we are all mad

One Year (and counting)

One Year Of the Pandemic
(via lady_bird)

1. Did you catch COVID-19? If yes, when, and was it bad?
Not officially but we have had our suspicions that possibly we might have early on but we aren't sure. So, perhaps not but it isn't ruled out.

2. Did anybody close to you catch the virus, or even die from it?
Lots of people in the close vicinity of me but I know of people online and there are those who I know who've lost loved ones and friends to the virus. I live in an area that is heavily affected by the virus in numerous ways. I hear the ambulances. I see the posts about people passing away in the neighbourhood. I know that not only myself but some people I care about are especially vulnerable to this and this isn't over yet.

3. Did you lose your job due to the pandemic or did your work situation change considerably? Home office?
I didn't have a job so I couldn't lose it. Thankfully, I have my w.s.i.b. pension, small as it be. However, the apartment has become a home office for the main income earner and their job was already a remote work from home one prior to the pandemic so phew on that one. Downside, I didn't expect them to be home all the time and it sucks that their work office isn't an option but at the same time, the incredible relief yet guilt and stress of them having employment during this time period is a lot of pressure and relief? It's a mix of feelings. Especially since nothing is a guarantee and it puts all the more stress on us all, I think.

I haven't been seeing anyone during the pandemic so that answers part of the question - trying to limit outside contacts to minimize risk.

In the Fall, I was taking online classes at a college in a program that I've been wanting to complete. I found online learning to be great but I also realize the privilege in having an internet connection and a computer at home along with the ability to participate in classes. I took a term off but will be doing it again in May.

4. Have you already been vaccinated? If yes, with which vaccine and how did it go?
Nope. Doubtful that I'll be able to any time soon. I would if I could and I will when I can but it doesn't seem like it's going to happen for a while yet.

5. Has your mental health suffered due to and during the pandemic?
I already had a debilitating anxiety condition (and then some) prior to the pandemic. Yes, this pandemic has made it worse. Near the beginning of the pandemic I had to talk to my doctor about the nightmares being beyond anything I could handle. I've had nightmares (horrific ones) for decades due to my condition but they got much worse to the point where I was not okay. I was prescribed something that was supposed to make me not have any nightmares but it didn't stop them although it did what I can only describe as "soften the edges" which made the nightmares bearable again. I seemed to have blocked out how bad it really got because it was that bad.

As for the agoraphobic reclusive tendencies, of course this pandemic has not helped. Not to mention my tick of asking "Did you wash your hands?!" seeing as how it's now completely validated to ask that. Not going outside? Check. Washing hands a lot? Check.

There were a couple instances where I was worried about whether I was okay or not. Or more than a couple. But I'm still here.

6. How do you judge the performance of your local and national government during the past year?
I am not impressed. I think that too many mixed messages have been given. I think the influence of the U.S. during the first year of the pandemic did not help matters at all. Ignorance is rampant among the population with disinformation about actual scientific backed realities being dismissed and I'm so disappointed by people's behaviours overall, including those in positions of power and influence. I am not happy about the greedy and heartless manner that some have displayed during this time period. Consequences of the failures throughout this pandemic by those who could have done better will affect us for years or maybe generations to come.

7. What is the worst memory you will conserve from the past year? What made you angry?
There are a lot of bad memories - from a bigger perspective and a smaller one. Too much.

8. And, if there is one, the best memory? What made you happy?
So many little things can make me happy for a moment and honestly, I don't know if anything big made it into a list that I could have of best memories. On a personal level, I had some bad times with family heartache and stress. Happy moments are fleeting but usually through video games or good conversations with people or while in class when I felt good about writing or myself. I don't know. I'm not unhappy but I am living with such a severe anxiety condition that the moments I am feeling happiness are not quite processed the same way as say, some specific event that might make me feel happy. I am longing for best memories and happiness and such but I will live with being able to have gratitude for a place to live with my books and cats and good coffee when it can be had.

9. Do you think we are over the worst period of this pandemic by now?
No. If one takes a look at the numbers, it's not good. It's going to get worse as the variants (mutations) continue to strive to survive and adapt to us and it's going to spiral more out of control for some time yet. I don't know where some people are where they think that things are going well or okay but they're not in this reality. I'm not judging because I'd prefer that reality too if I could ignore the reality around me and in the actual data of what is going on - locally and worldwide. No, we're not over the worst period. This is the start of another worst period. There could be more. People are acting stupid and couldn't even handle less than one month of staying the f home so how can I expect that they are going to do any better now?

10. Is there anything you would have done differently a year ago if you knew what you know now? Did you, knowingly or not, incur big risks to catch the virus?
I would have stocked up on more essentials so that food and necessities wouldn't be a concern. I would have been more mindful with money and I would have put us in a position to have some sort of cushion instead of how things are at the moment.

11. What about your body? Lost or gained weight? Illnesses of other kinds? Fitness? Injuries?
I gained and now I'm losing again because we're on ramen and one meal per day kind of situation right now. Did not work on my fitness. Kept saying I would but I didn't. As for injuries, household incurred one that required going to the hospital. I've had some scary touch and goes related to stress but so it goes.

12. Did you lose or gain friends? Keep in contact with those you already had?
Meh.

13. How did you spend your free time? Did you get creative? Learn new stuff? Read a lot? Write a book?
Gaming, gaming, gaming. A term of school with full course load where I succeeded at all my classes. Didn't read much but still read a few books - that's an area I've wanted to improve on for years. No writing of any books but someday I will. Did I mention I was gaming? I was gaming. Youtube, Netflix and Spotify had my attention.

