cultivating & crashing

an organic collection of notes, observations, and thoughts

Category: self

Sobre guita y cigarras

No sé cual me gusta más: tomar mate o saldar cuentas.

Me estoy proponiendo saldar los dos préstamos más chicos de 6,8% antes de 2018. Ya estoy “adelantada” (porque gueimificaron esta esclavitud) con los pagos, lo cual quiere decir que puedo controlar adónde van los próximos pagos. Si Dios quiere, voy a seguir adelantada por el resto del tiempo que los pago, y de esa forma puedo ir reduciendo de la manera más eficiente lo que me queda.

A veces soy una capa. Lástima que sea para el capitalismo.

* * *

Tras una oleada de calor calcinante que duró una semana y una tormenta ventosa que se llevó el verano, finalmente llegó el otoño a Montreal. Anoche cerré la ventana por primera vez para dormir, y esta mañana me di acordé que también me gusta esta época. Puede ser también que estoy sinitendo que voy emergiendo despacito, como la cigarra, primero de la tierra, luego del caparazón, dejando que se sequen y fortalezcan mis alas. Poco a poco, paso a paso, hasta que esté lista para volar nuevamente.


* * * * *

I first came across the concept of adverse childhood experiences via a CBC Ideas talk on the subject a few years ago, and what I heard was unsettling. On the one hand, I realized that what I considered broadly to be a rough childhood had been given a name. There was something tangible to which I could point; the things I lived through were real, difficult, and their consequences were devastating. On the other hand, the associations that were found between these experiences and health in later life were thoroughly depressing, even despairing at times.

To file under: things with which there is nothing to do.

dix ans à Montréal

שמי סופיה

I am learning how to love with a broken heart.

I can’t sleep through the night without medication, but I know I will get there.

During the week I synthesize information about youth mental health; on the weekend I seek to savour every waking moment as deeply as possible.

I don’t write as well as I used to when I was younger and more tormented. On good days I believe it’s better to live well than to write well. On bad days I believe it’s because I am growing complacent and mediocre. Today is a good day.

After many, many years of being a student, I have graduated into a life of paying student loans.

These days, my friends are fewer but more dear.

My favourite

– colours are the ones you find in weathered countrysides: rust, burgundy, cream, wheat, hazel, verde agua, slate

– scents are those of the people I love

– sounds are those of loons and cicadas

– flavour is that of tahini

– animal is Patate, who is teaching me how to be a creature

– weather is hot August heat, broken by thunder and lightning storms

– thing to do is be between grass and sky, slick with sweat or rain

My hair is long and dark with white mixed in, curls cascading along my back when they’re not woven into a braid or tucked into a bun. My legs are not as strong as they once were but they are robust and take me far.

My family is numerous and joyful despite the things we struggle with. Our history is conflictual and painful but I am no longer ashamed of it. With my mother I am learning to live honestly, because I realize that how I am with her is how I am with myself. I am no longer afraid of my father, but curious. My sisters, brothers, and brother’s brother are vibrant and beautiful, and I look forward to sharing our future together.

I’m not sure how much I believe in God anymore but I know I love a good story.

asking too much

i want somebody who sees the pointlessness
and still keeps their purpose in mind
i want somebody who has a tortured soul
some of the time
i want somebody who will either put out for me
or put me out of misery
or maybe just put it all to words
and make me go, you know
i never heard it put that way
make me say, what did you just say?

i want somebody who can hold my interest
hold it and never let it fall
someone who can flatten me with a kiss
that hits like a fist
or a sentence, that stops me like a brick wall
if you hear me talking
listen to what i’m not saying
if you hear me playing guitar
listen to what i’m not playing
and don’t ask me to put words
to all the silences i wrote
don’t ask me to put words
to all the spaces between notes
in fact if you have to ask, forget it
do and you’ll regret it
i’m tired of being the interesting one
i’m tired of having fun for two
just lay yourself on the line
and i might lay myself down by you
but don’t sit behind your eyes
and wait for me to surprise you
i want somebody who can make me
scream until it’s funny
give me a run for my money
i want someone who can
twist me up in knots
tell me, for the woman who has everything
what have you got?
i want someone who’s not afraid of me
or anyone else
in other words i want someone
who’s not afraid of themself

Turns out I wasn’t asking too much.


Something’s happened recently that deserves my articulating it. During the time since I left home seven years ago — in the time I’ve been writing here — I’ve felt that I was always scrambling to find footing and create stability in my life. In the past month it’s dawned on me that I’ve finally reached a place where I feel I have those things. I am studying something I love and will find work in, and in general my mind has understood that I’m no longer flailing in the dark just trying to keep afloat; I’m thriving and learning to enjoy the work instead of panicking at the constant thought of sinking. This feels unprecedented and momentous. It’s perhaps why I’m finally feeling confident enough to consider reconnecting with people from back home.

It’s funny because I remember Mike telling me to just wait until I was 27, that I would relax and life would turn up. I never really imagined it could be true or that it might work like that, but today I’m feeling very much convinced that I’m getting a taste of a different life ahead.

