge one’s Return On Investment for the time put in. eyeballs on one’s work always mattered, and some identities were bigger than others. so were their networks, and their reputations.

(this world was not a monolith by any means, Virginia: different communities and corners of what was then mostly called “the blogosphere” had their own etiquette, their own implicit rules around reciprocality.)

but it was mostly a world of what’s called produsage: the people who created stuff and shared it were also the consumers of other people’s stuff. that’s what the connections served.

it was more or less a peer-to-peer environment. connections were about interest, even when the people forging the relationship had platforms of different scale. yes, there was cultivation of fame for its own sake, and fawning over major profiles: all the things that metrics encourage. there were ugly things there, too, and inane things, and lots that probably made no difference to the state of the world in general. it was very human. but for all its flaws, it was full of potential.

it was a network model of being in the world, rather than a top-down organizational model. it was emergent rather than planned, and distributed rather than owned by any one entity.

this was, of course, probably rather bewildering to the entities used to owning things.

social media did some pretty crazy things for those of us out there participating. it flattened hierarchies by enabling and encouraging person-to-person connection and actual engagement. it foregrounded individual voices and relationships. and it represented a new way of relating to what had always been untouchable sacred cows: institutions, corporations. it gave us – often more theoretically than in everyday encounters – an agency we had not previously tended to consider possible.

an emergent model, of course, doesn’t provide very good salaries. this is where we get back to Blissdom, Virginia.

since about 2008, there’s been a strong push in social media to monetize, to leverage the platforms and networks users build for a share of advertising and sponsorship dollars. for many, especially for women, this has been an incredible opportunity to work outside the traditional institutional structures of 9-5, as freelancers and entrepreneurs. and especially for women whose social media content relates to domesticity, there’s been an incredible response from traditional mainstream brands with a vested interest in the domestic market.

just as social media was making the personal branded, it made brands personal. they were shifting their broadcast model strategies, we heard, and connecting, and changing.

great. financial opportunity AND agency to forge new paths. i gave a nod of thanks to the car company that drove me around gratis, and to the razor company – was it razors? or orange juice? – for the free manicure.

then i noticed that there seemed to be a whole swath of conversation that had nothing to do with what i do, both from brands and other attendees.

i was okay with that, at first. not everybody wants to be a personal blogger, or – mercy – an academic one. i like money. i can’t fault anyone for wanting to make some.

but it appeared that for a lot of people at the conference, the PURPOSE of social media is to enable individuals to connect with brands. for the purpose of furthering the brands themselves. end story. a path into the machine.

the first – and maybe second – generation of bloggers and social media personalities who worked to forge partnerships with brands and as entrepreneurs tended to do so from a base in peer-to-peer relationships. connections. voices.

some have had incredible business savvy and success, but most have been inclined to promote and preserve some of the values of both independence – from traditional power structures – and interdependence – on each other – that are hallmarks of social media. and traditional power structures have had to treat them accordingly.

there’s a shift occurring, a sea change in discourse. i heard it in the lunch lineups, over cocktail trays, in the tense conversation after the film screening. a significant proportion of conference attendees spoke about their social media goals entirely in terms of connecting with brands. not even primarily as brands themselves – in a sort of peer-to-peer relationship – but as consumers of opportunity, looking to become part of the major institutional system of major media and corporations.

forget agency and voices and relationships. if you are using your network solely to sell the message of a corporate entity, what you are doing is NOT social media, no matter your platform. what you’re doing is at best a marketing job, and more likely something akin to Amway.

i even heard it when i sat on the stage with Tessa Sproule, who is lovely and savvy and Director of Interactive Media at the CBC, but who largely appears to see social media as a way of engaging consumers with her brand.

this is not a two-way street. this is consolidation of power to the old familiar models, in which one can be employer or employed, but not really a whole lot else. the dream of a distributed, collaborative society of creator-consumers?

time to wake up, i think, my friends.

social media is, in too many fields, becoming simply a nice interactive tool by which the traditional corps and powers-that-be gain more eyeballs. they’re not so nervous, anymore. because increasingly people join social media NOT to connect but as a path to a piece of the pie: they’re there not to be public but to gain enough platform to be sponsored or spokespersons or stars, for the traditional monopolized industries.

what do we do about it?

i don’t think we take the pitchforks out. this isn’t about blaming or Othering the new generation. they want jobs. i’ve had jobs. that’s a glass house few of us can stand in.

but we need to ask ourselves what our role IS – and can be – in a social media environment becoming crowded with marketers, not creator-consumers.

we need to understand the potentiality of social media and what it offers us. for me, at least, that’s this space, and the theoryblog – rooms of my own. community. network resources via Twitter and G+ and even Facebook that interact and offer and share with me daily, on topics and perspectives that don’t have a market value.

that a cultural shift like social media has major forces aligned in their own interests against it probably shouldn’t be a surprise. maybe i’ve just been down too deep in the echo chamber to hear it coming. but i do think it’s important to start this conversation, among all of us who want to do more with our online spaces and voices and networks – all of which are very much an integrated part of our so-called REAL lives – than be part of a better bottom line for major brands.

