Try, try, try again

He also likes to mix up my decaf and regular tea bags. His fine motor controls are pretty good, maybe better than I’d like.

In the last two weeks, KRH has discovered walking. He’s been a bit of a slow developer when it comes to physical skills, preferring to sit back and watch others before he tries something. He didn’t start to crawl until he was nearly a year old, and he seemed to be slow to try to walk compared to his daycare friends. Still, about a week ago, he decided it was time, and now he walks quite confidently, and takes just about any opportunity to practice.

Observing his explosion of skill got me thinking about the value of learning and how it’s often an uneven process. I’m in a manuscript workshop class right now, and recently it was my turn to have my novel critiqued.

It was an… interesting process. In my past works, I’ve had some feedback before I turned it over to beta readers, but not for this one. Furthermore, rather than a chapter-by-chapter reading, this got turned over to 7 other readers, in all it’s glory (or lack thereof), who read the whole thing and spent two hours offering me their thoughts. And although there was a good amount of positive stuff, there was about as much constructive feedback as you’d expect for a 3rd draft. And for a while, it was hard not to be discouraged. And indeed, for a few days I was. I knew how to fix some of the problems, but others I didn’t, especially the ones I’d come to the class specifically to work on.

That, in turn, got me thinking about a tweet I’d seen. I spent at least ten minutes searching twitter so I could share it with you.

I suspect I’m at a “perceived lack of skill” stage, but this is more a point about learning and advancing. Ideally, this should be our process for pretty much every skill, but of course we don’t have the time or effort to consider practicing everything in the meaningful, developmental way that’s needed to progress your skill.

KRH, meanwhile, don’t really think about progress or advancement yet. He’s busy moving through the skills most of us will develop through our life, at the pace he feels comfortable at. At some point, he’ll develop the ability to consider his failures, which will hopefully give him the ability to learn from them. Then, he’ll have to learn how to keep going, even when he’s discouraged.

I do have those skills. So even when I don’t get get the glowing feedback I’d prefer, I have to get back to work. Because that’s the only way to get better, and getting better is the only way I’ll get to that next step. So, onward.

#MeToo and Me

I’ve been doing a lot of reading about the #MeToo movement. A lot of the best pieces are coming from Laurie Penny (whose book Bitch Doctrine was an excellent and worthwhile read), including her latest The Great Stink about how men should be responding to #MeToo.

I have primarily been thinking about #MeToo in a way relating to KRH, in terms of doing everything I can to help him grow into an empathetic, non-toxic guy. This is really important to me, because I see it a duty to both myself and to him to not just raise him well, but as a way to leave the planet better than I found it. I have also spent some time thinking about myself and my actions in the wake of #MeToo, but I must admit a large part of them come from a place of fear of being accused. I count myself a “good guy.” I don’t think I’m guilty of treating women badly. But here’s a quote from that article that struck me.

Let go of your resentment at women’s lack of patience, let go of your wounded pride, let go of your useless shame, and let go of the idea of being a “good guy.” “Good” is not a thing you are, it’s a thing you do, or don’t do. The world is not neatly divided into good and bad men. It never was, and we need to let go of the idea that it ever was, so that we can finally be better to one another, finally learn to deal with our shit like grown-ups in this strange new cityscape we’re crawling through together, trying to find our way to the light. That’s the only way we’re going to move from a place of holding abusers to account, into a future where abuse is less likely to happen.

This was poignant to me, because the same day I read this, author Myke Cole published When you make a mistake you have to own it. In it, he examines some of his past behavior, and finds himself guilty of what I think many men would on reflection; making some people feel unsafe. I don’t know Myke, but he’s friends with a number of authors I like and respect, and I believe him when I say he’s tried to be aware of his behavior. I don’t think Myke deserves praise or defence for this realization, but I do think he’s doing the right thing by examining his behavior (albeit prompted by someone else) and making amends as best he can. I think all men should be doing the same. That’s the only way we’re going to change masculinity and be better going forward.

