I see this faint city skyline often when my nine month old daughter and I go for walks around our quiet, leafy neighbourhood.

It’s a snapshot for me of how it sometimes feels to be a new mother.

Like standing in a back alley, looking wistfully at a horizon filled with busy, important people making things happen. Wearing clothes without spandex that will never get splashed on or need to be easy to nurse in.  Having conversations that don’t involve comparing nap times, baby carriers and local coffee shops with change tables and high chairs. Sipping a glass of wine on a patio by the art gallery and simply admiring the flowers instead of worrying that someone is about to eat them. I used to be one of those people.

Being a mother carries a hidden kind of piercing solitude buried under a veneer of constant motion and urgency. It’s like moving to a small town where no one knows what you used to be like. Oh, sure…you can take the occasional weekend trip back to the city, wear your fancy, dry clean only clothes and pretend, but you’re a small town gal now. And yes, you happen to be the mayor,  doctor, city planner, waste disposal department and only restaurateur of that small town aka New Babyville, and nothing runs without you, your hands are always full and there is always more to do, but it’s not quite the same as being a city gal,  moving freely from bustling street to shop to work to cafe at will with only a wallet to lose.

Or so I tend to think on the days where I feel wistful for the past. I am reminded of Thomas Hardy’s novel,  Jude the Obscure (it’s a terribly depressing read and I don’t recommend it unless you are required to…even though the metaphors are golden) and the title character’s unflinching dream of reaching the glittering city that lays on the edge of his field of vision:

Through the solid barrier of cold cretaceous upland to the northward he was always beholding a gorgeous city–the fancied place he had
likened to the new Jerusalem…and the city acquired a tangibility, a permanence, a hold on his life…”

Jude eventually makes it to the city,  and finds it painfully real and unromantic, smelly and crazy like most cities are, all the while realising all the things and people he missed out on back home because he was so focused on being somewhere else. 

So as I stand in my back alley, in my small town of new motherhood and gaze out over the glittering city, I take heart and take note:

I live here now. And that’s okay,  because soon enough, sooner than I want to admit, this town won’t be big enough and the big shiny city will reach in and draw my favourite citizen away. We’ll pack up and move to stay close to our kids and I’ll be someone different yet again and find my old self renewed and refined, clarified by the experience of small town living.

I might even miss it.


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I’ve been on a bit of a bacteria kick…from bread to Kombucha to yogurt,  and after sampling the dubious and weirdly textured cornucopia of various non-dairy yogurt alternatives, I decided to make my own.  This has a dairy based starter,  but you could also use probiotic capsules instead. I follow a low-dairy diet instead of no-dairy.

It’s shockingly easy with the right tools,  and I mainly followed this recipe with a few tweaks and came up with the most creamy, delicious coconut yogurt ever.  I can’t stop eating it, or making it.


Small camp cooler*
Mason jars and plastic screw top lids
Large pot
Digital thermometer

*if you have an oven, you can pop the jars in there overnight with the oven turned off but the light left on.


Honey (2 tbsps)
Full fat coconut milk (4 cups)
Organic gelatin sheets (2)
Yogurt starter or yogurt (1 package or 2 tbsps)


Heat the coconut milk up to almost boiling, take it off the heat and then whisk in the honey. Pop your thermometer in and let cool to 115° F. 

(While the milk is cooling, soak the gelatin sheets in a small bowl of cold water.)

At 115° F,  whisk in the yogurt starter or yogurt and gelatin (squeeze out the water first with a clean hand).

Pour into mason jars (3/4 full)  and pop into the cooler.  Fill up the cooler with your hottest tap water (just full enough to reach the level of yogurt in the jars…if they start to float,  you’ve gone too far.)

Secure the cooler lid and set aside somewhere out of jostling range for the next 12-24 hours.  Get on with life.

Pull out the jars and put in the fridge… and see how long they last.  (Not long in our house).

Lessons from Buy Nothing Lent


Well, it’s over. Easter weekend has come and gone and we are released to pick up our old habits and creature comforts that we attempted to lay aside for Lent.

I attempted to buy nothing, and failed. But herein lies the lesson: Lent, at its most transformative, can teach us more than how to be strict with ourselves or how much willpower we can muster. The laying aside of a pet habit or usual way of doing things is an excellent tonic for one’s soul; albeit a painfully revealing one.

