New Year Resolutions, 2021

“Bottle of Stories” by Tammy Routley (2018)

The mornings are brighter; the days, longer. Hope steals into my life.

My last entry was dark. I think it is important to note the dark and I think it is worthwhile to sit in the dark when you know you have the strength to stand and turn to the light. Leave some breadcrumbs, both ways.

I do have some resolutions for the new year. Let me speak your name. I have intentions for 2021. Anyone with a past in sales is accustomed to goal setting. Several of my notable goals will be achieved in 2021 because of work I did last year. I have additional goals for this year. I have stretch goals, too. Stretch goals are there for additional challenge and additional reward. You won’t get fired if you don’t hit your stretch goals, but you’ll be rewarded if you do. I have Pandemic stretch goals. I have Holiday stretch goals. With my CRB days gone, rewards might be harder to generate; though actually, the attainment of these goals manifests its own reward.

Resolutions are not stretch goals – they’re straight up targets. Not that I can get fired from the job of living my best life if I don’t hit my targets. It’s important always to recognise that these targets are flexible, editable, subject to change. I do not know where I will be working or living at the end of 2021; this makes visualising harder. I will trust that my family, social, spiritual, financial, and artistic lives will take care of themselves without goals or resolutions.

Resolutions, 2021

  • Lose net 10 pounds, which brings me to a healthy maintenance weight. In 2020 I gained 10 pounds, and I lost 15.
  • Develop a plan by which to gain the strength needed to prevent injury. I’ve noticed that it’s easier to hurt myself now, and harder to heal. Again, and always, I am so glad I reveled in my youth when I had it.
  • Open my psychotherapy practice and have one – or more! – client. It sounds like a small goal but there are ten times a kabillion things to learn before opening such a business.
  • Related; drop the “Qualifying” from the ‘Registered Psychotherapist’ designation I have just applied for.
  • Have Valentine certified as a therapy dog. We both need training.
  • Develop an Obsidian practice that incorporates books read, lectures intended, process journal, research notes, and more.

December 31, 2020

Better than champagne is this gifted local cider!

It is the end of the year, in the way that we mark time and define years in Canada. I’ve always marked the turning of the year, while also believing that time is an invented construct and essentially meaningless. Holding and celebrating opposing points of view is how I do life.

By the time I finish writing this I hope to have thought of a photo to take that somehow summarizes how I feel in this moment. I thought of taking a picture of the truly excellent pizza I had DoorDash bring me, but by the time I had this thought, the pizza was no longer intact. Yes, I ordered in dinner this evening. We’re asked to do so, to help support local business. We’re asked to buy our drinks from local producers – my Milky Milk Stout is from TWB. We’re asked to stay home, which is pretty easy when DoorDash delivers and I can play an online escape room with my family. Doing the right thing is so easy, eh?

I mean, it is if you have privilege. If you work from home and have sufficient funds to pay people to cook food and bring it to you, it’s so easy to do the right thing. I tried and tried to think of light new years thoughts but right now people with ample privilege are predrinking before new years gatherings, and the callous, selfish misuse of privilege enervates me. I don’t KNOW this is true, that revel rousers are gathering, but whenever we’re asked to not gather, cases of COVID 19 go up anyway. In 2020 I put down my rose coloured glasses and because I’m in my fifties, I can’t remember where I put them.

I am enjoying my pizza and beer. I will enjoy an online escape room, and I will marvel at the fabulous technology that makes it possible. We are so blessed. We are some of us so blessed.

Posts are appearing denouncing 2020 and anticipating 2021; I do not feel this. There is no magic to the new year. Tomorrow, the CBC will report on the toll of unfortunates who did not live to see the turning of the year. As I type this someone in Canada is dying of a preventable disease. Still, I will make merry, if quietly and alone. I have always been skilled at appreciating the little things and enjoying the moment. This year that became more difficult – not because the moments weren’t there, honestly, there is an ever present abundance of beautiful moments – but because in 2020 I became much more aware of the tapestry of suffering these moments adorn.

