One of the fun things about going through old sketchbooks, lists and notes is that moment where I look at something and am like umm what that doesn’t mean anything or make any sense while also knowing that at one point I thought this thing was super important and worth scrawling down.
I’ve gotten into the idea of rest and what it means for us that rest is so absent from our society, what it means for me that I’m part of a discipline where rest is seen as optional, to be part of an educational pedagogy where resting is seen as frivolous and optional, where the impossible is endlessly demanded of me.
It seems that in a world that doesn’t know how to be still I am unable to rest.
My body needs rest, craves rest. Still it also doesn’t know what that feels like.
By going back to school I accepted that I was going to be pushed to the brink mentally and physically a lot of the time, that the hobbies that keep me going and time and space to meander that make me content would be gone. I don’t know why I am expected to give up so much of myself and my life by being at UBC.
I am a human. I need rest. We all do.
Today I was feeling tired. I’m not sure why. I am cutting back on coffee because various people who are involved in professions related to my well-being (including numerous doctors and two therapists) have suggested that I drink far too much of it and that perhaps that is linked to my anxiety and insomnia.
I don’t disagree so I am attempting to cut back.
It’s painful. I think it’s gonna take several attempts. The mornings are harder and slower.
I don’t miss the feeling of being buzzed from alcohol (I don’t drink these days). I’m already tired and out of it enough of the time. I don’t need substances to do that. I can get there all on my own. I do love the feeling of sharpness, focus and energy that coffee gives me.
Still, as someone who has never been able to sit still and has generally had trouble sleeping perhaps it’s a bit much. I feel like I’m vibrating.
This past year all my established wellness rituals died fast. In my SALA life coffee was a substitute for taking breaks and sleeping. When I couldn’t focus I drank coffee. When I was exhausted I drank coffee. When I was overwhelmed I drank coffee. When I needed to be on and wasn’t I drank coffee.
I wasn’t drinking coffee because I loved it but because I didn’t have time to take care of myself. Coffee is not a substitute for rest or wellbeing.
I know I need to be gentle with myself as I ride the rocky road of shaking that easy kick in the morning. I no longer have any caffeinated coffee at home and the mornings are much harder. I miss that feeling.
When I first got the suggestion that maybe I should think about cutting coffee I was resistant. I was raised on a steady diet of Gilmore Girls. I’ve already lost enough parts of myself recently I didn’t want to lose that too. I am the coffee girl, the one who drinks far more coffee than is reasonable.
But I am also the girl who is very logical and likes research and evidence based decision making so here we are. I will try and it will be rough.
The point I started with, my digressions have digressions, I felt like I couldn’t stay home all day even if I felt crappy. Granted I don’t want to live my life if I feel lousy, because feeling lousy is just a part of life. I couldn’t tell which thing my body wanted from me. Go out or stay home. It’s hard to tell.
I feel like every day I need to be useful and productive and do stuff. I finished two books today yet that doesn’t feel like much. I organized and cleaned.
Still it’s not enough.
The summer as much as it’s a time to rest is a really short window to do all the stuff I don’t have time for during the semester. I have all these ideas and interests and if I’m not making myself useful then it’s a waste right?
That quizzical look I send back in time when I'm going through notes and I'm like what was I on about.
I’ve been going through stuff I wrote on my phone either in Notes or Google Docs and putting it up as blog posts. It’s working well for me.
The writing stuff out by hand days are behind me and I rarely feel compelled to sit down and write a post. Writing on the go was jiving with me. As I waste time on the b-line (yes making students bus to UBC from the other side of the city because of terrible zoning is a huge waste of my time) I might start writing blog posts.
I want to post more. I want to be more on top of shit.
I’m not gonna be a student forever so documenting and sharing this moment seems worthwhile I’m just usually too exhausted to do it.
I feel like blogging and writing again. It's nice to be back to that.
I needed a break after writing for a living proved to just be really awful and soul crushing. There were a few years there where I didn’t feel like writing.
If you’re meant to do something you get back to it in time.
I also have more energy and feel like a human again. It’s been a year (more or less) and I feel like I’m getting back to myself.
I never made it out to that island. I really really wanted to, my guidebook made it sound so easy and lovely but it didn’t work out.
I probably should’ve done more research but the impulsive side of me won. I was busy trying to keep up with coursework and didn’t have time to piece it together.
I feel stupid, like I failed, like I’m wasting time. I came all this way and I didn’t make it to that island. I decided not to go.
I swapped maybe not making it to hikes via shoddy infrequent bus service for hiding in cafes from the rain. I generally have been longing for that, wanting to sit and read. I got through 50 pages of a book on plants. All things considered it was a good day.
Still I can’t help but feel like I screwed up, like this long shot off the beaten path plan was always stupid, like I need to stop trying to do this because it just ends with me frustrated.
