How I Fell In Love With Reading Again

Six tips for reading more of what you love!

First of all, I’d like to begin with what this post does not intend to do:

  • Make you feel like you *should* be reading more. As long as you are content with the amount you’re reading, then that’s what is important. 
  • Chide you about how effectively you use your time or energy. The reality is that sometimes we go through seasons of our life where we just don’t have the resources for hobbies like regular reading. The only person who can judge that is you. 
  • Tell you what you should or shouldn’t be reading

The absolute last thing I want to do is make anyone feel ashamed or guilty about their reading habits. There are no “shoulds” here, and in fact I’ve personally found they are the absolute nemesis of pleasurable activities like reading. (I discuss this in greater depth below.)

What this post DOES intend to do is share tips and techniques that have helped me to overcome the motivational and organizational hurdles that keep me from doing something I love on a regular basis. 

I have always loved to read, but for most of my adult years I have found myself disappointed in how little time I make for it. And yet, every time I would determine to read more, I’d struggle to maintain my momentum after finishing one or two books. Sure, I had a massive TBR pile… but rather than excite or encourage me, I found it daunting. Like living in the shadow of a mountain I knew I was supposed to be climbing.

So here’s how I surmounted it.

1.) I threw out the mountain (AKA most of my library)

Photo by Robert Anasch on Unsplash

Okay, okay, I know you’re panicking but hear me out. I used to have a bookshelf with over 300 books. And you know what? Most of them were there because I thought they “should” be there. (There’s that nasty word again.) They were books I’d purchased on a whim years ago and had never gotten around to, they were titles from those “100 Books You Have to Read Before You Die” lists, they were pretentious volumes I thought made me look clever. And every time I looked at them, do you know what I felt?

Guilt. Pressure. Shame.

Whenever I felt like reading, I’d look at that shelf, see everything I “should” have been reading but didn’t actually want to read, and end up turning away empty-handed. 

Eventually I Mari Kondo-ed my entire apartment and realized that almost none of the books on my shelf sparked joy. Mostly they just sparked anxiety and dread. So I donated them. Not all of them, of course, but everything I wasn’t looking forward to reading in the near future, and everything I knew I had no intention of re-reading (or that didn’t at least bring a smile to my face when I recalled reading it).

If you go this route, you can donate the books to charity, pop them into a Little Free Library, give them to friends who want them, or bring them to second-hand book shops for credit to buy books you actually do want to read in the near future. And, if you feel daunted about the whole thing, just remember that if you later find yourself wanting to read something you gave away, chances are you value it enough to borrow or purchase it again. But personally, out of the 200+ books I donated… I think I’ve repurchased two or three? And mostly on the cheap from used shops.

And yes, I know, not everyone has a literal shelf buckling under the weight of everything they’re supposed to be reading, but there’s a good chance there’s one in your head that could use a little decluttering.

2.) I started giving up regularly.

Oh wow, you’re thinking, is this possibly the worst advice list in the history of the universe? But again, bear with me.

How many times have you started a book only to find that it really wasn’t working for you? Did you muscle on through? Did you set it aside and try not to look at it? Because that’s what I did. And you know what, all that time I wasted slogging through things I didn’t want to read, or avoiding reading because that unfinished book was hanging over my head, could have been spent immersing myself in stories that brought me joy.

So now, if a book isn’t working for me, I drop it. I give it a chance (sometimes you just have to commit to a few chapters before a story really grabs you), but if I still find myself procrastinating or trying to rush through to the end so I can get to something else, I cut my losses. 

Joseph Fink, co-creator of Welcome to Night Vale, said something on the podcast Start With This once that has really stuck with me. I’m paraphrasing here, but he said that often it isn’t about whether or not we like a book. Sometimes that book just finds us at the wrong time in our lives. Don’t feel bad when a book doesn’t work for you, and you can always revisit it again at a later time. Or sometimes, it’s about accepting that the time for it has passed.

Now, I know sometimes you have to muscle through something because of work or school. Or sometimes you want to because you feel like the book is important in some way. Maybe you think it will impart some wisdom you really need, or help you to better understand a different perspective, or because it’s part of a book club you love to go to, etc. In these circumstances, what has helped me has been to take it easy on myself. To take breaks and read something light and enjoyable in between. The more I choose to focus on what I love, the easier I have found it to tackle the titles I feel I have a genuine obligation to read.

Which brings me to:

3.) I started choosing books I wanted to read.

Photo by Choi sungwoo on Unsplash

Once all the “shoulds” were gone, what I was left with were titles I genuinely felt a desire to read. This doesn’t have to be a single genre, personally I love a bit of everything, but it shouldn’t exclude genres either. There are plenty of articles about why YA is inferior, and you’ve probably had teachers who told you that magazines or comics don’t count, there’s always someone with something to say about e-books and audiobooks. But reading is reading is reading is reading. Whatever stories or genres or forms engage and compel you, that’s all that matters.

If you spend your time forcing yourself to read the most popular book of the summer, just because you feel like you’re supposed to like it, or you try to slog through some high-art classic because that’s what “smart” people do, you’ll just find yourself resenting something you actually wanted to enjoy.

Of course, I encourage everyone to diversify and try something new. I’ve discovered some of my favourite titles in genres I used to think were boring. Luckily, if you give something a shot and it just isn’t working for you, like I said in #2, you can move on to something that does. There’s a good chance there’s a book with a similar story or topic that’s written in a way that better suits your personal tastes and reading style.

