My Stations of Solitude

Many of you have been politely asking why I haven't been writing much on this thing anymore. You want to know what the Hell I do up there when I leave Toronto with groceries and Baileys and say 'I'll see you next week'? Well, I'll tell you.

But first I need some Diesel. This car is amazing, I can't thank my Dad enough. I can do several return trips with only half a tank: $20. I'd need at least twice that for a couple of hours of stop and Go downtown. I put the Balsam Lake Mix in the CD player: a perfect compilation of country-themed tunes, part bluegrass and part my own past. I stop for a coffee with two raw sugars and I light a cigarette when the speed limit changes from 60 to 80. I'm crusing at 100 and there's no one in front of me or behind me. I've got just over an hour's drive and I'll be home.

It's dark by the time I arrive. The house is cold and the pump and hot water are off so it takes a while to warm the place up. At the moment I'm still breaking off pieces of wood that we broke to bits ourselves in the forest when some of you were up with me before my father passed away. I twist up old copies of the Globe and Mail and build a mini teepee out of sticks and light the fire with the door open. The flew open too if I can remember which side it goes to before the living room fills with smoke. If not, it's not such a big deal. I like the smell. It reminds me of camp, of cooking a turkey underground, of little girls dreaming of up what they'll be and who they'll be it with, carrying love letters in their camp uniforms beneath the makings of friendship bracelets. It reminds me of happier times.

Then I head for the records. Bob. Neil. EmmyLou, John, Louis, The Last Waltz of the Band. Depends on the day. Depends on the dishes I left in the sink the last time. While the fire's burning and the speakers are booming, I unpack the car and move back in. There are things that need to go in the refrigerator, there's another pound of coffee, there's a lot that's got to be frozen.

If I can avoid it, I wait to use the loo. There's nothing worse than washing your hands with icy water when it's cold outside and you haven't warmed up yet. I pull out my furry slippers. The ones that help me forget that I've forgotten my socks. I put my clothes back in the drawers I stole them from, always just enough to get through one weekend of city life. I sigh as I take off my pantyhose or my blue jeans that in a couple of days, I'll have to forsake the jogging pants again and wear something more 'street appropriate'. In the meantime, I'm alternating five sweatsuits and I love them equally. The one that says 'Trojans' on the ass could never really be worn in Toronto and yet, at 10 AM at the Kirkfield LCBO, I didn't even get so much as a funny look. I turn the heat to 50, just to get the place cozy again and then I'll cut it and live off the eco fan that blows hot air into my living room from the blaze inside the wood stove for as long as I can stand it. I think about how I need a cord of wood yesterday but I can't reach The Wood Guy.

Once everything is unpacked and I'm warm and the pine needles have disappeared from the living room floor, I'll either pour myself a manhattan or I'll bake myself some cookies. Depends on the spirit of the evening. Lately, it's been a lot more of the latter. I pull out my secret tin box that says 'Cough Drops' on top of the television set and its accompanying ZigZags and I disassemble a Belmont and get rolling. I'm not supposed to smoke on the terrace. Most days it's raining anyway so I opt out but tonight, it's a clear one. I strap on my head lamp and venture out onto the lawn to activate the sensor lights with no manual switch so that I can see at least in front of me, to either side and behind. Still, sitting out there is a bit like smoking in a tiny black box. Apart from the noises, I haven't got a clue what is beyond the shadows on any side of me. It's scary but apart from one unfortunate encounter with a raccoon and some squirrels who seem to like the guitar, most of the rest of my neighbours: the skunks, the deer, the chipmunks and the black bears seem to respect my space.

The first night is usually the same. With a collection of recent films from a variety store on Roncey, I cuddle up on the couch with my favourite cushions and a good drink and sink further and further into the futon, into the 1970s crochet blanket and the smell of the fire behind me and I watch for as long as I can take it.

Most first nights, I wake up somewhere around 1 or 2 in the morning and literally drag myself off the couch and into my enormous, comfortable, pleasure centre of a bed. 600 thread count sheets, great down duvet and a heated queen blanket in between that I usually leave off until after my morning pee. When you crawl out of the warm duvet and remember that December is just around the corner and that it's windy out there and that the kitchen floor is freezing.


The second day is exciting. I wake up when the sun decides it's going to make its way into my room. I don't generally close the blinds. The leaves look electric in the wind and I feel so lucky to see trees through my window rather than tall buildings or speeding cars. What a change this is from the city. It's so nice that the phone hasn't rung. That I can stay here or get up and it doesn't matter. That I can curl up with a book and fall back asleep if I feel like it. I'm so excited by the thought of no responsibilities I can't possibly stay in bed a minute longer. Anything is possible.

No later than 8, I am up. I scoop out the coffee from the antique tin I bought when I arrived and get it brewing while I pull back the dining table in the living room and set my yoga mat by the fire. In no way am I am shining example of excercise but it feels nice to stretch in the morning again. I had forgotten what it was like to take the time to feel good before leaving the house. I do the Sun Salutation 3 or 4 times with the crackling of the fire behind me and the lake lapping at the road in front of me. I'd like to do it on the dock. There is nothing more relaxing than the sound of water first thing in the morning. Before too many minds are a flutter, poisoining the day with things to do and places to go, before too many cars and buses come to take people away from Paradise and back to where they 'have' to be.

When the yoga's done, I take my medication with a big glass of water. For the first time in my life, I am faithful to the ritual of it. It does not end up forgotten, like it might when I had only 3 minutes to catch a bus so I could be here or there or anywhere. I see it in the bathroom, like I see my toothbrush, my towel and my New Yorker magazine. It's one of the only things I have to do today and it is important. And now, now it's time for coffee.

I began a rule at the house when I first moved in. Morning coffee should be Irish. Because it can be. I love Baileys and don't drink much but there is nothing so warm and sweet as a fresh cup of beautifully strong coffee with a hefty shot of Baileys. The smell fills the whole house and I get excited for the day. So far, visitors have been mostly amenable to joining me in my sins. There has only been one instance where a culture divide let to a French man almost spitting his coffee across the room saying 'This isn't coffee! What is this?!' From that point forth, even said French man understood the value, the luxury of being able to spike your coffee at 8 AM. Because you've got no place to go. No place to be. I'll be damned, we said, we're finally free!

It is a different kind of house, this is, when the guest rooms are empty and it's only me. For one, I like to go to the bathroom with the door open. I always have and here, it's like a paradise. I can almost see the lake if I lean properly and to my right I've got a big leafy tree to keep me happy. Not to mention a big basket of old New Yorkers to keep me occupied. No shame in taking a few extra minutes. I'm in no hurry. I've got no place to be. I wonder what I'll do with the day, apart from the 'quotidien' of the Cow Shed (that's the name of this used to be an actual cow shed). There are certain things that are done every day. And they don't feel a thing like those 'quotidiens' that exist in the city. I don't have to go to work. I don't have to take the subway or the streetcar or the DVP. I don't have to meet anyone for anything. I don't have to pay bills or find parking or find a solution to this or that problem. Unless of course this or that problem is that I'd like to go for a walk in the woods and I need to decide between the whistle and the bear bell and the risk of taking that walk at all, given it's hunting season and all!

My phone will not ring today.

