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

20 Sep 13

moment by moment by moment

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It’s turned into a month of impro­vi­sa­tion. Even my reg­u­lar events are being resched­uled, so I’ve lost the only anchors I have to a nor­mal week. It’s hard to make plans when I don’t know how I’ll feel from one day to the next. Harder when I don’t know the next chance I’ll have to spend with the peo­ple who love me the way I need to be loved. I can tell it’s been too long when I start to dwell on my inse­cu­ri­ties, and the days feel more and more heavy.

I’m let­ting this period be a way for me to ease away from alter­nat­ing between iso­la­tion and anx­ious cling­ing. Being busy is forc­ing me to pay atten­tion to the cur­rent moment. To be present with the per­son I’m with, but more impor­tantly, with myself. Otherwise, I can’t han­dle the thought of how much stim­u­la­tion I’m facing.

cat in slippers

Slippers, because she needs to find ways to be more com­fort­able in her day-to-day life.

Dolly’s been sleep­ing on my duvet again, an old habit of hers. It’s a sign that fall is here, as she prefers to swad­dle in the dark when it gets too cold by the win­dow. She also recently decided to start sleep­ing on my pil­low1, and I can feel her purring through my skull, a new and unex­pected devel­op­ment in our rela­tion­ship. I love the fact that I’m still learn­ing things about her, that she’s still capa­ble of change as she approaches a decade with me. As always, I have the fall to thank.

backyard garden

 

A lot of pro­gres­sive trance has been in the mix dur­ing all this upheaval. It’s a genre I’ve never pur­posely explored until recently. I’ve been try­ing to fig­ure out how to make my own cov­ers inter­est­ing by adding lots of dynamic ele­ments and mak­ing sure phrases aren’t used too often. These DJs do the exact oppo­site with lots of rep­e­ti­tion and min­i­mal ele­ments, yet some­how make each song a jour­ney in itself. It’s a pleas­ant puz­zle to try to solve. Now I have many new addic­tions that have been per­fect for night time rides and count­ing yel­low high­way lines.

I won­der if these songs will end up remind­ing me of a time I’m con­stantly being bro­ken down so I can heal prop­erly. The old ones don’t mean the same thing anymore.

  1. Although I can’t fig­ure out how she fits on it by her­self to begin with. []
13 Sep 13

diner

Sometimes we go people-watching at the Elgin Street Diner at two in the morn­ing. Not just cause it’s one of the only places still open, but because it tends to be too busy before then. It’s hard to point some­one out or steal a glance with­out being noticed when the tables are all occupied.

We try to fig­ure out rela­tion­ships from the way peo­ple sit, sto­ries from the state of their shoes. Mostly it’s young drunks, try­ing to set­tle their stom­achs with some grease before head­ing home. Frat boys from the bars, clus­ters of girls in tight dresses from the clubs. The ones who’ve had too much are easy to spot: when they aren’t mak­ing a bee­line to the bath­room, they’re star­ing at their plates, won­der­ing how much warn­ing they’ll need for the next run.

But every so often is an enigma, like four men in cargo shorts who aren’t young enough to be sin­gle, but not old enough to be divorced. The cor­po­rate logos on their golf shirts belie the no-upkeep, don’t-care-anymore look that comes with father­hood. It’s a breed rarely seen out beyond nine on a Thursday night, and one that looks espe­cially out of place at a time when the only cars on the road are taxis and cruisers.

I don’t judge, but I sure do wonder.

Elgin Street Diner

 

This is our way of escap­ing the reg­u­lar lives we lead, before catch­ing up on enough sleep to beat morn­ing rush-hour on the way home, and back to another day of real­ity. No one told us about the roles we had to play as adults, or the respon­si­bil­i­ties that come with it. To com­bat signs of aging, share onion-bacon pou­tine, chocolate-banana milk­shakes, and a slice of peanut-butter cake every now and then. Just an hour here is plenty, as long as it’s done on a reg­u­lar basis.