I learned, through my unsuccessful attempt at stepping off the consumerist merry go round; that I am much more entangled with money and the spending of it than I anticipated. I use spending to distract myself from uncomfortable emotions, escape my circumstances, put a band-aid on my life that peels away as quickly as that brand new dress becomes yesterday’s high.  I use spending to assuage my discomfort when life feels out of control.

And I use money to escape my feelings and change my mood. Being without any money to spend is, as I have discovered over this season, painful and hard work. You can’t just replace broken things or change the scenery with a quick shopping trip. You can’t cover insecurity by covering the check anymore. You must find ways to mend things, use what you have and live in the discomfort of your present circumstances. You often feel embarrassed or ashamed or lesser than because social activities involve spending or you don’t look as put together as you would like.

And it’s much easier to throw things in the trash and buy new things in our disposable economy than to figure out the tools, skills and materials needed to fix things. It’s much much easier to escape responsibilities and work, an emotional tangle that needs attention, or a feeling of powerlessness by going out for a coffee and indulging in some retail therapy. Making things, and creating things, as opposed to purchasing them, becomes the essential challenge of the imagination. I realised, rather post apocalyptically that if the world economy and the supply chain ground to a halt, I wouldn’t last very long at all on my own ingenuity. And the most humbling thing was seeing how much of my time and planning and thoughts and emotional energy revolved around buying things. Going for a walk just because as opposed to going for a walk on the way to the store or the cafe was unexpectedly difficult. The times that it was hardest to ignore my favorite pastime of online shopping,  research and reciting my credit card details were during times of stress and tough life stuff. They say the best things in life are free,  but pursuing those things is something I am shockingly unskilled at.

So what started as an experiment in budgeting has become a lesson I will continue to meditate on.  Buy Nothing Lent is over,  but Buy Less is still fully in effect. I am both inspired and utterly humbled by my deeply embedded consumerist mentality and from the ways I spend my time to what I spend my money on, I am not suddenly reformed post-Lent. But I am aware – and this is always the beautiful, stringent place where true redemption begins: the place of confession, owning our weaknesses and seeing ourselves in the clear light of day.

I am a consummate consumer yearning to become a maker and mender instead of a buyer and a spender.

Where has Lent left you and what do you see of yourself that was hidden behind habit?

Perfectly overdue.



overdue blog post

The day my little sister was born, my brother and I were given special presents, as my mom explained, “from your new sister.” I was utterly confused. How could a newborn baby who didn’t even have her own clothes, or money, or open their eyes give me a new toy? Where did she keep them? Was there a gift shop in my mother’s tummy? Why did I not know about this magical place before? What else was in there?

Now I know how. Because my little one has given me the best gift of all: as of midnight tonight, I will officially be a week overdue.

Overdue: the word connotes failure and stress, and as a professional project manager,  I  try never to miss a deadline. As a writer, the sense of an ending makes my heart sing, and I often look for and cultivate well-orchestrated endings in all aspects of my life. So as my due date approached, I bore down into the joyful excitement of getting every little thing ready as a good project manager does. I scheduled my last day of work, set my vacation response on my email, planned and executed some getaway time, organized my closets, pre-made freezer meals, took care of all the paperwork and government updates needed, collected baby clothes and gear, pre-ordered diapers, scrubbed the house with the help of friends and family, and made sure everyone knew I was about to have a baby on this date. I read up on all the literature, packed my hospital bag, prepared all the necessary home birth supplies, finalised, sent out and printed our birth plan, taped the list of emergency contacts to the fridge. You get the idea.  And then, with my list firmly and efficiently checked off, I then looked at my belly and in my best event manager tone said, “And…cue the baby.”

Everybody looked. Texts from friends and friendly comments from family started to come in, all wondering and asking. We were all staring down the Belly. In-laws and relatives arrived, breath held, eyebrows raised. And nothing happened.

My friend the maternity nurse has the best stories, and she recently told me of a woman who walked into the hospital on her due date, and said, “Okay, I’m ready!” The nurse checked her over and asked a series of questions about the usual indicators of imminent labour, and none of them applied. Mystified, she asked why the woman had come in. “Well, it’s my due date. So I’m here.”  I heard this story, laughed and thought, “I’ll never be that silly.” But let me tell you, as my due date dawned and I whiled away the hours, I was that silly – every weird sensation, cramp and slight twinge had me on high alert and as midnight passed, I was honestly dissapointed.

You see, I was born precisely on my due date and hit the ground running. I love being on time. I delight in agendas and plans that come to fruition in a timely manner. So why would my baby be any different?

