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Tomorrow is mother’s day. Oh, how I miss her. But lately I’ve taken to expressing gratitude that she’s not here for this. This Covid-19 lockdown, she’d be worried more about Shawn and me than about her own self — and the brain tumour thing, too. She would hate it knowing that chemo’s been challenging for me, and there would be no way to be together. So I’ve been saying, “Well, it’s a good thing Mom’s not here for this”. And my brother agrees.

But then, a couple of weeks or so ago, (it was a hard time, too, I was all barfy and weak and sleepy), she did come. I felt her so strong, that I woke completely alert from a nap and said, “I have to call Mom”. But then I realized she wasn’t there to answer. I felt her right beside me, that time, and another time too. The feeling of her hung around for a while. I could hear her laughter — almost feel her hug me. Though she wasn’t here, not really.

It took me until just the last couple of days to realize that, no, she was there. That was her answer. She’s right here, just as she always was. That’s why I felt her. But I don’t need to tell you that — you knew.

Happy Mother’s Day.

Chemo ‘n’ Covid

I am not at all motivated to write. This is an internal life I am living at present. I’m in a position where self-isolating is totally possible, and not at all a hardship. Not like most of the rest of the world. I don’t yet know if I’ll be able to go to work when my medical leave is over. But I’m not fussing about it. I’d like to. But at the same time, I haven’t done hardly any of the things I said I’d do — write every day, play my accordion, exercise every day, cook delicious things.

I apparently missed the notification that I was embarking on a sick leave. And hoboy, I’ve been sick. I am nearly done round 5 of chemo now, and feeling better every day. But the exercise every day is still a bit challenging. For example, I went on a bike ride today — 30 minutes — and nearly puked 10 minutes in. Yesterday it took me over an hour to complete a 30 minute workout. If I were talking to anyone but myself, I’d say, “Dummy, you’re on chemotherapy! That shit is toxic — take it easy — and someone ELSE’S version of easy!”

So that’s what i’m doing. I’m even going to post this, even though there’s nothing particularly interesting in it, or pictures or anything. It’s the practice that’s the important thing. write. you’ll get better if you do it.

Do you remember…?

When was the last time you hugged someone (someone not quarantined with you)?

I can’t remember. It was more than two weeks ago — Maybe it was when Karla spotted me at the most recent meeting of our new feminist discussion group. “The most recent” sounds a lot better than “the last”. Maybe it was when I dropped my friend off at her house after a 12-step meeting. Won’t be doing that for a while. All the meetings are online now, and I’m not to leave home, except to walk the dog and go to medical appointments. High risk for infection, me. So’s my brother, but he still goes to work. He builds fire trucks, though, doesn’t have to breathe right close to other people.

When was the last time I went out for a meal? Well, Su and I went out for tacos after the most recent meeting of our feminist discussion group (we plan actions, too. Or we will, once we can leave our houses again). The time before that, I went out for breakfast with my friend and former colleague (from when I was a university teacher). He’s tenured, a few years from retirement. I’ve thought of him so often the last couple of years — I admire him and enjoy his company. Though I was pretty being within a few days of starting chemo, I enjoyed our meal together. That time, the restaurant was empty. It was very early in the morning. Beautiful breakfast — soft-poached eggs, avocado on toast, yogurt and fruit. I was pretty sick, I remember. It was within a few days of the beginning of my 4th round of chemo. We talked about the idea of the “devil’s advocate”. He said, my friend, he said, “there is no place in the university for the devil’s advocate. Everyone must believe the same thing now.” He’s alarmed about this.

When the faculty of education hounded me out, he and another faculty member went to the faculty association, outraged, and wrote letters and demanded they do something to protect me. I didn’t know that then, not until it was all over, but it was sure encouraging to learn. He took some risks, in fact. He refused to chair a committee to evaluate and allocate courses to the sessionals (of whom I was one– though my file was ‘mysteriously’ left out that time) due to the lack of transparency, and the constraints imposed by the faculty on his and the committee’s leadership and judgments.

In true “Big A” Academic style, he looked up the history of the idea of, and value for, the devil’s advocate. He went back to the story of Job in the bible. He read it in Hebrew, Arabic, English and, for good measure, French. In each version, the story began with, “So the devil was strolling through God’s court. And God happened to meet up with him and asked him what he was doing these days….” They apparently had a pretty amiable conversation.

It’s true, they did. I looked it up in my grandfather’s bible, the little one that he got May 1st, 1927 from the Brynna Welsh Congregational Sunday School. Four days later, he sailed from Southhampton to Canada.

Anyway, back to the devil. and Job. and God. I guess the Devil could get a capital letter, too. Let’s change that to “Satan”. says so right here in the bible, too. So God says to Satan, “Hey! How are you? What have you been up to?” and Satan says, “Oh, I’ve just been roaming the earth, looking around, bumping into people, you know…”. God asks Satan if he’d run into Job on his travels. God was quite fond of Job and told this to Satan. He said, “That guy, Job, he’s one righteous man, loves his family, does right by his community, and he’s good to me, too.”

