“A brave man is a man who dares to look the Devil in the face and tell him he is a Devil.” 

— James A. Garfield

I’ve been pondering the idea of bravery over the past few days. Consider me, an absent-minded, imaginative individual with what some would refer to as “a lot of free time”, when I tell you that my mental image of bravery involves a handsome knight, a gorgeous horse and maybe a gruesome battle of some sort. I’m not sure what triggers this imagery in my brain, because my definition of bravery extends far beyond myths and fables — don’t even get me started on “damsels in distress” (barf) — but the idea of a mythical quest, or a war of the worlds, or one valiant person (let’s be real — a man, duh; cue exasperated eye roll, in whatever level of severity you prefer), single-handedly preventing the human race from crumbling to ruin is, more often than not, at the forefront of my imagination when I think about being brave.

I recognize heroes every day, unassuming in their “ordinary” bravery. Primarily, and most importantly: I live with and am fortunate enough to love one. Watching Jo don their suit of armour every day is both mesmerizing and disheartening; hypnotizing in the fluidity of it all, like watching the creative process of a virtuosic artist, musician or craftsman. The way they prepare themselves to enter the world is evidently a process that has been practiced, reworked and refined over an extended period of time; to the point where they now use it as an almost impenetrable shield against any potential danger. The fact that this is a defence they have even had to consider perfecting obviously gives me mixed feelings, the most notable being a confusing combination of sadness and rage, but I admire them daily for their courage in simply stepping out the front door. 

I’m sure anybody reading this can immediately come up with a list of every day heroes, whether or not that list includes someone close to them who has their own suit of armour to slip into every day. Fire fighters, paramedics, doctors, nurses, veterans, teachers, social workers, police officers, customer service agents — the list goes on and on. And even on levels that may seem “insignificant”; the teenagers helping an elderly woman across the street, or the person who pays it forward in the drive thru line up, the animal service workers who reunite lost pets with their families. Guys, I could keep going for hours. 

I’ve run into a few different situations in the last seven days or so that have required a little self-check, a pep talk or two, and a whole lot of stuffing my hesitation into a box and locking it away — while it snarls and scratches incessantly at the insides of its’ confinement like a wild animal. Meaning, there was a lot that had to happen this week that demanded I put my anxiety and non-confrontational nature aside in order to just get. shit. done. We usually have to find our courage in what appear to be the most harmless situations, it seems. 

I’ve been pretty outspoken about my struggles with ADHD in a few of my past posts here, so it’s fair to say I’m an open book as far as my mental health goes. But, I was pushed to take a good look at how I was doing, and then to write about it all, by an awesome article written by a member of our regional council, Laura Ip, aptly named Mental Health Barriers. She speaks not only about her own struggles with mental illness, but about the struggles of those close to her — which also made me think about the effect mental illnesses have on relationships; specifically, mine and Jo’s. It’s honest, heartfelt, maybe a bit political but still worth the read. 

I have a pretty long standing history with mental illness. I was a happy child, enthusiastic and friendly; I loved spending time with my grandmother, and I was especially passionate about horseback riding. My mother managed to catch onto my cues almost immediately, and I will be forever grateful for her instinct and willingness to listen to her gut. She picked me up from my grandmother’s one morning, to take me to my horseback riding lesson, and I told her I didn’t want to go; not for any particular reason, I just didn’t feel like it. I was seeing a child and youth worker within two weeks, at most. 

I was referred to a counsellor, Dorian, through the Chedoke Child & Family Centre, and developed an incredible relationship with him over the span of two to three years. In that time I struggled with serious episodes of self-harm, suicidal thoughts and ideation, irrational and dangerously impulsive behaviour, etc. etc. as well as the chemical concoction that is depression (as well as undiagnosed ADHD and anxiety — because I wasn’t hyperactive, just terribly, terribly sad). I also saw a psychiatrist at some point and was officially diagnosed with clinical depression and medicated by the time I was ten. Young, maybe — but I was also threatening to kill myself, doing serious physical damage to my body and therapy was not enough to stop me.

There had been a series of months when I was essentially on suicide watch, and meeting with my therapist three or four days per week. My mother came into my bedroom multiple times each night to check on me and make sure I was still breathing. I was discharged from therapy when I was twelve, a year before we relocated from a big city to a tiny green-belt town. Dorian had unfortunately fallen ill unexpectedly, so I had switched to a new therapist by then, Kirsty, and we had made enough progress that she was confident I had the strategies to manage on my own. I suppose I sort of managed on my own, keeping my flirtations with self-harm to a minimum, but acting out and getting in shit in almost every other possible way. High school was a change of pace, I flourished in the music program and had a small group of friends, a job and a decent home life — then in the summer of grade twelve, I got pregnant and, well… That just changes everything.

I have been medicated pretty consistently since that fateful day when I was ten. Over the years I have done many psychological evaluations, had various therapists, been diagnosed, re-diagnosed, used medications that were incredibly helpful, and some that made me feel like I was “One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest” insane. I have a running list of red flags that I make sure to look out for, signals that I may be trying to grapple with some old monsters that have managed to claw their way to the surface. This doesn’t extend to depression alone; my anxiety has its’ own gauge that is separate from my panic attacks, and my ADHD is another beast entirely.

Moving on; in taking the time to reflect on the fallout of the last two and half months — potentially life changing surgical mistakes, dealing with a child who is struggling in school and then falling apart at home, an increase in anxiety and generally untriggered panic attacks, being coerced into making amends with people who did shitty things, yada yada yada — I realized that I’d kind of relegated my mental health to the proverbial back burner. I was spending hours hyper focused on things that were not productive, I was perpetually blue — not upset or sad about anything in particular, just “blah” (if you suffer from depression, you know exactly what I mean) and, more to the point — it was affecting Jo and Joey in ways that weren’t necessarily apparent on the surface. I try and see things from an outside perspective and can’t even imagine what it must be like for Jo to deal with me when my mental state is out of control.

So, I had to get brave, or more aptly put, I had to give myself a kick in the ass. Aside from the sheer inconvenience of my doctor being a 25 minute drive away, I don’t particularly enjoy going in and picking apart every detail of my mental and emotional well being, especially when I’m struggling. To skip through the boring bits, my latest psychological evaluation ended up gifting me with a compiled list of all the scary sounding conditions I already knew I had, but organized in a way that was a little overwhelming: Major Depressive Disorder (MDD), ADHD, generalized anxiety, and panic disorder. 

Would you believe I only went in there to get back on my ADHD medication?!

Anyway, to conclude that thought; I’m glad I reached out to my doctor and I’m currently one week into my new medication regimen. The first few nights were an absolute nightmare (if you’ve never heard of Serotonin Syndrome, I hadn’t either, but I’m pretty sure it’s what I experienced and I sincerely hope you never do), but my body seems to be adjusting to it all now and I’ve noticed a pretty significant difference in my productivity and mood. Moral of the story: You know if you need a kick in the ass, so just give it to yourself for f**’s sake. Ask for the help you need. Keep an eye on your mental and emotional well being. Medication may not be for everyone, but there’s no shame in using it if it helps you.

“When your past calls, don’t answer. It has nothing new to say.”

Jo gently reminds me on a semi-regular basis that I have an inclination toward revisiting and focusing on my past. They are a forward thinker, always planning for the future, not fixated on any negative aspect of the past other than the lessons they learned so they don’t have to do it all again — and even have their own list of warning signs to add an extra level of protection and avoid being blindsided. I glamourize my past in a lot of ways; I look back on even my most traumatic experiences with a sort of fondness that may seem a little sadistic from the outside. I am an open book about my many past ordeals with the genuine intention of providing insight and helping people, but can’t reject the possibility that I enjoy the opportunity to revisit them in a weird, maybe perverse, way. I suppose it should come as no surprise that I’ve been labelled as a masochist on more than one occasion. 

That being said; there are some parts of my past that I, for various reasons, recognize are not worth the tenderness. The way the cookie has crumbled, though, means that I regularly find myself face-to-face with a past that comes back to “haunt” me; one of my “ghosts”, if you will. So, to quickly relate back to the theme of this post (before my aforementioned ADHD took off and ran with my brain, S.O.S), bravery; do you consider it brave when you have to face the things, people or events that have damaged you? Does it take courage to be in the same room as a person that indisputably changed you? 

I had to have a meeting, of sorts, with my ex this week. I know most people who don’t have children would probably heave at the notion of being in the same room with any number of their exes, but, for the most part, Duder’s dad and I have managed to get along over the five or six years we’ve been separated. There have obviously been blips on the radar, but, to his credit, he has evolved from the manipulative, angry, aggressive person that I left, years too late, into a somewhat responsible, relatively impassive person that is beginning to really prioritize the wellbeing of his kid. 

