People don’t do this kind of thing because they have all kinds of extra time and energy for it; they do this kind of thing because their creativity matters to them enough that they are willing to make all kinds of extra sacrifices for it. Unless you come from landed gentry, that’s what everyone does.
Elizabeth Gilbert, Big Magic
What kind of pandemic experience have you been having? Assuming all your loved ones are healthy (hopefully) and you don’t have 4 kids to homeschool while you and your partner try to work remotely, I bet your response to that question is somewhere in between the following two extremes:
Some people will cheerfully announce that they have read 120 books and even written one, while also taking up yoga, starting a homesteading project and teaching their neighbour’s dog sign language through the cracks in the fence.
Others glumly report that they have gained 30 pounds, watched every show on Netflix, Disney+, Prime and Crave, forgotten what the outside world looks like, and have lost all ability to socialize with other humans.
I, thankfully, fit into neither of these categories (though the first one would be nice… I have yet to figure out how to properly communicate with the neighbours’ dogs) and I hope you at the very least do not fit into the second one.
However, if you were to ask me the question at the top of this blog my answer would be: It’s really not been all that bad, at all. I’ve read a few books, watched some shows, neither gained nor lost much weight, started a small garden, and learned to understand my toddler (mostly). I’ve even spent a decent amount of time outside.
And yet, I am still lacking one thing I would really like to get back, apart from in-person socialization that is.
Reading is to the mind what exercise is to the body.
I truly believe that reading is something that should be done daily. Even if you only read a page, or perhaps naught but a few sentences, it is such a good workout for your brain.
Don’t feel you have time to open a physical book? Try an audiobook, I tend to listen to mine while I’m cooking dinner or doing the dishes! It makes the work go faster and helps me get through my massive “To Read” pile faster.
Since becoming a Mom, I find I need to schedule reading into my day, much as I pencil in time to exercise. This way, I am sure to exercise both my mind and my body consistently. Otherwise it is much too easy to get stuck in the mindless scrolling or binge-watching loops that don’t bring me nearly as much joy as reading does.
And, on that note, here are the best things I read this month!
Nostalgia in reverse, the longing for yet another strange land, grew especially strong in the spring
Vladimir Nobokov, Mary
Perhaps it is because it is springtime, or because this latest lockdown truly does feel as if it may be one of the last, but I found that Nobokov’s concept of nostalgia in reverse greatly influenced what kinds of articles and blogs resonated with me this month.
Whether it was a longing for a lifestyle I have never perfected (fitting writing into my daily routine); an urge to continue traveling the world…heck, even browse a bookshop at my leisure; or the deep desire to use my inherent privilege to help make a positive and notable difference in this world for those who have been marginalized for too long.
Wisdom may be rented, so to speak, on the experience of other people, but we buy it at an inordinate price before we make it our own forever.
Robertson Davies, Leaven of Malice
As I was going through my book of quotes today (woefully out of date as it is since my novel reading has fallen drastically over the past few years…) I came across this sentence written by the brilliant Canadian author Robertson Davies – one of my husband’s favourites!
What struck me about this quote was the image of a price for wisdom. For me, that price seems to be time as I have so many things I am curious about, so much I wish to learn, and yet all of this takes time. Time which is hard to find as a first-time-mom working from home during a pandemic.
“…patience and perseverance generally enable mankind to overcome things which, at first sight, appear impossible. Indeed, what is there above man’s exertions?”
– George Borrow, Lavengro
How is everybody doing? Hanging in there OK? Can anyone believe we have been in the grips of this pandemic, at least here in Canada, for half a year already?
As I’ve written in previous posts, the last six months have been hard. I recognize fully that my Covid experience has been incredibly privileged compared to the vast majority of humanity. To start, I have a roof over my head. I’m warm, dry, fed, healthy, safe and am able to bubble up with at least part of our family. Both my husband and I have been able to keep bringing in paychecks and we have only one dependent who is an infant and therefore does not need to be homeschooled (I’m not supposed to be schooling an 8-month-old…right?). So, yes, all things considered, my situation could be much MUCH worse.
However, none of these privileges can fully combat the fact that we are living through a global pandemic, and one that looks on track to last a while longer (PSA: Wear your masks, people!). Not only is the isolation and fear crushing some days but learning to parent while not having access to our much-beloved support networks has been much harder than I could have possibly imagined. Yes, now we have at least one set of grandparents and a few uncles and aunts in our bubble able to help but that leaves two sets of grandparents, many uncles and aunts, and the rest of our extended family largely out of our daughter’s life for the time being. And this alone is, well, heartbreaking. As I wrote in a previous post, this is not in any way, shape, or form what I envisioned for the first year of Aria’s life. Not by a long shot.
