Six Feet Deep

WARNING: Massive spoil­ers ahead.

An old girl­friend intro­duced me to Six Feet Under more than a decade ago, but it turned into such a grind that I man­aged to fin­ish the series only last week. There’s a lot of com­plex drama with­out sta­bil­ity to bal­ance it out, a lot more ten­sion than res­o­lu­tion. One of the most com­mon themes is char­ac­ters seek­ing hap­pi­ness in all the wrong places, just to escape the depress­ing real­ity of their lives, and usu­ally end­ing up worse for it.

Ruth, George, and Maggie

For your infor­ma­tion, Miss High-and-Mighty, this is life. People have crises. They push each other’s but­tons. They inflict pain on one another. And once in a fuck­ing blue moon, they bring out the best in each other. But mostly, they bring out the worst.”

It wasn’t easy to get through five sea­sons of peo­ple mak­ing ter­ri­ble deci­sions in their rela­tion­ships, and watch­ing those deci­sions haunt them later.

Continue read­ing “Six Feet Deep”…

can we speak in flowers?

Tiana recently shared this great arti­cle with me. It’s writ­ten as a guide for per­sonal growth within one’s rela­tion­ships, but I find myself well famil­iar with the con­cepts it cov­ers; being account­able, empa­thetic, grate­ful, intro­spec­tive, and respon­si­ble are all things that tend to come nat­u­rally to me. I’ve also been actively work­ing on (or strug­gling with) being more patient, for­giv­ing, resilient, autonomous, and opti­mistic in the last few years1.

Instead, I use this check­list as a reminder of the qual­i­ties I should be seek­ing in oth­ers. If I’m going to invest any of myself into some­one else — whether that’s time, energy, or feel­ings — they should have a gen­eral com­pre­hen­sion, if not a cer­tain level of com­pe­tency, in all these areas. I’m no longer in a place to teach some­one how to be hon­est about their emo­tions, take respon­si­bil­ity for their actions, or lis­ten with intent.

It’s dif­fi­cult to let go of this basic expec­ta­tion when I’ve already done a fair amount of work on myself to under­stand and prac­tice these ideas. Spending time with any­one who reminds me of the per­son I used to be makes me feel like I’m regress­ing, and it doesn’t take long before I lose inter­est in their com­pany. At this point, I’m doing every­thing I can to move for­ward, and that means being involved with peo­ple who are already good at rela­tion­ships2. It’s so much eas­ier for me to let down my guard and give myself wholly to some­one when I have a mutual foun­da­tion to work with.

  1. Others may have the abil­ity to develop such skills by them­selves, while I need the guid­ance of a ther­a­pist, as some of my trauma is too severe for me to view cer­tain sit­u­a­tions clearly. []
  2. Something that gen­er­ally requires a fair amount of intel­li­gence, insight, matu­rity, depth, and ambi­tion. I used to won­der why I felt strong con­nec­tions with cer­tain peo­ple until I real­ized this. []

to drink all damage into love

My three-year anniver­sary with Heather came and went with­out fan­fare or cer­e­mony (or even notice, on my part). Our time together went by in a blink; being chron­i­cally sin­gle for me, and trapped in an abu­sive rela­tion­ship for her, made the three years prior to that feel like an eter­nity by com­par­i­son for each of us. It was only halfway through that I real­ized part of me was keep­ing her at a sig­nif­i­cant distance.

When we first started spend­ing time together, I was drawn most to her inno­cence. The way she viewed the world with an open mind1 made me feel com­fort­able in a way I imme­di­ately found attrac­tive. I could tell her calm demeanour belied a dark­ness though; she knew a tremen­dous amount of pain in her short life, and that made her the same kind of old soul as me. Still, I never dared imag­ine things may work out between us, cause my pre­vi­ous lover was com­pletely unex­pected in both the com­ing and going, and the expe­ri­ence left me raw. Somewhat con­versely, I was also too numb to believe any­thing was real. It was only a cou­ple weeks after Heather entered my life that I tried to hang myself, and sur­viv­ing meant every­thing felt posthumous.

Continue read­ing “to drink all dam­age into love”…

  1. I relate it to the con­cept of an “uncar­ved block” or “pu” in Taoism: a state of recep­tive­ness, before the taint of expe­ri­ence, that gives one the poten­tial to see things with­out judg­ment or prej­u­dice. []

whales in the bodies of tiny fish

It’s been months since I had an appoint­ment with my ther­a­pist. I’ve needed the time to work on myself before mak­ing fur­ther progress with him; a sign that I’m at a point where there’s a sense of direc­tion, instead of relent­less con­fu­sion and dread. Now it’s a mat­ter of absorb­ing the con­cepts I should know by now, devolop­ing health­ier emo­tional habits, and let­ting time heal what rea­son can­not. As my body recov­ers from the phys­i­cal reper­cus­sions of depres­sion, find­ing the energy to do these things gets a bit eas­ier each sea­son1.

As a result, I’ve been pick­ing up new respon­si­bil­i­ties in my pri­mary rela­tion­ship, which I have to care­fully bal­ance with my per­sonal goals. Maybe that’s why my wants have become such sim­ple mat­ters. Some days, I look for­ward to noth­ing more than eat­ing ice cream after din­ner, or play­ing a game until my thumbs are raw. The dis­til­la­tion of my dreams has given me another child­hood, which I’m deter­mined not to squander.

underboob

Part of the rea­son I stopped tak­ing pic­tures is because I needed to believe Heather was real. To prove to myself that she wouldn’t sud­denly dis­ap­pear and only exist as a col­lec­tion of pix­els on my screen, like so many lovers of my past2. Mostly it was because every­thing was ter­ri­ble, and just being con­scious was a bur­den. Some days I was too sad to walk or eat, let alone decide what lens to put on my cam­era or how to frame a shot. The start of any rela­tion­ship tends to be a time of won­der and excite­ment for me, but I don’t remem­ber those years with par­tic­u­lar fond­ness3.

Continue read­ing “whales in the bod­ies of tiny fish”…

  1. There have been many steps back on the jour­ney for­ward, enough for the progress to be indis­cernible from a week-to-week (or even month-by-month) basis. []
  2. It’s strange to real­ize that my drive to pho­to­graph things was par­tially a way of deal­ing with my aban­don­ment issues. []
  3. At least I feel secure in the knowl­edge that Heather stuck by me when I was lit­er­ally at my worst. []

escape artist

“Suzanne is forty years old and has never had a close rela­tion­ship. She spends most of her spare time read­ing books and brows­ing the web. Suzanne is most com­fort­able with casual, friendly rela­tion­ships where noth­ing very per­sonal is discussed.

Suzanne is mar­ried to a man who is out of touch with his feel­ings. He’s more inter­ested in being mar­ried than in being mar­ried to Suzanne par­tic­u­larly. He has few friends, and does not expect close­ness from Suzanne. He wants a woman just so he can ful­fill the con­ven­tional role of hus­band. Their rela­tion­ship is based on tra­di­tional roles, not on real inti­macy. They rarely con­fide in each other.

Suzanne has smoked mar­i­juana her entire adult life. She insists that she is not addicted — she tells her­self she only does it for recre­ation, and that she has con­trol. Besides using drugs on a reg­u­lar basis, she tends to drink in set­tings when she doesn’t feel as socially capa­ble as others.

Suzanne became depressed, but was not in touch with her feel­ings of aban­don­ment and defec­tive­ness. She spent much of her life mak­ing sure she was not in touch, and try­ing to escape her feelings.

Continue read­ing “escape artist”…