ecstasy but not happiness

We left on a Thursday, trav­el­ling by train with tick­ets my uncle bought us. My younger self would have enjoyed mak­ing a mix to go with the undu­lat­ing pat­ter of tracks and the pass­ing of sea­son­al land­scapes in my win­dow. I could let songs and albums mea­sure my time spent trav­el­ing. Now I mea­sure time in hunger and pills.

Union Station Toronto

But even as I age and the sky­line grows less rec­og­niz­able, the old stomp­ing grounds remain com­fort­ing­ly famil­iar. They say every­one’s an exile in New York. Well, in Toronto — where each munic­i­pal­i­ty is a world unto itself, sep­a­rat­ed by miles of twist­ing high­ways and hours of traf­fic — every­body’s home.

The last time I trav­eled there was over five years ago; a gap of time I’ve need­ed to recov­er before set­ting foot in the same city as my par­ents. It was also the first time most have seen me since find­ing out about my sui­cide attempt and sub­se­quent retire­ment. I could­n’t tell if any­one was han­dling me with kid gloves, but maybe that’s what I need right now as I try to rebuild from the ash­es.

I enjoyed show­ing Heather around, intro­duc­ing her to new dish­es1, catch­ing up with rel­a­tives, buy­ing new clothes for myself. It was nice to live my old bou­jee life for a lit­tle while; not doing much but get­ting a lot done at the same time. Crystal even used me as her excuse to skip out on a meet­ing so we could have lunch togeth­er. If I could sus­tain that ecsta­sy, would it serve as hap­pi­ness?

vegetarian noodle soup

The mem­bers-only Lotus Tea House is in the Fo Guang Shan Buddhist Temple, and staffed entire­ly by vol­un­teers. They have a lim­it­ed menu and serve fruit teas, one of which is a secret recipe. This noo­dle dish with soy pork is their house spe­cial­i­ty.

My time there was­n’t with­out it’s dif­fi­cult moments. I real­ized that I had­n’t even start­ed mourn­ing cer­tain things yet, that I’ve still been hold­ing in a lot of pain. But there’s no way I could have dis­cov­ered how much peo­ple care about me, had I not let myself be vul­ner­a­ble and open about that pain.

It’s been two weeks since we got back, and I haven’t been the same since. Projects remain untouched. My usu­al games aren’t sat­is­fy­ing. Nothing I do feels ful­fill­ing any­more. I haven’t even been able to start a new book after fin­ish­ing Wolves of the Calla, leav­ing my after­noons devoid of escape2. Writing has become the only refuge I have left, and even that feels like a chore as I strug­gle to find coheren­cy amongst my feel­ings and thoughts.

I still think of my uncle, in the mid­dle of cut­ting toma­toes for break­fast, becom­ing over­whelmed with emo­tion when talk­ing about his late wife. I held him and said there’s no wrong way to grieve, no prop­er amount of time to mourn, that life is cru­el and he does­n’t deserve such hard­ship, that I was sor­ry for his loss. He returned the sen­ti­ment, and added that I was­n’t alone. I believed him, even though I had­n’t done any­thing to earn such affec­tion or care.

Maybe I’m try­ing to fig­ure out how to live up to the idea that I’m wor­thy of that kind of love.

  1. I’m so thank­ful that many Chinese dish­es and snacks, includ­ing drag­on’s beard can­dy, are veg­an. []
  2. Someone rec­om­mend­ed Fictions by J.L. Borges, but it was much too dense and eso­teric for me. []


  1. Lotus Tea House looks inter­est­ing, will vis­it some­day. I went to a few tem­ples in Korea and they offer free food to vis­i­tors. Simple but fill­ing veg­e­tar­i­an meal. You have to wash your dish­es your­self at the end of the meal and place them back in the kitchen area. Quite nice.

    • A warn­ing: the Lotus Tea House is a mem­ber­ship-only restau­rant. You need to be a mem­ber of the asso­ci­at­ed Buddhist tem­ple to eat there. It’s total­ly worth it. :) Please let me know how sim­i­lar it is to the tem­ples in Korea.

  2. I did­n’t know there was a Lotus Tea House in Toronto! I had eat­en at the Lotus Tea House in Waterloo quite often, which was also oper­at­ed by the Fo Guang Shan Temple and have real­ly pos­i­tive mem­o­ries of the food, friends, and tea.

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