I assumed that this is not a typical week, but what if it is? On average this past eight months, I’ve spent much more time at home, parked at my desk like a paperweight. It’s not typical that I watch the Canucks charge back, looking like the Canucks again with Daniel Sedin feeding a goal to his brother, just like the hundreds of times they’ve done before. I watched the game with a Vancouver ex-pat and her visiting fan, and the three of us sat on the edge of our seats not quite believing that things weren’t going to go all wrong. The excitement of the win, added with my buried anxiety about my defense, probably resulted in my restless sleep. I woke up a few hours before my alarm, knowing that I should heave myself up, and falling back asleep before even completing that thought. The next time I woke up was 10:02, two minutes after my thesis defense was set to begin.
I always make my bed, but this morning I was lapse in so many ways. See what I mean about sleep as a means of avoidance? In the past, I’d often sleep through my alarm, missing classes if I felt too overwhelmed to face the day, or if I verged on the edge of depression. But there was no time to analyze– I dashed out and made to school at 10:25, mortified. I bought an orange juice at the little TTC stall, thankfully, and apologized to the benevolent faces of my mentor, the current program head, and the chair of the defense. Strange how half of me sometimes seems to sabotoge the other half.
My mentor had prepared a list of questions to ask me that he partially knew the answer to, that functioned to inform the Creative Writing acting head of the nature and direction of my project. The discussion was informal and supportive, and I felt overwhelmed by their kind words and the fact that they felt it was almost ready for a publisher’s consideration. That possibility hadn’t entered my mind– I’d been so rushed the last few weeks with revising, that several of the poems felt cobbled together to me, with all the seams showing. I was asked to step out, and then after several minutes the chair congratulated me, a kind of formality because it’s implicit that if you submit a substantial thesis and have met with your mentor throughout the year, your MA is conferred without a protest. Lots of thanks and handshakes all around, and I step out dazed onto the sound of drilling on the street. I still hadn’t eaten anything, though the jolt of sugar was a help, so I moved towards coffee the way a sailor moves towards a mark– obliquely and purposefully.
My plan for the day was to run errands, pick up some accessories, make-up, a wedding gift– but as I wandered through the aisles of Sephora and its bright palettes and pigments in stick form and little vials that cost about as much as I spend on groceries in a month, an utter disconnect fell on me. I knew I should head home, or go swimming, or do anything but shop, but all I could handle was to gaze at the endless array of merchandise. This was what the world valued, I thought, or that it purported to value– Spanx corsets guarenteed to make you look 10lbs slimmer, Bay Days discounts and free totes with purchases, not the thin manuscript that I was lugging around, full of turns of phrase, illuminations I’d stumbled against. At Winners, I picked up a little mirror with a big plastic jeweled base, the kind you use for close-ups, and carried it around the store, intending to buy it, but I ended up leaving empty-handed. I had already looked into a mirror, and I knew what self it showed.
At Chapters, I picked up a gift: Harold Bloom’s book of collected poetry, or so-called Most Important Poems of English. I’m not a fan of Bloom, but the recipient knew nothing of poetry, and I thought of how many occasions even Bloom’s subjective selections would suit. Emily Dickinson for astrigency and lapses of faith, Blake’s “Tyger Tyger” for young children, Coleridge to find out where that phrase “albatross around your neck” comes from. So many uses in a world of the single-use object.
I went home to get ready for the other members of my MA Creative Writing workshop, aka “The Group of Seven”. We were going to ostensibly plan the order of our readings for next Monday’s bash at the Supermarket, but we ended up eating pie and pasta salad, and trading our “issues” about the program and our respective defense experiences. I can’t say too much here, so I’ll just reiterate how meeting sporatically throughout the year at each other’s houses, continuing to critique work outside of the U of T setting, have been evenings of sustenance, wine and support. I can’t quite believe they’re at the end. As I put away wine glasses and shook off the crumbs of samosas, I had no sense of things ending. No calm of achievement, only the relentless, and invigorating, anxiety of keeping going, which I’d probably never get rid of and would always want to escape. But this was the life I’d chosen, and it stared back at me like a curious bird.