Solidarity Sunday #1 : Time

Frodo: I wish the Ring had never come to me. I wish none of this had happened.
Gandalf: So do all who live to see such times, but that is not for them to decide. All we have to decide is what to do with the time that is given to us.”

– J.R.R. Tolkien, The Lord of the Rings

We’ll appreciate them so much more when this is all over. What will we appreciate, you ask? I didn’t really have one single thing in mind when I chose the word them. Fill in the blank: When COVID-19 has been vanquished, I will finally and truly appreciate _____________. Regardless of what your answer was (family, friends, restaurants, crowded shopping malls, travel, work, your annoying neighbour who comes by to borrow sugar every day), it’s true, isn’t it? When this is all over, everything – even the things we profess to dislike or even hate, will be somehow less odious. Because right now, they are simply not within our reach.

Right now, we are all on lockdown, unsure of when the rules and regulations will be lifted, unsure of what life will look like when it goes back to “normal”.

It’s as fascinating as it is frustrating that this has been hard on us all. During a normal workweek, the prospect of being told to stay home with our families for a few days would be a godsend to many of us – a chance to rest and recuperate. 

But the undefined, seemingly unending nature of this quarantine is different from a mental health break or a vacation. So very different.

Families convene by skype, blowing kisses through the screen. Grocery stores are an oasis, their shelves sanitized on a nightly basis in anticipation of the touch of an unknowingly-infected hand the following morning. Food packaging is left on the front porch, cleaned and cleaned again before being allowed through the hallowed front doors. Swing-sets and slides are cordoned off to discourage those too arrogant or foolhardy to respect the simple request to stay home. 

If you really think about it, unless home is not a safe place for you, we are being asked to do the one thing we should desire naturally: spend time at home with our loved ones. But the lack of control, of choice, makes this simple act a painful one.

What will the day be like when restrictions are lifted and we can once again be free to shake hands, to high-five, to hug our loved ones? Will we be filled with joy or fear that this isn’t really over…not forever? How long will it take for this to fade from memory? For the COVID-19 scare to feel like a dream?

I don’t know the answer but I hope this day is soon, and that the suffering to get there remains minimal. One can hope.

But as for this time, this time that has been given to us (whether you think it is a gift or not), we, for the most part, have the freedom to decide what to do with it. Not, it’s not the freedom we are used to but those of us who are lucky enough to have a roof over our heads and ready access to food (and toilet paper) still have a freedom of sorts.

So, will you bemoan the times you are living through? Or will you make of them what you will, what you can, assuming you and your loved ones remain healthy (andI hope they do)?

For my part, I am working on finding the light in the dark, the hope in the sorrow, the sunshine in the rain and the rainbows between the clouds. Soon, oh so soon, these oppositions won’t seem so stark, so dire.

But, for now, let’s take the positive where we can find it.

This too shall pass and what you will remember, dear reader, is what you did with the time that was given to you.

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There is always light in the darkness – sometimes it just may be harder to see.

And, remember, life is beautiful…especially when you STAY HOME

PS. This is hard. This is not normal. This is a pandemic. It is OK to not be OK. All I ask is that, for your sake and the sake of your loved ones, you do what you can to take care of your mental health. For me, writing and focusing on the positive are my coping methods. Yours may be different. Don’t listen to anyone telling you you’re doing it wrong. This is unprecedented for our generation, as long as you’re taking care of you and yours in the best way that you can, it is not possible for you to do it wrong…what do they know? Have they lived through a pandemic before? You do you.


Aside from the Travel Tuesday blogs I usually post weekly (OK, OK, sometimes I post them on Wednesdays…) I’m thinking of writing these Solidarity Sunday posts every week while this self-isolation period is going on. Let me know what you think!

Resolving 2020

Who you are is defined by the next decision you make, not the last one” – Rachel Hollis, Girl, Stop Apologizing

Hello dear readers, if you are indeed still out there. It’s been a few days. OK, it’s been over a month, but who’s counting?

I am, to be honest. And I’ve been struggling really hard not to spend a good chunk of my time every day beating myself up at least a little for how much I have allowed my writing goals to take a back seat this year (and I’m talking the back seat of a 747, not a mini-cooper).

When I actually allow myself to pause for a minute and attempt to cut myself some slack, however, I find myself reflecting on what actually happened this past year that pushed writing from the priority I wanted it to be to the “wouldn’t it be nice” archival section of my brain. Not only did I get married in June, in a largely DIY-wedding (shout-out to our wedding party of 20 people and all of the family and friends who made this possible), but I also became pregnant with our first child (due in mid-January), bought a house, got a new job, and moved out of Ottawa (the city where I was born-and-raised). Any one of these things could potentially throw a resolution or two out of whack but all of them? Suffice it to say pretty much every single resolution I wrote about in my last New Years themed post was successfully defenestrated somewhere between January and December of 2019. 

But here’s the funny thing about resolutions: they are entirely self-imposed. No one, and I mean no one, is going to judge you for not achieving them. Even if you’re the type of person who shouts their 10 New Years Resolutions from the proverbial rooftops, by the time the first week of January has passed even the people who love you most have already forgotten what exactly you had set out to do with your new year. And by December? Most people don’t even remember their own resolutions, why would they remember – and thus judge you for not achieving – yours?