I should have known. Every time the spotlight swings in their general direction, this particular baby likes to slip into the shadows. From keeping their legs crossed during the ultrasound so as not to reveal a gender, to ceasing all kicks and wiggles as soon as I point them out to my husband so he can feel them too, to maintaining a low physical profile right up until this last month this baby has sweetly resisted all expectations and pressures thrown its way.

And of course, I paid no heed to all the research out there that tells you babies generally come when they are ready, and due dates are just that: estimated. Or that only five percent of women deliver on their due date. Or that unborn babies don’t read the memos of our minutely scheduled and busy lives.

I think this is the final and most beautiful lesson in a series on waiting that my little one has been teaching me for the last nine months before we meet in person.

Waiting is not a common practice anymore in this culture. We have lots of things to fill our time. Even waiting for the bus is made bearable by our personal handheld universes of constantly updated content. Our lives are as organized and distracted as we could ever want them to be and I’ve always thrived on the high that goal-setting gives me. From university days where essay deadlines hung like guillotines to the heady experience of managing events and people, I love staying in motion, staying on schedule, meeting targets. I enjoy, especially, having strategies in play for the future – not that all events must have a particular outcome, but that I have the tools and tactics to meet whatever comes along.

So having an extra week and possibly more where nothing is certain, nobody knows what time or how or what it will feel like for this baby to make its grand entrance into my world is totally foreign territory. Every morning (and middle of the night) I wake up wondering, and every plan I make has to be couched with contingencies. I have had to give up control and enter into a world without deadlines and proper agendas and the word “should” has all but dissapeared from my vocabulary.

Mind you, there are plenty of options out there to help things along – induction, herbal concoctions, natural remedies, bumpy car rides, acupuncture, and a little bit of frisking about with one’s hubby all promise to coax out the shyest of babies.

But having been through this first week of waiting and fighting back the pressures of my own expectations and those of others, I have entered into a kind of peace and rest I have rarely felt and I am not really interested in hurrying things along anymore. I know, especially if more kidlets join our family, I won’t get this kind of unplanned for downtime ever again (and I am in awe of second, third and fourth-time mothers who go through nine months of pregnancy with toddlers and kids underfoot. I salute you. I am also fortunate to feel so good in my last few weeks of pregnancy – I haven’t struggled with any of the physical ailments that make some women legitimately feel more than ready to have their babies out asap). 

I know that having a week or two outside of pre-scheduled and spoken-for time has already yielded some truly peaceful and enjoyable moments: going for a walk just because, making a meal that suddenly popped into my head as delectable, having time to talk to friends for hours, sleeping in because I have nowhere in particular to be, popping in for casual visits, spending whole days with my husband just having fun and seeing where in the city we end up…all of it is an astounding gift from this wonderfully, perfectly overdue baby, who will no doubt wait until no one is looking, and we are least expecting it, and say hello to the waiting world at exactly the right moment.

No apologies necessary.



leo header

I’ve never been normal. Until now. Being six feet tall and a throwback to long-forgotten era of beauty that is no longer prized along with a massive set of feet made for a painful growing up experience that usually involved fervent wishing for a different reflection in the mirror as well as the usual scarring angst of not really fitting in. (Trust me, when your shoe size is nine and you are nine years old and then teenage boys ask you to buy them cigarettes at the local store when you are a tender 11 year old because you are already 5’11″…you start to resign yourself to the fact that you will forever be misunderstood and misjudged based on appearances).

So when it came to being pregnant, I assumed not much would change. But for the first time in my life, every appointment, every test result, every measurable symptom and growth target, kept coming back framed with one lovely and rare word, “Normal.”

And for that, I am deeply grateful and under no illusions as countless strong and brave women have been through a much harder journey of health as they bring a new baby into the world.

But that old bugaboo of looking different followed me into pregnancy despite my newfound normalcy – I have never appeared to the average bystander as classically pregnant or even remotely expectant. The sideways looks and surprised comments piled up, despite the repeated assurances of my midwives that everything was perfect and the baby was just fine. I caught people I hadn’t seen in a while attempt the surreptitious “belly glance” and then look confused and bewildered. The comments ranged from the benign: “I never would have guessed…” to the slightly alarming: “Are you really sure you’re six months pregnant?” or “Is the baby okay?”  I turned these questions aside with the measured humour I’ve honed over the years to justify my unusual appearance, and responded with “Oh, no. Maybe they made a mistake and I’m not really pregnant after all!” or “Oh no…maybe something is horribly wrong! Thanks for telling me! The healthcare professionals and I never would have guessed if you hadn’t casually brought it up!”

