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Wednesday, 17 September 2014

The Vipassana Diaries: Food Belly

A very long gong woke us up at four a.m.  I could hear a couple of my roommates groan and roll over. I ,however, rocked the wake-up. Four a.m. in Montebello was five a.m. in Halifax. Old hat for this neurotic Ashtangi.

The sad part about jumping out of bed first is that if you end up in the hallway next to the gong, it’s horribly abrasive. Better to lie in bed until the gonging subsides.

During Vipassana, I brushed my teeth more than I ever do. Before breakfast, and after. After lunch. Post nap. Everyone else seemed to enjoy brushing their teeth too, and sharing these moments in front of the sinks was the closest we got to a conversation.

For the first couple of days we were supposed to meditate on the breath below our nostrils. When I worked at the Montessori school, I used to try and do this during my breaks. Mostly I’d be so exhausted that I would just space out and fall in and out of sleep. Other times I would try and focus on my nostrils. I realize now that instead of feeling the sensation of the breath below them, I pretty much just meditated on the word nostrils.

Nostrils, nostrils, nostrils, thinking, thinking, thinking, oh no, don’t think, back to nostrils.

Nostrils, nostrils, nostrils…

The technique of observing the respiration below your nostrils is called, “Anapana.” Anapana is supposed to loosen the roots of the impurities at the depth of your mind. Examples of impurities are anger, depression, cravings and addictions.  I think one of my deep-rooted impurities is boredom. I was extremely bored.  I remember thinking, “This is so boring,” several hundred times.

At breakfast I decided that I would take this ten-day opportunity to go on vacation from caffeine. I used to be obsessed with quitting coffee, believing that my addiction represented an internal moral defect. After many miserable self-imposed caffeine fasts, I came to the conclusion that coffee is an excellent beverage and life is way better when you drink it. Coffee helps your mood and your poops. I will consume it for the rest of my life. Still, probably I hadn’t had a caffeine free day since 2011 and all they had at Vipassana was Maxwell House instant. I figured it might be a good time to re-set my nervous system.  Plus if I was all spaced out and snoozy, the meditation process wouldn’t be so traumatic.

It was an okay strategy.

I floated through the first morning in a bored, decaffeinated daze. During anapana, we were allowed to switch our positions as often as we needed to. This was good because I had been previously terrified that I would break my knees sitting cross-legged for ten hours a day. Later I would obsess relentlessly about the most sustainable posture, but for now I remained in a spaced out sleepiness, considering the breath below my nostrils every fifteen minutes or so.
Even though I was bored, I felt calm.
Well, this will be a nice relaxing snooze fest, I thought. Then we got to lunch.
There was pasta and a lentil tomato sauce, and rice, and the vast, abundant salad bar with a million toppings and delicious tahini dressing.

It was only 11 a.m. and besides tea and fruit at 5 p.m., this would be our last meal of the day.
Don’t worry, my hard core Vipassana friend from the day before had told me. We’re used to yoga.  Here we just sit. You don’t need as much food.

But despite the lack of physical activity, I knew that with my eating disorder history, the reduced eating schedule was a bit risky. Skipping meals and losing weight is not a big deal for many people. When they get back to their normal eating routines, their body adjusts. But for me, any kind of weight loss and fucking around with eating usually causes a sketchy head trip.  Determined that I wouldn’t lose weight and/or damage my psyche, I piled my plate high, only skimping on pasta, which remains an intermittently frightening food from my past life.

As soon as I sat down, I felt like I was going to cry. The decaffeinated snooze fest was over.  Now I was deeply ashamed of all the food I had taken. It was falling off my plate. I felt certain that all the girls around me were judging my greed and mess. They all seemed skinnier than me and they weren’t overcompensating the evening’s lack of dinner with massive quantities of food. And I felt distressed by the fact that I was eating according to ideas in my head, and not really because of how hungry I felt.

All this seemed like such a superficial thing to be going through at this magical retreat where I was supposed to transform into a whole new person. While other people were probably seeing flashy balls of light or visions of their past lives, I was having adolescent food angst.

Oh well. Not every revelation can be beautiful and deep.