In 2021 it won’t be magically easier to live as a BIPOC citizen in our country, nor in the chaos state below us. Women will still be raped and abused in shocking numbers. Opioid deaths will keep making news but somehow this news will not effect change. Generations in Indigenous communities will still wonder what it would be like to have clean tap water.

2021 will also bring vaccinations, and stories of people helping each other heal and recover. Everywhere, life is full of heroism. The Earth will keep spinning and summer will return and it will be safe to sing and dance once again. 2021 will hand us back our baskets of all we have been missing, and smile, and tell us it is safe to be the way we once were.

I want to hold each item in that basket and ask myself if it sparks joy. Will this relic of the beforetimes bring joy to my life in the After, or will it only distract me from the truths 2020 exposed to those not living them? With great power comes great responsibility they say. With great privilege comes great obligation. We have learned that the responsibility and the obligation are by choice only; nobody requires you to be a good person and there are rewards for discarding any sense of requirement.

I’m simply a changed person and the things in that basket might not fit. I am a changed person from before starting grad school; that isolation and that education changed me. The isolation of the pandemic has changed me that much more. I am perhaps simply more myself and I feel changed because I had been so accustomed to my many social masks. If we have not spoken for a while, we may need to be reacquainted when all of <<this>> is over. Some time next year, maybe.

It’s been a year since I dropped all my fucks; has it ever been a year. Not that I DNGAF about anything. I donate monthly to a fund supporting the legal costs of Black citizens in Toronto. I strive to minimize my environmental impact, and I am putting my all into building a career of helping people suffer less. I just might not start shaving my legs again.

That’s the lightest note I can muster. Stay home. Shop local. Be kind. I love you.

No Beginning, No End

Can we tell where our journeys begin? Did this journey begin on my first day of Grad school, excited, nervous, and unsure of where to park? Was it during the application process, with me attempting to generate a sample of academic writing after being out of school for over two decades? When I quit the bank, when I graduated with a BSc in Psychology, or when I asked my childhood therapist “So is this what you do all day, just talk to people?”

No beginning and no end… ah now where is that from? Yes, yes – it’s a Hawksley Workman song – lalala “don’t dive shallow, in deep dark waters…”

No end because they need to accept my application and that takes months. No end because I have one more term of school, because I need 225 more client hours to drop the “Qualifying” from the title I’ve just applied for. No end because I want to grow in this career until I die. Are we going to get literal here; are we going to get metaphysical? There is never an end when your work lives on as hope and happiness that will radiate, radiate, spread and grow. There is no end, there is no beginning. No shallow diving here.

It’s a significant trail marker. I made it this far. I’ve got the next bit of the trail mapped out, waiting for Christmas to come and go, a breather in the expanse of middle ground. Time for some metaphysical GORP and holiday cheer.

Crack down on firecrackers

In a recent arrest that is currently being investigated for use of force, officers heard a popping sound, now believed to be fireworks, and mistook it for gunshots. The person arrested was apparently punched and tasered, in part because the police were reacting to the pop of fireworks – the kind of popping fireworks we have heard every night of this summer. It’s not too hard to see how the firework conspiracy theories got started. Are cops maybe setting off fireworks to give themselves an excuse after their excessive use of force?

I mean, no. Of course not. That seems implausible. But to be honest if someone got shot down the street I would just shake my “get off my lawn” fist at presumed firework noises. The incessant private firework demonstrations have made us complacent to the sound of explosions. How can that be a good thing?

I live in Kitchener, Ontario and we are allowed to set off fireworks the day of, before, and after Victoria Day, Canada Day, and Diwali. These displays cannot be set off on public parks or land. These by-laws are being flouted daily in the summer of 2020.

Obviously I want to sleep through the night and not wake up with a start because of explosions outside. I want my dog to have a run of evenings where he isn’t panting with anxiety because of the crashing bangs. But also, I don’t want our already COVID-burdened hospitals to have to contend with the inevitable burns that come from inexpert firework use. And with our region in the middle of a drought, I want our local fire chief to follow the lead of those in Tay Township and surrounding area by banning fireworks before the whole town catches fire.