Don’t worry, though, dear reader! This post is not meant to be all doom and gloom. I am actually going to offer below some coping mechanisms that seemed to have worked to largely bring me back to a place of calm and positivity in the midst of so much chaos and negativity. I hope they will help someone, anyone, to find even just a little bit of light in the darkness but, remember, it is still OK to not be OK. Take a deep breath. We will get through this, together.
“Moments like this act as magical interludes placing our hearts at the edge of our souls: fleetingly, yet intensely, a fragment of eternity has come to enrich time. Elsewhere the world may be blustering or sleeping, wars are fought, people live and die, some nations disintegrate, while others are born, soon to be swallowed up in turn – and in all this sound and fury, amidst eruptions and undertows, while the world goes its merry way, bursts into flames, tears itself apart and is reborn: human life continues to throb.” – Muriel Barbery, The Elegance of the Hedgehog
How is everyone doing?
We are now, let’s see, 6 months into COVID-19 self-isolation measures. Half. A. Year. How is this possible? How can it possibly feel like no time at all has passed while also simultaneously seeming like we’ve been in isolation forever? Is this how hermits feel all the time? The mind boggles.
Like many others, I have struggled during this time to keep on top of the many productive tasks I set out to consistently chip away at despite having what appears at first blush to be an unlimited stretch of time laid out before me each morning.
Wait, scratch that, who am I kidding? I have a 6.5-month-old daughter…I wake up before the sun and by the time I catch a moment to take a deep breath that same sun is somehow on its way down again. I wonder if the days feel as unreasonably short to a baby as well.
Motherhood aside, as this is not what I wished to post about tonight, I can summarize the last few months in one single word: Rough.
“In town, there was silence bled into by whispered talk”– Elizabeth Hay, Alone in the Classroom
Today is the day I finally return to my retelling of the trip I took to France with my Dad back in 2015. Fingers crossed I can actually finish this story in a timely fashion! The last travelogue took me, what, a few years? In an attempt to get this done in a timely manner…this post is a long one. Fair warning.
Recommitting to writing for what feels like the 1000th time isn’t easy but, hey, it’s bound to stick sometime. At least that’s what I keep telling myself every time I miss a day of writing for whatever reason. One of my resolutions this year was to try to put less pressure on myself when it comes to achieving non-essential goals. My husband will tell you I consistently keep a daily to-do list of more than 10 things I want to achieve, which would be fine if I didn’t get anxious, stressed and incredibly emotional when I don’t achieve each and every one of these goals. Since these negative feelings are often accompanied with a whole heck of a lot of self-criticism, I’m trying to make it easier for me to achieve my goals as a way to feel more accomplished and less self-critical. And if I don’t achieve one or more of the things on my list one day, or even several days in a row, so be it! I mean, I am a new mom and only human, for goodness sake.
All this to say, this is me attempting to return to a weekly post on here at a minimum. I can’t promise I’ll achieve this every week, but you better believe I’m going to try. And if it doesn’t happen? I’m not going to beat myself up. I hope you, dear reader, won’t be too disappointed either.
There were moments, of course. Those small spaces of time, too soon gone, when everything seems to stand still, and existence is balanced on a perfect point, like the moment of change between the dark and the light, when both and neither surround you.” – Diana Gabaldon, Outlander
I feel as if nearly every post on here this past year has begun with some kind of apology for being away for so long. And this one, unfortunately, is no different. Though writing is one of the great loves of my life and I am trying to figure out a system by which time is regularly spent tuning into this aspect of my person, I do feel the need to cut myself some slack for what has honestly been a few lackluster years as far as writing is concerned.
You see…though I mean it when I say that writing is one of the loves of my life, the last few years have been spent discovering the others – my other great loves: my husband and my daughter.
In 2019 alone, Louis and I got married, I left a job that was no longer fulfilling me, we found out I was pregnant with our first child, and we bought our family home where we are now living (happily ever after).
I would say this would constitute a pretty big year for anyone. Even still, I managed to return to my writing here and there as things periodically and briefly slowed down – as evidenced by my sporadic posts on this blog. But it wasn’t enough. The writer in me never felt satisfied.
Protest as she might, however, my inner writer needed to be patient just a little longer as the biggest change – the biggest of all I’d say – led me to ignore her completely for the last few months of 2019 all the way until today.
I’d like to think that despite her constant niggling at my self-conscious brain, my radio silence was warranted by the best possible reason. On January 27th at 11:44AM in the morning, Louis and I welcomed our first child into the world: Aria Adele.
Before I continue this post, however, I should probably write something of a disclaimer regarding my photo policy for any posts written about motherhood or our parenting journey – and this does not constitute any judgment of how other parents choose to do things. As far as public platforms go, I will not be posting any photos of Aria’s face, even though she is incredibly cute and I am dying to show her off. Louis and I made this decision as neither of us are huge into social media and we want Aria to be able to make her own choices about her social media presence, or lack thereof when she’s older. Apologies ahead of time for depriving you of baby photos!
