Posts in category "Thoughts"

the beginning of me wanting myself

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 “the begin­ning of me want­i­ng myself”…

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

Continue read­ing “pro­jec­tor”…

  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. []

the purge

In the last few years, I’ve gained a sig­nif­i­cant amount of con­fi­dence in my actions and deci­sions, espe­cial­ly when it comes to rela­tion­ships. It took a lot of grow­ing, and two things helped most:

  1. hav­ing a bet­ter under­stand­ing of oth­er peo­ple’s expe­ri­ences in gen­er­al (i.e. I need­ed to gain more empa­thy)
  2. sur­viv­ing enough crises that con­flicts or dif­fi­cult con­ver­sa­tions — or even my own feel­ings — were no longer debil­i­tat­ing­ly scary

Even though I’m more com­fort­able with my social behav­iour, I still strug­gle with lone­li­ness. Being more social­ly capa­ble means I can pur­sue rela­tion­ships more pur­pose­ful­ly and with­out regrets; it does­n’t mean my world is imme­di­ate­ly filled with lov­ing, stim­u­lat­ing peo­ple and needs are sud­den­ly being met.

Continue read­ing “the purge”…

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. []

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”…