“It’s a funny thing about life, once you begin to take note of the things you are grateful for, you begin to lose sight of the things that you lack.”

  ― Germany Kent

Wanting to write has been like having a line from a song stuck in my head for the past three weeks, coming to my consciousness in bits and pieces.

I’ve wanted to sit and catch up, mainly with myself, but also with you. I know we have a bit of a one-way relationship, but in all honesty, I missed connecting with you. I have also really missed the space I had to look into this brain of mine.

I tried writing last week. It ended up being a messy, ranty, nonsensical piece that even Aisha said I should maybe come back to, once I’d thought about it. I deleted it on the spot.

So, what’s happened? Where has my five-page deconstruction ability gone?

Yesterday I realized that maybe, just maybe, I have too much on my plate. There is a lot I need to address, internally and externally: my mother is coming in a month, and I have to write her a “this is why I am so different” letter (welcome to my family), we are still trying to adjust to this new life – Abomb and duderroo are out on their morning date, I am working (more on that), and we are… BUSY. The minutiae that has no order also includes: garbage can and tags, get second job (having lost second job before starting), paint mum’s room and get her stuff here, make sure duder has an amazing time before heading back (won’t be touching on this, because the pain I feel in his absence is a mind-bender), getting bikes, changing the toilet fittings, make sure bunny isn’t dying in this heat, making sure Aisha is adjusting and feeling good, and also not dying in this heat, and figuring out friendships that are longstanding, but that I’ve always been physically distant from.

So, what does this mean?

On the one hand, we are definitely in a town where my gender, or lack thereof is a non-issue. We have gone out, I have felt free, we move independently and with strides that seem almost confident. I have lost the feeling I woke up to every morning in the banana-belt.

We live in a place where A/duder feel safe and free to roam the streets, taking in all the new sights. They miss me, and I them, and it is hard to not have what we did. But it was not sustainable, and their effort makes my heart swell.

We love our little house, our backyard, and the things we have around us.

But I think all’n all, I had a hugely different idea of what would happen once we arrived. I don’t know how I imagined it going, but this week has me feeling a little… Silly? Naïve? Tired of facilitating?

The rub I feel about being a facilitator is that I don’t do it consciously, though I am consciously trying to tune into it, but it also seems to be a giant guessing game that I bomb at. I am a service-oriented, helping-hand, who rejuvenates by doing chores, cleaning, touching base with, and ensuring the people I love are steady. I think moving here has made me realize that, while everyone does want someone like that, they… Actually don’t.

Realization numero two. I have also realized that I literally think in the complete opposite way from everyone. I had always thought that maybe I was kind of similar, or at least within ‘cell service’ but nope. I am not. In fact, I feel so different that I actually said to my sibling (working on de-gendering all relationships) the other day, I wish people would treat me like an animal. What does that even mean to someone who thinks differently? In a lot of ways, I guess I meant I wish people would treat me like I treat animals. Cautious but friendly, warm, and welcoming but giving tons of space for the animal to show its character before I either play fight, cuddle or whatever. The reason I want this is because I have come to understand how naturally opposite I am; if you are cautious, I always seem to show up without abandon and with full enthusiasm. If you are excited, I seem to see pitfalls everywhere. If you are repelling me (energetically, conversationally, etc.) I literally think we are bonding.

I am at a 25% capacity right now. I feel emotionally overwhelmed, my time-management has gone out the window (guys, garbage has NOT been collected for two weeks), I feel unsure with the job situation (fully employed online, lost physical job; spent a ton of energy preparing for physical job, now feel like the energizer bunny with nowhere to put it), and while it is amazing having duder home, and he is so, so happy, his time away from us was… New and kind of weird because it was really different. He leaves again in a week and is rolling with that change and reality- it feels impossible to watch the wordless process go on behind his eyes.

Finally, I also have realized that my rock-relationships are not what they were. My three pillars have changed, and I feel foolish for being so oblivious to just how much they have.

I have expressed this above discombobulation to my mother and yet, we have only had tense convos since February. This means I am in no space to say, “Hey! I’m an Enby!” over the phone and expect that to go over well, but I also can’t write the… Well, I know I’ve never been what you’ve expected… So, I kind of lied by omission for… Ten years about how I’m really doing… Letter. Therefore, I am not reaching out, not connecting with her, and I think in preparation starting to put that ID/need/truth away. Our connections usually end with me in tears (my emotions, not her actions per se) and with this level of disconnect, how can I push me forward? I miss her so much. Her laugh and the jokes she’d tell me, the easy and warm feeling I’d have. I love the eastern accent, and just her perspective on things. This letter is the beginning of a conversation where we hope to be able to come back together. For some reason, my heart is not shining with the hope I am so familiar with. It feels like we’re so, so far.

My sib and I have been getting together, having coffees, hanging with the families. I love them. As much as I ever have. I can’t put my finger on what’s changed. Maybe time, or age… But I think it is a ‘grow up and realize I’m an adult in their eyes’ that needs to happen. That we can’t be like we were… Twenty or even ten years ago. They have adopted a new life that required change – I still think they are one of the most amazing people I know, but I just wish I had really realized there isn’t room for squishing me, laughing like ‘we do’ and being easy.

Finally, BFF. This week has been a doozey there, and I believe, what has brought my thoughts together. A wee (giant) bit of drama Sunday, which lead to a ‘me talk’ with them on Monday. I maybe had a false sense of how well it went because they immediately disappeared. In all ways. I can’t get into it, because it really isn’t my business but, it feels like every decision on their part, since Monday has been a subconscious move to extricate me from their life. Except for the “I need you” or complaint calls. Unfortunately, I felt myself slide into a new priority group for them, and even though they are why I’m probably sitting at 25%, I have been struck with the realization that I do not receive anywhere close to equal, back. Not even equal in my weird balance of what is equal (50/50 is rarely achievable, but I think BFF and I are at a 10/90). During our conversation Monday, I offered a lot to them and their partner- things I maybe didn’t have to offer and they… Literally checked out for three days. Left me hanging, really. Not only left me hanging, but also played the did-I-do-something-wrong card. I hate that card. It makes my anger blaze in seconds.

Summary thought – without dramatics:

I think if I am left hanging, a fracture occurs.

My desire to give, protect, plan and I guess… Ultra-facilitate is dissipating. Hence the above quote. Because I woke up sometime this year and realized that I hate that I am a giver.

In fact, I now worry preemptively that I give to much. I didn’t realize that people will take and not give back. I had no idea that I downgraded my needs to a base level, have been confused by the warnings I’ve received about users, so… I didn’t attend to it. I allowed myself a naivety in thinking they’d learn/catch up. That they’d be motivated to try for… Me.

