I finally had the opportunity to join Trolley and Steph at their cottage, after a drive of roughly three hours through scenic country roads. I didn’t even realize how close we were when we passed by it on the way to the farm 17 years ago, although it may as well have been 17 centuries. How strange it is to think of those as my salad days when I had already experienced enough heartache and trauma for a lifetime.
They call it a cottage but it’s really a house when there’s a full kitchen, laundry room, several guest rooms with queen-sized beds; even glass shower stalls.
Since then, I’ve loved and lost and loved again, taught myself to play guitar, and gained an unhealthy obsession with canine companionship. If you asked me back then where I would picture myself now, I might have given you a few guesses, but none would have been close to correct.
Continue reading “like it’s a holiday”…
My first year of university was spent on the 15th floor of a residence on campus, the same summer Pearl Jam’s cover of Last Kiss became a radio staple for over 35 consecutive weeks. Unsurprisingly, it started playing in the elevator when I was once making my way to the cafeteria with a floormate, who winced upon hearing Vedder’s gravely voice and did her best to talk over it, explaining her dislike of sad music.
I was taken aback. Depressing lyrics and minor chords were an enormous comfort to me. As the sole child of a dysfunctional home, the only thing I could turn to when my parents started raising their voices at each other was a set of headphones and Discman, and I’d been hunting for sad songs like a ravenous stray ever since I was old enough to appreciate music.
The same became true of upsetting movies with difficult scenes. Moments of violence, tragedy, and grief would leave me glued to the screen. I was fascinated with the way people processed their pain (or didn’t). War films were particularly apt for this, as relentless years of depression caused me to relate to any soldier with a thousand yard stare. That glazed, expressionless face spoke of a person who had long given up on making sense of the countless horrors and endless suffering they had gone through.
The lights are on, but nobody’s home.
Continue reading “dead man walking”…
The world still turns, even when it’s in lockdown, and there’s been much to say.
If only writing came as easily as it used to. The bulk of my entries have been a compulsion, a way to sort out thoughts and feelings when I had no one to talk to.
Then I started dating Heather — my first time cohabitating with a romantic partner — and suddenly had an outlet that was both accessible and validating. It became easier to turn to her than find the words for a screen that never spoke back.
My time in therapy has also given me better emotional moderation; a skill to deal with the distress that comes from depression and trauma. Instead of spiraling into panic or rage, I’ve learned to embrace difficult feelings and let them pass through me. Scary thoughts and painful memories don’t control me the way they used to. A healthy trade for the loss of inspiration.
In that sense, I hold an evolving style and subject matter to be positive developments. After all, I began this blog almost 20 years ago. If I was filling the space with the same things as I was back then it would be an embarrassing sign I hadn’t grown at all. I imagine I’ll always have more things to say as long as I continue learning, even if the impetus is lacking.
It makes me wonder why others stopped blogging (or why they started in the first place). Checking my RSS feed is still a habit, but nowadays I’m left invariably disappointed and feeling more disconnected than ever. Social media has become too shallow for my tastes. Medium too impersonal. YouTube too obnoxious and ostentatious and increasingly commercial, with Twitch being even worse on all those counts.
And yet there’s relief to be found in the fact that no one knows I’m writing anymore. This space is no longer sacred when I feel obliged to or inhibited by an audience. Self-imposed exile became an important step towards reclaiming the sense of control I’d lost. My story isn’t finished, and perhaps enough time away has given me the distance I need to be comfortable sharing myself again.
When talk of COVID was hitting our shores and businesses were starting to shut down as a “temporary” measure, I expected the situation to last a great deal longer than a month or two. Gut feelings seldom grace me, but something told me the Western world was severely underestimating the situation. Maybe it was the memories of my last trip to Hong Kong in 2009 — five years after the SARS outbreak was declared over — when malls and streets that were once packed to the point of claustrophobia were then lucky to see more than a handful of souls each day. The thermal cameras at each border crossing in mainland China certainly gave me the impression that a pandemic was something to be taken seriously.
A while back, the Humane Society hosted a cat-tree building workshop, and we decided to make a date of it. Percy, being a percher, is very pleased with the results (especially when combined with an empty box).
It’s already been four months since Heather started working from home. The little space she has set up at the pub table in the living room offers her a view of the backyard while she takes calls and makes quotes. Management has decided to follow their own safety protocols, which means it’ll remain her office for the foreseeable future. She complains to me about how Byron gets in the way of her video meetings every time he walks across her lap for attention, but I know deep down she loves showing him off to any co-worker who’ll listen.
Taking lunches together has been an unexpected luxury — being available for kisses throughout they day even more so. I no longer feel the need to fill the hours with busywork until she can keep me company again. That’s probably why the quarantine hasn’t been as difficult as expected; this is nothing compared to the bouts of unbearable loneliness I’ve survived without a family or partner on which to rely. Not that I was going out much before anyway. Depression and trauma had already kept me housebound for years.
One of the last times I saw Jesse was at the fifth birthday party for Dominion City Brewing, where he was leading the freestyle cypher.
The biggest change has certainly been Jesse’s absence from my life. I’m thankful for the fact that he’s not taking any risks (both for his sake and his housemates’), even if it means I’ve gone months without his company. His intentions to be in better contact come to him when he’s falling asleep or sucked into work, and I feel strangely comfortable inhabiting the space between; I know it’s not cause he doesn’t care or I’m not important, that he’s always struggled when it comes to managing time and priorities.
Even with a lifelong history of abandonment issues, I can feel secure in a relationship where I have no idea when I’ll see the other person again. It’s a sign that I’m not only recovering from emotional wounds, but growing too. The fact that I could go this long without posting something is another sign. I used to be such a goal-oriented person with projects lined-up, one after another. Creativity, work, and self-improvement were huge parts of my life. But so much of that motivation came from the fact that I never felt like a valuable person unless I was making progress on something, that I never deserved to be happy unless I suffered a great deal for it.
After struggling with mental health for so long, I’m starting to understand that happiness itself is a perfectly reasonable goal. And now that the decision to isolate has been taken out of my hands, I’m trying to indulge the indolence. If I was ten years old, it would be a dream come true to be given internet access, a computer, and so much free time. Maybe one day I’ll figure out how to live a life between the extremes of indulgence and mortification; for now I’ll stay in, trying to be that boy again.
I used to have a rule. If I ever feel like getting high and staying home instead of going out and doing something — anything — then I’d make a point to do the latter.
Otherwise, it would mean I’ve given up. That there’s nothing out there for me, and anything the world has to offer is no better than what I have in my house and on the internet. It’s a rule that served me well for years; one that kept me healthy and balanced and off my ass.
So when I found myself in my neckbeard nest after another month, not particularly caring whether I got up or showered or shaved, I knew I was in a bad spot. Of course, just knowing there’s a problem isn’t enough to rouse one into action when basic hygiene hardly feels worth the effort.
Continue reading “lost weekend”…