softer, lesser, slower, weaker

I took a sick day today. I’m feeling pretty icky, but mostly I’ve just got the winter blues, and I wasn’t up to a Monday morning.

I feel like shit whining about how I feel like shit, especially since I’m well aware how heavily the season is weighing on my mood. I know that it’s exaggerated, and that if it were bright and sunny I wouldn’t really feel this way, but that doesn’t change what it’s like inside my own skin.

I’m not going to be heading out on the Chemlab tour with Cyanotic. The details of why aren’t really important, but mostly it just didn’t make for good logistics.

I’d like to take some of my vacation time and travel somewhere, commitment-free. Nowhere fancy or far away, just somewhere where I won’t be DJing, playing, working, or doing anything out of obligation. A week in Toronto, Montreal or Vancouver, to drink coffee, explore the streets at night, and wrap myself in the anonymity that comes with being a stranger in a big city.

I do have friends and family in all of these places, but I’m not sure that my navel-gazing would make for good company. I’m also not sure where I stand with a lot of these people — not for any reason other than the erosion that silence and distance work on relationships — and I don’t want to impose my yearly existential crisis on anyone else.

I don’t talk much about why this time of year upsets me so much, or about the place that it puts me in.

A year or three ago, I wrote my excessively wordy LJ bio:

“I would tell you of my childhood, but I remember very little. I lived with my mother, and I was sixteen before I saw both of my parents in the same room together. I remember moving, always moving. I remember being kidnapped when I was eight, and a Christmas that the Hell’s Angels gave us a tree and gifts when we didn’t have money for food, much less toys […]

Mostly I remember a sense of profound sadness; A feeling that above all, life is about survival, and little else.”

That’s what Christmas reminds me of, and that’s how winter makes me feel. I was always profoundly aware every Christmas just how poor we were, and how hard my mother worked to bring my brother and I that single day of toys, smiles, and happiness. She’d do everything she could to get us whatever it was we’d been dreaming of all year (which was almost certainly video games), and more often than not she’d succeed — but it wasn’t what she gave us that was depressing, it was the struggle itself. It brought into sharp focus just how little life cares for fairness, how naive the idea of karma really was.

When I was a very, very young child, it was Kelvin, my grandfather, who would take me fishing, or to a new movie, or to the arcade. He wasn’t related to me by blood, but he was my grandfather, and I loved him as much as I loved my mother.

He died on Christmas day when I was eight. My mother didn’t tell me until Boxing Day, and I vividly remember how numbing the news was. I didn’t feel shocked, or sad, or much of anything at all. I didn’t cry when she told me, or at his funeral, and in all truth and honesty I don’t remember crying again until I was fourteen and I found a hidden folder of stories and comics on a friend’s computer, each one making fun of me in a different way: My hair, my nose, my teeth, my voice, my everything.

I do have good memories of Christmas — staying up all night and all day with Josh playing our new Nintendo 64, seeing the little furry ball of kitten that my mother surprised me with, sitting on the porch with Tracy Page and smoking cigarettes, watching the snow fall — but they’re few, far between, and hopelessly outnumbered.

Now I try to spend Christmas with friends, in a quiet, safe space; but Christmas is just one day in a long winter.

This is why I travel so much during winter, in spite of how unhappy the cold makes me. When I’m writing in an empty Toronto cafe with the wind pounding at the door, or walking down St. Catherine between giant snowflakes, that’s my insulation. My quiet, safe space. It’s not fair to expect my friends and family to shore me up emotionally every day until the sun comes back.

10 thoughts on “softer, lesser, slower, weaker

  1. My hair, my nose, my teeth, my voice, my everything

    Combined together with that brain, sensitivity and empathy of yours make you one of the most beautiful men I know. I’m sorry you had to go through that, Jai.

    If you wanna come chill, my place is always open to you. Always.

  2. I’d like to take some of my vacation time and travel somewhere, commitment-free.

    I read this as ‘condiment-free’ and thought “how can you travel without ketchup???”.

  3. Hugs.

    My grandfather died on Christmas too. I know that this is a fraction of the whole post, but I can tell you that changed the holiday for me. I think of christmas and funerals as two things that happen simultaneously. Sometimes I think that I should, out of respect for the other grieving, put flowers on strangers graves each year.

    Do you read Orhan Pamuk? I am reading Istanbul right now and choked tears through most of the chapter called Huzan about the spirit of Turkey and of the fair city. I know that it might be a close topic, but if you have not read his work, consider it. Especially think about reading his Nobel Prize lecture called “My Father’s Suitcase”. I still choke tears thinking of it.



  4. I haven’t read Orhan Pamuk, but I will.

    If we’re in the same city at all this winter and you want to take a trip with some flowers, let me know.

  5. My grandfather died on December 23rd, which is Xmas Eve in my house because we do revillion. I was about 12, and I had to write the obituary because everyone was in shock.

    I don’t know why I’m telling you this. Something.

  6. Jai, if you need another TO escape place, I can offer one.

    And flowers always make me remember that growth can result in beauty…even the disgusting crusty parts.


  7. my grandfather also died at christmas (Dec. 22) when i was 10. it didn’t seem real. my whole family gathers at my grandparent’s christmas day every year, and i kept expecting him to come down the stairs into the living room.

  8. i love you.

    let’s get away for a couple days, slow, quiet days away…maybe get away to Montreal for a couple days in the middle of the week so everything isn’t so busy…we can take advantage of slow weekdays at the Biodome and cafes etc…you can stare at your navel all day and i’ll make sure you don’t wander in to oncoming traffic.


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