14. Do you have children? If yes, how did you manage everything, from homeschooling to having to keep them at home and deal with their desire to meet other kids? Did you have to seek professional help of some kind? How was the school situation in general where you live?
I don't have children. I have cats and I worried about them enough - one of them had a stroke during this pandemic and it scared the heck out of us. She's still going but wow, it was tough to see her go through that. But I do think of those who have children during this time period and oh, my heart goes out to those who are trying to manage it all. I also think of how difficult it must be for the kids. For instance, when I was a child, though we didn't have internet, I did live in a not so great environment and I could only imagine how horrible it would have been to live with the added stress of whatever the parents were going through on top of how they may have already acted prior to the pandemic. Yeah, not a good time. Some people are more fortunate than others. I see that privilege - access to some resources and such - play a huge part in some people's experiences through this time. As for the situation where I live, the pandemic has hurt a lot of people, teachers included.

15. What will be the first thing you will do when it is possible again?
If there are any coffeeshops left by then (places keep closing), I would like to write in my paper journal in a coffeeshop. I also wouldn't mind being able to go for long walks, meandering and taking photos of things, without being afraid that I'm risking my health and that of those I live with.
we are all mad

April 1st, 2021.

Thursday, April 1st, 2021.
11:05pm
The first of April. I checked the bank account and rent has come out. Rent is paid. Things are so tight right now but rent is paid which means we have a place to live still and I am thankful and relieved. I haven't typed a journal entry since March 1st. It's like I'm doing a monthly report only it is too vague and shares very little about all that happens or can happen within one month. I'm not used to writing anymore. I play video games all the time. I don't read the books I have around me that I want to read. I play video games. I'm not just imaginary racing anymore. Now I am into imaginary spacing - series! in! space! is a thing now - 'Elite Dangerous' is the game. Trying to type these words but since this is a new thing I am doing, one of the cats is pawing at a door to get my attention. I changed her water. The garbage needs to go out so I'm getting that done right now by telling the other household participant to do it because I don't go out - especially during another lockdown and when cases are high - no way - and my ears are bothering me which means I likely have some kind of ear infection thing going on and I just don't need to be freaking out. Anyway, this is a terrible way to start a post, to return to writing, to try and come back to online journaling. And the headache is back. That headache. The headaches that started last year that are different from headaches I ever had before. Ow.

I mentioned gaming because it has consumed a lot of my time. Or, I have been consumed by the time I am gaming. I broadcast on Twitch first and then I export to my YouTube channel. The other night I made a vlog where I spoke to the camera 'On Gaming and Grief' and I gave a personal update about some life stuff. I think that I should try to make more vlogs or videos where I talk or share things or maybe ones where I explore my long-time interest in ASMR and share some of my collections (books, music, journals, etc) but I'm not quite there yet. So, most of the time this old YouTube channel I've had seems flooded with my gaming videos. It's what I've been into for awhile though. It's not the entirety of me but I can't deny it's become the main way I pass the hours.

It'd be nice if I was reading a book and losing myself (or finding myself) in the pages of these beautiful books I have around me but it seems easier to pick up the PS4 controller and press R2 than to turn to reading. It bothers me that reading is not my go to for escapism or exploration like it was when I was years ago younger. Or the way I used to write in my paper journals and the snail mail I'd send out. I don't think I've lost the ability but I know that I long to do those things while also pulled toward the interactions and connections on the game - whether that's been good for me or not - and I don't want to dismiss any hobby, interest or passion that people have or any thing that is helping people to cope or distract or help them through this time period or any, really. I just know that I wanted more balance for myself when it comes to the time I put toward my various interests and I know that I haven't put time in for the things that move me most. It's on me to make the effort but - well, I can't even blame the pandemic for this one because this has been a problem for a few years - but I can say that existing during a worldwide pandemic that impacts my life and those I know has most definitely not made it any easier for me to turn to something better for me.

Then again, I know I could be doing much worse. All things considered, I've done alright. Rent is paid. Cats are okay. We're still here. Making it through the rough and tough times when the stress and anxiety peaks. Getting through. What else to do?

I registered for a 2nd Term of the T.P.E. Program the other day for classes in May. I made the Dean's List for Fall 2020 Semester. Wondering if I will do that again this next term. Going to try my best. Easier to show up when classes are online. The break I took was for the best but what I had hoped to improve or change during the time period didn't happen. However, I did come to realize that I have to do this for myself - not to prove anything to anyone or try to make parents or anyone proud or even to show that I can do it to others - no, I have to do it just to show myself that I will follow through with it. There are things I can learn. There were some disappointing realizations I had to come to terms with - that I can't just afford to proceed with my education despite being capable of earning nearly perfect grades or of having the ambitions - that a cumulative GPA and the household credit score comes into play when applying for further higher education - and that my age and "station" in life also affect any prospects I might have even hoped to have - the road to going anywhere further blocked or at the least, congested with all the other people now backed up in the traffic lane due to covid circumstances and such. So if I am going to do this, I need to do it without thinking of some outcome other than the certificate for the program. Get that and see about taking more courses that align with the interests I have. Try to keep an open mind about opportunities while realizing that we're about to go through a lot of things here with the pandemic and what follows after. In the end, all I truly wanted to become was a writer, right? Then what do I really need to be doing? Write.

11:40pm We're going under a lockdown soon. It won't change my day to day life since I've basically been on lockdown for years. But it adds to the anxiety when you know that things are not going well. I had a feeling they weren't because we live beside a highway where ambulances head toward one of the hospitals and it was getting bad for a bit there. I'm not looking forward to the clearing out of encampments (where are people supposed to go when landlords are able to evict people during a pandemic when jobs have been lost? Where is our humanity?!) and the continuous exploitation of those who are forced to work in dangerous conditions and the ongoing ever expanding disparities in our society where people are falling falling falling through the cracks. I haven't forgotten for one moment that it could be me and how careful we need to be to stay where we are let alone how difficult it would have been to not have even the minimum of what we do have. Paycheque to paycheque and you have to feel grateful for even that knowing that others aren't able to have that during this pandemic. For some reason, the wealthy people seem to have no concept or empathy - it's just us down here who walk that line and feel how thin it is, how precarious, how we could fall off at any time - that is what adds to the anxiety, the fear, the hold fast and hold on feeling of this.