No matter if I turn it off or not. It will not ring. People have stopped calling because they just don't know what to say anymore and that suits me fine. I don't know what to say to them, either. Some have let me down too much, others have warmed my heart to the point of bursting open but I sure don't want to torture any of them with another speck of my wounded heart either.  I'm thrilled at the moment with being rid of the stress of what I'm supposed to be for other people.  That seems to be a bigger part of grief than I expected.  You almost feel like you need to console everybody for feeling so sorry for you.  For some, just the sight of me makes them cry.  Seriously, it's happened on numerous occasions.  I know this won't last forever.  And maybe that's what is so perfect about this place.  It's not leading me anywhere.  It's just a shelter from the storm and for now, there is something freeing about knowing there isn't a single thing I have to do next.  Not one.  And maybe here, I'll figure out a way to get to where I want to get to.  Just when it's heating up again, the owners will come back for their summer home and I'll have to take a choice.  In the meantime, I'm on a really long working holiday in another strange place, maybe stranger than Paris.  I'm going to enjoy it until I find a place I can call 'home', - finally - either here or in Paris or some other place in this gigantic world.
There used to be a guest room. It was empty until just a couple weeks ago but I have since moved my writing materials in. My typewriter. My laptop. My books and notes and research on owl species throughout North America and Europe. It has become a bit of a shrine to my book and I'm guessing the next person who comes to stay will feel slighted that I have all but evicted the 'guest' room but I can because it's mine. Because it's all mine. I can leave private notes all over the place and no one will be there to read them. I could leave a porno on the dresser and feel no panic to conceal the truth. I am alone. And if a tree were to fall in the woods, I'd be the only one to hear it. 

I generally like to get some writing done in the morning. The writing room is colder than the living room so I wrap myself up with a blanket or a poncho or something, coffee sitting close by, desk lamp on, though there is probably enough natural light in the room not to bother. Still, it feels a little warmer with the soft glow of the pompom lamp. My desk is filled out perfectly. I adore being able to see the trees through the window and being surrounded by wood. My writing desk is beautiful, perfect. I've got a bed beside me if I get tired and if there's a good book around, I just might take a break.

For a cigarette. I want one. I still want one. I do until I get it to my mouth, anyhow. But, out there in the wind, its importance is downgraded a percent with every inhale. There is something unnatural about smoking tobacco in the great outdoors. It's a bit like that feeling I got smoking indoors in Paris. It feels dirtier than usual. Wrong. A destruction of beauty. But until I figure out a way to keep my mind calm enough not to need it, I'm keeping my butts in an old red coffee tin from the 50s and hoping tomorrow will be the day I stop. In any event, with the snow on its way and no covered place to puff puff puff, I'll be forced to re-think my bad habits any day now.

I love breakfast. I haven't always taken the time to make one but here, meal time is pretty well the only organized event of the day, I buy pastries half baked and finish them off in the oven. I snack on peanuts and sunflower seeds, raisins and bananas. I drink water.  I can't remember the last time I was conscious of drinking enough water. I pull the bacon out of its package and lay it on the wrought iron pan, letting the house fill with the smokey scent of crispy fat and pumpernickle bread. More coffee. Runny eggs. And a movie. Or two. Or three. I answer to nobody.

I don't have internet here. There are no emails to go through, no distractions, I couldn't give less of a shit about facebook status or tweets on a good day but here it seems comical. I'm not getting any instant messages and I couldn't even call someone if I wanted to, apart from 911, I've been reassured. My cell phone doesn't work out here and I love that. I do, however, have the largest television I've ever had in my life. It's not a big screen, really, it's not flat or modern and the picture's a little off but it's all mine and I've re-arranged the furniture to suit my needs. I can see the lake and re-runs of Party of Five and Six Feet Under all at the same time. There are no commercials and I've got a fire crackling just behind me. Life is good. It's really good.

And did I mention I can go to the bathroom with the door open?

The other afternoon, I sat down to lunch only to find twenty-two, yes I counted them and yes, it happens to be my favourite number, turkey vultures on my front lawn, doing their best with the rotting apples all over the property. The wind has retired the orchard for the season but here in God's Country (that's how the locals refer to it), there are all kinds of surprises in store for the winter. The dock will come in tomorrow and soon the snow will fall and my kayaking terrain will become a skating rink and the woods will get quieter. And I'll need snowshoes to get out to the street if I don't find a plowman soon.

And then, what will I do? Probably the same thing. Play more music, I'm enjoying the guitar finally and have somehow, through the quiet, have found in myself the ability to play and sing at the same time. It isn't any good but it feels great and I'm writing songs and sure beats singing along in the shower to the sound of the garbage truck stuck in a line of honking cars on rue St. Maur. And it most definitely beats paying $900 to live in Toronto.

Do I miss it? Not one bit.

I eat a late lunch. I relax. I nap. I wake up and I fiddle around, write letters I'll never send. I read pages of The Stations of Solitude slowly, trying to make it last as long as possible or I read a novel front to back. It's been a long time since I have been free enough to do that.  This book remaining partial to me.  I found it by accident in a used bookstore in the West End.  The man at the store was more than surprised when I brought it to the counter.  For me, it was a no brainer.  A book about a female writer who moves to the woods by herself (well, she's got a dog) to write, to be alone.  Well, it's not a very famous book and the coincidence was that someone else had just dropped off a hard cover, leather-bound copy that they had had specially made because they loved it so much.  I bought the soft cover version for $10 but I think I might go back for the real one soon.

I look forward to human contact again. I don't miss it yet but I long for it. Before, all I wanted was for it all to stop. And now I want to see my friends again and hug them and have them up for a weekend with too much wine and bad board games.

I don't need the anxiety medication anymore and I can hear myself think. I suppose that could be it too.

All in all, things are getting better. I think I am healing. Thank you for asking.  You should come up sometime.

Gotta run.  Time to get wood.
See you next week.



Moving Day

Today I am leaving the City and moving to the Country.

Here is my horoscope:

Sometimes things appear to be wrong when in fact they are right and with the benefit of hindsight you will realize that what looked like a setback a few days ago was actually a very good break.  Lucky you.

Fingers crossed I am turning my setbacks into benefits but moreso that I'll be happy (or at least more content) all by my lonesome up North.

Take care, Toronto.  It's been real.



"You can complain because roses have thorns, or you can rejoice because thorns have roses."-Tom Wilson

I stopped writing the blog for a while because frankly, I didn`t have it in me.  Things got worse.  Way worse.  I had to leave Paris suddenly and writing about being back in Canada didn`t seem to make sense.  This blog was supposed to be about living in France.  Paris may be a moveable feast but I didn`t much feel like writing about anything that was going on here.  My vie en rose had grown too many thorns.  I am in the eye of the storm now and my Tropic of Cancer has just taken on a different meaning.  And maybe it`s time to open up again.  Here goes.

Unlucky is a feeling I am oh so familiar with and it’s never really bothered me before now.  If nothing else, it’s provided my life with a much needed sense of humour and a light-heartedness that lets me laugh at the cliché moments where life meets cartoon: think Julie slips on a banana peel in an intersection and is swept off her feet or Julie sits on a white wet paint bench in black pants or Julie’s grocery bags split open while wearing white and the only thing to fall and break is the bottle of Heinz Ketchup.  There have been too many to count.  And yes, when these things happen, they suck.  They are frustrating but laughable.  I’ve always said that my life was full of these little mishaps because minor mishaps leave us unscathed by the bigger stuff: cancer, accidents, ruination.

I told a friend a couple of months ago that I was feeling cursed.  Bad things happen to everybody and I don’t like to be a complainer because I’m usually an optimist.  I’ve got a lot of faith and hope and goodwill under my belt but lately, definitely moreso in the past year than ever, God and I are more on the outs than before.  It is disproportioned.  I am feeling like we’re enemies but not sure why.  He has all but shat in my mouth at this point.  I’ve still got a smile on my face but you can see in my eyes that I'm full of shit.  I’m still getting up every morning and forcing myself out the door with plain ol’ coffee and cigarettes.