“Yea, I know that guy,” said Satan, and he continued, “Of course he is generous and good and loyal to you!” said Satan, “why wouldn’t he be righteous and on good terms with you and everyone else? He’s got everything! Lots of grain, many head of cattle, a pile of kids and grandchildren who all adore him and are successful and all that. It’s easy to praise your name when he wants for nothing!”

Well. God was kind of miffed, he had more faith in Job than all that. So he said to Satan, “alright, you go then, give him some challenges — you’ll see. Only you can’t put your hands on him, just his stuff”

Satan really gave it to Job, I tell you what. And Job, he was upset, of course, but he never gave up his faith, and he never cursed God, either. Ever, even when God gave Satan the okay to turn up the heat. Anyway, the point is, the Devil’s advocate is the one who helps the righteous become stronger; the one who points out the flaws in the arguments and helps the followers provide guidance to the leaders. How do you know you’re on the right track unless the Devil’s advocate tests you? God doesn’t come off looking too good in this story; and Satan, well, he doesn’t look as bad as all that, really.

At any rate, in the end, Job became more than he was before, and he had more, too. Lived to be about 140 years old, knew all his grandchildren — became a happy guy again. Would he have had as satisfying a life had he not endured all that suffering in the middle there? Well. Probably. Who knows?

I liked that story. Got me thinking. My professor friend, he does that for me. Gets me thinking. And now I won’t see him again for a long while. I am SO glad we got together that day. Covid-19 wasn’t even a whisper then, not one I was hearing anyway. That was February 26th.

The last public gathering was when we had Lee speak to our gender-critical feminist group about a history of the rise of gender-ideology and its effects on feminist organizing and women-only spaces. March 14. Great discussion. Anyway, since then, everything has been cancelled. So it’s not just feminists anymore, that’s kind of nice. It’s been a lot more peaceful around here. whew.

March 29th: three more days until chemo begins again. This week has been good; more moving, more writing (letters!), more outside time with the dog, and a ton of Zoom meetings. I miss being with people. A lot. But I am grateful for technology that helps us connect; I’m grateful that I feel well and there’s lots to do around here, still; I’m grateful that there is Employment Insurance (though I’m still REALLY angry there is no more Unemployment Insurance). I hope there will be increasing momentum for a Guaranteed Livable Income as we go on. We can totally do it.

In closing — I cherish the last times. the last time I saw my brother and sister-in-law (Christmas lots of food and laughter and cold); the last time I was at a big public gathering–that was when I presented to Vancouver City Council on behalf of our group to tell them to fund Vancouver rape relief and women’s shelter (they didn’t, of course. Self-righteous bullies, can’t let women organize ONE place just for women, not ONE). Vancouver Rape Relief and Women’s Shelter is a small, and mighty group of women who have organized a 24-hour rape crisis centre and transition house for battered women and their children for almost 50 years now. They have a global influence by this time. They are principled feminists, and they maintain a women-only organization. They are dangerous to the powerful because they are tenacious and brave, and they will keep trying out new tactics to reach women and offer opportunity as well as solace and real safety. We ARE that dangerous to the powerful, all us feminists. We won’t shut up in the face of their threats, dismissal and insults

— but now we have the Covid, and what will that help us do, in the long run? What will it hinder, in the long run?

I think the last in-person meeting I went to was when a guy celebrated one year. His story was inspiring and the cake was, too. Win-win. The last person to visit our home — Marusha. The last time I shook someone’s hand, when I left my volunteer shift and he took over from us. The last time I went for a coffee — Beaucoup on Fir — with amazing pastries as well. I hope these won’t be the last–the end. But there are always last times. We never know when they will be.

oh, I just came back in from playing my accordion when everyone was doing the 7 pm cheer for the front-line and health-care workers. One day, I promise, I’ll start an finish a post on the same day. Then it won’t be such a dog’s breakfast, possibly…

It’s not a spa, after all — [Feb 27 2020]

Well, week one of my medical leave is over. I had imagined that I would do light workouts every day, play my accordion every day, write, read, prepare my story for the Seattle Storytellers Mabinogion weekend in May (that’s why I was writing down Welsh words), go to a meeting daily, iron shirts, take the dog out, cook more and get rid of a bunch of stuff, too (books, papers, photographs, my beautiful desk, knick-knacks I don’t want anymore (there are none)). But did I do any of that?

No. No I did not. I’ve worked out a couple of times, and have gone out with the dog every day, but played accordion only once, ironed a shirt, cooked one meal…This whole chemo thing is a lot more work in and of itself than I had imagined. You know, when I’m between rounds, I kinda forget the fatigue and the pukey and the way my skin feels inside out and prickly all the time. I forget that sleep is nearly impossible at night, but I’m always too tired to read or write. I forget that my fingers are all fumbly on my accordion and it takes me forever to forge a recognizable tune. I forget that picking up a barbell seems impossible (until I did it again today, and then I was just a lot weaker than I want to be — but still, I completed a whole workout, so that’s something). But I also forget how satisfying it is to do any of that stuff, even at half-speed or less.

