In A Fog (And Nautical Metaphors)

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“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.

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.

Feng’s birthday (October 11)

Feng’s birthday (October 11)

Feng’s birthday (October 11)

Feng’s birthday (October 11) Yes, I bought him ladles (and a set of Chinese chess). Long story short, his parents got rid of our favourite ladle last summer.

Mark’s birthday (October 12)

Mark’s birthday (October 12)

Mark’s birthday (October 12)

Mark’s birthday (October 12)

Mark’s birthday (October 12)

Mark’s birthday (October 12)

Mark’s birthday (October 12)

Mark’s birthday (October 12)

Mark’s birthday (October 12)

Mark’s birthday (October 12)

Sick and tired (not the best combo)

Foggy evening in Ottawa

Foggy evening in Ottawa

Foggy evening in Ottawa

Foggy evening in Ottawa

Foggy evening in Ottawa

Foggy evening in Ottawa

Foggy evening in Ottawa

Foggy evening in Ottawa

Foggy evening in Ottawa

Foggy evening in Ottawa

Foggy evening in Ottawa

Foggy evening in Ottawa

Foggy evening in Ottawa

Foggy evening in Ottawa

Foggy evening in Ottawa

Foggy evening in Ottawa

Foggy evening in Ottawa

Foggy evening in Ottawa

Foggy evening in Ottawa

Foggy evening in Ottawa

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About Author

French woman in English Canada. World citizen, new mom, traveler, translator, writer and photographer. Looking for comrades to start a new revolution.

20 Comments

  1. I love the picture of Mark and his robot, and the pictures taken from the ground. Je te souhaite de parvenir à detacher ton bateau pour partir à l’aventure 🙂 Je suis certaine que le foggy weather n’aide pas.

  2. Happy (belated) birthday to your boys! :* We, too, do not give each other gifts that are not useful, so the spoons are totally something that I would I given him (*ahem* us).
    I love the pictures in the fog. There are atmospheric!

      • There is nothing typical about what we give to each other. Hubby and I never found any meaning in spending money just because it is a birthday, Christmas, or St-Valentine’s. We give gifts whenever we feel “inspired”. For his birthday this year, I just made sure he had some kind of cake to blow candles… But he doesn’t like regular cake, so I made Tiramisù, and I forgot to buy candles, so I lighted 4 tealight candles instead (1 for each decade 😉 ). We all thought it was great! For the kids it’s a bit different because they really like to have paper to unwrap on special days… but I realized that they are as excited to receive toys from the Dollar store than more expensive ones. Which is great because it all ends up scattered on the floor or broken anyway!

  3. Love the pics, especially Mark wit the ribbons on his head 😉
    Right now, well since the separation, I’ve been feeling like I’m exhausted and elated at the same time from trying to move forward and faire aboutir mes projets (sorry can’t think of it in English)
    Thankfully it’s sunny here just now, which helps (with everything!)

  4. Je compatis!
    La fatigue, sans espoir de se reposer de sitôt c’est décourageant.
    Et avec ce froid… pffffffffffffffffffffffff
    Et sinon, je peux t’emprunter ton fils??? il est trop cute et il sourit quand on lui offre un cadeau!!!
    Pourquoi j’ai écopé des enfants Adams??? hihi
    Biz

    • Note importante : il sourit SUR LES PHOTOS (… pas toujours le reste du temps!)

      C’est pas juste moi, hein, il fait vraiment froid pour octobre?!

      • Euh oui pour Octobre, je trouve qu’il fait froid, en plus un froid bien désagréable avec pas mal de vent, de pluie tout ça… et là je suis obligée d’attendre la mini à l’arrêt de bus après l’école, aujourd’hui j’ai bien cru qu’ils allaient me retrouver congelée! (à côté de notre petit voisin qui lui jouait dehors en T-shirt, va comprendre…) Heureusement que la nature autour fait un peu diversion avec toutes les couleurs, ça remonte un peu le moral.

        😀 même si c’est que sur les photos il est juste trop mignon!
        Biz

  5. I admire you. All the house work, kid work, translation work… I wouldn’t be able to do all that (and to be honest, I’m not looking for doing that much!)
    I hope you can have more relaxing moments like the one with your friend. Superwoman!

    • Most definitely NOT Superwoman!

      It’s funny how we always wonder “how do they do it?!” when it comes to other people. My friend in the story has three young kids and she’s a freelancer as well. I always wonder how she does it. I always wonder how you guys do it, commuting to work, having to work a certain number of hours a day (no longer used to that as a freelancer!) Basically, one kids, five kids, zero kids, whatever, we all have stuff to do, dreams, projects, etc.

      • That is true and I hear you.
        That said, I still don’t think we don’t all have the same lives. I admire people that cares for their children or older relatives (I’m more in the second category) and still get to do the daily work and chores. I’m part time, don’t have kids (don’t want them) and still got no energy left!

        • Meh, you can always find energy when you really have to, trust me. I used to think like that, my days are already packed there’s no way I can take more. And then somehow, things change and what felt impossible feels possible.

          Sticking to one kid, though 😆

  6. It’s hard to beat that feeling of swimming upstream. I think the answer is to take breaks and take time for yourself. Go sit on the balcony, on a bench, by the river. The place doesn’t matter – just take time to mentally recover, even if it’s only 20 minutes at a time.

    And don’t let the snow get you down!!

    I’m around for another couple of weeks if you want to grab coffee sometime!

    • I believe you know that friend who booked a hotel room 😉

      I don’t feel as stressed out (and maxed out) as when Mark was younger. Frankly, he is fairly low maintenance now. It’s just… I don’t know, life stuff that pile up.

      Are you off work? Yes, coffee for sure!

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