dating over 30

I had a date around this time last year. She was a teacher-turned-librar­i­an in her mid-40s with two kids, a pix­ie-cut, and thrift store style.

Before we for­mal­ly intro­duced our­selves, I rec­og­nized her from across the room and was imme­di­ate­ly struck by the way she car­ried her­self. There was a con­fi­dence when mov­ing about; clear­ing a table to sit at with­out a momen­t’s hes­i­ta­tion as to whether any­one would mind; inter­act­ing with the staff; bump­ing into an old acquain­tance. Something com­mon among par­ents and peo­ple in the edu­ca­tion sys­tem, lest they show weak­ness to a group of chil­dren (and the com­plete oppo­site of Heather, who’s shy and awk­ward and always tries to take up as lit­tle space as pos­si­ble).

We both under­stood how dif­fi­cult it can be to get to know some­one through a screen, and agreed it would be bet­ter to meet soon­er rather than lat­er. That meant I did­n’t know too much about her, aside from the details in her pro­file. I was com­fort­ed by the fact that she men­tioned All About Love by bell hooks under “A book every­one should read”, because Tiana hap­pened to rec­om­mend it to me ear­li­er that year and it became a big influ­ence on the way I approach my rela­tion­ships. Also by the fact that one of her needs was “under­stand­ing of sys­tems of oppres­sion”; as I drift fur­ther to the left on the polit­i­cal spec­trum, I’ve learned that I tend to get along bet­ter with peo­ple who have an aware­ness of social inequal­i­ty.

Continue read­ing “dat­ing over 30”…

days of heaven

I don’t get up to much late­ly. Living the life of a gen­tle­man of leisure does­n’t involve a lot more than the front page of red­dit, scrolling the infi­nite feed that nev­er leaves me bored. I also tend take a lot of naps; par­tial­ly cause I’m a poor sleep­er, par­tial­ly cause it makes the hours go by faster (and as a per­son who does his best to nev­er be sober, it resets my tol­er­ance).

Rideau Canal

On Ottawa’s bridge of locks, over­look­ing the Rideau Canal.

I want to devote myself to the pur­suits that inter­est me, but being pro­duc­tive has­n’t been easy. I haven’t had the inspi­ra­tion to write, the moti­va­tion to clean, the ener­gy to exer­cise, the dis­ci­pline to prac­tice, or the patience to med­i­tate. I only man­age to do the bare min­i­mum, which usu­al­ly just involves cook­ing a week of meals for Heather and some vac­u­um­ing before guests arrive.

It’s been hard to form pos­i­tive mem­o­ries cause I can’t con­cen­trate on any­thing for more than a few sec­onds. It always seems like there’s some­thing bet­ter to do, anoth­er but­ton I can press for a quick­er reward. Everything just becomes a dis­trac­tion from how bro­ken I feel.

chocolate poutine

Chocolate pou­tine, where the “fries” are chur­ros, the melt­ed “cheese curds” are marsh­mal­lows with vanil­la ice cream, the “gravy” is crunchy hazel­nut fon­due, and the “panties” are dropped. Then every­thing is cov­ered in Maltesers and driz­zled in choco­late sauce.

Maybe cause I’m old­er, grey­er, fat­ter, more tired, a shad­ow of my for­mer self. Most nights I go to bed feel­ing defec­tive or worth­less, then wake up feel­ing too help­less to do any­thing about it. A few months ago this would have been a sure­fire recipe for depres­sion, but now I’m try­ing to prac­tice non-action over weeks and months instead of days or hours.

Coming to terms with myself and my dif­fi­cult emo­tions — no mat­ter how unpleas­ant they may be — is help­ing me reduce my wants, end my com­pul­sive strug­gling to do every­thing bet­ter, and live more in the moment. For so long I’ve been try­ing to accept the things I can­not change, with­out also try­ing to accept the per­son to whom they’re hap­pen­ing.

Leaning into my trau­ma with open eyes and an open heart also involves pur­pose­ly think­ing about a past I’ve tried my best to for­get, and cry­ing1. It has­n’t been very pleas­ant, but I’m start­ing to feel like less of a vic­tim when I can con­front my suf­fer­ing from a posi­tion of strength and con­trol.

Heather and Jeff

I haven’t had a col­i­tis flare-up in a cou­ple years, which means I put on weight quick­ly, most­ly in the mid-sec­tion. These days I can’t fit into all my pants and rock a dad bod. For the first time in my life, I’ve been cut­ting back on por­tions and snacks.