YOU: “How are you doing?”
ME: “Fine thank you, and you?”

I have this conversation several times a day.  I want to tell the truth and I am biting my tongue to keep it inside.

YOU: “How are you doing?”
ME: “Shitty.  I don’t understand why these things are happening.  It feels unfair.  I’m exhausted and I ask myself every day if I deserve this.  Do you think I`m cursed?”

The truth is, these truths are met by a dirty looks, not on purpose, but because people just don’t know what to say when you tell them your life is in shambles and whining & complaining makes everybody uncomfortable.  Especially when people can’t quite relate to what it is you’re going through.  Everyone should know that it is equally uncomfortable to be the Truth-Teller.  I know that nobody wants to hear that my father is slowing dying from the lime-sized tumour in the cavity of his brain.  Nobody wants to hear about my post traumatic stress from finding that woman who jumped out of the window this winter.  No one wants to know why my ex and his family aren't speaking to me or why I can't set foot in his restaurant or why my SECOND marriage is in shambles or why my neck hurts from the hit and run.  No one wants to know because they don’t know what to say to someone with that much bad shit happening to them.  Partly because it upsets them but mostly because complaining about it just makes everybody uncomfortable.

YOU: “I’m so sorry to hear about all these things that are happening to you.  I’m really sorry to hear about your Dad.  I am worried about you.  It`s all just so bad, I don`t even know what to say.”
ME: “It’s okay.  Thanks, though.”

It’s not really okay.  Shit maybe I shouldn’t have said that it was okay.  I can already see that worry in your eyes is taking over.  Now you think I’m in denial and I’m some kind of time bomb who might just have a nervous breakdown any moment.  I can see the look.  There is as much pity as sympathy.  My phone has stopped ringing because no one knows quite what to say to me and also because there`s no good time to hang out with a grieving downer.  My outfit is the same every night: unwashed hair, a sad look on my face and an inability to concentrate or listen to others’ problems.  That’s not usually me but it’s me right now and I’m losing friends fast because of it.  And you don`t know what to say because there is nothing to say.  And I don`t know what to say because no matter what answer I come up with, the response is the same.

Here is the answer I`d like to give:

ME: “I believe I am cursed.  Can you believe I didn’t win the lottery?!”
YOU:  “What do you mean?  Millions of people didn’t win the lottery.  That doesn’t make you cursed.”

`You’re right.  Millions of people didn’t win the lottery.  And millions of people are suffering and going through ridiculously painful shit too.  Cancer is rampant.  People are dying.  We are aging.  Everyone has their own share of misery at their doorsteps.  No one needs a precise description of mine, nor is it any worse or better than any others’, I just happen to be raking up extra points for quantity of stress.  But, on the other hand, if I say: ‘I’m fine thank you’, I’m a liar and will more than likely be mistook for a rude bitch when I fade out during someone’s story about how their boyfriend means well or the topic of their thesis.  Sometimes, it’s better that people know that you’re going through things.  That you’re not able to take their call right now but if they leave their name and number, you’ll get back to them (and hopefully yourself) as soon as you can. 

When my friend died back in 2002, I remember the odd shock of the first couple of months that followed his funeral.  You’re not really there but you are.  I remember feeling, possibly even being high for most of it.  I couldn’t concentrate anyway.  School was a joke.  Sex was pointless.  I couldn`t talk to friends about it because they didn`t understand.  Food didn’t taste like much and I didn’t even have an appetite.  I suppose this is what they call depression but I’ve always considered depression to be a sadness that emerges from nowhere and not so much a sadness that comes from true horror.  I tried to keep to myself as much as possible and shut down to friends and family because I couldn’t handle the thought of telling the truth.

And that’s the other thing.  I’m not a big fan of secret depression.  It’s the scariest beast of all because it`s usually one that leads to suicide.  Suffering in silence is polite and all but it only makes you feel that much more isolated than the rest of the planet; something anyone going through too much pain is already more than familiar with.  So I took the right steps this time right off the bat in hopes of not losing too big a hunk of time this time since the first time around, it was these things that helped me pry my way out of the Bell Jar and back to something that ressembled a hopeful reality.  I sought counselling immediately.  I did massage, reflexology, physio, yoga, meditation.  I tried to eat healthy and drink plenty of water.  I was open with the people around me about my limitations.  I stayed away from drugs and alcohol.  I talked to my doctor about stress.  He told me the hard truth: if you want to try antidepressants, go for it but otherwise, there is nothing I can do for you – you just have to live this out.  The reality is, sometimes life just sucks and there isn’t a pill that’s going to stop these things from happening.  He said I could give it a shot.  I opted for riding it out.  Circumstance doesn’t justify medication and my grieving is garden variety.  This time around I am trying to be vocal about these depressive feelings (which probably isn`t helping my social life but an essential element to my mental state at this point).  I asked some coworkers the other day if they ever felt like living was just too much.  They laughed.  It made me laugh because I knew how absurd it must have sounded but I meant it.  I feel overwhelmed and exhausted and every time someone questions my mental state my answer is the same – It`s either continuing with one foot in front of the other or putting a bullet in my head.  That`s the truth and my options, though both equally terrifying seem as plain as that.

There has been a little too much tragedy in my own life these days and I only say too much because I’m finding myself at wit’s end and I’m not laughing anymore.  It doesn’t feel like dark comedy the way it once did it just feels dark.  I was crying at a friend’s house about all the bad things that were happening to me the night we got the phone call that my dad’s depression wasn’t depression at all but a stage four inoperable terminal brain tumour that had imploded and that required emergency surgery to drain the fluid in his brain to stop the horrible pain my father was having for weeks.  I fell over when I got the news.  My body literally lost its ability to stand up straight.  Once that simmered down, there were more deaths, more cancer, more bad news.  It seems we couldn’t make it through a day without something adding to the bucket of misery.

And yet, no matter how bad it gets, the moment I think to myself, it can’t get any worse, it does.  The other night, after some advice from my counsellor to try to relax a bit more (apparently the massage, meditation and mantras just aren’t enough), to indulge and to do something nice for myself, I decided to buy some music on iTunes and make myself a killer cd.  I was in a great mood.  My dad had a good night on Monday, he thought he was in Germany but other than that we were able to have a nice chat and what almost seemed like a normal evening with no vomiting and minimal complaints of pain.  I had a great day at work.  A nice visit with my university roommate and friends I haven’t seen in a while were coming from France for a visit the next morning.  I was feeling hungry and actually excited about the day and some of the new projects I’m delving into (writing, catering, etc…).  Happy to be moving to the lake next week and ready for red wine and raw meat.  I sent a message to a friend about what a good day I was having and how everything would be okay.

So,when I woke up, I decided not to bother making myself a cup of coffee in the morning, decided not to smoke a cigarette with that ‘first day of the rest of your life’ feeling bubbling in my belly, I put the new cd in the player – a CD which I titled ‘MY GOOD LUCK’ after a Miles Benjamin Anthony Robinson song, put the car into first and headed to Starbucks to treat myself to a far too expensive cappuccino and maybe I’d even buy a cake and eat it too.

