consider this place

It’s get­ting harder to write.

Not that the spirit is unwill­ing, although that was the case for years, when the things I needed to talk about most were the exact things I needed dis­tance from. At this point, the flesh isn’t even that weak1, but a lack of cer­tainty in which to ground my per­spec­tives has become an obsta­cle. The biggest sign I’m get­ting older isn’t the white hair in my mous­tache, but the recog­ni­tion that I’ve shed some youth­ful arro­gance that used to feel like wisdom.

FTL: Faster Than Light decision

Do I let fate reward my brav­ery with an extra crew mem­ber, or give it the chance to fuck me over by killing one? Or do I avoid the choice completely?

It’s eas­ier for me to accept a bad out­come if I remem­ber that every deci­sion is made with the best inten­tions, and the only goal is survival.

HBO shows2 and games with con­se­quen­tial choices based on ran­dom­ized events3 have been a huge influ­ence on my think­ing. Media with mosaics of moral­ity, while char­ac­ters grow and evolve across sev­eral spec­trums (along with my opin­ion of them). Where deci­sions have to be care­fully made with lim­ited infor­ma­tion and resources, then bal­anced against com­pet­ing inter­ests from for­eign spheres of influ­ence. Situations where a per­son can make all the right moves, and still fail through circumstance.

Continue read­ing “con­sider this place”…

  1. Thanks to a remis­sion in col­i­tis, and con­sis­tent use of a SAD lamp. []
  2. Game of Thrones, Six Feet Under []
  3. Europa Universalis 4, FTL: Faster Than Light, Moirai []

eight lives left

A lit­tle while ago, Byron stopped hold­ing down his meals, and we’d con­sis­tently find chicken parts scat­tered about the house shortly after he ate. A visit to the vet, along with the usual blood tests, came up empty. It was only an x-ray at the ER that showed a small object lodged at the start of his small intes­tine, block­ing the path of digestion.

It didn’t come as a huge sur­prise. Byron was a relent­less cat when it came to search­ing for food. I couldn’t tell if he’d roam the house for things to eat cause he was hun­gry, or if his hunger came from the con­stant roam­ing. Sometimes we’d find chewed up toys passed through his sys­tem, but more often than not they came up the other end, cov­ered in bile. It was only a mat­ter of time before some­thing got stuck.

cat in cone

The face of a killer defeated by a fur­ni­ture screw.

I try to have a prag­matic view about my cats. Operations of this scale on any sin­gle one are hard for me to jus­tify, when I could use those resources to save sev­eral more (espe­cially when I wouldn’t love a new cat any less). So I left the deci­sion up to Heather, con­sid­er­ing the fact that she’s the bread­win­ner now, and she’s had a stronger con­nec­tion to him ever since she started tak­ing care of the cat’s meals.

It wasn’t a dif­fi­cult choice for her, and she gave the vet approval to oper­ate with­out a sec­ond thought.

Cat at Wintersday

Heather’s spent more hours as his ranger alter-ego, Byron Tightslasher, than any other char­ac­ter. Every detail of his vir­tual per­sona is care­fully cho­sen to mimic Byron in real life, from the pat­terns of his fur, to the tilt of his muz­zle. In keep­ing with his per­son­al­ity, even the ranger pets that fol­low him are named after foods, such as his juve­nile eagle called Drumsticks.

This Christmas, Byron’s “Santa Claws” per­sona includes a snow­fall aura, Wintersday weapon set, wreath back­pack, and Ho-Ho-Tron mini with match­ing santa hat.

After leav­ing Leonard at the hos­pi­tal for an emer­gency oper­a­tion, then find­ing out the next day that he was gone, I was ter­ri­fied that I’d never see Byron again, but he soon came home with a new col­lar and a shaven belly, weak from not hav­ing digested a proper meal in so long.

