I’d like to tell you a story about a crime 3 different ways – I think about it as 3 windows looking into the same room. Oh, and there’s a 4th one at the end, but that one’s a trap door for escaping.
I’m a single mum of two sons, 17 and 12. The older one’s girlfriend, also 17, pretty much lives here too. I’m Indigenous and my kids’ fathers are both Black. We live right downtown in a 3-bedroom townhouse in a public housing complex. I pay market rent and am just now interrogating myself about why I had to tell you that last point. I think it has to do with how, when rotten things happen to us, we worry about how people will see us.
For the first time since the pandemic began, I went out of town for a weekend without my children, to a beautiful cottage up north, and they stayed in town with one of their fathers. On the Sunday evening, we were all to converge at home. The kids beat me, as the southbound traffic on the 400 was predictably awful, and in the car on the way there, I got a phone call.
The kids were hysterical: we’d been spectacularly robbed. They called 911 and I called a neighbour to go over; one father then the other went too. It was agony to be in traffic with the little one texting Are you close mummy we need you come home. Finally I arrived. Everything, and I mean everything, of monetary value in our home was… gone. All the computers, their PS4, a guitar on loan from our church, all jewelry, the brand name kicks, jackets, my fancy boots, my chef’s knives, and so much else, along with a jar of peanut butter and a can of whipped cream (?). The older kids do online school on their machines, and mine, well, my computer was mesmerizingly powerful, important as I teach online every single day. It also had the specialized platforms on which I do my job as an editor, and everything I’d written for the schooling I’d recently started. My grades suffered and I was let go from one of my magazines – publication deadlines can’t care that you had a good reason.
My home was a mess, but it was a crime scene. The police instructed me not to clean, torture for someone who struggles with anxiety and whose number one strategy when spinning upwards is to clean house. I am a hopeless mummy’s girl; I could not reach for her support. I couldn’t post about it on Facebook, the space of my aunties who would surely tell her. It’s a long and it’s another story, but hearing about this could quite literally kill her. No. way.
Almost 2 months have passed. Today, I offer the 4th way of seeing this crime, but it’s not a window.
Thank you for looking through 3 different windows into this room. But this 4th wall behind me has only mirrors on it, a few drawings by my sons, a picture of the bush in Manitoba… no window. Anyhow I’m ready to leave, and my toes just found what feels like a door in the floorboards... So I’m gonna make like geese, and get the flock outta here. Poof! I join you outside, under the beautiful sky.
What’s cool about this sky is that we’re under it right now. I’m the age I am now. It’s today. To return to the present moment is to let go of the past’s rumination and the future’s agitation, but not to banish the timeframes themselves. This is not an abstraction. We often refer to the 7th generation after us, and laying down breadcrumbs for them to find, but we are the 7th generation that concerned ancestors then, and they laid down signposts and talismans of support and love.
Pick them up and follow.
They help you do yoga every day. They teach that the pain is not the “everything” it feels like at first. It shrinks a bit, but mainly you grow, and for sure its edges get worn off so you can carry it in your pocket, if not comfortably then at least less stabby and burny. Because you can’t leave it behind in any event, and really, I don’t want to, since it carries so much learning.
Yes, out here under the trees and stars feels better. I know I have to manage what happens in that room, but it’s nice to be able to pan out a bit. See stuff. To remember that joy is our birthright as human beings, and that home is right here, where love is, which was never of the order of things that can be taken away.
I was humbled by how beloved friends rallied around me. But I was so embarrassed when my colleague set up an online money thing to help with some of the material crisis. The whole idea sat on my chest, tickling me, insisting that I try out receiving instead of giving. It was scary, nauseating actually, but I was also being tickled so I was laughing, and I learned a bit about how accept graciously, and experienced awe. I felt so supported… which is at least on the way to feeling like I belong.
Wellness begets the bravery of vulnerability, so I can end with a question: did you catch sight of my unexamined privilege in these narratives? What outrageous blessings could provide a container for one to be able to say and mean, “It’s Just Stuff”? This kind of “non-materialism” could only be uttered by people who are basically sheltered by the structures of dominance: we are the warm, the fed, the employed, the good looking (but I digress). We are those whose bodies mostly cooperate with our wills. We are the loved. We are known, in community. Unquantifiable biographical factors set me up to survive tough times. The sea of gratitude I’d been swimming in months ago is my natural habitat, to which I have returned, bringing back a renewed refusal to avert my gaze from the unchosen and unjust suffering of other people.
Still, I smile in the doorframe as I step back inside. I was right all along: I live in paradise. I just have a new habit of locking its windows.