equivocality — Jeff Ngan's collection of thoughts, experiences, and projects, inspired by pretty much everything
13 Feb 14

it is okay to hold your heart outside of your body

It’s been more than a week since I had a night alone. I never thought I’d be able to han­dle this kind of stim­u­la­tion again, but most peo­ple work dur­ing the day and my shifts involve run­ning the tour­neys when they’re off, so I still have morn­ings to myself. I can tell how quickly time is pass­ing cause the gaps in my photo fold­ers are turn­ing into months.

Being around so many peo­ple gives me a chance to work on my altru­ism. It’s always been easy with peo­ple who are impor­tant to me. Now I’m try­ing to fall into the habit of being kind to the ones who are neu­tral, to try to truly under­stand their real­ity so I can acknowl­edge their hap­pi­ness or suf­fer­ing. It’s a way for me to remove my bias, includ­ing whether I think they deserve either of those emo­tions, and always a hum­bling exercise.

girl on couch

 

Still, I wish I could explain what I was feel­ing. So much of myself was defined by my emo­tions. I remem­ber rid­ing the bus, los­ing myself to the warmth of the sun on my face and the swelling sound in my head­phones. Nowadays, every scene plays out like all caps slug lines in a screen­play. Nothing has changed but the dosage, and I don’t know if that’s a fact I should take com­fort in.

Not to say there aren’t dif­fi­cult times. I don’t have much con­trol over trig­gers, and I’m not ready to deal with cer­tain parts of my life yet. I’ve had to keep a dis­tance from toxic peo­ple and sit­u­a­tions to gain a sense of sta­bil­ity before I approach them again. It’s a way for me to give myself time to heal, after real­iz­ing just how much needs to be done.

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03 Feb 14

for you, i am sweeping words together

Winter has always been dif­fi­cult at times. At –15 or below, breath becomes a layer of ice on the win­dows when parked out­side, and I can do noth­ing but wait for the car to warm up again so I can see enough to drive. At that point, it means I’m sit­ting in the car for longer than my com­mute. I try to take it as a good way to prac­tice patience, but it’s a hard wait after an eight hour shift on my feet. It’s still win­ter in all it’s muf­fling glory though, the time in the year I most appre­ci­ate liv­ing in Canada. Girls and cats alike are more affec­tion­ate too, and I don’t mind being the source of heat.

cats and winter

 

I tend to get up around sun­rise now, and every time I step out­side before the rest of the world wakes up, it feels like I’m born again. It’s a chance for me to hit the reset but­ton on the last day. To let go of the past, even if it hap­pened only seven hours ago, and become a blank slate.

I also grad­u­ally broke the habit of check­ing my feeds after feel­ing jaded about news and media, then com­ing across this arti­cle. After months of absten­tion, I can say that I’ve gained time and lost noth­ing. It’s left me feel­ing increas­ingly dis­con­nected from the world, but I know that means I’m begin­ning to learn what really matters.

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21 Dec 13

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14 Dec 13

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29 Nov 13

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20 Nov 13

stay is a sensitive word

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I haven’t been able to come up with a way of explain­ing the absence. I guess I’m still fig­ur­ing out where I stand at this par­tic­u­lar moment, and what it means to keep going. Many days were lost to the flux of ambiver­sion, when all I was try­ing to do was sur­vive the bal­ance of how much space I needed with how much com­fort I could only get from oth­ers. Suffice it to say, I’ve learned the impor­tance of tak­ing the time just to feel okay, which has mostly involved enjoy­ing the games I’ve put off play­ing for so long, spend­ing time with those who make me feel wanted+needed+awesome+loved, and draft­ing as often as possible.

girl and cat

 

My birth­day came some­where in between, a day I got to pick all the shows, eat dirty bird, and nest with the cats on me when they weren’t in the cud­dle train. It made the whole day mine, not because it was some­thing I asked for, but because some­one wanted to give that to me.

I’m slowly let­ting my guard down, let­ting myself share new songs in the dark, so the pos­i­tive expe­ri­ences become a per­ma­nent part of me. Making new mem­o­ries is a step towards sooth­ing my his­tory with heart­break. The com­fort I find in our embraces car­ries me through the time we’re apart, but feel­ing safe is still very for­eign. Just touch­ing fin­gers is a vul­ner­a­ble step, and it’s like being on a tightrope every time I put aside my inse­cu­ri­ties to make progress. Thankfully, she hasn’t let me fall yet.

