Confirmed

March 4, 2009

My knees are officially fucked.  Again.  As the doctor at the sports medicine clinic explained to me (and which I knew from rounds one and two of this over the past 15 years, but was conveniently ignoring), since this is a syndrome there is no cure, only management.  In the interim, there is only pain.
It turns out that going back to running four years ago was a good thing at the time – it did enough general muscle strengthening to placate the problem.  Now, though, it’s a hindrance – not running won’t make it better, but continuing to do so (or to do anything) without braces, orthotics, and physiotherapy (expensive, all of them) will make things worse. As if being confined to this one project, this one apartment wasn’t enough.  It feels like my body is conspiring against me, curtailing my few avenues of mental and physical escape.  Grrrr.

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Distractions

February 23, 2009

I’ve been watching a lot of House lately – episode after episode after episode.  This is one of the ways I deal with funks, to immerse myself in a fictional world even less pleasant than my own.  Melrose Place works quite well for this, incidentally.  Part of House’s appeal for this particular kind of oblivion-viewing is its schadenfreude: sure, I’m miserable, but not as miserable as House; sure, my knee hurts like hell, but I’m not being repeatedly stuck in the spine with giant needles that test for horrible diseases with long, compound names.  Part of it is the mystery – I love a good mystery – but more than that, I think, is the formula.  Lupus is always ruled out at the start, there’s always a seizure, a series of stabs at diagnosis that are thwarted again and again until House strikes upon that last clue.  Always.  This comforts me.  Things get worse and worse and worse, and then better.  Next episode, things get worse and worse and worse, and then better.  Over and over as I slouch bra-less on the couch.  At some point the formula will get comforting enough that I’ll take it seriously: I’m not a locus of mysterious symptoms, I should shower and sit down with my notes and write. Because things get better.

Unmoored

February 17, 2009

The inevitable mid-winter sketchbaggery of grad student life has hit me.  No teaching, just the diss.  No money, no office, just the same four rooms.  Wind chills, cold rain, and now an inexplicably swollen and unbendable knee mean no running. Chapter four is hitting close to home – I’m simultaneously invested in and distancing myself from the material, which makes the act of writing frustrating and upsetting just as the process is becoming more isolating and alienating from that wide world I’m told is out there.  And during the past two weeks my landlords have been renovating the empty apartment below mine, prompting power and water outages, headachey fumes and wall-shaking demolitions that drive the dog and I to R’s house for quiet as well as basic amenities. Maintaining momentum, in either an apartment that feels more cloying each day or one that lacks my library and stacks of notes, is hard. Plus the spine of my trusty notebook has come unglued, so that pages of precious ideas disconnect and slide out.  How melodramatically metaphorical.

So. 2009.

January 7, 2009

I have resolutions this year, unlike last year.  Simple ones, like flossing and washing my face before going to bed, rather than just haphazardly swiping with toner.  “Completing the diss” isn’t a resolution, though, as that has to happen regardless, and if it comes to it, I’d prefer to look back and think “Yeah, I still didn’t floss.”  But since 2009 is now in full swing (i.e. I’ve already finished grading and gone back to writing), not much more needs to be said about the new year.  Or about the holidays for that matter – spent some time with R.’s family, he spent some with mine, everybody liked everyone, I ate a ton of shortbread in defiance of the gift certificate I received for The Running Room.

About the grading: my students’ take-home exam was to pitch their own Canadian film or television series, and to justify their creative decisions by referencing relevant class material.  This made things much more interesting for them, they said, and definitely more so for me.  My favourite line was from a pitch for a zombies-in-Montreal thriller, in which the student was discussing the use of hand-held cameras and linking it to Canadian film’s roots in the realist/documentary tradition: “In keeping with this realism, the zombies will be of the ‘sprinter’ variety . . . ”  Excellent.

It’s been snowing continuously all day, which pleases me more than others.  Each time I pop Alice out for a pee she spins herself in excited circles then dashes headlong into the nearest drift.  I’ve kept a pot of coffee warm for hours, decreasing in inverse proportion to the snow delicately building on my porch railing.  I think both are now nearly done, but as this is January in Montreal and as I’m writing my last major chapter, there will be more tomorrow.

Sitting on my porch earlier this evening, waiting for the sheets of rain that have only now just started to fall, I watched the ever-expanding gang of backyard cats chase fireflies, the bats swoop down and then disappear into the darkness. Off in the distance a train hollered, the dog lay snoring at the top of the stairs, my neighbour popped her head out to exchange pleasantries about the break in the heat.

I entertained an avowed Plateau-er earlier this week. At one point he took a long drag on his cigarette, shifted so my legs rested more comfortably across his, and in a tone typically reserved for cottage country remarked on this peacefulness. I’ve worked this theme before, trying to articulate the intangible reasons why St. Henri feels more like home than most of my (many) other apartments. It’s how the quiet is barely broken by the quick pop of someone down the street opening a third beer, or the way the light from my window pools around the nape of your neck as you prop your legs up on the banister. Laundry lines snake between tall old trees, and when the moon is full its reflection captivates the surface of the canal. Hot July afternoons smell like cut grass, sunscreen, and barbeque. I will admit that the Plateau-er’s air-conditioning is a powerful aphrodisiac, but that’s not what makes the 3am, $17 cab ride worth it – it’s spending those final few moments of replay and relish on a bona-fide porch with the humid summer night resting wetly on my skin. A hangover, perhaps, from growing up in cottage country, but home is where both the beer and I are sweating in equal measure.