So, recognizing that I am by far my own harshest critic, I have been working hard to focus not on what I didn’t do this year but instead on what I did. I’d say playing a huge role in pulling off an enormous bilingual wedding is a pretty solid start. Growing a human? Not unimpressive. Finding a new job in a completely new niche and making it my own? Fairly notable. Buying and helping to set up a new family home? At least worth a smile and a pat on the back. 

These accomplishments are nothing to sniff at and I need to remind myself daily of how much has transpired this year and, yes, even marvel for a minute at the fact that I am still smiling despite the months of stress and constant anticipation for the next big thing.

Even if nothing about my hectic version of 2019 resonates with you, I bet the following observation will. Along with all the specific achievements I listed above, and even more than any of them or all of them combined, the aspect that I find most remarkable is my ability to dream up a new list of resolutions even after my last ones crashed and burned so spectacularly. I mean, how incredible is the human spirit that even after setting goals and getting nowhere near the finish line on any of them, we can resolve anew to better certain aspects of our life in the coming year? I could just as easily tell myself resolutions were simply not for me and give up on the idea entirely (and, indeed, if resolutions are not your thing, no judgment! To each their own), but instead I sit down at my desk yet again and put pen to paper to determine what my big goals are for the year. Never doubt the power of perseverance, even when it seems most futile. Something is bound to stick at some point!

So, as far as 2020 is concerned, I have decided to narrow down my resolutions to three big ones in the three main areas of my life where I want to see improvement (you know, while I simultaneously learn to be a parent…):

  1. Mental Health: This year, I would like to explore my coping mechanisms for stress and anxiety (meditation, reading, exercise – especially yoga, time with loved ones, entertainment, writing) and put into place a game plan for when I am feeling overwhelmed or panicky. 
  2. Fitness: This year, I would like to return to my bare minimum of doing yoga every single day (once I am recovered from childbirth that is) and add exercise from there. Even with a kid, if I could get back to exercising every day of the week, say just for 20 minutes some days, I know I can get back to a place where I feel strong and healthy and comfortable in my own skin.
  3. Career: Finally, this year I aim to take the leap to put myself out there as a writer and editor. I know I have the ability, I just have to have the courage to try. Even if my efforts only produce enough recognition and payment to provide some extra cushion to our budget, I can say I am getting paid to do what I love. How cool would that be?

So there you have it, three broad goals for 2020 to put myself firmly on the path I have strived to walk all my life: one that leads to a happy, healthy and fulfilled existence I can be proud of. The lack of specificity was entirely on purpose, by the way. I have found in the past that setting specific goals (I.e.: I resolve to not have a single panic attack this year or I will write for 30 minutes every day) tends to encourage making excuses for why I cannot check that box off on this particular day until a month goes by without any real progress. I find the more broad I make my resolutions, the more likely I am to chip away at them instead of allow them to hang intimidatingly above my head. 

Ultimately, I am trying to look forward as much as possible instead of back – to define myself by my current and future decisions, not my past excuses. I have no idea if this new strategy will be successful but I do know it is worth a shot.

So, what resolutions have you set out for yourself this year (if any)? What’s your take on what kind of resolutions are most successful? I’d love to hear more perspectives on this.

I promise I will return to my France trip on my next post, thank you for indulging this little tradition of mine for my last post of 2019.

And remember, whether you succeed in your resolve or not, life is beautiful.

xo Erin

Inclusion is Everything

“We are less when we don’t include everyone” – Stuart Milk

I meant to finish my tale of the Gurski Grad trip in this blog post but something happened in my city a week ago (the day before Ottawa’s official Pride festivities commenced) that fired me up. I feel the need to say something, even if writing on this blog sometimes feels like shouting into a void.

Let me begin, however, by stating that you – dear reader – have every right to disagree with what I am about to type but I will not tolerate any hateful comments on my blog. Please keep those kinds of thoughts to the dark recesses of your mind where they belong, they have no place here.

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Reflecting on Resolutions

“I don’t know what to think until I write about it”Joan Didion

It’s a New Year and so a new me… or apparently that’s how we are supposed to see the stroke of midnight on the 1st of January when all the people in the same time zone as you (who haven’t dozed off already) wish each other all the health and happiness for the coming year. In the past, during the first week of the year, I simply spent half of each day impatiently scratching through yet another wrongly written date and the other half wiggling out of my over-ambitious Resolutions with the help of lame excuses. By the time the middle of January had come and gone, I had already shrugged my shoulders,  pronounced my hopeful resolutions as “next year projects” and gone on with my life as usual.

After all, is it not just an arbitrary decision that every time we successfully travel fully around a big ball of fire on our floating rock, we should celebrate as if being given a new life, a fresh start in which to accomplish all the things we always said we would?

Perhaps.