For example, my daughter absolutely loves graphic novels while she’s still pretty cold about regular grade-school novels. We have graphic novels about science, we have graphic novels with gender diverse characters, we have graphic novels about immigration, and friendship, ones that talk about difficult emotions, and are also just good fun. And most importantly, she actually wants to read them!

4. I started buying fewer books.

Photo by Susan Q Yin on Unsplash

Look, these past two years I’ve read a lot of books. There is just no way I’d be able to maintain my hobby at this rate if I was buying every single book I read. Not to mention that it can be hard to call it quits on a book that you paid good money for. And so we come to my absolute favourite item from this list: I use my public library.

My TBR list is a couple of pages in my bullet journal (you can also use an app like Goodreads or Pinterest) that I build up from articles online, or from recommendations from friends, crossing things out as I read them or lose interest. When I’m in need of a new book, I refer to this list, go to my library’s website, and put a couple of titles on hold. I have to be careful to pay special attention to new or popular titles which can take a long time to come in and have to be ordered in advance, but otherwise most of my books are available for pickup within two or three days.

If you like the experience of physically perusing a bookstore, then spend a day wandering the shelves. You can also ask the librarians for help finding something that suits your tastes.

Outside of the odd special occasion, these are the only conditions in which I will actually buy a new book for myself:

  • if I read a book at the library and it leaves a huge impact on me
  • if it’s the next book in a series I know I love
  • if I’m pre-ordering a book from a trusted author
  • if I don’t have time to finish a book at the library before I have to return it, but I have a lot of confidence that it’s something I want on my shelf

Now, I am exceptionally fortunate to have a library close by with a large selection of titles, no late fees, an easy-to-use hold system, and a reasonable borrowing window. If for some reason you can’t access a library physically, many libraries now do e-book lending. If yours doesn’t, or it just doesn’t work for you for whatever reason, many cities now have book swapping groups. There’s also used bookstores where you can trade in old books you’re done with and get credit for new purchases.

Again, the same thing isn’t going to work for everyone, and it’s okay to acknowledge that cost can be prohibitive. That’s why I’m such an avid supporter of libraries, but also recognize that not everyone has access to them. Do what works for you, and if you have to put your hobby on hold for financial reasons, that’s okay. It’s a reflection on our society, not your love of reading.

5.) I learned to hack my dopamine.

Look, I’m a mom. Almost every task I finish in a day is completely undone by the time I go to bed. Some days, it’s hard to feel like I’ve accomplished anything. I appreciate having something in my life that I can check off, or easily measure how much progress I’ve made.

That’s why I started tracking every book I read. Personally, I love hand-written lists. I don’t make them pretty, just a couple rough pages in my bullet journal. (I find if I start expecting my journal to look pretty I start avoiding it, so it’s pure practicality for me). I love being able to look back and remember everything I’ve read this year (while reserving my bookshelf for favourites.)

I include everything: novels, manga, novellas, poetry collections, etc. Nothing is too short or “easy” for the list. I have considered including how many pages I’ve read, but I don’t want to value heavy reads over light ones. The point is to keep going, keep travelling from world to world, not to judge how many steps I took along the way.

I’m personally very motivated by the idea of adding new titles to my list, especially ones I’ve really connected with. Sometimes I’ll put little hearts beside those. Sometimes not. 

You can also implement a social element to this if you like talking about books. For a while I posted each book I read to Facebook, which sometimes led to conversations about certain authors or genres. It also comes up in my memories so I can see what I was reading last year. But of course, this can take a turn for the worst if it starts veering into performance with all the baggage that comes along with expecting other people to validate our accomplishments. Which is why I stopped using Facebook and exclusively use my journal these days.

I haven’t logged into Goodreads in a long time, but it can also be a nice tool to visually track what you’ve read or are currently reading. If there are other apps or techniques you’ve used, feel free to share them in the comments!

6.) I tried to make reading the easy choice.

This is a little technique I picked up from therapy to help me overcome the motivational hump I experience when I try to do pleasurable things while depressed. Once I’ve been reading a good book for five minutes or so, I have trouble stopping. The hardest part is deciding to pick it up in the first place. This is where behavioural activation comes in handy.

Basically you set yourself a clear little goal. I started with: read for fifteen minutes before bed. 

Now, create a set-up that will make attaining this goal as easy as possible. Use small, approachable steps. This might include setting an alarm for fifteen minutes before you usually go to bed as a reminder, selecting a book you have a high chance of actually enjoying, and setting it on your bedside table (or on your pillow). 

This way, when the time comes around, you’ll be much more likely to follow through (even if you don’t feel like it at first). And if for some reason you don’t, you’re a step closer to doing it next time. Once you do this a few times (and as you get more invested in what you’re reading), it gets easier and easier to do, until you find yourself actually wanting to do it.

Eventually, you’ll fall off the horse and maybe go weeks or even months without reading. Life gets hectic. The kids throw off your whole routine. You get sick. That’s okay! Reset your alarm. Set out a new book. Start all over again. Rest assured, it’s a normal part of the process. I don’t think anyone ever maintains a habit without having to rebuild it from time to time.

And again, no pressure. You decide what goals you want to set. If reading isn’t one of them right now, that’s alright too.

