In which I lose my mind, slightly

Hello hello hello



Okay, enough of that. I think I’ll do that thing where I blog and pretend no one is watching. Dance like no one’s watching – except, I’ll write. And this isn’t on some big stage. And most importantly, I’m not wearing any leotard, ballet shoes, or waving any jazz hands.

Man, work has been interesting. Like, 9-5 and beyond interesting. It really hasn’t stopped since I began. Today I made a list of all the things I’d like to do – for only one part of my job, not even the other part – and there were 80 things on that list! EIGHTY. And they’re not like ‘sharpen all the pencils in my pencil holder’ they are complex-to-organize pieces of business.

But hey, I’ve made a list. Next comes the question: which of these are going to help me reach my goals best, and also fastest? From there, I’ll prioritize. Along with: what am I am actually capable of doing at this moment?! And what needs to be done first, so that other things can be done afterwards?

You know what full time employment feels like? (She asks herself, because she’s meant to be writing as if no one is reading. Damn.) It feels like an adventure game. Monkey Island, with fewer monkeys, or pirates, or insult sword fights. If I want to accomplish goal A, I need to have resource B and C in my inventory – but I can only get those resources by solving puzzle Q. etc. So yes, apparently my love of adventure gaming has prepared me for being a grown up. Who would have known?

Anyhow, I love my new job. I love, love, love it. You know what I do? I do this! And I love it!

But you know what I haven’t’ loved? I haven’t loved the surging pressure headache I’ve been getting. And I haven’t loved the wheezing in my chest – caused by elements that I really don’t love. And I haven’t loved that the boxes in my apartment STILL haven’t been unpacked despite my having moved in a month ago. AND, since I’m writing to myself and am allowed to complain like no one is listening, I DON’T love the FUCKING cancer that is trying to FUCK UP my life.


Excuse me.

But it’s true. I am both happy and frustrated at once. When I’m at work, it all goes away. When I’m at home, and not watching the Amazing Race with my husband, I focus far too carefully upon the wheeze that has developed in my chest.  Along with the cancer cells, I think stress has simply gotten to me. And while I fully realize there are means to relieve these pressures, I can’t seem to . . . get there. You know?

Like, I should meditate. I should exercise. I should do yoga. I should go for a swim. I should eat well. I should take vitamins. I should call the hospital. I should call my health care insurance. I should brush my teeth more often. I should clean the kitchen counter. I should unpack those boxes. I should maybe start chemo. I should finish writing my next book. I should edit that podcast. I should write this article. I should finish a blog post. And oh yes, I should do the things that really, truly make me happy.

Or I could just go to bed.

Often, at this point, bed feels like the best option. Except I don’t even really love my bedroom, because we moved into a really weird, though also clean, apartment, and I’m not sure if I like it yet.

As I said, complain like no one is watching. Sorry.

Now, it’s not always like this. I do all those things on the list above quite happily (except for anything hospital related, because that does not make me happy). But I haven’t written a blog post in a long time. Partly because I’ve been tired. But also largely because I’ve started a new job, and I still don’t’ know how to navigate between my voice, my job, and my private but also public health and life story. When it comes to work, I never want to drag in the heath realities. So I don’t update my blog, because I don’t want folks noticing what’s going on when I’m not at my desk hustling to make an awesome book club.

What I probably really need to realize is that no one is watching. Like really, they’re not. And if they are, they’re not really because we all have lives that demand attention. But still, it’s been a weird challenge for me. I’ve never felt the need to censor myself before, except when I worked for the library. And frankly, that was hard even then. I feel it even more so now.

But I like writing these things out. If I’m ever going to move away from these stress-pressure reactions, it’s definitely at least in part going to be through writing them out.

So there it is. My complaining blog post. I’m a little happy, a little sad, and a little tired. I’m also really excited, totally in love, and scared out of my mind – but hey, why can’t we be many things at once?

And now I will revert to my default coping method.

Time for bed.


Blogging Personality

So I saw this personality test on the Vlog, and thought I’d like to give it a try. But rather than writing 3500 random phrases, I just pulled from my blog posts and inputted it. Then it analyzed the text and gave me my personality results. Not bad, I think! I’ll take that :) Here’s a link if you want to try it yourself.

This is what IBM had to say about my blogging personality. If you write or blog, maybe give it a try as well? It could be a fun little game to see what you are expression through your words. (as a computer program would interpret)


You are social.

You are empathetic: you feel what others feel and are compassionate towards them. You are confident: you are hard to embarrass and are self-confident most of the time. And you are outgoing: you make friends easily and feel comfortable around other people.

You are motivated to seek out experiences that provide a strong feeling of efficiency.

You are relatively unconcerned with achieving success: you make decisions with little regard for how they show off your talents. You consider helping others to guide a large part of what you do: you think it is important to take care of the people around you.



A photo posted by Catherine (@catherinewrites) on


Also, I had some news the other day. One step at a time and all of that. It could be worse, of course. Though knowing that doesn’t always make life super fun to manage, does it?

Night Train to Germany

It felt like a romantic idea, taking a night train between Budapest and Dresden. I’d seen these sleeper cars in the movies, Murder on the Orient Express and such. What it really became was an eye opener to the story of migrants moving into and travelling across Europe.

For weeks before we left Hungary via the Budapest Central Train Station (Keleti), we had been listening to conversations in Hungary about the migrants. Some call them economic immigrants: people moving to another country to gain a better quality of life; others call them refugees: people seeking asylum from the atrocities within their home countries; and many, many, many in Hungary ultimately called them a problem.

emigration migrants

Well over a thousand migrants a day are appearing in the country. Around dinner tables and along street cafes, everyone is discussing what they read in the papers or have seen on TV. Many of the comments are the same:

How are these migrants to be processed, supported, housed and moved? Hungary is not a rich country, and even if it was – in this a country by country crisis, or does it need EU wide policy and support?