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Casualties of Life

“Pierre sometimes felt like an emergency room physician. People streamed through his door, casualties of city life, lugging a heavy World behind them. Broken by too many demands, too little time, too many bills, emails, meetings, calls to return, too little thanks and too much, way too much, pressure… It wasn’t servile work they did at Manoir Bellechasse, Pierre knew. It was noble and crucial. They put people back together. Though some, he knew, were more broken than others.”Louise Penny, The Murder Stone

This is not going to be an easy post to write but part of me feels like I have been waiting most of my adult life to do just that. I promised an explanation for why I had been so absent from this blog, so here goes.

I suffer from anxiety. Not as crippling as it could be perhaps, but disruptive and intrusive nonetheless. There, I said it. I tend to refer to my anxiety with the more generic title of “emotions” to make it seem more manageable but it’s time I call it by its real name.

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Resolving 2014

“So we beat on, boats against the current, borne back ceaselessly into the past.”

– F. Scott Fitzgerald, The Great Gatsby

Sunset at the Kag
The sun has set on 2013. Cheesy? Yes. True? Absolutely.

First thing I did upon getting home from the last celebrations of 2013? Read my New Years Resolutions from last year.

New Years resolutions are an interesting concept. Sure, if you think about it, the shift of the calender year seems arbitrary and contrived at best, another holiday we are forced to observe – ever noticed how most parties clear out soon after midnight? And those poor New-Yorkers-For-A-Night having to force their way through an unending sea of humanity just to get to bed before the sun rises… All that trouble to note that another year has come and gone and the world is still here – smaller, perhaps, but still here nonetheless.

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On the Road to … Something

“For a work of this kind is never a monologue – it is an uninterrupted conversation with those of the past whose thoughts we study, and with those whose task it still is to build the future out of the heritage of the past. And this conversation goes on, after the work has been completed and has become, itself, part of the past.”

– Hans Kohn, The Idea of Nationalism (1943)

As per usual, it has been forever since my last post. I’d like to say it’s because I am a fascinatingly eccentric freelance writer with old money who only deigns to write something down when a strike of brilliance hits. 

Nope.

It’s quite the opposite. While I may be quite eccentric in my own way (is that redundant? I think eccentricity implies uniqueness…) I am also a barely-financially-independent grad student with a penchant to take on way too much and only the best of intentions to recommend myself to those few who spend their hard-earned time to read this blog and… well… humanity at large.

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A Gentle(wo)man and a Scholar

Streetlamp     “I’m not trying to tell you,” he said, “that only educated and scholarly men are able to contribute something valuable to the world. It’s not so. But I do say that educated and scholarly men, if they’re brilliant and creative to begin with…tend to leave infinitely more valuable records behind them than me do who are merely brilliant and creative. They tend to express themselves more clearly, and they usually have a passion for following their thoughts through to the end. And – most important – nine times out of ten they have more humility than the unscholarly thinker.”

– J.D. Salinger, The Catcher in the Rye

Woah, it has been months since I last posted. They weren’t kidding about grad school’s impressive ability to keep one busy – who are they you ask? Everyone. Seriously, it’s the first thing someone (un?)helpfully offers when you announce your intentions to go on to grad school: “you know you’re going to have no life right?” or the infinitely more clever, “so I’ll see you in.. two years then?” At any rate, clever or not, you were all right – I’ve been busy as hell.

That being said, I’ve made a pact to insert some fiction reading into my schedule this summer. Periodically I seem to forget that fiction calms, de-stresses, and just generally makes me happy and I’m going to need all the happiness I can muster as I embark on the madness that is an MA Thesis. This may make me slightly even more busy but I don’t consider reading (or writing for that matter) fiction something that takes up time – rather it enhances time, making life’s simple pleasures all the more enjoyable. I can’t tell you how many times a good book with even a single deliciously crafted sentence has opened my mind to possibilities and thoughts I maybe had access to all along but didn’t know how to reach.

You may notice, if you even care to read these ramblings, that I try to start my blog posts with a quote. It doesn’t necessarily have to come out of fiction, as not every brilliant word-smith writes fiction, but it has to be something that jumps out of the page and insists on arresting my attention for whatever reason.

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History Written and Rewritten

History, “(must) first ‘die’ in the heads, hearts, and bodies of the affected, before it can rise as knowledge like a phoenix out of the ashes of experience.”

-Aleida Assmann as quoted by Alexander von Plato

This post is about a week and a half in the making and was inspired by those very same academic readings that actually kept me from writing it for so long. 

Paris at Night
Beautiful Historic Paris at Night – A city that has risen from literal ashes time and time again.

But getting back to this wonderful turn of phrase, the image of history as knowledge rising from the ashes like a phoenix admittedly got my heart racing a little and immediately set me down the never-ending path of the perpetual question from those perplexed people whose pulses do not quicken when they read an historical passage (or, apparently, for super nerds – read a passage about the passage of history…).

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Dare to Know

“Have the courage to use your own understanding” – Immanuel Kant

Easier said than done sometimes.

It kind of feels like walking out on a ledge – and a flimsy-looking ledge at that. If I screw this up, do I fall to my…doom?

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In the past 4 1/2 months of Grad school completed thus far (yes, I did have to count that out on my fingers) there has been one idea brought up over and over again in conversation with colleagues and friends: Do I belong here?

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