Hopefully I’ll be able to tap into this space from now on when I’m feeling frantic. I have the upcoming midterm period to test it out.

New beginnings

This past week we rang in 5775 with the Chavurah. This year’s lessons: do not get into any sort of discussion, no matter how well-intentioned and innocent, when abstaining from food and water for 25 hours (says science). And 10 days is not enough time to make amends and tie up loose ends of everything I have pending.

This September I began a Master’s in epidemiology and I love it. I had been planning to apply to this program for several years, and it’s all I dreamt of and more. I’m learning R, cool inferential stats, and epi methods. This week I’ll be zeroing in on topics for my thesis, which may include: sleep, cardiovascular outcomes, mental illness, lifestyle choices (physical activity, smoking, alcohol consumption), and chronic illness such as obesity or diabetes. Never has a bunch of such sad things made me so happy.

Compost Montréal got one of its processing sites taken away by the city, and as a result had to increase its prices to cover the cost of transporting the compost farther away. I’m too cheap to pay someone almost 9$ a week to do nice things to my garbage, so I looked for alternatives. As it turns out, the city just set up a new community composter on my street just a few hundred meters from my front doorstep. It’s like I got an early birthday present from the municipal government God. Such good behaviour on behalf of the Ville de Montréal should be encouraged. If anyone knows who I should thank for this, please let me know.

We have new neighbours since this summer and I still haven’t made them brownies, but I plan on doing that this week so I can get over this shame of avoiding them all the time.

And lastly, a friend just returned to Montreal after two years away and is trying to get me into Afro-Caribbean dance, and I might just bite!

on biostats and habits

in final week of biostats, and, as usual, it’s pretty exciting (once I stop procrastinating and sit down to my lectures).

last week we saw how admissions to UC Berkeley’s graduate programs, which aggregated into male/female, accepted/not accepted groups, seemed to expose a glaring bias towards accepting males (i.e., more males accepted than females). as it turns out, it only looks like men were favoured in applications, whereas in fact most women were applying to programs that had lower acceptance rates, whereas men applied to ones easier to get into. when comparing the acceptance rates, women + men were equal, and in one case women were actually favoured. this illustrates the importance of isolating confounding variables/effects. in order to do this, you take stratified samples, compare, then verify if effects are still similar, then apply relative weights and pool together to see if concurs with the partial effects.

in this week’s lessons the prof explains why relative odds ratios are so popular/important, which is that the probability/odds of a certain outcome given a certain risk factor, it is equivalent to the odds of the risk factor given the outcome. below is a visual representation and the mathematic proof of why this is true. (this example is based on a study concerning infant mortality in the first 180 days of life and night blindness in the mothers.)

odds proof

the practical implication of this trait, called the invariance of odds ratio, is that you can used case-control studies in order to approximate relative risk. e.g., you can find out what the relative lung cancer risk of smoking is by going to the hospital and counting up how many lung cancer patients smoked and didn’t smoke. this is valuable because that kind of study is much simpler and often cheaper than working in the opposite direction.

this is one of the instances where math (the art of tinkering with numbers) reveals some really cool shit about how the world works, which I find very exciting. data about the world are just sitting around, waiting to be seen in just the right way so as to reveal the answers about which we care about quite a lot (does smoking cause cancer or not? does x easily-fixed risk factor cause death in impoverished people or not? are college admissions distorted by sexism?).

my master’s is definitely going to have to include statistics. in fact, my aim at this point is to do the highest level of stats possible given the (non-stats) background I have currently.

in other news, I had been obsessing about how I haven’t been running this summer. every time I got dressed in the morning, every time I looked at the musculature of the summer-exposed arms and legs of athletic people, every time I log the exercise I’ve done (yoga, 7-minute workout, bike 3hrs), I felt the smart of knowing that weeks kept going by of me not running on a regular basis, in a way that was not so much about what had not happened but a sinking feeling that running is just not something I can or will ever do. this is something that I do a lot; my default expectation in meeting people/embarking on projects/taking a class/learning a skill is failure. it takes me weeks of pushing forward blindly, unconvinced, before I will blink and realize I’m not only doing it, but doing it half decently. with the running, it took me realizing that I was committed to the idea that I simply will never be a runner, and so far this week I’ve gone running every other day. obviously it’s just the first week, but the difference is in how I feel about my capacity to do it, if I want to. as I said, this irrational automatic response is present in all aspects of my life, so I hope to counter it in other parts slowly; first realizing I’m doing it, then actively reminding myself that this is irrational because it is unfounded in reality, and then taking steps to show myself otherwise. if we are what we repeatedly do, then I will learn by painstakingly repeating this cycle of steps.


Lately my days have been about softening and opening. While I was in school, and especially during the last several months of writing my Honours thesis, I was actively burrowing myself deeper and deeper into a tunnel of limitation and narrowness. First thing in the morning and the last thing before I slept I was thinking about—worrying about, brooding about—how I was not able to conduct my project as well as I would have liked, that at every step there were limitations and imperfections in the process. Sadly, this is how I spend most of my year: occupying a space of consumption, of worrying and producing alongside unnecessary amounts of anxiety.