But I didn’t manage to brush it all away sarcastically – the seeds of difference were planted and I caught myself apologizing in advance to cut off the comments before they happened – saying things like, “I know, I’m tall so the baby has lots of room to grow up, not out,” and “Well, I’m measuring just fine but I know I’m not really showing.” Or, “It’s my Viking heritage and large frame…” and other ridiculous excuses.  I began to bow to the pressure of what a pregnant woman “should” look like, wearing clothes to emphasize what I did have to show. I envied the women in my prenatal fitness class with glorious, magazine-quality round bellies. I stopped telling others specifically how far along I was. I considered getting a custom t-shirt: “Normal pregnancy here, people!”

And then the absurdity of it all finally hit me: why was I constantly apologizing for a baby that hasn’t even been seen yet? Why, after suffering through my own battle of self-confidence and fight to fit in, would I begin the narrative of their life on the defensive before this little one has even taken their first breath?

Given that they will, I am quite certain, have huge feet and be abnormally tall, (when your genetic material pool includes a combined parental height of 6’1″ and 6’6 with an average family shoe size of 12, you can’t really expect miniscule offspring) what could I possibly do to mitigate their inevitable wrestling with a world that will make them feel like they don’t fit in?

I needed to let go of my own desire to apologize for how I look, both in ordinary seasons and in pregnancy. Forgiving the past pressures of wanting desperately to fit in, and enjoying the present of just being myself.

A recent research study suggested that it didn’t matter how many thousands of times their mothers told their daughters they were beautiful and normal, as those little girls learned how to talk about their bodies by listening to their mothers talk about themselves. Likewise, sons learned their confidence from their father’s self-commentary, not their encouragements and praises towards their kids.  In other words, in order to give my baby the best possible start on self-esteem, I have to change my own habits of apologizing for myself, or making excuses for why I don’t fit in, have the “right” size of belly, smaller feet, etc or any of the other societal boxes that constantly threaten to squeeze me out of confidence and self-acceptance. And that starts now – in the last days of my pregnancy – setting the stage for a new life story to begin without apologies.

And before this little one can even begin to understand big words like self-esteem and societal pressures, I am going to read to them the story of Leo the Lop, a book my mom gave me on my second birthday:

“In a warm, gentle corner of a soft, green forest, a whole bunch of bunnies were born. There were so many baby rabbits, you almost wouldn’t believe it. There were white ones, brown ones, even some with spots, and every one of them had a little pink nose, fluffy white tail, and two pointed ears that stood straight up in the air.

All of them, that is, except for Leo the Lop.

Now it wasn’t that Leo didn’t have a little nose or a fluffy tail, for he did. What he didn’t have was ears that stood straight up in the air. Instead of standing up, they hung down. That didn’t really matter to Leo because he thought he was just as normal as could be. Besides, he couldn’t see his ears anyway.”

The story goes on through teasing by the other rabbits, various methods of trying to get their ears to droop or Leo’s to stand up, and ends with a simple revelation:

“If Leo is normal and we are normal…than normal is whatever you are.”

No apologies necessary.

The possibility of everything.



possiblity of everything.jpg
The end of a pregnancy is very much like its beginnings – coloured with the same sense that one must hold one’s breath while the unknown becomes a constant companion. As I count down the quiet, uneventful evening hours on this long-awaited due date, with no labour pangs in sight, I am reminded of the day I found out I was, indeed, having a baby.

I had gone to visit a naturopath to help me address some of my concerns about not getting pregnant after trying for some time – and instead of a hopeful, strict regimen of health and herbal encouragements, she returned to the exam room brimming with good news, prenatal vitamins ready. And so the waiting began, and a single question became my constant companion for the next nine months.

What if has a million companions, all swirling about in a deep pool I could often drown in. What if was already a familiar friend in the months leading up to conception, as I fought my hardest to just relax and not care too much meanwhile caring so deeply that every time a friend announced their joyful news, I swallowed and smiled way too widely and hoped my personal dissapointment didn’t show through.

