Posts tagged with "relationships"

can we speak in flowers?

Tiana recently shared this great arti­cle with me. It’s writ­ten as a guide for per­sonal growth within one’s rela­tion­ships, but I find myself well famil­iar with the con­cepts it cov­ers; being account­able, empa­thetic, grate­ful, intro­spec­tive, and respon­si­ble are all things that tend to come nat­u­rally to me. I’ve also been actively work­ing on (or strug­gling with) being more patient, for­giv­ing, resilient, autonomous, and opti­mistic in the last few years1.

Instead, I use this check­list as a reminder of the qual­i­ties I should be seek­ing in oth­ers. If I’m going to invest any of myself into some­one else — whether that’s time, energy, or feel­ings — they should have a gen­eral com­pre­hen­sion, if not a cer­tain level of com­pe­tency, in all these areas. I’m no longer in a place to teach some­one how to be hon­est about their emo­tions, take respon­si­bil­ity for their actions, or lis­ten with intent.

It’s dif­fi­cult to let go of this basic expec­ta­tion when I’ve already done a fair amount of work on myself to under­stand and prac­tice these ideas. Spending time with any­one who reminds me of the per­son I used to be makes me feel like I’m regress­ing, and I quickly lose inter­est in their com­pany. At this point, I’m doing every­thing I can to move for­ward, and that means being involved with peo­ple who are already good at rela­tion­ships2. It’s so much eas­ier for me to let down my guard and give myself wholly to some­one when I have a mutual foun­da­tion to work with.

  1. Others may have the abil­ity to develop such skills by them­selves, while I need the guid­ance of a ther­a­pist, as some of my trauma is too severe for me to view cer­tain sit­u­a­tions clearly. []
  2. Something that gen­er­ally requires a fair amount of intel­li­gence, insight, matu­rity, depth, and ambi­tion. I used to won­der why I felt strong con­nec­tions with cer­tain peo­ple until I real­ized this. []

to drink all damage into love

My three-year anniver­sary with Heather came and went with­out fan­fare or cer­e­mony (or even notice, on my part). Our time together went by in a blink; being chron­i­cally sin­gle for me, and trapped in an abu­sive rela­tion­ship for her, made the three years prior to that feel like an eter­nity by com­par­i­son for each of us. It was only halfway through that I real­ized part of me was keep­ing her at a sig­nif­i­cant distance.

When we first started spend­ing time together, I was drawn most to her inno­cence. The way she viewed the world with an open mind1 made me feel com­fort­able in a way I imme­di­ately found attrac­tive. I could tell her calm demeanour belied a dark­ness though; she knew a tremen­dous amount of pain in her short life, and that made her the same kind of old soul as me. Still, I never dared imag­ine things may work out between us, cause my pre­vi­ous lover was com­pletely unex­pected in both the com­ing and going, and the expe­ri­ence left me raw. Somewhat con­versely, I was also too numb to believe any­thing was real. It was only a cou­ple weeks after Heather entered my life that I tried to hang myself, and sur­viv­ing meant every­thing felt posthumous.

Continue read­ing “to drink all dam­age into love”…

  1. I relate it to the con­cept of an “uncar­ved block” or “pu” in Taoism: a state of recep­tive­ness, before the taint of expe­ri­ence, that gives one the poten­tial to see things with­out judg­ment or prej­u­dice. []

escape artist

“Suzanne is forty years old and has never had a close rela­tion­ship. She spends most of her spare time read­ing books and brows­ing the web. Suzanne is most com­fort­able with casual, friendly rela­tion­ships where noth­ing very per­sonal is discussed.

Suzanne is mar­ried to a man who is out of touch with his feel­ings. He’s more inter­ested in being mar­ried than in being mar­ried to Suzanne par­tic­u­larly. He has few friends, and does not expect close­ness from Suzanne. He wants a woman just so he can ful­fill the con­ven­tional role of hus­band. Their rela­tion­ship is based on tra­di­tional roles, not on real inti­macy. They rarely con­fide in each other.

Suzanne has smoked mar­i­juana her entire adult life. She insists that she is not addicted — she tells her­self she only does it for recre­ation, and that she has con­trol. Besides using drugs on a reg­u­lar basis, she tends to drink in set­tings when she doesn’t feel as socially capa­ble as others.

