Back in February, I had the flu. My whole family did, but it hit me the hardest.
For a few days I laid on the couch in agony, sweating and shivering in equal measure.
Afterwards, I had a cough that lingered for a week or two before disappearing, but something else remained: the fear.
The fear of you.
You didn’t do anything to cause it, of course. You’re all wonderful, lovely, supportive readers who send me emails that make my heart swell with pride. But suddenly in my mind you were a terrifying battalion of 600 to impress, and my courage crumbled.
The first month of 2020 had exhausted me, and the flu took about 10 pounds off me that I couldn’t stand to lose, so I just shut down. I started writing newsletters, but would abandon them. I focused on looking after my family and my health and trying to find my way back to normal.
And then the world started to come apart at the seams.
“A smoke break with your work wife” seems like a dangerous proposition now, doesn’t it? But the need to decompress, vent, and give each other the reassurance to persevere persists, and if I can contribute anything to help satisfy that need, well, then that is what I must do.
Maybe this is what I’m supposed to do.
Have you ever heard of the Twelfth House? If you’ve looked at an astrological chart, you’ll notice it’s divided into twelve sections, like a pie: each slice represents a house, and each house represents a different part of your life.
The Twelfth House has historically been associated with misery—it rules hospitals, prisons, and mad houses; it was the house of sickness, confinement, and loss. The Twelfth House rules secret enemies, the threat you cannot see.
It seems relevant as we all sit in our homes, watching a global pandemic churn across the Earth.
But it’s also the house of the subconscious, and the collective unconscious. It represents the truths we all know, even if we refuse to acknowledge them: the Twelfth House forces us to confront these truths, for we can no longer avoid them. It’s also the house of imagination, guiding us to discover the way to reconciliation, or revolution: it’s the end of one world, and the beginning of another, and in the Twelfth House we craft the new one.
The Twelfth House is the dark before the dawn.
We can make use of this concept of the Twelfth House in these times. There’s opportunity in this period to discover and confront what malignancies we’ve been blind to, imagine how we can move forward, and what that will change.
Maybe this is what we’re supposed to do.
I need your advice! My daughter (now 8yo) became good friends with a girl from her school who lives near us a couple of years ago. We began walking to school with her and her mom, having many play dates, and her mom and I ended up becoming very good friends as well.
However, this girl has a “difficult” personality, which began resulting in more and more drama and stress for my daughter. At this stage, my daughter doesn’t want to be her friend anymore; and I told her that’s ok. The mom is aware her daughter is difficult—but it’s still her daughter. We haven’t faced the elephant in the room: how do I tell her my daughter doesn’t want to hang out with her daughter anymore—but I still want to be the mom’s friend? It’s killing me!!
You sent me this in early February, and I apologize to not getting back to you sooner.
However, it seems the problem has been resolved on its own: a pandemic means no playdates.
That said, let’s look towards the future, one in which playdates resume: this is not your problem, it’s your daughter’s. Eight-year-olds are learning how to socialize through trial-and-error, and deciding how to deal with ending or limiting a friendship is one of them. While we can guide our kids on how to address issues or end a friendship, we can’t take the lead—otherwise they don’t learn.
Your relationship with the mom is independent of the relationship between your children, and that is where you should invest your time: strengthening your relationship with her with activities that don’t include the little ones. (May I suggest in the era of social distancing, FaceTime After BedTime with Wine?) Your need for friends is just as important as your daughter’s.
One more point: kids are constantly changing and adapting. The difficult personality may be very different when they can see each other again; or your daughter may appreciate the girl’s quirks differently. When we allow kids to work out their own relationship issues, they often find solutions that work better than any we could come up with. Often, the best thing we can do is be a good example with our own friendships.
I hope this helps!
I’ve been a nuisance on the internet for decades now, and luckily have met and made many friends from all walks of life.
One of them is the intrepid Ryan Oakley: otherwise known as The Grumpy Owl, he’s a science fiction writer originally from Ontario and now lives in South Korea with his indomitable wife. Ryan began writing updates and dispatches shortly after the lockdown, and I’ve begun to rely on them.
Ryan is unsentimental but kind, generous with both compassion and conviction as he relates daily life in Korea and what awaits us in North America. In this long read, he addresses the emotional state many of us find ourselves in this week:
There are good days and bad days at every step of this thing. Some days, you have this sort of calm and directed energy. You clean, you get shit done. Other days, you are itchy with restlessness. You climb the walls. You want to scream. Nothing works. And some days, you just need to wallow. There’s days when you feel fine and days when you really don’t. It’s okay. You don’t always need to fix it. You just need to get from one day to the next.
Ryan guides us through the dark territory of the mind in isolation, and offers perspective to persevere, all while dressed in an immaculate bespoke suit.
As we’ve all retreated indoors, the few trips we take outside of our homes have taken on new importance: errand running comes now with brief moments of awe at a closed city.
With smartphones and social media platforms, the situation has made photojournalists of us all, sharing images of empty streets from around the world united in isolation.
But if these pictures make you melancholy, may I suggest this article about Canadian photographer Boris Spremo as a palate cleanser?
I’d never heard of Boris before this, but I’ve seen his work all my life. Boris was the first Canadian to win a World Press Photo award, and the first photographer to be named a member of the Order of Canada. He captured the people of Toronto in moments large and small, and the stories behind those photos are just as riveting:
During Cindy Nicholas’ swim across Lake Ontario, Spremo got the shots he needed—from a boat, in the middle of the lake. Now came the task of figuring out how to get them to the Star which, at that time, had a final afternoon edition. The film had to get there. Noting that a CFRB amphibious helicopter was circling overhead, Spremo had an idea. He asked a reporter on the boat if he could get in touch with the helicopter pilot to ask him if he would land closeby, so Spremo could hand over his film. The pilot obliged, but unfortunately, could only land the chopper on its pontoons 100 yards away from the boat. There was only one solution for Spremo. He stripped down to his briefs, jumped into the cold lake and swam with the power of one arm, while the other arm was delegated to keeping his film safely out of the water.
Spremo emphasized a type of love and intimacy of his subjects: perhaps as we document how the pandemic has changed how we live, we can also document what remains unchanged.
If you tire of scenes of empty streets, let your camera lens capture those you love: the city, as Spremo understood, is found there.
Just Like You
We really are a very fortunate city: even when all the sports are on hold, the athletes who play for our teams make sure to find ways to amuse us:
You’ve likely already seen this, and if you haven’t, you’re in for a treat: Serge Ibaka and Kyle Lowry of the Toronto Raptors are a delight as they tease each other over FaceTime. Lowry in his hoodie exudes extreme Dad at Home energy, while Serge is every extroverted single person stuck at home that you know.
The superstar athletes that brought us the world championship refuse to let a pandemic get in the way of entertaining us. For that, we should appreciate them even more.
And that’s it for The Jumpstack! I’m going to try to return to the old weekly schedule, but I might be erratic—it’s becoming hard to find content that isn’t dedicated to COVID-19, and it’s even harder to shake off the habit of turning on the news and watching it for hours. This issue was important for me to do: it was ripping off the Band-Aid. Thank you to everyone reading this, and if you enjoyed it, feel free to hit that heart or share—and stay safe and well.