So this week, I presented to city hall and that was good. Didn’t make one iota of difference to their vote, they still decided against funding Vancouver’s only women-only rape-crisis centre and transition house. But the city council and the staff saw a strong showing of solidarity and support for Vancouver Rape Relief and Women’s Shelter. I don’t think they heard a word — most of them looked pretty checked-out during all the presentations–and they’d made up their minds. Or the city staff had made up their minds for the council. Looks like that’s how it’s done. Anyway, it looks like there is a women’s liberation movement in Vancouver — and that there are a good number of male allies, labour-movement and left allies, and regular people allies. We left half way through the day and walked home. We knew what the weak-hearted and social-climbing liberals on council would do, but we were encouraged to be together with so many who would stand together to protect women-only space, and women’s rights to speak in public — to take up space in public.

March 15: it seems now that the meaning of public space, and the right to take up public space–or to protect it — has to shift for a while. There are empty shelves in all our grocery stores. I went to costco a few days ago, but walked right out after seeing the line-ups (we have toilet paper), and we’re running low on ground flax seeds, so we won’t need as much tp in a while. heh.

I finally backed out of the powerlifting competition I’d entered, too. I wrote to the nurse practitioner who is, seems to me, the hub of all the neuro-oncology stuff going on at the BCCA. I figured if I wrote on a Saturday, she’d get back to me sometime on Monday. She replied within an hour, I think! And her reply was, basically, “ABSOLUTELY NOT”. She worded it much more nicely, though. told me that she wasn’t going to the gym, either, and had cancelled an important family gathering, and they were really running as fast as they could to keep up with all the changes. It was clear that my participation in this meet had less to do with my ability and more to do with my responsibility. I’m a bit more vulnerable, and if I can take precautions to avoid getting sick, that means more resources available for other people. And for me, down the road when I may need it and the pandemic is died down. No sense exposing myself to a bunch of germy powerlifters and referees and audience members and getting sick at the same time as everyone else. Where’s the fun in that?

I was disappointed and relieved at the same time. There’s the fall classic coming, and by then I’ll be done chemo, and the covid pandemic will be over, or at least managed. And I’ll for sure (hopefully…) be able to lift enough to qualify for the provincials.

I’m not done this post, but I never am done, am I? and I started a long time ago, I’m just gonna publish it and start another one. With more time on my hands, I’m now remembering some bits of stories and thoughts and questions I want to explore here. More later, Beautiful People

Message to the City — and the Chemo diary continues

Well, today is day, um, 7 of round four of chemo. And I’m nearly a week into my medical leave from work. So far today i took the dog for a walk, went to a meeting, had a nap, wrote out some Welsh words (more on that later), and continued a letter to my Deborah. Also had a bagel and a bunch of fibrous foods (flax seeds, figs, that kinda thing) and some ice cream for dinner. Read a little bit. It was a long day. It’s cold in the house. My skin is kinda crawly and i’m not feeling so great. Not bad enough to be in bed all day, but not well enough to be at work, either, I think. I could struggle through — I know I feel ever so much better when I’m around people, when we’re social and engaged with each other. But I’m supposed to rest.

Oh! I also wrote a presentation to City Council from our new group: Vancouver Ad Hoc Committee of Women for Women. We’re arguing that council should give Vancouver Rape Relief and Women’s Shelter a grant to do public education and outreach. Last year they gave it, but put them on notice that it would be the last one unless they changed their mandate and allowed trans-identified males access to the service, and to work there. Of course VRRWS can’t do that, even if they wanted to — it’s a collective of women, organizing for women, to end male violence against women. Pretty near every other women’s service or organization in Vancouver has changed their mandate — there is, as far as I know, only one transition house for battered women that is only for females — and that’s Rape Relief. Anyway, the grant is to fund their public education work, which is, and always has been fully accessible to the public. They have, for nearly 50 years (!) carved out, not only safe space for women to connect with each other, and care for each other, and tell each other our stories; but to take up room in public — public parks, roads, indoor and outdoor spaces, public institutions — and to foreground women’s stories, women’s politics, feminist organizing, feminist dialogue, feminist debate and education — They are bold and tender and act with courage and integrity. They are women working for the liberation from male domination of all women. And for that they are, and have been, punished, threatened, and insulted. For that, the city of vancouver has withdrawn a grant that enabled them to invite the public to hear from women thinkers, activists, writers, agitators, poets, artists.

So some of us have written letters back to the city, and we are making a presentation to the city to tell them just what we think of their punishments. Just what we think of their cowardly campaign to shut women the hell up. We know that women-only space poses a great threat to the powerful. That’s the point. Our freedom, and our share. We’ll get it, eventually. And all of our humanity will be the better for it. you’re frightened of that, of sharing power, of changing the structures that shaped us (they are all we know!), but so what. Face that fear with us. Listen to women. Let us gather as females, to share our lives and stories, to gather our resources, to change the world. We don’t all agree, but that doesn’t mean we don’t need our own space within which to debate. So let us have it. So we can let YOU have it. Tomorrow, 9:30, the meeting begins. February 26th.

Leavings

So I decided, finally. I’m taking a leave from work. My last day will be February 20th and I can take up to six months off. I resisted for the longest time — all through radiation to about halfway through the third round of chemo. It wasn’t winter, after all, that was beating me up. It was the chemo. Sometimes I’d come home from work and go to bed and not get up until it was time to go back to work the next day.

