Shedding

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After you go on for awhile and meet people and lose people and lose yourself and find yourself and do some things and lose yourself again and maybe lose everything…eventually you must come to a place where you’ve rubbed up against the walls of the world enough, of your life, that things have chafed away enough that you can move around a bit freer, unencumbered by so many extra layers that you put on when you were younger as protective armour.

With all these layers gone you experience the world more fully. You carry less, you are able to deflect more without this buffer around you muddling things, slanting, making you question yourself, making you squint just to see who you’re talking to.

Now it is just you and this clear abyss around you, shining, exchanging, standing, moving. Not afraid or hiding just quietly being, out there, standing on the edge of something and not looking away, or inwards, or to another. Just looking.

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After years of thinking there was something wrong with me, I finally know why I do the things that I do….and it’s actually pretty wonderful

I’m a Highly Sensitive Person. I have been told this by a mental health nurse at a hospital, and who is now my therapist who I will be meeting once a week for who knows how long to receive Dialectical Behaviour Therapy, which is what they give to people with Borderline Personality Disorder, which I have traits of also…. I will also be doing group therapy for anxiety.

The psychiatrist who did my assessment a few weeks ago referred me to her because she specializes in HSP therapy. I didn’t even know it was a real thing. But, the psychiatrist saw it, and the nurse sat down and in five minutes explained my entire experience to me, from childhood to now, as though she had spent the last week reading my diaries. It’s strange to have yourself explained to you, by a stranger, to a scarily accurate degree.

Not only am I in this constant raw state where I experience all sensory things: light, sound, movement, textures, other people’s thoughts and actions, MY thoughts and actions, everything, to an almost intolerable degree, but I was raised in a terrible unsupportive household where I was told to shut and stop being stupid, all the time, which created a mess of personality and emotional “disregulation” (I just learned this term)…..so I experience negative emotion that overtakes me suddenly for any small reason and which I can’t control. If I get mad at someone, it’s overarching, and I stay mad, for a really long time.

So I cut people out, or, they get fed up, rightfully, and cut me out. Same with work situations, something bad happens at work, anything, and it’s all over. If someone wrongs me, they are dead to me. So I quit. And I’m afraid of confrontation, I give and give too, and hold all this inside, because I was trained when I was little to just shut up, be invisible, and work really hard to be liked. So I hold my anger inside me until it’s exploding, and suddenly I’m a crazy person flipping out and running off to hide, to be alone. I have been doing this all my life. And I didn’t realize it until this woman, this blonde gesticulating 63 year old nurse with a better body than me, explained it all to me and I just sat there nodding, unable to even speak because it was all true. All my hated flaws, all my roadblocks, my quirks that make me fight with people, quit jobs, move suddenly, my intolerance of everything…the great grand PATTERN of my life, it is because of this. All my life I’ve just thought, I’m just an asshole, I repel people, I’m unlikable. If I could figure out how to just not be a jerk, to not hate everything, things might be okay.

So I finally understand, somewhat, why this has all been happening, why life has been this huge ridiculous struggle. And, I feel like that’s the main part, that’s what I’ve wanted most, to just understand why. Because I couldn’t keep going just thinking that I’m a shitty person who fails all the time, and that I deserved all the shitty things that kept happening to me, that I kept creating. That’s not good enough anymore.

It’s not my fault that my life has been hard.

 

Meditation on turning 39

I don’t even know what I’m feeling really. This is the first birthday in memory, maybe ever since childhood, that isn’t fraught in some way. The biggest stress in my life right now is upstairs neighbours who are occasionally noisy. Being nervous about my life’s dream coming to life; about being live on the radio. But I fantasized about that for years, thought longingly about it, did a crappy internship in Berlin at a jazz radio station just to be NEAR radio. And I transfer my stress onto things that should bring me joy. This is my greatest stress right now, this joy that is in my lap. And when I look at it it’s easy to see that it’s fear of failing that is the real stress. Of course.

Anyway.

This year, my last year in my thirties, is about reaching goals. Or setting new ones. But leaving the past in the past. Enough years have been spent dragging those past hurts along with me, wearing them like some armour. I refuse to bring that weight into my next decade, into the next stage of my life.

I accept what has been for what it was, and I let it go. I accept what is, too, what is out of my control, and what I can control.

Most of all, I will no longer accept negativity in my life. Negative people who want to bring me down. Negative situations. And my own tendency to put a negative spin on things. I will no longer entertain things, people and thoughts that don’t serve me.

I have been in hiding my whole life. I now vow—or vow to try my hardest to—as I enter the final stretch toward my forties and “real” adulthood, to just be myself. Unapologetically, unflinchingly, relentlessly.