The other way I try to make reading an “easy choice,” is by continuing to make sure I always have a book on hand during those moments when I might have time to read it. The way I do this is by paying attention to the times and places I tend to scroll on my phone. (Nothing against scrolling on phones, but I personally find myself doing it without having actively decided to.)

For example: when I’m waiting for appointments, break times, when I’m on the bus, in the bathroom (be honest!), while I’m cooking, etc.

I try to keep my book in my backpack if I know I might have to wait for an appointment, or I keep it on the kitchen counter (in a safe spot away from spills and splatters) while I’m cooking, or I take it instead of my phone when I go to the bathroom. I don’t always choose to read it, sometimes I choose my phone instead, or sometimes I choose to do nothing at all (an underrated choice in my opinion), but at least it’s always an option. And again, nothing against technology, but when possible I try to leave my phone out of sight so I’m not tempted to play with it mindlessly, something that often leaves me feeling distracted and unsatisfied.

Ten minutes here and there can make a big difference in building a habit, and once I’m invested in a book it’s amazing how much extra reading time suddenly materializes.

Photo by Jamie Street on Unsplash

And that’s more or less it.

These are techniques that work for me, and I hope that some other people might find them useful if they’re struggling to make reading a regular part of their lives (despite wanting to). I’m not sharing here how much I read in a year because it’s not about comparison. For one person, three books a year will leave them feeling satisfied while someone else might feel like thirty isn’t enough. We each read at our own pace in our own way, and we all have various elements of our lives that compete for our attention: work, children, other hobbies and goals. Decide for yourself what is comfortable for you and don’t worry about anything else. 

Remember, “shoulds” are the quickest way to turn a passion into a chore.

Thanks so much for reading, and feel free to share your own tips, or let me know what you’ve been reading/ what you’re looking forward to reading in the comments! For me, I’ve been reading a lot of non-fiction science books lately (I particularly enjoyed Bitch by Lucy Cooke), but I’m really looking forward to reading T.J. Klune’s latest: In the Lives of Puppets.

I might make some recommendation lists soon (I find other people’s useful for building up my TBR lists so I’m never out of titles I want to read). Let me know if there’s anything in particular you’d like to see!

(Header photo by Annelies Geneyn on Unsplash)

it’s my party and I’ll cry whether I want to or not

33 twirls around the cosmic ballroom
and still I don't know how to dance
feet constantly tripping 
dress ragged and ripping 
each spin stripping me down
to newborn nakedness
and still the tempo increases
frantic intervals of familiar scenery 
like a word repeated to nonsense
I will never understand how loss
can weigh more than gain
but my muscles' tired complaints
assure me that this is true
so let me lay my head down
on your shoulder while I can
and maybe this time around
we can close our ears to the world
let our heartbeats set the measure
and dance something new 

bad habits

I started picking at the lock again
the one I know I'm not supposed to pick
the one I try to forget exists
until I find my fingers bloody 
victims of the tic 
just need to hear the mechanism click
but the keyhole always shifts
one moment a beckoning silhouette
of an evening off from the kids
flickers into likes and follows
blink and it's parental approval
followed by a dick
and then just as quick
we're back to stranger's clicks
and maybe a sugar fix
or the eyes of the friend I haven't
seen in years but I keep dreaming 
thinks of me and oops we're back
to dicks and now skinny thighs
but nothing fits 
and yes I've tried the trick
with the credit card
and one with knives
and I'm afraid to go down that road
again and so I'll carve myself a key
of words
and I know it will not work but
at least the whittling keeps my fingers
from picking what can't be picked



we do not birth stones
all things born
must bend
like stubborn weeds
through concrete
young sapling hearts
pliable and tender
dancing bending bowing
fragile and resilient
but charcoal
was once a tree
whose dancing
was burned away
we must not forget
that hardened hearts
are manufactured
that the flames
they spread
started not with them
nor will they be their
but charcoal
when not alight
can also soften
into an artist's pen
there is no hardness
stronger than our
ability to bend


Once more the venomous refrain
comes to plague my weary brain:

I am nothing.
I am nothing.
I am nothing.

But I have found within each poison note
lies concealed the antidote:

I am 
I am
I am

So if upon your ears alight
her onerous whispers in the night:

You are nothing.
You are nothing.
You are nothing.

Find the truth within the lie
and perchance upon your lullaby:

You are 
You are
You are


You can also find my poetry on Instagram:

A Random List of Confessions

A random list of confessions:

-I read books out loud when I’m alone. And by read, I mean “act out emphatically.”

-Sometimes I tell my kids “no” when they ask for a cookie, and then eat one when they aren’t looking. It’s kind of a power trip.

-I struggle to read fiction about violence lately. And cheating. And prejudice. And death. 

-I struggle to read or watch anything lately.

-In grade 9 I had a crush on my stage manager. Until now, I’ve only ever told one person about her.

-I think superheroes are the problem, not the solution.

-I’m pretty sure you don’t like me. You think I’m an annoying flake. Not you as in anyone specific, just specifically you. 

-I think you’re right.

-I’m still sore about not beating my ex-boyfriend at Mortal Kombat after he assumed I hadn’t seen the movies because I’m a girl. “You wouldn’t get it,” he said.

-I didn’t read most of the books in university and still managed a decent grade. Most of the books were about war and rape.

-I’m very sensitive. Half of me thinks that makes me a better person, half thinks I’m just weak.

-I think you think I’m weak.

-I know you think I’m a disappointment because I decided to graduate without my honours. “A waste of potential.”