That night, Mr Goenka provided a seemingly endless discourse about the perils and dangers of Day One. Some people, he warned, made the enormous mistake of filling their plates two times at lunch.

“Nothing doing,” he said, waving his hands. “You can’t meditate if you eat all that.”

He said that if you usually have two plates at lunch, you should switch to three quarters of a plate. Then a quarter of your stomach would be empty which would help with meditation.

Happy Goenka
Mr. Goenka looked as though he hadn’t endured a minute of adolescent food angst in his whole life. He was serene, jolly, and pleasantly chubby. Probably he could leave half of his stomach empty without suffering very much. As for me, I decided that I wasn’t going to hold back, despite the apparent dangers. I would do my best with the no-dinner thing, and if it got to be too much, I’d turn myself in and become an evening Peanut Butter Sandwich Person. 
The End/To Be Continued…

Other News:

As fate would have it, I'm not in India yet. Air France pilots are on strike, so I'm back in Halifax for a surprise week with the Boatman.

Here we are on the flight from Ottawa to Halifax.

Me and the Boatman. Dorky and delighted

I have to admit I was  kind of relieved when I got to postpone the three-month good-bye. So far our extra time together has been dorky and delightful. Hopefully by Monday, I'll be feeling more brave. Fingers crossed that everything's sorted out by next week!

In the sky, on the way back to Halifax
Have to give a shout out to the Air France customer service representatives. They were immensely helpful in rescheduling my flight, and even provided me with a chunk of cash to compensate for my inconvenience and reimburse my extra flight here to Halifax. I guess they heard that I had this famous blog.

Twitter: @mypelvicfloor
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Saturday, 13 September 2014

The Vipassana Diaries: Day Zero

At the centre in Montebello, we had to fill out a form verifying that we were at an adequate level of health. Once again, I had to fork over details on my previous eating disorder history. I became all red and flustered. Despite the doctor’s note I’d begged an oblivious Halifax doctor to sign, I was certain the organizers would decide that my prior crazy times made me unfit to complete the course.

On the back of the form I had to provide a short autobiography. I wrote that I was a writer and then proceeded to write the most boring story of my life I have ever come up with.
I was born in Kingston, Ontario. I had an active childhood. I studied creative writing and translation. Apparently, this didn’t improve my writing skills very much. I have extensive experience working with people with disabilities. Blah blah blah. Once I had an eating disorder but now I’m totally cured. Please let me do the course. The end.
I handed in my form and never heard about it again.

Before going to our rooms, we had to hand over all our electronics, phones, writing materials and objects of spiritual significance. Rebelliously, I clung to my hot pink fanny pack which the Boatman had bought for me as a going away present. Otherwise I broke no rules.

Me and my dorky fanny pack. My goal is to bring back the fanny pack during my trip to India. It cost 6 dollars at the Park Lane Mall, Spring Garden Road.
That night, we ate our last dinner for ten days. The Buddha never ate meals after noon and so now we were all going to try and be like the Buddha. New students were allowed to have fruit and tea at 5 p.m. but otherwise we were out of luck. On Day Zero, however, there was an enormous platter of hummus and raw vegetables and an abundant salad bar that reminded me of the buffet at the all-inclusive I’d stayed at in Mexico. I loaded up my plate to mountainous heights and sat at a table of girls who all looked under 25.
“There are a lot of cute guys over there,” said one skinny blonde girl. “I just love guys with long hair. She stood up and went to the hot drinks table where she stirred some instant Maxwell house coffee into a mug of hot water.
She can’t be any more than 21, I thought. “How old are you?” I asked when she got back.
“21,” she said.
After dinner, I was relieved to see a fellow Ashtangi from Montreal. She was a hard-core vipassana meditator, having completed 20 and 30-day sits in much more austere centres in South America. I ran up to her and hugged her, forgetting the rules that we weren’t allowed to touch. She didn’t mind.
We circled around the trails of the centre and she answered all sorts of questions. Her commitment to the practice was clear. She said there was no other kind of meditation like Vipassana. It totally transformed her life.  I love a hard-core practitioner, having just completed seven years of hard-core Ashtanga yoga practice myself. She was sitting this ten-day course as a pre-requisite for a 30-day course Brazil the following month.
In Brazil, everything was way less cushy than here in Montebello. They went days without showers and their beds were all squished together. There were no little shelves to leave your folded clothes and at each meal all they got were tiny handfuls of peanuts.
I felt mildly guilty about my massive pile of vegetables and my trepidation about missing ten days of dinner.
But not everyone can turn into a Buddha all at once.