So when I knew I was with child, I expected what if to flit away and be replaced by satisfaction and happiness as I transformed into the perfect picture of a glowing, expectant mother. Perhaps it would have if the internet didn’t exist, people never gave each other unsolicited advice or shared unsubstantiated and unproven self-diagnoses based on personal experience. Or perhaps I could have conquered the what if by not spending so much time communing with the commode in the first four months, or worrying that every french fry and bite of candy I consumed would irrevocably damage my baby’s IQ for life and mark me as a negligent mother, or over-analysing and obsessively googling every twinge, pang and weird symptom that the pregnancy gurus don’t mention in the glossy brochure of impending motherhood.

Fast forward over all those middle bits, (which I hope to write about as a way to reflect in the next week or so as I await the baby and remember all the upchucks and delightful moments) and come back with me to today, my due date.

What if still lingers – a full-circle question that I continue to make daily conversation with. But I think we’ve become, if not friends, at least companions who don’t bother one another anymore. Because while what if can lead one into fear, apprehension and inaction, I now know it can be answered with the open-ended and hopeful. What if I have the world’s easiest labour? What if everything goes so smoothly it’s just plain shocking? What if all this time, I had nothing to worry about? What if the baby knows exactly when to arrive and will join us when they are exactly ready? What if everything works out just fine? What if I love being a mother?

Worst case scenarios tend to be our default thought mechanism of choice, especially when pressed by health concerns, the great unknown of new relationships, jobs, major changes and life circumstances. But on this perfectly uneventful due date, what if and I are at peace. Not because I know what’s coming, how I will feel about it, or what, exactly, will happen. Precisely because I don’t know…and nine months on this road has taught me that not knowing invites, as William M Dixon put it, “…a miracle. You have exchanged nothing for the possibility of everything.” Everything means everything: good and bad, unknown and unimaginable, all of it. 






Wandering through the toadstools…


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We’ve moved to a new place – a basement suite with stucco walls (on the inside!) and plenty of quirks. A cross between an old English pub and a hobbit hole, it’s been a safe and comfortable haven for us over the holiday rush, and so it’s been christened Kifthaven. 

While our new home has quickly become normal, the neighbourhood continues to intrigue me.  Still East Vancouver, but with some unusual trappings, and unassuming hilltop views of a far away, glittering downtown.

Each time I make the 17 minute journey from the bustling bus stop at the corner of Busy and Funky, I find something new to pause in front of, and note in my secret book, yet unwritten, “A Wanderer’s Guide to Weird Vancouver.” 

Today’s chapter: Mushrooms & Home Decor – Together at Last. 


Actually, it’s quite remarkable – instead of falling prey to the fear of fungi that besets most Vancouver homeowners and basement dwellers as they battle the rain and the many splendored spores our moist climate nutures, these houses embrace mushrooms and proudly put them on display. Either that, or the fake fungi are a kind of totem against the real thing – much like I have a cute little ceramic bedbug on my windowsill, thankfully yet to feel the triple bite of those hideous creatures. 

Whatever the motivation, the courage to eschew a few potted plants and a nice light shingle is admirable – and the result? Rather pleasing to the weary wanderer on her way home from the world. And slightly unsettling, considering these houses are all within a seven block radius of one another. But I’m not going to hallucinate consipiracy theories for now. Each time I pass by the mushroom houses, I feel a little fantastical, and lifted out of drudge, transported to some Seussical land where life doesn’t have to be all beige and granite countertops. My new neighbourhood and my imagination are going to get along just fine. At least until I pass a gnome on the street. 

Thanksgiving, again


I was searching through my recipe book in search of coconut milk pumpkin pie – and didn’t find it. What I discovered, however, was a whole section of rapturous, pompous food entries from my first two years of marriage. Lined pages filled with gourmet dreams and tiny witticisms that I no longer understand, that food diary reminds me, as I stand in my kitchen now, that life has changed. 

I don’t write anymore. Well, at least, I don’t write much down anymore, judging from the lack of posts here in the public eye (since July! How shocking!) and the almost empty notebook containing six rough hewn chapters of a novel I have betrayed for demands of a new job. 

I do still think about things – and have many private moments of blogging, to myself, for my own personal amusement. I am less inclined to let those diaries and impressions find a life outside of my head. 

Reading through some of the carefully penned entries on rosemary fennel roasted turkeys and cleverly re-designed shepherd’s pies, (and their deep, cosmic metaphors about married life) I am rather glad that most of the things I think about don’t make it past my fingertips. 