Haven’t I?

Having duder in my life makes me realize I should have stuck with my 9-year-old plan to have 45 children and sing for a living. I don’t think I was meant to be here for adults. The walls they have around them are things I can’t see. I can see their feelings, their happiness, pain, and confusion, but I can’t scale their walls. I also don’t seem to offer what people want when they think of an easy hang-out. Qualifier: The people we have connected with SINCE moving here do not fall into this. They are new-old and honestly, make my heart quiver in a way it hasn’t in a long time.

The confusion for me is this. If these pillars are who I’ve invested in, and it seems like the investment levels are maybe too diverse to bridge, was it a mistake? Can I redact that time? Can I take something for me, and slide it into this space that is starting to feel empty? It isn’t about letting go. At all. But, what does it mean?

We watched the Emoji Movie last night. I empathized with Gene so much. He is filled with all the emotions but is supposed to just be ‘meh’. Feeling like I don’t fit and like I have too many emotions is a common theme for me. I’m trying to be manageable and whether it is immersion, or just reality, only my lil’ family seems to be able to handle me. The qualifiers too, but that is overwhelming as well.

I want my next article to be on the impact children’s movies (specifically Pokémon) have had on my world. I am blown away by how the lessons are so big in them, and realistically, children can’t understand them. They have no context. We do! And for me, Gene spelled out what I have going on. He felt different, felt like he failed and was labelled a malfunction. Spoiler alert: he wasn’t. His uniqueness ended up being what saved the day. His whole outlook on life sets him apart but ends up connecting and validating him. While others are trying to look out for No.1, be the best and most popular, he isn’t. He wants friends and continues questioning everyone, asking, “What’s so great about being No.1, if there are no other numbers.”

Think about that folks.

I don’t know how to round this off. I don’t even know what I really want you to know. I feel better having written it out and honestly, I believe there is a quietness that if I tapped into, it would give me a solid answer. In a roundabout way, I guess I wanted to say that no matter how different we are, no matter how big or out of place we feel, don’t lose hope. Don’t give up. I thankfully learned years ago to retreat but stay me when I felt this way. Don’t retreat though. You don’t need an excuse, and I’m hoping soon, I’ll stop looking for mine.

I still want to take up so much space, I want to spread this feeling that wells up, but I can’t yet. I hope you are.

It makes me think of Sense8. I loved that show, their level of connectivity and uniqueness makes my brain euphoric. I wish I had a sensate group. I watch it when I need to be reminded that someone out there wants to be as connected as I do.

Don’t give up.

I won’t.

“Patience and perseverance have a magical effect before which difficulties disappear and obstacles vanish.” John Quincy Adams

“Maybe at the heart of all our traveling is the dream of someday, somehow, getting home.”

– Frederick Buechner

We made it. We are now settled in, mostly unpacked, and enjoying the quiet of our new town. Our WiFi was installed yesterday, we had friends over for dinner on Sunday and Jo is now tapping away at their latest batch of editing work, quickly slipping back into their pre-moving routine. We made Duder’s switch off yesterday, sending him for his two-week summer vacation with his dad, which is the first time he and I have been apart for longer than a few days, in all of his 8 years, and I think Jo and I are both silently trying to ignore the fact that he’s gone. 

Moving has been a rollercoaster of emotions for me, personally. I didn’t move a lot as a kid, only when it was reasonable and still exciting. I had a “home base” my entire life; regardless of the building itself changing, there wasn’t a house that we didn’t live in for less than 5 years. By the time it was time to move, we were usually ready to start anew. 

This move hasn’t been much different in that regard. Our home in Niagara was beautiful; I, arguably, was slightly more fond of it than both Jo and Duder, but it didn’t make sense to stay there. Not only did Duder have a really hard time being alone in a top-floor bedroom at night, we had two floors (upper and basement) that were only accessible by a flight of at least 8 stairs, which I can’t maneuver and it was, unfortunately, super expensive. Above all else, it wasn’t ours, so at some point we all knew we would have to leave. 

This is, of course, leaving out the fact that we didn’t have a community, we were inundated with a lot of negative people and had only just managed to start finding people to connect with after we had decided the Niagara region wasn’t interested in having us. 

The concept of “home” is an interesting one for me. Up until the house we just left, I hadn’t ever felt like anywhere I had lived was my home. I had a number of different houses I spent time at, but home wasn’t a feeling I recognized; whether that was due to my own emotional and mental wellness issues, or whatever other reason it may have been. I knew that the house I lived in was safe, but home was only used in reference to a place I was going, not to the feeling that comes with “being home”. I think I spent the majority of my life trying to make a home out of a person, without realizing that people were, obviously, more nomadic than the idea of home that I was looking for. 

Jo has figured out how to make any space comfortable, having moved over 20 times, and has been integral in making each of our new spaces feel like a home. Our new house already feels more like home to me than anywhere I’ve been, and we’ve lived here for a total of 3 days so far. That being said, Annika Martins makes a great point in her article about home being a place in yourself, when she writes:

“Geography is irrelevant. Your address means next to nothing. What matters is how open your heart is.”

In the article, Annika talks about how she was forever searching for her home; the place where she felt safe, powerful and rooted. She explains how she fixated and obsessed over seeing images of exactly where she was supposed to be; where her home was. She describes feeling “anxious about postal codes” and being in a constant struggle with herself and the universe about where she was meant to be, until she eventually realized that as long as she was open to love and open with love, she was home. This might sound cheesy to some, but the idea of being home, no matter where you are, as long as you are open and accepting to the opportunities and possibilities there, is one that I’m slowly coming around to, perhaps in a less froufrou way. 

We drove Duder a bit farther than the half-way point to meet his dad yesterday. I had to go to the hospital for a scheduled MRI anyway, and we had quite a bit of time to kill between the planned 2:00pm switch-off and my 3:45 appointment. As soon as the scenery became familiar to what I remember from my time growing up in the Hamilton and Niagara regions, the air got thick and humid, and my stomach started jumping in loops. Coming back to that area literally triggered something in me, even though we were only there briefly; and I wondered why I never felt at peace, or at home there, no matter where I went. By the time we had turned around and were making our way back to our new home and the cityscape I remembered faded away, all of my panic and anxiety did, too. 