-I think it was the right decision.

-I want to succeed as a writer so you think it was the right decision.

-I think it was the right decision.

-I don’t trust my own opinion on anything.

-In grade 3, I brought a snow globe I loved for show and tell. I put it in my pocket and it broke during recess. On the bus home everyone thought I peed myself and laughed, but I refused to tell them the truth because I was so ashamed.

-I talk about myself so much not because I’m full of myself, but because I’m so empty and I think your validation will fill me. Probably there’s a hole somewhere I should fix.

-I’m not sure if this is a poem about me or you.

-I’m not sure this is a poem.

-I think raisin cookies are better than chocolate chip ones.

VII: Confessions

Content warning: descriptions of murder and violence against a child, children in peril

When they reached the Governor’s manse, Genevieve considered it skeptically. The smell of smoke still billowed around it and much of the eastern-most wing had been entirely consumed by the blaze. Roofs caved inward and broken windows were patched with rotting boards.

“Are you certain the entire thing won’t just cave in on us?” Darnell asked, his chin also lifted to survey the dilapidated wreck that had likely once been palatial in its enormity.

“Maybe that’s his plan,” Genevieve replied. She shifted uncomfortably in her chair, a significantly smaller model than her usual and uncomfortable for any length of time. In truth, she hated the thing – its experimental metalwork frame constantly jabbing through the thin cushions beneath her bottom and behind her back, constantly threatening to tip over from the slightest turn or jolt – but it was a necessary evil. Even Darnell could never heft her other chair over so many steps – Genevieve counted sixteen just to the doorway – and it did have a nasty habit of getting stuck in doorways and causing property damage with its bulk. Considering the destruction, Genevieve worried the floorboards might no longer support her usual chair’s exceptional weight.

As it was, Darnell lifted the light frame with ease and Genevieve grasped its metal arm rests to maintain her balance as they ascended the stairs. The heft of the revolvers, tucked into the secret folds of her dress, gave Genevieve confidence, though she did miss the reassuring presence of her whip. Darnell set her down before the soot-stained double doors where she wheeled forward and rapped several times.

To both of their surprise it was a young woman who answered the door – familiar to Genevieve though it took her a full minute to place her as the mother she had met upon her arrival. The woman’s face was pale and drenched in sweat, and her hand was clenched at her skirt.

“Insurance?” Genevieve asked Darnell, and he nodded in turn. “Bastard.”

“M-my master is waiting in the Great Hall, Mademoiselle. This way,” she indicated with a trembling hand before turning down a passage to their right.

“Has he given you anything to eat?” Genevieve asked, and the woman shook her head.

“My daughter,” the woman whispered, “the eldest.”

“Is she here?” Darnell asked.

The woman nodded. “They all are. But she’s… if she changes…”

Genevieve stopped and slipped a hand into the folds of her skirts to retrieve the smaller of her revolvers. She opened the barrel and carefully removed three capsules, handing them to Darnell. He looked down at her hand but made no move to take them.

“We’ll find them together, after we deal with L’Amie.”

“There may not be time for that,” Genevieve thrust her hand forward again, “You can come for me after.”

Darnell still hesitated. “What if you don’t have enough?”

“Then three more would never have made the difference. Take them. Please.

Darnell’s shoulders fell with a sigh, but he took the capsules nonetheless. The woman watched this exchange with red-rimmed eyes but said nothing, only leading them on once more when they were finished.

“In here.” She bowed and opened the door onto a long room that was likely once very grand but now showed the signs of neglect and disuse. A grand fireplace lined the left wall, a layer of dust and soot like dirty snow across the mantle, and a cavernous darkness where once a bright fire might have burned. The air was cold and musty, and there was little light save what was provided by the handful of candles gracing a once-elegant table that stretched from one end of the room to the other. The candles and a few small plates of food were all crowded at the far end in front of a solitary figure.

He rose when they entered, bowing his head. Governor L’Amie was not a tall man, and side-by-side he might have only come up to Darnell’s shoulder. He was what they called barrel-chested, the white of his pressed shirt threatening to burst free of his snugly tailored black jacket, and yet this still did not account for the immensity of his presence for, though he was one small man in an abandoned room, Genevieve had the impression that he was staring down at her, his face mere inches from her own. She shook her head and steadied herself for his introductions.

“Welcome Mademoiselle Gregoire. Monsieur Furst,” he motioned toward the table, “Everything has been prepared for us. If you would be so kind as to join me, I would be honoured by your presence. There is much we wish to discuss with one another, I’m sure.”

Like a woman’s costume jewels, Governor L’Amie’s hospitality was gaudy and put-on; Genevieve had no intention of participating in such a rouse.

“I’m afraid my assistant will not be joining us. He will be leaving with this woman and her children. I assume that won’t be a problem, Monsieur?”

A smile flickered across the Governor’s face before he forced it into a look of disappointment as unconvincing as his tone, “If he must. I suppose I will have to resign myself to enjoying your company in private, Mademoiselle.”

“So it seems,” she said in reply, turning to give Darnell a stern look until he finally nodded and backed out of the room to follow the woman to whatever place the monster had locked up her children.

Genevieve returned her attention to the Governor and to the empty space at his right hand where a chair had been removed to make room for her. Her right hand itched beneath its silk glove, ready to release the wheel of her chair and seize her revolver at any sudden movement.