It’s been a few months since, and he’s rebounded quite well, though a lot more cau­tious when it comes to the things he decides to put in his mouth. I sus­pect he’s learned a very painful les­son about not eat­ing some­thing just because he can, which means by now he’s at least smarter than most puppies.

shaved belly

BELLY NEEDS BOOPING.

I could tell Heather loved my kit­ties, cause she obsesses over their health, projects their per­son­al­i­ties onto other ani­mals, and talks about them cease­lessly (whether it’s to me or peo­ple she just met). She even role-plays as them in Guild Wars 2, her favourite part of every sea­son being the chance cre­ate a new cos­tume. But after see­ing the how much effort she put into sav­ing my lit­tle boy, then nurs­ing him back to health with del­i­cate patience, I’ve started to under­stand that love goes deeper than I real­ized, for both them and me.

backstory

It’s taken me a gen­er­ous dis­tance, as well as a healthy break from the pain, to real­ize I don’t under­stand what my mom thought of me. In my ear­li­est years, I believed she loved me, cause none of her demands were unrea­son­able. After all, chil­dren are often help­less and don’t even know what’s best for them­selves. Then I grew up, and devel­oped an iden­tity of my own. That meant I had dis­tinc­tive needs sep­a­rate from hers, and she would deny every one of them unless they were in line with what she wanted. It was impos­si­ble for me to believe there was any love at all when she was the cause of so much of my pain. I’ve since come to real­ize that rela­tion­ships are full of nuances, and that it’s pos­si­ble to love some­one whole­heart­edly and be ter­ri­ble for them at the same time.

Continue read­ing “backstory”…

facing eternity, or the lack thereof

Heather man­aged to snag a job at a great com­pany on the other side of town. She started her train­ing last month, and I couldn’t be more proud of her for mak­ing the cut after months of resumes and appli­ca­tions, hope and patience.

While it makes sense for her to start work­ing, I’ve been forced to deal with an unset­tling void in the house — like the deaf­en­ing silence of a black­out, when the elec­tronic hums and glows cease to pro­vide their per­pet­ual com­pany. We never spent more than an hour apart before this, when she might have stepped out to grab some gro­ceries or a pre­scrip­tion1; nearly two years where we couldn’t help but be closely in tune with each other’s needs and moods. Now, it feels like we barely have a chance to get our dailies with a bit of extra con­tent before it’s time for bed.

Cadem Forest in Plains of Ashford

I always travel with my menagerie of cats; this month with Zuzu, Cat of Darkness at my feet (in cel­e­bra­tion of Halloween) and Brill on my back (who’s actu­ally a tiger cub).

Losing so much of each other has been a dif­fi­cult adjust­ment. I wasn’t ready for this. It wasn’t a deci­sion I made. I’m not use to being so alone, or even tak­ing care of myself, for that mat­ter2. When she’s away, the void makes it painfully clear how much I sur­rounded myself with her. I can’t even write with­out men­tion­ing her, cause there’s rarely a deci­sion I make with­out con­sid­er­ing her first, whether it’s how we’re going to spend our time or what I’m going to say next.

It’s a dif­fi­cult reminder of many years spent with­out a part­ner or par­ent to rely on. I’ve been try­ing to reclaim my inde­pen­dence by pick­ing up small respon­si­bil­i­ties. Something as sim­ple as mak­ing my space more com­fort­able, whether it’s a thor­ough clean­ing or new light­ing arrange­ment, turns into a chance to suc­ceed and feel accom­plished. Even games become lit­tle projects, ways of exer­cis­ing my cre­ativ­ity or keep­ing myself sharp.

I knew Heather would even­tu­ally be work­ing, and I’d be alone. Now the day has come, and I’m con­stantly won­der­ing: who am I when I’m by myself? What do I do to fill the hours that she’s away?

At least it’s given me a chance to write again. The break hasn’t been entirely inten­tional. Part of it is the fact that writ­ing takes energy, and I rarely have any to spare when I’m try­ing so hard just to feel okay. Another part is the fact that I haven’t needed this in the same way since I met her. She’s become an impor­tant out­let, one who always makes her­self avail­able to me. There hasn’t been the same long­ing to write, cause I haven’t needed to vent, or sort out my thoughts, or feel validated.