I still have flashbacks of explosive fights with this person, of the gaslighting and the manipulation. He’s not the same person now, but that doesn’t mean the trauma he caused doesn’t flare up on occasion. This is why I ask about bravery. Is is brave for someone who has undergone trauma to face their triggers head on, or is it just stupid to put themselves in that situation? I don’t really have a choice, and I find a strange sense of comfort in that. That doesn’t mean I look forward to sitting my ex down, looking him in eye and telling him something that I know has a startlingly high chance of pissing him the f** off. Is there a clothing store that sells big girl pants? Because I’d like a back up pair.

To keep it succinct, it went surprisingly well. We talked like adults, I got what I went for, and finally got a sense of what confidence feels like. Maybe it’s my new medication and the fact that I’m taking an honest look at my demons; maybe it’s because we can finally make our announcement and the tension of taking the steps to get to this point has finally disappeared; it could be that Duder is starting to talk to us, he and Jo are finding their footing with each other again, slowly, and our life is starting to feel normal — maybe it was normal this whole time and I just haven’t seen it. Regardless, change is coming and it feels good. I’ve never been one to be scared of change, I love that it gives my brain something new to chew over, but I know that the process of things evolving into something new can be daunting, despite even a guarantee of a positive outcome. 

I think bravery, courage… it’s all subjective. What is scary to some may not be to others, and acknowledging the effort it takes someone to overcome their obstacles, regardless of how straightforward it may seem to you, could be motivation, at least, to continue overcoming, continue persevering, growing, evolving — and to keep pushing the limits of what can and cannot be done. This will look different for everyone and the levels of what our fears and reservations are will vary. This doesn’t make the little victories we achieve, every single day, any less significant. It could just be meeting your ex for coffee and signing a parenting plan — if it scared you and you did it anyway, it deserves to be celebrated.

“One of the greatest discoveries a man makes, one of his great surprises, is to find he can do what he was afraid he couldn’t do.” 

—Henry Ford

All is grist that comes to the mill.

My heart was big, big, big today.

We’re tired for the usual, multitude of (parental, adult, millennial, equinoctial shifts) reasons, but with spring in the air, defeat never possible and sleep not an option (kidding, I got like 6 hours) I went on a bit of a rant today. It was one of those rants where I kept looking at Aisha – to be fair, it’s been 24-hrs of excited ranting – and telling myself, “Dude, she gets it.”

But you know when you follow through on something, and the breadth and immediacy of the results are so amazing you just can’t handle it? That is what happened. During my “AH HOW DO I CONVEY THIS” Google search today to help direct what I am trying to say, I found a LOT on Feng Shui. I have never really studied the art, but the philosophy appeals to me, though it doesn’t wholly capture what I mean. It feels more like a… magnet realigns in me, making me so frigging solid, and things just start crashing down in beautiful, perfect order. The effect of this is something I have referred to as my ‘bubble.’

My bubble is something I am grateful for, because it is like an emotional, plastic hamster ball for me to roll around in. Sometimes, there are a few tough weeks, and then suddenly there are five untypical and unbelievably gorgeous days in a row; the cardinal, or hawk or some amazing bird will come to catch my eye. I will feel… listless and then BAM! Songs that lift me from cloud to cloud to cloud come floating into my world until I break through them into the clear, blue sky, basking in the sunshine of happiness. I have always hoped to figure out how to maintain this bubble. If we were to sit and intimately talk about it, you would see how superstitious, or spiritualistic, I can be. Which is why I suppose, it took this weird moment of moving my bed, exactly when I did, with all the other factors lined up, to see that it’s me (I totally just knocked on wood, by the way).

When I originally put the bed together, I had placed it where it is now. I don’t know if it was the destabilizing bigness of a stress vs. relief vortex of our October move, or just the multitude of differences from 7th floor stink hole to this amazing home, but it didn’t seem right then. I ended up putting our room together in what seemed like the most logical/functional layout.

The past few weeks though, I have dreamt about it, low level obsessed over it, talked about it and honestly have organized so many other places, instead of just trying it out, that I feel kind of basic not having just done it.

Moving on, the excitement I felt all day yesterday (a day literally full of so much stress and worry that I alluded to in the last post, The Bamboo that bends) had me worried I had somehow managed to like, forget that the stress was imminent. Like, completely, forget. If I were the person to do this, this is where I would say, “I feel soooooo ADD,” except I’m not ADD.

I obviously hadn’t forgotten but the positivity and confidence I was able to wrap myself in was dreamlike. Thankfully, I had a mental adjustment in a hyper-clear moment, and realized, no. I had practiced self care in two way: Aisha is learning and becoming a very talented Reiki student practitioner (I know… are there no ends to the levels we keep revealing about our spiritual side) who gave me the “super-pamper-special” on Saturday, and our bed is now in the “Right Place”.

Amen.

Quick idea of what I am talking about – Which way should your bed face – to touch on the idea of considering how a room layout effects things. I looked over the Queen of Sleep’s thoughts on Feng Shui and, while surprised at her interpretation of directional meanings (my miracle occurred because of a 18°N orientation with our heads and feet away from the door and window), she did make me chuckle.

And then I found this, the Feng Shui Tips.Org page that really does what I need it to do. Why? It is malleable in my brain.  Everything I bring into my thought cycles has to be flexible in its use as an interpretation guide (side note: always wondered if I had been a monk in a past life). I need this because I like to have a complete lens to see through; different ideologies influence me based on the situation, and having more than one viewpoint makes the decision… More complete.

Anyway, kua numbers… what the… and tell me more. What is my Kua number? (It’s 7 – I used biological sex because, well, that’s the fact. If you look into this though, the only time gender matters in the application is in Group 5).

I am a West Group which provides me with the following information on the significance of direction:

  • NW: money and success
  • SW: health and vitality
  • NE: Love and Marriage
  • W: Personal Growth

Our new bed orientation: 18°N

(Additional side note: Aisha is an 8, also West group)

Crown of your head is supposed to be in a lucky direction, balance the sides of your bed, don’t face a mirror, remove sharp edges (my favorite tip), etc. Do these factors matter to most people? I am not social enough to say. Do they matter to me? Well, if you could see my vigor and the shit that’s slid in to place in a 24-hour time space, you may allow me the mysticism.

When I say, all is grist that comes to the mill, I mean that I do not shy away from anything that helps me keep my head clear and helps me work on myself. Reiki feels good. Bad energy effects me, whether of my own or others influence. When I allow myself to be open to it, I feel ‘higher’, or clearer. Yet, I can be so practical and analytical I laugh at my attempt to be both. At the end of the day, trying can only make me more aware, no? So, it is all processed, ground down, sifted into my mixin’ bowl and baked into what is turning out to be quite a competent, sensitive and thoughtful person.

I feel like I have always been like this, I just wasn’t big enough at the time to hold it all together, so it came out looking weird. Now it’s like I’ve reached a calm or, a perspective? Or… steadiness? I just haven’t managed to fuse all three together, so they alternate, like a pendulum swing. Thankfully, it is slowing, which means more often they line up and I am afforded (what I assume) really cool adult moments of knowing.

The point, peeps, is that when I trust me, life is something else. Not easy, but, fun. For instance: I got two new jobs today with one more contract getting close to closing. One of the jobs feels like it is what I have been waiting forever for, what every other messed up employment had been leading towards (gah, no pressure). I have written two blog posts in two days. I gardened. Duder is communicating and our connection was one of those things that came back, crashing down in beautiful, perfect order. All I did was (literally) open the door. Aisha is ploughing through the tough stuff. I don’t want to go into it, but suffice to say, she dealt with about ten piles of stinking _ _ _ _ yesterday without having a major panic attack, without a painful pattern emerging at all. She was so present, and amazing, Duder was so grounded by her. She was also subjected to receiving inappropriately delivered bad news today, that was just dropped like a stool stack on our doorstep, yet she sits over there now, somewhat calmly, plugging away. She is literally ski-dooing through those ‘hills’ but this shift seems to have changed the mud and stones to water-spray and sun beams (she maybe doesn’t feel this way, but she’ll have to write a reply 😉).

I needed something. I needed forward, a break, a breath. I need Spring and to harness my strength because this is my moment. This is my season and I am bursting with “YES.”

Someday, I will harness this feeling. I will figure out how to loop it around my waist and keep it with me always. Sometimes I have high hopes for forty, other times I see an eighty-year-old staring back at me, confident finally.

