Fourteen months into lockdowns from Covid-19 and those dang “variants of concern”, and it’s not only my hair that is sprawling uncontrollably.
I’ve been doing relatively well, not quite mad yet, participating in things via zoom and sneaking out now and again for distant walks with friends. I’ve been finding the endless warnings about “people who live alone” and mental health kind of annoying until now, as I spend hours stabbing embroidery again and again. I can keep myself busy. I like being alone. There are books.
But I’m slipping.
I blame my cat, Bendicks. He has been a warming presence, a demanding one, too, forcing me to get up to serve his needs, while giving me something tactile to hug. And look at those lovely huge feets!
But then he got sick. He’s an old guy, fifteen or so, and had been sick on and off despite multiple interventions, but this time he didn’t respond.
I’m all for medically assisted dying for people, having seen my parents writhe their way through end stage cancer, but it is such a hard decision to make for another, even if that other is a cat. Or maybe particularly because he’s a cat. It’s not like we could discuss things.
But I girded my loins, and with a dear friend beside me, was able to take the step. I thanked him as he slid away. The vet thought I was thanking her. I was not. But that anger is for another time.
I came home to my empty apartment, heart broken, and went on a mad purge, hiding anything cat like, giving away anything that reminded me of my little guy. It was cathartic, and besides, his fur was getting caught up in my tears and making gooey hair balls everywhere.
Fine, I thought. A cat-less existence can be done. It’s possible. people do it all the time.
But it wasn’t. Without another creature in my apartment, things became uneasy. The dark was unfriendly. Going to sleep at night wasn’t possible without that weight at the end of the bed, the head that would raise when I’d wake up, the purring. There was no frame to my day, no reason to get up.
I fight depression from my MS every day. I usually win. But I could feel the wheels getting wobbly on the bus, the tangles forming in my hair, the other vaguely appropriate metaphor for losing my mind…
It seems I can live without human contact for months and months and months (though it is wearing thin, I admit), but I’ve got to have feline company. I thought of other, less involving pets—a bird, a fish, a hamster—ones that wouldn’t require me to feel like I was trying to replace the irreplaceable. But they just couldn’t fit.
So I’m interviewing another cat today, via zoom, a ridiculous concept really but the only available one. It won’t be my lovely old boy, no one could, but perhaps a new friendship could be a solace as well. We’ll see. I’m a bit wary, still aware I’m not quite okay, but hoping maybe this cat will help heal my heart.
And perhaps I can do her some good, too. Cats is cats, and I am not expecting an immediate relationship, but then some things are worth working towards.
(especially of goods) being of such nature or kind as to be freely exchangeable or replaceable, in whole or in part, for another of like nature or kind.
A non-fungible asset therefore has the opposite characteristics to this definition. Those elements are:
The definition of a NFT is equally muddy. According to Wikipedia, it’s:
A non-fungible token is a unit of data on a digital ledger called a blockchain, where each NFT can represent a unique digital item, and thus they are not interchangeable. NFTs can represent digital files such as art, audio, videos, items in video games and other forms of creative work.
Well, this all sounds simple, until one is listening to a news item about how people are buying Non-Fungible Tokens (NFTs) of shoes. Virtual shoes. That you wear on your instagram feet. That you pay actual hard money for. Or Bitcoin, possibly, but those trace back to cold hard cash as well. I think. Because Bitcoin is both fungible and not?
And then Wikipedia mentions this bit (accents mine): NFTs include links pointing to where the art and any details about it are stored, but the links can die.Ownership of an NFT does not inherently grant copyright to any art represented by the NFT. Although an artist can sell an NFT representing a work, the artist can still retain the copyright to the work and create more NFTs of the same work. The buyer of the NFT does not gain exclusive access to the work, nor does the buyer gain possession of the “original” digital file. A person who uploads a certain work as an NFT does not have to prove that they are the original artist, and there have been numerous cases where art was used for NFTs without the creator’s permission.
Well, that all sounds like a great investment.
As a non-fungible being, I find this all rather a. confusing, b. stinking of a ripoff and c. criminal. I cannot wear virtual shoes through a rainstorm (not that I would want to given that they cost more than my entire wardrobe). I can’t even hang a NFT of a painting on my wall to look at – unless I staple my computer to said wall and never use it for anything else. Bitcoin sounds like a really good way to lose your money, fast fast, or legalized gambling (and we all know that in a depression we need more of those things. Because none of us are feeling desperate these days.)