Which is where it comes back to me. I aspire for good to be, in Laurie’s words, something that I do. But I don’t know if it always has been something that I’ve done. Some of my behavior from my early 20s, in particular around things I said and ways I acted when drinking, now make me uncomfortable. And I certainly don’t think I’m immune to the same kind of blind spot Myke showed.

So here’s what I’m going to do. First, I want to take a good, deep think about what I do and how I act. If I have that kind of blind spot, I want to find it. I want to, as Myke did, own my behavior without excuses, exceptions or defences. Even if this is something I no longer do, I need to recognize it. And I especially want to teach KRH to do better than I have.

The other thing I want to do is apologize. If I have ever made someone feel uncomfortable or unsafe, then I deeply apologize. It doesn’t feel good to recognize that I may not have been the good person I thought myself, but any shame I might feel from my past actions doesn’t compared to any hurt or other feelings I may have caused others. I want to assure everyone I will try to do better.

Home from the hospital

I’m pretty sure all parents will have some kind of health scare or another in the lives of their children. I was a pretty healthy kid, an only child, but I managed to dump a pot of boiling water on myself when I was young, so I’m sure that necessitated a hospital visit, for example. Surely it’s some kind of right of passage, a thing we all end up doing one way or another.

Anyway, I write this after getting back from 5 days in the hospital with KRH, including some time in pediatric intensive care. Last week, I got a call from daycare about him having a high fever, and as soon as I picked him up I heard the telltale wheeze that means he’s having breathing problems, so off to the doctor we went. Once there, it was determined that he was having respiratory distress, so our next destination was the children’s hospital.

To make a long story short, KRH had managed to acquire infection by two separate viruses, and combined with what’s increasingly suspected to be asthma, he was in fairly rough shape. Now, this wasn’t our first trip to the emergency room with breathing trouble (we spent his first Christmas Eve in emergency, and we’ve been back more than a few times) but it was his first time being admitted.

My poor boy with his airflow mask in the ICU.

I think a couple of things from these last days will always stick with me. First, the memory of holding and comforting him before we were sent to intensive care. His breathing was getting increasingly wheezy and he was working harder and harder to breathe. We’d already been in the hospital a day by this point, and my wife had gone home for a little while after spending the night, so I was there while there was an increasing parade of nurses, respiratory technicians and doctors came in, examined him, applied medicines, and expressed concern.

In retrospect, I wish I’d been smart enough to ask how concerned I should have been, because the doctors could probably have reassured me that they were acting to keep things from getting to a state of “very bad.” Still, for all that I was kept pretty busy during this part, it was hard not to focus on the fear that things were getting worse.

The second thing came about two days later. He had to wear an airflow mask for a while, and after about 36 hours in that, he was able to go down to just oxygen, (plus a bunch of other tubes, mind you). Anyway, he was in the hospital crib, with the sides lowered about halfway. I took about two steps away to turn a light down… and turned back to see him hitting a table below the crib headfirst. I’m pretty sure the movement of him falling is burned in my brain.

He ended up with a nasty bruise but no lasting damage, but I’m struck by how much worse it could have been, because if the table hadn’t been there he’d have fallen three times as far. I know better, too. I’ve caught him numerous time as he tries to lunge off things, but the nurse had put the crib sides where they were and I didn’t think to change them.  I may never trust him again.

I think these moments are forever etched in my brain, and that’s okay. I knew being a parent would have times like this, and I expected them to change me, but I didn’t expect the raw emotion of the feelings. A little worry or a bad memory can feel very powerful, almost to the point of being overwhelming.

I’m sure there’s a writing lesson here somewhere, about how things affect us more when we care about the person these things are happening to, but really, sometimes it’s fine just to feel these things as they are, especially given how new I am to this whole parenting experience, still. I’ll just hope for good health for everyone, friend, family and otherwise.