This has all been jostling around in my brain since we bought our house, though there have been events and little things that have popped up that have exacerbated the feeling slowly, over time. My biological grandmother sent me an e-mail last week, with a photo from “happier times” with her, my mother, sister and I, wishing me all the best and essentially putting me on notice that they, too, were decidedly finished with their relationship with me. I expressed to Jo later that day that it feels strange to me that we are not even so much as a blip on people’s radar for them to be happy to see us go. But having to return to my “home”town and experiencing a physical reaction to even being in the area, being triggered by the names of streets and highway exits, having flashbacks to not-so-pleasant memories of my time in these places; in the end, I’m happy to see us leave, every time, and that’s becoming all that matters. 

I’m realizing that home is not a person, building or city. I have been lucky enough to have moments of home throughout my life; the smell of my grandmother’s cooking was home. The amount of love and connection I felt with friends, lovers, however short lived, was home. Making Duder laugh, every time, is home. Looking up from this screen and seeing Jo tapping away, either at their work or their latest game focus, is home. The places that trigger me now, do so because I experienced trauma, hurt and other terrible feelings there, but not because they weren’t my home at the time. I just looked for home in the wrong places and people, and those places and people hurt me. 

That being said, Stratford feels like home already. As much as a town can, I suppose. Perhaps it’s because I’m not familiar with the landscape, there are no real memories or moments to be reminded of when I step out the front door. The times we have spent in Stratford have been completely positive — and if they aren’t, Jo and I have had a much easier time coming together to figure it out. The geography of where you are might not matter, but the environment and atmosphere in which you place yourself does. The fact that everything in our new home is brand new — not the items, of course, but the experience and feeling of being here — even for Jo, who is seeing a new, developed side of the town they grew up in, means that there aren’t any moments or memories to hang onto, and the only thing for us to do now is to make new ones. 

“At the end of the day, it isn’t where I came from. Maybe home is somewhere I’m going and have never been before.”

— Warsan Shire

you can take this mouth / this wound you want / but you can’t kiss and make it / better.

— Daphne Gottlieb

Happy beginning of the week, friends. Things have, thankfully, quieted down ever so slightly since I’m ready to suffer…. We had a lovely weekend visit to the beach with Brotato Chip, a close friend of ours and her wonderfully independent daughter; Jo is puttering around daily, getting the last bits of our house ready to relocate on Saturday, and I’ve been slowly working through some heavy thoughts about moving away from the area in which I spent a good fraction of my growing years, and Duder’s. As excited as I am to remove myself and family from an area that holds so many difficult and painful memories for me, we’ve only just started developing a really awesome relationship with the aforementioned close friend and her family, and the committee that had initially been lined up to welcome us to our new home (new life, if we’re being honest) has dwindled at an alarming rate. 

We still have a lot to look forward to in moving, I recognize that, and am so grateful that we now have an entire family we can invite to Stratford, that there are a few really amazing people that will still be waiting for us when we arrive on Saturday. I am endlessly grateful for the fact that we even have a house to relocate to, above all else. I’ve had a lot of conversations in the last two weeks, though, with a number of different (but equally as intelligent and insightful) people that have brought a lot of things to light about my past existence in this area and allowing those thoughts to run rampant while I still have to drive past all of the spots that trigger those memories, is hard. 

That being said, I wanted to write a bit of a lighter article today, if not for my own sanity, to save you another 8,000 word essay on my psychological inconsistencies, ha. There may still be a bit of analysis, of course, because I can’t not self-reflect in these situations, but I promise it’s not going to be nearly as monotonous as my last few ramblings. 

When we first introduced ourselves in Adversity Makes Strange Bedfellows, Jo graciously informed you all that I would be the one responsible for talking about one of my favourite things in the whole world…

Now, don’t panic; this isn’t going to be an article filled with innuendos, pornography and terrible pick-up lines (though, if I can be so bold, bad pick up lines are my forte). Because this is going to my first time writing about sex on this blog, I will try and keep it as light and fluffy as possible. Let’s ease into it, shall we?

I started exploring my sexuality early; I remember masturbating when I was quite young, probably around 6 or 7, and not because I was bored — I very vividly remember it feeling good, but that was where my sexuality stayed for another 5 years or so. This wasn’t a conversation I had with my parents, for obvious reasons, but I was also never taught as a kid that any form of sexuality was bad. My mother was often working during the evenings and my step-father wasn’t really the type to check on us after we were in bed, so once the lights were out, it was a free for all.

I won’t go into too much detail but over the course of the next few years I think I did a lot more exploring than was probably appropriate for someone my age. I was overly curious about mine and others’ sexualities, had very intense crushes throughout my elementary school years, found pornography extremely exciting and fantasized often about sex and sexual encounters. I lost my virginity when I was 12 and took a very skewed sense of pride in being the “first” for a lot of my boyfriends (and, eventually, girlfriends) as I got older. I have also always been attracted to older people, which caused a lot of problems for me (and could have potentially caused much bigger problems for others) in the years leading up to my becoming “of age”.

My sexuality and how “attractive” I was to others quickly became the scale on which I measured my validity as a human being. I lied about my age and signed up for sites like AdultFriendFinder (back when you didn’t have to verify your age with your ID), which was essentially one of the original platforms that has now become Tinder, and one night stands became a regular occurrence in my life. I had sugar daddies before I even knew what they were. This convoluted perception of being desired, of older strangers wanting to “take care of me” was something I relished in for a long time. I knew I didn’t love any of those people and I knew they didn’t love me, but I also couldn’t differentiate between a healthy romantic relationship and the immediate gratification that I was feeling, or why that feeling disappeared so shortly afterwards.

After divesting myself of an extremely sexually abusive relationship, I did a lot of work on reevaluating my sexuality and how I presented it to others. I reinvented my relationship with my body and my sexuality entirely; I applied for a job at a sex toy store and did everything I could to learn everything I could about a healthier, more respectful world of sex. I met people from all walks of life who all had one thing in common: they all just loved sex. I went to BDSM munches, rope-tying workshops, fetish club meet-ups; I wanted to learn everything.

In wanting to learn everything, I also had a lot of sex — but this time it was different, because the people I was having sex with were different. Consent was a word that became as common as “yes” or “no”, there was a mutual agreement that whatever was happening was to benefit all parties involved, and there was a level of love, care, compassion and patience that I hadn’t experienced in any other aspect of my sexual life.

I explored bondage, all types of dildos, vibrators, anal toys (don’t knock it til’ you try it — carefully), spanking, strap-ons… Guys, if there was a toy on the market, I probably tried it. My connection to my sexuality flourished the second I decided it was for me and only me; unless I made the decision to allow someone else to be a part of it. The partners I had made it undoubtedly clear that they respected me, honoured what I was giving them and would never do something to jeopardize an established level of trust. This was when I was first told I needed to have a safe word (and the reaction to my saying, “Uh, what is that?” was nothing short of eye-opening), the first time “no” was actually respected as “no”, and the first time I learned that my limits and boundaries were just as important as everyone else’s.