Two things occur to me at this point. First, a lot of people have way too much money. If you have to spend your money on instagram shoes because you have bought everything else you need, you should perhaps contemplate supporting a person living in poverty and/or an entire country. Say the Sudan. Or the US. Because the money being spent on these ultimate ephemera is eye-waveringly massive.
Look at the prices on those tiny, very copiable images at the top of the blog. Or this.
(Would just like to mention the above is plagiarism of The Simpsons (an actual creative thing), ergo meaningless and perhaps illegal)
Of course this is when I realize I am becoming an old person. See, I even find buying music in iTunes vaguely uneasiness-causing. I like to be able to hold the things I buy in my hot little non-fungible hands and wave them about. Having them in a virtual environment makes them seem completely theft-inviting. Don’t we all remember Amazon clawing back books people bought for their Kindles?
And are those books fungible or non? If you can trace the purchase into the blockchain (whatever the f that is and I don’t mean fungible), apparently you can prove the thing is yours. Uh huh. I feel my cynical self making a wry smile at this. Good luck with that, my CS says.
This reminds me of the Artillery Prints my ex was pressured into buying when we were posted in Germany. Everyone was buying them, they said. They would grow in value. They were a “good investment.” So ex went merrily and bought them despite their utter hideousness and huge size. We noted the ‘number of prints’ pencilled on the bottom. Ours were in the 200s. Never mind, we told each other, it’s still a small number, still valuable. Then we heard that since the prints were so popular, they decided to do an additional huge print run. Bing. Value gone. Of course, the huge frames they had to be put in are probably worth something. And we did have the dubious pleasure of having most of our wall space taken up with prints of people rolling various guns through mud (though they did dress well, and looked terribly brave while they did so). (note: CS (see above) couldn’t help but wonder how the clean and shiny lads were able to keep that way – did they have to paint the inside of stoves and everything with toxic paint as they did on the base in Shilo, MB – rendering the stoves unusable but very pretty?)
This all brings forward the ultimate point. Why are we buying meaningless things that are about as useful as those painted stoves? I say ‘we’ but this will never be me. First of all, if I am going to spend my fungible assets on something, it will likely be books or conferences or god forbid, medication for my aged cat. Or food. I like food.
I figure spending on things that can not be clearly defined is never a good idea. Virtual clothing seems like a bad choice in this climate. And I like to buy the actual art, thanks. The kind that smells of oils or acrylics if you scrape a tiny edge. The kind that has been known to persist for hundreds of years.
I’ve been so solitary for the past year, so shut down that I suspect I have forgotten how to behave in polite company.
I bare my teeth in a simulated smile at people I meet on my way about but of course they can’t see that under my mask. Most of the time I just do an eye wrinkle, my thoughts concealed. I’ve largely forgotten how to speak. I burst out with inappropriate things (more than I used to) when I get the rare opportunity to talk to another human. Even the cat has taken to raising his eyebrows at me.
But I’ve had a bit of bliss being spared the “fear of missing out.” My friends express amazement that I know as much as I do about what is going on, but it’s part of my thing to sniff out events, groups, places to go and be.
Unfortunately, this makes me want to GO all those places and do all the things.
This is unfortunate because a. no one ever could and b. I live with MS, which restricts my energy quite significantly, so I have had to learn to pace myself. Or have tried to learn this, to varying success.
So life becomes a series of “I’d like to go to this,” followed by “I’m too tired to do that.” (I suspect it is somewhat the same for all adults over a certain age…though I can assure you regular fatigue doesn’t approximate the brick wall of MS fatigue) I became known in my mind as the cancellation queen, and you could tell the things that mattered most by the things I actually committed to attending — my mad Halifax Ukulele Gang, my beloved Craig Gallery jobette, creative coffee with friends, breakfasts with another friend, wine on the balcony with others.
Of course, I moved in the middle of the pandemic, leaving all that behind in a futile attempt to be closer to my kids (one of whom promptly decided to move to Vancouver- I don’t think the two things were related…). So I’m trying to get resettled in at a time when things are shut down.
Which was, in its own way, kind of relaxing.