Regardless, I know that my learning is so good. And I am proud to be able to say that. My adjustments are like over-coats now; I can feel and welcome situations, because I trust the time, efficiency and accuracy I have cultivated in my responses. The things I allow in, have allowed me to trust myself. And I am just feelin’ grateful.

I wish I could paint, so this was easier to express. Alas,

“Life is a series of natural and spontaneous changes. Don’t resist them; that only creates sorrow. Let reality be reality. Let things flow naturally forward in whatever way they like.” 


― Lao Tzu

I get ya, Lao Tzu.

To share your weakness is to make yourself vulnerable; to make yourself vulnerable is to show your strength.

– Criss Jami

Jo has written about boundaries before, and I think it’s so cool that since there are two of us writing posts for this blog, you often get two different perspectives (though not necessarily different opinions) on a variety of subjects. We share similar moral values and our opinions are generally the same, but aside from the obvious differences (age, upbringing, hometown, etc) we also have each had our own myriad of life experiences that have given us our views on things now. Boundaries are something we’ve spoken about at lengths, even before we started this blog because, well, frankly — I didn’t have any. Boundaries are generally described as brick walls or barbed wire fences, almost impenetrable save for a certain special someone / something, if they have the will, curiosity and charm behind them to climb the wall, or cut a hole in the fence. My boundaries fall more into the “badly made sandcastle moat” category; you dig for a while and try to carve out a line (or body of water) to separate you from the rest of the world, with the aim of allowing a very select few into your castle, only when you feel like lowering the bridge.

But then something happens; the tide rolls in. You get excited because your moat is full of water! Nobody can get through to you unless you let them in! You’ve created this boundary and the idea seems solid and it feels so good; you’re determined to share yourself and your castle (think of your castle however you please — your body, your time, your heart) only with the people you selectively pick, the people who are worthy. 

Your boundary holds for a while. You have to fill up the moat occasionally as the water sinks into the sand, but a bucket at a time isn’t a big deal. You can refill that bucket every 15 minutes or so, no problem. 

But the sand underneath starts to soften. The water seeps in so deep that it turns that solid sand moat wall into a wet, soft, muddy pile. You don’t notice at first, you can’t see it happening, but eventually, the sides of your moat start to droop, and chunks of sand begin to fall off the walls and into the water and before you know it your moat is dry, and you see there’s a path leading straight to your castle’s front door. Do you start digging and refill your moat? Do you come up with a different plan? Do you give up?

My moat was never full. It didn’t matter how often I went and refilled my bucket, the minute I came back, the water was already soaking into the sand. This is how my boundaries worked. I would (shakily) develop one and tell myself that no one was going to cross it unless they were worthy of my time, effort, space, heart. The problem was, few of the people I had to instate these boundaries with, were worth it, and, regardless, my determination to following through on those boundaries was non-existent. These boundaries were flexible, unsupported and, worst of all, up for discussion. I have been trying to change that. 

I had a lot of my boundaries challenged this weekend, my buttons pushed. It was Broseidon’s 8th birthday party on Sunday and I’d been anxious about it for about a week. His party was priced a little high, but it was exactly what he wanted to do and had been trying to plan it on his own (to the best of his ability) for about a month. We invited his group of 10 friends (have I mentioned I have a really hard time being around children?), my mother and his grandparents from my ex’s side. His dad was away this week, so wasn’t around, and we thought it would be nice to have J-dog’s grandparents there, even if only to represent that side. I have had my fair share of quarrels with this family (as have most separated parents, I imagine) but for the most part, we get along pretty well. Things are amicable as long as I don’t rock the boat, which I don’t like to do anyway, and they are relatively decent towards Jo. 

Where do you draw the line on boundaries with your ex-family (if you have one)? My mother and step-father often had my dad over for dinner when I was younger — an unusual occurrence, I know — so I had a bit of a unique view of what blended families could look like. It was baffling to me that people had separated parents who didn’t get along. I found out as I got older that it turns out my mom and dad were just much better friends than partners, but being able to have the three of them under one roof was both awesome and confusing. 

I don’t necessarily want this for Duder. His father and I made an effort for a little while to try and take him out, the three of us, to do something fun on occasion after his dad and I split up. I wanted to teach him that adults could be amicable regardless of the situation, and that his dad and I both loved him endlessly and even if we weren’t in love with each other any more, we could still be civil enough to do things with him that he enjoyed. Granted, I think his dad and I were both also incredibly lonely and bored at the time, but our intentions in the end were nothing but good. These were organized, civilized outings that were planned in advance; and if I got the slightest impression things may go south, I cancelled.

So how do you feel when people insist on taking more than you’re offering? Duder’s birthday party was our day to celebrate him and give him a couple of hours outside of school to really hang out with his pals; he also had a birthday dinner planned on the day with some family (and friends that had been like family) that kind of decided, very quickly, that they had no interest in me — so, for his sake, we gave up keeping him home for his birthday Monday night, sent him off to a “family” dinner that didn’t include his mother or step parent; so the Sunday party was all we got. He ended up having a lot of fun, but the day and the decisions made by the adults in his life turned it into a very stressful endeavour, for him especially.

I am generally the “stop by any time!” type of friend. If I have a space in my heart for you (which I almost always do), my door is open to you 24/7. Need a couch to sleep on? We’ve got two pull outs. Need to vent about something? Call or come over, I’ll be here. If it’s something as simple as you not having had a home-cooked meal in two weeks — I’ve got you covered. I love taking care of the people I care about, but there is a very fine line you have to cross to get into the “stop by any time” group of folks. 

When people invade my space, I don’t know what to do. Don’t get me wrong — anybody who aggressively and violently invades my space gets a few choice words and a swift smackaroo, if that doesn’t work, but with people I have to deal with regularly, people I love, people I respect; I’m an absolute disaster when it comes to standing up for myself and saying no. Physical boundaries (people helping themselves into my house when I haven’t asked them to come in, for example) are the worst for me to enforce. Emotional and mental ones (dropping news on me, or asking me to have major conversations without any time to plan), are a close second. I’m getting better at saying “no, I can’t talk about this right now”, while “no, you can’t be here, you need to leave” still feels alien to me. When I invite you somewhere, I expect you to show up — unless you’ve asked, like a considerate human being, if I would be comfortable with extra guests. Especially on special days. 

So, when my son spends his birthday party worrying about his infant family member getting hurt by his growth-spurting friends, there’s a problem. Especially when it happens. When it didn’t have to. Because this young child (that I have absolutely 0 problem with, believe me, he’s an adorable little guy and Duder adores him) was brought to an event by parents who invited themselves (this is an exaggeration — they were told they were invited and didn’t question it, or confirm) there was no preparation, and it put a lot of people in super uncomfortable positions. Including the little guy! He got (mildly) hurt!

I have had to consider my boundaries a lot more now. When it was just Broski and I, things were different — people still didn’t respect me or my decisions as his mother, but didn’t exactly question things either. I almost felt like I didn’t need to have them because the second anything  or anyone threatened to do harm to him, I knew I could turn into a mama bear in a heartbeat. Little did I know, the boundaries weren’t so much for him as they were for me, and I accepted a shit ton of bad behaviour as a result of not having them. As I’m discovering how to create them for myself, I am trying, with tons of help and guidance from Jo, to encourage him to create his own, while he’s young and has the bold attitude to do so with conviction — he has had great conversations with his school-age friends about being uncomfortable with them touching his bum, for example, and now they don’t. It’s incredible to watch. 

So for me, being someone in a pretty openly queer relationship (I don’t mean we have an open relationship, but we are both openly gay / queer) as well as the only one in our partnership that conforms to society’s standards of what female-bodied people “should” look like, I have to throw a lot of dark glances at people who sometimes aren’t kind in the way they look at / mumble about Jo. I sometimes play bodyguard in the women’s washroom (see The Bathroom Mirror). I corrected 7 and 8 year old kids on their pronouns. I was also willing to witness the start of WW3, and battle to the death (not really) if anything even slightly derogatory or offensive was directed at them, and I can say that with confidence now. 

Do you have a harder time maintaining your boundaries or holding your ground with those close to you, or total strangers? I have been conditioned and trained to be overly assertive in my boundaries with strangers, especially, unfortunately, cisgender, heterosexual men. You know the ones — 

I did a self-defence course in high school specifically geared towards young women. We did a variety of exercises, from mixed martial arts to simple holds, and got a lot of really awesome knowledge and experience from a man whose only goal was to teach us to protect ourselves. At the beginning of the course, he stood at the front of the room and told us the main reason most women who get hurt, get abducted, get mugged, etc. don’t make it — we’re scared as HELL to hurt people!! It’s literally wired into us. We have to specifically train our brains to use force and do damage when we’re in danger (specifically at the hands of another person) because if we don’t, our natural instinct is to nurture and prevent pain. I remember thinking to myself, “If this guy thinks I’m gonna sit there like a dead fish when somebody’s trying to haul me off into the back of their van, he’s got a whole other thing coming.” But when we did our final exercise — they staged an “abduction” where you would get pulled into a cube van and had 3 minutes (I believe, this was a long time ago) to do whatever it took to get out; biting, scratching, kicking, punching, you name it — only 3 of us made it out “alive”, because we were the only ones willing to actually hurt our “attacker” (instructor) in order to survive. 

