cultivating & crashing

an organic collection of notes, observations, and thoughts

Category: thoughts


I just woke up from a dream where I was trying to take a literature exam given by my epi methods prof that was for some reason very necessary and important. A lot was in the balance. I hadn’t read the texts, so I am trying to read a modern rewriting of a Greek tragedy with a female protagonist (Antigone, but in the rewriting her name was Penelope) in my dream and answer short essay questions about it. Except I was 100% actually trying to do this in my dream. I remember reading the pages, seeing illustrations in the book, and trying to formulate the best answers that I can on lined paper while also trying to hook up with this gorgeous black young woman, a gymnastics athlete who was staying in the same apartment as me. But as I am trying to call my prof to ask him if I can have an extension on this mail-in exam, I am freaking out, because this is important.

I wake up stiff with adrenaline. Lying with my eyes wide, I realize that I am still dragging the legacy of an childhood spent with an abusive parent, that I am still undoing the habits, the tendencies, the myriad learned responses that affect every interaction I have. I kept hoping that now, after moving to a different country, now, after having gotten an education, now, after building a life independent of my family, now, after having a stable relationship with a life partner, now, after over ten years of a new life, that I have finally passed, but in reality, my relationship with my long-term partner still failed after having suffered from so much that I just could not fix, I am still prone to feeling inadequate and inconsequential at work, I am still inordinately hurt and defensive by people who are rude to me. In the shower I realize that my heart is so fixated on this exam, so stuck on wanting to have passed.

But the exam is ongoing and there is no moment when it is truly done. And in fact, I am very much struggling right on along, doing what I can. I have friends for whom I would put my hands in fire and who would do the same for me, and a vibrant, supportive community that I cherish being a part of. I have an amazing job that I love with hilarious, thoughtful coworkers. I have a family that loves me with the passion of the sun and that are beautiful, complex, rich beings that root me to the world. I have a mostly sunny disposition, but still willing to dig a bit deeper, and face the murky aspects of things. I am healthy and have the fire and fuel necessary to push, search, learn, tinker, fight, and love as long as the days allow. And that is a great gift.


Sympathy for the saintly

I remember reading that Puritans were so obsessed with sin that they found it everywhere. The more they wanted to be free of sin, the more they policed themselves and realized that, oh shit! That was a sinful thought. And so was that one. And so was hers. We are all in a mortal fight with the Devil for our souls.

It occurs to me now that an analogous thing happens today is systems of oppression. Progressive types, myself included, see the entire world as a collection of differing shades of oppressive forces at work in ourselves, in our neighbours, in the world. It was classist of me to avoid talking to the janitor and avoid making eye contact with the homeless guys (the indigenous ones, young ones, old ones, hungry ones, the ones sleeping) in the metro stations. My hesitation about this immigration policy is coloured by xenophobic logic. This politician is exploiting the Islamophobia of this country, and people I know are falling for it. This employment questionnaire discriminates against people who have experiences mental illness. Why do I keep noticing people when they are black? Is it racist of me to smile at them because they are visible minorities? We are all in a ceaseless struggle with personal prejudice and institutionalized discrimination for social justice in our communities.

Thing is, the first used to appear obviously superstitious and even whimsical to me, whereas the second could not be more painfully true. Realizing the parallels makes me think that 1. perhaps there is a set way of thinking that is part of how we think and process the world around us, regardless of the content, and 2. that the Puritans make more sense to me now, because oppression is the sin of the athiest, socially concious worldview.

Hurt to hurt

When we’re hurt or scared, we become rigid, inflexible. When we are inflexible, we are unable to feel what is happening with others. It is in our rigidity and inability to empathize with others that we hurt them. It’s tragic: pain begets more pain.

I believe hurt is what people refer to as evil. But because we are all human, all shades of grey, we all are guilty of hurt, scared evildoers, as well as beautiful angels of forgiveness and healing love. We are all scared, we are all hurt, we all hurt others. In big ways or small, we do it. We must learn to accept our pain, and the pain we inflict on others, and learn how to live with ourselves somehow. We need to, otherwise we can’t learn to be less hurtful to others.

I hope this year to be more understanding of the pain I have given others and that others have given to me. I hope to cultivate the strength to work on the fears I have. I hope to cultivate the strength to be less callous to the people and the world around me. No one is expiated until we all feel repentance, no one is free until we are all healed.

keep walking

I feel aimless, lost. Not sure where I am going and don’t know why I am even walking. Long days, weeks, and months of vague hurt beneath the stillness I can now achieve on the surface. But I know what helps is to keep moving, to keep rolling, waiting for time to pass, for wounds to scab over, for hard brittle blisters to yield to soft flexible skin. So I will trust this lesson and just keep walking.


I found out recently that hygge is exactly what I have always been going for in my little apartment. My favourite things really are snuggling up with my favourite people to eat homemade food by warm, dim lighting. I am displeased at myself for being very predictable (apparently it’s all the rage), but what I do like about it is that it emphasizes little, inexpensive pleasures rather than extravagant consumerism. Not to say that minimalism isn’t the new marker of upper middle class style, but there is something much nicer (read: more punk rock) in savouring the familiar instead of expending great energy to partake in the rare and elite.