Thankfully the Governor did nothing more than sit, pour her a glass of red wine, and serve some roast and boiled potatoes onto a dainty little plate. Genevieve smiled to see him pour himself his own glass as well.

“You really intend to dine with me tonight?” She prompted, moving her food around with a tarnished silver fork, “I rather thought you might be more inclined to gobble me up instead.”

Governor L’Amie took a sip of his wine and grinned. “I considered it. But I thought I might have you answer some questions first. Though I thought you might be inclined to sick your pet on me the moment you arrived.”

“It crossed my mind,” she admitted, taking a bite of the roast on her plate and rolling it around in her mouth. It was dry, and it had a familiar bitter flavour she recalled from childhood. “But to be honest, I have some questions for you too.”

“Oh?” he inquired, eating a morsel from his own plate.

“Mm,” she said, taking a small sip of wine. Too much and it might make her ill.

“Well, we shall take turns then, shall we? Ladies first?”

“Twenty-three years ago a Hunter came through here, following his quarry. He never returned to the College. What happened to him?” She knew the answer already, but it would be a good way to gauge his honesty.

“I had him hung for assault and robbery.” His grey eyes – a shade darker than Genevieve’s own, crinkled with their own private humour.

“And was he guilty?”

“Of course not. I tortured him until he told me all about these creatures you call Beasts and how such a condition spreads. It wouldn’t have been… strategic to let him return to the College.” The humour spread to his lips now, the deep wrinkles there creasing at the effort.

“Of course not.”

“Aren’t you going to ask me why?” he asked, running a hand over his stubbled chin, cleft like Genevieve’s own, though the skin there was several shades lighter.

“Strength. Influence. Perhaps health. You are hardly the first to have taken on the change by choice.” Genevieve shrugged, watching him pour himself another glass of wine and topping off her own. She took another sip for good measure. “It’s your turn to ask a question.”

“I didn’t know the College allowed Beasts among its ranks. Are companions like yours common?”

“Not at all. Darnell’s mother forced him to undergo the change as a child to cure an illness which should have taken his life years ago. He volunteered with the College on the condition that we aid him to maintain better control over his transformations. Our research has yielded a formula which inhibits the change to a certain degree, though it renders the process much more exhausting to him than to typical Beasts.” Genevieve smiled into her wine at the widening of the Governor’s eyes upon hearing this. Good, she thought, he’s been too busy to pay enough attention to us. He has no idea what we’re capable of.

“I thought the College’s policy would be to kill him on the spot,” he admitted.

“That would hardly be humane. Besides, what use is he to us dead?”

“Ah,” the Governor said, “Very shrewd. Your turn.”

“How long do you really think you can maintain your control here? Your kingdom is falling apart,” Genevieve reached out an arm to indicate the cobwebs hanging from the ceiling, and the broken arm of the chair next to her.

“As long as I want to,” he spit, taking another sip of wine to cover up his irritation. Genevieve would have to tread carefully. “My turn. Tell me a little about yourself, Mademoiselle. How did one such as you end up with the College? And a Hunter at that? Were your legs injured by a Beast?”

Idiot, she thought. “There’s nothing wrong with my legs, Monsieur, but I’m afraid I was dropped as a child and my spine was injured in the fall. My mother is an important doctor within the College, so I came to it naturally you might say.”

“Naturally,” he repeated, his eyes devouring her from head to toe. He smirked.

“My turn,” she said, feeling that his patience was drawing to a close. “What was the name of the woman who you threw from the cliffs behind this mansion twenty-seven years ago?”

His heavy dark brows hung over his eyes like storm clouds. “What was that?”

“Oh, perhaps you had someone do it for you? That is your usual method, isn’t it? And you would have been a simple human back in those days, isn’t that right?” Genevieve felt the anger rising within her, the ghost of an ache shooting through the long abandoned nerves of her legs.

“I’m afraid I don’t know what you’re talking about,” he said, laughing as if she had just told the most outrageous of jokes.

“A prostitute. She had a baby. You threw them from the cliffs.”

“Ah. Yes. I do recall the incident though not the name. If I recall the baby had no name, and she had returned to have me bless it with one. As if I had any intention of breeding some bastard child with a creature like that.” He eyed her suspiciously now, a mischievous smile playing around his lips at the sight of her clenched jaw and fist. “What do you care? It had nothing to do with the College.”

“She was my mother.”

<— Back to VI: What Must Be Done

VIII: Retribution —>

Return to The Beast of Ste Ygrette


My every day is balanced
on the knife point
of panic.
Tonight I lost my voice,
my words refusing to file
neatly in line,
rushing so quickly
that they caught in my throat,
my breath trampled beneath them.
My husband found me
on the floor
drowning in a scream
so vast that it left me

I am not okay.

Life is a trap:
just when I think
I’ve got the knack
of shrinking myself
a little bit smaller,
the walls close in
a little bit tighter.
And maybe the daylight
will make things look
a little bit brighter,
a little bit wider,
but I am not ready
to surrender today
to get to tomorrow.

So I guess this is me
tearing up my white flag,
claiming victory
with the words that sought
to suffocate me:
I am not okay.
I am tired.
I am angry.
I am grieving.
I am afraid of tomorrow.

But tomorrow will come.
I think I am ready now.

Media That’s Getting Me Through the Pandemic

In a recent post, I talked about how I’ve spent the last year on hiatus coping with anxiety and depression. I did eventually get some much needed help for these challenges, but with the ongoing strains of the pandemic, I wanted to share some of the stuff I’ve been reading, watching, playing, and listening to that have really helped me keep going.

