Singularity’s Exit

Sleep is the most innocent creature, and sleepless [wo]man the most guilty.

Franz Kafka

April 12, 2019

Well I seem to be up at my usual 3:30am internal wake-up call. I’m no longer calling this insomnia. This is my working method.

When I was younger I always wrote at 5am before my teaching/meeting began. And while mothering, the hour shifted towards midnight. Now that I’ve matured, these dark earlier morning hours beckon. Naps are even more delicious.

A few years ago, for about six months during winter, I slept on my very cosy couch in my clothes. Night was a teeter totter tipping between last night’s last thought and a morning bath. Plus, it was warmer that way when I awoke mid-night to write. What decadent luxury to refuse the disruptive drama of pajamas.

When i first thought of retiring, it was like entering a thicket of trees. Now i know my body is moving in the opposite direction, out of the brambles, and into my favourite meadow.

For one of the rewarding things about retiring is reconnecting with old friends here and at a distance. One friend wrote: ” I met you first in 1990 at a talk you gave at UBC.”

“Oh, that must have been my work on WEM,” I surmised.

“Yes, it was! I saw you and thought you were so smart, articulate, and incredibly hot,” he replied.

My retirement is off to a good start. And today there is a little gathering celebrating research in the department and the departure of two of us – 2 old(er) women. After 32 years for me. 42 years for Pat.

I’m thinking of a trending metaphor. After half a lifetime of labour, retirement feels like pitching yourself over the sticky glow of the honey-dew event horizon into the oblivion of a black hole. Edging closer, you peer into a black as deep as your own cornea. Up close, you witness your existential erasure in the maw of an absent nothing. What astrophysicists call the “singularity” and visualize as nippled breasts – (the event horizon stands in for the areola.) Then it becomes more complicated and you hear Steven Hawking’s hunch that black holes sport an exit.

My university staff union, the largest in Canada, has 4000 members from tenured faculty to librarians and sessional instructors. Not too long ago, I was Equity Chair over three years. The University of Alberta has NEVER negotiating pay equity in spite of the fact that this has been done across the country over decades. Recently in the midst of the latter stages of contract negotiations, I’ve been promoting a very unpopular pay equity argument – it appears entirely self serving and there are benefits.But my rationale for my position is not a narcissistic narrative. For it is based on the data provided by the employer and not some ad hoc invention. And my position is prompted by my fear of rejecting the first bargaining go round in the midst of a provincial election that could initiate the decimation of our health and education system. This seems the worst time to reject a proposed memorandum of agreement when the employer will be calculating the downward shifts in funding that will come if/when the UCP takes over governing.*

I’m fearful, of course, and the polls don’t look good. (But polls are Rachel’s friend I tell myself soothingly.) Others call this fear mongering. I see it as fear pondering. To be truthful, I was surprised to find myself promoting this pay equity settlement. But such is life. If you are lucky, your position will lose and the future will open up with more possibilities. If the future is as bleak as you imagine, you will feel satisfied in your original judgment though disappointed in a wasted opportunity. You are often not popular. And sometimes not right.

Sometimes you speak out usefully so that your repulsive argument can round itself into a soft dark circle for others to launch their alternative darts towards. The only risk is the malicious cruelty of those cranks and trolls who take pleasure in your public humiliation.

But so it goes.

Singularity’s exit, a tantalizing possibility, beckons.

She mouths the transitive verb “to retire” –

(Now it is 5:30am: I’m thinking of Cressida Heyes and her riveting new research project “Sleep Is the New Sex.”

Napping sometime today is on my event horizon.)

* UPDATE: yes the UCP won and they are in the process of dismantling all that is good in the province. And I feel more affirmed that my perspective was valid.