This is not typical of me.

I’m in between rounds now, and I’m still a bit tired and cold-ish. Plus my teeth hurt. Also, apparently, a symptom of chemo. I tell you what, the treatment is more troublesome than the tumour. Which is a nicely alliterative sentence, isn’t it? I asked the oncology nurse practitioner for a letter and she sent one right away. When I went to talk to my supervisors they were very kind — “anything you need, Erin. You’re not asking for a leave, you’re telling us. you’ll have a job when you’re ready, just give us two weeks notice and we’ll be ready for you.” I didn’t know how wound up I’d been until I felt the relief wash over me.

One of our residents left us last week. He died — we don’t know how — and his body was found near where he worked. I get to plan my leaving, but he just — vanished. He left us with so many great stories, and we can hear his music and his laughter as we tell them. We’re all very sad. and hopping mad, too. He was doing so well! We loved him so much — his friends with whom he cooked and danced and who teased him and with whom he laughed ’till they nearly peed.

Since he died, I’ve had the chance to talk to lots of people about him. EVERYONE said, “He checked on me when I first came, and he knew my name right away”. Many people remember his music, and he did little things for everyone that we didn’t know about until now — the checking in, the extra smiles, the little notes on the door, the ‘inside jokes’ with so many people here. When I had an office next to the family lounge (the one with the piano), I’d hear him playing every evening. It was so wonderful. I never went over there to thank him.

You never know. You never know how much influence you have. You never know when it’ll be the last time. It’s cliche to say, “Make the most of it. Tell your loved ones that you love them”. Cliches get to be that way for a reason. It’s not easy to get to be one. Something has to happen, a cause and an effect, over and over before it gets to the eye-rolling phase. “Oh jeez, sure. I loveyouiloveyouiloveyou — it becomes meaningless!” Unless it means something. Take the time. I have to remember, I have to be patient (it’s not my best thing, patience).

That’s something Bo gave me — his life was big and troubled; loving and patient and musical. He attended to people who were new, and scared, and hard to reach. It was easy to tell him he was beautiful and lovable — most of the time. Not so easy to tell that to others. So that’s something he did that I can do — say, somehow, “I love you”, to people who are not so lovable, too. Because there has to be more to go around, We can keep the love we have for our dead going, by telling the stories, and pouring on the sunshine, and telling the troublesome that they are lovable too. We’re having a memorial for him, for Bo, on Thursday (two days hence). I’m glad we can do that together. This grief business is really hard all alone. We have each other. And we have the leavings of the lives we touched; who touched us too.

Okay. time to go to work. it’s snowing like crazy! Big fat white flakes of soft cold beauty. Love it. Don’t love driving in it, though, so I’ll give myself a good head start. I have 2.5 weeks of work left. Will make the most of it.

Round 3 of 6 — a Chemo diary

I took a couple days off work last week because I started chemo again. I took the dog for some short walks (this stuff makes me dizzy, I wasn’t up to long walks), ate bland food, started writing. Thought about a nap. Took some anti-nausea medication. Admired the light diffusing the cool blue sky and the fractals of ice on the puddles on the sidewalks. Played tug-o-war with the dog.

January 10 was Su’s birthday. We went to medieval things all weekend — Friday we heard the Sequentia Ensemble for Medieval Music: an evening of “Charms, Riddles and Elegies”, then Saturday we heard a harpist and storyteller named Benjamin Bagby to tell Beowulf. It was amazing. Music and words from the deepest, darkest winter and from the deepest, darkest ages of Anglo-Saxon history. We were both transported. We met there a doctor with whom Su worked, and she sent Su a note later. Here’s what it said:

I felt like I was being bathed in testosterone!!  The Song of the Vikings, killers and pillagers.

I thought it was pretty funny us nerdy whitehairs sitting with folded hands murmuring “How beautiful” about all that gore and galloping that sounded like it was written for 8 year old kids!

But the poet let the cat out of the bag by mentioning birth in one of two comments about women in all that torrent of words.  Every mother has a tale of blood and heroism, terror and wonder, much fuller of wonder than the Grendel story, the story of her baby’s birth!   (I think my Viking roots are showing, I’m one upping smugly just like Beowolf did the drunk at the party). 

That was just an orgy of womb envy.

LOL  G

We laughed and laughed — Of COURSE! It’s all womb envy — women go into battle all the time — ALL THE TIME — and unarmed, thank you very much, just as Beowulf went against Grendel. I never did. Well, not the birthing part. I left that to 80% of the women of the world. I dare say a great proportion of those women never had a choice about whether or how many children they would have, either. but I digress. as I do.