At first it was hard for me to take in any sort of media (depression is very effective of robbing you of all your interests), but these are some of the stories and critical thought pieces that have managed to drag me through and, against all odds, remind me of who I am.

Weird, by the way. I am. And some of these things are too.




So yeah… let’s start with:

At the beginning of the pandemic, I pretty much couldn’t function at all. After my kids went to bed I’d become a puddle of dissociation and panic. The only thing that even remotely worked to distract me were video games. Here’s a few of the titles that pulled me in, gave me something to think about, and kept me going.

Nier Automata (PC, PS4, Xbox One)

Despite lukewarm reviews, I’m a big fan of the original Nier game, so I have been wanting to play Automata for a very long time. Since I decided to have another kid around the time it came out, I let it pass me by until recently.

I still have multiple playthroughs to get through, but my first run is exactly what I expected: a game about two androids kicking a bunch of robot ass that simultaneously makes you feel absolutely terrible for it. It’s a game that questions morality without making you feel apathetic to any of its characters. It’s at times heartbreaking, at times childlike in its silliness, and both a challenge and an acceptance of everything that defines the human race (especially violence.)

Its gameplay is immersive enough to distract, but its story and characters are brimming with enough emotion to keep it from becoming mindless.

Off Peak/ The Norwood Suite (PC)

I warned you.

The Off Peak games are WEIRD. Visually and narratively, the games are absolutely bizarre… but also absolutely stunning. And don’t even get me started on that gorgeous soundtrack.

These are fairly casual games, lightly puzzle-based with more emphasis on dialogue than actual gameplay, so they’re great if you’re looking for more of an atmospheric experience than a challenge. Also, in a time when many of us feel separated from our fellow humans, the Off Peak games are overflowing with humanity in all of its eccentricities.

Did I also mention they’re fantastically, gloriously, weird?

To quote Welcome to Night Vale:

“There is a thin semantic line separating weird and beautiful. And that line is covered with jellyfish.”

Off Peak is, without a doubt, a jellyfish.

Spiritfarer (PC, Nintendo Switch, PS4, Xbox One)

I mean, it’s like Harvest Moon meets Windwaker, while also being a celebration of life through the acceptance of death (I started playing around the time a close family member was diagnosed with terminal cancer). Charming artstyle, a fairly large world, and relaxing pacing. Oh and you can hug people. But only when they want a hug, ’cause consent is the bomb.

It’s wholesomeness at its height, but with enough melancholy to keep it from being saccharine sweet. If you just need a gentle escape and a way to pass the time, Spiritfarer is worth checking out.

Stardew Valley (PC, Nintendo Switch, PS4, Xbox One)

Animal Crossing has gotten a lot of attention for being a go-to pandemic title, but I personally feel Stardew Valley has a lot more depth, if not as easily accessible customization. Recently updated to include a co-operative mode (which I’ve been playing with my husband), Stardew Valley has the usual tasks: farming, fishing, mining, a bit of shallow combat, but also a fairly robust social simulator in which you can connect (and sometimes date) your neighbours.

I’ll be totally honest, I have been completely invested in growing my relationships with these little bundles of pixels and it’s been a great distraction from my dearth of real human interaction. Do I wish you could date the town moms? Maybe… but I’m alright settling for the dorky town doctor instead.

Reading was extremely difficult for me when the pandemic began. I was exhausted by the end of the day, I didn’t have much patience for sorrow and trauma, and I was scared to invest hours of time just to be disappointed by pointless misery (I’m looking at you Faceless Old Woman Who Secretly Lives In Your Home). These are the stories, brimming with hope, that helped me ease reading back into my daily routine:

Flying Witch

I turn to this manga series whenever I’m overwhelmed. It is exactly what it seems — a story about a teenage witch and her family doing… stuff. It is pure slice-of-life iyashikei with little to no tension to speak of. It feels like a summer afternoon with friends and half the time that’s the extent of the actual plot. I love it and I don’t feel an ounce of guilt about it.

If you’d rather, you can also check out the anime on Crunchyroll (sub) or Amazon Prime Video (sub/dub).

Magical Boy

I really enjoy the webcomic Mondo Mango, so I was ecstatic when I found out the creator, Kao, also has a fiction series. Even more so when I found out it is a subversive “magical girl” series where a transgendered man inherits his mom’s magical girl powers. It’s a story about gender/sexual identity, empowerment, and friendship, with beautiful artwork. Some days reading what happened next was the only thing I looked forward to at the end of the day. You can find it behind a small paywall here on Tapas, and it sounds like Scholastic will be bringing it to print soon!

17776: What football will look like in the future

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Where do I even begin? This weird little multimedia web serial tells the story of a distant future where humans have become inexplicably immortal and self-aware satellites basically hangout and watch us play… uh… football? At first glance much of the story is silly and absurd, but it’s through these impossible moments that 17776 gets to the heart of what it means to be human. When it felt like the world was falling apart and my life seemed meaningless, 17776 reminded me of the importance of play. Of connection. And damn but it made me laugh.

(By the way, I definitely recommend checking out 17776 here at SB Nation. I am not in any way a sports fan, so if football isn’t your thing — don’t worry, it isn’t a prerequisite for enjoying the story.)

A Wizard of Earthsea

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Confession #1: I did not read Earthsea as a kid.