I’m not even two minutes away from the house, driving in the right lane, when I notice two cars stopped in the left lane in front of me.  There is a truck and a silver car.  The truck is turning left and the silver car is waiting behind him.  I proceed through the intersection and BAM!  The guy decides just at the moment I am passing to not check his blind spot and sideswipe me head-on on the driver’s side, hard.  So hard that my car was slammed, my neck was fucked and I was pushed right off the road and way up onto the curb.  I watched the car slow down for a second after the shock of the impact, figuring he would pull over just ahead and come exchange info but instead, sped up and drove off as fast as he could, leaving me with a busted car with a door that won’t open, a brutal headache and unable to turn my neck to the left.  This is not happening.

I’m going to be late for work.  I’m going to miss my friends from France.  I need the car to get to the lakehouse or I haven’t got a way to get there.  My dad just paid this car off, he’s going to be so upset.  Insurance?  Fuck.  I don’t even know what to do.  I don’t move.  I just sit there.  I can’t believe this is happening.  I wasn’t even able to see if it was a man or a woman, a license plate, nothing.  Nothing!  Do people really do this?  Just leave?  What if I were dead or an old woman?  They didn’t see me either.

This morning I’ve got whiplash, my neck is aching and my back hurts a lot and I’ve still got a bad headache.  We’ve got a personal support worker at the house for a couple of hours this morning so that we have time to buy groceries and go to the pharmacy and all that stuff but instead, we need to take the car into the shop to be repaired and assessed and after spending the day with the police and at the hospital in x-rays yesterday, I’m scheduled for a bunch of physio for the rest of my free time this week.  It’s good, I want to get better but a bit annoying to have yet another challenge to overcome.

I’m not feeling suicidal.  I don’t want to die but I don’t really want to live either.  It’s fucking annoying and without the F-ing incentives: Family, Fun & Friends, it doesn’t really feel worth it.  Nothing good happens.  Literally, NOTHING.  I don’t remember the last time I had ‘fun’.  I don’t remember laughing or smiling.  I don’t remember that excited feeling in my belly.  Food doesn’t taste good.  I’ve got no love.  No resources.  No hopes.  No money.  I don’t care about anything and I am out of faith.  Out of faith in many of the people I really counted on, cared about and cared for.  I’m out of hope because it seems just too dangerous and I am out of resources because literally all of these issues have cost a shitload of money, time and energy.  I’m tapped.

What I’ve concluded is that survival does not justify faith.  If there is a God and he is responsible for all of this, I’m not a fan.  I don’t see the lessons here and I don’t think it’s just my impatience kicking in.  I feel that things are seriously unfair.  I feel that people are not good.  I feel that life is pointless.  I regret buying into optimistic bullshit as a child.  I regret believing in love.  I regret having hope and I certainly regret trying to live as a good person.  Where has it gotten me?  Absolutely nowhere.  No one's around.  No one calls.  And if I died tomorrow, I doubt a soul would take notice.

My close friends are around when they can be but of course every one of them has their own bag of shit to deal with as well.  Emotional turmoil, troubled relationships, money problems, cancer.  I need people around but people need time to themselves - c'est drole.  I keep trying the ones who promised they would be there but they’re either busy with work or just can’t do it.  It’s no one’s fault, it’s just another unfortunate truth.

The grief counsellor told me that in his experience, the hardest thing to come to terms with is that the people you expected to be there for you in a crisis were actually the ones who shut down completely or just left you high and dry.  That afternoon, I contradicted him saying that I had an especially good group of friends and a support network and that I didn’t think that would be the case with me but he was right, within a matter of days, the phone stopped ringing.  Offers for help disappeared and suddenly it wasn't all just hard, I was lonely on top of the rest.  Every plan I’ve made, even the unimportant social ones is cancelled, usually only minutes before it’s supposed to happen.  People tried their best to be helpful for the first couple of weeks: offering food and the occasional couch to sleep on but I don’t need helpful, I just needed company: friends, family, people around me smiling and talking about nothing.  Even if I can’t really listen or participate, I need to not feel more alone.  I’m worried that I’m already surpassed the point where that’s possible as I’ve mostly abandoned even the attempt of making plans with people because it’s only another thing to fall through and I’m entirely done with feeling disappointed.  There just isn’t time for that on top of the rest.  THIS is why I’m moving by myself in the middle of nowhere.  There is no point to be in the city, surrounded bymillions of people if all that does is make you feel more lonely.  I’ve always been a big believer that solitude and loneliness are two very different entitites.  Solitude is wonderful because it’s a choice.  Loneliness is standing alone in the middle of masses (a quote from a poem I wrote about depression a few years back which I am attaching to the bottom of this post).  I truly believe this.  There's no worse feeling than being around a group of people and feeling like you don't belong.  Think back to Grade Nine dances.  It's that but times a thousand.  It's got nothing to do with self esteem, either.  It's just life.  It's why love is so important.  Because THIS feels too bad to describe.  I'm sure it's only amplified because of everything that's going on and that if things were easier, none of this would be so un-nerving but right now, it's weighing on my mind and my shoulders and my patience a lot.

Anyway, my good luck...not so good.  Obviously.  But I’m going to stop caring about it and maybe that will change.  But I’m not counting on anything (I say to cover my ass).

I’m not going to say I hope tomorrow will be better; I'll assume it won’t be.

I’m not going to say I know my friends will call me tomorrow; I'll assume they won't and that if they do, it’s only to say they’re sorry but they’re tired or busy or working or can`t make it tonight after all.

I’m not going to say anything else that I hope might happen because Hell, that seems to be my jinx in the first place.

In a sincere attempt to comfort me, another friend this week told me that:

“I believe that like attracks like. Of course right now it's hard for you NOT to see the negative in everything. No fault of your own, but please take care of yourself.”

If I were giving myself advice, I’d most likely come up with one of these too.  Bad things happen to good people.  It’s not your fault, positivism breeds positivism etc…I already know all – I believe, though I`ve never actually read it, that this is the mantra of The Secret.  See the good things happening and they will happen.  I tried to go there for the first few tragedies.  I genuinely tried not to let life get me down but it doesn’t change the fact that bad things are happening and if like attracks like, I’m a bit fucked.  I’m not trying to see the negative in everything at all.  At this point, I’m not trying to see anything but tomorrow in front of me.  Hell, even that’s an overstatement.  I’m looking as far as the next ten minutes only.  If I can make it through those, I can make it through everything.  I’m trying to keep a smile on my face and do good when I`ve got the strength.  I’m trying to say thank you and to be as grateful as can be for the good things I`ve got.  I’m trying to keep up with my own creative and work projects and being vocal about my limitations.  I`m learning to say `no` and  I’m trying to be supportive to friends in need.  I’m trying a lot of things so if like attracks like, I`m screwed.  I’m absolutely fucked.  I`d much rather go with the rock bottom philosophy.  That the good thing about everything going wrong is that things can only go more right from here on;  I just won`t make the mistake of saying it aloud again.

I don’t know where to go for some peace but I’m hoping that this house on the lake, a little isolation, a little water, a little writing, a little coffee with baileys, no television, phone or internet and nothing but time to read, write and reflect – I`m hoping this brings about a change in me that is positive.  It probably won’t (I believe it will but I’m saying that as a ‘just in case’) but who knows, right?  For now, I`m trying to take Corrie`s advice and focusing on the fact that my Dad is sleeping through his pain somewhat peacefully today, that the deductible for the insurance is only $200 not to mention the accident could have been far worse, that I`ve got free physio and massage for a few weeks, that I`m lucky I`ve got such understanding bosses, that the friends who aren`t around aren`t worth having around anyhow and the ones who are in my life are truly great people and finally, that the food poisoning I got for my birthday last week helped me forget that no one remembered the sixteenth of August and better still, the vomiting and diherrea has allowed me to fit into my way-too-tight-for-years blue jeans.  Like attracts like but with my good luck…Nah, I`m not even going to say it.