I have been asked, of late, or prodded, rather, on why from the outside it seems that my husband and I are so happy together. It’s a question that always troubles me – the last few chats have been in the context of people who are having a difficult time in their relationships, and they usually ask me to recommend a book, or share a recipe for success based on my experience. 


I feel the opposite of smug during these conversations – as I don’t really have an answer or a formula to administer. So much of our marital bliss is a complete gift that I have somehow been the lucky recipient of, and I can take no credit for.

But for Thanksgiving’s sake, I am inclined to share a simple list of ingredients that, mixed together, will give the distinct flavour of a marriage that has grown richer over the last four years, from insecurity to happiness, from grand sweeping anxieties to everyday pockets of peace. This is me, standing up at the dinner table, listing what I am thankful for:


– humour

– compassion

– self-deprecation

– vulnerability

– a willingness to be seen 

– patience

– timely solitude

– gratitude

– many magnificent meals together

– a small, cosy apartment 

– 500 million episodes of his favorite tv show 

– many flights of craft beer and discussions devoted to their qualities

– honest conversations about money (and the lack of it)

– late night essay editing

– hearty, heated discussions about the process of creativity

– chemistry

– a man who makes mutton chops, mismatched clothing and a perpetual rumpledness look effortlessly sexy

– friends who like us both

– room to change one’s mind, appearance, outlook and long-held opinions 

– and most recently, a new, rescued kitten who needs a mom and a dad

It’s Thanksgiving, again. And my list keeps getting longer every year. 









What I can say.


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This post is dedicated to my uncle Jim, who always notices when I get too quiet.

Cycling through a newly summered city

On my ride home, pleasure takes me in hand again

Work’s worries slip through the wheels and onto the road behind me

Out of my head

Twilight moves deftly through this newly summered city

Like an expert waiter

Offering elixirs of leisure

Work’s currency traded for evensong

Thrumming through the fragrant, quiet streets

Cycling and poetry move together

Encircling each other

On my ride home

Through a newly summered city

I have wanted to write here again in this blog so badly over the past three months, but every time I try, a small, brusque man walks through my thoughts, crossing items off my list, and my sense of propriety once again shushes my creativity. The list of things I am thinking and feeling and experiencing, but can’t write about publicly, is very long these days. I can’t really talk about my jobs – old and new, or the lives of others I am intimately involved in, lives that are full of emotions and complications.

So what can I say? As I was riding home tonight, I was inspired to try again, and my need to write must take refuge in the forgiving land of metaphor.

I began a new job at the start of June, and the months previous that led me there were full of conflicting emotion. Much like the route I cycled for five years, my work in the Downtown Eastside of Vancouver was incredibly hard to leave, even though I had often looked for an escape button in times of trouble.

The lovely thing is, my new commute to my new location includes my old route, but it takes me much further afield, into an entirely different part of the city. Every day, I travel from east to west, from poor to wealthy, from cheap apartment-town to well-kept heritage-homeville.

And although my work is very different, I am still myself – my ability to cycle hasn’t changed, and my personal quirks on and off the road remain my allies. My skills, applied in a new context, pushed further into a new neighbourhood, still get me to where I need to go each day.

And I like the way my commute speaks directly to my experience – I am in a new position that is about as far as the west is from the east of my old work. I have travelled to an unmapped country in my career, and its customs still mystify me, although much like the insatiable travellers of old who realised that many new comforts await those who are willing to leave their homes behind, I have been enjoying many of my new freedoms – a beautiful office, the space to create and think, and the under-rated solitude of administrative life that eluded me for many years in the service industry.

I’ve also had a fair bit of comeuppance – those moments where you realise you have become the person you used to judge. I am now the “husband” who works late, and calls home at half past seven with mumbled apologies, the friend whose mind strays to the many emails jostling her inbox while half-listening on a lunch-date, the woman whose apartment feels more and more like a high traffic landing pad than a pleasing garden of well-curated space.

I am sure, with time, I’ll find my stride. My bike again is instructive on this matter – although my commute is now an hour each way, I have lost track of that road time already, and the path has, after a mere month, become internalised to the point that I would rather bike than bus, rather roll along with my morning thoughts and evening prayers. The ride keeps getting faster and smoother.

What I can say is simply this: I am hurtling through my 30th year, propelled by great and sweeping change. At times it’s made me breathless, or strained my muscles, or threatened to exhaust me. I’ve been drenched by sudden downpours, lost a few items from my basket, and been jarred slightly off course by a few potholes. But I’m still completely addicted to the road – and I’m going to keep riding it.