Everyone is on edge. The physical world is tinder dry and firebrand hot. The masses are set to erupt, unable to withstand the hideous inequity of our constructed reality. There are loud, loud calls to dismantle the police forces so they can be restructured with serve and protect at their heart, and with racism rooted out. In the meantime, a citizen was beaten in part because the police mistook the sound of fireworks as gunfire. Trying to right society’s ills will take time. For now, could we please require people to cease igniting explosives for fun?

Fat or COVID?

It’s not the COVID, it’s the humidity

When I was recovering from COVID in April, I was keenly aware of my health. There’s no way to know for sure when you’re done having COVID, and the symptoms are so diverse.

Out of breath walking the dog – is it still active COVID? Are my lungs permanently scarred? Or am I just out of shape? I started thinking of these questions as “Fat or COVID”.

As April fades to memory, my dog walks are getting longer so either my lungs are healing or I’m getting into better shape. On days when I feel that asthmatic hitch and cough, I wonder again – is the COVID back? People can get sick more than once. Maybe it never did go away. I was so sick with it. I probably shouldn’t have been alone the whole time, there are gaps of time I don’t recall because I’d sort of collapse on the couch with exhaustion and low oxygen. My chest hurt more than it ever has with bronchitis. Every breath felt like I was 14 years old and trying smoking for the first time. I do not want to go through that again – and that was mild.

Some reasons I might feel breathless aside from succumbing to a novel and deadly virus: extreme humidity, seasonal allergies, anxiety, and exercising outside of my cardio capacity. Some more adult minded readers might come up with others but I am writing this in the pandemic and I live alone.

I have found it best to treat the breathlessness as if it has arisen from one of these more mundane causes. Drink water and find a cool place to be still. Take antihistamine and wait and see – COVID won’t respond to allergy pills. Take grounding breaths and centre myself to fight anxiety (and medicate if needed).

The combination of breathlessness and exhaustion for most of the month of April reminded me of how I feel the week after donating blood. Iron deficiency can cause both symptoms, and with the drastic change in my shopping habits, I only occasionally had meat in the house; rarely red meat. I don’t think we give enough credit to the influence our diet has on our day to day health, including mental health. Taking iron supplements once I twigged to the connection helped resolve some of the brain fog and weary breathlessness.

My exhaustion could be because I, along with literally everybody else, am living through the isolation and anxiety of a global pandemic. Going through a ‘normal’ day of completing tasks such as preparing and consuming food, bathing and dressing, walking the dog, and sweeping the floor is just very tiring right now. Personally I’ve added on top of that attempting a graduate degree term remotely over a novel delivery system, and commencing an internship placement where I cooperate with people I haven’t met over software I’ve never used. I am so tired, COVID notwithstanding. We all are I think.

My exhaustion could be mostly from recovering from a disease. I’m STILL healing. While the virus vacates the body in its two to three weeks, symptoms can continue for months. I still nap more days than not, and not planned naps but rather ‘my body is shutting down for a wee bit’ type naps. My lungs don’t function like they used to. Every once in a while my temperature goes up a degree and a bit and I worry; I cough and I worry.

The other day I had a novel symptom – the mottled discolouring of legs; my worried turned to alarm. How could I have a new symptom? The discolouring lasted for less than two hours – had I had this before but not noticed? Or…. is it back? Luckily, Ontario is finally letting anyone be tested for COVID. I got my result online within 48 hours.

It feels like a clean slate, a new starting point. No, I won’t be physically joining a protest. Yes, I will be wearing a mask if I need to enter a building. And I will continue to do so for the months that it will take for medical science to make the world feel safe again. Allergies and anxiety I can handle, but I never want to see COVID again.

Hugging Meditation

For those who live alone, with nary a human about, can you remember the last five people you touched? On March 12th, I went to see Hamilton in Toronto at Mirvish with my daughter. Things had not yet shut down; in fact, this turned out to be the second last performance of Hamilton in Toronto. We knew the virus was coming, but I wasn’t carrying hand-sanitizer yet.

We ran into hometown friends while we were there. Did I hug them? Or was my caution level high enough not to – we saw them in the evening after a long day of hanging out on the York campus watching news reports roll in. If I did hug them, it was so casual and automatic that I don’t even remember if it happened. How could I be so complacent about this now rare commodity – hugs?