I've had a lot of thoughts about a lot of things and not put them anymore except to share with someone who doesn't really do the conversations thing and maybe now and then I am able to discuss with someone on the game but I know that I need to be typing journal entries and returning to my writing. That's where I can explore my thoughts and feelings and hopefully help myself get through this time period. I know that I let the entire first year of the pandemic basically go by without writing much about it, not really documenting an important historical event during my lifetime but just racing, racing, racing. I'll try to do better. Here is a tough sentence to write and some may not take it well or believe it but this is how I feel right now - I don't think this is just going to be a year two of this. I think it's going to last longer.

We haven't dealt with it as well as we could have or should have and there are consequences to that.

Meanwhile, as economic systems falter and the gap gets wider between the haves and have nots and people are trying to survive during not only a pandemic but multiple crisis on calamity of climate disasters, political struggles and basic human needs going unmet, well, let's just say that I'm bracing myself.

Thanks for reading if you made it this far. I would like to come back tomorrow night and write again. Or maybe write earlier in the day if I expect to be doing something else (okay, gaming) with my time. I want to write. Writers write. Writers also procrastinate about writing. And write in their heads while doing other things and then don't write. Or worry about not writing and then further delay writing because they're afraid of what they'll write when they get back to writing.

Stay safe. <3
we are all mad

March 1st, 2021.

Monday, March 1st, 2021.
11:20pm
March rent was out of the bank this evening which gives a feeling of immense relief. The past couple of months have been extra stressful - the start of the first lockdown happening in March, a year on into the pandemic, a week or two ago being one year since the partner returned to Toronto and we shared the space again, not knowing that he'd be working from home from then on, a year of all the wanting to go outside to explore but the sounds of ambulances and other emergency vehicles going past more frequently a reminder that it is not like before covid times out there - certainly not where I live.

The intense amount of anxiety these past few months, especially in relation to finances, was so intense that there were a couple of nights where I wondered if I would be okay, if we would be okay, if I was failing us all, if we were going to be alright. That was simultaneous with the feelings of gratefulness and of being thankful that we have a place to live and while not much income, it's enough to keep us going, and so there is also the awareness of knowing we are fortunate enough for that, and there is some similar feeling like survivor's guilt, if that makes sense? We don't have extra cushion to save us but we have income to keep us going and while that was the case since living in Toronto before the pandemic, it's more stressful now.

I went outside for the first time since November - keeping track with that app - and it was for us to go get our taxes done. Because he was working the two jobs for a few months while living in the other city, it bumped us up into a different bracket. We didn't get to benefit from it because we were paying for rent here and his room there. Then, despite the pandemic and all the things going on, for some reason, there was more money taken for taxes or something and we ended up receiving almost two thousand dollars less back on our cash back refund than we have in previous years. It was an unexpected ouch. I know that it's good that we even get any refund at all but that's due to my having the DTC (Disability Tax Credit). It makes a difference!







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Took some photos when outside but not many. It was a combination of anxiety and feeling disoriented being out in public. Then there was the weirdness of seeing that many people but also not seeing many people? Places being closed but people walking around with no masks and those wearing masks and the thought of how it's good to get exercise outside but the pandemic is real and it's in the air I know some people don't believe it's a big deal but um, it is. If I would have been in a wandering about mood, I could have taken more photos of downtown Toronto, but I didn't. Thinking about it now, I'm reminded of this persistent thought I keep having, this longing and wanting to go for long wander walks, to explore and photograph, to help my physical health - and then I think, oh no, but the virus...

I could say that eventually I have to decide to choose going for walks and perhaps that will be easier when Spring comes and winter chill is gone but I don't know. Anxiety, agoraphobic tendencies and related stuff were issues for me long before this pandemic came along but it certainly hasn't helped. I mean, on the one hand, my ability to stay indoors is helpful to protecting my immune system and also for possibly helping others. Since I tend to get the colds and such that go around, even with how limited my contact with others has been, I don't feel too confident about my chances of not being one of the people who get it or pass it along. Even this recent outside has me nervous with each sniffle and sneeze. Both of us were so tired after going, too.

11:56pm I was still playing the video game (streaming on Twitch, posting to YouTube) and the past few races I have been sitting out but making sure I wouldn't be the in the way, which meant I was distracted and wasn't writing non-stop. I've got three minutes to reach the goal of 750 words - and I just did it, phew! - and that makes me feel relieved because while I will not promise on anything that I will write my words every day this month, it sure wouldn't hurt to try. With two minutes left, I wanted to say that I am thankful that the cats, the other human and myself have a place to live. That we have what we need (and a little bit of then some with the distractions of the internet) and that we are safe. My immediate goals at this time is to try and drink more water, read a book, be more kind to myself, have more patience in general.

Hope you are well, however and whenever this finds you.
so many books

Book Reading List for 2021
- - - - - - -
LEGEND
(date finished)
* = first time read all the way through or never been read before
- - - - - - -

1. In the Café of Lost Youth by Patrick Modiano, Translated by Chris Clarke (13 January 2021) *
2. Bluets by Maggie Nelson (21 February 2021) *
3. Seven A collection of poetry by Sadiyah Bashir (10 April 2021) *
alice lost in labyrinth

Book Reading List 2020

Book Reading List for 2020
- - - - - - -
LEGEND
(date finished)
* = first time read all the way through or never been read before
- - - - - - -

1. A Whore’s Manifesto An Anthology of Writing and Artwork by Sex Workers Edited by Kay Kassirer with a forward by Clementine von Radics (28 January 2020) *
2. oliver a lover all over by Maranda Elizabeth (29 February 2020) *
3. My Art is Killing Me and other poems by Amber Dawn (30 March 2020) *
4. The Color Purple by Alice Walker (07 June 2020)
5. Resilience is Futile The Life and Death of Julie S. Lalonde by Julie S. Lalonde (20 June 2020) *
6. PERSONALS poems by Ian Williams (21 June 2020) *
7. Memoirs and Misinformation a novel by Jim Carrey and Dana Vachon (27 September 2020) *
8. The Fire Next Time by James Baldwin (18 October 2020) *
9. The Four Agreements: A Practical Guide To Personal Freedom A Toltec Wisdom Book by Don Miguel Ruiz with Janet Mills (23 December 2020) *
doctor who try to see what i see

on keeping a notebook

source: The Isolation Journals
also see: 'Joan Didion on Keeping a Notebook' - Brain Pickings


Prompt 121. From "On Keeping a Notebook," by Joan Didion
Why did I write it down? In order to remember, of course, but exactly what was it I wanted to remember? How much of it actually happened? Did any of it? Why do I keep a notebook at all?...