By the time I met Jo, I was secure and confident in my sexuality and my body. They came into my life after I had just lost 80 pounds, was running my own business and felt healthier and more energetic than I ever had. My sex drive was on hyperdrive (ha) and I had an immediate attraction to them the minute I saw them, and our chemistry has only evolved to be more since we’ve been together. Our sexual styles were easily combined; Jo’s curiosity about the world of BDSM, for example, was easily expanded by my pre-existing love of it. Spanking was something that was folded into our sex life without much thought, as was a more dominant/submissive dynamic (Jo being a naturally dominant partner and me falling more on the submissive side).

Jo and I really only differ in one main way when it comes to our sex life; Jo is an incredibly mental person, and needs to be in a very particular mindset and outside space for sex to be an option. If we have stressful things going on in our life, which we often do, there is usually far too much going on in their big brain to put aside for the sake of a 30-minute romp. There are plans to make, things to consider, ‘what-ifs’ and ‘whys’, options to weigh — how on earth do you put all of that out of a brain that has a tendency towards obsessive and compulsive thought patterns? This took some time for me to adjust to and figure out (I’ll explain why in a minute) but Jo did a great job of communicating those needs from the very beginning, where it’s now become second nature and I am very aware of when they’re in a safe headspace to approach the subject of getting dirty. 😉

I, on the other hand, have a tendency to use sex as a means to destress and separate myself from whatever is happening in my outside world. If I’m happy, my whole body purrs just looking at Jo; if I’m upset, depressed, et cetera, I turn to sex to escape those feelings because, well, sex feels great. Even when it comes to some of my more serious mental habits — I lean towards dissociating when things feel like too much, for example — sex and, specifically, the instances when we have explored spanking, are the most effective ways that I have found to recenter and bring myself back into my body. It also connects Jo and I in a way that is pretty much impossible to explain, other than that anything could be going on, or we could feel as far apart as possible, and once we’ve rearranged the bedsheets back to their normal place, we’re a completely new couple again.

That being said, I’m excited to start talking more about sexual subjects on the blog because I really do enjoy every aspect of it. I love the psychology behind fetishes, BDSM, what people are into — and I love having really cool, adult discussions about what it means to be sexual beings in our world today. In a society where sexuality is still seen as so taboo and a subject that should be kept behind closed doors, between couples, I’m really eager to fling those doors wide open; maybe not into our bedroom, haha, but at least on the misguided view that sex is something to be ashamed or embarrassed of. I look forward to discussing more serious topics like how to reclaim your body and your sexuality after abuse and/or trauma, and I can’t wait to broach some lighter subjects like vibrators, bondage, BDSM intros and more. Maybe you’ll even get a review or two!

At the end of the day, sex is something that is part of my daily life, at least in passing thought. I’m lucky that I am so insanely attracted to my partner that I have to fight to keep my hands off them and not the other way around, and that our “interests” align with each others’. I love talking about sex and having really cool, open conversations about what people are thinking, trying, what works and what doesn’t. More than anything, I love turning the tables on what people think sex is supposed to be, when we are in the middle of an age where we are literally turning every expectation on its’ head.

Want to start talking to your partner about trying something new? I want to help you start that conversation. Curious about anal sex but don’t know where to start? Don’t worry — we’ll get to that. Best vibrators on the market? I don’t know about on the market, but I’ll definitely share some the best ones I’ve tried, and the pros and cons to each. Want to up your game a bit and not use those dollar store handcuffs anymore? Go get some soft rope and we’ll work on getting a bit more creative with knot work. Wondering what it would be like to spank / get spanked? Jo and I can speak for either side of that experience. Want to try strapping up, but worried about it, for whatever reason? Don’t worry, we’ve got you covered there, too. Whatever it is, one of us has an answer or is willing to find one. I’ll even model harnesses and strap-ons! Haha!

@reedamberx

We are obviously also both always learning; neither of us claim to be experts in any way — I just think sometimes it’s easier to ask questions when the person / people you’re asking are “normal” folx, and not necessarily doctors or sexperts. We’re just a queer couple that loves each other, loves having sex, and loves trying new things — but more than any of that, we love helping other people. So if any of my experience can make somebody else’s sex life a bit… Sexier? Consider me your personal, unofficial guru.

I never understood why anyone would have sex on the floor. Until I was with you and I realized: you don’t realize you’re on the floor. 

David Levithan

I’m ready to suffer and I’m ready to hope. It’s a shot in the dark, aimed right at my throat.

— Florence & the Machine

What a week. I know we’ve been quiet as of late, friends, and once the events of the past month or so have finally settled down, I hope to sit down and write about the clusterfuck that we’ve been dealing with, though I genuinely doubt any of you would believe me. It’s that absurd. I was chatting with a childhood friend the other day and we agreed that once this is all over, I should write a book.

Keep an eye out for my autobiography, coming to the fiction section at a bookstore near you. /jokes

So, as much as I’d love to give you guys all of the juicy details, there are some things that still need to be dealt with before I feel comfortable doing that — so instead, I want to share some thoughts and research that I’ve done intermittently for a couple of years now, and try to piece together some of the things I’ve discovered. 

Quick back story. Without going into too much detail, I decided to “divorce” one of my parents a couple of weeks ago. Anyone who has had to form serious boundaries to the point of cutting someone out of your life can empathize with the level of discomfort it can cause, even more so when the toxic relationship you have to re-evaluate is with someone close to you. The reasons behind my decision were due to behaviour that has happened recently, but the processing I had to do, to get to the point of finally saying enough is enough, forced me to look at things, my history, in greater detail. 

In doing this, I discovered that the behaviours I was deeming unacceptable, were actually habits and behaviours that had been present throughout my entire life with this specific parent. They have come to the surface now, become more obvious — or maybe I just have a better idea of what I’m seeing, now, I’m not sure. Either way, in reading numerous articles and chatting with Jo, I also discovered that these behaviours have a name, or a means of categorizing them; meaning I wasn’t the only one, the way this person acted was not okay, and there were lots of other people in the world that were dealing with the same things: the ramifications of being raised by a controlling, and/or narcissistic parent. 

(Side note: There is great article on the difference between, specifically a mother, who is narcissistic versus controlling. There are many similarities between the two, but the behaviours are rooted in different  motivations. My parent falls into the controlling category, but for the sake of writing this, I’m just going to use narcissistic.)