I meant this to be a bit of a chemo diarly. I just took the 11th dose of procarbazine. only 4 to go. Then a week, then a small amount of Vincristine intravenously (it’ll take about 15 minutes). Then a couple of weeks and a rest from it all. I can’t wait for that part. You know, generally I like hospitals. I like the MRIs, and I really enjoyed the last intravenous session I had. It was a windy day, and from the 6th floor, there’s a pretty good view of the city and the mountains behind the sticky-uppy buildings and construction cranes. In the wind, it looked for all the world as if the clouds and the cranes were dancing together. Very graceful and subtle, like a baroque minuet. The waiting room on the sixth floor is super comfortable, too, with a big jigsaw puzzle on a table, and coffee and tea, and sometimes biscuits or fruit, too. a few chesterfields, and some recliners, too. very nice. But I’m tired now, and a bit dizzy, and nauseous most of the time, so I’m about ready for this all to be done.

I’ve got it super easy, though. Last time I was there for my IV, I shared the room with a young person. She had a big bag of something dripping into her. She looked like she may have been 30, but possibly younger. Every other time, I’ve been on the younger side of the average age. Mind you, I don’t know. I don’t feel like I look as old as other 57-year-olds I know. But I do. That young woman, she was all curled up on a chair when I got there, looked like she’d been there for an AGE, and when I left, she was still curled up and quiet. Hunkered down. I don’t know what the chances are for people. Once the nurse introduced me to another person with a brain tumour. But that person’s tumour ended with “blastoma” rather than, as mine does, “glioma”. Anything with “blast” in its name can’t be good. What do you say to someone? I probably didn’t say the right thing. “Oh, I think I have a nicer tumour than yours”, and I realized how that sounded and stumbled — “We are in the best place, though, for treatment”. God. He was gracious about my stupid comment. Smiled kindly.

It’s cold. The Scottish-moors-in-the-dead-of-a-dark-ages-winter-cold. Su is making some wonderful soup that smells amazing (my appetite has been unaffected — still 16-year-old-boy-ish), and the electric ‘blanket of love’ is on the bed, and I’m worn out. I’ll go to work tomorrow, and I know that the moving about and the people will perk me up NO END. Because they always do.

Oh! also! I registered to compete in my first powerlifting contest in 25 years!Here’s a picture:

2019winteropen_logo

I’m so excited. Then I feel a bit nauseous. It’s six weeks away, March 21-22, so I have time to get in shape. My goal is to qualify for the provincials. There are 49 women competing! FORTY-NINE! Last time I competed there were a handful. This is gonna be great. Today at the gym, ‘great’ felt a LONG way away, but I will just keep doing on thing at a time. It’s nice to have a goal. And a generous coach, and a great gym.

Anyway, that’s it. My hair is growing back. People have given me some lovely toques and hats, which is good because my hair looks weird. All baby fine in one area and curly pokey thick everywhere else. I should go ask my friend to cut it again — she’s a great barber and she’d do a nice job. Plus we think the world of each other, and when there’s so much admiration flowing through scissors and clippers, you can’t go wrong, can you?

Not quite it — did i tell you? it’s working. The radiation, the chemo, all of it. It’s shrinking the tumour. All is going according to plan. Not as fast as MY plan would go, but then again, I’m a terrible planner. Whoever’s doing it can carry on.

Hindsight is here

20/20. Perfect vision. Hindsight is… this year, the one ahead of us; we can see ahead and behind 20/20.

Today dawned bright and blue, few clouds in the sky and the sun bringing the various shades of green and brown into glimmer and glow. Magnificent, really. Su said, “it’s like last week was a week of crying everything out”.

Begin again.

Today I saw a former professor and colleague from my last job. He’s still there in my old department, making the best of it. He greeted me with warmth and happiness. It’s been years since we have seen each other; i think he was on sabbatical for most of my last year there; though I know he visited the faculty association in my defense when the Dean decreed I should be offered no more teaching contracts (the faculty later paid me a settlement in return for my resignation–as if I had a choice, really. the money was helpful, though). it was lovely to see him, and his wife. He invited me to meet for coffee or a meal sometime together. We stood in the sunshine of the new year, late morning, smiling and saying how good it was to see each other, and blinking in the sudden light after the interminable rain. When we parted, I started to cry. It’s such a relief to know that someone I worked with and admire has respect for me still. I have been mourning the loss of that place, those relationships, that work. I loved my department, and I loved teaching.

Though it was kind of lonesome. And I would get all wound up with worry through the semester. It was hard to keep up with the reading; the marking; the current research — and the increasing promotion of misogyny and anti-feminist ideology was VERY troubling. I could’ve continued without addressing the trans ideology, I suppose. Some of my friends did it — they just didn’t talk about it. Here in hindsight, I could have just said, when it came up, “this is not a topic we will discuss here. At all.” and moved on. I don’t know. Also here in hindsight, I can see that that was not the right forum for me. Not a good fit, that sessional/adjunct professor stuff. No future in it for someone like me. It was wonderful to see my old friend, though — that whole long journey to PhD land really happened, and I do still have solid relationships from it. So reassuring.

This week past, for another example, I met up with my friend with whom I attended PhD school. She lives in another city now, with her husband and their daughter. She is planning to go up for tenure this year. No one in her department approached her about it; she’s going to go ahead, though, because it’s time and she’s done the work. A (white, male) colleague of hers, who was hired the same time as she, and who has roughly the same number of publications, and a comparable teaching an service record, was approached by the department to proceed to apply for tenure. We all figure that the reason she wasn’t tapped is because she’s Asian and female. She’s an admirable woman, my friend — steady and determined; talented for sure, and works really hard as well. And she is one of my anchors, too. Every time we get together, a couple of times a year only, we pick up where we left off, and it’s easy. Even when our lives are so different now. It’s really maddening that she has to work twice as hard as her male colleagues of European descent.