Confession #2: I read it in my twenties and was overall unimpressed and put off by its sexism.

I dismissed it for years until I decided to try again, this time reading it from a complete collection of Earthsea novels. This edition had an introduction from Ursula K. Le Guin discussing how her writing evolved and how the gender biases that she had unwittingly absorbed in her own reading and regurgitated on the page. It intrigued me, and I am so glad I decided to try again with an open mind because I enjoyed it so much more the second time. I understand now why it is a classic and I gained so much of value on this re-reading, especially since Ged’s journey so perfectly echoes the tiring battle against (and necessary acceptance of) depression. The third book in the series — The Farthest Shore — also strongly parallels the experience of depression: “There is a hole in the world and the light is running out of it.”

Photo by C D-X on Unsplash

Music is so important, a fact I often forget. I’ll go long stretches feeling numb and apathetic before suddenly realizing that I haven’t listened to music (not designed for children) in weeks. I think it’s important to make a conscious effort to include more music into our lives, especially when we are isolated/ stuck in an endless loop of lockdown. I also love listening to podcasts; just hearing another human’s voice can make me feel less alone.

Dane Terry Live At Largo

I first stumbled on Dane Terry when listening to his podcast Dreamboy. Unlike Dreamboy, Live At Largo is family friendly, an opener for a Welcome to Night Vale live show. Dane’s work is, in a word, indescribable, but I will do my best.

Through a perfect blend of music and storytelling, and with nothing more than his voice and a piano, Dane manages to immerse his listeners into a world of bittersweet nostalgia. Though many of the stories are solidly believable, often even relatable — from Dane’s first road trip to his sexual awakening as a gay preteen — his delivery is so vibrant and emotional that the tales take on an otherworldly quality.

There were a lot of nights this summer where Volton Destroyer of Worlds was the only thing that made me feel human enough to safely close my eyes and fall asleep. (If you want to understand what I’m talking about, you can listen to it yourself here on his Bandcamp.)

Anthropocene Reviewed

This is basically just a podcast where John Green, award-winning author of The Fault in Our Stars and Finding Alaska, rates different elements of the human era on a five star scale. You will learn a lot of neat facts while listening to Anthropocene Reviewed — like the story of the fascinating birth of the Piggly Wiggly and the harrowing tale of the seed potatoes of Leningrad — but more importantly, John holds a genuine sense of awe for the world that is inevitably contagious.

Anthropocene Reviewed always leaves me with an overwhelming sense of connectedness and hope, which isn’t to say it is always brimming with optimism and good cheer. One episode left me in tears as I listened through my headphones on an evening walk, and I even startled a stranger as I came around the corner and gasped aloud at the conclusion of one of his more personal anecdotes; each story is peppered with these anecdotes as John uses his own experiences to untangle the complicated impact of various facets of human life. His descriptions of existential dread, fear of meaninglessness and purpose, are so similar to my own that, not only do I feel understood while listening to them, it seems to lend greater weight to those moments of awe and wonder. You can check it out here. Or you know, wherever you listen to your podcasts.

City Girl – Goddess of the Hollow

I have to credit my husband for introducing me to City Girl’s unique lo-fi beats on YouTube; now she has become a permanent resident on my writing and walking playlists. With compelling song titles like: “Snow Cloaked Princess” and “Sana’s Gloom,” her album Goddess of the Hollow is modern magic. Thanks to Study Girl and countless video game remixes, most people have listened to at least a little lo-fi, but City Girl’s stands out with its haunting ambiance and occasional melancholic vocals.

Even when I’m walking the same handful of city blocks over and over, Goddess of the Hollow transforms that familiarity into something beautiful and surreal. You can find her bandcamp here.

image source: Photo by GR Stocks on Unsplash

I’ll be honest here: I don’t watch a lot of television or movies, even when I’m not depressed. I used to before I had kids, but now it just seems hard to sneak in anything that isn’t family-friendly. I do make time for an episode or two of anime each week, and I also have a soft spot for video essays and science news on YouTube.

Yuru Camp

So since the pandemic started, I’ve noticed an uptick in hits for my blog post about iyashikei. It seems I’m not the only one reaching for soothing stories and gorgeous scenery during lockdown. Thankfully, the second season of Yuru Camp (or Laid-Back Camp) has been running for the past several weeks on Crunchyroll (where you can also find the first season).

Yuru Camp focuses on the adventures and mishaps of a handful girls as they become friends through their shared love of camping. There is humour and endearing moments, but virtually no drama or cattiness that you often expect to see with primarily female casted shows. The high quality scenery is taken directly from real locations in Japan and there are many informative tidbits sprinkled throughout the show. The music is intensely soothing and well-suited to the breath-taking settings. Plus… food. I highly recommend having a snack handy, because chances are you’ll be hungry by the end.

Jacob Geller Video Essays

If you like video games, or just video essays and critical thought about modern media, I highly recommend checking out Jacob Geller. One of the few things I’ve been able to consistently anticipate through my depression are new Geller videos. Like Anthropocene Reviewed, his videos are driven by an awe for the world around him (both real and digital) that is contagious. I also love his knowledge of architecture and frequent discussion of settings as characters in narrative.

There are a lot of titles in this list that I stumbled on thanks to his videos, and each essay is usually peppered with a variety of titles both mainstream and niche, from video games to short stories to silent film. The videos are well-researched and brimming with personality and a level of silliness from Jacob that keeps them entertaining and lighthearted, despite oftentimes serious subject matter. You can watch them here.