At 7 p.m., the Noble Silence would begin. We were not even allowed to look up at each other’s faces. I would prove to be rather horrible at this.
After they explained all the rules, segregation of men and women began. No more cute boys with long hair to look at. We went to the meditation hall where we put together our draft configurations of cushions and prepared for our first meditation instruction. This began with piped in Pali chanting by S. N. Goenka. Each emphatic melodious phrase ended with a somewhat half-dead drone. Then there was a big pause. It seemed like maybe it was over, but oh no, on he went with the next line. On and on and on.

Mr. Goenka. Charming fellow, I would later discover
I found myself thinking of the 21-year-old blonde girl and her cute boys with long hair. I imagined everyone I knew coming across Goenka’s voice for the first time and had to repress some irreverent laughter. Had I known how little laughter was in store for me in the days to come, I might have done a better job savouring it.

The End.
(Stay tuned)
Twitter: @mypelvicfloor

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Thursday, 11 September 2014

The Vipassana Diaries: Bus

To get to Vipassana, I had to take a bus from Montreal to Hawkesbury. You could tell who was going to Vipassana by their sleeping bags. Two people hadn’t bought tickets ahead of time and barely got a spot. I was relieved to avoid this last minute stress. Since it was my third time applying, I still had in the back of my mind that somehow it was still going to fall through. 

The girl beside me was going. She had her luggage on her lap. We chatted a little bit, about it being our first time. About having kids or not having kids. About having dogs or cats. About having partners. Then she fell asleep.

I went to the bathroom and I saw my bum in the mirror. It was full and white, with small zits on it. Bums and hands are only bums and hands because we call them that.

Everyone on the bus had a bum and hands. When I was little, I always used to think about this.

Think of all the bums in this room, I would think.

Back from the bathroom, I texted frantically with my friend Rhetta from Montreal. Boyfriend this. Yoga that. I kept postponing when I was going to turn off my phone. Just one more text. Finally I decided I should probably save some battery for when I got out.

The Montreal bus drove us to Hawkesbury. Hawkesbury seemed like a hole of a town. The sky in Hawkesbury did not look as beautiful as skies usually look.

I looked around and wondered if anybody here would be my friend if I met them somewhere else besides Vipassana. Soon it wouldn’t matter because we wouldn’t be allowed to talk. Besides my incessant hair twirling and fawn eyes, probably I was relatively ordinary looking. I was wearing a long black joe fresh skirt, a tank top, a jean jacket and birkenstocks. But I felt like I was the weirdest person there. And I felt lonely.

With small tears in my eyes, I called the Boatman one more time to say I love you. The Boatman said, oh yes, it is a bit sad, but you will be okay.

A tiny school bus picked us up to drive us to the centre. It didn’t seem possible that all of our luggage and bodies would fit. My obnoxiously enormous black suitcase went on first. I noticed a bald middle-aged man with a cane and a limp.

This might be hard for him, I thought.

Packed onto the bus, everyone opened the windows and everyone’s hair blew frenetically. I wondered if I knew what frenetic really meant. I worried if I’d said good-bye and I love you enough times to enough people. That is probably what people worry about as they’re dying. Saying I love you before they turn off their phones.

The End.

Erica (me), ink on paper, July 10, 2014
by the Boatman
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Tuesday, 9 September 2014

The Vipassana Diaries: My Last Practice

On my way to Vipassana, I stayed overnight in Montreal. I mustered up the courage to show face at Darby’s Mysore, despite the un-spectacularness of my current practice.

Although at first it was somewhat liberating to just show up, I still felt apologetic as I fumbled through modified lotus postures, and remained mostly upright during forward bends. Darby didn’t say much.

Last year I went to Montreal to practice for two weeks. My knee was much worse then and the whole thing was a struggle.

After practice one day, I blubbered about how I was way happier when my practice was way shorter. The primary series was too long, too painful.