I sometimes delude myself about why I keep a notebook, imagine that some thrifty virtue derives from preserving everything observed. See enough and write it down, I tell myself, and then some morning when the world seems drained of wonder, some day when I am only going through the motions of doing what I am supposed to do, which is write—on that bankrupt morning I will simply open my notebook and there it will all be, a forgotten account with accumulated interest, paid passage back to the world out there: dialogue overheard in hotels and elevators and at the hatcheck counter in Pavillon (one middle-aged man shows his hat check to another and says, “That’s my old football number”); impressions of Bettina Aptheker and Benjamin Sonnenberg and Teddy (“Mr. Acapulco”) Stauffer; careful aperçus about tennis bums and failed fashion models and Greek shipping heiresses, one of whom taught me a significant lesson (a lesson I could have learned from F. Scott Fitzgerald, but perhaps we all must meet the very rich for ourselves) by asking, when I arrived to interview her in her orchid-filled sitting room on the second day of a paralyzing New York blizzard, whether it was snowing outside.

I imagine, in other words, that the notebook is about other people. But of course it is not. I have no real business with what one stranger said to another at the hatcheck counter in Pavillon; in fact I suspect that the line “That’s my old football number” touched not my own imagination at all, but merely some memory of something once read, probably “The EightyYard Run.” Nor is my concern with a woman in a dirty crepe-de-Chine wrapper in a Wilmington bar. My stake is always, of course, in the unmentioned girl in the plaid silk dress. Remember what it was to be me: that is always the point.

Your prompt for the week:
Of her reason for keeping a notebook, Joan Didion writes, “Remember what it was to be me: that is always the point.”

Think back on your life and choose a distinctive age: you as a shy child, or a brazen twenty-something—or even the person you were only a year ago, just before Covid hit. If you compared your journal from then with your journal now, what would be different? What would be the same?


source: Isolation Journals weekly creative prompts by Suleika Jaouad
we are all mad

Learning Reflection Journal

Learning For All (Fall 2020)

Learning Reflection Journal


What do I know already about what I need in order to learn well?
20 September 2020: Staying organized with my Agenda book will help a lot – I’ve already written down the due dates for most of the assignments this term – and looking at T.P.E. by taking it one week at a time is helping! I don’t have a problem with learning, taking notes in class, paying attention to subject matter or participating and handing things in when I’m present. I know that having instructions that are clear and Professors and students that can help with answering any questions I might have helps me out a lot, for clarification.

Other than that, I know that I need to feel like I can put my schooling first and that it’s okay to do this for myself. I need to feel like nothing will interrupt the term, or that if something comes up, that I will hopefully turn to the supports in place (a teacher, another student, a counselor) to help validate the feeling that I can stay in the academic environment, that I can pursue my education.

I know that I have what I need already to learn well. I have a mind that is endlessly curious. I want to break out of old patterns and thoughts that prevent me from moving past the obstacles I have or that I put in between myself and following through. I know that I have the capacity to succeed as a student. I have space in my home environment and I have yet another chance to do this. Only this time, it’s 2020 and it feels like chances are running out.

I already know that I have what I need to learn. What I need this time around to learn my best is something I had to find outside of the classroom – the goal of autonomy and self-sufficiency. I’d say that I need stability in order to learn well but I’ve learned that being stable is something much too fleeting and uncertain to wait around for if I want to do this or anything else in life.

What was my experience of school like in the past? What can those experiences tell me about what I need in order to learn well?
27 September 2020: If I think back to high school (something that happened in the ‘90s) it doesn’t seem applicable at this point, given that my most recent experiences of returning to school have been my attempts at the TPE (previously RTE) program and before that, my experience as a twenty-something year old adult finishing my high school diploma when I was going through the so-called “re-training” program that W.S.I.B. had in place.

My experiences with learning or wanting to learn have never been an issue. When I apply myself (or even when I barely do) I have often been able to do well. My problems have often been external factors affecting my internal lack of being able to cope with too many stressors. If I become too anxious, there is a chance I shutdown and withdraw (from school, literally). I have never felt that I had a support system in place to help me through anything in life, honestly, and so when I stumble, I free fall and I let go of everything just trying to keep some footing. This has often been letting go of my hopes for education.

Personally, I’ve done a lot of self-reflection on this and I believe this stems from me being told as a child from a step-parent that I would never get to go to university if I left that home (I was being abused and I was getting out of there) and unfortunately, this was internalized into a self-fulling prophecy, reinforced when I had an opportunity while living with other parents to go to college early, but instead they used that money for themselves and I kept working at the factory. Since then, supporting myself on my own the majority of my life, I have felt lost with no examples of how to navigate my way into pursuing higher education while being concerned with health, financial and stability of home.

To learn well, I need to build a support system that wasn’t there for me when I was younger, that wasn’t there when I was in my ‘20s, that I still have yet to find. I’m in my forties now and I realize I’m on my own, that I have always been in some way or another, but I don’t want to pity myself for it – I just want to get on with this already and give myself the permission and validation that I can do this. I don’t know if it’s too late. I haven’t given up on trying so that must mean that part of me believes I can do this.

In order to learn well, I need to figure out how to get past the obstacles in my mind and to not give up when the ones in real life present themselves. I need to learn how to get around all that so that I can get through it. I want this. I don’t want to give up on my schooling. I never did. I think I somehow internalized that I was choosing between survival and schooling and couldn’t figure out how to do both.