Suzanne became depressed, but was not in touch with her feel­ings of aban­don­ment and defec­tive­ness. She spent much of her life mak­ing sure she was not in touch, and try­ing to escape her feelings.

Continue read­ing “escape artist”…

backstory

It’s taken me a gen­er­ous dis­tance, as well as a healthy break from the pain, to real­ize I don’t under­stand what my mom thought of me. In my ear­li­est years, I believed she loved me, cause none of her demands were unrea­son­able. After all, chil­dren are often help­less and don’t even know what’s best for them­selves. Then I grew up, and devel­oped an iden­tity of my own. That meant I had dis­tinc­tive needs sep­a­rate from hers, and she would deny every one of them unless they were in line with what she wanted. It was impos­si­ble for me to believe there was any love at all when she was the cause of so much of my pain. I’ve since come to real­ize that rela­tion­ships are full of nuances, and that it’s pos­si­ble to love some­one whole­heart­edly and be ter­ri­ble for them at the same time.

Continue read­ing “backstory”…

quiet revolution

Depression has added an extra cost to every­thing I do. Something as sim­ple as buy­ing gro­ceries means mak­ing sure my energy lev­els are care­fully paced for a few days before I leave the house, and being too burned out to do any form of inter­ac­tion for a few days after. If some­thing goes wrong dur­ing the process — a night of poor sleep, a sick cat, a loss of moti­va­tion, a col­i­tis flare-up — and I run out of spoons, the prob­lems cas­cade and I end up hav­ing to can­cel my plans.

That’s why I choose to spend time with peo­ple who under­stand what it truly costs me to func­tion; they hap­pen to be the ones who are con­sis­tently reli­able, very under­stand­ing if I have to can­cel, and put as much effort into main­tain­ing the rela­tion­ship as I do.1

Heather portrait

Heather started taper­ing off her dose of ven­lafax­ine cause she feels sta­ble enough to take the risk2, and wants to start work­ing with­out the asso­ci­ated men­tal haze. Even though music is still a joy­less expe­ri­ence, the fact that she’s get­ting excited about Halloween again is a sign that she’s finally healing.

She doesn’t mind car­ry­ing more emo­tional labour (and I remain will­fully igno­rant, for the time being), cause she knows I’m play­ing life on hard mode. My job is to make sure she feels appre­ci­ated for doing more than her fair share. The crises we’ve been weath­er­ing together since we met means our hon­ey­moon phase was cut short, but nei­ther of us mind, cause inti­macy is what we were miss­ing for so long.3

self portrait at 35

The fact that it takes me fewer days be to com­fort­able around any­one when my inse­cu­ri­ties get the bet­ter of me means I’m gain­ing some small form of equa­nim­ity. I still have moments when I feel too dam­aged to be happy, too worth­less to be loved, or too bro­ken to be fixed, but it takes me less time to realign my per­cep­tions with real­ity. The lows aren’t as debil­i­tat­ingly deep either.

I’ve been using the momen­tum to take small steps out of my com­fort zone; spend­ing more time in dif­fi­cult sit­u­a­tions, learn­ing to be emo­tion­ally vul­ner­a­ble, explor­ing new ways of express­ing myself4, pro­cess­ing parts of the past I’ve tried my best to for­get. Even though I’m anx­ious to feel nor­mal again, I’m forced to rec­og­nize my lim­i­ta­tions and keep myself paced. I know I’m not where I want to be, but I’m mov­ing in the right direc­tion. That’s enough to keep me going for now.

  1. Also, per­haps not-coincidentally, usu­ally peo­ple who have deal with some form of depres­sion or chronic ill­ness in their lives. []
  2. I still have no idea whether mine are keep­ing me afloat, but the fact that I don’t suf­fer any side-effects means I’ll be on them for the fore­see­able future. []
  3. Finding my under­wear washed and folded one day — a respon­si­bil­ity I’ve never shared with any girl­friend — gave me the weird­est boner. []
  4. The only lux­ury pur­chase for me this year has been an Impact LX-49 MIDI con­troller. []