“Well,” said Darby. “Yoga Asana is not so important. I used to think it was important. It is not so important. You work with those kids now. That’s important.”
Despite this, the past year I continued to cling to the time when practice was physically easier. Lusting after the days when I cranked myself through second series every morning no matter what. Dropping back to my ankles, the tears and the sweat. It all seemed so important.
I ran a number of experiments this year in attempts to rid myself of my injuries. Certainly there was some improvement, but often I pushed myself too hard too early in the morning. Then I’d spend the day grinding my joints together as I ran after little kids.  
In May, I was so fed up that I restricted myself to only standing postures for a month. I made up a bunch of routines based around the standing postures.  Practice became a lot more calming and grounding. I had a lot less pain. And yet, I was still totally obsessed.
It occurred to me that maybe after Vipassana, I could take the rest of the month off practice and arrive at Sharath’s a brand new beginner.
Oh hi. What’s the primary series?
Of course, I want some rigid formula, some clear plan. Stop completely for one month. Do two sun salutations a day. Visualize your practice with your legs up against the wall.  Why does everything have to be a thing?
Often you hear people say that they’ve let their practice go, they’ve lost their practice.
But where did your practice go? Where did you lose it? Why is practice only second series? Only lotus postures? Without packaging something half-ass into a beautiful sentence, can’t practice be bigger than whatever we’ve let go? Whatever we’ve lost?
Once I heard an interview with Geneen Roth, author of the book Women, Food and God. I read the book and it is much less hokey than you might think. Geneen believes that people’s food problems will never dissipate until they fully accept themselves just the way they are, with their thighs and their urges to empty pints of ice cream.
The interviewer asked her, “So you mean that if someone is 300 pounds and bingeing all day long, she should work on loving herself just the way she is?”
“Well, yah,” said Geneen. “What choice does she have?”
Being cruel to yourself until your body and your practice finally measure up is a horrible option.
Love the life and the practice that you have. What other choice is there?
The End.
Darby on the seven steps of meditation
Don't forget your sweet smile
Twitter: @mypelvicfloor
By Geneen Roth
I'd recommend it for sure
Oh, speaking of books, I am now unemployed, so maybe I will start promoting my self-help book again. Proceeds go to chais in India.
Plus it has awesome pictures by Sara E. Enquist.

Monday, 25 August 2014

Our lives will never be the same

"Our lives will never be the same again," I told the Boatman the other day on our way home from a summer barbecue.

Now it is two weeks later and I haven't concluded this part of our lives with an eloquent blogpost.

Oh well. The big news is I finished my job at the Montessori school. Today I'm flying into Montreal so that I can go to Vipassana in Montebello. That means ten days meditating 10-11 hours per day. No whining. No talking. And no yoga  practice either.
Right around now is my seven-year traditional Mysore style Ashtanga anniversary. Seven years ago, probably to the day, I wandered into Mark Darby's mysore class at Sattva Yoga shala. I sort of knew what the primary series was and sometimes I sort of did it. But probably I looked like I didn't really know what I was doing. I remember Darby walking by me in Uttitha Hasta Padangusthasana as I trying to float my right leg in the air and balance on my right. He tried to show me how to push forward with the mound of my right big toe and make the whole thing more efficient. Despite his excellent guidance, my foot remained just four and a half inches off the ground and both legs shook as I sweated profusely. 
"Well," said Darby. "You're definitely working hard."
For the next seven years, working hard would pretty accurately describe my practice. Now, apparently all the cells in my body have replaced themselves. Mostly the photocopying process was quite an improvement. In other cases, well, hard to say.
But truly, I am happy that all of it happened.
Now I get to take a step back and wait for things to unfold.
It is my third time being signed up for Vipassana.
It's also my third time being signed up to practice Ashtanga in Mysore, India. That's the other part of the news. After visiting my family in Ontario post-Vipassana, I'll be flying to Bangalore from Ottawa and staying in Mysore until December 21. The Boatman is coming to see me off and then I won't see him until I meet him at the Boatman's Family Christmas in London, England.
So yah, world tour for the Exuberant Bodhisattva.
It has been a long time coming. Despite a few anxious frenzies, I have been rather surprised at my relative serenity throughout the preparations. That said, on Saturday, I did get a big overwhelmed about the magnitude of it all. This is me overwhelmed and houla hooping:

Grumpy and hoola hopping
The Boatman said that I made an adequate recovery. Now I am only crying a reasonable amount. We are about to leave for the airport in 15 minutes.