During the pandemic, the things I was missing out on became smaller and smaller in number. I no longer had the free-floating anxiety that used to fill my life about whether I was missing the thing — that thing — the thing that would be so incredibly fun or healing or beautiful or funny. Everything could be piped into my home in hour long Zoom sessions.
I could do so MANY things!
Of course I overcommitted myself and ended up in my old pattern of signing up for stuff and then not attending — but this time NO ONE KNEW. I could be secretly irresponsible! What’s not to like about that?
Now that the walls are starting to creep down I am feeling that pressure to join in again. To take pottery classes, support political candidates, join groups, volunteer, and meet new people and try not to terrify them with my inappropriate commentary.
Its all a wee bit frightening. Do I know how to be in public after a year of near-total isolation? Does the public? And most importantly, what will I wear? Everything in my closet has been turned into a fur coat with the generous help of an almost Maine coon cat who sheds for the cat olympics. The things hung out of reach are no longer in fashion, or don’t fit my covid body.
What to do, what to do? I’m going to have to be seen again sooner or later. I’ve become used to people not knowing my height. Or what I look like from behind and below my shoulders. Or what my face is doing when not concealed…
Of course, I can retreat to JOMO, now that there are things to miss out on. Is there FOJOMO?
I’m all for a celebration of women. As a gender, I think we’re pretty cool. And hard done by, in general. Just look at the housework balance, the pay disparities, the parenting gaps. The complete erasure of women’s accomplishments in so many spheres. So the idea of celebrating women’s accomplishments seems like a good one.
BUT. I can’t help but feel a day just isn’t enough. I’m with the folks at Black History Month who want to extend the celebrations to more than just the minimum. I mean, isn’t it a bit…urgh…to give Black History the very shortest month in the calendar? Whose bright idea was that? Was it a bit of a dig?
Or the pink shirt anti-bullying day. Ugh. Kids are bullied if they don’t wear pink to school that day. I can’t help but feel this is a bit counterproductive.
Besides, shouldn’t recognition of bullying, women, black history, indigenous people, people with disabilities, and plain old white cis men go on all the time? Of course it tends to run to the latter in this list, so I understand completely the need for emphasis on the other groups, but it is beginning to seem to me that there are so many different ’cause’ days that the serious problems are getting lost in the shuffle.
Like the ongoing, paralyzing racism present throughout the world. Like capitalism’s driving of starvation and grinding poverty.
Or the bad behaviour by so many men towards so many women. I heard this AM on the radio of a city councillor in Ottawa who has been sexually aggressive to his female staff to an unbelievable level, who is still being paid with the taxpayers dime and has not received any serious repercussions. He is still the representative for the women he abused. Gawd.
Story after story of men being jerks scroll across my timeline (and trust me, I’m not looking for them – I find them triggering as I have experienced my full share of jerkish experiences) I DO know there are good men, I know they can act humanely and kindly and do good things. I also know women can be jerks. No need to differ with me on that score. But the balance seems to still be off.
And I simply don’t believe waving an “International Women’s Day” heart on one’s sleeve will do anything to stop honour killings, rape, aggressiveness against women, even forced intimacies of the minor kind. I don’t think men fully understand the feelings of danger we feel when alone with them.
Even friends can’t be trusted. An old (married) friend of mine once took the opportunity of us being alone in my apartment to press himself on me. I was shocked beyond the ability to respond. It’s damaged our friendship beyond saving, in my mind anyway. I doubt very much he even considered it out of line. I remain baffled as to why he thought he COULD do such things.
But I’ll just bet he celebrates Women’s Day.
You good men and true, I salute you. You, too, deserve recognition. Maybe having a “Decent Men’s Day” would help rebalance behaviour. We could celebrate it on February 28th? (Just teasing…)
I’ve written a book about a woman who was massaged like Coca-Cola into a merchandiser’s dream. It’s called Recycled Virgin, and it’s an alternate history of Mary and her role in the Christian story. It puts her where I think she should have been, somewhat more in the centre of things.