But this summer has me decompressing. My anxiety has lifted for the most part, and my stomach is almost back to normal. Most importantly of all, I notice cracks in my blinders: realizations that things—life—would simply be more enjoyable if I stopped worrying about what if I’m fucking up, or what if she thinks I’m incompetent, what if my work isn’t good, what if I overstep, what if I don’t get in, what if I don’t make it. What if I did what some others do, and instead be excited? As in, be happy when corresponding with a big macher researcher, and capitalize on the opportunity to network further and more fruitfully—and be content doing it. What if I enjoyed working at the lab, instead of worrying what everyone will make of me? What if I just have a good time when talking to people instead of bending myself out of shape (and out of my comfort and own self) entertaining them at all times? What if I spoke in a slow, relaxed tone instead of a shallow-breathed, slightly frantic, ever-cheerful, high-pitched one? What if I learned to stop saying sorry unless it was warranted? What if I just let myself learn this slowly instead of beating myself up over getting it right away? What if I could soften, surrender, and open up to relish the wonderful things, both great and small? (What if I could stop thinking what people with think when they read this, and what if I could just enjoy my expression of self and the positive things I am reflecting on?)

All this to say that things are good. Really good. Mostly because I am white, educated, and anglophone in North America, but also because I am making things work for me. Also because I have a sense of style and wisdom that I enjoy and that I think will serve me well. Worrying is a little less easy when you count your blessings and realize you’ve got them in spades.

Case in point: here’s my living room, at long last.

Jewish life

Today was my exam to become a Jew. I passed. My rabbi liked the last part quite a bit.

I want to lead a Jewish life that enriches my experience of life—one that transforms my experience of events, of family, of friendship, of lifelong learning. I believe that the rituals and practices of Judaism imbue life with special meaning by providing a large, cohesive context within which they exist, and adding a dimension of intentionality and awareness to life. I do not simply want to eat dinner on Friday; I want to invite in the joy of the Shabbos bride for a day of repose and celebration with people that are special to me. I do not simply want to move in with a boyfriend at some point and have children; I want to be married in the tradition and presence of my community, and initiate my children into that community. When my parents die, I do not want to simply get over the grief in whatever way, but I want to have the support of a timeless tradition of mourning that has aided a people throughout generations.

I want to live a Jewish life that I will pass on to my children, to provide them with a heritage and a community for them to learn and draw from, be a part of, and contribute to. I want to live a life that enters me and my future family into the people that is Israel, because we are small and fragile as individuals, and the larger and more connected a family we have, the better we fare.

My Jewish life right now looks like: a mezuzah on the doorframe of my house, which I kiss every time I see it, thanking God for the home and safety I have; lit candles on Friday night while friends are laughing and sharing over a supper that is special; slowly sounding out the Hebrew letters in the siddur and becoming comfortable in the increasing familiarity of the songs of Shabbat with each week that goes by; moments of quiet thanksgiving in solitude, as well as moments of thanksgiving voiced out loud, in unison with others.

I want to lead a life of struggle with God to understand what the best way to live is, and what is the best way I can engage with the world that we live in. Judaism establishes guidelines for living by, both as a community and as moral beings. These are tools that we have at our disposal to figure out what is good and how to deal with difficult situations.

Furthermore, there are certain things I do not want to have be part of my Jewish life. I do not want to live a life where I hide behind Judaism to stop questioning and challenging myself or the world. I do not want to use Judaism to give me facile or dogmatic answers to complex aspects of life. Quite the opposite: I believe Judaism should inspire me to think for myself, as an individual but also as part of the people that is Judaism and part of our modern society. This leads me to believe, for instance, that Judaism must be re-interpreted and re-cast as time moves on in order for it to continue to be meaningful and relevant to its adherents. In a society that is highly secular, fanaticized, or apathetic, I want to lead a Jewish life that does not shun the world that God created (including the aspects that are distasteful, ugly, or even evil), but confronts it with the courage and wisdom to understand. I want to lead a Jewish life that does not shy away from sorrow but also knows how to embrace joy and marvel at the complexity of human experience.

New soul

I’m a new soul
I came to this strange world
Hoping I could learn a bit ’bout how to give and take
But since I came here, felt the joy and the fear
Finding myself making every possible mistake

See I’m a young soul in this very strange world
Hoping I could learn a bit ’bout what is true and fake
But why all this hate? try to communicate
Finding trust and love is not always easy to make

This is a happy end
Cause you don’t understand
Everything you have done
Why’s everything so wrong

This is a happy end
Come and give me your hand
I’ll take you far away

I’m a new soul
I came to this strange world
Hoping I could learn a bit ’bout how to give and take
But since I came here, felt the joy and the fear
Finding myself making every possible mistake

New soul
In this very strange world
Every possible mistake
Possible mistake
Every possible mistake
Mistakes, mistakes, mistakes…