I’ve been trying to stay vocal about my needs, lest I fall back into old life traps and defence mechanisms. It means I’m still applying lessons learned from last year, still trying to be open even if it means being vulnerable.
As far as I can tell, this has been working in my favour. Otherwise, Seth wouldn’t be coming over on Saturday to teach me how to play the acoustic version of Sean Rowe’s Jonathan, one of those songs I’ve always wanted to learn before I die.
As a side-effect, it’s been a struggle to balance my relationship needs with overstimulation. The other night we smoked an apéritif in the car before spending three hours gorging ourselves on all-you-can-eat sushi, learning that the small but significant privileges of our class come in plates of bite-sized fatty protein made to order. Then we watched the entire first season of Tim and Eric, Awesome Show! Great Job, and played Magic until 4:30 in the morning.
It left me burnt out and I must have lost two days, yet it still feels like I don’t have enough nights like that, sharing real moments with people who don’t perpetually have somewhere else to be or someone else to see. I need more of those times in my everyday life, not just in the days marked on my calendar.
I’ve been looking for new inspiration and listening to as much new music as I can find recently. I haven’t dared go into much of my old music. I suppose that means I’m not yet completely over something or other. Thankfully, people send me new songs all the time (this gem courtesy of Mansour Chow), and often it keeps me going until the next addiction.
I haven’t picked up my guitar lately either. For the first time, the break has been self-imposed, though out of a desire to pursue other interests more than anything else. Also possibly the fact that I lost two months of growth when I chipped my thumbnail, and I’m not interested in learning anything that requires a thumbpick right now. Ever since my dad gave me Larissa as a birthday present two years ago, I haven’t able to put her down until now. I’m hoping it’ll reset a few bad habits, and give me more focus when I start again.
Practicing guitar has been the one tangible way in which I could tell I was improving. Now that I’m taking a break, I’ve been faced with an unsettling sense of stagnancy, cause I’ve always held self-improvement as one of my main reasons for living. But I’ve also realized that it’s not always possible to continually improve, so I’m trying to be happy with who I am at the moment, and accept that it’s natural to go through cycles of growth and stagnancy, pain and healing, frailty and strength.
Julia asked me how long I’d been spending Christmas at their house. We figured out this was the seventh year, cause I have pictures of Ginger from 2005, before she died. I can’t say I remember each Christmas distinctly, aside from a few extra faces and occasional makeouts that cause some to stand out more than others. It’s strange to think that I’ve known Braiden for more than half his life. I perpetually think of him as being seven.
The kids are getting older, no longer up at 5am and anxiously waiting by the presents until they’re allowed to wake up the parents. The idea of Santa has long been dispelled. Braiden’s given up being a centre for goalie, lost his post-season scruff cut, and at 13 is only an inch shorter than me. Nicole’s done most of her growing and will be legal in four months, but at the age where she’s still someone’s daughter instead of her own woman. Julia’s sporting a new voice and piercing, but has kept all the sass that comes with being the middle child.
It’s been an aimless winter. Some days full of meaning, others passing without so much as a moment worth remembering. I’ve learned to cherish every storm cause each one could be your last. Who knows when you’ll get to walk on trails cut through tangled branches with the snow as wet and thick and heavy as this again?
The holidays snuck up on me. I’ve been trying to figure out where all the time has gone and how best to use what’s left. The only decorating I’ve done for the season is a real pine wreath (generously given to me by Steph) hung on the office door. A small act that doesn’t seem like much compared to the glorious ceiling-scraping trees in the houses of my friends and neighbours, but certainly more than I’ve done in the recent years. It’s an easy concession to make against my growing distaste for the commercialized Christmas culture when my room is filled with the scent of sap, scattered pine needles, and other reminders of life.
My existence is defined by what I have left to do, and the list grows ever shorter. I live week-by-week, through cycles of productivity and play, trying to meet each need in turn. It’s always a delicate balance to be managing when so much in life is out of your control.
As for the short term, I’m off to Shirley’s for Christmas and my annual dose of family. It’ll be a complete break from my regular life of single-serving meals and never being around more than one person at a time. I imagine we’ll spend most of the days eating finger foods and watching reality TV among the rambunctious fluster of her kids. I always look forward to seeing how they’re carrying their grown-up voices and how their styles have changed.
This is the time of year I’m most scared of being left without plans1, but recently I haven’t had enough time alone. It’s left me feeling numb and tired and that’s exactly what I need right now.
Friends still make the best distractions. It’s easy to hide from anything when you’re sharing a blanket and some early episodes of Trailer Park Boys.