While I was writing it, I was taking a course on Mariology at the excellent Atlantic School of Theology, under the patient guidance of David Dean. I remember knocking him off his heels by suggesting that all the difficulties with Mary (her ever virginity despite giving birth, her pure blood line, her lack of sin, her assumption into heaven in her full body – all things created well after the fact by clumps of men trying to persuade people to join the church) could be completely explained by making her the god part of the god-human connection, as vs just the receptacle. Those of you who read Catholic doctrine for pleasure (I realize there may be few) might look at the stories through that lens and see how they think they might fit. I found it fascinating to contemplate.
So, in honour of International Women’s Day, such that it is, I’ve put my book on discount for March 10-17. The ebook only, as this is all the mighty Amazon allows at present. Why not take a look and see if you can challenge that prevailing belief that Mary didn’t really matter, but was just a womb on sanctified legs. It’s alternative history. It’s fiction, but then, aren’t most of the stories we tell ourselves?
Check out my book here. If you like it, or hate it, or anything in-between, please take the time to write a review.
In the hallway the boys gather about in smelly heaps like old laundry, laughing and pointing and dancing in their ridiculously large sneakers. Hair sticking out in every direction, body odor of newly minted puberty encircling them in a miasma, they crow like four-month roosters, stomping their feet on the small pieces of paper scattered on the ground.
Each square has a blotch of red on it, some writing, a signature.
One boy picks up a larger piece and theatrically tears it into small then smaller then tiny pieces, throws it into the air like confetti. The other boys bat at it, sending the shreds flying around through the hallway.
The boys’ voices crack as they hoot and cat-call, which makes them shout louder. The teachers are nowhere to be found.
To the side a small girl stands, dressed in a slightly off-fashion red bodysuit and plaid skort, uncertain shoes, long hair massing about her head in a ‘my mother won’t let me cut it’ study of split ends and tangles. Head down, she tries to slip by, unseen, escape down the hallway to the exit, but she can’t avoid the tangle of boys, the shouts, the destruction.
The boys spot her, and the pointing and yelling sharpens, knife-like. Like a murder of crows, they caw in her face, pull at her hair, scoop up the shreds of paper off the floor and throw them at her. Winter gravel is mixed with the paper which stings as it hits her. The papers don’t fly well, and this makes the boys finally give up in frustration and turn away. They slam the doors open, shoving each other, grinning back at her.
One boy is quieter than the rest. He knows the girl, they were friends of a sort, of whatever sort boys and girls could be friends in grade eight, clouded in hormones and poor judgement. He shouts through the noise to the boys, “Let’s go, she’s not worth it.”
She looks over at him, her face dead. She’s frozen, mortally wounded, unable to edge one cell forward out of there. Minutes after the boys finally tumble out of the door and outside, away, she thaws enough to move.
Bending forward, she gathers up the shreds of her valentines, silent. Alone.
The other morning, around 3 AM, when I was busily picturing all of the food I had eaten during this lockdown and regretting a good two-thirds of it, I turned on the excellent “Backlisted” podcast and was immersed in memories of my childhood books and library…and it got me wondering about things I couldn’t remember. Like, for example, where did we buy books in the time before Coles/Chapters/etc? I remember standing with my dad while he looked over books, but have no idea where that was. Perhaps in the Burlington Mall, land of teenage yearning and light? Absolutely no idea.
Anne of Green Gables and all the subsequent books made me long for red hair and an extravagant way of speaking – mastered the latter but not the former, and still can’t memorize poetry to recite dramatically to myself as I stroll along pathways under flowering trees. Sigh. Tasks for the 5 Am pandemic blearies?
Do I remember a bookcase where I kept them? Nope. Blank spot.
I vaguely remember the stone library in my home town, the floor linoleum with its pattern of rounded squares, its high shine that came from years and years of being buffed, the smell of the wax. I remember the spinning racks of paperback books, and the hardbacks with the heavy plastic book covers on them, so slippery and impossible to hold. I don’t remember how I got to the library (it was too far for a wee lass to walk) – surely my mother drove us? No recall whatsoever.
It’s funny the patchiness of past memories, the little gaps that, when we dig in to explore them, yield nothing but grey space. But the stories, they remain.
My family’s house was full of books – bookshelves in every spare space, filled with antique books that, to my knowledge, were never read. Occasionally, as an older child, I’d scroll along the shelves, picking up one or another, their paper-thin, tightly typed pages smooth to the touch, smelling of age and forgotten wisdom. During one explore I found, carefully hidden amongst the boring looking ones, Desmond Morris’s The Naked Ape. Chapter Two was all about human sexual response and I’d read it secretly, sneaking into the little closet under the stairs, pulling the coats in behind me and curling up on the window seat, afraid someone would see me and report me (sexuality was NEVER discussed in our house). I assume my dad bought it and my mother hid it.