I wrote this poem years ago when I was going through a lot of emotions over a troubled relationship.  Oddly enough, it's more fitting than ever.  Poor Eve.  Please don`t let me eat myself to death.  And to both Tom Wilson and Corrie and the rest of you, I will do my best to stop complaining about the thorns in my roses and try my best to remember the roses that grow from my prickly thorns and eventually will widen my scope from ten minutes to ten days to ten years again.  I'll get there.  I will.  But I'm not going to lie to you and pretend I'm just fine.  Those thorns, they do cut and I'm bleeding and it fucking hurts like Hell.


Winter had gotten her pregnant with possibility
But she lost the baby in the springtime and this,
This third miscarriage would be the end of her.

Eve never liked roses; she preferred daisies.
Roses brought sacred promises and sacred hearts
That were easily broken to bits.
So, Eve plucked them when she found them growing.
She brought them home,
Turned the heat on high and dried them out while
She filled her bath with hot water, then drained it
And filled it again a second time,
Because it wasn’t wasting water
If it made her feel something.

Lately, she'd noticed the birds were talking to her,
Black cats were looking white.
She’d started seeing Hemmingway in the jasper again,
And worried if someone didn’t save her soon
She’d go back to Henry Miller again.
Tortured by the lovers she’d had
And those that had her,
Eve stood alone in the middle of masses
Wondering how she got here and
Who gave her the bad directions?
So Eve went to Paris
Because it was closer to Paradise.
Her suitcase, full of rocks, and Being and Nothingness and
The past,
It proved heavy, even for Eve.
Heavy enough without the books she carried in her handbag
But she’d sworn she’d make it through this story,
This time, without skipping
Straight to the end, without cheating, the way she did sometimes
With all the anticipation and good intentions of Christmas morning
And the dénouement that comes on the twenty-sixth of December
With its empty boxes and spoiled magic,
Learning patience was not worth the wait.

Instead, she’s woken up with hope to find her stocking’s full of clementines but
She wanted chocolate.
Still, He didn't listen.
And even if they were cheaper and better for her,
Clementines would never do for Eve.
Clementines were devoured too quickly
By morning, they were gone and forgotten.
But not before she’d peeled them,
Skinned them to their naked core.
Not before she’d sucked out the juice
Mashed up the guts, chewed their intestines and swallowed
Everything but the seed. 
Eve always spat out the seed.
Or two, or three or four or more, depending on the fruit
Because the seed always killed those juicy moments
With a bitterness she never anticipated and
The disappointment that came with fruit being substituted for chocolate
And Boxing Day falling on a Monday.

In Paris she learned that morsels of bread could always be summoned up,
To soak up whatever pleasantries were left on the porcelain.
Stale could be brought to life with soft salted butter and somehow
Just crumbs, yesterday’s spoiled loaves, were enough to nourish her.
Enough to fill her up.
But even when she was full, Eve always needed more
So she could clean her plate clean.
It wasn’t politeness that drove her but gluttony.
She would still be hungry even if she were full.
And when the man at the Boulangerie would ask her
If she wanted three croissants for two euros
Or two for one euro eighty, she had no doubt
That twenty centimes could not only buy her happiness
But temporary satiety and also, that she would finish
The whole bag herself before her crème was done.

Still, she had time this time
So, she invited Beaudelaire for a second,
And he said he was dying for a drink and would she like to meet him
In an Artificial Paradise?
"Pourquoi pas?"
They brunched in the park and had wine before noon
And she noticed their noses
Ran at the same time as
They dragged themselves along the same sorry path.
Eve was sure it was love.
Two full stomachs that were
Still empty and manual flashlights
So they wouldn’t get lost together
In the dark.
They were two strangers needing exactly the same thing:
For Milton to be wrong.
She wasn't sure what it meant,
When he hesitated to make love to her for the first time
In French or in English
Huxley had left too many door open
And perception was hard to narrow down.

Eve was afraid of heights because she had fallen twice before,
And she knew bloodied knees
Were more painful than they appeared and that
Praying had gotten her nowhere in the past.
As always, before too long, she caved.
She let him climb her to the top of the catholic church
And when she was able to stand fearless on the steeple
He took her through tunnels and caverns and catacombs
And Hell.
And the park.
If she asked, he always came with her.
She wanted him to come always
Because he brought her chocolate bars in the morning
And taught her to ride a bicycle when she didn’t think
She knew how.

Eve lost her fear and he lost his way
And red was looking blue to him and the blue was turning grey
And there were broken promises and broken condoms and somewhere
Between the Eiffel Tower and Tokyo
In a little hotel near Trocadero,
He gave Eve the child she always wanted.
And when her belly was finally full
He left her and
She lost it.

Eve continued to suck the marrow from life alone,
Only, through a thin straw,
Careful not to let too much happiness through the plastic.
Where she once saw swing sets, she began to see hanging ropes and
The watery tombs of the Seine were calling her vertigo to attention
And attention was called to the sky. 
It had laid itself
On the river and she wanted to throw something
Over and up but
All Eve had ever thrown in were towels
And her home beckoned for her with baskets of laundry
Already brimming with broken dreams and dirty sheets
But she knew she would never be in the mood to deal with the wash.

By May Day, Eve started edging herself
Closer and closer towards the grey line of the metro,
Watching the 01 flash to 00 and the people get on and off,
Only remotely surprised that no one else today
Had thrown themselves into the tracks of the Line Three
Between République and Havre Caumartin.
They’d be better off, she felt,
Ending their pain now instead of later
Before all of Paris,
With rush hour as their audience.
Eve knew she should have opted for the Eight.
But she’d never had much luck finding Bonne Nouvelle.
Dommage, done.

So Eve consoled herself.
She drank demis by the dozen
And laced her tobacco with cocaine
So she could continue drinking
Until the whisky went sour.
Until she was drunk enough to forget
That her eyes had gotten so busy watching watches,
She'd always miss the way day and night made love at six o’clock.
Beaudelaire had broken her heart
For good.
So, when a stranger offered Eve a rose in the street;
A red one,
She took it with jaded thanks and instead of keeping it,
Instead of caring for it and helping it grow full of life,
She ate it.
Petal by petal,
Thorn by thorn,
Leafless to lifeless.

That rose disappeared into the six foot hole in her stomach
That she had dug herself to grow potatoes someday.
But potatoes would never grow here.
“He loves me nots” lined the lining of her insides and she didn’t believe
In Princes or Knights or Magic or a Miracle Man anymore.
The rose had made her barren and
She couldn’t eat a damn thing.
And when the man at the Boulangerie offered her four croissants for free
She didn’t even take one and twenty centimes,
It bought her absolutely nothing.
And that afternoon, she knew she’d lost her daisies for good.

Eve couldn't bare another Fall so
She left Paris,
And her rocks,
And her past behind her.
She left the wash to the river,
And the chocolates to the Clementines,
And she emptied her handbag so she could
Be light.

They found Eve in the park on a Thursday morning
Bleeding on a rosebush.
She had cut out her own heart and eaten it whole.
At last,
She had found Paradise in night,
And filled herself pleine,
And her story was finally done.
"Et la vie simplement la vie", they said
When they buried her in the park
Leaving flowers on her tomb.

All the flowers,
They too died before morning came.
Before Beaudelaire came back
For her
With daisies at dawn.
It was too late.
Impatience had already gotten the best of her.
Before she’d given winter the chance to come again
A rose was just a rose and
Eve was as cold as Springtime.