Michael Stone says that after you meditate you begin to look more like yourself. You become more beautiful. At home, after meditate, I always ask the Boatman, "Do I look more beautiful now?"
He always says yes.

I thought it would be fun to take a before and after Vipassana shot to see if I look more beautiful when I'm done.

We'll see what I look like after!

Thanks to everyone who has been part of my life, especially the Boatman, my family, the Boatman's family, friends, the down-and-out-club, yoga teachers, anyone I've practiced with, the folks at the Montessori School and L'Arche, and there are too many to name.
How lucky am I to have such a long list.
With deep love, Erica.

Tuesday, 19 August 2014

Move Your DNA, by Katy Bowman

I will remain forever grateful to Halifax’s belly dance star Laura Selenzi. Knowing how obsessed I was with my own and everyone else’s pelvis, one day Laura said to me, “You know, I think you’d really like Katy Bowman.”

The Dazzling Laura Selenzi
Check out Serpentine Studios for Laura's belly dancing classes in Halifax
So I rushed over to her blog, katysays.com where I found all sorts of ramblings and the pelvis and the pelvic floor, as well as any other musculoskeletal issue you can think of. One of her posts is even called “Ramblings from my pelvic floor.” You should read it. You learn how to make pelvises and penises plural. In more than one way.

Three years later, I continue to follow Katy’s work religiously.  What a delight it was to learn that she would be coming to Halifax to launch her new and highly exciting book, “Move Your DNA.”  Obviously, I attended. For those of you who have never met Katy Bowman, she glows and radiates. She looks like all the cells in her body are delighted.

Katy considers “Move Your DNA” to be her life’s work. You can usually tell when people are in the midst of their life’s work. Their cells radiate.

Katy radiating with a pelvis
(Photo Found Here)
Pretty much, the thesis of Katy’s book is that human bodies in the modern world have adapted to a life in captivity. Our cages are the modern conveniences of life-chairs, beds, cars, couches, houses, elevators, refrigerators, strollers, shopping carts and various electronic devices that outsource any physical activity you can think of. All the cells in our bodies have morphed to accommodate the movement that these modern conveniences demand of us. This means that our bodies are only equipped to do hardly any movement at all. This isn’t about simply preventing obesity. Our chronic “movement drought,” as Katy calls it, affects every cell in our body, leading to everything from cardiovascular disease, osteoporosis, deteriorating joints, diabetes, and certain types of cancer. And you can’t just fix the biological repercussions of our life in captivity by going to the gym for forty-five minutes three to four times a week. (And maybe not even by doing yoga neurotically every morning at 5 a.m.)

So what can we do?
At the talk on Thursday, Katy generously gave us a few tips on how to get started.  

Step One: Most of the shoes of the world mess up your feet and your feet are really important.

From stilettos to sneakers, any kind of high heel distorts the angle at which your whole body touches the ground. This results in inappropriate loading that can damage every joint from the ground up. Shoes with stiff soles prevent your feet from accessing their full range of motion. And the only way to move forward with flip flops is to grip and scrunch up your toes which is not very healthy. Ideally, you should be able to spread your toes like a cave man, with and without your shoes on.  Katy devotes a whole section of “Move Your DNA” to her essential foot wisdom. Practice her strengthening and mobility exercises and you too will get your very own troll toes. If you want to go even deeper, I recommend reading Katy’s other big hit, “Every Woman’s Guide to Foot Pain Relief.” I devoured this book in one evening and got hooked on the exercises right away.
Step Two: Try not to sit on chairs and furniture that call out to you and say, “Hey, sit on me and don’t do anything.”

