reprieve

With bones weary, a lion shuf­fles along the bank of a nar­row stream, seek­ing a gap to cross with­out get­ting wet. His gait is unsteady and laboured. A lop­sided clump of hair frames his face, edges dark­en­ing along the mane. The gamut of scars he wears — from light scratch­es that have fad­ed in the sun­light to deep­er wounds that are still heal­ing — add depth to his coat, and speak of the bat­tles he’s sur­vived.

He does­n’t make the jump. His back paws dip in the water but he walks on with­out shak­ing a leg. With a pen­sive nose raised high, he explores the bound­ary of his ter­ri­to­ry.

Sets of eyes watch him as he trots. They keep their dis­tance at first, then more pairs join the fur­ther out he goes. Before real­iz­ing it, he finds him­self amongst a clan of hye­nas, scat­tered and curi­ous and very alert. They grad­u­al­ly cir­cle and close in.

Continue read­ing “reprieve”…

don't add me to the weight you carry

For Christmas vaca­tion, Heather and I decid­ed to head to her home­town for a few days with her fam­i­ly. Every hol­i­day is unique­ly dif­fi­cult in its own way; this year I could tell it was hit­ting her hard­er than usu­al. She’s been my foun­da­tion since I met her, but under the strain of trav­el and the pres­sures of the par­ents, she began to crum­ble. It did­n’t help that her broth­er — who suf­fers from schiz­o­phre­nia — went miss­ing in November1.

cute girl

One of the high­lights was see­ing old fam­i­ly pho­tos, espe­cial­ly Heather at var­i­ous stages of her life.

To be help­less in the face of such hard­ship made me feel like a bur­den, per­haps cause I’ve been strug­gling to regain my sense of self-worth. The most I could do was be present and extra atten­tive to her needs as she sat in her chair each night and chewed the inside of her cheeks for com­fort.

Continue read­ing “don’t add me to the weight you car­ry”…

  1. The fact that we now know he’s home­less and liv­ing on the streets of Toronto is cold com­fort. []

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. []

I don't sleep, I sit and stare

Autumn in Canada is often as short as it is beau­ti­ful, but this year we lost it to win­ter in just a cou­ple weeks. I sup­pose I’d mind, if there were more rea­sons to leave the house, but at this point I’m con­tent to live in my cozy won­der­land, even if it means deal­ing with the ennui.

It’s hard to tell exact­ly why I’ve lost so much will be pro­duc­tive when my men­tal health is improv­ing, though I sus­pect they’re indi­rect­ly relat­ed. Maybe I no longer feel the need to val­i­date myself or occu­py my time with huge projects. I have to won­der if the med­ica­tion is mak­ing me a fun­da­men­tal­ly dif­fer­ent per­son, and whether it’s to my ben­e­fit over­all.

That’s not to say that my emo­tion­al scars don’t run deep. I still wor­ry about my worth, my attrac­tive­ness. Still wor­ry about los­ing Heather to some freak acci­dent. Still wor­ry what peo­ple think of me. Still get embar­rassed about things I did when I was 15. Still feel indig­nant about the way I’ve been treat­ed by peo­ple I haven’t spo­ken to in years. The ghosts of the past still haunt me; I’m just not as scared by them.

Magic playing couple

One of my major projects this year was the design and con­struc­tion of my first MTG cube. Now that it’s built, I get to enjoy it with my friends, but that also means I fin­ished an activ­i­ty that took up a lot of my time, and I’ve yet to replace it with any­thing as deep and engag­ing.

Usually, I’m a busy­body when there’s so much hap­pen­ing in my head but the most I’ve been able to do this month is browse the depths of the inter­net, wide-eyed, wait­ing for Heather to fin­ish work, count­ing down the time until I see friends on the week­end. I nev­er thought I’d live long enough to grow old, and here I am in my late 30s with my metab­o­lism final­ly catch­ing up to me.

As the days stretch on it feels like I’m walk­ing a dark­ened path, one that leads in an unknown direc­tion, and I’m too scared of the floor falling out from under me to be excit­ed. I sus­pect that’s why I’ve been roused to inac­tion. Nothing can go wrong if I don’t take any risks. As a per­son who’s still recov­er­ing from a life­time of trau­ma I’m okay with play­ing it safe for now, even if it means my world is small­er and the sky less bright.

those who leave but never leave you

I’m sor­ry she nev­er replied, but I’m also glad you fig­ured out that she does­n’t owe you an answer. I think that says a lot about how much you’ve grown and how far you’ve come as a per­son.

It was no small step to reach out after all this time and the things you’ve been through togeth­er. I think you did the right thing cause of the way things end­ed. Offering to make amends by putting your feel­ings out there was more gen­er­ous than I’d expect of any­one.

After all, you nev­er deserved to be led on like that. I wish I could explain why she did­n’t give you the space you need­ed at first. I’m sor­ry you weren’t strong enough at the time to stand up for your­self, but it does­n’t mean you deserved it. It was­n’t fair. You were lone­ly and vul­ner­a­ble and it was the last thing your heart need­ed to heal. I don’t blame you for hav­ing a hard time get­ting over her after that.

That’s why you had every right to ask for anoth­er break. Needing it was nev­er a reflec­tion or judg­ment on who she was. Just because she did­n’t like it does­n’t mean you did any­thing wrong. In fact, she should have respect­ed you and your request instead of get­ting upset or tak­ing it as a val­u­a­tion on her as a per­son.

I’m sor­ry she nev­er acknowl­edged your pain or her role in it. I’m sor­ry part of you still feels so bad­ly messed up. I’m sor­ry you nev­er had a chance to tell her.

The fact that you haven’t heard back is like­ly a sign of how much she tru­ly cares about you. That does­n’t mean you have to stop lov­ing her. Your feel­ings are com­plete­ly valid. It’s okay to love some­one from a dis­tance. It does­n’t make you a bad part­ner or per­son.

So take as much time as you need. There’s no right or wrong way to mourn the end of a rela­tion­ship.