lost weekend

I used to have a rule. If I ever feel like getting high and staying home instead of going out and doing something — anything — then I’d make a point to do the latter.

Otherwise, it would mean I’ve given up. That there’s nothing out there for me, and anything the world has to offer is no better than what I have in my house and on the internet. It’s a rule that served me well for years; one that kept me healthy and balanced and off my ass.

So when I found myself in my neckbeard nest after another month, not particularly caring whether I got up or showered or shaved, I knew I was in a bad spot. Of course, just knowing there’s a problem isn’t enough to rouse one into action when basic hygiene hardly feels worth the effort.

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reprieve

With bones weary, a lion shuffles along the bank of a narrow stream, seeking a gap to cross without getting wet. His gait is unsteady and laboured. A lopsided clump of hair frames his face, edges darkening along the mane. The gamut of scars he wears — from light scratches that have faded in the sunlight to deeper wounds that are still healing — add depth to his coat, and speak of the battles he’s survived.

He doesn’t make the jump. His back paws dip in the water but he walks on without shaking a leg. With a pensive nose raised high, he explores the boundary of his territory.

Sets of eyes watch him as he trots. They keep their distance at first, then more pairs join the further out he goes. Before realizing it, he finds himself amongst a clan of hyenas, scattered and curious and very alert. They gradually circle and close in.

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don’t add me to the weight you carry

For Christmas vacation, Heather and I decided to head to her hometown for a few days with her family. Every holiday is uniquely difficult in its own way; this year I could tell it was hitting her harder than usual. She’s been my foundation since I met her, but under the strain of travel and the pressures of the parents, she began to crumble. It didn’t help that her brother — who suffers from schizophrenia — went missing in November1.

cute girl

One of the highlights was seeing old family photos, especially Heather at various stages of her life.

To be helpless in the face of such hardship made me feel like a burden, perhaps cause I’ve been struggling to regain my sense of self-worth. The most I could do was be present and extra attentive to her needs as she sat in her chair each night and chewed the inside of her cheeks for comfort.

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  1. The fact that we now know he’s homeless and living on the streets of Toronto is cold comfort. []

projector

A while back, my therapist asked, “Do you think Heather will love you, regardless of whether you’re actively contributing to the relationship?”. I told him I wasn’t sure, cause I was still trying to understand the concept of unconditional love. As a child, my parents told me they wouldn’t love me if I wasn’t a good boy, and a good boy would do exactly what they wanted. The affection they doled out was directly related to how well I did in school, or how much I impressed other parents. They used it as a tool to control me, and this dynamic has influenced my understanding of relationships to the point that it feels like I constantly need to be making efforts in them (or they’ll decay).

So my therapist instead posed the question, “Do you think Heather will love you, no matter what?”. My first reaction was one of confusion; I heard the same question as before. When I realized it had completely different implications — would Heather still love me if I was an axe murderer; if I was racist; if I burned the house down; if I didn’t love her back — it dawned on me that I was projecting this monumental requirement on myself to be constantly making efforts towards the relationship. It wasn’t an expectation Heather was bringing, but my own; one I projected on her due to my childhood trauma.

To realize that I was doing this in such a specific and significant manner was a shock. My mind inadvertently made bounds in logic, and every time Heather said, “I’ll always love you”, I would hear, “I’ll always love you, as long as…1

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  1. It blows my mind to know that Heather’s love for me isn’t conditional, that she loves me deeper that I’m even able to understand at the moment. []

I don’t sleep, I sit and stare

Autumn in Canada is often as short as it is beautiful, but this year we lost it to winter in just a couple weeks. I suppose I’d mind, if there were more reasons to leave the house, but at this point I’m content to live in my cozy wonderland, even if it means dealing with the ennui.

It’s hard to tell exactly why I’ve lost so much will be productive when my mental health is improving, though I suspect they’re indirectly related. Maybe I no longer feel the need to validate myself or occupy my time with huge projects. I have to wonder if the medication is making me a fundamentally different person, and whether it’s to my benefit overall.

That’s not to say that my emotional scars don’t run deep. I still worry about my worth, my attractiveness. Still worry about losing Heather to some freak accident. Still worry what people think of me. Still get embarrassed about things I did when I was 15. Still feel indignant about the way I’ve been treated by people I haven’t spoken to in years. The ghosts of the past still haunt me; I’m just not as scared by them.

Magic playing couple

One of my major projects this year was the design and construction of my first MTG cube. Now that it’s built, I get to enjoy it with my friends, but that also means I finished an activity that took up a lot of my time, and I’ve yet to replace it with anything as deep and engaging.

Usually, I’m a busybody when there’s so much happening in my head but the most I’ve been able to do this month is browse the depths of the internet, wide-eyed, waiting for Heather to finish work, counting down the time until I see friends on the weekend. I never thought I’d live long enough to grow old, and here I am in my late 30s with my metabolism finally catching up to me.

As the days stretch on it feels like I’m walking a darkened path, one that leads in an unknown direction, and I’m too scared of the floor falling out from under me to be excited. I suspect that’s why I’ve been roused to inaction. Nothing can go wrong if I don’t take any risks. As a person who’s still recovering from a lifetime of trauma I’m okay with playing it safe for now, even if it means my world is smaller and the sky less bright.