a reckless careening of emotions and actions

That’s how you described yourself, soon after your dad died. A girl lost in grief, trying to drink and smoke and work and fuck her way out. Living her life like she was the only one who hadn’t figured out what to do with it.

It’s hard to imagine you being so sad once. Or sad at all, and secure enough to admit loneliness. You even had the objectiveness to know that you shrank from others even though you didn’t make yourself happy. That’s why I keep going through these entries in your old blog. Not just a dream journal, but a journal of dreams. Before you became trapped in a domestic life and your heart turned into a lump of stone.

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Princess Dolly 2003–2018

Dolores was more than a pet. She was capable of profound love (or burning hatred), and that loyalty made her feel more like a little person than a companion. With the ability to recognize people through windows, I’d often find her sitting on the sill at the front of the house, waiting to greet me with a chorus of raspy meows when I came home from work; a ritual only special guests may be privy to, if they’ve presented the princess with enough presents.

I adopted her in university, and she was a constant presence through many residences, housemates, girlfriends — we even shared our space with other cats for years at a time. When finding me after a few moments apart, she’d come lean against me with an arched back, inviting me to scoop her up, and I’d make a point of spending a bit of time to cradling her like a baby, even if I was just passing through. Sometimes we’d lie in the blankets and stare into each other’s eyes; there was as much comfort to be found in her purring as my warmth and attention.

I could tell our bond was special from the start, and being fearful that I’d never share anything like it with another cat again, always made sure to cherish every second.

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it’s complicated

At the very least, theirs was a friendship of unusual ardor.

Terms like “acquaintance”, “friend”, and “lover” tend to denote defined roles. This makes for convenient social constructs, where we have an idea of the nature of the relationship, even when not directly involved. Responsibilities of one group — care, affection, respect, commitment, trust, will to cooperate — don’t often overlap with another. When they do, terms like “work wife” or “friend with benefits” might be used; re-characterizations of previous terms for a lack of better ones1.

It took me longer than I’d like to admit before I realized how rarely relationships can be so neatly labelled. Not every “friend” considers it an honour to be trusted with the spare set of house keys (and would I really consider them a friend if they’re not to be relied on in an emergency?). Not every romantic partner is interested in exclusivity or commitment. Not every sexual encounter goes as far as penetration, or even contact (which is why it’s possible to have an affair of the heart).

Suffering the loss of many important people has also taught me that relationships often evolve, as we grow and circumstances change. Whether it was due to some breaking point or simply the passage of time, most of my significant relationships have come and gone. Now I can’t help but tread carefully when I’m about to invest my emotions in someone, whether that means prioritizing them in my life, opening up with my secrets, or letting myself like them; that’s when I’m as scared of being hurt as I am of losing them.

  1. I’ve seen “metamour” defined as a person who’s in an intimate (romantic or sexual) relationship with an intimate partner of yours, but I like to use it as a catchall for anyone who falls between categories. Perhaps if English was a richer language, there’d be less ostracization of unconventional arrangements or needs. []

almost like the blues

Now in the dark world where I dwell, ugly things, and surprising things, and sometimes little wondrous things, spill out in me constantly, and I can count on nothing.

—A Scanner Darkly

Winter has traditionally been a difficult time. In my youth, the holidays were filled with family gatherings where I never found my place1. Then I started coming into my own, but everyone else began spending time with their significant others, leaving me an observer with a surrogate family. Eventually, I grew the need for a connection with people who could better understand the person I’d become, and again found myself in exile.

cat with bass guitar

This year is no different. The weather has been particularly punishing, with extreme cold fronts that make any form of travel a literal pain. It’s a fine line between inspiration and oppression when trapped in a winter wonderland. Even after a week of Darren’s company, along with new instruments and some of the stickiest of the icky, I haven’t been able to shake this feeling of loneliness.

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  1. Now I realize that being forced to spend a night with a random assortment of people is a crapshoot at best. []

keeping the rage tender

Fall has fallen, and I was ready. I was waiting. I was trapped for months on end, when my body wouldn’t cooperate or anxiety got the better of me. Even hearing Townes Van Zandt sing to me about snow in Raton was enough to make me miss winter again. I’d live vicariously in any form of visual media I could find, just to remember what it was like to feel the tingle of sun on my skin.

Now I can go out, but on my own terms and for the sake of it, not just therapy or a doctor’s appointment. It’s given Heather and I a chance to date — to dress up for each other, to trade secret glances about people who might be the other’s type, to hold hands and show each other off — instead of all the coping we were left doing after falling into the relationship so suddenly.

portrait of Heather and Jeff

Rachel Weisz has nothing on dem brows.

Ever since she began her career, I found it difficult to deal with how little we saw each other. It felt like we were barely connecting or having meaningful experiences when we had such limited time. Now that she has a better shift and a carpool, we have an extra hour and a half together on weekdays. Combined with Jesse committing to hangouts twice a month to play games or jam, it’s made a huge difference in the way I approach my goals and plan my time.

They’re small steps, but after so much regression, I tend to be happy with any movement in the right direction. Still, I wonder if I’ll ever find a balance that won’t leave me frantic, one that’s conducive to getting my introvert needs met while letting me feel secure in my relationships.

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