What I need in order to learn well is to tell myself I will survive and I will pursue my education. I am doing both right now.

What messages have I received from others about me as a learner over the years? How do these messages impact how I think about myself now? Are these ideas about me true?
05 October 2020: I’ve always been told that I am a good student, capable of achieving good grades, that I have the capacity to excel in studies. Unfortunately, I also received the message early on that I could not get a higher education without certain people’s help and it’s turned out to be either a self-fulfilling prophecy or based on circumstances, turned out to be so. Now, as the years continue, I feel less intelligent, more frustrated, less hopeful that there is a place for me in academia. I hope to push through the negative thoughts I may have toward myself and the deep wounds I have regarding lost chances and ruined potential, the possibilities no longer available to me as I age.

The messages I’ve received are mixed. Or they’re been consistent in their belief in me but with nothing behind those words, or actions that deterred any of my attempts to achieve an education. I must still think that I have a chance or else I wouldn’t be trying to do this program right now. I wouldn’t be wringing my hands over a lost half mark on an assignment because I want to get the best marks possible in the hopes I can get into further college (and then university). I wouldn’t care so much about becoming a student and chasing the dream of an education if it didn’t mean to so much to me.

Is it true that I am a good student? That I am intelligent? That I am capable? Yes. Is it also true that I am on my own when it comes to attaining an education? It seems to be so. I was told I was a good student and I was, despite situations at home. I could have done better and I wish I had a support system back then and now to help me in the way that I saw some of my peers / friends be supported on their education and career path. I feel a tremendous weight on me to do something with my life and a diminishing amount of time and energy to do it.

What strengths do I possess that can help me as a student?
18 October 2020: I’m determined. When I choose to focus on a task, I can work on it until it is finished. While I am not immune to distractions, when I’ve set my mind to something, I put what energy I have into it. I’m more organized than one might expect of a forty-something year old who has no job, no routine, no major responsibilities to keep them on track. I make good use of an agenda / organizer and have a talent for checking off boxes. Never underestimate the power of a to-do list in whatever form it might be! I’m driven, despite circumstances and self-sabotage, and I can be persuasive when it comes to moving things forward and toward what I would like to do. I sincerely have a yearning for learning (sorry, Kate, I had to) and this insist wanting to pursue education has not waned even as time and opportunities seem to be getting away from me.

I’m self-aware enough to know what I struggle with and what challenges me and I’m very conscious of how I stumble over perfectionism and my own anxieties of failure. This term I have taken note of when I am close to the edge of throwing my hands up in the air even though I do indeed care and I’ve stopped myself from jumping --- because I know I want to be here. Realizing that I have to show up for myself and I have to get the work done – to know that it is in my hands to alter my path – that is probably the greatest strength I hold at this time as a mature student.

What supports do I need in my life outside of school that would help me thrive as a student (e.g. a person to cheer me on, particular resources like housing or income, a certain kind of place to do my homework, etc.)?
30 October 2020: I thought about this question last night after taking a look at it. I thought of how I had a counsellor of sorts years ago – one that met me at a coffeeshop in the neighbourhood when I lived in The Beach/es for a time. She was great to speak with and it got me out of the house regularly to go for that one block walk (later, walking some more to take the long way home along the lake) and I know for a fact that having someone like that to listen and advise would be beneficial. I don’t have anyone like that in my life at this moment although I do have the outlet of journaling, which I intend to do more consistently moving forward. More of a support system is something I have wanted but lacked for nearly my entire life and I’m slowly coming into acceptance of that. Sure, I have a partner who cheers me on but honestly, they are okay with whatever I want to do – they just want me to be happy. I’m not of course. I go through periods of restlessness and wanting everything different. I apply to jobs and don’t get hired (even more consecutive disappointments as of recent) and I’m trying to think of other ways I can place myself in some relation to the world. (I filled out a volunteer application for literacy tutoring and hope to hear something back about that.)

I noticed that I was headed toward a familiar pattern of self-sabotage in the past couple of weeks and allowed myself a week to not put any pressure on myself regarding assignments, to attend classes and not expect more of myself, telling myself I would catch things up the following week. I’m in that week right now and leaving things to the very last but I haven’t given up yet. I know that if I drop one course, then I’ll drop another and then I’ll disappear from the program like I was never there. Noticing that I was close to doing that, I sat with it and did not act on it. I’ve stayed in my classes. I’m going to make the most of the opportunity to do the program from home – without having to worry about transit costs or the panic attacks I have before leaving the apartment each day. I miss the academic environment and the one on one talks I could have with professors / teachers at the college and the ability to sit in the library and to be out and about – take photos of the city, walk a bit – but I also know that this is probably the best opportunity I will have to show to myself if I really want to follow through with this program or not. If I want to attain any education after this (and I do) I’ll have to follow through.

So, with that in mind, I did something I rarely do and that is I reached out and asked for help within the TPE student led chat group on Teams. I said that I was behind on my assignments and while I can do them myself, I needed the push of presence. One classmate heeded the call and we had a Zoom Meeting. I was able to complete one assignment during that time and it helped to get me moving again with my homework. (For instance, I’m now typing this at eight o’clock in the morning on a Friday when I had put this off since last Friday.) I think that asking for help instead of being the one who usually helps whenever anyone asks was something outside my usual habits and that I shouldn’t stop myself from asking for help again. Better that I do that instead of giving up on myself or the program. P.S. I need to apply my resilience to my studies.