Creative Fuel: The Last Jedi

You may have heard there’s a new Star Wars movie. With it came a cottage industry of thinkpieces and reactions, many of which were divided. Some people praised the movie, others hated it. I fall on the side of the former, to the point where I’ve been thinking about it for almost a month.

I don’t necessarily think I have anything interesting to add to the critical analysis of the film, or convince anyone who thought it was bad that it was, indeed good. It wasn’t even my favourite movie from 2017 (That honour belongs to Thor: Ragnarok). But for me, The Last Jedi was a fascinating meditation on what Star Wars is.

So what is Star Wars? Space ships, lightsabers, superweapons and the force? Fantasy in space? It is, of course. It’s also probably the intellectual property I’ve spent the more time with. I was too young to see the original trilogy in theaters, but watched them all on VHS, got into the Expanded Universe, and I’ve played numerous incarnations of Star Wars roleplaying games, board games and video games. I haven’t read every book or played every game (the sprawling story of the EU lost me sometime in the 2000s, the prequels nearly killed my love of Star Wars, and I’ve probably missed more games than I’ve played) but I have a lot of Star Wars locked up in my brain.

Here’s where Star Wars gets interesting for me. For all that the movies have essentially followed the Skywalkers, the books and games have been far more about striking out and dealing with rebellion and resistance. To me, that was always the more interesting part of Star Wars. That might be why I liked Rogue One so much, despite that it was a seriously flawed movie; it was about the rebellion, not about Luke or Anakin. Rogue One felt like a war movie, and I loved it. It asked the question of what it was like to be one of those rebel soldiers who were never named in the movies previously but who died fighting for what they believed in. It’s worth noting that I also love Star Wars: Rebels, which is, you guessed it, also about the rebellion.

So the fact that The Last Jedi felt like a story about the survival of the Rebellion played heavily to me. So too did the fact that the latest trilogy has pointfully identified angry young white men as the antagonists, which feels about as topical as one can get right now. And while I hope the actual Nazis who are disturbingly common and Star Wars fans don’t have a lot of crossover right now, I suspect they might. I worry that those people have taken exactly the wrong message about Star Wars, one in which they think they’re the rebels, not the evil empire, and I suspect they’re also the ones who complain about Star Wars being inclusive of women and people of colour actors. This isn’t news, but this is the Star Wars I’m happy to show up for.

But most of all, I think The Last Jedi is about opening Star Wars up, not just to tell new stories, but really making it for everyone. The Resistance was very female and non-white. And of course, with the original cast dead or going to be that way, (*salute for General Organa*) the new movies are entirely in the hands of new characters, who are female and non-white. A lot has been made of the line “Let the past die. Kill it if you have to” which was ironically spoken by Kylo Ren, but perhaps spoken to the audience who want to keep Star Wars to themselves. And I haven’t even gotten into Finn’s arc of choosing a side. This is a movie overflowing with the kind of symbols that Star Wars hasn’t been known for, and I loved it.

Did The Last Jedi have flaws? Absolutely, but in my mind no more than any other Star Wars film, and none that detracted from the film for me. For this point in my life, it’s probably my favourite Star Wars movie.

On Grit

Angela Duckworth’s Grit: The Power of Passion and Perseverance was a book I read for myself. I was hoping to learn how to be resilient and mentally tough. I wanted to know how to stick to goals and keep pursuing what I wanted, even in the face of adversity. 2017 was a year where there were good reasons to struggle, but I don’t know if 2018 is going to be that much better. So I wanted to learn how to persevere.

I didn’t pick it up thinking I’d learn anything about KRH, when in fact I think I walked away with more to think about for him than for myself. If you haven’t heard Duckworth’s TED talk, I recommend watching it, which I’ve helpful included below.