Give Me The Simple Life - A week in Gué Bas

There is a giant black bug crawling across the carpet and it's so big, I can't be sure what it is. Last night, there was a spider the size of my fist on the wall beside my bed. My face is covered in mosquito bites and the bees here are the size of birds. If I were in the city right now, I'd be calling an exterminator.

But I'm not. I'm in Heaven. And here, I'm in good company.

A couple weeks ago, it was decided that my apartment would be painted this week. After three long years in the place, the owner has decided to put it up for sale and we're getting it into tip top shape for 'la vente'. In the meantime, I'm homeless and on holidays. What to do? Maison de Campagne, Basse Normandie, thanks to my sweetheart and his father who have arranged for me to have the place to myself for the week to work on my book.

It's hard to explain the euphoria of being in a place this beautiful and rustic and perfect in words but I'll try.

I get up at seven. The sun is shining through the bedroom and I write best in the morning. Get the coffee going. Add Baileys. One cigarette and I'm off. If I'm lucky I'll be able to complete a whole chapter by nine. It's so easy to write when it's quiet. When the phone doesn't ring. There's no better accompaniment to the sounds of birds singing than a little Motzart.

Never in the city would I have 40 pages done before 9 AM. No way. Maybe I'd have blewn my hair dry and on a good day, taken a half hour to pick out something to wear.

At nine, I come into the kitchen and make breakfast. Two fried eggs, four pieces of bacon, one croissant, a small glass of fruit juice, a yogourt and half of a grapefruit in the garden. Maybe I'll do some editing, maybe I'll read. Either way, I need more coffee. More Baileys and one more cigarette before I bathe.

I might as well be bathing in the lake, this bathroom is that perfect. Stone walls, stone tub, I wash my hair and comb it and get dressed. Clothes I like to wear not something to blend in with the rest of the Parisians. Jogging pants. Overalls. Tank tops. Straw hats and flips flops. I let the sun dry my hair and try to get some yardwork done before it's time to get back at it. Pick dandelions, water the field, talk to the cows for a while.

Then inside to write while I get lunch ready. It's too sunny to see the screen from the big wooden table in the garden and anyway, I've probably got a sunburn as it is. A ham and cheese sandwich will do or maybe a salad with peppered goat's cheese, shallots and tomatoes.

I should have a nap. I know it because I'm feeling so good, I'm certain to have sweet dreams but there's a tv with a satellite and there is the option of changing the language to English. It's been so long since I've seen a show in English, I can't resist.

Then, back at it. I've got the place set up for writing. All my research spread about on the table, beside it, an owl feather and a rope. Symbols of the demise of my hero. An Oxford dictionary and a Roget's thesaurus. A little more coffee, maybe a coke and I'm good to go for a few hours more. Until it's time to get dinner ready. You would think that I'd be depressed writing about death and suicide all day but I'm not. I'm alive and I'm happy and my fingers can't help but pump out page after page. In Heaven there are no telephones, no interruptions, no responsibility. Writer's Block begone!

Around six o'clock, I take a break and lay in the sunshine, taking in the property, listening to the birds sing and the cows moo. I'm reading Proust at the moment which fits perfectly as it's about a region just a ways from here. It talks about Chartres and its famous Cathedral I visited one afternoon when I had a free train ticket and no idea where to take a day trip because Paris was all I knew of France. I imagine Combray being not unlike this place.

I take my MP3 player outside and the mini speaker I bought so I could use my new iPod this winter while my dad and I took a long drive to Ottawa. Motzart seems appropriate. I play it loudly because it reminds me of being in church. The best church on Earth. I am in God's land now. The cows hear the music and come to see what all the fuss is about. I imagine they don't get much excitement in their short lives before becoming dinner – steak haché, entrecote, bifteck. They come right to the fence and look me in the eye as though they recognize me or the music I can't be sure. I smile and wave 'hello', not because I'm strange but because it's probably the closest I've ever been or will ever be to these beasts, my asthma having always kept me at bay from such magestic places. There aren't many farmhouses to visit that don't contain at least one farmer who works among the dander. Then, all at once, to the music, the cows gallop off for feeding time. The bees are getting feisty too and the mosquitos are rampant. I should go inside and get dinner ready.

I marinated the meat in the morning with onions and salt and pepper and wine so that by dinner time the meat would be perfectly tender. I'll boil some potatoes and steam some vegetables and I'm all set. I set up the table in the garden, even though I know that I'll be hounded by the bugs, I can't stand the thought of missing out on the sun tucking behind the long trees over the hill and the orange glow of the sun on the castle up the way. A little glass of wine and everything is perfect.

After dinner, before the sun sets, I'll take a walk. Down the garden path and up the quiet country road which is interrupted only every half hour or so by a passing car or tractor on their way home for dinner or back to the little villages they've come from. The roads are lined with all manner of beauty, butterflies, brown squirrels, fields of gold and purple and green. Across the road there is the guardian's house. I contemplate taking the pathway to explore but I retrace my steps when I hear a strange sound in the bush, knowing that I haven't got a hope in Hell against any animal with my allergies or my inability to run fast. I opt to stay on the country road until I arrive at a little cemetery with tombs that date back to the 16th century and a gate worth the jaunt from the house. Before the sun sets, around 20h30, I should be back at the house. I don't know the area well enough to explore at night and despite the infinite beauty, I am terrified of coming upon someone who is unkind or worse an animal in search of dinner. Having been in a city so long, I feel out of my element in Heaven and am far more accustomed to the brutalities of Hell, or Paris, as they like to call it these days.

I watch the sun and the moon trade places around 21h. It is beautiful and soon I will retreat back into the house to set up again for an evening session of typing. There are things to edit, others to finish but anyhow, I'm getting nearer to the end and it's exciting to see your project come together. It's exciting to piece together a year's work page by page until you realize you've got more than three-hundred on your hands. This time I'll back it up. This time I'll back it up twice.

I write until my eyes are too tired to keep going or until there is a good movie on the television. While my steak was cooking, I've peeled the leftover apples and covered them in butter and sugar and crumbled some Petit Bruns on top. I'll stick it in the oven and enjoy my little treat before bedtime. I know I probably shouldn't but there is nothing quite as fun as watching a thriller when you're alone without a vehicle in a house out of the way of civilization and public transport.

Sometime before midnight, I turn the heat down in the living room and up in the bedroom, lights out, apart from a little reading lamp beside the sleigh bed with satin sheets and a down comforter. Again, probably not the best way to call on nice dreams but still good to stay on topic, I'll read about suicide or some other philosophical text from the vast library that Michael's father calls the Living Room. And then, when the moon is bright and high enough to bring the outdoors in, I'll sneak out one last time in the darkness to soak in the starry sky to smoke a cigarette and to watch Orion's belt come undone. I've never seen the stars so clearly in all my life. Afterwards, I'll come back inside, turn out all the lights and close my eyes while I listen to the frogs sing their songs until the birds stand-in at dawn. It's been so long since I've known quiet like this that I manage to sleep through the night without waking up. No drunks throwing things at my window; no women being harassed by five men down the road at five AM; no punks screaming from below begging me to invite them up. Just me and the moon and the stars and the snakes and the mice and the bugs. And that's enough.

Thank you to Michael and Viorel who made this week possible. It meant more to me than I can even say.

