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.
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”.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Tiana and Genevieve surprised me with this amazing Pinterest board today (which only they can add to). pinterest.com/tianadargent/f…
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.
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.
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.
It’s not that I don’t want to write about how things are slowly changing, I just never seem to have the chance. Nowadays, my priorities are
survival elsewhere, and the written word isn’t the outlet I need anymore.
Besides, every time I try to get a thought on a page, I get lost in the scope. My thinking constantly goes further and further, as my understanding of the world moves beyond the things that affect only me. It’s made me a more patient, compassionate, and empathetic person. But by the time I figure something out, the feeling is gone, and words are no longer relevant.
I’ve been trying to leave my camera at home too, a way of forcing myself to savour each experience. It’s a delicate balance between that and my ever-present need to document everything. I’m discovering that memories aren’t as vivid as photographs, but they live longer in the implicit part of the mind, and both are food to an introvert nonetheless.
Days without a way to capture the world around me are never easy. I want to take pictures of sunlight and summer and sweat and sex, but life hasn’t been so much about events as the regularity. The moments I share every day with the people I need, or the time between when I’m recharging and healing. The things worth appreciating are more frequent, but all the more fleeting too.
“I just have to warn you that it smells like a cat in here but she doesn’t have a cat”. So begins the grossest morning ever.
The journey lasts an hour, by turns moving and bittersweet, a mixtape without a name that’s possibly the most thoughtful collection of music anyone has ever given to me. It’s the addiction I’ve been waiting for. Proof that I can still be understood when a feeling is shared if not a history.
Yet new songs on repeat don’t define this moment, cause I can’t tell when one moment ends and the next begins anymore. There’s no sense of permanence in anything. I don’t know whether to be scared or relieved to know that everything will inevitably change.
Shawn thinks I’m plummeting towards rock bottom cause I need to prove to myself that I can pull myself out. The idea was on the very tip of my consciousness, and it’s getting harder to deny how right he is. I’ve always been a person who needs to explore the limits of the possible. I just wonder whether I’ll survive the fall.