Nevertheless, this period of empti­ness has become a chap­ter in itself. A change that will be a great deal of the rest of our lives. I’m stuck here, while the days stretch out before me with end­less pos­si­bil­ity. The hard part is finally stum­bling into the life I’ve always wanted, find­ing a part­ner who fills in my gaps in all the right ways, but not being ready for it all.

  1. Aside from a few days she spent vis­it­ing her fam­ily last year. It was the first sig­nif­i­cant amount of time we were away from each other since we met, and I had a panic attack before she was out of the city. []
  2. She still han­dles the meals, and has a sys­tem where most things are done in the slow cooker; all I need to do is pour the con­tents of a bag into the pot and turn it on at a cer­tain time, although, some days, even this can slip my mind. []

quiet revolution

Depression has added an extra cost to every­thing I do. Something as sim­ple as buy­ing gro­ceries means mak­ing sure my energy lev­els are care­fully paced for a few days before I leave the house, and being too burned out to do any form of inter­ac­tion for a few days after. If some­thing goes wrong dur­ing the process — a night of poor sleep, a sick cat, a loss of moti­va­tion, a col­i­tis flare-up — and I run out of spoons, the prob­lems cas­cade and I end up hav­ing to can­cel my plans.

That’s why I choose to spend time with peo­ple who under­stand what it truly costs me to func­tion; they hap­pen to be the ones who are con­sis­tently reli­able, very under­stand­ing if I have to can­cel, and put as much effort into main­tain­ing the rela­tion­ship as I do.1

Heather portrait

 

Heather started taper­ing off her dose of ven­lafax­ine cause she feels sta­ble enough to take the risk2, and wants to start work­ing with­out the asso­ci­ated men­tal haze. Even though music is still a joy­less expe­ri­ence, the fact that she’s get­ting excited about Halloween again is a sign that she’s finally healing.

She doesn’t mind car­ry­ing more emo­tional labour (and I remain will­fully igno­rant, for the time being), cause she knows I’m play­ing life on hard mode. My job is to make sure she feels appre­ci­ated for doing more than her fair share. The crises we’ve been weath­er­ing together since we met means our hon­ey­moon phase was cut short, but nei­ther of us mind, cause inti­macy is what we were miss­ing for so long.3

self portrait at 35

 

The fact that it takes me fewer days be to com­fort­able around any­one when my inse­cu­ri­ties get the bet­ter of me means I’m gain­ing some small form of equa­nim­ity. I still have moments when I feel too dam­aged to be happy, too worth­less to be loved, or too bro­ken to be fixed, but it takes me less time to realign my per­cep­tions with real­ity. The lows aren’t as debil­i­tat­ingly deep either.

I’ve been using the momen­tum to take small steps out of my com­fort zone; spend­ing more time in dif­fi­cult sit­u­a­tions, learn­ing to be emo­tion­ally vul­ner­a­ble, explor­ing new ways of express­ing myself4, pro­cess­ing parts of the past I’ve tried my best to for­get. Even though I’m anx­ious to feel nor­mal again, I’m forced to rec­og­nize my lim­i­ta­tions and keep myself paced. I know I’m not where I want to be, but I’m mov­ing in the right direc­tion. That’s enough to keep me going for now.

  1. Also, per­haps not-coincidentally, usu­ally peo­ple who have deal with some form of depres­sion or chronic ill­ness in their lives. []
  2. I still have no idea whether mine are keep­ing me afloat, but the fact that I don’t suf­fer any side-effects means I’ll be on them for the fore­see­able future. []
  3. Finding my under­wear washed and folded one day — a respon­si­bil­ity I’ve never shared with any girl­friend — gave me the weird­est boner. []
  4. The only lux­ury pur­chase for me this year has been an Impact LX-49 MIDI con­troller. []