It’s not one person or one institution’s fault or wrongdoing–nor is it any individual. it’s all of us and it’s the systems of which we are a part. The Institutions. Big I Institutions. We are all in them, all separated by and cleaved to them. Those that benefit most from them don’t want to team up with those who are sidelined, not really. Too much to lose. All those institutions — Education, Medicine, Law — they all go on about ‘community’ and ‘social determinants of health’ and ‘social justice’ — They all mean it, too, I think. Theoretically.

I don’t think we can yet imagine what real freedom looks like. I noodle around in my blog here, and with my friends and colleagues, and political allies — and I start to write about it, like just now — and I can’t imagine what to say. Here we are in Hindsight — the year of perfect vision — and I can’t see a metre in front of my face.

That might be changing this year, though — in part because now we have a gang again. A small one, but we’re starting something. A group of feminists uniting to interfere with our mayor and council here, the media like the CBC, and various SJWs (social justice warriors) who have tried to stifle the voices and stop the work of radical feminists, and tried to ‘disappear’ lesbians from the dyke march, (not entirely successfully, but most of us opted to participate in events that were actually for, by and about lesbians instead of face the over-the-top vitriol we encountered in 2018) and tried to shut feminists up and out of the public discourse. We’ll see how we do. I am kinda optimistic. Maybe it was the sunshine today.

I’m going to change the subject now. This time I want to tell you a story about Su and her dear friend Norene. They were friends when they were young women in University in Sackville. Mount Allison — “The first university in the British Empire to grant a woman a degree” Su reminds me. Long time ago, now. To hear Su talk about Norene, you’d think they were soulmates. I think they were, anyway. Norene was about 8 or 9 years older than Su; she was an artist. A fine arts student who came from an old New Brunswick family. Su was studying science, then found the interesting people and switched to English lit and art history. Hung out in the theatre department, too. She and Norene did a lot together — shared stories and adventures; held each other up after break ups and disappointments; celebrated each other’s joys and successes. Norene was a guide to Su, too. Worldly without ever having left New Brunswick, she was a friend and a mentor.

Then Norene was hit by a car while she waited for a bus, and was killed instantly. November 2, 1978. Su was devastated. She couldn’t finish her degree. She couldn’t be there without her friend, and grief so heavy. She couldn’t put it down, and she didn’t know how to move through it, so she packed it (and the little rainbow cups and saucers Norene had brought Su from London) with her and moved to Vancouver. Norene wouldn’t have been pleased with Su’s decision to leave school that year. “She would’ve kicked my butt. if Norene hadn’t died, I would’ve finished that degree, and I probably would’ve gone to Toronto….” But Norene died, and Su left town. Who knows what would have happened? Hindsight doesn’t make stuff up, it just sees what was there with the clarity of experience.

Norene’s other friends were also left bereft. Her death bound them all together, I think. Su still keeps in touch with those people. This fall one of them died. Laurie. he was brilliant and tormented, “an impossible treasure” Su called him. Norene thought Laurie and Su would be good together, “You should marry Laurie” she’d said — but Su, though she loved Laurie, knew otherwise.

The friends all kept up with each other, all these years. Over time and love affairs and jobs and miles and illness and continents and break ups and oceans, they all stayed with each other. Sometimes tenuous, sometimes ethereal, sometimes in person, sometimes through voice or text or letter. But always. Then Laurie died. The old friends came together from different directions, bonded again by grief — they texted and called and reminded each other of their past. And it rained non-stop for what seemed like ever in Vancouver. And everyone was wringing wet and dissipated by the rain and the cold and the dying year with not much chocolate in it (strangely) and fewer lights than last year, it seemed. Su was burdened with grief and worry. One night, she just wept and wept and asked for help. She asked for help from something not human, not god, but from some power she just feels around her sometime. And we slept wrapped in each other, sharing a sadness.

The next rainy day Su called me and said “Norene sent me a message.”

I asked “what did she say?” and Su replied, “I asked for help last night, and she heard me. She told me the sun is coming back.” She showed me a picture of a painting Norene had done in 1978 as part of her graduation show from the fine arts school — and it was a big, yellow, magnificent sun glowing over a summer landscape. Even from the tiny screen of the phone, the picture looked like redemption and promise. “It’s going to be okay” said Su.

Su’s sister had seen the painting as part of an estate auction, (she also knew Norene) and sent Su the picture asking if she wanted to bid on it. The auction was today. Joanne said to Su that there were a couple of other bidders, but “I turned to the crowd with my best, ‘your soul is over there somewhere, go find it’ look, and they petered out. My kids say I am good at this”. When Jo sent Su a text “it’s yours”, Su let out a cry and started to weep.

Thank you, Norene. What a wonderful gift to your old friend — a big sun to light the year of perfect vision and hindsight.

