The little blue light sits on my desk next to the computer screen. It’s a bit like playing with fire: trying to balance the ups and downs, the energetic bursts and the calm. Sleep was still elusive at nine – at ten p.m., the room being too warm then too cold. I’m surprised to hear the wind still gusting this morning. But Leonard has finished his breakfast and is where he should be now, curled up on the rug. And E. is still sleeping downstairs. I see a list of late-night messages from students that have collected on my phone. And there’s a photo of my daughter-in-law’s new puppy that slipped in overnight via messenger. So all is right with the world. A cup of coffee and a blanket draped over my legs. This is privilege: this quiet hour before the rush of the day begins.

I find myself living more and more in the spaces between things that have words to describe them. It’s not that I don’t want to write, but that I want to find a way to write without naming experiences. Without sorting my life into the labeled bins. This year I am teaching theater history a bit differently, having put the students into small seminar-style groups to discuss the curriculum rather than use a lecture/assignment model. I’m finding it helpful with ideas I struggle to understand myself: like Artaud’s ideas. I’ve been talking about how Artaud didn’t want the audience to experience a catharsis, but rather take the emotional disruption home with them. Invariably, the students describe it as Artaud wanting the audience to “reflect” on the theatrical experience. I guess it is due to an assumption that theater-as-therapy is theater-as-talk-therapy: the intellectualizing of experience as the route to understanding and processing/neutralizing. After all, what other kind of understanding is there?

There is poetry.

But so much of this kind of exploration is the antithesis of formal education. And even in a small group, an attempt to discuss this just frustrates and confuses the students, who want to/have to sort the information into the bins, to tuck the words away neatly into clear sentences that click like a tumbler lock to open the door to university. Which is what they are here for. What I am here for. There’s no room for negative capability when the exams are scored blindly from a central clearinghouse of random examiners. Sometimes I think there is no room for negative capability in the culture at all.

When the logic or science doesn’t exist, we “make it up” rather than rest in the beauty and in the ambiguity. We are so uncomfortable with inconsistency that we shut down opposing views, challenges, dissonance. We draw rings around what we will tolerate, using them to point out how tolerant we are. This, but not that. And those are the only two bins.

I know this isn’t new. It’s more like a flare-up of a common human disease in Western culture. Forget that last week you didn’t believe in witches. Today you pick one out. You choose a side.

Or maybe: you are one.

And just like that, I seem to have walked out of this little room and into my day.

I didn’t mean to do that.

The first snows came early this year. And have stuck for several days now. Leonard is thrilled. Every walk is like a treasure hunt. He digs his snout under the snow and pulls on the leash. I wonder if the snow sets the scents in relief somehow – why the same old neighborhood smells are suddenly so mesmerizing. If I had a wish this morning, it might be for snow thinly blanketed over the everyday things I take for granted.

As it is, I am sitting with a cup of cinnamon coffee in front of the computer screen and a blue therapy light. The space heater is drowning out the blackbirds. If they are there. And Leonard is curled up in the living room on the couch. I think the space heater annoys him. He likes the cold.

I slept poorly last night. Ruminating over things I need to say to students about their work that I graded last night before bed. Dreaming about students, and about me behaving in selfish ways: letting my frustrations overwhelm my pedagogic obligations. Being something of a bitch, I suppose. I grabbed one girl’s hair, looked her in the eyes, and told her I wasn’t going to babysit her sister. I’m convinced that sometimes dreams are random and not messages from the subconscious. I’m already totally conscious of my bitchy tendencies. My frustrations. And my obligations. And for goodness sake, doesn’t my awake behavior already give me enough to feel guilty about?

Twelve work days until Christmas break. And again this year I am just not ready for it. Every year it is the same disappointment. It comes unexpectedly and I just can’t seem to rouse the energy to deal with it: the advent season. The planning, shopping, cards, and handmade gifts – and sorrows.

Yesterday, heading to and from yoga on the train, the usually deserted station was bustling. The town square was filled with kids and music. All I could think of was that it was because the shops were open on a Sunday, and that made me sad. Am I a cynic for wondering if the place would have been empty had the shops been closed?

Despite the record high electricity prices making headlines in the national news sites, the neighborhood is lit-up. The windows full of Christmas stars and electric candles. Walking Leonard through the streets is cosy. But the mood seems to slide off my back, and I don’t know why. Or I do really. I grit my teeth at the expectation of the ghosts of Christmases past.

I will try harder this morning. I will try to stop resisting the season and all the pain that comes with it. I will try to find solace in letting the present moment in. To be more porous. I know it will do me good.

I’ll rouse Leonard off the sofa and see if I can look at the morning walk as a kind of treasure hunt. Blackbirds are out there somewhere.

A student requests a new monologue for her character. Gaia. She wants the character to have a little meltdown about the situation. She wants her character to be less passive about the destruction humans are causing.

I keep telling myself it’s nice someone has faith in me. At least that is how I am going to frame it: trust, faith. Now that I am sitting here again in front of a manuscript with blank spaces – return, return, return – marked with “coming here”, highlighted with an alarming yellow, feeling more than a little lost.