Note: This program was obviously all carried out with our consent / the consent of our parents, and really an AMAZING experience that I learned a lot from. It’s designed to teach us to be more assertive in our self defence as women in order to protect us in any potentially dangerous situations — and something that way more teen girls need to see. 

I wasn’t friends with my instructor. We spent some time together, he taught our little group of 8 things that I will carry for a long time and that may save my life someday if I ever need it (hopefully not!). But I wasn’t worried about my boundaries with him. Yes, he helped develop some specific ones: don’t ever let somebody you don’t know get close enough to grab you, don’t let someone keep you quiet if you’re in danger, don’t ever be afraid to hurt someone if their sole intention is to hurt you, if someone tries to grab your purse, throw it to them and run as fast and as far as you can in the opposite direction. Well — I’d like to let me partner touch me, or grab me, so when is too much… is there too much? What about if I’m not in danger, but somebody is trying to keep me quiet, even if that just means not allowing me to speak my truth when I’m with them? What if someone’s sole intention is to hurt me, but it won’t damage me physically? What if what they’re taking from me isn’t in my purse — what if it’s my love, patience, generosity, time? I’m not going to bite and kick and scream at my ex’s family when they cross the line, or when Jo maybe says something that hits me in a sensitive spot; so what do you do when it’s your friend, sibling, parent, partner? 

Like I said, I, admittedly, am terrible at standing up for myself to the people I hold close to my heart. I attribute this to low self-worth (emotional view of self), which is something that’s slowly improving now that I don’t struggle as much with low self-esteem (physical view of self). I’ve let a lot of people, who were not ever supposed to, treat me badly. I’ve been in abusive friendships, relationships, partnerships and have let those continue for far longer than they should have. People who said they loved me. People who let me continue loving them in the way that I do; wholly, endlessly and without expectations, while having expectations of how that should feel, how I should express it, or how deeply I should immerse myself into it — with no consideration of how it feels to simply be tossed aside when someone has gotten all the benefit they can from you. I’m still trying to figure out how to do it, day-by-day; how to heal from the people who have hurt me, how to stand my ground so it doesn’t happen again — and I’ve been practicing by taking a stronger position for the people that I love, regardless of whether or not they return the favour. Jo and I are each others’ biggest and loudest cheerleaders, and even we have had moments where each of us felt like they could have been more present for the other. 

So I’ll end this with a vulnerable story, because sharing my mistakes may help someone else avoid a similar situation and this particular occurrence had a huge effect on Jo and I as a couple, as well as on my views of who my “friends” were and whether or not they were people I wanted to be calling my friends to begin with. 

I had a super close friend, we’ll call them K. K and I had a pretty complex history — I was kind of crazy about them for 2 years — but for the most part we were beer drinking, cigarette smoking, stayin’ up late kind of buddies; we got together a few times each week, even after I left the job we both worked at, and I thought the world of them for a long time. They are an incredibly, incredibly intelligent person with a world of experience, wisdom and a shit ton to offer, but it would be like speaking with the Dalai Lama and finding out that, even with all of his wisdom, knowledge and experience, he’s a member of the KKK, or supports a Nazi agenda. How? How can you be an intelligent and thoughtful individual, but still have such close-minded, misogynistic, racist, supremacist views? This was a thought that came to mind more and more often with K as we neared the end of our friendship and, one evening, they finally showed their true colours. This is going to be extremely hard for me to write about, so please be gentle with me.

I invited K over to the apartment soon after we moved in. They and Jo had met once already, I had been super excited for them to get to know each other because, of course, I loved them both dearly and would have loved to have had another pal we both enjoyed spending time with (K being an alcoholic and Jo being pretty much sober by then, seriously I don’t know what I was thinking). K brought a few cans of beer to share, forgetting that both Jo and I are sensitive to wheat, so then proceeded to polish them off of their own. Not a big deal, maybe a little inconsiderate, but fine, right?

Now, remember the boundaries we’ve been chatting about. Because K and I were very close, spent a lot of time together, and discussed some pretty heavy shit, we would inevitably disagree. Usually, we’d cheers to our difference of opinion, and move on. The only thing we could not talk about, though, no matter how many times it came up in discussion, was politics. K is a Rob Ford boosting, Stephen Harper worshipping, Conservative. Where I generally vote for the candidate I think will do the most effective job over the party they lead, based on principle alone I lean more towards the ideals of the Liberal party. I boast an all-for-one, one-for-all attitude most of the time, and believe things should be equal and that we just need to be decent f-ing human beings. I support the forward thinkers in their legalization of cannabis, our attempts to end the stigma around mental illness and our acceptance of LGBTQ+ communities, gender neutral washrooms and the like (for obvious reasons).

K sat up and wanted to tell us all about the “great” things Rob Ford was going to do for Ontario when I got the feeling that things were about to go downhill, really fast. Reversing the plan of allowing “do not wish to disclose” and “unknown” options for Trans and GNC people on medical and official documents was one of said great things. Eliminating any possibility of public gender neutral washrooms was another. We didn’t even touch on his plan for schools, healthcare, sex-ed — K wanted to get right to the stuff that would hit a nerve, because that’s just who they are. Before I even really had a minute to figure out what was going on, K had moved into pronouns and how pointless and idiotic they thought picking your pronouns was, and…

I said nothing. 

This is where I feel vulnerable, though. I just told you that I would’ve gone to war for Jo this past weekend, but that wasn’t always the case. I didn’t always feel like I could, like I was strong / brave / big / bold enough. So I let them down, hard — and they let me know, in front of K. Embarrassing, sure, but nothing compared to the dissociation that comes with being an agender person, being constantly misgendered, or having their gender choices / preferences / identifications ridiculed by someone that I had spoken so highly of. They trusted me and my judgement of K and thus, welcomed them into our home without much question — and was, essentially, shit on. I asked K to leave, noting that things had started to feel a little tense and awkward (still such a pushover, eh?) and let them leave without really saying what I thought I should have, but couldn’t find words for until later on.

Jo and I had a long, very difficult discussion about where I fell flat and what I could have said, and I obsessed about my mistakes and what I should have done differently for days. In the spirit of being vulnerable, I will be honest and tell you that I kept in touch with K for a while after that. I think we went for coffee once and I tried to explain to them what had happened, that they’d obviously hit a soft spot and probably shouldn’t speak about gender or sexual identification / orientation if they were going to continue to be in my life, and even then, my dear readers; I look back on it now and see that even that hadn’t been enough. It wasn’t about soft spots, or opinions, or language — their morals and perspectives are so. completely. different. from mine and I was discovering that that difference, unfortunately, wasn’t something I could ignore. I could dive deeper into it and talk about the fundamentals of human rights and how that includes people of all races, denominations, genders, identities, ages, abilities etc etc etc, but I trust that you, dear readers, are good people, and we agree on these things — I still think K is a good person, but their good is exclusive and I needed friends that were inclusive; not only of my partner but of my child, my lifestyle and the fact that we are a queer as f*ck family. 

I deleted K’s number the last time we were in Stratford. Actually, I went through a deleted a lot of people’s numbers. If I hadn’t talked to them in 3 months, they were gone (with a few exceptions). It didn’t feel “good”, perse, because they were a reliable friend and I’d hoped we’d be able to stay that way, but boundaries are something I’m trying to work on, and one of them is treating my family and I with respect. If you can’t manage that — you don’t get to see my castle. 

Perhaps, the problem is not the intensity of your love, but the quality of the people you are loving.” 

– Warsan Shire

This was a long one, guys — thanks for sticking through it with me.

— Aisha

The bamboo that bends is stronger than the oak that resists.

– Japanese Proverb

My chest feels like the cosmos today. Wide, unknown in its expanse.

This isn’t the first time my chest cavity has felt like this.

It is just especially interesting, because this week featured my typical ‘springtime intense’ dreamscapes. In one particular dream, Aisha’s doctor motioned me over to the table. He wanted me to see how the surgery was going. In the dream I was as hesitant as I’d expect myself to be in real life but I moved towards the surgery light, past the mint green sheets that created a barrier around the surgical staff, closer still to the metal table, her form laying there. Finally, bending over to peer at the incision and seeing… the galaxy.

