when all is well and well is all for all

Back in January, when I created my market schedule and submitted my application, I added an extra Sunday in August because I thought that would be the busiest month, the best time to put in a ton of work and make a ton of money for the rest of the year. Now I’m here, on the second of three baking Saturdays, and instead, I want to give up because nothing will ever change. It’s not getting better.

Having anxiety during a global pandemic has proved to be an advantage for some. I’ve read stories of people who finally feel calm because living every day like you don’t know what’s coming is what they’ve practiced for years. Some people have said their friends are asking them for help because now people with anxiety are the experts.

It hasn’t been like that for me. I had an appointment with a new psychiatrist at the end of February, and I started a new dosage of my meds. But by the time the first check-in came around in April, I didn’t know what thoughts were mental illness and what thoughts were the effects of quarantine. We’ve kinda given up on doing real work, and I’ll be sticking with these meds for now. I’m fine—it’s just that I was hoping 2020 would be the year I finally feel better.

“Can I send two ‘gaping maw’ newsletters in a row?” I asked my best friend chat. “Sure,” they replied. “It’s 2020.” What other kind of news is there?

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This is a selfie which pretty accurately represents my current mood. I had just got out of the pool, and my hair was still drying.

Last Monday was a stat holiday here in Canada; we call it BC Day in BC, though it doesn’t celebrate anything specific about the province. My family used the day to swim in the pool, finally! set up for the summer; eat barbecued meat, potato salad, coleslaw; and roast marshmallows over a fire. Your typical North American backyard BBQ, which is decidedly atypical in the summer of 2020. It’s only because we live in a province with less than 4,000 cases and less than 200 deaths that we’re even allowed to do this.

I stopped checking the daily numbers months ago. I barely remember what those first compulsive weeks of the pandemic felt like. Perhaps it’s complacency; it’s definitely privilege. I don’t think about COVID as a virus anymore—but as a context through which to live. I’m not afraid of getting sick. Mask usage seems to be about 70% where I live. Finding space on the sidewalk and in stores isn’t too hard, when you’re paying attention.

This is what we have to do now, and for many months ahead. I wrote near the beginning of quarantine that I was excited for how our world would change—and I still am. Never in my lifetime has it felt as close to real change, real resistance, real uprising, as right now. 2020 will be an entire field of study in the future because this is history remaking itself.

In March, I was excited about people discovering home cooking and domestic arts. Now it’s August, and my fingers are crossed for the fall of capitalism.

So why do I still feel like crap?

I had my fifth road test on Thursday, and I failed. I’ll be stuck in my house for the rest of the summer. I don’t have a bubble of friends close by. Life alone was already fucking hard, and while I have hope for the wider world, my life during this moment in history really fucking sucks. I don’t know how to make myself feel good anymore because all my old tricks are tired and boring.

Before, when I lived on $1200 a month, a diner breakfast or a bag of potato chips was a treat. It was an occasional indulgence I granted myself when my mood was low. But during quarantine, indulgence has become habit. I’ve inured myself to fat and starch, and it gets no rise. I find no pleasure.

Today is Saturday, baking day before tomorrow’s market day, and instead of pulling out a batch of loaves at noon, I hadn’t even turned on the oven. I need to bake, but why? What am I building towards? How am I helping? Why do I keep trying when it’s never worked before?

I’m building towards a sustainable life outside capitalism. I’m helping to feed my community. I keep trying because this isn’t good enough yet. This isn’t what my life is supposed to be. It has to get better than this. I don’t know when, but the future is yet unwritten. If we hold space for a vision still unimagined, we can write a dozen different futures for ourselves.

And a baker’s dozen is 13. One of them is bound to be great.

💗 Jess


Hey there! 👋 I’m Jessica Driscoll, a baker, teacher, and writer, living on the unceded territory of the SEMYOME (Semiahmoo) Nation, in a beach town outside the colonial city of Vancouver. I’ve documented my creative experiments online since 2002, and I sell the products of those experiments at markets around the pacific northwest. This newsletter helps people keep track of my wandering attention span and follow along as I figure it all out. Currently, I bake on Instagram and sell at the White Rock Farmers Market, as well as online at All Day Breakfast. 10% of all August sales will support Black Lives Matter Vancouver. The next market is (tomorrow! but then) August 16th.

PS if you’re reading this letter in your inbox, you should see my address below. You can write me a letter or reply to this email, and I’ll be glad to write you back.