I can say that now.
It’s hard to tell exactly when everything became too much for me to handle, but I knew I reached stable ground when Marie said it was nice to see me smile. It seems like she’s only seen me at my worse — when I’m not coping and trying to rationalize all the wrong things — but she still welcomes me every time without any expectations, and that’s the kind of acceptance I need at this point in my journey.
Not to say there aren’t struggles, especially months like this, when I’m dealing with colitis flare-ups on a daily basis and the constant feeling of being overwhelmed. Between the time I spend to nourish myself, finding peace with so much of my past, and this love that found me, I’ve started to understand how life can catch up to a person without warning. There’s barely a chance to process the developments in my head, let alone record curves and colours with a camera.
I’m anxious to get to the point where I can start growing instead of healing, and living instead of surviving. Being okay means it’s easier to deal with the insecurities and moments of weaknesses I face on my way there.
Life at the comic book shop continues to be the Empire Records fantasy everyone dreams it to be. Maybe that’s why someone walks in every shift to hand in a resume. Even people who have no intention of looking for a job ask if there are any openings as soon as they see the merch catered to every genre of geek.
The fact that there are only a dozen among us means the crew is tight. I get to play back-cash DJ and turn up the electronica that’s come to define this period of recovery. Still, there are days when the computer breaks down on a night when I’m running a tournament by myself, I have to do all the pairings manually, and getting home to a hot shower is the purest relief.
Having a steady stream of plans mixed in with work means I’m constantly waking up to an alarm. It’s wearing me down, but my need for stimulation is outweighing my need for sleep. For now, at least.
I don’t write anymore cause I get my validation through people. The right ones set aside time for me, listen as much as they speak, and don’t treat me any differently cause of my past. I haven’t felt the need to sort out my thoughts — one of the main reasons I used to write — as much as accept myself. It’s a matter of patience at this point, and weathering the rough periods.
Arcade Fire on their Reflektor tour, featuring Stephen Harper as tambourine-playing box head.
That means I’m still learning how to take care of myself. Still coming to terms with the fact that love is so rarely clean or tidy or in our control, but realizing that’s okay. Still trying to believe that I shouldn’t be embarrassed of anything I’ve suffered. Still figuring out my idea of happiness, what’s meaningful and what’s possible.
It’s been more than a week since I had a night alone. I never thought I’d be able to handle this kind of stimulation again, but most people work during the day and my shifts involve running the tourneys when they’re off, so I still have mornings to myself. I can tell how quickly time is passing cause the gaps in my photo folders are turning into months.
Being around so many people gives me a chance to work on my altruism. It’s always been easy with people who are important to me. Now I’m trying to fall into the habit of being kind to the ones who are neutral, to try to truly understand their reality so I can acknowledge their happiness or suffering. It’s a way for me to remove my bias, including whether I think they deserve either of those emotions, and always a humbling exercise.
Still, I wish I could explain what I was feeling. So much of myself was defined by my emotions. I remember riding the bus, losing myself to the warmth of the sun on my face and the swelling sound in my headphones. Nowadays, every scene plays out like all caps slug lines in a screenplay. Nothing has changed but the dosage, and I don’t know if that’s a fact I should take comfort in.
Not to say there aren’t difficult times. I don’t have much control over triggers, and I’m not ready to deal with certain parts of my life yet. I’ve had to keep a distance from toxic people and situations to gain a sense of stability before I approach them again. It’s a way for me to give myself time to heal, after realizing just how much needs to be done.
Winter has always been difficult at times. At ‑15 or below, breath becomes a layer of ice on the windows when parked outside, and I can do nothing but wait for the car to warm up again so I can see enough to drive. At that point, it means I’m sitting in the car for longer than my commute. I try to take it as a good way to practice patience, but it’s a hard wait after an eight hour shift on my feet. It’s still winter in all it’s muffling glory though, the time in the year I most appreciate living in Canada. Girls and cats alike are more affectionate too, and I don’t mind being the source of heat.
I tend to get up around sunrise now, and every time I step outside before the rest of the world wakes up, it feels like I’m born again. It’s a chance for me to hit the reset button on the last day. To let go of the past, even if it happened only seven hours ago, and become a blank slate.
I also gradually broke the habit of checking my feeds after feeling jaded about news and media, then coming across this article. After months of abstention, I can say that I’ve gained time and lost nothing. It’s left me feeling increasingly disconnected from the world, but I know that means I’m beginning to learn what really matters.
I’m writing as a way of practicing self-compassion. Weeks get lost to the customers and commute, and when time off involves not thinking or being around people, it doesn’t leave much room for personal growth.
The problem is that nothing feels real or true unless I write it down. The changes are starting to flow together, and I’m at various stages of progress on several fronts. There are no beginnings, no ends, no chapters, no distinctive transitions I can sum up neatly in a title. The lessons stretch out to years instead of months. Development has given way to evolution. It seems silly to write about a feeling that won’t last from the first time I hit Save Draft to Publish.
I’ve been reaching out to new people cause it felt like everything I was doing was wrong. Marie came to feed the cats, not knowing I was back from the hospital. I broke down in her arms, and she babbled at me over breakfast, excusing herself for talking so much cause she was nervous about not knowing how to help. I asked if she’d watch a movie with me, something to do that was normal and not crying. It helped.
Jason’s also been talking me through the upheaval. Advice is easier to accept when it comes from a survivor, especially one who never presumes to know what’s best for me. He’s become the stick prodding me forward one small step at at time, a voice of reason in my ear that reminds me to keep on doing this until living is like breathing again.
It’s a reminder that I’m here only cause people believe in me; they’re the ones tipping the scales when it feels like I might as well flip a coin and let fate decide what I can’t.