what do you see as the future of social media? of blogging conferences? have we sold the farm?

give me hope, Virginia. connect. hold me.



we pulled up the garden in shirtsleeves this weekend, somewhere in the middle of multiple pumpkin pies. it was warm, crazy warm for Thanksgiving. after two days of hail, and winter jacket weather, it felt like Wonderland.

i ate the last peas of summer, warm green time-travellers hidden in withered, weathered shells. a few last tomatoes clung to the vines we ripped out: they ripen on our kitchen sill. the long and winding rope of the squash plant we tried to leave intact: its prickly, flowered length had just begun to yield. one tiny gourd, the only one of the season. that our benign neglect brings forth vegetables at all still amazes me, but this was not a banner year.

i almost missed the gourd entirely. Dave pointed it out: pear-shaped, green. we thought we might leave the little thing to grow a bit, yet. then a hasty tug.


it is on the windowsill, with the green tomatoes. it is too small to put out on the deck with the gourds and pumpkins we procured at a more successful grower’s this weekend: small as a chestnut, it would be gone in a gust of wind.

i do not know why i care. it’s a gourd. can anyone speak to the purpose of gourds? but it was there, and now it is here.

the small, failed things always get me.

i am all elbows these days. overwhelmed, gulping, i push out space for myself like a skater, gouging those who get too close. i feel cornered by time, by demands. i wing everybody close.

overwhelmed, i say, and the small voice comes out like a shout, an attack with expletives.

i want to sit down on the ice and draw a circle around myself, and say stop. let me catch my breath. let me watch and take it in, all this bounty, these things i should have been more thankful for today. please. let me stop.

sometimes i feel like a collection of small, failed things i do not know how to leave behind.

we make ourselves out of a thousand half-baked parts, cobbled out of context. some serve us well. some are woefully inadequate, and always will be.

they have histories, these things, invisible vines that tie us up, that choke us. and we protect them, elbows up, with the same strange tenderness as the small living things that do not reach their potential.

i failed at Thanksgiving this year.

yes, there were turkeys, two of them, and family and friends, and pie. an abundance. but abundance comes with work. with accommodation. with stress. and it is the last that dogs me: i wasn’t even responsible for either turkey, yet i found the sum total of it all too much. when we sat down to give thanks at the end of it all, i choked.

i wanted to say, i am thankful it’s mostly done. please do the goddam dishes. i didn’t. i *think* i said i was glad that everyone was there. i hope i did, because i was. i said something lame about the weather, too. but i felt like a small, failed thing by the time we made it to that table.

the math of stress that i learned in my youth – jobs to be done = exponential multiplication of pressure and panic until all to-dos are erased from equation – has hidden sums that i need to untangle. i do not know where to begin.

i understand them as a part of who i am, a part of the way the world is. and so the petty jobs add to petty jobs until the time available feels divided into shards. my elbows go up, to protect what space and time i can. overwhelmed, i squeak, and the mouse roars.

i do not want to be the sum of small, failed things, forever in their thrall.

but they are what i give thanks for, this morning after Thanksgiving.

because i may think i do not know where to begin, but they point the way. you cannot change in yourself what you cannot see.

i see the stress today, small and lumpy, kind of ugly. it hides in a tangle of late summer vines of historicity, never fully grown. whatever energy or purpose it was started for is stunted, now.

i look at it, and try to own how it grew. i tug, attempt to disentangle vine from vine.

this will be my winter gardening. a daily job. i want eventually to pluck these small, failed things, one by one, tenderly. i want to set them on my windowsill; reminders, but no longer part of the living organism.

until then, i have the gourd. i hope it lasts. i need to see it.

and in spring i will try again to grow something that thrives and feeds, and does not choke.




sometimes i miss grief.

(a ridiculous thing to say, really. it is the speech act equivalent of wrapping oneself in tinfoil and swinging from a rooftop TV antennae in a lightning storm. HIT ME AGAIN, it dares.

it lies. or if you understand it as a wish for things to be anything but otherwise, it lies. it is one of the unspeakables, damned to misunderstanding because we are taught to receive messages as if they were swaggering suitors with one thing on their minds.

i do not want to be misunderstood. because it is not true: i would hunker down in the sewer to avoid the lightning bolt. we all would, if we ever saw it coming. keep all our precious ones safe, keep our own heads above the mire of rawness and panicky incomprehensibility and the Somebody-sized hole that sucks our breath and pulls us under.)

and yet.

if you know someone grappling with grief, know this. the cruellest trick is that to heal, one must become doubly bereft.

when somebody dies, you lose them. same when something precious, like a relationship or a dream or goal, comes crashing to the ground. but in the place of that which was loved, you make a trade.

you get grief. it’s the shittiest deal in the world, but it’s something. grief sits in the hole left behind, a living thing, a conduit for some of the love and pain and anger that come with loss.

