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Essays

Pas intéressée pantoute

Au risque d’avoir l’air d’une incorrigible snob, ce qui ne m’intéresse pas du tout est la vie intérieure des autres. Parce que la plupart des gens n’y consacrent que quelques miettes ici et là, et ne se soucient pas vraiment d’être cohérents or réfléchis. Leur vie intérieure est souvent un brouillon sans grand potentiel. Je n’ai pas assez de patience pour ça.

C’est moi la perdante, sans doute. Je manque sûrement quelque chose. Mais ça m’énarve, attendre.

Une de mes filles me demandait récemment si, ayant à choisir entre deux pouvoirs surnaturels, je choisirais la capacité de lire les pensées des gens ou la capacité de téléporter. Facile! La téléportation parce que figure-toi ma fille qu’à part quelques rares exceptions (dont elle fait partie), ce qu’il y a dans la tête des gens ne m’intéresse pas pantoute.

Elle, elle choisirait l’autre option. Elle est meilleure que moi.

How I found my inspiration

It found me. I was around 15 years old and for reasons I can’t recall we got an electric typewriter. A Smith Corona. With correcting tape, even. Beautiful thing. This was in the mid-1980s. Electric typewriters were cool back then, I swear.

I’d already gotten used to computers. I’d worked with Apple machines at school and I owned a Commodore 64. Best gadget ever, that. But computers in those days weren’t for writing. They were for programming and video game playing. Both activities I enjoyed. They were fun, but not a calling.

That electric typewriter touched me. It said my name. It sat on a desk and I knew it wanted me to write.

I didn’t know why. I still don’t. But it did. It took me more than 30 years to heed that call with all I’ve got, after trying to resist it but not very successfully. Nowadays I work on a Surface Pro 3, which corrects mistakes pretty well but isn’t as cool as my old Smith Corona. I like to think it would be proud of me if it could see me now.

Souvenir d'hôtel

J’avais mes trois filles avec moi. La plus jeune avait six ans, la plus vieille 10. On se préparait à sortir avec des amis.

“Maman, c’est quoi ça?” demande la plus jeune. Je me retourne et elle se tient bien droite avec dans la main, l’agrippant du bout des doigts, un condom usé qu’elle avait trouvé en jouant près du lit. Les deux autres me regardent remplies de curiosité. Ben oui mama, qu’est-ce que c’est?

Je bondis de mon siège. Bon d’abord met ça à la poubelle et lave tes mains correctement.

Ensuite assoyez-vous. On va être en retard…

Le plus bizarre dans tout ça

Moi, ce qui me jette constamment sur le cul, c’est de voir à quel point les gens vivent leur vie sans la vivre.

Je m’explique.

Ils ne se posent pas de questions existentielles. Ils ne se demandent jamais qui ils sont vraiment. Ce qu’ils sont venus faire sur cette jolie planète. Le pourquoi du comment, vous savez? J’suis ici pour quoi, moi, au juste?

En fait, la plupart des gens non seulement ne se posent jamais ces questions, ils s’efforcent de courir à toute allure à l’opposé de ces questions. Ils les évitent comme la peste.

Ils deviennent occupés: la job, le couple, les enfants, les loisirs, le chalet, les voyages, la famille, les recettes, les films et émissions de télévision, les lectures qui s’empilent, etc., etc. Ils s’entourent de bruit, ils ne sont jamais assis cinq minutes en silence. Parce que le silence leur fait peur.

Le silence leur rappelle qu’en dedans, ils sont pas mal vides. Que l’écho sonne creux en tabarnouche. Que s’ils ne changent pas leurs méthodes, ils vont mourir comme ça, tout creux en dedans. Comme un Kinder Egg à qui on aurait oublié d’ajouter une bébelle. Tout beau et sucré à l’extérieur, tout vide et triste à l’intérieur.

Ce que je trouve le plus bizarre, dans tout ça, c’est que même en face d’une telle prise de conscience, la plupart des gens s’empressent de courir plus vite en faisant encore plus de bruit. Je ne comprendrai jamais.