Psychology Today defines a narcissistic parent as “…someone who lives through, is possessive of, and/or engages in marginalizing competition with the offspring. Typically, the narcissistic parent perceives the independence of a child (including adult children) as a threat, and coerces the offspring to exist in the parent’s shadow, with unreasonable expectations. In a narcissistic parenting relationship, the child is rarely loved just for being herself or himself.”

Now, I’m not saying I had a terrible upbringing. I’ve spoken a lot about my experiences with self-harm, addiction, mental illness, and everything in between, while acknowledging that I had some serious problems of my own, but we were never without. My parents worked hard, both juggling multiple jobs, resulting in my step-brother and I being gifted with family vacations, cruises and the like. This, of course, was a huge part of what baffled the myriad of doctors and psychiatrists I spoke with throughout my childhood, considering there was no obvious reason for me to be depressed and/or suicidal. We were not wealthy, but we never had to wonder whether or not we had food, clothes, et cetera. From the outside, I had relatively normal relationships with all of my parental figures (all four of them), and the fact that I was even being brought in for therapy (my mother’s idea) meant that I had at least one person who cared enough about me to make sure that I got the help that I needed. 

To anyone on the outside looking in, everything looked normal. Except me. 

The way that these methods of parenting affect the child involved, not only in their childhood but, as I’m discovering, well into their adult life as well, is exponential. The things that are suddenly tying together in my mind and memory baffle me on a regular basis. I feel like I’ve been watching a movie, a mystery, or thriller, and I’ve just figured out who the killer really is — when everybody else did 45 minutes ago. 

Loner Wolf gives a few examples of how to confirm you were raised by one, or two, narcissistic parents. Looking back on my childhood years, I, admittedly, have the habit of beating myself up for not recognizing some of the signs earlier, even if it had been nothing more than questioning why it seemed impossible to be happy, regardless of what was going on around me. Anxiety and depression are the biggest side effects of being raised by narcissistic people, along with chronic guilt, poor personal boundaries and codependency in other relationships. It also forces the offspring into a position of constant guessing, struggling to please the parent and striving endlessly to “earn” the parent’s affection. 

When your entire existence is measured by whether or not your parent approves of your actions, behaviours, decisions, et cetera, you give all of the power to that person, to determine whether or not you are worthy of their love (or whatever means of control they use). Narcissistic parents measure their own worth and efficacy by the actions of their children — this can manifest in different ways; I’ve read examples where mothers took pleasure in dolling up their daughters, in order to parade them around and show them off (consider the amount of money TLC makes on their pageant shows, Here Comes Honey Boo Boo being my main reference point). Any compliment the child receives is automatically absorbed by the parent: 

“Oh my goodness, don’t you just look beautiful!”
“Thanks, she gets her good looks from me.”

Obviously mothers aren’t the only ones who show examples of narcissistic parenting. Another great example would be the father that lives his athletic dreams vicariously through his son. These are the parents that are angry when their kids lose, that shame and put them down for not being good enough, regardless of whether or not the child had any control of the situation (surprise: they often don’t). This also looks similar to the previous example, when the child is successful.
“Congratulations on winning that hockey trophy.”
“Thanks. I was always very athletic as a child, so obviously they would be, too.”

What happens when the child’s wants or needs aren’t on par with the parents’? My parents were both very athletic — I was not. I was always drawn to more creative hobbies, and anything that I enjoyed that was athletic was an individual sport. My parents encouraged me to take part in track and field, signed me up for a summer soccer camp, but I preferred taking part in things like horseback riding. Luckily (or not — I’ll let you be the judge of that), my mother had also been an avid horseback rider when she was younger, so that hobby was nurtured and enabled as much as possible; BUT… 

Narcissistic parents also have the habit of competing with their offspring. This ties into taking credit for their children’s accomplishments, but in order for the parent to be entirely involved, they have to be entirely involved. The competition is one thing; they are a parent, they raised you, obviously they know better, obviously they know more. They’re older, wiser… Right? There’s a certain level of competition, or “comparison” that happens, I think, regardless of the parent and whether or not they are narcissistic. Most of the time, though, it’s not in the spirit of being better, but to prevent the child from having to learn a lesson that maybe isn’t necessary. A good parent wants to avoid their children getting hurt at all costs, and it often hurts us more, as parents, when they do.

Narcissistic parents, though, are different than the, perhaps slightly overbearing, “helicopter parent”.  These parents want to immerse themselves in your life — whether it’s your hobbies, your job, your friend group. My mother quickly started taking horseback riding lessons with me, though we luckily avoided a situation of competition because I preferred jumping, whereas she did dressage. That being said, it was a hobby that I loved and was passionate about, and after realizing that, she quickly needed to be involved as well. We also had a similar group of friends, which ended up being mostly comprised of the few close friends that I had. If the people I was spending time with weren’t of any interest to her, I was free to do as I pleased — but if the person I was seeing was someone she felt positively about (or saw a use for), she needed to be involved. 

Do you know anyone that seems to have a parent that hangs around all the time? We see these characters in movies quite often, the mother that loves hanging out with her daughter’s friends, getting drunk, acting foolish. This forces the child to take a certain level of responsibility, effectively being pushed into a position where they have been “parentified” by their own parent. There tends to be a back and forth between a narcissistic parent needing to feel like their child needs them, but also that their child is going to be around to take care of them, if need be. They build a relationship based on worry and fear, forming a dependency in their offspring that they can’t manage without their parent’s help — so how can the child form a boundary with the parent, when they’ve been conditioned to believe they won’t be successful/healthy/loved/et cetera without the parent around. This level of commitment and loyalty means that the offspring is also always on high alert for whenever the parent may “need” them. This causes a lot of narcissistic parents to fabricate drama where there isn’t any, in order to place themselves in a position of victimhood. 

Narcissistic people need to feel as if everybody is on their side, no matter the situation. Even if there is no sign or threat of a conflict, the narcissistic parent needs to know that your loyalty and commitment is there. There’s a level of obligation that they place on their child to be available at their beckon call, and they will do whatever it takes to turn that obligation into a noose of sorts, using any number of tactics from anger and aggression, to guilt and shame, to gaslighting and lying to get what they want. 

Gaslighting is defined “as a[n abuse] tactic in which a person or entity, in order to gain more power, makes a victim question their reality.” Abusers and narcissists use this tactic all the time, manipulating the victim into a position of being easily controlled, confusing them until the only person they feel they can trust and count on is the gaslighter themselves. Parents can, unfortunately, be incredibly adept at this, taking into consideration that in most cases they have been an active, present figure in the child’s life and in order for gaslighting to be as effective as possible, it needs to happen slowly over a period of time. The average 18 years a child spends with their parent is more than enough time to form a type of trauma bond that enables the parent to work away at the victim’s mental state, or collect a number of different resources to use in whatever situation may arise. 

