Catch up, catch all

April 20th, 2021Posted by Nancy

This post has been on my ‘to do’ list for a while but I just kept pushing it out, because my level of productivity has rapidly declined since my working days. These days, if I manage to go for a walk, meditate, and knock one thing off my list, I consider it a good day. And since I planned this one, a number of things have happened, thus the title.

COVID: Last year I was actually hopeful that Ontario would come through things reasonably well. We had experience with SARS. Canada was making the right moves to support people. Once it was clear this virus was different, I understood the changing rules based on evolving knowledge. But we’re over a year into this thing. We know who is most likely to be infected (originally older people in long-term care, now people who have to work on-site in “essential”, precarious, and low-paid jobs) and we know what’s needed to keep them – and therefore the rest of us – safe (paid sick time, rapid vaccinations) but our government seems incapable of managing that. Last week’s announcement of more restrictions that don’t get to the heart of the problem, the relentless pointing of fingers at the federal government, the refusal to do what really IS required, sparked a level of anger (at least on the media I follow) that I’ve rarely seen among generally placid Canadians. It wasn’t the stupid anti-mask, we-must-go-to-church/the mall/the hairdresser/the bar, the vaccine is a plot by Bill Gates rejection of sensible precautions that is common in some area. It was a deep, angry howl of frustration that the government just didn’t seem to get it. Closing the playgrounds wasn’t going to fix the fact that the areas in the city with the highest levels of positive tests had the lowest rates of vaccinations. I don’t know what’s going to happen. I’ve had one shot of Astra Zeneca, because I could. I wear a mask on the TTC and around other people, because those are the rules intended to keep the most number of people safe. I hope for the best.

FAILING, Part I: I had big plans for the winter. I was going to make a flamenco video homage to Canadian artist/dancer/choreographer Francoise Sullivan’s “Danse dans le Neige“. I figured out what I was going to wear. I practiced the choreography. I found a spot in a local park that would work. I waited for the right day: not too cold, not too sunny, enough snow to dance in, no ice, midweek when there were fewer people around, a feeling of confidence in my dance. I figure there was ONE week when all of those things aligned – and I didn’t do it. I thought “I’m not ready. There’s time. There will be better weather, better snow, a better day.” And there never was. Well, I thought, I’ll do “Danse au Printemps” instead. And then I hurt my shoulder and haven’t been able to practice. The will starts to drain away.

FAILING, Part II: I came out of March’s reread of both of my WIPs feeling hopeful. I identified some next sections to write. I picked some things to brainstorm and then JUST MAKE A DECISION ABOUT (such as, what to call the nuns. Answer: just call them Sister and let it go). I decided to aim for 10,000 words for April as part of Camp Nanowrimo. The first 2,500 words ticked by nicely then it came time to switch projects for a bit. I started in on the Witch Novel sections and realized with a sickening feeling that there was a major plot point that I had just … glossed over. I’d written almost up to the pivotal moment. I wrote reactions several years after the pivotal event. But I’d never seriously thought about how said event would ACTUALLY happen. When I did, it was clear that it was going to be much more complicated than I’d first envisioned. Deflated, I skipped a day. I switched back to the Glass World project and ground out some more words. I skipped another day. Everything seemed drab and boring and lifeless. It still does. I know that I can solve the problem. I know that I can manage the more complicated version. I might have to rewrite some later reactions, but it doesn’t ruin everything. Except that it did, just for a while.

Which leads me to…

Reasons to Go On: A dear friend sent a link to an essay in the New York Times by Charles M. Blow called My Second Phase of Adulthood. So much of it resonated strongly with me. In this pandemic time, I’ve taken to reading obituaries in the local paper, not because I expect to see anyone I know (I’m not THAT old) but because so many people have had fascinating lives. A generation is passing who grew up during WWII, escaped from prison camps, took the huge leap of faith of immigration to a foreign country, and built lives and families and businesses (and cottages) here. But it’s always the families that matter the most, for both the men (mostly) who built the businesses and the women (mostly) who built the connections that were the most important at the end. Included in those connections were children, grandchildren, friends, and caregivers.

This leads inevitability (and tediously) to imagining what could be said of me. I have no children, I’m nobody’s grandmother. I wrote four novels, none terribly successful. I have good friends, I have a beloved husband, I have a nice life. I still find beauty and wonder in the world. I love art and music and history and Venice. I give to charity. I try to smile at people (from behind my mask) but I’m still an introvert. I try to be kind but I’m often lost in my own thoughts. Is that enough?

In his column, Blow reflects on the introspective that pandemic has forced on him. He resolves to live “boldly, bravely and openly’ and to “cut myself some slack and get on with being a better person”. This seems like a good resolution. I’d like to be bolder, braver, and a better person. I fail at all three regularly.

He quotes Dorian Corey in the documentary “Paris Is Burning”:

“I always had hopes of being a big star. But as you get older, you aim a little lower. Everybody wants to make an impression, some mark upon the world. Then you think, you’ve made a mark on the world if you just get through it, and a few people remember your name. Then you’ve left a mark. You don’t have to bend the whole world. I think it’s better to just enjoy it.”

and then concludes “When I am gone, and people remember my name, I want some of them to smile.”

I know I’ll never really make a mark, and that’s ok. I’d like to say that frees me to write more bravely, to do more interesting and daring things – but the truth is every word is still hard, my worldbuilding is frustrating and inadequate, and my ability to plot is marginal. I’d like to say that I will do bold and imaginative things like dance in the park – but I might chicken out, too afraid of making a fool of myself. I’d like to say that I will be a better, kinder person and make a difference in the world. But most likely I’ll muddle on just the way I am.

But I think there are a few people who will smile when they think of me and I’m willing to work to make sure that stays true. That’s good enough for me.

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2 responses

  • 1 Bernard James · May 16, 2021 at 10:37 pm

    I have enjoyed your journey since your first book “the Night Inside”, Whenever I see a used copy I pick it up and pass it to someone I know to who likes vampire novels. You have certainly left a mark with me and I certainly smile when I think of you. I used to believe that life was based on accomplishments. Lately I believe the choices we make on the journey is what defines us.

    All the best,

  • 2 Nancy · May 17, 2021 at 4:00 pm

    Thanks so much for the kind words, Bernard. My brainstorming for May has been productive and I hope for better writing days in June. And if it’s not, that’s ok. There’s no deadline. I agree with your comment about choices. We can try to choose kindness and compassion in our daily lives and that counts for something.

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