-ST

 

November smoke

he left me in november when the smoke was rising from the forests and fields, when the smell of burning branches filled the air and your lungs were always a little heavy…..such cold air as we trudged through snow fallen woods and walked the streams already frozen over, little tracks of animals going off in every direction.

i remember my dog then, young, bounding off in search of killing and running back to sprint alongside us for awhile before disappearing over a drift again, we would walk side by side, sometimes holding hands but mostly not, remarking on this or that feature of the near landscape, he pointing out a beaver lodge, me rejoicing over birdsong…..but he left me in november.

we had spent all spring, summer, and some of that fall in each other’s worlds, but we would not finish that autumn as lovers. winter would find me lonely.

he came from a small, weird family and lived in a trailer twenty feet from his parents’ house, within earshot of their continued battle in the place they’d been since marriage.

he worked with his father, a bad alcoholic. his job was keeping the business afloat while his father gambled and drank away the money they had made during the oil boom in the eighties and nineties.

he lived and worked there within striking distance of his crazy parents on one side, drinking, yelling, and on the other, his old grandma who called him a loser and his brother, who sponged off his grandma but was married, a morbidly obese man of fifty who spent his days watching the television and eating fast takeaway food.

the craziness of his upbringing expanded from there, to the bipolar aunt, her scared husband and mentally handicapped son who lived in a trailer nearby that was literally rotting into the ground; he told me of a hole in the bathroom floor that you could look through to the stinking ground underneath; the smell, the mould and the worsening tilt of the entire thing; the family trying to get her to leave, going as far as buying her another trailer, but she refusing to leave, dragging her family into the ground with her.

then the uncle who lived in town, the tiny town in northern alberta, he also an alcoholic, who lived in an apartment with all the windows covered over with tinfoil that he never took down. he was elderly, alone, most famous for eating some sort of stinking, gelling-over stew that he kept on his stove for god knows how long and would just keep heating up, over and over, turning the burner on when he got hungry and horrifying whatever visitor had decided to kill boredom for an hour by calling on the crazy old uncle in his cave, bringing him a six pack of beer or a bottle of rye.

but he somehow stayed alive, this repugnant mix of fermenting food and cheap alcohol somehow keeping the old man halfway-upright for half of his remaining days on this earth as he shambled between two or three places and drank his time away in a terrible apartment block on a blank back street of a nowhere town.

then there was his mother’s sister, who died when she fell drunk into a snowbank while having a smoke outside a grande prairie bar in the middle of winter.

but my favourite story that C told me about his family was the one about his uncles, the “bush uncles” as he called them: two old swedes who had wound up in the back woods of northern alberta in the fifties, living together in a shack made of salvaged boards, through which C’s father said you could see the bright shining northern stars at night.

they kept wasps, true story, there was a wasp’s nest in the ceiling of their little shack, that they said they kept to keep other insects away.

when a stranger arrived at the shack the wasps would swarm around them, sniffing, sensing like a million little dogs, sensing danger or not then they would swarm back into their nest.

the uncles never got stung. they were famous once, were on the news once when an edmonton reporter got wind that there were two old men living in a cave together. turns out one of them had developed cancer, had a tumour growing on his head. they had somehow found a cave in the wilds near their cabin that had a clay inside that they believed would cure the brother of his tumour; they were living there, squatting next to a river in a cold, damp cave, two elderly men dressed in decades-old clothing, slathering one of their heads with clay; the reporter went out and interviewed them, and C has the tape somewhere, of this footage that made the evening news, two crazy old men in the woods that were somehow left to their own devices though he can’t remember the end of the story, he believes that the brother just died. i don’t know what happened to them.

i had never met any of these people because he would never let me near them. i knew and so did he that my fascination with this clan of losers, eccentrics and fuckups would turn to horror then revulsion if i ever witnessed the actual tragic sadness that was his family close up.

moving alone

moving alone is lonely work. packing up one’s life, all your little belongings, all your sad memories in boxes, building the boxes and then filling them up with your possessions. you hold them and stuff them in, you arrange them in such a way giving attention to some items and others haphazardly stacking, risking breakage.

you keep going until it’s all done, stacked or piled up in dusty boxes and bags, sneezing because you haven’t cleaned, scared, nervous, wishing you could just be excited.

wanting this to be over and missing the whole experience again as it’s eaten up by your fear, gobbled up and there you are again thinking back and wishing you’d enjoyed it more…one more chapter of your life closed, another begun, seemingly always randomly, still haven’t figured out that sacred pattern that you used to be so sure was there, but now you’re not so sure because as you get older things stop being as magical, or you’re just not buying it anymore, or you’ve forgotten how to look for that, that feeling that you used to get all the time, that something was just around the corner and you had all the time in the world to find it.

another chapter ending, and you feel the book closing, the pages drawing together. and you try to find the thread of the story, where the plot is going, but the truth is you never knew about that, you were always making it up as you went along and not doing a very good job of it. but you kept trying and it doesn’t get easier, it seems like it should get easier but it doesn’t. it just doesn’t. so you pack up one more time, all your belongings one more time, into the boxes, into the bags, the things you’ve been moving from place to place for what seems to be your entire life. and you hope that this will be the last one for awhile, for a long time. that this will be the place that you can stay. that will be a home. because it’s been a long time since you’ve felt that. a very long time.

-ST