Magic: The Gathering and beer

 

Most recently, I started work­ing at the busiest comic book shop in the city as one of the res­i­dent Magic experts. It’s left me try­ing to find my bal­ance again, even though the job is part-time and never feels like work. The posi­tion mostly involves run­ning the tour­na­ments, trading/selling/organizing cards, and giv­ing peo­ple game advice; things I already love doing in my spare time. A nice bonus is the fact that a new friend hap­pens to be one of the reg­u­lars at the Modern Constructed tour­ney, and I get to root for him and see how he does between matches.

Shawn even came in to say hi and give me hugs on my first day. Reminders all around that make me feel worth­while, instead of just believ­ing it. It’s the dif­fer­ence between know­ing some­thing in my head to my heart, a gap I’m start­ing to bridge with help from the right people.

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13 Oct 13

mother dearest

The last time I saw my mom was on a trip she took to see me in Ottawa, along with a few other fam­ily mem­bers vis­it­ing from out of the coun­try. I had table ten­nis prac­tice one night, and instead of drop­ping me off, they decided to come watch. So five of us piled into her van, and halfway through the drive, my vision started grow­ing blurry. I’d been work­ing full shifts, then enter­tain­ing the guests every night, and my body decided it didn’t want to con­tinue coop­er­at­ing. With the aches get­ting sharper in my head, I told her I couldn’t play. She sharply asked why. I explained.

My mother has always been an emo­tional dri­ver, and on top of that an “emo­tional” per­son when she doesn’t get her way. With me rid­ing shot­gun, she decided to make a U-turn into oncom­ing traf­fic. It was an attempt to go home in a huff, except there are things to con­sider when doing this in a vehi­cle, like the fact that every­one around you is also mov­ing in their own giant metal sledge­ham­mer. When we crossed over the median, I saw an SUV head­ing towards me at full speed, and in that moment, there was only the dis­tinct real­iza­tion that this is how I died. It was some­thing I’d always won­dered, and the sat­is­fac­tion of my curios­ity was greater than any sense of fear of what was about to hap­pen1.

But we were saved by the grace and reflexes of the per­son dri­ving the SUV, who slammed on his/her brakes, and there was no col­li­sion. My mom con­tin­ued speed­ing back home in her mood, like she hadn’t nearly maimed us all. I knew in that moment she didn’t care about me or my well being; all she cared about was how she couldn’t show off her son in front of the fam­ily, and how that made her look.

I never looked her in the eyes after that. And when she left, I never saw her again. It was already her last chance. Proof that I still didn’t mean any­thing to her as a per­son, that I was just an orna­ment to her my entire life.

Fast for­ward many years later. A phase where I find myself learn­ing about hate and for­give­ness, how to let go of one and prac­tice the other. I decide to con­tact her again, let­ting her know that I’m not ready to for­give her yet, but I’m open to talk­ing. She asked what there was to for­give, as if she had no idea what she did wrong. I thought it was an odd thing to say; after all, how did she explain why we hadn’t spo­ken in years? I made no assump­tions though, and brought up a few things to refresh her mem­ory, the inci­dent above being one example.

All she could say was that she was going through a dif­fi­cult mar­riage, so I should under­stand why she acted the way she did. Then she meekly tried to mask her guilt with excuses about mak­ing sac­ri­fices for me, as if a child’s accep­tance or for­give­ness is some­thing that can be bought and this is why she owes me noth­ing. Through it all, she refused to apol­o­gize, or even acknowl­edge that she ever hurt me. Perhaps say­ing sorry would mean admit­ting to her­self that she’s done these hor­ri­ble things to her only child, her fault things got so bad he cut off all ties, and that real­ity would be too dif­fi­cult for her to deal with. To this day, she’s in com­plete denial about her role in any of my suf­fer­ing, and she doesn’t even care enough about me to feel bad about it.

I’m learn­ing to accept that my mom would rather give up the chance at rec­on­cil­ing than do some­thing as sim­ple as apol­o­gize, cause it means her sense of pride is more impor­tant to her than her only child. This is exactly what makes her a bad par­ent. Separating myself from her so many years later was just as easy as the first time.