None of this would be pos­si­ble with­out Heather, who’s been mend­ing the hole in my heart ever since we met. She’s the only rea­son I have the time, the resources, the strength, and the will to car­ry on. Anytime I feel like a bur­den, she reminds me that I’m a wor­thy one; a load she glad­ly shoul­ders, because I add to her life sim­ply by exist­ing.

When I over­hear her telling the cats to be good and take care of dad­dy before leav­ing for work every morn­ing, I can’t help but believe it. No one has ever loved me so much — not even myself — and as my bene­fac­tor, she wants noth­ing more for me than to be hap­py. I’m try­ing to take respon­si­bil­i­ty for that hap­pi­ness by show­ing myself com­pas­sion, even when I feel like I haven’t earned it.

  1. Only pos­si­ble months after I made the deci­sion to stop tak­ing arip­ipra­zole. []

no man an island

Loneliness, or the fear of aban­don­ment when­ev­er I was dat­ing some­one, have been reoc­cur­ring themes since my child­hood.

I’ve nev­er regret­ted the deci­sion to cut out my par­ents for the sake of my men­tal health, but that still means I lost the only peo­ple who had a respon­si­bil­i­ty to help and accept me (as ter­ri­ble as they were at liv­ing up to that). It was a nec­es­sary but trau­mat­ic choice. Then I had a falling out with my ex-bestie, which came about after I real­ized he was­n’t the type of per­son I need­ed or want­ed in my life, and fur­ther robbed me of sta­bil­i­ty. ____ became my best friend after that (even though I was extreme­ly reluc­tant to label her as such after my expe­ri­ences), until I final­ly stood up for myself and she decid­ed she did­n’t want to be held account­able for her actions. Heather and I com­pared notes after­wards to dis­cov­er she was avoid­ing me every time I was in a cri­sis1. I’ve had a life­time of sig­nif­i­cant rela­tion­ships with emo­tion­al­ly igno­rant peo­ple who would nev­er apol­o­gize or admit that they’ve ever hurt me.

Then there’s Pat, who acknowl­edged he was a being a poor friend for not stay­ing in con­tact the last time I spoke with him. Maybe it was the fact that I was cry­ing that pres­sured him into promis­ing to call me more often. That was about sev­en years ago, and I haven’t heard from him since. I’m still mourn­ing my rela­tion­ship with Shawn for the same rea­son; a per­son who lit­er­al­ly saved my life who no longer has time for me in his. Relationships with pos­i­tive peo­ple whom I loved and looked up to, that with­ered when I stopped ini­ti­at­ing con­tact, leav­ing me with more ques­tions than answers. Relationships where I’ve done noth­ing wrong and still suf­fer a loss. Part of me can’t help but feel con­fused, and scared that any­one in my life may dis­ap­pear sim­ply cause they’ve lost inter­est.

Surviving the fall­out of each expe­ri­ence meant I came out with real­ly messed up expec­ta­tions when­ev­er it comes to oth­er peo­ple. Even now, it’s hard for me to feel safe, no mat­ter how close I am to some­one.

My first tru­ly secure rela­tion­ship — one where I could express dif­fi­cult thoughts and feel­ings with­out being blamed or aban­doned or inval­i­dat­ed — start­ed in my mid-30s with Heather2. When my depres­sion and col­i­tis kept me iso­lat­ed the last few years, I was par­tic­u­lar­ly wor­ried about being over­ly depen­dent on her. At the slight­est hint of trou­ble, it felt like my world was com­ing down because she was my world3. When I turned to oth­er peo­ple for help dur­ing my lost week­end, I soon real­ized I have a won­der­ful net­work of friends and fam­i­ly.

Continue read­ing “no man an island”…

  1. During a par­tic­u­lar­ly bad day a few years back, Heather asked her to send me a text in sup­port. She replied, “Jeff and I don’t text”. Not only was that com­plete­ly untrue, it was a real­ly shit­ty excuse for her to do noth­ing. []
  2. I’ve since learned a great deal about the qual­i­ties that make a rela­tion­ship healthy and suc­cess­ful. Consequently, my stan­dards have risen. []
  3. Part of my ven­ture into polyamor­ism is because I want to expand my sup­port net­work. I’m inter­est­ed in hav­ing more peo­ple care about me, per­haps cause I’m eter­nal­ly try­ing to fill the hole left by my par­ents. []

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.

Continue read­ing “lost week­end”…

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.

Continue read­ing “reprieve”…