He bought all the interesting books in the house. Books like Chariots of the Gods?, and Godel, Escher, Bach. Books on painting and drawing and doing things. He’d bid on entire sets of encyclopaedias from the 1930’s and bring them home and crow over all the descriptions of foreign places and people. He bought science books, theology books, reading everything except fiction, as so many men do.
My mother bought Ngaio Marsh and Agatha Christies and other mysteries in yellowing paperbacks from the thrift store, and curled up solo, delighting in the murders and the puzzle solving.
We didn’t talk much about what we were reading. In fact, I don’t remember a single discussion unless it was my dad telling us about pyramid power or whatever other weird thing he’d read. And yet, the books in our home circulated. If we sat together now (ah, remember those days, when we could?) we’d probably realize we all experienced so many of the same books and shared that language more than we ever knew.
Family. Or the family of books. Our family of memories…
So, the electoral college seems to have spoken, but Mr. Sore Loser is still sulking in the White House and spewing hatred, firing anyone who dares to not be visibly supportive. People call him ‘unprecedented’ but I think we have seen this sort of behaviour elsewhere in other autocratic dictatorships. Sulkiness in North Korea, for example, or Russia…At least he hasn’t (yet) taken to poisoning the opposition – but he could be accused of inspiring attacks.
So it STILL seems like we are trapped in suspended animation, until after the Georgia elections, until after the inauguration…until the orange terror is contained and his whole family are in jail. I still can’t sleep and I don’t even live in the US!
Meanwhile, here in Canada, we watch Covid still streaming live across all formats, people getting restless after months of seclusion and having to hang out with (or without) their families, and the vaccine is waved like a flag of triumph though distribution will likely take more months. You can feel the breeze of hope, though – a slight freshness in the stale at home air, a crispness in the nostrils that hasn’t been there for such a long time.
Unfortunately, the doubters will use this as an excuse to go wander freely everywhere, coughing and spitting and doing all the things disgusting humans do…(Is anyone else grateful for the months of spit-free sidewalks? And why do men DO that? Do they ooze secretions? But I digress.) So despite that fluttering flag, there’s a whole lot more dying to go through still. Hard to be optimistic, with the combo of distribution inequalities and challenges and disgruntled humans. Sometimes I wonder why we were given ‘free will’ (a nebulous concept if you ever have a good look at it). Perhaps the gods like a good laugh.
I just participated in a survey about depression and Covid and after answering the many questions about sleep and initiative and joy (all in short supply), the interviewer asked if there was anything I could add about the situation. I had to add Trump. I suspect the entire world is still chewing through their fingernails about him. Covid seems small in comparison with the degradation of democracy, despite the huge and growing human cost.
In amongst all the sturm und drang (bless you, Wikipedia, and I did donate and remind everyone else to send them a wee penny), it’s hard to maintain that feeling of hope, that thing with feathers.
Until you can watch the real things with feathers. There’s something miraculous about tiny fluffy birds surviving the winters here. I had a chickadee sit on my hand the other day (while investigating the seeds I was holding) and it let me touch its wee skinny cold leg. I wanted to cup it in my hand and warm it, as the boy did in the story by Helen Humphreys (The Frozen Thames – a glorious book and so worth reading). Of course, I’d end up giving it a heart attack from fear, so instead I just willed my hand to radiate heat upward and poured more seeds into it.
If only I could offer a warm perch to all creatures, human or not. At least until the chill that was 2020 dissipates…
Like the nubile blonde women in horror movies that simply cannot resist putting themselves at risk in dark basements or abandoned cottages in the woods, (well, not really, as nubile and blonde no longer really apply, but hang in with me here), I am feeling the overwhelming urge to GO OUT AND CATCH COVID and get it over with.
It’s the same mad impulse that horror writers no doubt exploit – we are none of us good at living in a state of fear for a day or so, let alone NINE godforsaken months.
