Posts tagged with "self-evaluation"

laying low

At some point, the most I could do was sit by the win­dow and face the lawn. It’s hard to say how many hours were spent look­ing out­ward, inter­rupted every now and then by food I could barely taste or swal­low. For a per­son who needs to stay active to cul­ti­vate a sense of worth, it was a sign I was beyond her reach, and at a point where I was no longer able to help myself.

When she began to cry, I asked what was wrong. “I didn’t think you’d give up”, she explained, some­thing made appar­ent when I couldn’t man­age a veneer of pleas­ant­ness for the sake of being polite to friends or strangers alike. I once told her I would stick around for her sake, but in that moment we both under­stood it was a promise I couldn’t keep.

Self-portrait

 

I won­der if I’ll ever be able to. It’s hard to remem­ber what life was like before I was so emo­tion­ally exhausted. Even when the exter­nal sources of stress are far away and my head is above water, it still feels like I’m drown­ing. When that gener­i­cally redo­lent scent of taxi leather hit my nose, it used to mean I had a plane to catch, a flight to take me out of the coun­try, an adven­ture await­ing; now it’s a por­tent of deaf­en­ingly silent wait­ing rooms, and psy­chi­a­trists who know too lit­tle and talk too much.

I keep my fret­ting fin­gers trim but the cal­luses keep heal­ing over, cause I can’t con­cen­trate long enough to improve (also why it’s taken me so many months to write this). The house is a barely con­tained mess. My phone is over­flow­ing with notes, texts, voice mails, things I can’t keep on top of. It’s been for­ever since I talked to Darren, even longer since I made a trip out of town. I’ve grown sen­si­tive to loud noises. I barely rec­og­nize my own face.

That’s how I know I’m not ready to process parts of the past yet. Going so many years with­out a reprieve has left me drained of cop­ing resources, and when I’m barely man­ag­ing my needs for safety and sur­vival, there isn’t any room left for growth or improve­ment. I need more time to heal, to replace upset­ting mem­o­ries with new expe­ri­ences, to be in a sta­ble place before revis­it­ing the most trau­matic parts.

Heather by the window

 

For the moment, that means work­ing with my nat­ural energy pat­terns and momen­tum as I try to develop healthy habits. It’s left me up at odd hours, eat­ing irreg­u­lar meals, and largely house-bound. Heather tends to my needs and never leaves my side for more than 15 min­utes. I’m for­tu­nate to have a small sup­port group help­ing me look after things — drop­ping off gro­ceries, bring­ing my car for main­te­nance, pay­ing the bills, dri­ving me to appoint­ments — small tasks that seem daunt­ing when so unsure of myself. Misun even offered to help sell the house and fly me to France so I could live under her care indef­i­nitely; if only one could be car­ried by the love of one’s friends alone.

It pains me to be here wait­ing, feel­ing like I’m miss­ing oppor­tu­ni­ties for hap­pi­ness every day, but I’ve learned that progress can’t be rushed. Not just cause I have to tread so care­fully through the past, but because I’ve been down for so long that it feels like it’ll never be up again. That’s why I have to trust her when she tells me things will even­tu­ally be okay. Until then, I spend my time lost in the Dark Tower, appre­ci­at­ing a sobri­ety I wasn’t pre­pared for, look­ing for duels in the bor­der­lands, try­ing to feel nor­mal again.

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.

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.

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.

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. []