As an adult learner, how are my learning needs different than when I was a kid? How can I apply that knowledge of how I’ve changed to how I approach school?
09 November 2020: I have to be organized with my schoolwork and be motivated to stay on track. I don’t have as many options or as much time. It makes how I learn very different than before. I’m more aware of how much this matters as an adult learner – the grades, the follow-through, the chances to pursue education further – but I now have to deal with the fog of years of medications, the aging brain, the lack of structure in my life because I don’t have much else to do aside from this as I’m unable to find work or get a volunteer position. I’m in need of more fortitude and follow-through and I have to make myself pay attention more than I ever did before. It’s easier to gravitate toward distractions as an adult. I have more at hand to divert my attention - problems of home life, health, economic concerns, worries about whether I can get accepted into more college and how will I have the money to do that and still survive? All of this affects how I learn and what I need to do it well. I need to keep a roof over my head which means minding the finances and checking in on the partner (and hoping he’ll be honest with me) to see that we’re okay so I can focus on schooling. I’ve changed in my ability to bounce back as quick from disappointments, even within the past ten years I have noticed this when I’ve been an adult learner sporadically since exiting the factory in my ‘20s. I’m becoming a bit stronger and more resilient when it comes to school partially out of desperation because of time lost, time passing and also because I know I must do something to shift the direction of my path. My needs are the basic hierarchy and self-love. That never changed. I must secure those for myself and path of education.

If I was to design a school that was designed perfectly for learners like me, what would it be like? (for example, how would teachers teach? How would your days be structured? What would the physical space be like? How would people relate to each other? etc.)
25 November 2020: Surprisingly, what is working the best for me this time around for school is being able to do my courses online at home. The ability to concentrate on classes without worrying so much about panic attacks prior to leaving the house, without being self-conscious about my appearance, without having to worry about the cost of transit – all of this has been helpful for me. It could be that I’m more motivated because of the pandemic and reduced options for work. Perhaps I’m more self-motivated and that is making all the difference? That said, I miss the college and being in an academic setting. I miss sitting in the library at breaks. I miss being able to talk with the teachers one on one. I don’t miss classrooms that felt suffocating but I understand that’s just how the building can be and that teachers would do their best to get a good classroom when possible.

I don’t think that this program could get any better than it already is, honestly, with how flexible it is with students and understanding of our various needs and where we’re coming from in life. The online learning experience has pros and cons to it but one of the things that has stuck out to me most is how for some of us, this has brought in more inclusivity and accessibility, more accommodation for several. At the same time, I know that it has affected people who aren’t able to access internet or have computers.

How has my understanding about what I need in order to learn well changed this semester? How would I explain my learning needs to another person, if I was asked?
30 November 2020: Turns out that all I need was for a rare event like a global pandemic to occur, simultaneously while we have internet available at home for remote learning! It’s as easy as that. Simply make a horrific tragedy happen worldwide with incompetent leadership and an already fractured society that doesn’t make sure everyone is okay and suddenly, I’m all ‘Melancholia’ (2011) up in here. I’m in my comfy clothes. I don’t have to worry about whether I’m going to have a panic attack prior to leaving the house.

I miss some aspects of being at the college but how many times can I take the exact same photo of the streetcars rolling past from the patio as I try yet again to make it through first semester without something in my daily life tripping me up, giving me an out before I can disappoint myself academically, some crisis as reason to put my energy toward instead, or just an excuse to self-sabotage?

What I needed for learning well was to feel that I was doing this for myself and that I was ready. Nothing like a pandemic to bring into clarity what one wants and what one doesn’t. Feeling the shadow of looming death is also a motivator. Having figured out that nothing else is working out so far to change things and look at how I’m home anyway, why not follow through with the program? It seems to have worked out for me this first term and I’m hoping it’s not a fluke, a once every 100 years kind of thing.

I learned from myself and for myself that I need to ask for extensions if I need them. I need to know when I’m overwhelmed and make the decision to work through it or to ask for help. Having teachers that understand how perfectionists put things off when the student is competent to complete their assignments, well, I believe knowing that there is a level of compassion regarding that has helped immensely. It reiterated to me internally that I can have that compassion toward myself. And also showed me that I can still do the thing. I’ve done the thing! I’ve made it through first time.

To summarize, what I need in order to learn well is to believe in myself. Push myself over the obstacle of feeling uncomfortable and uncertain when I’m facing the daunting deadlines. Allow myself to rest when needed. Understand that this is a process for me. Also, this chance to participate in this program is a privilege for me and it is also a choice. I am making this choice and owning this choice by putting forth my best attempt and showing up. Virtually.

In a practical way, having an Agenda (Planner) and keeping it handy has been an invaluable tool in staying organized. Being organized has helped me make it through the First Term and will most likely save me during Second Term. Thank you for making us do those excruciating assignments!

amber dawn pullin
30 November 2020
we are all mad

so it goes (again)

Saturday, October 24th, 2020.
9:25pm
It was earlier today that I had a great soliloquy or monologue, a definitive statement, passionate response and reaction to the recently all too brief not quite but almost possible something. It was said that it was the kind of thing I should write down and post to the blog, that the words I spoke and what I said and how I said them, it was moving and heartbreaking and I know it sounded beautiful. Beautiful and sad. But I didn't write it. I used up all the words in speaking them out loud to the cats and the apartment and the person I live with. I should have gone straight for the computer and typed it all as it came to me instead of speaking it out loud. I have heard that writers should write their stories first before they talk about them. If you've said the thing it's like you've done the thing but you haven't but your brain doesn't know that. The way I spoke, my mind has already written the lines. All of the phrases, the poems, the paragraphs - everything was written and now there is nothing to write down.

I have to go to the washroom but I'll come back to this after I'm done.

9:43pm Nothing. But there are more sirens lately. Emergency vehicles headed toward the hospital, taking the highway. Recently, so much noise as the never-ending work project on part of the facility across the street continues. I was so frustrated at six-thirty this evening that I shouted out the door, "GO HOME!" part in plea and desperation. For one thing, that's far too long a work day to have such noisy noise in a residential neighbourhood. And the other thing is how many years that building has been worked on - the entirety of my time here (over 3 years already!) and it was started years before then. In the meantime, condos have gone up from nothing, neighbourhoods have been torn down and built up, things have been accomplished. That is what makes me think the site is just a work project from the city, which is fine, okay, I get it, but if the extra effort is because of the spotlight on care facilities during the pandemic, perhaps put money and care into the nearby facilities then, instead of just making a lot of noise. The thing is, after I yelled that out, the person stopped. The jackhammer stopped. Timing or the fact it was way past time to go home, it did stop.