Needless to say, I feel like I've spent a week in Heaven and feel revived. Here, with all its maginificent creatures and sounds and lights and colours and tomorrow, when I board the train at Nogent-Le-Routrou, while I'm sipping a café allongé in the little bar just outside la Gare, it will be hard to bade adieu to Gué Bas. Hoping that the next visit isn't too far off because I could definitely get used to this.

And as for the book, no, it's not quite done but it's very close and I can't wait to see 'ce que ca donne!'

If this is what life could be, I want to live forever.

Bisous a tous.


This is a love letter.

To my dearest friends -

Make no mistake. This is a love letter.

I'm in another hotel bar, eating the same snacks I sold from 2001 to 2004 when I took that job at the Fairmont to pay for school. I swore ten years ago I'd never be like these idiots: buying over-priced shit to show off. I'd never be a big wallet tourist. You'll never see me in this kind of place.

The Manhattan is expensive but it's strong and the barmaid has brought me three cherries and a pen and paper so I'm feeling warm in my jeans and t-shirt while the rest of the room swarms in with their ballgowns and tuxedos. I feel like I'm in love. It is a perfect end to my perfect day in Canada's capital. Skating, poutine, beavertails, shopping for syrup, The Bay, CC.

This year has been heavy for us all. Deaths, marriages, babies, bankruptcies, lawsuits, violence, hospitals, breakups, breakdowns – pure madness. I can't believe we've made it through and yes, I realize it's not even close to over but we're getting over the hump...(when people say life is tough, this is precisely the kind of shit they're talking about!) 

Thirty wasn't quite what I was expecting. As a little girl, thirty looked a lot more like white picket fences and rugrats and a lot less like this jet-setter fanstasy that is becoming my life. Living in Paris seemed like one of those things people said they'd do but never came through on. I expected to be settled down by now – somewhere in the country with a couple of kids, an apple tree and a typewriter; that was all I ever wanted or needed. By twenty, I seemed well on my way. A ring on my finger, finishing school and already talking about making littles ones. And then, before I knew it, I lost it all and my blank slate and empty bank account looked me square in the eye, gave me a big fat F and said 'do over', drowning me in debt and heartache.  In shame and self-destructive behaviour.

And thank God it did. Because for everything I lost, I sure have made up for it in spades by making friends with the likes of you people.

Since LONG before I got married, love has been more than a bit of a fascination of mine. What the HELL it means; who's got it; who doesn't; how to win it and lose it; how to kill it dead; our tendency to convince ourselves we've found it when we're totally lost and how we never know just how good we've got it until it's gone. Love is that thing that both fuels us and ruins us. We're desperate to have it but once it's in the bag, we just don't appreciate it anymore. It's inate, in all of us and it's that one piece of sustenence that nobody tells you about when they send you on your way with your diploma, harping only about the roofs, the clothes and the shelter you're going to need down the line. Nobody tells you just how much you need love in your life.  Youth swells the illusion of the urgency of it, age distills the hope a bit, even breeds cynicism until one day you look around you and you can't find a single happy couple in the flock and again - it puts it all in doubt and that terrifies me. Because, when you've spent a lifetime looking for the answers to these questions, if there isn't love in your life, you've got to ask yourself why you get out of bed in the morning at all. I've asked myself that question more times than I'd like to admit.

Not so long ago I was sitting in my apartment in Paris second-guessing every decision I'd made so far: the moves across the country or to new ones all-together, the jobs, the degrees, the men; the loyalty, the trust – every damn bit. My once glass half full of dreams was sitting empty on the kitchen table with a chunk of red sediment in the bottom of it and suddenly that cup wasn't half full anymore, it was just an empty, cracked, piece of shit Ikea goblet. I drank a four euro bottle of Bourgogne before dinner that night and was passed out cold by eight o'clock thinking dark thoughts alone in a dark room. The darkest thoughts I've had in a long while. Everyone was in so much pain. I couldn't make a single phone call home without hearing how shitty your days were, how bleak things were looking. It wasn't just me, it was all of us. Everything was so intense and it was killing me. Where was the love? Where did it all go? I know I had it once – I know because I wanted to drive with the windows open and hold hands and laugh all night long. I once wanted to make love in the grass and run through wheat fields and forests with no clothes on. I know I felt whole not so long ago. It was what had gotten me to Paris in the first place but lately, I hadn't been recognizing it anywhere, in anything or anybody. It was all just a big pile of poo. One stolen manuscript, one depressing apartment with mice and cold showers, one boyfriend who was all over the map, zero people in town I'd call 'friends' (not because I don't care about them but they're just not you - friendship takes time and trials to develop properly), a shitty job that paid shit just so I could stay in a country I wasn't even sure I wanted to be in. A country that just might eat me up and spit me out if I wasn't careful.

And then one of you walked into my apartment and made me laugh. You dragged me out of bed with cans of beer and André Ethier and you were obnoxious and rude and you woke me up. When I drunkenly blurted out that I wanted to die, you told me to shut up but I know you were listening even though you turned the music up so loud - almost so we couldn't hear our own voices - then looked me square in the eye and said maybe the single most important thing anyone has ever said to me to pull me out of the quicksand:

'If you do it, I won't come to your funeral.'

In the moment, I didn't care much but a good half hour into the evening I remembered what I'd forgotten all alone out there in Gay Paris – I already had love and apparently that was all we needed. I had LOTS and LOTS of it. It had filled me up and out and it was the reason I got out of bed in the morning. I once wanted to make the lot of you proud.  And I definitely wanted you at my funeral.  Shortly afterwards, that pretty picture I'd set out to paint in real life was bullshit and my thoughts were a heck of a lot clearer again. It wasn't real, these things I was suddenly after again and I'd given that kind of life a good hard try already once and walked away from it - more than that - ran away from it, sprinted even, after only a year and a half of marriage and a fistfull of pain. It all came flooding back. I'd never been such an angry, miserable, uninspired, lonely, bored, and heavy bitch in all my life as I was after walking down that aisle. So what was it I was waiting for? Why all of the sudden did I feel like I was missing something?

Because I was. I was missing you people.

I wasn't a fool. I knew that moving to France was a huge risk. People always say they'll keep in touch but rarely do. It's not malicious and I'm not judging; it's life and I'm no exception. It's hard enough maintaining regular contact with people who live in the same town as you but feeling close to friends when they're out living their own lives in another country – it's an awfully great expectation and it's too much to ask of anybody. And still, when I needed you most, you all came through for me. As usual. As always. Phone calls, emails, skypes, cds and all the words I needed to hear. And like Hermann Dune insisted 'Don't you worry a bit. Try to think about me.' It worked.  And remembered what I was doing it all for.  Why I was writing, living & loving - it was because you people existed.  It was because we loved eachother (well, I hope you feel the same).  That was worth celebrating.

Just when I was starting to think that it was all going to be okay again; despite everything; despite writing for years and producing shit; despite my up and down drama of a relationship; despite all the craziness that was happening to the lot of you; I had this sneaking suspicion that there was a light at the end of the tunnel. Still unsure about what to do next – visa on the way out, a second wedding looming (this time for VERY different and far more practical reasons), feeling like I just couldn't be a thirty year old babysitter any longer, I played hookie from work and pretended I was sick. Turns out, mentally, my excuse would likely hold up in court and I wasn't quite right in the head – that time off was not only deserved but necessary). That morning, I was determined to figure it out on my own. I boiled some water, made a cup of coffee and listened to a cd from an ex-boyfriend that to this day is still one of my all-time favourites because it reminds me of a time when everything was up in the air and life was throwing signs at me by the dozen. I would ask God for a sign. If my eyes were open and my stomach was willing to accept the hard truth it usually preferred to deny, it ought to work, it usually did.

