“Any chance you could take this document?” a fellow freelancer and friend of mine writes. “I’m exhausted, can’t add anything else to my plate right now. Remember that song, ‘Row, row, row your boat, gently down the stream, merrily, merrily, merrily, merrily, life is but a dream’? I feel like I’m on a canoe and I’m rowing upstream—I’m working hard and I’m not making progress. I’m always battling the tide.”
She used the French expression, “ramer”—to row or figuratively, barely threading water, feeling like a galley slave. English fails to pinpoint this feeling that French identify perfectly.
“No problem for the translation, due yesterday?” I reply. “Funny you’re saying that, I’m also picturing myself on a boat. I’m not rowing because it would imply that I’m actually moving and about to go somewhere. My boat is tied up at a dock and I’m gonna sink if I don’t bail it out. And I should probably use a bigger bucket or fixing a leak because if I stop, I’m sinking.”
French (and translators) do love metaphors but this wasn’t just a linguistic game.
A few days later, my friend emailed me again to say she ended up renting a hotel room 15 minutes from home to escape domestic chaos, work more efficiently and catch up on sleep. I met her at the hotel, a twenty-minute walk from where I live.
We spent an hour sitting side by side on the ground, on her room’s balcony, like two high school kids skipping school.
— Juliette Giannesini (@Xiaozhuli) October 5, 2018
It was one of these bittersweet moments where you enjoy breathing space but pause long enough to wonder what the fuck happened to your life and your ambitions.
I have dreams, projects, ideas, the whole shebang. But when? When do I get to tackle them?
I feel stuck.
Days are a long list of tasks—most of them repetitive and predictable—I go have to go through. I prioritize. Translation or editing assignments over writing projects because that’s how I make a living and I have deadlines. Routine household chores because if I skip a few, they accumulate and add more stress. Other commitments and miscellaneous tasks—Mark’s homework, paperwork, the two birthdays this month…
I prioritize so much that I gave up on eating lunch five years ago, that I go to bed later and later, that I have been working seven days a week since we came back from France—and I worked in France as well. “Why on earth are you still blogging, then?” you may wonder. Well, I need to write and it’s a hell of a lot easier to write an 800-word article than a book. Oh, and don’t get me started on the fact I don’t have the time to query more publishers, which stresses me out and leaves me frustrated.
Mark brought back a bug from school a week before Thanksgiving. Two days later, Feng and I caught it. We’ve been dragging that cold ever since—fever, cough, headache—and there’s no point in going to the walk-in clinic because we’re going to waste four or five hours to be told to “wait it out.”
So now, I’m in a fog.
Last Thursday, it was foggy in Ottawa, so I grabbed my camera and went for a walk in the neighbourhood—it was metaphorically perfect.
It’s Monday morning, 1:37 a.m. I’ve just wrapped up the previous week—two birthdays, a cold and a lot of work—and apparently a new one is already starting.
I have the feeling I’ll bail out the boat again when I wake up in a few hours.