Let me say, first of all, that as a writer perseverance has been my ideal goal for a couple of years now. I did a lot of writing in my late teens and early twenties, but in a scattered sort of way. I’d work hard for a few days, then get lost in video games or other things. It wasn’t until my late twenties that I realized the only way I was going to achieve my goals of publication and success was to regularly put my nose to the grindstone. I set a target of 10,000 hours of practice, not because I thought I needed that to succeed, but as a way to track my progress. So I’ve been pursuing perseverance as a writer for some time now.

So I was a little surprised that Grit was in large part about the value of perseverance, rather than skills about how to obtain it. A good part of the book is about finding the thing you’re passionate about, something I’d already done, and citing examples of people who’d done this, and then persevered in their pursuit of their goals until they reached success. It’s not as simple as that, and Duckworth goes into the evidence in favour of not just practice, but of improvement.

What I think this was perhaps most useful about is thinking about how I’m going to help KRH find his passion and develop grit. I knew, from my early teens, that I wanted to be a writer, but it wasn’t until far later that I was able to develop some perseverance in the pursuit of it (and I’m not where I want to be yet, as the last year just proved). But I would not have described myself as a passionate or motivated teenager, to what I’m sure what the frustration of my parents. I know now, of course, that whatever intelligence or talent I may possess isn’t going to get me anywhere, but I spent a fair part of my youth thinking so, or just not thinking about it. So I appreciated Duckworth’s ideas about how to find passion by trying many things, about knowing when to quit, and about the value of working on hard things.

Until recently, CRH and myself had disagreed a little about KRH. CRH wanted to support the development of his passions, to encourage him to explore interests and extra-curricular activities. I was prepared to let him be a little more lax in the development of his interests, because I figured that his passion and motivations would come in time, like mine did. I wanted to support him this, but not push him to find those interests.

Now, I’ve started to think CRH might be right. I think the way might be to encourage and support KRH in finding his passion, but to also have high expectations of him in pursuing those things. I think that maybe I could have benefited from that myself. I’d be a lot further in pursuing my goals if I’d started working consistently five years earlier. In fact, I wish I had, when I consider that I spent a good deal of that time doing things that didn’t really end up developing my interests or myself. There could still have been plenty of time for World of Warcraft and games and watching anime and spending time with friends, the things I mostly did with those years, but I could be a lot closer to where I want to be.

In the end, time that’s passed has already passed. Now, I look to the present and the future. Grit was an excellent read as a parent, and I’m glad I read it.

2017 in retrospect

New Year’s is a fascinating time. It’s a time that seems to inspire excess, while also serving as both an end and a beginning. Surviving another 365 days seems like a big enough deal that we should celebrate, and yet, it’s often that sort of celebration that we intend to put behind ourselves.

Last year, I took a look at 2016 to end that year, so this year I’ll do the same. So what did I do in 2017?

In a lot of ways, not as much as I’d hoped. And yet, I accomplished a fair amount, a great deal of it around learning to Dad and surfing the waves of having this tiny being I call KRH. But so much of my internal focus is on “productivity” by which I tend to mean my progress toward goals, things like writing, health, personal growth. And in this year, when I intended to thrive, I mostly survived or ran in place. That left me feeling pretty disillusioned about myself.

The thing is, I shouldn’t be. This year, I finished yet another rewrite, made progress on an ongoing project, took four months of parental leave that both expanded my perceptions of what being a Dad was all about and taught me an awful lot about KRH, got into a manuscript workshop, wrote a bunch of queries, and generally survived on less sleep than I’ve ever had while the world felt like it was burning around us. So maybe it wasn’t my most productive year. I survived it, and now I have to learn and move on.

How is 2018 going to be different? In a lot of ways, it probably won’t be. The chaos isn’t going to stop, I think we all know that. More personally, KRH is going to keep getting bigger and older and keep learning, and in a lot of ways he’ll need his parents more than before, even if he one day (hopefully) allows us to sleep through the night. So the challenges remain.