When we’re fend­ing off exhaus­tion to spend one more moment in each other’s com­pany, shar­ing food we shouldn’t eat and words we shouldn’t say, I know I’m the only one she wants to be with there. It’s more proof to me than the things she writes and the rit­u­als we share. So many peo­ple take that kind of unspo­ken faith for granted, but it’s still new to me, and I’m learn­ing how much I need to be spe­cial to someone.

10 Sep 13

Protected: PTSD

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Me @ Twitter

Purposely not lis­ten­ing to The Fox (even though I really want to). It’ll soon be every­where, and I don’t want to get Gangnam sick of it.

1 year ago
08 Sep 13

Protected: left and leaving

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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 G 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. []
02 Sep 13

Protected: un jour comme un autre

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Me @ Twitter

One of the nicest adap­tions of Wu Wei theme I’ve ever seen: owlscapes.com

1 year ago
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.

Me @ Twitter

Assuming the posi­tions. http://t.co/V1e7FdYcHB

1 year ago
23 Aug 13

Level 8

Shawn and I go deep once a week, usu­ally with a decent amount of psy­cho­analy­sis mixed in with our Magic matches. I real­ized I still need ther­apy, but in a dif­fer­ent form from what my ther­a­pist could offer1. I need to work with some­one who isn’t restricted by time lim­its when I’m in the mid­dle of extremely time-sensitive events, and it’s vital that I work at my own pace, since it’s easy to rush things (that should be dealt with very care­fully) when it costs $180/hour. He also stretches me out in all the right ways, and I’m learn­ing that phys­i­cal com­fort is often just as impor­tant as emo­tional validation.

Shawn admits it’s all pop-psychology since he has no for­mal edu­ca­tion, but he’s spe­cial­ized in peo­ple and rela­tion­ships for so long that it’s no less effec­tive. Sometimes, it’s scary to work with some­one who func­tions at such a higher level of under­stand­ing of the world. I recently heard Jon Kabat-Zinn say, “Buddha was not a Buddhist”, which I started repeat­ing to Shawn when try­ing to relate mind­ful­ness with mod­ern reli­gion. He fin­ished my thought by say­ing, “and Jesus was not a Christian”, an idea I’d only come to after a lot more research and reflec­tion. He was able to reach the same con­clu­sion by exam­in­ing pat­terns in his exist­ing knowl­edge; an extremely pro­found and impact­ful con­cept to me, which I was still try­ing to fully grasp, was applied com­mon sense to him.

That means I’m occa­sion­ally con­fronted with how narrow-minded I can be in com­par­i­son. It’s mess­ing with things I take for granted, like my ideas of right or wrong, parts of my world-view I’ve held for so long and with­out ques­tion. Sometimes, I real­ize the per­son I was until that very moment would have done things I’d now con­sider embar­rass­ing (being judgmental/intolerant/hateful), based on igno­rance, parochial­ism, or naïveté. Thankfully, I’m also get­ting bet­ter at accept­ing my past self(ves) by under­stand­ing all the influ­ences that have led me to think a cer­tain way. It also helps know­ing that the truly impor­tant thing is that I have the power to change now, and that it’ll affect me pos­i­tively for the rest of my life.

Shawn used to say I was a wiz­ard stuck on level 7, always on the cusp of lev­el­ling up. I had enough wis­dom and intel­li­gence and other attrib­utes to be a much more pow­er­ful char­ac­ter, but was still a mage who couldn’t start his main quest, due to a very low stat in his rela­tion­ship score. This was hold­ing me back because rela­tion­ships are a huge part of my needs; ironic that I’m also so bad at them.