I’m looking out over the sea, from a harbour, wind that smell, the view of where that overly expensive early morning ferry would’ve gone. A couple hours on the water to an island.
I love these remote islands. They pull me.
As stupid as I feel I can’t deny that I love the sea.
This town is nice. It’s so cute I could pinch it’s checks. Everything I’ve eaten has been delicious and a good price.
I know I’m too hard on myself, that this is what travel means, you can’t control the weather, guidebooks aren’t always reliable. I know still I’m beating myself up instead of enjoying the break.
If I want to travel to these remote islands I need to start driving again, an unfortunate reality of car culture. Anxiety can be worked on and overcome I just have to decide whether it’s worth it. Then there’s the matter of my back and wrist. Can they take driving? I haven’t asked that question of them since everything got bad. I do know that steering wheels are up there in thing a that prompt pain in my arm. Is it worth the time and money to work on that pain? For the mobility that comes with wheels? Rarely do I see value in autonomous vehicles but for rural transportation they seem appealing. I’d definitely take advantage.
I like the breeze and the wind. I like that I came somewhere further and different. I like this town. Maybe it’ll clear tomorrow and I can go to the volcano. I can move and do and feel like I have something to show for my travels.
When I read over my draft of Set Your Watch to Moscow Time I’m always struck but two things.
One, I seem so anxious and hesitant. Its like in afraid of my own shadow. I wish I was bolder and braver but instead those pages and filled with my worries and unwillingness to dive in and trust the world.
Two, how fragile I felt. Travel is intense and demanding. It leaves you exposed and vulnerable. It’s great but it’s also scary. I was sick before my first flight landed, before I’d even left Canada. It was not an auspicious beginning to a seven week trip.
I spent the rest of the trip painfully aware of the limitations of my body and how much harder it is to feel crappy when you don’t have he security of home.
I’ve always been the sickly one in my family. My plan for the zombie apocalypse is to die early.
There are echoes of how I felt the last time I was here. The weirdness of sounds altered by injuries. Ringing in my ears. The oddness of how loud everything is. How peaceful and quiet the city is at 5am while it waits to awaken from its slumber.
I’m not who I was. You don’t get multiple injuries in three months and have your life fall apart and have your body or mind come out the same on the other end.
It’s been a year. Instead of driving back to Calgary to rest and take a break from how badly everything went when I arrived in Vancouver I am in Japan.
I am doing so much better. I am okay but in some ways I’m also not. That dull ache that haunts my wrist is more of an intense and urgent twinge. I’m going to be leaving my camera behind, not convinced that this is the place to try to answer the questions I have about photography.
Can I still do this? Should I try?
Is photography something I should let go of? Is it something I can adapt to?
Travel is intense and physically demanding. I question whether my arm can take the things I used to ask it to do without a thought.
Now I know that I am far from my dumbbells and yoga mat, and that I probably shouldn’t push it. I must balance the NO that pain shouts loudly with Keep Moving, words I try to keep fresh in my mind.
I don’t know what the pain means or what to do about it. I just don’t know.
The uncertainty and fear. The feeling good sometimes and bad others is one of the hardest parts.
I just don’t know anymore.
I miss that person I used to be, the way I used to exist in and experience the world. I would meander and click. Photography the reason to go outside, the main activity when I traveled, a way of seeing and noticing the world.
If not to take pictures than why go outside?
I have gotten better about just being. Just going out into the world.
I am okay but I’m also not. The damage of that sprain haunts my sinews and tissues and decides what I can and cannot have. I am filled with grief and gratitude. I feel so much better than I once could’ve imagined. Still I miss who I used to be and wonder whether I can hold onto parts of that or should let go.
I am constantly aware of the precariousness of my existence and my body is a way that I never was. There are things I worried about not being able to do that I can now do and I try to enjoy the heck out of them. I feel lots of confusing and contradictory things.
I have my phone. I can snap photos with that while I am here. That’s good enough I guess.
Just sit down — or stand if you want to be ambitious like that — at your desk. That's it. That's as much as I usually force myself to do.
I don't have a grandiose theory of creativity. I have lots and lots of ideas. A whole cue card stack with projects to get to lingers nearby. Another pile is all of the things I've had ideas to draw. That doesn't even touch the lists. There are so many lists.
There are ideas and inspiration everywhere. I am a scavenger.
I am also boring.
A lot of this is mundane. It's the same thing over and over again.
It's doing it until you get good.
Things I learned in fencing. Do it 200 times. Do it 200 more. Over and over again.
If you just sit down you'll find something useful to do. My hands, my brain they want something to do. It might not be the thing that desperately, urgently needs doing. Likely as a freelancer drifting about trying to make something of the time before me I don't have enough structure or deadlines for that anyways.
No there's just a lot of time and I need to find something to do with it.
So I sit and I know I'll find something to do.