What the heck right?

I have serious issues when considering ‘things under my skin’, for instance: a fear that bugs or germs are subdermal but waiting to come out (like spider egg under skin that burst a million babies, *barf). Aisha’s entire back experience has tiptoed along this fear agilely. Sometimes the fact that she had hands or instruments in the middle of her back, where nothing ever goes, is so overwhelming. Because she’s still here, normal, in pain but not an alien. I make myself look at her scar (it is cute actually) because the scar is fine, her skin is fine – it is the fact that she is still not ok, but they were in there, is what is not fine. How do you put that down folks? Fixing her is still a mystery.  

How does this weird dream, my subdermal issues and my chest-feeling have any connection? Their connection lies in how I feel or process fears that are not present.     

I have a heightened, though subconscious, state of fear. It brings to mind Trevor Noah’s standup bit about being in Bali and why he chose not to sit in the front row. Survivalist mentality? I don’t know, because I can recognize that I am for the most part, safe. But there have been lesson-worthy moments that have taught me that unless it is just me, in my space, anything could happen. It is self-preserving, I suppose, an over balancing of safe enough vs…?

The problem with feeling this way is that it means my fears have shuffled me into a vulnerable corner, it is many (situations) against one (me) at this point, and I can’t rage my way out because there is no ‘enemy.’ These situations are things I am looking forward to but haven’t ‘prepared enough’ for, in the event they pan out the way they have previously. Ultimately, this means that big ticket deals are on the horizon that in history haven’t played out so well. What’s on the list? Well…

My mum is coming up in two weeks for a visit. That visit is going to be busy, with a lot of things that are out of the norm. My sister is meeting duderroo for (technically the second, but) first time over a quick lunch in the midst of a packed day. Budmuffin’s birthday party is this weekend, and while I am loathed to admit it, I am generally having problems step-parenting right now, so a celebration event feels weird. I will not affect tomorrow, but I miss the easy flow we used to have. Aisha has been magnificent at bonding duder and I. She folded me into the two of them like the gifted baker she is, yet we are a complicated unit of five, sometimes six adults, plus duderonomy. So, our true ‘us-three-moments’ seem brief but I cling to them andselfishly recognize, that I now need that easiness in order to be on point. (Obviously this is my next self-undertaking) Otherwise, I falter and while Aisha is gracious about it, it’s not pretty folks.

Work-wise, I have hopefully secured two more contracts, which means I will be even busier, but we’ll be more secure, and finally, well… there’s a big announcement (Big A) I can’t make at this time (not pregnant, and overall positive) except to those who know, but there’s a lot of road work yet to do.

Breaking it down…

I am so excited to see my mother. We have a unique and special relationship; she is an amazing memory, a constant source of reassurance. She’s always just there, as she is. Problemo is, well, we do not talk about my gender. Trans issues are huge for her, because my being her daughter is what has made our connection, not that I’m an awesome person. When my cousins asked that Aiden’s earlier name not be used or referred to, my mother was in shock – “How are we all supposed to forget how cute and pretty [dead name] was, of course they are Aiden now, but also [dead name] then.” I understand this with cis people, especially mothers. I hate when people change who they are, but trans issues aren’t like turning out to be a backstabbing wahoo. Observing the community more, following more non binary Instagram accounts, etc. has really emphasized what I already knew, which is: it is the most important thing to value someone because they are a person, a human. But we attach meanings to the details; parents raise their kids biologically, friends used to be made based on biological gender. It is crazy to break away from someone’s pattern if you didn’t realize you relied on it. Example. If your mum was soft, kind, gentle, patient, plush … was that picturesque figure of motherhood who never betrays us, well, how would you feel if they were secretly in a fight club or killed puppies on Tuesdays. It is a shock to find out a side of someone you hadn’t considered, but you not acknowledging or considering it isn’t necessarily *their* problem.

Acknowledging the shock of ‘the other side’ is what people do in the apologizing part of coming out as anything. I haven’t heard one story where, “I’m sorry I didn’t tell you earlier” wasn’t uttered, but rarely can the conversation immediately include the, “imagine my shock too, ten years ago when this came to me,” because well, “I knew ten years ago,” is what hurts. The battle is always hard. Expressing a sentiment like “I’m trans” or “I’m gay/bi/poly” too early into your discovery can drum up harsh criticism. So, we learn to wait until we are sure enough, but total confidence and certainty seems to be the last brick in the pathway, so years slip past and the ‘secret’ grows.

This conversation requires a lot from my mum. I don’t feel shame in not forcing it on her. It means the pings will be pinging around over the long weekend. But those pings hold nothing to the look in her eye when she feels… shocked. Spending her sexagenarian years in a super small town made her comfortable with small town things. I’ve always been a shock, a bit of a burden, so why push her septuagenarian boundaries? She is kind, an ally to the LGBT+ community and ultimately, she is so proud and accepting of me. The moments are when she tries to not comment on my hairstyle. She has always been an advocate of me in male clothing, but my hair is always too edgy, provocative, and pointedly making a statement. Finally, I have lost a lot of weight, and that will be a thing (potentially). A thing because I’ve probably lost 25lbs (11kg) since she saw me last, and it doesn’t look all that healthy, and my hair went gray. Weight is her personal demon, and… my general stress and lack of success are probably her greatest fears. A lot to wade through, no? Well, let’s end it with the fact that, through all of this duo-shit, we as a foursome have to team up and undertake a BIG DAY. Aisha and duder aren’t my concern, and explaining what my concern is, is a whole other story.

All of that makes me feel vulnerable and can’t see a way over, under, or around it.

My sister – as you all know – is my [insert proper level of idolatry with independence and respect] but my brain is going all kinds of places, preemptively checking, on how this Big A is going to affect her. The funny part is, I know this is just a gathering of my neurosis because it’s like this: if the Big A were that we were going vegan, my ‘concern’ is how our veganism may impact the social shit she has to deal with as a butcher (she isn’t, btw). I can feel her justified stress and considerations of what her life is going to look like in three to six months with SO MANY OTHER FACTORS involved, that this Big A, well – it is SO. NOT. IMPORTANT. But she is to me, so my brain just goes there.

Birthday party. Ideally, I think we would all hope that split families can celebrate together. I think if everyone is on board and cool with it, it is incredible and worth aspiring to. I am grateful for learning about how this could look by joining this family (Aisha navigates a lot of people). I just also believe that if two years have gone by, then maybe the fusion needs to start smaller and on and mutual terms. Budmuff’s (how do you like the new name?) grandma is nice to me and has been from the beginning in a distant, but cool way; we commiserate, she and my mum like each other. Aisha’s multiple parents are all welcoming to me, authentically. But I do not know any other member of duder’s bio-D’s family and yet, they’ve decided to join our party. As a queer, nonbinary person, meeting new people is never an easy thing. Especially when I recognize I am in an area where most people just aren’t comfortable with my type of spice.

We are already going to be in a big, noisy, child-filled space (overwhelming, no?) with other adults to navigate, public washrooms, misgendering by duderonomy’s friends (not wanting it to affect him at ALL because he corrects people the most) and general socializing. Every fiber of me wants to break a bone instead of going. But I will go, with a smile, confidence, and a rocking ballcap. I just need my chest cavity to empty out, so I don’t have a panic attack and turn into raging-giganto-bullitch. I want to trust that D-fam will be welcoming and above board – but the problem is, I can’t trust that. Am I going to assume they won’t? No – fuck no. But I can’t implicitly trust them. Even if they do show up, try to get to know me, or whatever, they are still coming to the one event we had ‘alone’ with him. Thursday last week, he was out, Friday-Saturday-Sunday morning at grandma’s, Sunday is party day (we invited both grand-sets) but he’s gone Monday, Tuesday, Thursday-Sunday morning next week too. So, there are just a lot of emotions I need to be super adult about, but my brain is getting in the way.

And work. Things are turning out slowly but surely in this department. These new contracts may be exactly what we need to be secure, they are engaging and interesting and add diversity. I guess the question is, how much ability do I have? Yesterday was the first day I’ve had off in weeks. Can one balance 3-5 remote positions and still, be human? Aisha has meal-planned the sh*t out of this house. She is in charge of figuring out duder’s stuff, healthy meals, allergy news, growth needs and his schedule. But ultimately, it has to be on healing, on figure out what to be next. Her focus and drive are amazing to watch grow and evolve; she is carving hill after hill down so we can move forward but is beating herself up over them not being mountains.

