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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.