unreliable narrator

I’ve recently been faced with the challenge of navigating divergent histories within a shared narrative.

It’s the reason I wonder what my ex-bestie tells people regarding our falling out; I have the feeling it’s something along the lines of, “I don’t know”, even though I made it extremely clear exactly why I was unsatisfied and unhappy in our friendship. It’s the same reason I suspect my mom tells people that we didn’t get along when someone asks if she has any kids, instead of “I hurt my son so much that he refuses to have anything to do with me”. Sure, each explanation might be close to the truth, but they’re far enough away from it that I’d consider each one a lie.

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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.

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semi-poly

I hope I’m not belabouring the point when I say I’ve suffered a lonely existence. For much of my life, I’ve kept those closest to me at arms-length, out of a subconscious fear that they’d hurt me. I could never turn to my parents for any kind of support, cause they were more concerned about how I made them appear than how I felt; I had no siblings with which to form an alliance when they became my greatest enemy. The best friend I carried into adulthood was a person who never truly understood me, and my best friend after that abandoned me at the first sign of difficulty.

Managing my relationship needs has been a lifelong struggle. Much of the growing I’ve done (or been forced to do) is intertwined with the solitude I’ve faced; being able to change myself gives me a small sense of control in what would otherwise be a messy and chaotic existence. An added difficulty is that I keep evolving, and my social needs evolve in turn. It takes years to develop the kinds of relationships that nurture me. I’m in the middle of a transition, and my support network is the smallest it’s ever been.

Living with a partner has helped, but at some point my attachment to Heather grew unhealthy. It’s not fair for me to put so much pressure on her to be my lover, friend, therapist, caretaker, gaming buddy…everything. When I start to resent her for my needs going unmet, I know I’m in a bad place and need to check myself.

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not choosing fear

Stepping out of my comfort zone lately means letting someone hear my material before it’s ready, saying I love you without the expectation of hearing it back, posting pictures of myself I find unflattering, being an attentive listener during difficult conversations, worrying that spouses will know my secrets but telling friends anyway, listening to songs that remind me of her, holding important people accountable for hurting me, asking for help before I need it, accepting the fact that no one can be everything I need all the time, loving someone from a distance, letting boys hold me when I’m upset,

girl kissing boy

daring to dream that things will be okay,

putting myself first in the destructive relationships I can’t escape, saying no instead of finding excuses, making love without some kind of reassurance about my looks first, letting myself miss the people I no longer like, being first to call after exchanging numbers, not knowing when I’ll be home and going out anyway, hoping I’m not judged every time I ask her to do that thing I like, giving myself space from people who adore me but don’t nurture me, not trying to please everyone all the time, playing even though I have a decent chance of losing, not cutting someone out after they’ve wronged me, reconciling with old lovers, empathizing with people I hate, going out when I’m not high, spending time around people I find difficult, saying sorry and meaning it, trying to hit chord tones in genres I never listen to, and paying attention to the friends who call me on my shit.

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.

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