I work at a Montessori school and the children I work with are mostly terrible at sitting on chairs. They wriggle around from one butt cheek to another, or they rock the chair back and forth, or they try to stand up. Getting kids to sit in chairs is a terrifying battle.  At least once a week, I like to rant about how sitting in chairs tightens the groins, weakens the lower back and puts children on an early path towards cardiovascular disease, pelvic floor problems, osteoporosis and very sore joints.
There are minimal health benefits to sitting in a chair, and yet, as Katy describes the typical childhood in her book,  

“after a couple of years, sitting still in your chair would be your most-practiced skill, trumping time spent reading, writing, playing games, and physical education in school. Like a ninja of sitting, you practiced sitting still in a chair more than any other activity, with hours and hours in training, with no other learned activity even coming close in time spent practicing.”
-Katy Bowman in "Move Your DNA"
It’s time to start practicing new positions. In her work, Katy cites physical anthropology professor Gordon W. Hewes study, World Distribution of Certain Postural Habits. Hewes examined 100 different resting postures from all around the world.  As fate would have it, most of these positions don’t involve chairs.

Alternatives to sitting in a chair. From Hewes "World Distribution of Certain Postural Habits"
Notice how nobody's at a standing desk. (Here is what Katy says about that...)
Katy suggests exposing children to this poster to give them different ideas on how they can be still and focus. Perhaps having twenty kids sit at tables to eat lunch once a day isn’t the end of the world, but Katy encourages teachers and caregivers to be creative and “think beyond the chair.” The day after Katy’s talk, it was my co-worker who had the brilliant idea of helping the kids build a fort in the gym on a day full of thunderstorms. Giggling uncontrollably, all the kids crawled in and we passed them their watermelon and crackers, which they ate on the floor. I thought this was a happy ending.

Step Three: Spend more time outside
Katy says that our relationship to nature is essential. The broad spectrum of movement required to keep your body healthy spreads far beyond running on a treadmill for an hour in an air conditioned room. Goosebumps count as movements. Sweating counts. So does your skin’s response to the wind blowing your arm hair. Easy. Inside, your life can easily regress to staring at different sizes of glaring rectangles all day. But outside, you can look at the clouds, the chipmunks and the funny looking Nordic Pole Walking People. Your eyes have muscles too. For many people, these muscles are always scrunched into one position. Go outside and un-scrunch them.

Step Four: Walk more often.
Walking is great because it uses a vast majority of the muscles in your body. The best would be to walk outside. Then you can get your goosebumps and people watching in. Most of us have adapted to walking on flat, hard surfaces. Try to gradually vary your walking surfaces so that your cells can expand their range of motion.  And pay close attention to your footwear choices.

So here are some simple ways you can start to mobilize and transform the trillions of cells inside of you. As Katy says in her introduction, "this is a serious call to movement - serious, but not unpleasant."  She goes on to say that thousands of her readers and students "have found the physical, psychological, and emotional shift that comes with this material to be profound and delightful..." "Move Your DNA" isn't about frantically avoiding illness with a neurotic checklist, but rather looking for healing opportunities within your daily life. And the range of healing opportunities is huge. You don't have to throw out all your furniture and build monkey bars in your living room to experience noticeable benefits.  Although some people say that's kind of a fun time...

The End.

Thank you Katy, Penelope Jackson (Katy's excellent editor) and  Nurtured Products for Parenting for the extra fun evening. And to Laura Selenzi for her transformative recommendation.

Photo Op:

I have some serious knee flexion in this photo. Well, my DNA makes longer shapes than Katy's does. Also, I am much more delighted than I look.
Follow Katy on Twitter: @AlignedandWell
Katy's Blog
About Restorative Exercise
Move Your DNA
Every Woman's Guide to Foot Pain Relief

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Wednesday, 13 August 2014


In grade one, my teacher’s name was Mrs. Vanden Bosch. Every morning there was a special helper of the day that Mrs. Vanden Bosch drew from an envelope of cards with our names on them. The special helper of the day got to tell everyone about the weather and what day it was. Then the special helper picked out a question from another pack of cards that Mrs. Vanden Bosch kept in her desk. The cards had thought-provoking questions like “what is a private part?” and “what should you do if a stranger offers you candy?” I remember Mrs. Vanden Bosch holding out her arm. Her triceps sagged a little. “An arm,” she said. “Is not a private part.”

One day the question was, “Who is the most important person in the world.”

“My mom,” one little boy said.

“Jesus,” said my friend Ellen.