From Up On Poppy Hill

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From Up on Poppy Hill may very well be the most underrated of all of Studio Ghibli’s brilliant films. Unlike many of the more popular titles (most of which I also love), Poppy Hill takes place in a very real Japan after the Korean War. Its pace is slow and deliberate, almost meditative at times, but that doesn’t prevent it from also being vibrant and full of Hayao Miyazaki’s strong-willed and lovable characters.

While Poppy Hill lacks the fantasy of some of its peers, it doesn’t lack the magic — particularly its ability to reveal the wonder of everyday moments. A meal with friends and family, walking home from school, watching the boats pass from an open window, Poppy Hill reminds us that these are the tiny events that make up our lives, and they aren’t to be taken for granted. I think we could all use a little more of that kind of magic right now.

This isn’t a complete list of all the media I’ve consumed over the past year, but these were the pieces that hit some need I’ve felt: whether that be for social connection or a remedy for apathy. Some made me think, some made me take a break, and some just made me believe there were other people out there feeling this way too. Maybe you’ll find something to connect with. Speaking of connection — what have you been playing/reading/listening/watching that has been getting you through the pandemic? What are your go-to’s when you’re going through a difficult time? I’d love to hear from you in the comments.

And until next time, take care of yourself.

Photo by Sigmund on Unsplash

I am here.

So I’ve been on hiatus for… a while.

I’m okay.

I wasn’t okay.

But I’m mostly okay now.

I’ve had depression and anxiety for a very long time, but there’s always been a good reason to push it aside. To tell myself that I’ll be alright as long as I keep moving. That I don’t need help. That it’s “normal.” That I can handle it.

I’m sure I’m not the only person who has had those beliefs shattered in the past year. My existential crises suddenly found themselves with some very real material, and my coping mechanisms — social events, going out by myself, getting someone to watch the kids — went flying out the window.

To be honest, it didn’t feel like what I was experiencing was even related to the pandemic, and in some ways it wasn’t — my mental health wasn’t great to begin with after all — but whether I acknowledged the pressure bearing down on me or not, it was still there. In the way I couldn’t take my children to the park or to the grocery store. In the way I hadn’t been away from them for more than half an hour in several months. In the masks I saw hanging from rear-view mirrors as I walked down the street. In the way that walking those streets had become a sick strategy game — weaving back and forth or meandering blocks out of the way so that I didn’t have to go within two metres of anyone else.

I felt it in my core even if I didn’t acknowledge it. I stopped doing anything. I stopped being anything. I wanted to just stop altogether.

So I got help. For the first time. And just… thank God. Why the hell didn’t I do this sooner?

Please, whether it’s been a lifelong thing or it’s a new thing… if you feel empty, overly anxious, meaningless, like your entire self is about to implode… tell someone. Preferably your doctor. Look for community resources if you don’t have access to paid therapy and can’t afford it. Online therapy. Just, ask for help. I promise you deserve it. (For the record I signed up for a government-funded online therapy clinic and used a free CBT app called Woebot while I was waitlisted.)

And if you are in crisis, please call a crisis support line or stop by your emergency department. Your life matters and I swear you are strong enough to get through this. You just haven’t been given the tools yet. You’ve been climbing a mountain with your bare hands and you’ve still gotten this far. Imagine where you’d get if someone gave you some climbing equipment (and taught you how to use it).

Anyway. Therapy and mental health supports aside (but seriously, access them if you think you need them), I thought it was about time for an update.

Even before the pandemic, I was really struggling with my creativity. Not so much a writer’s block, just a lack of passion for… well… anything. Writing included. This of course, caused extra anxiety as I thought to myself… will I ever be creative again? Will I ever feel again? Despite the way we romanticize mental illness, that poetic melancholy or artistic moodiness, it is NOT conducive to creativity. I am a much better (and definitely productive) creator when I am mentally well.

While I was recovering, and within the pressures of parenting during a pandemic, the only thing I’ve consistently found time for has been poetry. It’s short, I can write and edit it on my phone, and it’s cathartic as hell. I’ve actually started a poetry Instagram with the tag @amnotpoetry. You can see the feed over there —>
I’ll do some poetry posts to update any new ones to the site and file them under the Poetry section up there. ^

I also quit twitter for now, because who needs that negativity?

An example of the kind of stuff I’m doing over on insta

As for what comes next… well, I’m trying to take it easy for now in terms of setting goals, but I AM working on a few stories again. I’d also still like to work on finishing the voice recordings of Ganymede, but ultimately that comes down to finding a period of time and a space where I can consistently create a quiet enough environment. Worst case, it’ll happen as restrictions from the pandemic ease off and I can book a space. The focus right now is on creation, and eventually the debate of going the webfiction route again, or trying for traditional publishing. But that is a ways off (though I’d love to hear what you think!)

I’ll try to do more consistent blog posts. I have one mostly written already about media that’s kept me sane and helped me deal with my depression over the past year. Books, podcasts, video games, etc. So stay tuned.

Anyway, I’m back. It’ll take some time for me to fall into a regular habit of posting, but for now, I am just so ecstatic to be creating again. I hope everyone out there is doing alright and taking care of themselves as best they can. It’s okay to take a break, sometimes just getting through the day is enough. We’ve got this, one day at a time.