I’ve learned a lot in the last few months though, through a new aware­ness of deeper parts of myself, and a view of the world that’s get­ting more objec­tive. I’m apply­ing these things by pur­su­ing healthy inter­ests, which cur­rently means build­ing my rela­tion­ships and prac­tic­ing uni­lat­eral virtue. While the lat­ter has been both empow­er­ing and hum­bling, it’s also dras­ti­cally shaken my under­stand­ing of my rela­tion­ships, my needs, and my past. I can tell I’m only begin­ning to fig­ure out the dynam­ics of peo­ple and how they func­tion, but Shawn says just com­ing to that under­stand­ing means I’ve finally reached level 8, and with that foun­da­tion, I can begin the next part of my journey.

Then he gave me a high-five. My ther­a­pist never did that.

  1. Not that he was bad in any way. It’s just that the nature of open­ness tends to get more com­pli­cated when money is involved. You know some­one truly cares when they lis­ten with­out hav­ing to get paid, and it’s eas­ier to be com­fort­able with that. []
Me @ Twitter

The new YouTube app has an option for search­ing while a video is play­ing. This doesn’t bode well for our already short atten­tion spans.

1 year, 1 month ago
Me @ Twitter

Tiana and Genevieve sur­prised me with this amaz­ing Pinterest board today (which only they can add to). pinterest.com/tianadargent/f…

1 year, 1 month ago
17 Aug 13

200 miles just to learn

The only time Rob and I ever had a pri­vate con­ver­sa­tion was the night before Aaron’s wed­ding, when we were the last ones up out of the grooms­men stay­ing at my house. Aside from that, I wasn’t sure if I’ve ever con­nected with him on a per­sonal level; I’ve been dis­cov­er­ing how dif­fer­ently some behave when oth­ers are around, and with Aaron or Mel in the mix, he’s got even more to prove than usual.

But I could always tell that under­neath the brash and indomitable impres­sion he gives the world is a wis­dom not shared by many. It was exactly that kind of aware­ness I was look­ing to be in the com­pany of, so I took the chance to visit when it would be just the two of us. Even though we’re so dif­fer­ent in so many ways, it turns out the things we have in com­mon are more sig­nif­i­cant, and I dis­cov­ered he’s exactly the kind of friend I need right now.

photo montage

 

The man-cave mostly fea­tures posters of comic book heroes and car­toon fig­urines, the only pic­tures being found in a lit­tle frame next to the com­puter. It was strange to see two of myself in there next to one of him suck­ing back a beer with Trevor. That was back when I rocked my hair with a part down the mid­dle and occa­sion­ally some solid colour, though I don’t remem­ber any­thing about it oth­er­wise — a strange anom­aly in a per­son with a pho­to­graphic mem­ory. Lost the hoodie, still have the coat, won’t be caught wear­ing those glasses again.

The only other peo­ple who have a pic­ture of me in their homes are Aaron and Alex. I always take those pho­tographs as a telling sign of your rela­tion­ship with some­one. It means they care enough to want you around even when you’re not there. I guess that’s why each of them have more pho­tos of me than both my par­ents com­bined, and why Rob calls me brother.

changing dressings

 

The nurse comes every day to change the dress­ings and keep an eye out for infec­tion. Aside from the list­ing hob­ble, you’d never have an idea of the pun­ish­ment this body has borne under­neath, until a wince when the tube drags against his shirt. That and the fact that there isn’t a bot­tle of Blue in his hand. Otherwise, the acci­dent didn’t change Rob at all. He’s still the happy-go-lucky, take-it-on-the-chin kind of guy. To him, the world has always been sim­ple, an equa­tion that can be solved with mus­cle and mass, and he car­ries both answers in spades.

Under any other cir­cum­stance, I’d hate him. He’s obnox­ious, stub­born, and proud; a type I don’t get along with. But I’m also on his good side, which means he’s loyal and lov­ing unlike any other, and he shows this every time he squeezes the breath out of my chest until I’m weak and com­ing up for air. Through him, I’m learn­ing to under­stand and accept the peo­ple I’d oth­er­wise turn away from.