I put the kettle on so that I can sip on peppermint tea in a bit. It will need to cool but I need the fluids. I also need to take a long walk. Today had a sky of puffy white clouds and the blue sky and it was sunny. It would have lit the autumn colours in a - 9:54pm - maybe it was five thirty when I yelled for them to go home. I don't know exactly now. I can't remember. It was still daylight. I just want to be clear that I don't remember exactly now. I'm unsure. I know that they were working later than they usually do and the noise was going on much later than it should. I'm doubting myself the specifics.

wrong number.
The last time we spoke, it was Wednesday night. After over two hours of text conversation, it concluded with a phone call of nearly half an hour. It was at 12:34am this morning that I deleted the thread of conversation. Deleted the text messages in one press of the button. I had to ease into that. Earlier in the evening or was it earlier on Friday, sometime around there maybe, I deleted the contact info from my phone. But having the messages still with the number attached, holding on to that for the time I did, it was really going to be the last thing I could do. Now, I can't contact them. I didn't save their number. I didn't make note of it anywhere. They have more information on me than I do of them so if they wanted to ever reach me, they could. I left it to them.

Prior to the wrong number, my focus was entirely on my classes and staying on track. That, and navigating the stressful flare-ups of day to day life. The pandemic. This situation. I felt restless enough to have applied again for work that I am unsure I can attain, given the gap in working. I was entering into the phase where I think about apartments in The Beach/es and long walks by the lake - the lake over there being the same lake over here but to me, a different feel because of when I last lived there. I'm a free spirit, as even the person who lives with me called me so, recognized in me again today, spoken aloud. I don't feel free because I'm not. I've been described as the woman in the high tower by someone else. I realize I've put myself into a cage with an amazing view, but a cage nonetheless. I'm spoiled in my confinement. I have so many books. So many games. All the music and other distracting delights one could hope for - and I do have my solitude, just not alone. And doesn't that make it something to feel all the more grateful for? How many people would beg to have my spot, this place and space that I take up? I am fed well. I have good coffee. I have good tea. My cats are safe around me and with the other human that they like as well. I remember the time I had another man over here - last December was it? - and when one of the cats was getting his attention (allofthem), I was upset by it - feeling that only this other human should be able to do that. How easily the cats will accept someone else. It didn't feel right at the time. But the cats were well when he was gone. I took care of them (with our combined income) and I scooped the litter, took out the garbage, fed and watered them, pet them all, had long cat naps together. One of them in particular that feels this person is her human, she was much more settled without him here. She was less neurotic in her patterns because she knew I wouldn't put up with it and they weren't all trying to figure out their order of dominance, or line up for favour. I give in to that and don't line up at all but his presence and how he indulges them makes them think they should indulge in him. I do the opposite. I'm the most disinterested cat in this one household.

But back to last week. I was caught off by surprise. A curious text message. I thought it was someone else at first, someone from Tinder days who had my number still, would message me once in awhile "accidentally" sharing a pic. I'm sure I simply closed the message. But when receiving another message another day, I replied. Playful. In a mood. New moon energy? I went with the flow. They were looking for a Sue. Someone from a party (who has a party in a pandemic?) and I suppose they were given the wrong number or they did not enter the right digits (or did they?) and from there, an exchange of easing their embarrassment over whatever photo they may have sent. They kept calling me dude, as if to call out the fact that I wasn't one. I don't know. It intrigued me. We messaged further. I confessed.

My name is not Sue.

They were a wrong number. But - our words exchanged naturally, easily, playfully, stimulating me on the intellectual level and in the conversational tone. I miss dialogue and why is it so much more fun with someone you feel some chemistry to, some attraction too, unseen or unknown but felt somewhere, like the invisible energy that is bending between each one of you. It was clear by the second or third exchange of messages that there was something going on. Tingles of excitement and arousal of not entirely a sexual kind but of the mind. The part of me that craves not simply attention but focus of language and direction of intention. It was hot. It was needed. It was wonderful.

If I told you that we were finishing one another's sentences - via text - and that I would sometimes answer a question while he was typing out the question - sent at the same time - it was breathtaking. Before too long, images (not simply the photos exchanged but) visualizations of that human being and my human being (being me, myself, this person I can be, want to be, would like to be) existing in shared space in moments not happening yet but could - he even described some - from morning coffee to reaching down to put fingers into my hair while reading - to read to one another - to listen to him rant and ramble about anything - to imagine myself being able to rest my exhausted self that yearns for that, in hearing someone else talk so that I can be silent and take it in - oh, I sighed with the wanting of it just now. I would love to hear his stories. To hear his feelings - the fact that he could articulate emotion and thought and opinion - I crave it.

But in that last night, he called me "baby" - a pet name I enjoy but haven't been called in so long - not in a way where I could receive it with a straight face. That dynamic does not exist in the situation I am in. I have not actually let someone call me something like that for awhile and the last time I did, I think that I was upset by it because I knew they were not calling me it with any true understanding of what it means. I am no one's baby until someone can be able to confidently say, "you are mine" and for me to feel it true through and through. And in knowing when they call me theirs, they would have to know as well that I am very much someone who belongs to myself. So for them to be able to call me theirs, I would be submitting in trust and love and did I mention trust, oh yes. This is not impossible - in fact, I felt it all too possible recently - but I would at least need to have had it go on a bit longer than it had. I have given of myself so easily to some people in some recent years and it has resulted in heartbreak. Whether by my own choice or theirs, it did not become anything more than what it was and that was not enough.

11:12pm I just listened to someone's self-indulgent self-pity and I could entirely relate (excluding the being successful at their art thing) but right down to the sleeping pills, I could relate. And I call bullshit because I think that if you want to take a break, take a break. If you are questioning if you're doing what you should because your heart isn't in it (or it's broken) then geesh, take a damn break. Much of the rest of us haven't the luxury - either we don't have anything to take a break from or we can't stop what we're doing - which is likely not what we love - and can't even manage to spare the expense of dwelling on the argument of whether to indulge in our existential dread and how we waste the hours - oh, but even in my failure of a life, I still do those things. I did or do all the things that I surprisingly can, and none of the things that I might surprise myself that I can.