Long story short, I think I need to tackle those challenges differently. Rather than merely having goals, I need to build systems that will carry me toward those goals. Perhaps more important, I need to be resilient in sticking with those systems, no matter who’s tweeted what or how little sleep I got last night. If it was easy, I’d already be doing it.

So what’s next? Applying those systems, plus that manuscript workshop I mentioned earlier. In a lot of ways, the more I learn about publishing and writing, the further I think I am from getting published. I think I’m writing damn good stuff, but I wonder if there’s another level I need to hit before I get to publication. After that, keeping on with the book I’m workshopping, because turning around a novel a lot faster than I currently do is something I really need to do. The average MRH novel takes about 650 hours right now, and I want to both cut that down, and get better at getting it all in inside a calendar year or so.

Launching into this year, I think I feel a lot more optimism than I felt this time last year, and I also think my expectations of myself are a lot more reasonable. That’s good! I suspect those expectations will get challenged very quickly.

On failing NaNoWriMo

I’d be lying if I thought I’d have to make this post. In fact, just about a month ago, I made a post saying I was feeling pretty confident about this year’s National Novel Writing Month.

That turned out to be hubris. I had a run of 10 years of finishing NaNoWriMo, sometimes by the skin of my teeth, but for the past few years, quite comfortably. So for all that KRH is very busy and distracting, I didn’t think there was anything that could stop me from winning.

I was wrong. The whole family got the flu, one that kept me off my feet for almost 10 days. Then KRH got conjunctivitis, three times. His latest ailment, that we’re just now getting over, was a lung infection. One of the things that’s caught me off guard is just how much the sickness of a child made me fearful and worried, even when the illnesses were minor.

We’re still working through all this, but it actually didn’t take me long into November to decide that this year simply wasn’t going to happen. I made that decision based on a cool calculus, because the draft I was writing was just a fun project that had no deadline, sandwiched between two important projects, one in October (which I hadn’t quite completed) and returning to my next project in December.  It was relatively easy, then, to decide not to worry overly about NaNoWriMo because I’d proven to myself I could do it, and move on.

It was actually more difficult than I thought to give up the month. NaNoWriMo isn’t exactly central to my identity as a writer because really November is just another month in my writing schedule, but NaNo taught me a lot about how to get butt in chair and finger to keyboard in the pursuit of completion. It’s also often the one month of the year I allow myself to write a fun first draft, and I spent the month seeing my writing friends and doing events (or I used to. With KRH this proved to be different). The long and short of it is, while giving up on NaNo made a lot of sense, it was hard in that it’s always something that I look forward to and this year I basically didn’t get to participate. If anything, it left me feeling a bit discouraged.

That doesn’t mean that I made the wrong choice. No one month can make or break my writing career, especially not my 10th NaNoWriMo. So in the end, I just have to  do exactly what I learned from NaNo in the first place, which is to get my butt in my chair and put my fingers to my keyboard.

The lost boys

I return to blog after the flu has knocked our whole family for a loop. It kept me off my feet for over a week. Get your flu shot, everyone.

I’ve been thinking a lot about Angela Nagle’s Atlantic article The Lost Boys, referring to the wave of alt-right (read, fascist) young men who’ve emerged in the last few years. As a man in that age group, who could very well have ended up a part of that, I think it’s important to think about this sort of thing, both in introspection for myself and about how I’m going to raise KRH to not join it himself.

I say that I could have ended up a part of the alt-right for a fairly simple reason; I spent time on 4chan. Both at the time and now, I’d have described the toxic hate that oozes out of the alt-right as gross, but as a man in his early 20s, I can think about how spending time on that site changed me. At the time, the lack of reverence, where everything could be a joke, was something that I found appealing. It seemed like it could do good, which was why I got moderately involved in Project Chanology, attending a protest and doing some advocacy. But many of the techniques that were first pointed at the Church of Scientology, later ended up in the toolbox of Gamergaters and now are used by the alt-right, especially against women and people of colour.