The stool of my life

It happens naturally when you make big changes in life that you start thinking about, or more likely that you start to rethink, stuff you used to take for granted. 

Such as, to take an easy and light-weight example, your purpose in life. The essence of who you are as a person gifted with a handful of talents and, one hopes, the ability to reason through difficulties instead of resorting to gratuitous violence. 

Who are you, really? 

Me? I'm a stool. And like all respectable stools, I  have three legs. One leg is fitness. One leg is writing. One leg is love. I trust you have some passing experience with this kind of seat. If you do, you'll know that while no leg is any more important than the others, they are all equally necessary. Feel free to test that proposition if you enjoy crashing on floors.  


Leg 1 

I'm a very active kind of bunny. Some might even say hyperactive. But it's not really my fault. If I don't move, my blood turns to mud and my mood turns real ugly. Especially now that I'm in my late 40s, with Impeding Changes afoot about which you may have heard nasty rumours (all true, by the way) and a metabolism that for no good reason has decided that all the good things in life but especially fresh bread, fries and beer weren't going to be processed like they used to, well, I gotta keep ye old carcass ticking hard. 

So I train. Jogging, swimming, conditioning, weights, cycling, etc. For 17 years I did karate and kickboxing pretty intensely. Seven-days-a-week kind of intense. Now I do the other stuff, every single day. Too cold for running? No problem. Hit the pool. Don't feel like getting into that bathing suit? Fine. Go do weights for an hour. Do at least one workout every day. Ideally do ten workouts (or in the summer, a dozen) a week. 

Do I always feel like it? Hahaha. Show me someone who positively gleams at the prospect of getting out there in the cold and dark winter morning to go rattle their bones in a somewhat violent manner, and who prefers that to shadow-boxing with the snooze button and I'll show you a psychopath, pure and simple. Of course I don't always feel like it. Duh. But like I enjoy repeating, it's always when you don't wanna that you should. So I go, reminding myself that while I rarely feel like exercising I always, without fail, feel better afterwards. 

It's very necessary to keep the unduly ugly away. And it makes my morning coffee taste more virtuous.

 

Leg 2

Writing. I've made many compromises in my life that resulted in me not writing very much because I thought this was what was expected of me as a responsible grown-up. I worked in real jobs. Jobs that paid well and made me look good. But I never lasted more than two years at any one of them. I went to law school (not at my own urging), studied hard and got a degree that would allow me to make piles of dough and earn me ambiguous respectability in the process. Wouldn't you just love to be hated yet indispensable simultaneously? Me neither. But I got the degree and even a job at this prestigious firm in Montreal... which I quit before spending even one minute in their employ. What was the point, if I didn't want to be a lawyer, hum? 

Since then I bounced around various jobs I wasn't especially well-suited for, including wifery and motherhood. Finally I would find my spot, right? 

Wrong. 

It occurs to me, which is not a very comfortable feeling, that maybe I was too scared of writing and used other people's expectations (real or imagined) of what a responsible grown-up should be doing to run away from my art should it be able to catch me anyway. 

Well, as they say, shit. Nobody said re-examining your life's purpose was ever going to be easy, especially for the already battered ego. You know, the one that's already pretty unhappy from all the years of not writing. 

In any event, it didn't work. I guess the inescapable truth is that responsible adulting isn't for me. When I finally emerged from trying so hard to pretend I could fit in, not too long ago, I resolved never ever to put my writing behind anything else, not even the other two stool legs. I was going to write, every single day of the year (yes, all 365 of them; haven't decided whether or not to take the odd Feb. 29 off but leaning against it) and suffer absolutely zero excuse. Travelling? So? Busy with kids? And? In the hospital with one arm cut off? Mmmm. There's got to be a way to use the other one.  

Point is, well, you get it of course. You're pretty swift. I don't need to explain any more, not even as a somewhat transparent attempt at increasing my word count for today. Because yes, I now set myself writing goals (benchmarks, markers, and any other synonym I can find to populate this paragraph) and must absolutely no failing allowed write that many words every single day the sun rises even if it means being anti-social or - gasp - irresponsible like a teenager. 