I hugged my daughter, certainly. I don’t recall that hug specifically but I can’t see spending all day with my daughter and not hugging her. Surely I did.

A friend of mine had stayed at my house to take care of my new puppy while I was in the city. I got home at 1AM so he stayed over on the couch. Seeing as how isolation was in place overnight, and given that I had a cough so if I was sick, he was already exposed – I suggested he stay for a few days. He left on March 17th and I haven’t touched a human since.

Who are the last five people I hugged? My dog-sitting friend. My daughter. Maybe a couple from our hometown? A friend who visited the Saturday before this prolonged intermission?

I don’t remember when I last hugged my son. That hurts.

There are a lot of motivational posters and greeting cards extolling the advice “Live Each Day As If It Is Your Last.” Many of us are more keenly aware of the fragility and impermanence of life now. For over three thousand Canadians that last day was written by COVID-19. How many of their loved ones are sitting in their isolation, pained because in addition to their grief, they cannot remember when they last hugged the departed?

My motivational poster for the After will be “Give each hug as if it is your last.” I want to be present for the hugs of the After. I want to remember them. Thich Nhat Hanh, the Zen Buddhist monk, teaches a practice called “Hugging Meditation“. Though it’s going to be awkward for my friends and family, these hugs include being “aware of how precious it is that you are both still alive.”

Who are the last five people you remember hugging?

Who will be the next five people you hug?

Pandemic Puppy

I am adorable. Love me.

I wonder sometimes if Valentine thinks he’s a ghost puppy. It’s like maybe people see him, but he’s obviously adorable and yet nobody pets him. Squirrels see him though, and they’re scared of him and this pleases him 🙂

On our walk today we passed a house with loads of decorations and statues in the front yard. One statue near the middle of them all was a really realistic one of a duck. There was a real squirrel, sitting on the fence, and as Valentine stepped toward it, the duck statue quacked and flew away. Startled us both!

On CBC they talked today about profs who used to bring their dogs to school so students could get dog therapy back in the Beforetimes when people were near to each other. Then we all went to our houses and didn’t come out again and the students missed their dog friends. So the profs set up dog office hours online so the students could watch their friends sleep or dig holes or do whatever the dogs chose to do on camera.

It got me thinking, maybe that’s how I can help. I can’t nurse or doctor, and I’m only very recently recovered from COVID symptoms myself. I haven’t quite been granted the right to practice psychotherapy. BUT! I do have an adorable puppy.

Thinking I’ll try to do a daily live stream of him being a puppy. It’s hard because he’s not too fond of my being on my phone and I don’t think I’ll get him to understand that he is the focus of the screen time! But my friends who don’t have puppies can get puppy time, right? And once I’m certain it’s OK within guidelines, I’ll start offering puppy play time to friends where they can play with Valentine in the backyard. I’ll be present, a safe 2-3 meters away until I get confirmation that I’m immune and not contagious. So no children until then, because I wouldn’t want to have to intervene – Valentine doesn’t know any children yet.

What do you think? Would you enjoy a puppy live stream? He IS adorable 🙂

Covid-19

Everything has stopped and everything is still going. I still have just as much work to do but I feel like I don’t because I am no longer going to the places where the work lives. It feels like I’m outside of everything but actually, the expectations and obligations are the same. Social distancing when you’re not really sick is weird, it’s hard but a really easy kind of hard. I have food and wifi and credit cards if I need to order more of anything and friends and family and I really like being at home. But this dissonance. SHOULD I stay home? Should I go out and spend money in the community (but not cash money, that’s gross). Should I see people and do things now before the enforced isolation is mandated? Is it true that I am being helpful and doing the right thing by staying in? I feel anxiety over not knowing what I should be doing and thinking it’s probably a lot but then doing none of it.