I remember trying to ride a ten-speed bicycle when I was a kid. The fear that ran through me every time I paused and then tried to catch up, spinning the pedals uselessly until the chain finally “caught” and then suddenly pulled again. When I hear the phrase “spinning out of control” this is actually what I think of: pedaling desperately, ridiculously. All this effort, and what for?

I’m not a fan of bicycles. I once pulled the front breaks and toppled rump-over-head, catching my thighs under the handlebars and scraping them into a bruised mess. My physiotherapist mumbled something about crush syndrome, without knowing that I am not the kind of person you should be mumbling about deadly traumas in front of.

The metaphors just make life more stressful. A slight pinch in my chest becomes an entire corset. Python. Don’t you dare breath out because you won’t be able to breath in again.

But after a break, there is a catch – wait for it, stay balanced in the meantime – and then you can more forward again.

The common advice is to just keep the pen moving. Write: I don’t know what to write. I don’t know what to write. Until something catches from your subconscious and is pulled up to the page.

Until Gaia decides to speak for herself and deigns to let you hear it. I’m not sure who I need to have faith in. Me. Or her.

It’s a quiet morning from the perspective of the world. I haven’t heard a bird calling. Leonard is still sleeping, which is odd. What few sounds may have normally filled the house are drowned out by the white noise of my little space heater. Winter came suddenly. Soft at first with the fat snow flakes, then hard as the black ice that covers the street Leonard and I normally walk in the mornings. If our driveway has ice in the shadow of the holly bush, I know not to take the normal route. I dress like a toddler when the weather is like this. Padded pants and mittens. And if no one is looking, my snowsuit, which was the best four hundred crowns I ever spent at a farming supply store. Maybe the best four hundred crowns I ever spent anywhere. Practical is a kind of freedom that is new to me. A door opening, a gust of fresh air.

Or on a still morning like this, wading into a clear pool.

I’ve eased out of bed this morning and made the mistake of reading the news before sitting down to write. I guess our morning walk and then my run will be all about shaking it off. Jack Kornfield says “After the Ecstasy the Laundry”. But there is also the question of after the Compassion… what then? I suppose it is akin to the obligation we feel to hold on to grief. To “hold a space” for the pain. And there is the guilt we may have when we find ourselves laughing during a period of a new loss.

I remind myself of the obligation to acknowledge the wholeness of the world. I can put down the conceptional understanding of things happening halfway around the world, and I can appreciate the nuzzling of a dog’s snout insisting on breakfast, my husband’s footsteps approaching as he comes in to sit in the chair beside me, drinking his coffee while I write.

Heading out now for a run. I’ll be quiet turning near the edge of the lake. I’ll be listening for the ducks, who invariably laugh just before dawn.

I spent ten minutes looking for the cinnamon in the kitchen. The counters, the shelves. I even checked the refrigerator because finding lost items there seems to be a thing lately. I gave up and sat down to write, only to notice the cinnamon on the edge of the desk.

At least I can start the day with cinnamon in my coffee.

Tuesday mornings are slow. A rest day, so no run. Leonard is waiting for his walk. I wonder if he’ll be just as disappointed as I am now noticing last night’s snow is already gone and the streets are black.

Last night we walked while it was snowing big, fat flakes. We passed three kids rolling snowballs along the sidewalk. They’d already packed two balls big enough to make a 4-foot snowman. Leonard was excitedly pushing his nose under every mound of snow like it was a treasure hunt. I had just finished a weight-lifting class and my body was warm inside my snowsuit. The snowflakes stung my eyes now and then. The night was light. And I was thinking: real life is good. I was looking forward to crawling into bed with a book and some tart cherry and sparkling water. Not as cozy as tea perhaps, but more conducive to a good night’s sleep.

It seems like life is thinning down to just these things now. The sore muscles and the quest for a good night’s sleep. This happens every year at advent. The season makes me feel threadbare and inadequate. I try hard to create the kind of warm, cosy, seasonal atmosphere of candle-lit Scandinavian film sets from the 70s, and the results are amateur. Cheap.

There is a scene in the 60s film version of Genet’s The Balcony: the jury in the mock trial are cardboard cut-outs. I think this haunts me a little because the community is an illusion. Like a child lining up dolls and stuffed animals around a tiny tea set, everyone present is in agreement–and while that part is nice, it’s a lonely setting.

Like most kids, I guess, I used to imagine the toys came to life at night and talked about me. It wasn’t nice. A bit like my mother and my aunts gossiping about one another when the other wasn’t present.

Back in therapy now, my shrink tells me things will come up again. I find it odd, because what’s not “up” almost continually? But I suppose I am blowing the dust off the memories and handling them. I’m not intentional in noticing new things–new textures and crevices in the tiny landscapes–but they are obvious now. Sometimes insistent.

I’m mixing my metaphors.

I finished writing a new play for the students and a colleague asks me why I would do that when I could find a perfectly good script that would work.

I just don’t think I belong in this world sometimes. I feel like a cardboard cutout watching, but looking in the wrong direction, eyes fixed. Try as I might, I just can’t get myself “fleshed out” in the real world with everyone else. I don’t really understand what the judge wants from me.