Whew. I ended up drifting away from 4chan on my own. And yet the off-colour humor of the site, that’s often racial or hateful in nature, certainly infused my language, and it took some time for me to realize that was a problem. I did, and eventually I examined a lot of the things I’d picked up there. But it’s easy to see a different path, in which that time on 4chan leads instead to the alt-right, simply because of the attractive nature of the message. It appeals to people who don’t fit in and to those whose lives haven’t turned out great, both messages that have some power.

So how do I make sure that, if KRH ever finds himself tempted with this dark side, that he takes the route that I did? That’s a difficult question, because there’s no way to every make certain of that. KRH will become his own person who’ll make his own decisions. There’s nothing I can do to him that will force him to follow my political beliefs.

But. I was loved, I was surrounded by good and loving people, and I was educated both directly by those people and just by exposure to them. I also had experiences that educated me. And that was just in the 1990s and 2000s. I like to think that, decades later when KRH is going through this same journey, we can educate him in better ways  than I ever was, and that we can give him the experiences and understanding of people who are different than him, and that in the same way those experiences ultimately prevented me from taking a more odious path, they’ll do the same for him. Because ultimately, that’s all I can do.

How do I do these things? Well, I have a few ideas, though I’m sure I’ll need more. I’ll have to pay attention to the media he consumes, and work to discuss it with him. I’ll have to listen to his language and discuss why some things are hateful or hurtful. I’ll need to make sure he’s surrounded by people who are different than himself, in race, gender, sexuality, belief and more. And I’ll have to stay vigilant in the ways that the alt-right (or whatever this sleazy ooze calls itself in 10+ years) recruits people, and make sure it doesn’t happen to KRH. It’s a tall order, but it might be one of the most important things I can do as a parent.

NaNoWriMo with a 1-year old

I love National Novel Writing Month. I love it because I met CRH there. I love it because it taught me the kind of consistency I needed to actually get anything done as a writer. I love it because I’ve met a lot of good friends there, and get to see them regularly because of it. I love it because November becomes a time when writing can be the focus, which I don’t get to do often enough. NaNoWriMo isn’t for everyone, but it is for me.

This year will be my thirteenth year of NaNo, and after 10 straight victories, I feel pretty good about my chances of winning. I managed to finish last year, with an 8-week old. I also managed to finish in 2015, the year I had my appendix out right before November started. Those two years presented some new challenges, naturally. I dug into that a bit in this post.

I expect that this year will present its own challenges. After all, I slowly recovered from the appendix thing, and at 8-weeks old KRH didn’t do much other than sleep. This year, he’s a ball of active, mobile baby, who can be relied on to summon trouble from the ether if left unattended for more than five seconds. In other words, he’s probably going to be more distracting than anything I’ve faced before.

Here’s how I plan to get around his presence and still get in my words.

Scheduled times

The formula for NaNoWriMo is simple, Write 1667 words a day, achieve novel(la). I usually aim for around 70-80k, but the formula remains the same even if the numbers change. At this stage as a writer, pumping out that many words on any given day isn’t challenging. What’s challenging is doing it consistently, every day. Stuff happens. KRH wakes up early. There are poopsplosions of a horrifying nature. So in so far as I can, scheduling the time and being consistent, no matter what’s happened, is a huge part of winning. It relies habit-forming and perseverance, but it’s also the way to win.

Big writing days

My big secret to finishing NaNo, though, is knowing that I can’t be consistent every day. There are just some days where words won’t happen. So that means I have to have days where I write a lot more. Weekends and writing events are the two most likely times where I can either get ahead, or catch up. Either can be necessary, given on how things go. Writing events haven’t been all that productive for me as of late, thanks to KRH, but hopefully I can find one or two that will be.