Sometimes perspective is hard to gain. I feel like all I do is work (on my computer) and she feels like all she does is cook (alone in the kitchen). This back surgery and ensuing decisions have me feeling like while we are as solid as ever, there is less time to check in. Or trust that what we are supplying is sufficient. This is a vulnerable space.

Finally, its springtime. Are you affected by the seasons?

There is no time I feel more Taurean than in spring. I feel restless, and huffy, my seasonal drive-to-hibernate shuts off and well, I feel invigorated.  

From spring cleaning and seasonal transitions (car, house, clothing, chores) to more day light to take advantage of there is just more once winter fades. Yet, constant allergies, tiredness (those springtime dreams I was telling you about) and general hiccoughs of change are like speed bumps to the ‘more.’ And Hope. Spring brings hope.

I am not really comfortable with hope as a feeling or concept. It seems baseless. It seems like such a passive, directionless, dependent emotion. Cruel, I know. Sometimes I feel like I sound like a monster when I write this stuff down. But here are the feelings, related to hope, I always embrace: Anticipation, curiosity, forward motion. Hope makes me feel like a child, waiting for something innocent and lovely to happen, but then its crushed without an explanation of why. Hope is fragile, especially for me, in April.

I recognized my relationship with spring is strange, a long time ago. This month holds a lot of memories, sadness, new and old dates. There is the excitement of wearing a vest or sneakers, only to realize a coat and possibly a scarf, were still necessary. Going to bed with the windows open, a gentle breeze brushing your face, only to wake up to snow on your windowsill. In many ways, I love the giant F-YOU April brings.

I don’t have any grand summary for any of this. I believe I have reached the cosmos space required for this weekend. I feel calm, vast, and aware. So here goes.

“Courage is not the absence of fear but rather the judgement that something is more important than fear; The brave may not live forever but the cautious do not live at all.”

– Meg Cabot

“I must be a mermaid…I have no fear of depths and a great fear of shallow living.”

– Anais Nin

I have been doing quite a bit of reflecting lately. There’s a lot of upcoming change in our life that has kind of…halted. I will take most of the blame for this (the rest just being in need of time, honestly) because I am, amongst those that know me and some that don’t, a notorious procrastinator. This is something my parents’ had a habit of pointing out almost daily — I think more as a way to bring it to my attention in order to help me address it than a means of being hurtful — and something I am working really hard on, especially now that I have a partner that takes deadlines, schedules and organization very seriously. Not to say that Jo is the only reason I considered putting an effort into dealing with things and getting things done in a more timely manner (ie: when I have the opportunity and not when there is no other option), but there are certain concessions you make to make your partner happier and, realistically, one of the many things I love about Jo is the fact that they constantly make me want to be a better person, so… Self-reflection!

Part of what is feeding this post is that I’ve been doing a lot of looking into adult ADHD. I was diagnosed about 5 years ago after a really cool conversation with my doctor — I went in suspecting I had it, he listened, and I was right. I was medicated for a little while, but Ritalin (Concerta, specifically) made me lose weight at an alarming rate and was quite expensive, so I’ve been (sort of) coping with it daily for about 3 years. I’ve found a cool group on facebook that I’ve only just joined, but am finding easy to relate to so far. 

Procrastination is a huge, and frustrating side effect of being someone blessed with the chemical imbalance that is ADHD. Blame it on time blindness, inability to focus (or a moment of hyperfocus), to that impulsive decision to go see a movie, or just the fact that it’s virtually impossible to start a task and finish it in one sitting. Even as I attempt to type this, I find my thoughts jumping through hoops I can’t even see, to the point where I’ve erased and retyped this one sentence about twelve times now. 

Though I’m not typically one to resort to labels and classifications, I do enjoy being able to put a word to my experience, even if it only helps me to find others who are feeling the same. I have a few categories that I loosely fit into, that I check in with semi-regularly to help me figure out what’s going on in my brain when I might not see it at face value. 

So I’m a Pisces INFP adult with ADHD. Mouthful, maybe, but it really helps me see where I stand in relation to events and, especially recently, in relation to the people I interact with. Being a Pisces means that I’m super intuitive, and knowing this means making decisions based on a “gut feeling” doesn’t feel as irrational as it may have felt years ago, when I spent more time second guessing the decisions I was making rather than actually making them. It also means that I’m extremely sensitive towards the feelings of others (also applies to the INFP side) and am heavily affected by the people around me. The negative side of my Pisces nature is that I am also easily discouraged and have a hard time committing to things I’m not invested in (hello ADHD). 

So, as you can see — my multitude of “types” fit me relatively well, and coexist, somewhat intertwined with one another. Certain traits cross over into other categorizations and when you shake it up and mix it together…you get me!

How does this relate to how I deal with others? Well, I’m finding more and more now that people are just…different. I love how diverse our world is, and I love the people I decide to keep around not only for our similarities but for our obvious differences. I am also incredibly grateful for my super short and sweet (or not so sweet) interactions with strangers — for the same reason. I am the first person to love and appreciate differences; in opinion, in experience. But what happens when the very core of your functioning differs completely from someone else? 

I feel like the example everyone starts with is their parents. To make a super long history short, my parents separated when I was 4, my step dad came into the picture shortly after, and I found out that my “dad” wasn’t my birth father when I was 8. My mother and I are very similar in a lot of ways but have become very different people as I’ve grown up. My dad and I look very much alike, despite having no genetic relation, and I see a lot of my younger behaviour in him. My biological father and I look nothing alike, but I have inherited a lot of his traits — a fact that was particularly mind-blowing when I finally figured out where my anxiety/depression/addictive personality came from. I only mention the realization in that way because my mother was only ever really forthright with me about her depression, and my father and I have spoke at lengths about the similarities in our negative traits. I spent a lot of my youth being unsure of where I fit — blended family, troubled child, super smart but not challenged enough — and not feeling like I really looked like, or took after any of my parental figures was confusing. My mother and step father were incredibly athletic — I was fat as a child. They tried to encourage me by signing me up for cross-country (I hated it), and bribing me with a cruise — as long as I agreed to run a 5k in Barbados (also hated it). My father worked on video games and did trades work — I was an artistically inclined, musically gifted kid. I remember him telling me my Hallowe’en costume wasn’t “scary enough”, the look of sheer confusion on his face when he came to my one ballet recital. How we blend with the people around us is so important, as is being accepted by those people, so I spent a lot of time trying to act like everyone else. 

Comprising just 4% of the population, the risk of feeling misunderstood is unfortunately high for the INFP personality type – but when they find like-minded people to spend their time with, the harmony they feel will be a fountain of joy and inspiration.

16Personalities

As I’ve gown up I’ve been able to have more and more great conversations with all of my parents about my upbringing and their influences in my life. My dad has found his spot in the music hobby category by learning to play guitar, quite well, and using that to bond with me. My mother and step father have since separated (long story), but I ran a 5k the year after that cruise, and my step father ran it with me. I’d also planned to run a 30k race with my mother a couple of years ago, before I hurt myself and now, running is one of the things I miss most about my life pre-injury. I can now specifically pinpoint traits that I’ve adopted from each one of these people; some of them good, some of them not. I have less trouble calling them out when they say things that aren’t true, and I’m having an easier time asking for what I need. I’m trying to carry this over into other relationships, including my partnership with Jo, and even into day to day interactions.

Jo and I have great chats about how we can encourage our brains to meet in the middle — a feat that can be insurmountable for a hyper organized individual matched with the messiest of the messy brained folk. Sometimes our cortexes collide and we clash, though not often, and I have to fight my ADHD’s tendency to get completely discouraged as well as my Piscean habit of tucking myself away as deeply and as quickly as possible. Mix a panic / anxiety disorder into this mix and things get very hairy, very quickly. 

For Jo, being someone who deals with things as soon as they possibly can, me hiding out until I’m “comfortable enough” (which sometimes never happens) was becoming a problem. During confrontation I am a wide-eyed, frozen statue who, I imagine, is impossible to talk to and/or reason with. Trust me, my head isn’t a very nice place to be in these moments but the quickest getaway I have the habit of using. Granted, the last time I really “retreated” was after a conversation addressing this exact issue — so I’ve been consistently working on it since. 

This leads me to what initially triggered this post in the first place. I have a hard time feeling discouraged with Jo because I love them endlessly. I could feel as beat up, knocked down, useless as I have ever felt (they never make me feel any of these things, mind you) and I would never, ever give up on them. My patience, love and flexibility for them knows no bounds; the same extends to Duder. Though there are days I feel tired, maybe a little run down, I never get the “fuuuuuck THIS” feeling I do whenever anything else has a negative outcome. 