Some reflections

April 14, 2008

1. A new dog is a process. Maybe not for everyone, but for me. I loved Isis so much – she came with me through so many big changes: three cities, two degrees; the start and end of my first big relationship; always curled up beside me on the kitchen floor when I was crying about the one that got away. She stared solemnly at me when I got my BA, danced with me when I got my MA, and always climbed into the car first. And now there’s Alice. She’s not Isis, she never will be. There are times when I resent that, because I wish, childishly, that it could have been Isis forever. But that’s not the way pets work.
I’m no longer ambivalent about Alice’s role here – that was hammered home a few weeks ago when the protective grizzly reared its head, that surge of “Nobody fucks with my dog.” We’re having buildy moments – when she walks into the room, plops down on her ample rump and yawns something inside of me aches and smiles at the same time. Like when she stretches beside me on the couch, accidentally kicking me without apology. Or when I ask her to “heel” and she does (these moments are fewer and farther between). I look at her and know that I’m moving toward the ownership mixture of taking her presence for granted and looking at her grinning because that’s my dog.

2. The past few weeks have been spent bouncing from one important thing to another. I’ve been doing lots of talking, but along the way the kinds of conversations that matter, that have become part of the daily routine (not to be equated with the daily grind, but ‘routine’ in the way that the afternoon coffee is routine – necessary, needed, anticipated, cherished) have fallen by the wayside. So has my dissertation, and, reassuringly, I miss it too. These important things hit their expiry dates soon and the routine will return, just in time for terraces and slathering on sunscreen and late-night bouts of inspiration with nowhere to be in the morning. But still…

Enough

February 24, 2008

I think I’ve had enough of winter. Shocking, I know – me, having enough of winter. It hit me today at Winners (an unseemly number of my revelations happen at Winners). I was there buying sweatpants. Yes, sweatpants. Don’t you judge me. When the weather gets marginally warmer, when the sun is out and the sidewalks are covered in that thin layer of slippery dirty water, my pants get very filthy very quickly, due in large part to splash-back from the dog’s four-legged prancing. I’m sick of seeing brown-from-the-knees-down pants drying in my bathroom, and of doing laundry every other day, so a pair of dedicated dog-walking pants just makes sense. I also eyed some cute hoodies, and imagined heading out early one quiet Sunday spring morning with the dog and a coffee when the reality hit me – sure, I’d wear the snug sweatpants and cute hoodie, but sprawled bra-less on the couch watching Six Feet Under and wondering where I could get a will notarized. I wouldn’t even bother doing up the drawstring on the pants. Because it’s still cold, because it’s reading week and most of my friends have left, are shacked up, or laid up, because I have a stack of essays to grade, a decent stash of red wine and Bailey’s, and a dog who doesn’t judge based on sweatpants.
True, I’m leaving. But briefly: a 36-hour working trip consisting of dinner, lecturing at York, dinner, and then back. It’ll be grey and grimy in Toronto too. Right now I want sunshine and dry sidewalks and wide-open windows and a breeze promising more warmth to come. I want to procrastinate on my porch again. I want to drink beer on patios and nap in parks. I want to leapfrog to the tail end of spring and avoid the need for dog-walking pants altogether.

Lately

November 12, 2007

Days, entire weeks, are passing in half-remembered nights and hangovers, lingering coffees and long meetings, drafts tossed off the table in frustration or fury, frantic scrawling on the back of any scrap of paper at hand, sneakers slapping kilometre after kilometre along the canal, late nights and vigorous moaning mornings. I looked at the calendar and noticed that the garbage needs to go out, that it’s November.

Some nights

September 30, 2007

are needed and perfect. A conversation that moves comfortably between the earnest and the banal, a compelling new piano-heavy album, a smoky bottle of red, an email that makes me smile just by being there. It’s quiet outside. I exhale and I stretch and I look down the expansive wooden table to the candle sputtering out and while things don’t simply fall away, not yet, these sporadic solitary nights aren’t nearly as haunted, or as hard. Nighttime has always been when cached doubts sidle out, yet sleep comes more easily lately. It’s even quiet inside.

Allayed

September 20, 2007

So in theory money can’t buy happiness, but it can pay off the steepest of the towering bills and in that respect it buys a sense of relief.  My paycheque finally arriving was one in a sequence of inevitable yet unpredictable events of the week.  The rest were conversations: some the result of the smallness of social circles, some without clear conclusions, some with things that could have been said before. Vila tells me that things are going on in the cosmos – planets are moving around in meaningful ways (her explanations of these dynamics is much more cogent), yet there’s no real consensus about what this entails other than profound shifts. No kidding. I’m not sure where these shifts are going, but since the bureaucratic cogs finally unclogged, and I left those conversations if not happy then at least hopeful, this indeterminacy could conceivably veer my way.