If the child tries to remove themselves from the parent’s grasp, the parent will often panic and do whatever they can to regain the upper hand. Projecting their issues onto you — my mother’s was often that I was incredibly selfish and never considered her emotions or feelings about any given thing, immediately following a conversation where I expressed not feeling heard by her. These parents will also do what they can to turn as many people as possible against you, telling lies about you and isolating you from any sources of support you might have. I have been completely disowned by every other member of my family, for example, and have been approached by a number of my parent’s friends; on a good day, the conversation ends after they try to convince me that I need my mother in life, but I’ve also had not-so-pleasant interactions where I’ve been verbally attacked and accused of things, without any accurate knowledge of the situation. Keep in mind — narcissists will only surround themselves with people that don’t threaten their position of power, so it’s unlikely that the people around them, even if they don’t address you directly, will do anything to stand up for you, or whoever is being abused at the time. 

They will also, occasionally, award you with positive words or reinforcements. This is a tried and true ploy that abusers have been using for eons, to confuse the victim into believing that the situation isn’t as bad as it seems, because the person obviously has the capacity for compassion. When you are constantly striving for that one tidbit of positive reinforcement, the abuser can do whatever they want to in the meantime, knowing you’re holding on, waiting for them to pat you on the nose. At the same time, though, any criticism that is aimed in their direction is immediately faced with an intense reaction — ranging from explosive anger to debilitating sadness. Fear and guilt are two of the most powerful control mechanisms, and narcissists are gifted in manufacturing situations where there is very little option for the victim to feel anything different. 

There are two different styles of narcissists that we observe on a regular basis. Ignoring narcissists are  people that just can’t be bothered with their children. There is a defined difference and independence between the parent and their child, so the children are expected to act as individuals, perhaps even having to take care of themselves at a young age. My parent, on the other hand, is an engulfing narcissist, meaning that I have never been seen as my own, independent person (until just recently, and even that’s debatable), separate from my parent, and that my parent needed to be involved in every aspect of my life, to an extreme extent. I was often compared to them, that I was a direct replica, not only physically (we had my kindergarten picture and my mother’s pasted right next to each other on the fridge, because “we looked like twins”), but mentally as well. I grew up being confused about why I was always so intensely sad, without realizing that not only was my parent making me feel that way, but also comparing themselves to me — if they made me feel like that, did I make people feel that horrible, too, if we were so similar?

Any level of autonomy is a major threat to a narcissist. When Jo and I moved to the apartment, my parent was livid. It was directed at me, the whole thing being my fault for not having given them enough warning about our plan to move, while refusing to acknowledge that their behaviour was literally the reason we needed to get out. The guilt they tried to impose on my “leaving them” was part of why we left, but my parent attempts to continue to shame me, even now, two years later. I have been reminded, constantly, throughout my life, that my parent gave up so much for me, that I took away so many years of their life because of my mental illness, that they sacrificed everything — and that I am exposing my own child to the same trauma and torment that I had to endure. 

So, hang on a second, here, Aisha… You’re trying to tell me that when you have children, you’re signing on to do whatever you can for them, regardless of the effect it has on you? 

Weird, right? 

So, what are the repercussions of having grown up with a narcissistic parent? There are a myriad of ways a parent’s abusive behaviour can come to the surface in their adult children. There seem to be three common side effects, or behaviours, that are present amongst people that grew up in these situations: difficulties managing emotions, a skewed or inaccurate self-image, and a dystopian perception of what healthy love is supposed to look like. 

Managing my emotions has always been a challenge; I don’t often get angry, and when I do, it usually presents itself as crippling sadness rather than an atom bomb exploding. I always assumed that this was due to having to deal with so much mental instability when I was young, because I don’t feel like I really got many tactics on how to deal with unfamiliar or overwhelming emotions; I just learned how to internalize them so I didn’t inflict damage on myself. Scars, cuts, burns — none of that was attractive, and I learned very quickly, not how to stop harming myself, but how to do it in a way that wouldn’t “ruin our image”. Very few people were truly aware of the gravity of my illness besides my mother and my therapist, because I tried very hard to stay under the radar. This contributed to my issues with self-esteem, naturally. 

The issue with being under a narcissist’s thumb during your formative years is that you, inevitably, start to believe that your parents’ behaviour and expressions of “love” are what are to be expected from any romantic partner in the future. This can lead to the victim literally seeking out partners that behave in the same way as their narcissistic parent. I had strings of boyfriends and partners that were horrible to me, and stayed with one for over six years, accepting every backhanded comment, forced sexual encounter and aggressive burst, maybe not with a smile, but with a inner feeling that what I was experiencing was just how it was “supposed” to be. It took almost three years for me to finally seek out help from an incredible organization in our area, where I sat down with an abuse therapist and read through a booklet of what abusive behaviour might look like, before I realized that my relationship was not only unhealthy, but had the potential to make a turn for the worse at any moment. 

You were being abused for six years? Why didn’t you just leave?

Jo found an awesome article yesterday that talks about trauma bonding and the reasons why victims of abuse can sometimes have an incredibly difficult time divesting themselves from their abusers. The article speaks more along the lines of leaving an abusive romantic relationship, but the methods of manipulation and control don’t vary much between romantic relationships and parental ones. 

I’ve read a number of different articles and academic papers written by staunch believers in the effects of media on our acceptance of behaviours in our social interactions. The problem seems to be, most often, that we don’t necessarily class emotional, sexual and verbal abuse as valid forms of maltreatment. When you think about examples of abuse in the media — and please, don’t get me wrong, I am so, so happy that we are seeing more and more examples of it in TV shows and film, and that it’s being brought to the forefront as a serious, valid issue — generally speaking, it’s a woman with a black eye. Or a broken arm. Or a child that’s dirty, underfed. These are all, obviously, great examples of what abuse can look like, but is a whitewashed version of how abuse can appear to an onlooker. 

The article talks about how studies have shown that victims of abuse can actually develop a sort of biological or physical dependency to the behaviour of their abuser. Because the cycle moves from everything being okay, to an intense, perhaps angry, outburst, then once the outburst has subsided, the abuser comes back and showers their victim with love, triggering the release of dopamine as a response to the reward of affection, to the point where the victim often brushes off their abuser’s behaviour and the cycle begins again. 