The quiet.

So much of my academic study has been focused on telling the story of oneself, ie autobiography. Some critics would go as far to say that autobiography occurs every day when we get out of bed, brush our teeth, and say hello to the world. Our every move is a telegraph pole on the road of self-expression. Or a blade of grass, if you’re a poet.

So the moments that fascinate me in my more maudlin seasons are the opposite moments – the hours I spend alone, on the bus, among a crowd of strangers, the “in-between”, the moment before the moment you step into the foyer of someone’s house and say your hellos, begin to say yourself. The moment you stand there on the front step, just about to ring the bell or knock on the door.  No one knows you have arrived yet. You could just walk away into the quiet, unnoticed.

Or as Zadie Smith describes it so beautifully in her novel, On Beauty:

“She found it difficult, this thing of being alone…when she was not in company it didn’t seem to her that she had a face at all…”

I don’t know why there are days I feel more untethered than others. Ungrounded, perhaps. A rift in the valley of my heart often follows a period of great encouragement and success, or, in my current state, a new risky opportunity. That rift grows wider the more I hear nice things being said, people asking me to be someone they assume I am, while my insides churn out all the reasons why I am not that person. I tend to get quiet, stop answering the phone, feel the weight of such an elaborate fraud on my shoulders. I want to go out onto the street and yell, “I’m just a person! And not a very nice one! You really don’t want me as a friend!”

When I was younger, I counted myself among the lovers of George Eliot’s main character, Dorothea, a young woman with wide eyes and a longing to fall upon the grand theory of everything. I still share her love of thematic thinking, finding, as my husband ruefully reminding me, connections everywhere. Give me a map of the world and I’ll draw you a spiderweb of absolute coherency where others see chance and coincidence. Give me a room full of people, and I’ll start to map every gesture onto a story of that gathering, and more dangerously, what it all means.

I was an absolute terror while taking psychology courses – suddenly, I had some language to describe the underlying currents of unspoken conversations, stories of each other’s lives being communicated through conflict, silence, seemingly insignificant actions. I have learned since then that there is a great difference between theory and diagnosis, and I still have to keep close reign on my urge to label behaviour as “co-dependent” or blah, blah, blah. We’ve all heard that ironic cellphone conversation on the bus, haven’t we? “Oh, yes…her. I just can’t be around toxic people like that – she’s sooo judgemental.”

I guess I should just admit that I am uncomfortable with post-modernity – I dislike, on a gut level, the notion that a billion things happen every day that mean nothing. I much prefer living in a world where everything is illuminated, categorized, understood, or at least, placed in some kind of context, even if that context is cloaked in grand mystery. At least I can place the unknowable in a spot neatly labelled “mysterious.”

But I both crave and reject being labelled myself: a label, like “writer” is so much easier to work with when moving through the world than “woman who writes sometimes when she’s in the mood but also is incredibly insecure about it and prone to dramatic fits of self-pity as well as moments of good-sentence making who has a regular job that tends to impede the flow of creativity.” Whew.

So here I am, extending a toe into the waters again of the wider world outside myself, saying, “I’m still here!”

Or perhaps, standing in the digital street and yelling at the grinding quiet of the last month that threatens to convince me that I’m faceless and have nothing to offer.

The quiet is where we all do battle for ourselves, I think. Not in the moments when we are surrounded by people we love and dislike, working in a noisy world or spinning our thoughts into dreams and actions through conversation and company.

The quiet is the place, where, sometimes, you have to stand up and say simply, “I’m still here.”

I think perhaps that’s why any of us who accept the label of ‘writer’ bother to write. We want to communicate. Sometimes we do it clumsily, other times vainly, and most times, ineffectually. But the heart of that desire to communicate is to be seen. To have a face.

But simply wishing to be seen can lead to a life of selfish ambition ie reality star style, or whatever the latest inventions one can acquire to make a self with. I think the more time I battle the quiet, the way forward is not to keep making monuments to oneself. It is, rather, to communicate in the holiest sense of the word: to see the faces of others and nod in recognition. To listen to the stories of others, whether they are painful or pretty and say lovingly, “Yes. I see. I hear you, too.”

Which is why, after a day of suffocating quiet, I’m getting back on my feet, going out into the chilly evening to a friend’s place, despite my absolute desire to stay in. I’m going to practice what I attempt to preach here.

Happy listening.