Minutes later, my neighbour jumped out of the sixth floor window and landed in my courtyard. I found her lying there, almost lifeless, shocked and apart from calling the Pompiers, I had no idea what to do next.

That fucked me up more than I can tell you. You all know the story by now: the blood, the bones, the breakdown. The woman survived and I made it out of there with just nightmares and anxiety attacks. Could've been worse. Could've been much worse. It had this strange effect on me, though. I was dreaming about it again and again, obsessing over the details of the day and, like any woman – wondering what it all meant. I couldn't nail it down, though. It could've meant a whole slew of things:

1.-I ought to just go through with it myself already.
2. -I saved someone's life. I should be thankful, proud, even feel good about myself.
3. -DO NOT get married again, you idiot!
4. -This town is not for you, leave, PARIS, VITE! You don't belong.
5. -It doesn't get better. It only gets worse. If I'm not careful, I'm next.
6. -Finish this fucking book about suicide already, loser!

The possibilities were endless. God could really be an asshole when he wanted to be.

I couldn't figure it out and my head was spinning with regrets and worries realizing that the rest of my life was moving on over here while I was over there trying to be bohemian but making a big ol' depressive mess of it all. After three long years of trying to shed the fear, it was back and all flared up again like a bad yeast infection that you're too embrassed to tell anyone about, one that's in far too private a place to scratch in public so you just go home and put some cream on it, hoping for the best but knowing that it's going to come back again and that this is only a temporary solution. Only one thing seemed crystal clear for me after the jump. I needed to come home. I needed to see my friends and my family.  I know I wasn't supposed to need anybody, but I did.  I needed you.

So I hopped on a plane back here yet again hoping that a little time here would cheer me up. It often does. A little tequila, some good music, a benny, a corned beef sandwich, sleepovers, bowling, guest brunch shifts after late nights of binge drinking – Canada is still my miracle cure for depression. It's not Toronto, though, it's you people that make this place. I've always known that this town wasn't for me. The drama, my inability to keep anything private or sacred, the booze, the money, the drugs – it overwhelms me.  All of these lives and loves I've led and lost – this place has elements of them all. It's a lot for my fragile heart to take and I've always known that I needed to venture out there on my own to find myself (SO cliché, I know but that's me, cliché) and part of what propelled me to head to Paris in the first place was this weird series of coincidences and this feeling that I was meant to live in France (the French education, the last name, the food, the wine, the lovers, the writers, the free asthma medication – every compass pointed there) but without YOU, without the people who have made my life possible, I'd never have had the courage or the confidence to even try. Before I left in 2007, I was just a broken down Chevy and when General Motors went belly-up, you guys got my motor running again, paid for the fix-ups and the touch-ups and even offered to change my tires for me when it all went flat. You literally saved my life and got me back on track and I owe you my life.

Growing up in Oshawa and Vancouver and finally in Toronto, I couldn't have been farther from making it to Paris and settling down there to do what I love. And yet, suddenly, here I am, not so far from this fantasy that I dreamed up as a girl. It most definitely hasn't all been easy or fun but it's incredible all the same, this irony that's coming to life and hey, if we don't suffer, what the Hell do we have to write about, right? It's all got me to thinking about worries and regrets. All of us, we've spent so many years worrying about what our lives would become, what they could become if we weren't careful: accidental babies, mental breakdowns, business failures, divorced, alone, bitter, poor, having to speak French all day every day..GASP!  In the end, none of the worrying did us much good. We've all had to face our destinies as they've come for us with black cloaks and those scary reaper scythes and all those lives we were trying so fucking hard to avoid, they got every one of us and, let's face it, they're not so bad. In fact, some of them have actually improved our quality of life.  They've given us futures.

Life is what it is. It's a happy accident and that's it. I think of the hours I've spent making plans for this future or that future, rather than just going with it, I'm amazed at my own naiveté. Who did I think I was, anyway? We've all been through the shit and not only have we survived but we're doing pretty okay for ourselves. No, we may not be rich or in control of a God Damned thing but we're good people and that's something, it is! I for one can say that those things I've always dreamed of finding: real love, a family, traveling, spending my days reading and writing and playing music and not working for an asshole in a place that inspires me, that's worth a lot more than cash. Christ, I've pretty well done it all. And much like my grandma said just before she died:

'At night, I lay in bed and I think to myself – I really have done it all. Nothing's really fun anymore, you lose that, but I appreciate things and I am so thankful for my life. It's amazing'

I see it now and I'm fucking glad that woman jumped out that window while everything was up in the air. It's brought me back to you guys and now I remember again.

I'm happy to say I've already got more love in my life than most people ever get in a lifetime. It's in my blood and my bones. You're the smile on my face, that spinny buzz in my head like when I've had few too many beers, you're the consciences perched on these shoulders of mine and that warm feeling I get in my heart whenever anyone says the word 'love'.

I'm not looking for love anymore. I've found it. I've found you all.  And they're right.  Love is all you need.

I've got myself a big, happy, dysfunctional family full of new adorable babies, picket fences & typewriters and well, I'm going to plant that apple tree this spring in Normandie and soon I'll have had everything I've ever needed. So, one day, when I finish this book and publish it and make my fortune, I'll pay you back for everything you've done for me over the years. I'll call you all and fly over for Thanksgiving (because it's the only sacred holiday left) and I'll make you a duck-stuffed duck because they don't quite get the turkey dinner thing over there yet. We'll eat foie gras with griottes and eau de vie and drink bottles of delicious cheap wine and when it's time for dessert, we'll all head out there together and pick an apple a piece: peel 'em, chop 'em up and soak 'em unpasteurized butter and brown sugar; maple syrup too if you're bringing it. While it's in the oven, we'll nibble on stinky cheeses and let the kids play around in the yard, fantasizing themselves about how one day they'll create something for themselves like the lives that we live now. And when it's good and hot and cooked through and through, we'll take it out and each take a fork and dig in together and remember these times and laugh at the thought that we'd never make it through.

So do me a favour and keep your fingers crossed for me and think positive thoughts of me locking myself in a library basement and finally finishing this puppy.  I'm due.

You are the great loves of my life.

Thank you.

You are literally everything to me.


HERE ARE THE SONGS ON THE CD I've made for you all. I hope you love it and I apologize for the bad sound quality of my piano. This digital recorder isn't the best and I haven't played in ages. Each song on this album has a special meaning and if you know me, you'll get why. If you don't, just listen. There's some good shit on there.

- Winter 2011 -

  1. FUCK YOU – Cee Lo Green
  2. CASTLES & TASSELS – Adam Green
  3. US – Regina Spektor
  4. AXIS: THRONES OF LOVE – Pink Mountaintops
  5. IF THERE'S SUCH A THING AS LOVE – Magnetic Fields
  8. FIRST DAY OF SPRING – Gandharvas
  9. TRY TO THINK ABOUT ME – Hermann Dune
  10. HOME – Edward Sharpe & The Magnetic Zeros
  11. I DON'T REALLY LOVE YOU ANYMORE – Magnetic Fields
  12. HOLIDAY – Pink Mountaintops
  13. SHANGRI-LA – M Ward
  14. ANOTHER TOWN – Regina Spektor
  15. DON'T THINK TWICE – Me, on piano
  16. TOURIST IN YOUR TOWN – Pink Mountaintops

If all goes well, I'll be back on the 1st of June for a visit and to get my visas sorted out. Looking forward to every minute of it.

Lots and lots of love.

A bientôt.

Julie Jolicoeur