I was lucky. I realize this. I recognize that I was blessed with a little human being that really made me reconsider what kind of treatment I was willing to accept from others, and what example I wanted to set for him, for what kind of behaviour was acceptable. I am incredibly grateful that we have such an amazing resource for women and children in the Niagara region that are struggling to leave abusive relationships. I also realize that I was living at home at the time, so my decision and ability to leave the relationship was facilitated by my situation — but keep in mind, I was leaving one abusive relationship, and putting all of my hopes on living with, and getting support from, my parents… I’m still not sure which of the two evils was worse. I had been injected with a very convoluted view of what it looked like to have strength — which was, in reality, just control in disguise. I still deal with a terrible habit of self-criticism, which made me second, third, thirteenth-guess my decision to leave my abuser, wondering if it was the best decision, not realizing I was walking straight into the mouth of a completely different beast. 

Imagine what kind of trauma bonding happens, if a romantic interest can coerce a person, with their own independent thoughts and expectations, into an arrangement that has the potential to destroy any sane person from the inside out, when the trauma is being inflicted by the person who is supposed to do whatever they can do to protect you. When you are bonding, through trauma, with a parent, over an extended period of time, it not only has adverse effects on your mental health and well being, but is now showing to manifest in physical ailments as well. When you are on a downswing in your abusive arrangement, cortisol pumps through you and your body enters a state of shock due to the recurring stress. When you get the positive reinforcement, though, the happy chemical comes into play, and you end up developing a type of addiction to the upheaval. Because of the constant up and down and the variance in hormone levels in someone that is in a constant state of not knowing what’s coming next, this stress can appear in visible ways: acne, migraines and chronic pain, to name a few. 

What people don’t realize is that, regardless of the inconsistencies in the abuser’s behaviour, the cycle and order of events and behaviours become predictable, so the victim almost learns to “wait it out” until their abuser gets to the stage where they are prepared to offer affection. This makes a victim endure a great deal more than they probably would in any other situation, holding onto the hope that things will clear up eventually. This manner of coping becomes the only consistency in the victim’s world, as even the abuser’s behaviour feels like a ticking time bomb. If we revisit the theory of seeking out abusive partners after having a narcissistic parent, too, the lack of that parental guidance, and denial of the independence and autonomy to make their own decisions, a victim wouldn’t be able to make a large decision, like to leave their abusive partner, without it being validated by someone important — usually, the narcissistic parent. Of course, then, if a narcissistic parent wants to keep their child in their grasp, they would avoid doing anything that would give their child a sense of control. Try and consider the level of pride, happiness and gratitude you would feel if you were finally able to leave your abusive husband/wife. That would boost you, and probably give you the ammunition to make other changes in your life and look to improve other aspects. Your controlling parent couldn’t possibly allow that to happen, because then they would have no control either — I was in an abusive relationship for six years and not once did my parent tell me that I deserved better. 

Eventually, this rollercoaster gets so tiring for the victim that they often are unable to serve the “purpose” they had been for the abuser. In a lot of cases, this disposal (usually a break up, though in some cases, if an abuser has not been physical previously, a physically violent outbreak can be seen as the abuser dumping the victim, depending on the situation) is the only way the victim of abuse is able to remove themselves from it. Unfortunately, it also often takes victims until this point to realize that they were being abused in the first place. This process is dirty, ugly and unpleasant, as victims need to deal with the conditioned feelings of guilt, self-blame, shame, et cetera. You did everything you could, constantly, trying to please the person you were bonded to, and nothing was good enough. You weren’t enough to keep them around.

Please. If you are feeling this way — your abuser did not leave because you weren’t enough. Your abuser left because you literally gave them everything you could, and in some cases, they probably took everything you had to give. 

In the event that you are able to remove yourself from a damaging parent / child relationship, Loner Wolf suggests giving yourself time to grieve the loss of the parent you thought you had. You were raised to hide the way you were feeling, or that the way you felt didn’t matter — this is the time to allow yourself to feel everything; the anger, sadness, disappointment and care for yourself like you would a small child. In a lot of cases, you probably had part or most of your childhood taken from you, so give yourself a chance to forgive the time you lost. 

Karyl McBride, PhD, redesigned the stages of grief to fit the recovery of someone who has been affected by a narcissistic parent. She talks about how as children of narcissistic parents, we had to deny that our parents were incapable of love in order to survive, spent a good portion of our childhoods bargaining with those parents, in person or mentally. Anger and sadness are other obvious and valid responses, and Karyl explains that during the recovery process, it is completely normal to jump from stage to stage and that grieving the loss of a parent who might still be around doesn’t follow any particular schedule or timeframe. 

You’re going to feel guilty. You will feel terrible for grieving this loss, as if your parent were dead. I have explained to both Jo and a friend of ours, both of which whom have lost parents, that though the loss feels like a death to me, I can’t allow myself to internalize it in the same way because it feels unfair. If this sounds familiar to you: stop it. Your loss is no more or less important than anyone else’s — if anything, you may be in a situation where you have to come face to face with the very person you had to distance yourself from, and you may realize that they are a ghost of who you thought they were. That’s okay. Remember that they tricked you into thinking they were somebody else, too. 

I’m obviously just starting to do this work. It’s only been a couple of weeks and I can genuinely tell you that this final straw has left me feeling like a piece of my heart is missing. It breaks my heart that I am not the only one who has had to remove themselves from a relationship from the people who are supposed to put us, as their children, above all else. The destruction I feel in my insides is indescribable, knowing that each person I thought I had in my unit have decided to toss me aside in the same way. It feels like mission impossible, trying to overcome years of conditioning, years of lies and years of striving to achieve an image that was literally unattainable. 

Does it feel crazy to tell a parent you never want to speak to them again? Absolutely.  It will likely be one of the hardest thing you will ever have to do.

Does it take a lot of work to reprogram your thoughts after years of being made to believe you were not worthy of love unless you were complicit? Yes. I still struggle every single day. I am only just finding my voice, just getting bold, just starting to feel comfortable to disagree — but boy, is it liberating. 

Will you ever be able to forgive your parent for what they did, or didn’t do? Who knows. I think we would all hope so. If anything, I’d like to be able to forgive my narcissistic parent, not for their peace of mind, but my own. Forgiveness is possible, I’m sure of it, but I haven’t gotten there yet. 

Every day, we wake up and snap into our own suits of armour. Whatever you’re protecting yourself from, I’m sorry you have to. If you have had to separate yourself from an abusive partner, friend, parent — I’m sorry, and I am so proud of you for taking those steps. I hope you realize, sooner than later, how worthy you are of so much more than what your parent(s) gave you. 