If only I wasn’t still deal­ing with the after-effects of her influ­ence; I’m only now learn­ing not to judge myself the way she did the entire time we were in con­tact, how not to hate myself for being less than per­fect, how not to feel worth­less when I don’t have con­stant val­i­da­tion. So many of my demons can be traced back to her. Parents are sup­posed to nur­ture, instill­ing strength and con­fi­dence and sta­bil­ity, while help­ing their chil­dren explore a sense of iden­tity. Instead, she dan­gled love and favour and reward in front of me only if I met some ridicu­lous stan­dard in school or played the piano or did exactly as she bid. Otherwise, I was a bad per­son, the child she didn’t want.

It’s been some­what trau­ma­tiz­ing to re-experience these trig­gers again when try­ing to resolve issues I’m deal­ing with now. Sometimes I hate myself for being so bro­ken, but it’s eas­ier to for­give my mis­takes and accept myself when I real­ize such a toxic per­son has had so much influ­ence on my life.

  1. Although maybe that was also cause I knew it was a sit­u­a­tion com­pletely out of my con­trol. []
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10 Oct 13

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06 Oct 13

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30 Sep 13

slow plays and hybrid strains

Darren stopped by for a stay on the way to Montreal for his first multi-day hol­dem tour­na­ment. The first and last nights ended up being the only ones we had to our­selves. Otherwise, it was a mix of friends and strangers, sati­vas and inci­das, com­ing and going through the house each day. I’m glad he was along for the ride, even though I’m always up far too late when we’re together, and it’s get­ting harder on my body as I get older.

Theros draft

Theros draft at my place on release day. I walked away with 1st, but it was off a missed rules call (by me) in my match against Shawn, one that would have made a sig­nif­i­cant dif­fer­ence on the tiebreaker. I’ll always remem­ber the night I won Xenagos and a Thoughtseize (which cov­ers both my entry fee along with Darren’s), but the vic­tory will for­ever be tainted.

It’s feels like I’m a dif­fer­ent per­son, liv­ing a dif­fer­ent life, every time we hang out. The dis­tance between us means the change we expe­ri­ence is always sig­nif­i­cant enough to notice. This time my rela­tion­ships have changed the most cause I’ve started com­part­men­tal­iz­ing peo­ple, appre­ci­at­ing them for their strengths instead of expect­ing every­one to live up to some lofty set of expec­ta­tions. My needs have always been the same, but I’m get­ting bet­ter at mak­ing sure they’re met after finally fig­ur­ing out what they are. I’m also bet­ter at read­ing peo­ple, detect­ing under­tone, and under­stand­ing social inter­ac­tions, thanks to Shawn’s exper­tise rub­bing off on me.

In terms of self-improvement, I’m try­ing to be more under­stand­ing of the world at large, while reduc­ing my hate and increas­ing my patience. I’ve also started to ana­lyze and resolve the trig­gers that keep me from being the per­son I was meant to be. The strug­gles I used to have only a few years ago seem so ado­les­cent in com­par­i­son to the things I’m work­ing on now. My pri­or­i­ties have matured, or I’ve grown in ways that have made old issues obsolete.

I’d never have real­ized any of this if Darren hadn’t showed up to pull me so far out of my reg­u­lar life that I lost track of what day it was and the women I’d loved and the feel­ing of cold. I learn as much about myself as I do about him when we’re catch­ing up.

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10 Sep 13

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08 Sep 13

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05 Sep 13

learning to surf

The last few days have been rough to say the least, and I’m still try­ing to sur­vive moments of cri­sis while bat­tling hunger and exhaus­tion. Times like this are a les­son on how strong the pri­mal will to sur­vive is, when the mind shuts out every­thing except doing what needs to be done, cause there isn’t room for panic or surrender.

I’m learn­ing to accept these spells as a sim­ple fact of life. There’s never going to be a sin­gle defin­ing moment from when I’ll for­ever be okay, when I can say they won’t hap­pen any more. Being well takes as much effort as patience, hap­pi­ness, and for­give­ness. It’s both the work and adven­ture of a life­time to become a bet­ter per­son in so many ways.