Today I had an interesting interaction with someone I have been doing business with for about 2 years. They have been a great support of my businesses, and I really enjoy the things I get to do for them. We had a bit of a disagreement today on a previous transaction where they weren’t satisfied with the quality of work I did. Without going into too much detail, this person then brought in a personal matter (my back injury) as a way of asking if I felt I was capable enough to do business with them in the future. 

Remember the “fuck this” reaction I mentioned before? That happened today, swiftly and without mercy. I dislike the fact that it can rear its head so quickly and I am immediately underwater, with my feet tied and the only thing I can do is doggy paddle. There were many levels to this reaction: I hadn’t had a negative outcome from this business yet, so that was a shot to my ego; I honestly felt I had done good work for this person, despite having taken some creative liberties, so the reaction was 100% unexpected, I do great work for significantly less money than any comparable business AND, realistically, I thought that questioning the future quality of my work based on my (literally life-changing) injury was quite provocative. 

INFPs often take challenges and criticisms personally, rather than as inspiration to reassess their positions. Avoiding conflict as much as possible, INFPs will put a great deal of time and energy into trying to align their principles and the criticisms into a middle ground that satisfies everybody.

16Personalities

This is absolutely true for me. I have an incredibly hard time separating criticism from personal offence, which was the main challenge in dealing with this customer today. Doing the aforementioned self-reflection, though, meant that I could sit for 10 minutes, plan out my response, and feel good suggesting they take their business elsewhere — as I wasn’t prepared to handle the extra stress wondering if it was going to be “good enough” and, honestly, I didn’t want to risk them being disappointed again either. I’m learning to walk away and turn down offers that don’t inspire me and encourage me to do my best work — but not even just work; my best friendships, relationships, parenting — and trust me, sometimes it’s hard to say no. 

What about you? Have you looked into your personality type and contemplated how that affects the way you function day to day? Are there certain people you just clash with, regardless of how hard you try and get along? Do you have labels, and do you use them as a monicker or just a way to categorize? 

I love psychology and the way our brains work. My own is frustrating more often than not, but I’m having a helluva time trying to decode it and figure it out. The ways other people behave fascinates me, and I find I do a lot of self-discovery when I really sit and pick apart somebody else’s actions. I also sometimes find myself wondering if there is anyone else that does this kind of self-reflection (because honestly it’s hard to believe sometimes, haha!) or whether people float through life, not wondering how their actions affect others. It’s amazing how much better our interactions get when we start to understand and become more sure of ourselves, when we’re so confident in our skin that the actions of others have only the affect we allow. Today was proof that I’m not quite there yet, because if I’m going to be genuine I don’t know when I’m going to feel like filling a cake order next, but I’m taking it one day at a time. I’m sure next week I’ll be making enough cupcakes and cookies to feed the city’s homeless, because I really do love it — but for today, I’m giving myself permission to say “fuuuuuck THIS”.

“Every life is a canvas and every interaction is a brush, therefore we’d be wise to consider how we handle the paint.”

– Craig D. Lounsbrough

Thanks for reading, friends. 🙂
— Aisha

All that glitters, is not gold.

I had one of those days yesterday; actually, I had one of those weeks this week where most things seemed a lil’intense. By intense I mean, not only did Friday appear and we had one box of duder’s school snacks left (no big deal), we literally have no kid-appointed-food-in-the-house. Still, no big deal but whoa – not my style.

There was also a lot of high-hopes at the beginning of the week, rallying to get on top of all that stuff, and then… a bump big enough to take over Monday night and Tuesday and leave stain marks on Wednesday and Thursday. One of those things that even though you don’t want to give it attention, the number of places it affects leaves you constantly bumping into it when you think you’re in a safe zone thinking about, I don’t know, when you’re going to clean the shower next week. I will say that having just watched Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day, it is easier to put weeks like these into perspective.

I don’t want to talk about all that stuff though, I want to talk about a cool moment last night where I found myself to be… Bored. Yup, the vacant brain, task-list pretty complete, no book to read and no games of interest, boredom that rarely settles over me. I will say, I’ve rarely experienced boredom like other people seem to have. I enjoy my own company immensely, and can usually think of something that I need, or want, to get done. Last night though was a mix of, “I don’t want to do what’s left” and “There is no evening activity I feel like doing right now” which usually means I’m asleep by nine. Exciting, I know.

So, what’s the big deal with boredom? Well, I found it refreshing. It was nice to turn my brain on autopilot and just sit. Aisha and I have had a few interesting conversations lately about the phrase ‘adulting’, which, thankfully, not many people in our life use. It’s one I don’t have space for, namely because I am finally in a life stage where I feel successful. Where being anal, and on top of things, and paying your bills and having life insurance are cool, so, I am by proxy ‘cause, I’ve got it lined up! But at the same time, the undercurrent of what ‘adulting’ means to people who resist the obligations of being thirty-plus started churning. How by having embraced ‘adulting’ I am doing ok. For instance, I needed some personal time the other day, having had a raising-a-boy-as-a-strong-minded-adult moment, so I decided to clean the shower before I showered, while I was in the shower. I got to ‘play around’ before getting down to business. This was a big moment of blending a duty with a need because my showers are usually the most functional eight minutes you’d maybe ever witness (not, an invitation 😉). I have just recognized the things that need to be done and imagine that my moving through my day (actually just doing chores) I’m actually doing amazing trick shots on a skateboard, swooping down to grab that piece of laundry then springing up with an awesome kickflip to pay the electricity bill two days early. But, as you can imagine, this means that I do not have a lot of idle time.

On to my point. I was inspired to start thinking about boredom when a friend posted the New York Times opinion piece, “Let Kids Get Bored Again”. I can attest to having parents that were into us learning about idle time. I was alone a lot, which is not to say I was bored. I’m blessed with an epic imagination so with the toys I had, my time was well spent. I look at kids today, especially after a week of watching my two favorite kids interacting and getting to know each other and wonder if they even actually know boredom. I don’t think boredom exists in the same sense, but something else does. Like, boredom for me was day five of August, before we went to Nova Scotia, with no TV and no friends around. I’d be sitting under a tree in the backyard listless. No camp, no friends, but I wasn’t sad or lacking. I was just… day five of self-entertaining day play while my parents were busy. That was boredom lol. I like how Pamela Paul fosters an excitement for boredom, for being told to ‘go out and play’ or torturing your sibling in the backseat of a long drive. I was telling duderonomy on our drive to Stratford that when we would go to Florida our ‘entertainment gift’ was a box of clementine’s we could challenge ourselves to peel in one go. We would play eye-spy or I’m thinking of an animal, sleep, read or do word-searches. We’d sing and listen to music. I think my lil’guy would be fine with that, but he does like the reassurance of his electronics.

Do you get bored? Are you ok with the word bored, or is there a different one you prefer to use? I looked into it a little, because I feel that boredom – as a concept, needed to be flushed out for me. I found the article, “There Are Five Types of Boredom: Which Are You Feeling?” which was cool because I like when people separate within one concept. I think the five types fully capture what I would consider the good and bad of boredom, but at the base of it, the worry is it can be a non-productive, uncomfortable space.

As adults, we are not really talking about the light, idle, directionless feeling kids should feel. Ultimately, I think adult-boredom is static, but I like how this article makes me reconsider whether that is negative through their differentiation: indifferent, calibrating, searching, reactant, and apathetic. Most adults who ‘catch a moment’ would be in the category of ‘indifferent’ boredom. Calibrating, searching and reactant all seem to have potential to stir motivation or change, with reactant seeming almost volatile and obsessive. Apathetic boredom seems to be what many may confuse for depression, and the one that flags my brain.

The problem is, most people don’t really do the work in moments like these to consider what type of bored they are and whether they should follow along with the recommended course of action. I would also argue that you can be 90% fine but bored with the room you spend most of your time in, and that can cause a type of restlessness. So, when we talk about boredom, whether as adults or in reference to kids, what matters?

There are (sticking with condensed reference materials here) Six Scientific Benefits of Being Bored that occur when people use their boredom to motivate. When Wikipedia gets involved, you can see why I worry about the other unspoken side of boredom – motivation.

“Boredom can act as an emotion, a drive, state of mind and numerous other constructs which may be both state (environmental) and trait (internal) based in nature. Everyone experiences boredom differently…Boredom interferes with many of our behavioral, cognitive and physiological constructs, often to the detriment of the individual. In the context of motivation, boredom may have an even larger effect. Being motivated requires a number of processes not limited to attention, well-being, satisfaction and reward. Individuals who are more prone to boredom find it harder to focus and attend to stimuli in their environments…Although boredom is mostly seen as negative, recent evidence supports its necessity in our daily lives, particularly for goal setting.