Early November 2019

it’s a sepia day on the west coast. I just saw a chickadee flit along the branches of the grey buds of the magnolia tree outside the third floor bedroom window. I’m writing here, noodling away at a couple of assignments for this course I’m taking. The radio is on in the other room, piano music spilling out of the doorway along the hall. It’s cool and still.

I’m taking a course on ‘theories of counselling’. it’s been really fun so far. And I’m learning some things that I can use at work. We’ve discussed psychoanalysis, humanist therapy, cognitive therapies, behavioural therapy, family systems, Adlerian, Rogerian, feminist therapy and trauma-informed practice. I’m taking it all, though, with a grain of salt — even the feminist therapy, ’cause I’ve been around the block a time or two, and I’ve noticed the individual nature of therapies and counselling. Not to mention the entrenched sexism of the institution of medicine — the ongoing and increasing trend to pathologize all aspects of human behaviour and coping. Also, many years ago, i read Changing our Minds: Lesbian feminism and psychology by Celia Kitzinger and Rachel Perkins.

That was an important book for me. I have it somewhere, but I haven’t read it in many years now. From what I can remember, their main argument was that only people who are relatively well-adjusted, (and for whom the social-political structures in which we live work), will benefit from any kind of psychological or therapeutic intervention. For most women, they argued (I think), what is most useful is collective interventions — the comfort of friends; accountability to a community; belonging to a group and shared meaningful work. Politics, really — the power of a movement and an analysis of our strength and worth.

Then again, I’ve benefited from individual counselling as well as collective action, and the mutual aid of people who gather for common cause. I see the benefit of focused therapy, but not instead of political action and organizing, not instead of finding others with whom to share common cause. The thing to which I most take issue about most therapies is the lack of challenge. Like, one of the first things our instructor asked us was to indicate which pronouns we prefer. Of course everyone in this class indicated the pronouns appropriate to our sex, but that she asked us in the first place indicates that gender ideology has been imposed upon this supposedly ‘neutral’ course exploring theories. Nothing is neutral, for sure. But that pronoun thing…dear god.

Anyway, listen! We attended another GIDYVR talk. This was the 3rd one, and the first in which I didn’t have a job. So I could soak it all in, and participate in the Q&A, too. It was a while back now, in early November. About media bias. Meghan Murphy, Jon Kay and Anna Slatz (who was absolutely a breath of fresh air! I knew nothing about her before). They all talked about how important it is for women to have sex-segregated space, sports, public and private gatherings, and language with which to refer to ourselves. It’s absurd that we are having these conversations. That we MUST have these conversations.

Oh, speaking of language and conversations; I heard a few weeks ago that apparently I’ve been going around harming people. There are people in Vancouver who believe that I have named people (vulnerable people, the inference was), and posted their addresses and private information on my blog. Here. I you all find anything of that sort here, please let me know.

This is not exactly what I meant when I have said that I want to be famous, and it’s kind of cool to be thought of as dangerous. But it’s not true. In case you were wondering. I’m not harmful or dangerous, as far as I know. I have been, on the other hand, harmed. As have many many women I know of. Anyway, I’ll get to that.

The talk was supposed to be about the media, and the media response/coverage/editorializing of gender identity and sexism and women and so on. All the people were journalists. Lyndsay Shepherd was the moderator. It was pretty good, mostly. But Jon Kay took up WAY more than his share of air time and space. Also he corrected people who referred to trans-identified males as “he”. And instructed us about treating them with respect. Even fellas like Morgane Oger — who has directly campaigned against Vancouver Rape Relief and Women’s Shelter’s right to determine their membership; and who has attempted to prevent Meghan Murphy from speaking in public — (Oger is male, and those of us wishing to be accurate in our use of pronouns will refer to him by masculine pronouns). Kay’s admonishment of the women who referred to Oger as ‘he’ was not a fine moment. He (Kay) did alright during his prepared presentation, but during the discussion part, he lost the plot. Ah well. All the panelists were united in their agreement that women need to have our voices in the public discourse; and that the vitriolic response to any question or critique of gender identity ideology, or transgender rights compared to women’s rights, is effectively pushing us (women) into the shadows.

The lesbian collective were there, handing out stickers that said, “you can’t drown us out” — a reference to the mideval practice of drowning witches– and others with the words “men aren’t women, though” (which apparently got Meghan Murphy banned from twitter, I think).

It was good to have an opportunity to tell a bit of my story, too, in the Q&A part. I asked everyone who had lost a job, or had their physical safety or livelihood threatened, to raise their hands. And a forest of arms rose to the air. Jon Kay asked if I was among those. I said “yes” and he asked if I would tell my story. Seeing as how I signed a non-disclosure agreement, I was a bit nervous, but I went ahead. A friend of mine in the audience said, “you know this is being recorded” — to which I responded, “What are they gonna do, fire me?” Anyway, I didn’t name the institution or the names of the people who harassed and surveilled me. It was fine. Some people came up to me after, and let me know they appreciated my comments — “I’m a teacher,” said one woman, “it’s very distressing, what’s going on”. I think it’s important to take those opportunities when we can. Because we need each other. And if we don’t know that there are others, we might go mad. But there is a ‘we’, and we are everywhere.