Sometimes Heather sends me a quote or teach­ing, and relates to me how it’s help­ing her with her reac­tions or trig­gers. With her unflinch­ingly calm demeanour, I couldn’t imag­ine her hav­ing any of these kinds of issues, but it’s a reminder that every­one can use a lit­tle bit of work. I used to think she was sim­ply a nice per­son; now I under­stand her kind­ness has been con­sciously and con­sis­tently cul­ti­vated over many years1.

As a per­son with­out a dark past, she has no under­stand­ing of what I go through in these times, no idea how to han­dle me, but it doesn’t stop her from car­ing so much. Sometimes that means stop­ping by for a talk even if she’s not sure I’m home, or drop­ping off a meal from one of my favourite restau­rants, or giv­ing me a small but mean­ing­ful gift. It’s a truly self­less empa­thy, one that doesn’t need a rea­son. She cares sim­ply because I suf­fer, not because she agrees with why. I don’t know many peo­ple who show any­one that kind of com­pas­sion (not even them­selves). And yet she con­sid­ers her­self a begin­ner on the path of awak­en­ing, when there’s so much I already have to learn from her.

For now, I’m fig­ur­ing out how to embrace the wounds, and let the anger, fear, and hurt flow through me when my cop­ing mech­a­nisms aren’t enough. I know I can’t change the world, but I have the power to change myself and how I han­dle things. Or as Jon Kabat-Zinn says, “You can’t stop the waves, but you can learn to surf”.

  1. She once went on a silent med­i­ta­tion retreat in Tibet, where 20 peo­ple live together but don’t talk for three days. “Little eye con­tact through­out and silent, mind­ful eat­ing”, she tells me. Like a mind­ful­ness boot­camp, that sounds as intim­i­dat­ing as any mil­i­tary one. []
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02 Sep 13

Protected: un jour comme un autre

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30 Aug 13

not ready to stop

I take care of this moment by tak­ing care of myself. That means nour­ish­ing my sense of well-being by spend­ing time with peo­ple who:

Normally, the goal is to use the pos­i­tive expe­ri­ences from these rela­tion­ships to buffer my emo­tional resilience when things get rough, but right now I’m just try­ing to get to the point most peo­ple con­sider nor­mal.

It helps when peo­ple make me things like this. I had a Google search box as my browser start page for as long as I can remem­ber, until pre­sented with this board full of hap­pi­ness, where every update is rel­e­vant to my inter­ests. Tiana and Genevieve secretly col­lected cats for months before giv­ing it to me just because, and some­how there were 91 fol­low­ers before I even made a Pinterest account to fol­low this name­sake board. These are peo­ple who truly under­stand me, and make me feel con­nected even when I’m not with them. This is what I need more of in my life.

sitting in a cafe

We’ll get there some­day, cuz.

I’ve also been reach­ing into my past and search­ing for clo­sure, whether that means giv­ing or receiv­ing for­give­ness. It’s hum­bling to own up to my role in someone’s pain with­out mak­ing excuses or lay­ing blame to pro­tect my pride, but being able to do so has given me more amour de soi. Mistakes will be made on my jour­ney, but it doesn’t mean I’m a bad per­son, and it won’t stop me from becom­ing better.

Seeking res­o­lu­tion doesn’t always end well though. I’m try­ing to under­stand each response as a mes­sage about the true nature of someone’s role in my life, with­out being caught up in anger. It’s so much eas­ier to for­give or accept some­one when I start to under­stand their real­ity, even if they’ve hurt me rather unde­serv­ingly. I finally feel like I’m get­ting a han­dle on my inter­ac­tions with peo­ple, instead of con­stantly being at the whim of their behaviour.

dog by the door

 

It’s been a period of such tremen­dous growth in myself and devel­op­ment in my rela­tion­ships that it feels like I’ve been given a reprieve. I’ve been work­ing on all the lit­tle things I said I’d take care of when I was bet­ter, one day at a time. Just know­ing that I’m improv­ing in some small way is often enough to keep me going by itself.

I still occa­sion­ally get caught up on the idea that I need to be per­fect before start­ing down a new path, but Lisa always reminds me that the per­son I am already isn’t so bad. Growing is a grad­ual and life­long process. I can do the best with the per­son I am, and that’ll always be good enough.

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