I’ve gotten used to masking up, living largely alone, diving through grocery stores like I’m on a shoplifting spree. I smell of alcohol gel and am probably flammable, so am avoiding the use of candles this holiday season. I’ve gone feral, bathing only infrequently, gnawing on apples for food, sniffing the cat tins to see if they seem appetizing. My muscle tone has degraded into marshmallow status from lack of exercise, and I now undress in full darkness so I don’t have to see myself. If it weren’t for my friends and family occasionally tapping in to see if I am still breathing (many thanks especially to L and P, bless your furry little souls), and the endless yowls of the cat demanding service, I’d have retreated to bed a long time ago.
(I also must thank Jacke Wilson and the inimitable History Of Literature podcast, without which I would spend many a nighttime hour tossing and turning in fits of anxiety and self-judgement (after living feral and accomplishing nothing for days on end, at 3 AM a part of me I inherited from my mother reaches out to shame me in every direction).)
But here’s the thing. I’ve been good, into self-denial for months now, and I STILL get the feeling of impending doom, hear the heavy breathing of Covid in my closets, can’t get past the heart-pounding anxiety that it is just a matter of time until it gets me, clutches me by the throat, whispers tales of sickness and strife into my shell-like ears.
I’m not good at waiting. I’m of the generation of chicken pox parties, where we smeared poxy children against each other just to have them get it at a convenient time. Of course, risky, risky. My poor son got so covered with pox I had to count them with him just to distract him from the panic of seeing himself overwhelmed. (I stopped after 100. We hadn’t even gotten off his chest and tummy). Thank god nothing else untoward happened to him, but I still give my head a shake.
Chicken pox is very rarely fatal, though. This Covid thing dances gaily along in its plague mask, stabbing people with its sharp beak, creating holes in families and workplaces and countries. So when I am sensible, I know it is unreasonable to even think of going out to catch it.
But I find I am growing to understand those who do. There’s a fatalism around that we can lay at the foot of 2020-ism, of Trump, of the immense clumps of destructive people destroying the environment for greed. It’s a constant battle to stay optimistic as the weeks and months go on, as the numbers we thought we were bringing down creep up higher and higher.
Way back in university, my friends took me to see Friday the 13th part three (I think), which captures my feelings exactly – the aforesaid n.y.m (nubile young woman) is feeling safe in her cottage, and walks through the dark to the kitchen for a snack (she has just climbed out of a bed where she has been very naughty, so as watchers, we know she is marked for some gruesome end). She opens the fridge, tra la, tra la, and sees a rotting disembodied head on the shelf. She starts to scream, but is unable to as the killer plunges an ice pick through her temple.
Alas, I haven’t had much of an opportunity to be bad of late, but this feeling of things unseen creeping up on me and wielding death has never quite left. It’s heightened by the invisibility of the attacker here. And I’ve always thought it would have been better to be one of the early sliced-and-diced in a horror movie than the one who finds everyone else lying about in bits. So the temptation exists.
Primarily because of sympathy for the health care workers who would feel compelled to try and help me survive at great personal risk, I’m still fighting my urge to go hang out with the coughing masses. So far…
We seem to be stuck in a holding pattern- stuck in a growing pandemic, stuck with the defeated US president clinging to power, even stuck in autumn- we’ve had warm weather here in Ontario and, though lovely, I can’t help but feel like winter is waiting on the edge, ready to spring.
It all reminds me of a time we were in the Everglades watching a nature scene take place before us. A frog was catching insects. A snake was watching the frog, ready to spring. An egret was watching the snake, preparing an attack, and behind the egret we could see the watchful eyes of an alligator, looking for dinner.
In one instant, the frog leapt for a big, the snake leapt for the frog, the egret pounced on the snake, and slurp, the food chain played out. Fortunately for the egret, the alligator was just that bit too slow, and missed taking his place at the top.
So here I am feeling a bit like that egret. Or is it the frog? Waiting for winter to leap and release the Covid virus again, all while knowing there’s a democratic confrontation awaiting in the wings to gobble the whole disaster up.
Will the alligator be able to take the whole mass down? Or will we have a narrow escape as the egret did and fly away with a full tummy and the will to fight another day?
Or will everything leap forward and manage to continue unabated- winter, Covid, democracy-undoing…
In trying to remain optimistic, but I can feel the tension like the sound of a violin A string, scraping along the bow.