Benchmarks

Okay! Wednesday the 3rd of October was the last day of radiation. I got this weird mask just in time for Halloween. But it freaks out the dog. So I probably won’t wear it — or not often, anyway (I did. backwards – -so I was ‘two-faced’ for Halloween). For five weeks, every week day, from August 23rd to October 3rd, I finished work on time (that never happens…) and got to the Cancer Agency just a bit late to lie on a metal bed to get my brain zapped. it was a very trippy experience. The radiologists and techs were really efficient and friendly. They asked me when my birthday was every time. One time I asked them if they wanted to know what I wanted for my birthday.

A unicycle. and lessons. I think it would be great to learn how to ride a unicycle, good for my balance and core strength AND brain function. When I told the two young women who were the team about that, they were very interested. Thought maybe we could make up spin classes, but with unicycles. “Could be our ticket out” I said.

Su’s always going on about some weird thing being “our ticket out”. I sometimes make this great liver dish with carmelized onions, apple and balsamic reduction. “that could be your ticket out” she said once. Her son makes amazing sour dough bread. He also is a carpenter and makes workout things out of ropes and carbiners. He has many tickets out.

Su’s ticket out is her habit of collecting Harris Tweed coats from thrift stores and re-purposing them. cutting them down to women’s sizes and shapes, making vests or cuffs from them. Other things, too, related to fabrics. She’s got an eye for beauty.

Where is “out”, though? And what if, instead of “out”, some of these pursuits could be our ticket “in”? Uh-oh.

Okay. As usual, it is now many days after I began this post. I’ve a cold today. Feel terrible. But never mind, I’ll be okay soon. There’s a bug going around work. I work in a residential addictions treatment centre. And recently, early in the summer, I moved from the women’s floor to a men’s floor. Now I work with ALL men. Imagine that.

Alright. Jeez. Now it’s more than a week since i left off. More than a week — a lot of change, started chemo on the 17th of October, that was interesting. I think i’m making up more symptoms than I have. You know how that is sometimes? Am I tired because of the drugs or because i’m not sleeping because i wake up worried about the drugs or because i’m just normal and have to pee a few times a night at my age now?

This whole chemo thing is weird. I almost feel as if I’m making it all up. I don’t have any symptoms from the brain tumour. No headaches, no seizures, no wonky motor function — nothing i can perceive. But I’m radiated now, (and have a bald spot to prove it), and I’m getting chemotherapy (which will probably NOT cause any hair loss). So there must be something going on up there. Well, of course there is. It IS my brain, after all. There’s some storms a-brewin’! the thing that keeps bugging me though is, it kinda feels as though i’m making this whole thing up.

Who would make up a brain tumour? Now that I think of it, it kinda reminds me of when I decided to be a lesbian. It was 1985, I lived in Lethbridge, I was a university student, and I had been, until that spring, engaged to marry a man. Lovely guy, too. We still are in sort of contact. Sometimes I see him when I go home (so very seldom now — this year not once. I ache for home, the older I become). Anyway, my world split open. I fell in love with a woman, i fell in love with feminism, I returned to school a different (but the very same) woman. It was weird looking in the mirror and seeing a lesbian. It didn’t feel like a trial. I remember thinking, “am i doing this because it’s cool to be a dyke now?”

at the time, it kind of was cool to be a lesbian. But I was still afraid. I lived in Southern Alberta, after all. But I didn’t ever have to face the violence that women even ten years older than I had faced. I was never incarcerated for loving women, never hospitalized. I lost a job once in the late 1980s, but it was a crappy job anyway. It was easy, overall. Becoming a lesbian. So I wondered, you know, if I was making it up to be cool, somehow.

I’m not cool, though. It’s been 35 years — just over. And now i’ve been a lesbian WAY longer than I was ever heterosexual. I was cool for, um, maybe, if you added all the days together, about a year all totalled. Not that brain tumours are cool, not at all. The suffering, though, I’m NOT suffering. Not that I want to be, no. But it seems unfair that I get all this attention and the treatments and appointments and so forth, and my brain tumour is this little dorky slow-growing thing that’s just poking around back there, not causing a ruckus or anything. I suppose it’s better than letting it be and then it’ll get all obstreperous and mean eventually. yes. definitely better than that. I’m not making this up. I just go get my MRIs, and those reveal the movements of the stowaway. I wonder if it has a consciousness? Does it know things? Can it tell that we’re after it? Wouldn’t I know if it was sentient?

Okay, this is getting weird for a blog. I should put this stuff in my paper journal, not out here on the web for everyone to see. But it’s here now. I may just leave it.

I will just leave it. I’ve had a pretty good fall so far. Which is lucky, because i have no more sick days at work, or vacation days — so I can’t get sick. well, I can, but then i would have to take a bit of a hit on my paycheque. it’s a small thing, though. all is well. Okay, i’m going to go do my school project now and post this. Next time i’ll put up something about the last GIDYVR talk, which we attended, (as did about 300 other people, probably more). I think the tide may be turning. Then again, maybe not. I get all hopeful then I step out of my house…sigh.

more later, dear ones.