It's written blog posts. Helped pick a new name for my photography store. Gotten me started on some photo editing.
It's unstructured and lose but it generally does the trick. If I sit here long enough something will happen. No promise it'll be good but it'll be something.
Recently someone asked me if I ever thought I'd catch up on my old photos, if I'd ever manage to go through them all and do whatever it is that I plan to do with them.
I answered no. Partially because that would take a really long time, even if photography was the only thing I was doing, which it's very much not, it would take a really long time. Then it would reset. Every photo, every new platform, every new disruptive technology is a new photo that needs editing and posting and doing something with.
Those photos in my backlog, for the most part, I did do something with. They're on Flickr or were on a blog. They got posted somewhere at some point. Just in a place that I no longer spend time or that is no longer up or a blog that ran out of free storage so I migrated to another to another to another.
It never ends. I'll always be dealing with it. I just hope I can do a smarter better job.
I'd love to get more of my photos up but I don't even know if that's really the point anymore. Having the files in order, tagged and well backed up, that's a good goal. Having a place where I post all of them, nah.
If I get them all up here or on Instagram or wherever who knows if it'll last.
These things generally don't. They're fleeting.
I have this place now. I can do what I can do and then deal with whatever's next when it hits.
In this age of crisis and chaos it's hard to think about the future, honestly I try not to because it just feels too scary and sad. All we have is this moment, we are promised nothing else. So for now I'm trying to keep Hootsuite fed. I'm trying to get print on demand running again. I want to post here. One day when money is less of an issue I'll do right by my files and have hard drives upon hard drives and some cloudy meatballs.
It's an imperfect mess but it is what it is.
I can still take pictures. I am going to enjoy it. I'm going to try not to repeat the file management mistakes I've made in the past.
When I was a teenager I thought a great way to end a movie would be to have a scene where a person walks through a door of a home they're leaving, moving out of, and then closes it. The camera doesn't follow them it just stays focused on that door and that's it. The end. The end of time in that place, that part of their life, the end of the story.
It seems simple and elegant.
I think of that image whenever I move.
Leaving a place, somewhere you have lived, always feels strange and surreal. Sometimes I'm sad to go. Sometimes I have other things on my mind. Always the chaos of moving and packing and trying to decipher which possessions you actually need and want. That feeling like you own all together too many things and they might just eat you. The frustration of knowing that you have something but that it's in one box or another.
I just moved. Something I knew was going to happen, something I should be excited about.
The last several months of my life has been hard and a lot of things have happened to me. I was more than happy to leave where I was living and get a new start. A bold period was the punctuation mark of choice. Over. Done. New start. New home. New part of town. No reminders, no walking by the things telling me how much of a mess my life was.
Then there's the boxes. You have to unpack, make it work for the new space.
It's bigger and I like the furniture better.
I am trying not to fixate on the various ways in which the building and location are probably toxic and killing me. I did it for the last building and I'm sure I'd do it for anywhere else. Part of it's reasonable, part of it's not. I should spend less time thinking about how the world is toxic and killing me. Then again the world should be less toxic and more should be done to stop things from killing me or slowly poisoning me.
It's nice being closer to things, having more to do nearby. It's nice having a bigger room. It's nice to finally have this hard chapter in my life end. For so long all I wanted was for the housing drama and the injuries and health issues to end. For the door to close, for me to be ready to move on.
After getting here, to this new place, that I will slowly feel more and more settled in, I decided to listen to Sun In An Empty Room by the Weakerthans. It's moving related:
It fits right?
There's also another song that I can't place or track down that feels like it's by the Maccabees and has a lyric referring to box cutters. I can't figure out what it is but I can picture album art from my high school cd stack and hum a tune.
The beauty of the door closing image is that in a movie, or book, any kind of story really, there's just the end. It keeps going but you don't get to know what happens — blah blah sequels but that's not the point. I really like the ending of Firefly because it's so mundane. They are just doing their thing. No drama, just life.
In reality you don't stay on the other side of the door. You are in a truck or taxi going somewhere else, going to what's next. Tired, wondering. Trying to say goodbye as best you can while dealing with life as it comes at you.
I had this plan. That during July I'd work really hard on my files I'd be basically done.
Shockingly that's not going to happen.
I could just work really really hard on it, feel like I'm getting nowhere and be miserable. Or I can go with the system that works much better for me: sit/stand at my desk and find something, anything useful to do. I don't really care what. If I am here something will happen. If I draw great, if I write great, if I sort through the files great.
I do need to remember that the files never end. That this is something I have to do all the time like cleaning my room. I need to set aside bits of time consistently to be on top of it every day. This one hard drive will not solve it.
Growing up I loved the movie Practical Magic. It might be the magic, the storytelling prowess of Alice Hoffman, having a sister. Maybe it's the soundtrack.
I've listened to that soundtrack over and over and over again. It fits perfectly with the movie and goes great on its own.