Wikipedia

Motivation is a huge interest of mine. Namely because it is literally behind everything we do in our lives. Are you a go-getter, do you make altruistic choices? Are you interested in doing well in school, or at work? Do you plough through everything for that moment that you can experience the thing that truly brings you happiness? I don’t think motivation is something that can be taught, but it can be fostered. I think teaching someone to be motivated is insanely hard. How do you introduce a concept that relies entirely on the individual that is a constant ‘job’ to a kid? Or an adult for that matter – “if you stopped buying a ten-dollar game every pay-cheque, you’d have x-number of dollars saved” – because now is so much better, no matter how old you are. Motivation is like the balance of everything so boredom can be enjoyed. But the rewards are always far off.  

Motivation is best identified as the unbelievable stories of anyone who has directed a crazy life change and a) went back to school and did some crazy philanthropic project b) lost a ton of weight and is now the spokes person for ‘x’ or whatever story you know. Motivation, when harnessed is an incredible power. Unfortunately, I seem to be a motivated adult who has no where to put it. When I was solo, I committed to Muay Thai and reading, nutrition, and a super intense physical workout regime. So, it was funny after being in a state of “how the hell do families find anything to do in Niagara” for the past year that I found this piece (on reddit and I wanted you to read, so I hope this is legal):

So, for my brain with all these considerations I guess the natural place I arrive at is this: do kids need to go back to boredom, or do we need to up our motivation game?

As an adult, I have moved, relocated and changed my environment often, to downplay the actual amount. What keeps me motivated falls on a, small to fear-inducing, scale that I am trying to figure out how to impart to my lil’fam cautiously and calmly, but the fact that some motivators literally have imaginary monsters chasing me as a consequence, doesn’t make it easy to kid myself that it would help duder with HIS overactive imagination.

But how do I teach duder motivation, when YouTube and all kids-entertainment-systems teach how to engage, win, compete, move from activity to activity, and not be bored. Can an almost-eight-year-old hear beyond the “not right now” to figure that he is the coolest thing he’ll ever know? I think not, but I don’t know how to- nor do I want to- fabricate a motivational ‘ah ha’ moment. For anyone!

I suppose the question is, does being bored mean we make space for motivation? At what age does Nancy Colier’s assertion, “It’s not only ok to let your child be bored, it’s paramount that you do so” (Psychology Today) change? How do you accept boredom as an adult?

“…I also believe that introversion is my greatest strength. I have such a strong inner life that I’m never bored and only occasionally lonely. No matter what mayhem is happening around me, I know I can always turn inward.”  

― Susan Cain

regular static stretching outside periods of exercise may increase power and speed, and reduce injury

Well, fancy meeting you here.

It’s been awhile, I know. Realistically though, I think it has only been a week since I posted, but I have run out of my back log of posts! This is both good and bad; good, because I have a ton of thoughts freely roaming about, bad because, well, time is somewhat lacking these days.

On the bright side, my editing gig is going well, I received a small raise for my efforts!

Our time in Stratford was beyond amazing, full of sights and sounds from my childhood that made my kids’ eyes light up. It was amazing to experience the full effect of what is left to the crows here: community, kids laughing, friends talking. It was a great reprieve.

So, after all that where is my head at. It is stuck on a Facebook post in a group I’m a part of. The question was:

“If where you stand communicates the nature of the relationship you have with your partner (or ideal partner if you are single), would your partner stand in front, beside or slightly behind you?”

I know I have written ad nauseum about boundaries, relationships, etc. But the convoluted thought train still chugs on, and therefore, so must I.

I have had a lot of partners. In most of those relationships I have been out, front and centre, in a mix of whatever was happening at the time. In some relationships, I felt like the performing Russian bear – mostly confused enactments of signals that meant I wasn’t going to get reprimanded. In others, I felt more like the ‘heavy’, my meeker lover hiding behind my anger and size.

There are a lot of factors for me when considering this question, which is why namely I am writing my response here, and not on Facebook.

I think I approach my partnerships with as clear of an understanding of what they are capable of bringing to the table. For instance, if I had a basic expectation that my partner match (50/50) my level of household contribution, they would be met with an insanely tall, OCD-driven list of ‘to-dos’’. I dropped that ‘hope’ a long time ago, because realistically it isn’t a hope. I don’t even want to have OCD so why would I want my partner to experience that honey-do list?   

But how do you figure out what makes your heart feel like there is balance? Where does your person stand, and what kind of stilts are you setting them up with?

Aisha and I are shoulder to shoulder, hands held. There are many people who may think that is not what our relationship looks like. But here are my two cents. When I met Aisha, I knew what her… Luggage carousel looked like. I was able to look at the track and see if I could handle what’s swinging around. Granted, I was in a cool solo space where I had the time to consider everything. Because what she brings to the table is incredible, so the ‘lower points’ were worth considering.

 What do you do, if you hope for a (promised?) change, but it never appears? Had you waited years for that one ex, or friend for that matter, to… I don’t know, do the dishes? Fold or put away laundry? What about the bigger things?

I have been afforded cool moments where someone close to me, who knows me well, can speak to the side of a situation I am having trouble understanding. Example one, my sister is a step-parent. I could ask her those weird questions that bio-parents may judge, and it was a cool and explorative space.

What is drawing on my mind though, is this. Aisha is killing the ‘promise hurdles’ she made to me (and herself) when she set her eyes on me. Promise hurdles being the admissions of ‘best-self’ potentials we’ll strive to meet. Key note: I don’t make these anymore, the only promise I made was that I would learn to be an amazing step- and co-parent, but who I was at that time was the shape I would stay (with growth) until the end.

We have had to have three *major* conversations in our nineteen-month romance, but the mountains we have had to scale together could have presented opportunity for multiple, destructive arguments. The reason we have avoided them, isn’t just because of what I will say eventually. It is the result of being in a respectful and needs-acknowledging relationship (remember, we both really hate confrontation), because one of my go-to reactions is gigantic, angry and awe-inspiring conversations (read: a fucking-verbal-shake-down-on-what-for). Aisha’s main go-to reaction is to shut down (anxiety, reflective thinker, etc.)

I was reading You Deserve to Date Someone Who…, an article with a really long title that ends with Texts You Good Morning, Every Morning. Not because I am lacking in attention or, as the article suggests, have I fallen into a place where I am not prioritized. Nope, I like reading these articles to figure out what people are thinking about. I have a funny association with morning texts that is as far from romantic as one could get: after my father passed, I texted my mother and sister every morning for a year. Told them something I loved about them, something that was making my day a little easier. I continued on with my mother, because I think it is important. I understand what the writer is saying, and I will set my tangent on solid relationships aside because I’ve come to understand it is very personal what someone accepts as solid, perfect and working.

While we’re here… What are your thoughts on the above? Do you adjust to fluidity with your partner? Are you people who have independent lives and meet for dinner, to make love and sleep, and join a gym together? Outside of in/dependence levels, what about your 5 Love Languages and/or are you even interested in them? My thoughts go to examples I would never name, but that interest me to no end. What levels of mistake repetition do you accept, for example? How big of a mistake do you even allow to repeat? I was just saying to Aisha (as I started this with as well) that with OCD the ‘violations’ my brain filters on the daily, of cleanliness, orderliness, the list is endless coupled with the gender, intellectual, social, whatever happens when you teach kids something and it is discarded, daily (which I am obviously exaggerating. Duderroo is actually impressive at respecting deep level boundaries without conversation). So, to turn this back on me, dishes, are a violation. I hate dishes left in the sink. Why? It’s not germs (but, it is), it’s not that it’s inefficient (though, holy F people, it is so inefficient) or all the other reasons I could give, I hate it because you are literally leaving them for me. But, is this something I am going to rail against? Not anymore (sorry people who had to deal with the time I took to work on that).

One thing that I am inspired to do lately is move around to hear what’s happening on the other side of a frustrating conversation. I don’t like it, and I am uncomfortable a lot, but I am growing. It is making me stronger in my own conviction but allows me to remain gentle. When I think about how that extends to the two people who live with me, forgive my boldness, I feel like they are damn lucky. Look at the article

Man Shares tips (and another long title). This guy is the extreme and awesome example of going in to the thing that someone is struggling with, hearing them, helping them articulate it, because then, friends, there is a lot of shit you can put down.

There is a lot more I’d probably like to say about this, but I also have a lot of other thoughts (and Honey-dos) left to, well… You know.

I’m happy to touch base though.

(I just ended this with, Miss you, so thought I’d let you know in parentheses)