The community

This is the thing I find the best about NaNo; the fact that a bunch of other crazy writers are there with me, all jamming fingers to keyboards in pursuit of the same goal. That energy has carried me through many years, and I expect to feed on it like some bloodthirsty cannibal again this year. However, I anticipate being able to make it to a lot less of the writing events than in years past, so I’m going to have to make sure I get this in when I can. I’m lucky that my region usually offers twice-weekly events, which I usually attend religiously, but now I pick KRH up from day care and he has a bed time, so I don’t imagine I’ll make it to at least half of them. Still, even a few will be sufficient to feel that energy.

That’s it, how I’ll make the magic of November happen.

Election retrospection

We just finished a hard-fought municipal election in Calgary and I wanted to reflect on a couple of things about it. Some relate to me and some to KRH.

Let’s start with KRH, because that’s the least reflective. He’s only 1, but Monday night reinforced for me the importance of being engaged with the political process. I sort of fell into politics as an interest backwards, in that I absorbed a lot of political beliefs from people around me in my early teens, and then went out and figured out what I actually believed in, which fostered a love of the political and democratic process. I don’t expect KRH to go to university for political science (like I did) but I do hope that he’ll share my belief that engagement in politics matters. I hope that’s something I’ll be able to teach him as he grows up. How will I engage him? That’s a good question. I think by example is a good start (he got not one but two “I voted” stickers because he went to the polling station with each parent, despite not actually voting. Cute privilege.). But so is discussion about the issues and characters and ideologies, if he’ll listen. And engagement in election campaigns, when he’s old enough.

What’s important about all this is that my goal isn’t to indoctrinate him to my political beliefs. Instead, I need to equip him to learn about politics and issues, and then draw his own conclusions. I feel pretty confident that if I do this well, he’ll come around to my political beliefs, but I also run the risk that he decides to believe in the opposite side of the political spectrum. I’d be disappointed, but that would be his choice (so long as he doesn’t decide to support things that hurt people around him. We’ll have no Nazis in any household I’m responsible for). But I really don’t think that’s likely.

Speaking of Nazis, that’s a fine time to consider the election itself. What struck me is just how stressful I found it, and how important it felt until it was over. Elections used to be fun for me. I recognize, of course, that in part elections were fun because the result wouldn’t truly hurt me. Part of that comes from privilege, but I don’t think it’s a stretch to say that the stakes 15 years ago were different than today. But this was a municipal elections. Municipalities, especially for cities, have quite broad powers in Canada and in many ways matter more to day-to-day life than other levels of government, but at the end of the day their primary concerns are with things like infrastructure. The issues that dominated the election were increasing property taxes, whether the local sports team should get a new publicly-funded arena, and personality. If the election didn’t the way I wanted, it would change the tone of the city I live in, but it was unlikely to dramatically affect my home. So why did I find this stressful?

Well, it doesn’t help that the Canadian far-right has been quietly agitating against the tolerant muslim mayor that I support (You can see some of the nastiness here). Those same people are also targeting the federal and provincial governments, so naturally I’m against anything that would make them happy. There was also a pretty clear effort by business interests to support candidates who were favourable to their bottom line, not what citizens need, which felt serious. But this was never an election of the sort that would have installed dangerous candidates, merely candidates I disagreed with.

Nonetheless, it felt like it was. With even a few day’s distance, it continues to feel important, but not as critical as it did. Indeed, the amount of time and energy I spent worrying about it was probably out of proportion.

Politics matters. This was an election that could have changed the course of where I live. It mattered, and staying aware of the issues and voting were important ways I participated. But the campaigns took up space in my brain for a while, space that I’d much rather devote to other things. The next election is a provincial contest coming up next year, and that one will likely be even more concerning because it will be a starker choice between people I support and people whose ideas I believe can be dangerous to those most marginalized among us.  Engagement and participation will be critical. But I’m going to have to learn to keep the stress I’ve been feeling about elections in proportion. An election loss next year will be bad for what I believe, but it won’t be a slide toward fascism.  It lies somewhere between catastrophic and irrelevant. I’ve got to find that balance in my brain.