January 24, 2010

It had to happen. Cassandra has finally come to an end. I'm surprised that it's lasted as long as it did. Five years. That's a long time. A lot can change in five years. And not necessarily for the better.

Now that it's ended, several people have said, "It's a blessing."

Who for? The readers?

People say this all the time. If they meant it's a blessing for me, then I want to ask: how do you know? Maybe it's not a blessing. Maybe it's the beginning of a long slow downward spiral. What if, instead of a blessing, it's really the worst thing that could have happened to me. What then?

People don't want to think about that. Just once, I'd like to go up to the woman who pushes the supermarket shopping cart down the street with all of her life's possessions in it and ask her, "At some point, did someone tell you: it's a blessing?"

When I first got the column the editor said, "A weekly column is the hardest thing in journalism. 52 quality columns a year is a grind and hard to sustain. You better be full of ideas. And they better be funny."

I got used to the panic and pressure and dread. It defined my routine. I'd wake up, drink coffee, and start worrying. For five years, every week, whether I felt like it or not, I've had to deliver on a specific day. Even when I had nothing to say. Even when I had no ideas. Even when I would prefer to be outside. (Although that never actually happened).

In five years, I've missed four columns and that's not out of dedication but out of fear. What if I took a break and they decided to give it the axe?

But also, I've enjoyed writing this column because it's taught me discipline.

For instance, there is a word count. There have been plenty of times I've wanted to stop writing because I felt I'd said everything I had to say. But it was too bad. I couldn't do what I was inclined to do, which was to give up. I'd have 200 words left to write and I better be happy with them because once I turned it in, it was too late.

Then once I turned it in, I'd get feedback. "This isn't funny." or "You can do better."

The problem with doing better was, it raised the bar. I like to set the bar low, that way I can meet it.

I'll also miss the mail I receive from readers who hate me. My all-time favourite was from a gentleman who enquired if I wouldn't mind asking my editor to remove the photo of me from the column because it was making him sick.

He wrote: "It looks like you fell out of the ugly tree and hit every branch on the way down."

Of course, because he was British, he signed it with, "Kind Regards."

My friends were a big part of the column as well. Those of them that I've managed to remain friends with have had varying reactions to it being over. Upon hearing that Cassandra was ending Liza asked: "So does that mean you're better?"

After that, she wondered how she would deal with not knowing what I'm anxious, scared, annoyed with and paranoid about every week.

I reassured her the updates would continue. That's why God invented the telephone.

The most frequently asked question I've had through the years from people who don't know me has been: is this person an exaggeration? The answer is a definitive: no. If anything, I've toned it down. Who would choose to be this way if they didn't have to?

There have been some very loyal readers and I'd like to say thank you. The good news is, misery will still have company as there is a new column pending.

And as for Cassandra, I've had to accept nothing lasts forever.

Except worry. That lasts a lifetime.