It’s been so long since I’ve updated, I had to re-learn how.
It feels like I should be writing something inspiring here, all about getting fired up to change the world and write like a motherfucker, but you all know how I feel about the word ‘should’. I resent ‘should’. It’s a dangerous word, designed to make us feel bad about ourselves.
This blog post is going to be disjointed.
Part of the reason for my absence is that after many, many months of infertility treatment, I had a baby. Infertility is a special kind of hell, particularly when yours is the kind that has medical doctors dissuade you from trying because in your case, it’s just so damn unlikely. The odds are against you. But the thing about odds is that unlikely is not the same as impossible, and so you roll the dice, again and again, one more procedure, one more transvaginal ultrasound, one more injection.
Facebook memories pulled up something I said to a friend about it: You fail and you fail and you fail and you fail and then you decide, keep failing or stop dreaming? It’s a lot like writing, I thought. Carrying on in the face of overwhelming odds against you. I stopped hoping but kept trying. Sometimes, it’s not so much about not dreaming as it is a sense of “What else can I do?”
I believed the pollsters, and so the election results caught me by surprise. It shouldn’t have. The thing about odds is that unlikely is not the same as impossible. The aftermath has not surprised me. I see friends shocked and horrified about how racist and misogynistic and LGBTQ-phobic the world is, and feeling like the world they knew has been changed overnight, and meanwhile I am only feeling a deep sense of tired. None of this is new. Call me cynical, but the world hasn’t changed at all.
Many people have taken it upon themselves to see this as a call to action, to shake themselves out of complacency. “We should do something!” That word should again.
Over the last few years, issues of race have been on my mind more and more. Less so because of the violence, although that is horrifying, and maybe it’s a mark of my privilege that it doesn’t charge me up more. But getting people fired up and talking about how Violence Is Wrong is easy, particularly here in my comfortable liberal bubble. It’s all the friendly polite racism that gets under my skin. “So when was the last time you visited home?” “Does your name have a special meaning?” “My immigrant neighbours all hang out with each other and not me! I keep trying to be nice but it’s like they don’t care!”
How do you call someone out for being nice? There are ways. I should use them more. But I get tired of forcing people into empathy. Someone else should do something.
Writing, in my view, is a deep act of empathy. Who are we to have empathy for? What happens when empathy is not a two-way street? What happens when all the understanding in the world doesn’t turn up anything more than cheap justifications?
What happens when this is your life and not just your words?
I am told that this should be a call for empathy, for artists to get to work, to change the world. Call me cynical, but my short fiction published in the comfortable elitist Canlit bubble aren’t going to change the world at all.
So why do it? Why write? What else can I do?
People want to fix this. People want to do something. They write letters and blogs and donate money and try to change the world. They will fail and fail and fail and fail again. And this is perhaps the source of my deep sense of tired in the face of so much earnest effort. Because every single one of them will eventually ask themselves, keep failing or stop dreaming? Some of them will keep trying without hoping. Some of them will burn out because it’s not easy to fail and fail again.
In the midst of all this, the comfortable elitist Canlit bubble is being pulled every which way over students at my school and a professor and innuendo and a bungled investigation and for a person who used to openly talk about the state of my overworked ovaries, it’s hard to talk about in public. Not so much because fear that I might damage my own self-interest, because really, who am I with my little stories that won’t change the world? There’s a sense of not wanting to hurt more people by saying the wrong thing because you don’t know the full story, even when you know that silence is worse, in the way it does not care.
I should probably take some kind of stand, even though it seems unlikely to matter.
And so maybe I do understand why people don’t step up, why someone else doesn’t do something, and why it’s left to those most directly involved to try and force empathy on others even when they have much less of a voice, and are so easily drowned out. It’s tiring. It’s so damned unlikely that anything will change. Unlikely is not the same as impossible. But you still have to fail and fail and fail and fail and fail again, and who wants that?
The writer in me keeps wanting to take these threads and tie them up in a hopeful ending, one that inspires and makes a sympathetic call to action, to write more and care more and do more and show that maybe under all my tiredness and cynicism I really am fired up and ready to write like a motherfucker and change the world, and that you should be too. After all, I have made the unlikely possible. I failed and failed until I eventually succeeded, in writing, in life. Why not take on the world?
That’s how this post should end.
There’s that ‘should’ word again.