Posts tagged with "relationships"

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.

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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.

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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. []

sweet surrender

All his life he had been active, doing things about the house, looking after patients, thinking, studying, writing. How good it was to stop doing, struggling, thinking, to leave it all for a time to nature, to become her thing, her concern, the work of her merciful, wonderful, beauty-lavishing hands.

—Doctor Zhivago

Time is giving me the chance to feel hurt without hate. If only the process didn’t make the indivisible moments so overwhelmingly painful. The idea of being normal seems like a modest goal, now that an act as simple as washing the dishes becomes a burden I can’t bear. It’s the reason I don’t trust myself behind the wheel of a car, the reason song and film do nothing to help me retreat.

As a result, our lives have been reduced to the simplest means of survival. I play my games like a full-time job, slowly processing things I’ve kept in the back of my head as a means of staying safe from myself. We eat, we sleep, we start over again. My responsibility is to myself now, and it’s a good day if I can get one productive thing done, from a simple shower to a step outside. And if even that proves too much, I’m learning to be okay with that too, as time is measured across experiences and lives, not by the moments in which we stumble and fall.

Heather

When she sees me trying to shake the thoughts loose, looking for support on cold tile, I’m told to take as much time as I need to get better, and reminded she won’t leave if I never do. I don’t have to hide my feelings or moods, cause she doesn’t judge me for the depth of my sadness, nor hold my anger against me. Every day she grows more tender than the last, even as I fall and break apart, and I’m learning to understand how, when I have such a hard time accepting the shade of a person I am right now. It’s such boundless affection that finally makes me feel loved because of who I am, and not what I do or offer or represent.

After so many years living at arms-length with everyone around me, it’s a feeling that’s impossible for me to take for granted. I can’t help but internalize every way her grace brings me joy. Every time she thanks me for letting her take care of my needs and wants.

And with this foundation, I learn how to be a person again, as I try to write my way out of this hole.