My favourite songs are the two Stevie Knicks songs. They are beautiful and real.
Fleetwood Mac and Stevie Knicks were a part of my childhood. I was not named after the song Rhiannon, though I do love people who know it because they are familiar with my name. It is less fun when they sing it to me. That mostly just feels awkward.
There's a particular lyric in particular a song off that soundtrack that I've been thinking about lately. If I ever did believe goes a little something like this:
I am feeling better generally. Mostly. Not always. There can be new fun unexpected things but mostly things are getting better.
I am trying to get back to normal. To routines. To being productive.
And I am getting stuff done. It just often feels like I'm not. Or that the things I'm getting aren't worthwhile or useful. That the days just go by and I have no idea what happened to them.
It's great working from home but it also feels unstructured and unmoored. Like I am always working but also getting nothing done. Just a long endless swath of time that I need to find something to do with.
The world cup doesn't help but I've felt this way a lot these past couple of years. My general goal is to do something, anything that is useful or productive. It helps if it's something that I really need to or ought to be working on but I will settle for whatever pops into my head and seems like it demands to be done. Clean out the cooler. Vacuum. Transfer all your old blog posts to this new website. Organize and sift through all the digital clutter that is making your head explode. Watch an hour and a half talk that is super inspiring and relates to stuff I am really interested in.
It is doing something. Over time there are things to show for it. Just not in a 9–5 structured kind of way.
I need to both try to be more efficient and focused as well as to let go of the anxiety and guilt about not doing enough.
The time will go by either way.
I love the Swiss Miss newsletter. I hate getting email but I always open this one. It brightens my day.
The latest edition included this quote:
I am a sucker for a good quote. And this is a good quote.
It's got the simple and complex thing. Because it really is that easy and that hard. You just have to do it. As best as you can. Even though you don't really know how.
The main thing I like about this is the find friends part. Because I have found some friends, a crew of sorts, of the kind I've been longing for since I finished undergrad and the easy friendships that come with close proximity and common existences.
I had no idea when I took that job at that bike store or got involved with the Bike Root what would happen, where it would take me. I had no idea that I was finding my people, a group of fantastic wonderful people. That it would lead me to friendships and love and community and belonging.
Having good friends isn't something you should take for granted. When I was an undergrad I did. I don't anymore. Instead, tonight I am grateful for the friends that I have found because they are pretty fantastic.
I have been decently diligent about charging my phone lately but still it keeps dying.
I'm getting to that sad point where the battery doesn't last and I basically have to have it plugged in at all times.
Today marks the union of the original provinces making up Canada. It's a day of crowded streets and fireworks. Often it's a day or not much going on.
Perhaps it's a day on which we should all reflect on this big vast land and its diverse people, its past and its future, its charms and its flaws.
I am lucky to be a Canadian. There is such enormous privilege that I gain by being born in this place. I have a high quality of life and am well-educated. I have a passport that lets me do just about anything I want. My nationality gains me respect and favour I've done nothing to deserve. It's easy to forget this.
Then there's the voice in my head that is disappointed with Canada, with our mediocrity, with our lack of action, with our endless willingness to tolerate dysfunction, with our better than the Americans slogan. I often find this place and its culture and its policies and its institutions to be enormously frustrating. We are often not a land of best practices, or one that even tries very hard to live up to its own ideals.
I mean we are the land of universal healthcare yet we fail to ensure many vital services including prescriptions, ambulance rides, vaccines, dental, optometry and physiotherapy. It's a bit crazy for a country that picked Tommy Douglas as its greatest Canadian.
We also have a horrible record on the environment and climate change. Too much money to be made to think of the future.
I lack faith in our institutions especially those that through an outdated electoral system give us one of two parties, neither of which represent me or reflect my values.
So what am I doing here? I thought about moving to Europe. To Denmark or Sweden or the Netherlands or Scotland but then I came home. Part of it was Brexit. Part of it was that being in Canada is a lot easier. This place has to take me. It has to give me healthcare. It has to let me do whatever work I feel like. That's not true anywhere else.
It's easy to be here. It makes sense. I share a culture and language and set of values with the people around me. I don't have to explain things. It just makes sense. As much as I struggle to feel like I belong much of anywhere in this world I do feel like it's easy to be in Canada. This place feels like home more than anywhere else I've tried thus far.
I complain a lot about Canada, about our flaws and imperfections, especially healthcare. I want us to strive more and to do better. To not just shrug through problems but to actually want to solve them, to hold ourselves to higher standards on some of these issues. I do it because I want this place to be as good as it can be and because I think it's worth fighting for.
If anything I like the ideal of Canada. A decent progressive polite place filled with beauty and nature. A place of Canadian English, a magical and amusing dialect of English that I adore. A place that I am from and am in now. A place that I am happy to fight to make better.