Anyway, I distracted myself with someone else's heartbreak as art and did not continue writing my own. Long story still long but I can attempt to abbreviate I was falling for someone but holding back / reigning it in during the last interactive exchanges because I did not want to put so much on the wish before ever meeting. I do not deny even now that what I was feeling was something throughout my body, from mind to centre of my absent womb. I felt the tingles all the way through. I was just trying to practice temperance. Because the more we text and talked, the more I wanted to meet, to know for certain that face to face, it would be the same and verification this was truly a beginning - because my belief extends in and out of dreams and I want to feel it in my waking hours so that I might have hope that it will continue there.

Between my push away of the pet name "baby" (was it misinterpreted, as though I was the type who wouldn't like that and other names? Or did they assume that I am called that by someone else, when I am not - do not let them call me that, as the trust is long gone and I was never fully theirs, ever) or what? What was it? The break of flow? The slight suggestion that I may not be agreeable at first to all things. Or the push away they might have felt, not realizing, it was just a protective momentary thing. If we were to have met under this upcoming full moon as I had hoped to, if the same want and feeling was there - how I would have swayed to that word.

Or was it the insistence that we should meet soon? They seemed agreeable but also, it did seem they were delighting in the tension, the rising frustration, the wanting of it between us. Practically, or, on practicality, I could see that meeting anytime soon could also be a bad idea, given that there is a pandemic. While my bubble has consisted only of one other person and four cats that stay indoors, I know they have at least one person they care for (their Mum) who they would have to be considerate for and I would not want to be of danger to their loved ones. They also seemed as if they would have friends and other people in their life - (after all, the first texts were because of them being introduced to someone at a party) and while I can not relate because I have a much more confined existence since making the decision years ago to move away from Toronto and moreso since the return, I can understand any precautions one might want to make. Even if it was related to me that our meeting was fate.

11:29pm and so I am back to silence. the silence of having all these things I would like to express and share with someone that I can't. back to the numbing down of knowing I am going without. I am back to withholding, holding with myself the parts of me that I wanted to share. I am an open book to one who can read me. I am turning pages for someone who is good with their hands. I am prose, I am poetry, I am fucking language to someone who devours words like I do. I am a muse who is inspired by musings. I feel the fire lit and I write with it. I want that. I want that into my later days, the nights, the time that will continue passing until I do. I want that more than time wasted in wanting.

I never planned to settle. Now, my plan has had to be to settle for the time being until I can plan a better way to preserve the safety of myself and the cats and the person who has been there for me these years, carrying one another in the fumbling way that hasn't worked out but is, as he put it today, "better than worrying about living with a roommate that might steal my stuff." And to be honest, I have far more stuff to be stolen but yes, we have at least that level of knowing and trust with one another. We know the ways we harm one another and the ways we do right. But I have been so tired.

If I could leave or live here on my own with enough money to take care of myself, I would. If I could hold to the promise we have of "not f'ing the other over" and I could either live on my own again (with the four cats, granting him visitation of course because we are family) or if I could take the time it would take, however long it would, to know I could be with someone else and not be an awful person by messing up our finances or putting either one of us at risk of the things that can happen in such a situation, I would. I would because I know that I have tried for years. Years and years. Even before the officialness of it all. I had tried and did what was right at the time but it was also wrong. I know that I should have stayed where I was in 2012. I also don't entirely regret having left. It was what I did for my best friend and they were there for me too. We experienced things together. I had hoped for more growth. Better. I have had to realize more than once that a person can only go as far as they want to or will allow themselves to, so far as personal stuff goes. That includes myself. I have wanted to - go further, I mean - and I think I have. But it's only so far and then I am up against the same corner that I can not find a way to turn yet. I have tried, on my own, to do this. I recognize the points in time where I had the means and did not. I must forgive myself for that. Other than that, I am not terribly unhappy - just terribly sad.

He only wants me to be happy. He could continue on this way, even with all that I don't give, that I keep away - (though I am painfully blunt and open and honest about my thoughts and feelings and experiences) - but what I do withhold is this way about me that I never kept from others that I loved in the way that I would like to love again, only better, now with my learned experience and compassionate self. If I could just settle, be okay with not having the types of conversations I yearn for, the touches I wish to give and receive, the intimacy and trust I want to open up to again - if I could just be okay with this - but I'm not and I won't be.

So, this recent experience was just a reminder of what I already knew. Another reminder that I still have a beating heart and sensations of flesh and that connection to brain activity that gets so little action in my current circumstances. It was all awakened and I was thankful. Now, I am mourning again.

I'm not crying over someone I didn't even get to meet, let alone only messaged back and forth a few days, a couple phone calls (though still, more than what I had in a longer span of time with the person I share living space with) no, I am old enough to not be crying over that. No, it was that it was almost real and then it was gone. It was there. Shown to me in the thoughts you have just under your day to day mind, and it was felt in my chest and I was reminded with the example of it how much I desire that, need that, want that, hope for that ---

and then nothing.

The loneliness magnifies itself after that. Even with a consoling hug from the person I share this space with. Even with their understanding. The recognition of their part in this. And the parts they can't have. It tossed me through the waves of the times I was someone's - where I gave myself to them fully, as fully as I could during those times - and how I want that again. Did I even get to mention how much this wrong number liked my words, the language - oh and he did not even get to hear the half of it. There was so much more if we had gone further.

I wanted to go further. I wanted to meet halfway. At the bridge. At the full moon. To know for sure (even if I had thought at the time I knew for sure already but tangibly, I always thought people should meet as soon as possible so as not to be disappointed - a combination of my own feelings of self-consciousness and the rare instance when the chemistry is not quite there in person - saves time) but now I don't even know why at all.