Some migrants arrive looking, according to the newspaper which in turn becomes people’s opinions, too clean and polished for trust (though this documentary from Vice has a few words shared on that, plus having a nice shirt doesn’t mean you still don’t stink from weeks upon months of sleeping rough).

There are fear mongering campaigns from the government about how these migrants will take all jobs, steal all chickens, and bring disease; (unfortunately most of this is typical political crap to buy votes at the cost of a group’s core humanity).

And of course the words ‘religion’ and ‘culture’ are upon many, many lips. More fear, more uncertainty.

But still, I didn’t actually see any migrants as I swam in Lake Balaton. I didn’t pass any groups of displaced individuals as we walked through Pecs’s downtown square. So, it really wasn’t until the night train to Dresden that I finally caught my first glimpse of those searching for something better…

After an emotional goodbye to Anna and Laszlo, which is always so heartbreaking, Zsolt’s sister and brother in law took us to the train station, Keleti. They helped us carry our luggage to the sleeper train. In doing so, we entered this massive hall within the station – it looked like a huge old church, except without any seating. I looked around, checking for the migrants. But at first, I couldn’t see them. There were people of all colours, all traveling, all looking plain knackered as they waited for their trains to arrive.

I asked Zsolt, Nitti and Berci – do you see any migrants? They shook their heads, uncertain too. But then, while waiting for the train to arrive, we began to see them. Or rather, we began to notice them. Many of the women wear headscarves. Many of the younger men seem single, and rest together in groups. Many of the children cling to their parents. And the teenagers seem to do exactly what teenagers will do – float to the side, a bit away from their families . . . but not so far that you think they’re all alone. Like us, they were waiting. No one was begging, which actually surprised me.

Finally our train arrived, and Berci and Nitti help us take the luggage into our cabin. Yes we splurged on a two bed cabin. I figure, if you’re doing a sleeper train – do it right. The cabin was this incredibly narrow bit of a room, with bunk beds. After much puzzle-like arrangement of bodies and suitcases, we settled into the room. Zsolt’s sister and brother-in-law waited on the platform for us to leave. We waited in the doorway of the car. Everything was delayed.

Walking up and down the platform were the migrants. This train that we were on was going to Germany. They wanted to go to Germany. According to a friend of ours who works for immigration, Germany is their Shangri-La – the migrants hear the benefits are great. This actually reminds me of how many Hungarian Romas were arriving to Canada after hearing Canada had some excellent benefits. The Canadian government literally took out billboard ads and placed them in Roma populated cities in Hungary that basically said: We have changed our immigration laws. You will be immediately sent back if you come. Don’t bother trying.

Anyhow, these folks wanted to get to Germany, that’s where their hopes lay. The means, our train, was right in front of them, and yet it wasn’t possible to reach. What struck me most were the groups of families. Big groups, milling about on the platform together . . . walking here and then there, scanning the train together with children held in their arms, children held by the hands, and those teenagers finally paying attention and hovering closer to the herd. But how can an entire family stow away upon a train? They can’t.

Finally we began to move. We waved goodbye to Nitti and Berci, and returned to our cabin. Even as the train left the station, one off the conductors came walking through the corridor with a migrant in front of him. “This way” the fellow was asking the conductor, “that way,” the conductor – more or less- instructed. And so they walked together through our train car, towards the back of the train.

Half an hour later, we are in our cabin. I’m sitting on the only available floor space, eating from a bag of chips. There’s a very hard knock on the cabin door. “Immigration!”

I’m like, “one second,” and try to push myself up to open the door – it’s tiny and crowded, so this takes a couple tries.

“Immigration!” Rap, rap, rap!


I try to open the door, but one of the bottom locks confuses me – so it opens, but then jams. The men on the other side try to open the door too. Obviously it’s still locked, it opens and jams again.

“Hold on,” I call again. They try the door again.

Finally Zsolt manages to lean around me and untwist the bottom lock.

The door is swung open.

“Immigration! Passports!” There is a security guy and a police guy. I lean against the doorway eating my chips as Zsolt fishes out the passports. For some reason, I laugh to myself. Probably become immigration guy number two looks a bit like a cartoon character, and I can’t help finding this situation both disturbing and ridiculous. The guy who kept calling ‘immigration’ passes back our documents one after the other, take a quick peek into our cabin, and then, they move on – pounding on the next cabin door.

Eventually the train arrives to its next stop in Hungary, and we see through the window a group of migrant men being herded down the platform. They got onto the train, but they didn’t get much further.

One, then two security officers pass by – large muscular men with tiny flashlights, shining here and there.

“You know, in many ways we are very lucky,” I say to Zsolt.

“I know,” he replies.

I can’t even begin to imagine what will happen to these thousand plus people a day who are crossing into Hungary and beyond. Where will they go, who will take them, what will happen next? It’s all beyond me. The only thing I know is what I saw on that train platform in Budapest. I saw a mother feeding her child baby formula from a big can with a kitten on it. I saw awkward teenagers with faded jeans. I saw groups rushing down the platforms. I saw young men sitting together and waiting for who knows what. I saw weathered old men holding the hands of toddlers.

I saw them watching us, and certainly they saw us watching them.

Eventually Zsolt and I give up looking from the sleeping cabin window and lower the blind. As the train rocks, creeks and charges forward, we tuck into bed. I can’t help but wonder whether anyone has managed to make it out of the country, and whether they’ll actually reach Germany. It feels unlikely.

This is the night train to Dresden. It is not so romantic.