then time does its thing. pain starts to look a little more like resilience. and if you are actually healing, the grief grows thinner at its centre, stretching out like taffy until it is no longer a thing unto itself, but an absence. what is left is mostly just the damage of the accommodations of having carried pain for so long, the twists and scars that pucker around the hole, the way you’ve grown used to holding yourself off-kilter.

one day you catch sight of your hunchback in a passing storefront window and you stare.

you are looking for the touchstone at the core of it all, because the grief and the lost thing have long since become one.

but that one day, it is gone. the last touchstone, the sharp corner of longing. you are still scarred, hunched, puckered. but there is no grief to touch. the wind blows through the hole.

eventually you come face to face with the fact that this is what “gone” means: all death leaves behind, in the end, is the living.

my children know they had a brother, born before them. they know his name. Oscar understands that Finn died. Posey is still working from the operational assumption that death is a very special thing that happened to Grandpa Cliff last spring, and that somehow Finn – who may possibly also be a star in the sky – is trying to elbow in on Cliff’s territory. this makes me laugh, in the very best way.

we don’t talk about Finn a lot. Oscar asked to see his memory box a few weeks back, the small green ribbon-tied memento collection from the hospital, with its footprints and its hair clipping and the impossibly tiny hat that once smelled like his newborn head. i had not dug it out in well more than a year, not in Posey’s memory. she chortled over the diaper, too small for most of her dolls. i traced my fingers over the small gilt imprints of my son’s feet.

for years, the sensory assault of the NICU lurked, in Technicolour and Surround-Sound, in the lizard core of my amygdala. i would be walking down the street, and a jackhammer a block away would jar me into a cascade of unprocessed memory, the bang bang bang of the ventilator and it would hit me that that was the sound he heard most and was he frightened and did it drown out my voice and did he hurt and i was not even there when they punched the tube through his chest and my gut would wrench and my mind careen until i would find myself stockstill on the sidewalk with tears streaming down my face. three, four years later.

this is how trauma works.

but when i touched the place where his feet once were, a few weeks back, in the green box, i found no lurking tide of memory. i touched the imprints of his feet and my brain went looking for the corresponding memory of those small toes on my skin. and yes, i recalled the toes, and i smiled wryly, the wonder of him and the chasm both acknowledged, but i did not feel it. my fingers did not tingle. i was not transported six years back. it was only memory.

those moments of being transported grow thin, rare. maybe they will come no more. i have other toes here to touch and tend to; my life is crowded and busy and good. i do not want to grieve. oh god, no.

but i want to feel.

i miss the grieving for its vividness, its, its trompe l’oeil effect of making present what is irretrievably gone. i look for Finn, now, and find…only me.

in the healing, the last of what’s been lost slips away.

and yet.

i found something the other day. our washer broke and for the second time in less than three years, we bought a new one, to the tune of much embittered cursing (mine). the delivery men came. and when they hauled away the offending appliance and i confronted the sludge beneath, i found it.

Dave’s ring.

i bought it for him for his 31st birthday. the year Finn died. it was seven months later. i was already pregnant with Oscar.

we do not have wedding rings, he and i. i wear my grandmother’s tiny 1938 Art Deco diamond, and her bands.

he lost it more than a year ago, at the gym, we thought. Dave has a history of precious things littered out behind him, lost. this was not grave. i was sad, but without recrimination. i have lost rings, too, and things far more important.

but when i found it, Friday, wedged between pine boards and tarnished, i felt.

six years washed away and i remembered my own shyness, handing it to Dave in its blue velvet box; how i stumbled over the words of hope and endurance that i meant for the ring to carry until i finally shoved the card at him with my eyes wide and blinking back tears.

it had only one name engraved inside it, then. it now has three.

and there’s the thing.

time is a shit. it’s a shit for physicists, refusing to go both ways even when it ought to, and it’s a shit for philosophers and it’s a particular shit for those who mourn. there’s no getting around it. you cannot go back, to undo the sorrow time brings. you cannot go forward – into the proverbial healing of all wounds – without bearing the day-to-day grinding work of living with pain and through pain. and when you finally get through, to that place of acceptance or resilience or whatever your personal post-traumatic Nirvana might be, you cannot go back even to visit the intensity of loss, and so you are carried ever away on the tide of time from that which you loved and grieved.

but. as you are carried forward, scarred and puckered but still breathing, time keeps on changing the game. when i bought that ring, six years ago, resilience and acceptance and healing were words i barely dared hope about, dangling way out at the edge of our horizons. fake it til you make it, i figured. the ring was a promise to try.

we made it, i think, by any standards that i understand. there’s been more letting go in the journey than i’d have comprehended, six years back. sometimes the numbness of that hole where the wind blows throw, it saddens me.

if i could play with time, i would hold in one hand the intensity of presence that grief once gave me with the intense, resilient present in the other. each would find the other accessible.

i never had that, not really.

but when i held Dave’s ring again, the other day, and saw Finn’s name, and Oscar’s and Posey’s, all together, for a second i did.



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