I also have the strangest FOMO. I’ve done so much less in my social life and hobbies lately because of grad school. I didn’t miss the things much, at least not after I adjusted to their absence, because I was busy being a grad student. Now I am getting emails from every organisation or business I’ve ever brushed up against and experiencing something like FOMO, like being reminded of absent lovers I had forgotten I was missing. “It’s been months, I know, but I just wanted to reach out and let you know you can’t see me.”

What day is it? What time is it? Is there a Zoom I should be on? When did Zoom become the go to video conferencing app? Did I feed the dog? It’s just a surprisingly bewildering time.

First Time Home Buyer

It’s been so long since I owned my own home that I now qualify for the First Time Home Buyer Program here in Canada. I’m a full-time student working part-time for a church, so this information isn’t of any real use to me. Not yet.

I’ve owned as opposed to rent for the majority of my adult life. I was married when we bought our first home, for $96,000, in 1998. You probably couldn’t buy that house for less than $225,000 now! After the divorce, I wound up cohabitating with a boyfriend and selling my house. I used the proceeds to buy into his house. When that didn’t work out, and once he had his credit score fixed, he paid me out from that house and I used those proceeds to buy my very own little bungalow which I nicknamed the Hobbit House. I loved living in that house.

Another failed relationship later and I bought a 2600 sq ft, four bedroom home near the kids’ high school. I rented out the bungalow. This new home had two decks and each deck had a lilac tree growing beside it.

I sold my sweet bungalow to pay off all my debts once the kids had both moved out.

I sold the larger home to put money down on a condo with yet another boyfriend. When that ended, he wasn’t able to free up money to give me back my down payment and couldn’t qualify for the mortgage on his own. So I started renting, for the first time since I was 26. I moved to a co-op, which was a drastic change from the exclusive condo lifestyle. I spent a year in the co-op, and then three years in a lovely one bedroom apartment with a splendid view.

Now for two years I’m living in my friends’ house while they’re out of the country. This keeps the rent very low and allows me to go to school, while keeping their house safe and well-tended. I am so glad to be back in a house. I am also glad to have had a break from taking care of a house, but it’s good to be back. When these two years are over, I’ll want to buy a house again. With the home buyer plan, I can use RRSP for my down payment without tax consequence, and save on some transfer tax. I’m gonna need an income though! So all that said, I better get doing my school work so I qualify for a mortgage when I graduate.

This post brought to you by second term looming procrastination.

Happy 2020!

Gotta be quick here, gotta make with words then make my way out the door. There’s dancing and champagne and I’m entering the new year – heck, the new decade – wearing a mu-mu and llama socks, like no fucks given. I went back through my journal, through my Google calendar, through my Instagram, trying to find evidence of my last fuck given. 404, fucks not found. 2019 rocked.

I wrote out the notable and amazing things in 2019 and it took two pages in my journal. Tomorrow I start three new journals – one for object writing, one for planning and scheming even more wickedly awesome moments and achievements, and one for “Dear diary, wow, I can’t even, like wow” type stuff that no one will ever read.
2019 I went to many workshops each of songwriting, singing, improv, and psychotherapy. I took in more live music than some people do in a lifetime. I went to theatre more than once every month.

I applied for, was accepted to, and started grad school. I took massively bold steps forward into the future I want for myself. I started a job that makes me think and grow and that I believe in. I earned money acting.

I loved friends and lovers, and I swam around in the pleasant greys of no fucks given and love being love.

I did say good bye to a dog. We did have a formal goodbye for my mother. I was really stressed out at times. I was confused and sometimes my heart hurt a lot – that seems to happen when we love, doesn’t it? I failed at quitting drinking three times. I came to terms with my relationship with alcohol.

I danced so much. I joined crazy arts and culture events. I attended three conferences, all without a career to advance. I enjoyed untold pleasant conversations.

I loved 2019. I’ve been wanting a year like 2019 for a long, long time. I dropped all my fucks in January and was in the moment as much as I possibly could. So maybe this is why I’m trying to manufacture giddiness for the New Year. I have no need to escape the dying year. I’m confident the new one holds delight and living and crying and laughing and thinking and novelty enough to satisfy even me.

Happy New Year my friends. Happy New Decade. Happy New Day. Happy Right Now, and most likely Happy Tomorrow.