Countdown to calm

Keeping calm and counting on five fingers

On a Sunday evening a couple weeks ago, I got stuck in an elevator with a friend and his six-year-old kid. Panic was inevitable.

My anxiety transformed into a super power in that elevator, though (so much practice halting my own downward spirals!). And I wanted to share the straightforward trick that helped me and that six-year-old avoid a full meltdown.

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Riding the rails and receiving critiques

In front of York University’s iconic Central Hall

At the beginning of September, I shouldered a bag and hopped a train from Zürich to Paris, the first of many trains as I travelled to York and Kent in England and on to Antwerp. The Interrail app tells me I took 14 trains over 2,779kms and logged more than 22 hours on the rails.

The big draw in York was the Festival of Writing, where I hoped to get feedback on my novel-in-progress, and finally visit the school where I did my two-year Postgrad Diploma in Creative Writing. Tacking on some sight-seeing afterwards, plus catching up with friends in southern England and Belgium, rounded out a week and a half of travel.

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Selected short reading (vol. 6)

I completed my PGDip coursework at the end of June. (phew) And earned a more-than-satisfactory grade on my final assessment. (giant phew) Which means I’ll probably graduate from my two-year creative writing program with distinction. (giant yay!)

Now that I’m free of assigned texts or genres, my tastes have morphed to creative nonfiction — at least for short-form pieces, I’m devouring not-too-serious novels, too.*

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The cost—and the lesson

I’ve made a dumb mistake. I’ll be on my way back from Sargans at 2pm instead of at my appointment. The email I sent my physiotherapist earlier today was not cheery.

After three and a half years of taking Swiss trains, I got on the wrong one today, costing myself 2 1/2 hours, upwards of 30 CHF, and a missed physio appointment.

Ugh. I was not meant to be in Sargans.

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“Be the Queen”

Entrance to a bathroom in France (W-C Publics) with 'Je pisse donc je suis' in cursive writing and a silhouette of Queen Elizabeth II superimposed in the lower right corner

People celebrated 70 years of Queen Elizabeth II on the throne last weekend with street parties (it looked cold in the UK!), reminiscences about her reign (like this secret 1970s lawn chair party in Manitoba), scones and Pimm’s, and staggeringly expensive memorabilia.

My memories related to Liz are much more, um, visceral. Yes, I mean related to intestines or digestion.

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Selected short-story reading (vol. 5)

I’m just weeks away from the end my Post-Graduate Diploma in Creative Writing and feeling out of my depth reading stage plays and film scripts and TV treatments. This term is all dramaturgy and I’ve taken solace in short fiction.

As the photo of me reading as a child demonstrates, escaping into story is nothing new—and I’ve got three more absorbing reads to share.

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The start of 100 days

"Even long journeys begin with a single step" - written in black felt marker on a piece of cardboard

I’ve been writing short aphorisms with my left hand nearly daily since the middle of February. The plan is to write a full hundred of these short, often blithely meaningless sayings, before the end of May.

Do I expect to be ambidextrously proficient after 100 days of left-handed scrawling? Probably not.

Will I at least get better at it? On day 28, my progress looks minimal, but I’ve got another 72 days to improve! And my intent is practice, not advancement.

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