“You,” someone said to Mrs. Vanden Bosch. Maybe it was me. I was a nauseating teacher’s pet.

“No,” Mrs. Vanden Bosch said. “For Ellen, the most important person in the world is Ellen. For Cody it’s Cody. For Erica, it’s Erica.”

Now we were five or six years old, and suddenly we had become the most important people in the world.

Once I learned to write, I filled journal after journal with sappy suck-up letters to Mrs. Vanden Bosch. She wrote back saying how wonderful and special I was. So special that I got to go enrichment classes with a fellow social outcast. There we made picture books of stories that had already been written.  My drawings were awkward and one-dimensional, drawn in pencil and coloured in with pencil crayons.  They didn’t look that gifted. The first picture book I made was called, Mama, do you love me?  In the book with words, the mama would answer yes, and she’d describe how much she loved her daughter and it was something impossible.  The other picture book I made was Rumplestiltskin, about the miller’s daughter who was going to be allowed to be the queen if she turned a room of straw into spools of gold.  And the miller’s daughter wanted to be queen but she didn’t know how to turn the straw into gold.  Everyone thought she could but she couldn’t.

The miller’s daughter who wanted to be queen cried and cried in the room full of staw.   A little man came into the room and spun the gold.  There were three nights when the miller’s daughter had to spin straw into gold.  Each night there was more and more straw and the miller’s daughter cried harder and harder. 
The Miller's Daughter is sad.
I liked the story Rumplestiltskin because whenever the miller’s daughter cried she got wonderful things even though someone else did all the hard work for her.

In grade one I cried on Remembrance Day because we were cutting the green leaves out of construction paper and I didn’t understand what the shape was supposed to be. I was supposed to be this wonderful special enriched kid and I couldn’t even make a shitty looking leaf out of green construction paper. 

All the books I’ve ever read, it bores me to think of reading them again.  Except for Rumplestiltskin.  I want to read that story again.

Maybe you haven’t heard the story for a long time and you can’t remember what happened and you would like to hear it again too.
Well, as it turns out, everything was the Miller’s fault.  He told the King that his daughter could spin straw into gold.  And Rumplestiltskin didn’t do it all for free. First the Miller’s daughter gave him her necklace, and then her ring.  The third time she had nothing to give.  Just like the Little Drummer Boy had nothing to give to Baby Jesus. The Miller’s Daughter, the Little Drummer Boy, they were both empty-handed.  Rumplestiltskin said he would still spin the straw, as long as she promised him her first-born child.  A prince made by the miller’s daughter and the king.  She said yes because she had no other options.  She didn’t think of taking off her clothes and fucking the little man.  Miller’s Daughters don’t think of that.  And maybe the little man wouldn’t have liked that anyways.  Or maybe that's what he wanted all along.
All that time, the Miller’s daughter didn’t know Rumplestiltskin’s name.  She just called him the little man.  When he left her with the spools of gold, she forgot about him and married the king and got rich and fucked the king until one day she made a baby.  Promptly the little man arrived and tried to claim the child.  The Queen said no.   First she laughed, then she cried, then the little man said that the only way he would let her break her promise is if she figured out his name.  She had three days.  Once again the queen/miller’s daughter didn’t do her work for herself.  She sent out messengers in the kingdom who tried to find all the names in the world.  None of the names were the little man’s name.  Then on the last night, a messenger saw a strange small man dancing around a fire. He just happened to be singing this song.

"Today I bake, tomorrow I brew, then the Queen's child I shall stew. For nobody knows my little game for Rumplestiltskin is my name!”

Easy.  The messenger told the Queen and the next day the Queen told the little man his name. He got so mad that he broke the earth with his food and then he hurt his knee and then he snapped in two.   Perhaps he was annoyed that the Queen never fulfilled any of her responsibilities by herself and still she got the gold and the kingdom and the child.  But I guess it was all her father the miller’s fault so maybe that excuses her.  I wonder if the king ever found out that she was never able to turn straw into gold and if he did, I wonder if he cares. 
The End.

The Boatman has never drawn Rumplestiltskin before, but he has drawn this little man:

"Little People Living in Your Platform Shoes"
by The Boatman
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