But back to why Aria’s birth at the end of January led to me ostracizing this poor writer for the first part of this year. Not that I need to explain myself, of course, but the writer is demanding compensation for being ignored for so long.
Leading up to Aria’ birth, I was exhausted and impatient. Daily. Though I had continued to exercise every day all the way into my 8th month of pregnancy, the last bit kicked my ass for lack of a better way to describe the experience. Despite sleeping more than I think I have since my teenage years, I was tired. All. The. Time. Everything became a chore – even the activities I had always found to be both rejuvenating and relaxing. Writing, reading, yoga, even socializing were abandoned one-by-one until I was left lounging on the couch day in, day out half-heartedly bingeing various shows that continued to feel like fillers regardless of how good they were objectively. I felt like time was somehow crawling and racing forward at the speed of light simultaneously and the sensation made my head spin.
Everyone always tells you to enjoy your time as a couple during your first pregnancy before two permanently becomes three but no one added the caveat that enjoying the last few weeks of my pregnancy journey would be so hard. Each morning seemed to bleed into evening and I didn’t have the energy to do much other than get myself up from the couch once in a while to go to the bathroom. Louis was wonderful and kind and understanding to a fault, and he will tell you he relished the chance to take care of me without me bounding around doing 40 things at once, but my lethargic state didn’t allow for us to do much together other than watch episodes and read from the baby book once he got home from work every day. Before I knew it, and without having “made the most” of our last few weeks together per say, Aria’s due date had come and gone and then…well then the impatience set in.
I know, I know, everyone knows first babies are late. And I had told myself time and again that she would be two weeks late since that’s the longest most OBs will let you go before they will induce you – but this didn’t make the waiting any easier. As a first time Mom, I had no idea what to look for in terms of labour symptoms and so every single cramp, ache, heck even bowel movement, was taken as a sign that it was “go time”. And it never was. No matter what I tried, it seemed, whether it was bouncing on a yoga ball or forcing myself out for a walk or eating my weight in dates, this baby was not budging.
In fact, Aria held on as long as they would let her: I was induced 11 days past her due date of January 15th. And even with all that waiting, when they inserted the cervidil in the hospital on the late afternoon of the 26th they gave me the following warning: it would likely take 24 hours minimum to kick in. In fact, they would likely need to dose me again the next evening with the hope that things would get within 48 hours or so. However, they added in passing, there is a slim possibility you could hyper react. But that isn’t likely. See you in 24 hours.
Well, world, guess what.
We left the hospital at 5:30PM that day and by 10:30PM I was back having gone from 0 to 60 without warning: I was contracting every minute leaving me barely any time to catch my breath.
I won’t go into too much detail about what transpired over the next 12 hours but suffice it to say nothing went according to plan. But does it ever? Maybe I’ll actually learn this lesson some day.
Even with all of the complications that ensued, however, I agree with every Mom you’ve ever asked about childbirth (I’m not the only one who has always been curious about this, right?). It was all, all of it, worth it. Every second.
Because when all was said and done, when the pain and the fear dissipated at the end of the longest road I have ever walked, time stood still – just for a moment. In my arms was this perfect little girl, the most beautiful creature I could have ever imagined. And she was ours, our child. Our newest love. As I gazed at her precious face and cradled her tiny body against my chest, everything that had transpired suddenly made sense. All of the exhaustion, the nausea, the impatience, the pain, there was a purpose for all of it: her. Aria’s little hand stroked my collarbone and I knew, I just knew, everything was going to be OK.
My existence in this moment was indeed balanced on a perfect point – no matter what came next, the highs and the lows, the light and the dark, I knew Louis and I would be able to face whatever it was because now we had someone depending on us to see everything through.
Those small spaces of time, her first moments earthside, were soon over (too soon it seems) and the weeks that followed were hard, filled with moments of both joy and frustration. But what brought us through was this little human who doesn’t even yet know the love she has inspired in us.
I’m still going to continue posting about my travels, I promise, but I hope you won’t mind the occasional post about motherhood because, well, I have a feeling this might be my new passion.
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…):
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.
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.
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.
“The universe buries strange jewels deep within us all, and then stands back to see if we can find them.” – Elizabeth Gilbert, Big Magic
This post is going to be briefer than most but as it is serving as the intro to my next grouping of travel tales, I think this is appropriate.
I wasn’t quite sure how to start this particular piece so I started where I always do when my access to the creative recesses of my mind is blocked: I started going through my quote book and my journal to see if anything sparks inspiration.
In flipping through both tomes, I came across both the quote that began this blog (side note: if you see yourself as a creative, or aspire to be a creative, or are curious about the untapped potential of your own creativity, do yourself a favour and read that brilliant book) as well as a couple of journal entries from the months leading up to this trip. As per usual, I was immediately struck at how well these two sources fit together – it really feels as if some unknown force is guiding me towards the exact inspiration I need to read sometimes.