It's a good thing my body still metabolizes red wine pretty well. 

Leg 3

Love. Boy, do we ever get frantic about that one. And no wonder. It's a necessary drug. Just ask those who feel deprived of it. 

I used to feel that way. Deprived, I mean. Like a junkie in search of a fix. 

I didn't feel loved growing up. Was it my fault or that of the humans around me? I have my opinions on that, and they're probably fairly accurate, but it doesn't matter. For I grew up feeling like my heart was dry. I got accused of if early and often so it was probably true. 

I became alternatively very harsh (never more so than when it came to my own person; I almost redefined self-criticism all by myself) and so desperate that I would bend over backwards in three different pretzel shapes just to get someone (anyone, very much including an eclectic and disparate collection of Mr. Real Wrong) to say those words I ached to hear. 

I am not entirely rid of that unfortunate predicament, even though now I find myself in the enviable position of being loved beyond what words can describe by a handful of wonderful souls, including three I made from scratch. Still, insecurity nags. Am I really worth it? Is there a trap? Am I about to lose them and will Mr. Finally At Long Last Right disappear in a puff of glittery smoke like in those cheesy friendly-witch programs? 

(Research note: Was the puff of smoke really glittery? Is it worth checking?) 

Anyway. Maybe insecurity is part of love. Because it makes us feel vulnerable and doesn't let us take anything for granted. Maybe that's how you keep the right kind of love around. Not with constant reminders, but with just enough of an insecure edge that we remember to be nice, say please and thank you, and occasionally remind the objects of our devotion how much they mean to us. Because who knows, maybe they're a little insecure too sometimes. 

It's all good. 

****

This is my stool, and those are my legs. I used to neglect them like crazy and as a result spent a lot of time wobbling or crashing to the ground. But once I was able to stop trying to fit in so much with the responsible adults around me, I was able to sit down properly and keep working, allowing me fully to engage with life like never before, while elegantly avoiding those awful split infinitives. And yes, that feels good. 

L'endroit le plus inconnu que je connais

Cazoul-les-Béziers. Quelque part dans le sud de la France. J’y étais en 1997, en visite avec un ami chez des gens qu’il connaissait.

Leur maison était à Montpellier, si je me rappelle bien. L’ami de mon ami était à l’étranger, mais son épouse et leurs enfants étaient à la maison. L’épouse était d’une grande beauté. Elle venait d’une riche famille touareg, en fait on m’avait qu’elle était jadis princesse et que son mari avait dû l’acheter de son père. J’ignore si c’est vrai, mais j’y ai cru.

Sa peau était lisse comme un lac sans brise, ses traits suprêmement délicats et sa taille allongée et fine lui donnaient une allure de top modèle, même dans la jeune cinquantaine. Ses enfants étaient remarquablement beaux aussi. Sa fille, en particulier, faisait tourner les têtes partout où elle allait.

Son fils m’a introduite à l’art très compliqué de thé touareg, qui est très fort et très sucré. Un délice.

La famille avait récemment acheté une maison secondaire et on s’est tous empilés dans la petite Renault pour une balade en voiture jusqu’à Cazoul-les-Béziers qui, comme le nom l’indique, est près de Béziers. Si vous ignorez où est Béziers et pourquoi on s’en soucierait, vous n’êtes pas le seul. Il n’y a rien de bien impressionnant dans la région que je me souvienne.

Nous y sommes restés quelques jours. Il n’y avait qu’un seul café à l’époque (enfin, je n’en ai trouvé qu’un), où je me prélassais l’après-midi pour lire un livre et siroter un grand crème. Personne ne m’a adressé la parole. J’étais sans doute trop étrange.

Aujourd’hui, le petit village (“haut en couleur” affirme le site web) compte 5,000 habitants qui seraient tous, j’en suis convaincue, ravis de faire votre connaissance.

Mais pas moi. J’ai déjà donné.