But also, I found out I love chia seed pudding.

The Mystics of Mile End

I am reading The Mystics of Mile End. I tried to finish it quickly so I could move on to something else because I didn’t like how it started. But between yesterday and today it got weird and picked up and now I am enjoying it. In it, a young woman is losing it after her father dies. She tries to understand kabbalah through a manuscript her father had just finished writing before he died, finding clues and symbols in everything she sees, most of which are not what she’s looking for, but it’s all still a mad journey in pursuit of the answers she needs.

Mike wrote to say he loved me because was getting on a small plane and he was a bit scared. For an hour and a half, while I read, he was Shrodinger’s cat, and there was nothing I could do about it but wait. Reading the book exaggerated the surreal nature of the wait.

It’s been several months — maybe years? — of having a very profane existence, and I suspect it is in large part due to the fact that I have been reading non-fiction. It’s fiction like this book, the kind that warps your feeling of reality, the immersive kind that distorts the myths pertaining to and sensations of what it’s like to be alive, that transport me to a space that I know so well that it is comforting, even as it is discomfiting. That distortion, that suspension of belief, has somehow been more constant in my life than any other part of it. The plasticity of the world around me has been such that I know that no place that I know is fully true. Not the perfect sunshine of San Diego, not the vast flatness of the Pampa, not the verdant humidity of Maryland, not the subzero overcast grey of Montreal winter. Not the ways I’ve felt over the course of my life, not the languages that I have spoken, not the way people are in the places I have been. Everything is relative and subject to change when you change the scenery, if you do something different, or even if you just wait long enough. But the sweet, seductive confounding of your senses, of your grasp on the world and what it’s about, that will always happen when you get caught up in any book, song, trip, movie, or story that you become engrossed in.


These past few days I’ve realized that I have passively considered myself marginalized for most of my life. When I lived at home, I was non-white (according to US standards), in an abusive home situation, low income, came from an uneducated family, I took care of younger siblings. As a student, I was struggling like mad to get over these things and also to make ends meet to be able to keep studying. I had been depressed and struggled emotional, and was unemployed and unable to provide for myself.

Suddenly, I find myself graduating and emerging into the real world with a new job and a new life. I realize I am now educated, not a visible minority, gainfully employed, emotionally stable, living with  supportive and loving partner, no messy family situation, taking care of only myself. I feel that I’ve left a vulnerable status and been accepted to a non-vulnerable status. It’s a strange transition, but a welcome one. I always knew I had a great deal of privilege relative to the rest of the world, but it was never such that it provided me enough stability to feel better off. Today, being better off is very palpable.

With this new phase of privilege comes greater responsibility to use it for good, and to help bring up those who are not here yet.


Last night we had a terrorist attack in Quebec City on a mosque, just a few days after Trump’s Muslim ban. Five people are dead and six are seriously injured after a shooting. And today it strikes me that I finally understand what terrorism feels like. I was living half an hour away from the Pentagon when September 11 happened, but I watched the events and observed the mourning in others the same way I did when it happened in Ankara or in Nice. This had nothing to do with me, those were not my people. Today, I am thinking of the acquaintances, roommates, and friends that woke up to the news that people like them had been killed for being who they are. These are my friends, my people, that have been attacked, and it is horrifying.

Turtle Island Reads

I attended the very first edition of Turtle Island Reads tonight at the Kahnawake Survival School, and it was really wonderful. Over the weekend I read Children of the Broken Treaty by Charlie Angus, and on Monday I found out that McGill was holding a week of events focused on First Nations people and issues, of which this event was a part.

We took the bus across Montreal, over the bridge to the South Shore, and into the Kahnawake reserve, which greated us with a painted boulder that read “THIS IS MOHAWK LAND”. We arrived at the school after driving on a road that cut through forest and was lined with stores with names like “Four Winds Trading Post”, “Little Chiefs” and “Big Bear”. A car in the parking lot of the school had a bumper sticker of some school whose sports teams were the “Mohawks”, only they actually are. The school’s insignia was an enormous line drawing of an eagle with a large circle around it that bore the school’s name.

The event felt incredibly exciting because it was the first edition of Turtle Island Reads and a historical moment for indigenous literature in Canada. It felt like a moment of recognition, validation, and appreciation for the indigenous experience in Canada was unfolding before our eyes. And while this was exciting for me to be a part of it, for some people it was far more poignant. The woman who was sitting next to me was the mother of a former student of the school. She cried quietly as she listened to the presenters speak of how pivotal it was for each of them to read books about indigenous people, to hear their own stories told, and how much they wished this could have been something they had had earlier in their lives.

While the centuries-old problems between the Canadian government and the First Nations communities are not even close to being well addressed, I think Canada is experiencing a watershed moment in its history with its indigenous people. I look forward to watching the story develop.

Turtle Island Reads


L’intelligence ce n’est pas ce que l’on sait, mais ce que l’on fait quand on ne sait pas.

Jean Piaget


Lest our measurements of intelligence be confounded by knowledge!

I find this really interesting, because he is not stating what he would consider intelligent to do. Strict epi would have you say you don’t know and back away from the problem, but we need to make decisions all the time for problems on which we don’t have data. So does that mean prudence or daring?