It’s like the brightest sunrise waiting on the other side of the darkest night. Don’t ever lose hope, hold on and believe maybe you just haven’t seen it yet. 

– Danny Gokey

Never explain―your friends do not need it and your enemies will not believe you anyway.

What drives our motivations?

What makes people change, or shift in their approaches, or offerings?

Where do you think a connection can get so lost, that the person you once knew so well, is now a stranger?

Beyond that, looking upwards from a smaller space, how do you prepare yourself, children, others if you’ve realized this, that trust is both the most important, and unreliable thing in the world?

We have been having conversations lately that, while they skim around the edge of a giant whirlpool of dramas and emotions, we somehow manage to stay on the easier, manageable side of things. The ‘somehow’ in managing to stay easy isn’t a, “I don’t know how we manage to pull this off,” but a cock of an eyebrow to the awesomeness of our connection and who we are as individuals. I am just sarcastically couching it in the naïve ‘somehow’ because I feel like I live on this giant, roomy buoy that is literally untippable, but people are trying their damndest.

So, as a (what I would consider to be fairly) rational person, dealing with a situation but getting down about it a bit too, I’m going to work through it with an analogy.

There is this happy red-fruit farmer. They sell all kinds of red fruit. Someone sees how amazing this content farmer is with their little red-fruit stand is and comes along with wise advice on how they once operated a corn stand. Acknowledging that corn and berries aren’t really all that different, the advice is considered by the farmer, and adopted into the berry stands operational procedures after modernization updates.

As these two are sitting around, a guy comes a long who sells mason jars, cooking utensils and pots. Before you know it, the craziest thing happens. The corn guy reveals he is a jam guy! He can make jam; the farmer has berries and this new guy has all the stuff to put it in! The farmer’s little business soon expands to become a trio of cool business and for a while this works out.

Unfortunately, as with many ventures, the polish on something new wears off. No matter what type of relationship it is, it’s frustrating because when you have partners, commitment levels should be the same, but usually differ. In this story, the utensils guy didn’t feel like he really needed to be around often, because he technically didn’t make jam, he provided the tools; since the others were there, making the jam and farming, they could sell his pots and stuff. He starts stopping in less often, soon, only coming out for the fun events and cashing a cheque otherwise. The corn guy, feeling weary and confused at their dislocation of having never been in charge of this berry world, like they thought, and honestly, not really ever liking berries, now feels fed up with doing ‘all the work’ and decides that- hey they only originally showed up to offer advice on how to make the berry business better (remember, they actually offered advice based on a model that worked for them, they didn’t make the business better). They disappear too.

Cutting to the chase, I want to know why people can’t just be done when shit is done, and not be assholes?

Carrying the analogy forwarded, only one thing has been permanently affected ‘negatively’ and that is the berries. The farmer tended them, kept things balanced and all was content. The balance wasn’t hard to maintain when the corn guy kicked around because overall, they were just company for everyone. The utensils guy, well. Shit. All he did was cause an in-house hot-pot that changed the flavour and growth pattern of the berries. They weren’t as bright; their pals being cooked down one building over. Even the jam is crystalizing, because it wasn’t an original piece. I hate that the corn guy is at a bar griping about their losses, the hurt done to them when they’d been there just to help. Everything was fine, until they walked out because they were too tired. Don’t even get me started on the anger and indignation of utensils guy over the losses he suffered in profits. His blind hatred of work and responsibility showing on the spittle spewing from his mouth as he stands in the berry patch stomping, because the jam isn’t making itself.

If you don’t want to be a part of a team, shift from mast to hull, nail to bow, ladder to rope- be whatever is required when required, then… Don’t. Team. Up.

Abusers are like this. I understand why they are this way (theoretically), because they get satisfaction and other feelings from putting people down and being completely in control. I am not saying corn and utensil people are abusive. But I am saying their need to come back around with anger, hostility and lies, when the berry farmer is just trying to get the crops growing again, is madness.

If this situation involved people or animals, we could maybe call the cops. Get intervention. But, really? Would that be a safe, sure option? Again, if this were something between people, lawyers would help, but I just want to say, do you really want to pay to have the conversations had, in front of people that will see, that things should have been left as is? Why, isn’t there just trust and confidence.

The corn and utility guy never feel good, eh? Do you know that? Their rage and confusion and victim hood aren’t a comfortable feeling. Unless you are the berry guy- you aren’t anybody good, unless you make different choices (corn people) or… Be apart of the team (utensils). Berry farmer isn’t comfortable. They are hurt, question their worth and the viability of their business. They are worried about their berries, once so bright and juicy. They feel abandoned, but, understand. So, why is this understanding sucked up by the other two, and turned into a breath stealing vortex of negativity?

Do you see what I mean? Why in gods name are corn and utensil coming back round with anything to say? They left. One was blatantly passing the buck, lazy and self serving. The other had every reason to retire. They’d already worked a full life. But… When they aren’t getting blang-blang from the jam, then suddenly…

Do you see what I mean?

This is like the person who calls to check in on your confidence about a huge decision, AFTER it’s been made.

“Oh, wow… That ring, you said yes, wow.”

“I know! I love it! Don’t you like it?”

“Yeah, the ring- wow. The ring is beautiful, but… Your boyfriend is a deadbeat.”

Whoa… Nelly.

Think about the questioning of teens career choices and the, “Oh that- God, you don’t want to do that.” That phrase, coming from a selfish place, is so confident coming from a trustworthy person, that I bet 78% of people would drop it. Think, well shit. If they’ve done it and it sucked, I guess I’ll cut my losses.

Has that happened to you?

It did to me, as a kid in a funny way. I am the career example, although thankfully I was the only one dissuading myself. First, I wanted to be an actress with forty-nine children (then, oh my god; the diapers). Then, a bus driver (then, oh my god; screaming kids and early mornings), then, a cafeteria mayor (wtf- realized this isn’t real), and finally, a marine biologist. My lovely, ever helpful dad looked at me and said, “Ha, by the time you are old enough, there’ll be no fish in the sea.”

I had two choices here: laugh back and say, well I’ll study water or- what I did. Because, at thirteen, and my father being my number one authority on life-things, and his absolute certainty there’d be no fish seemed so convincing that I should cut my loses. So, I dropped out of all my sciences over the next year.

I am a passionate, driven and confident person. My fight, though, is lacking. I would rather disappear then explain to someone why I’ve decided something. Namely because I am the lucky duck who’s had many naysayers, with selfish intent, weigh in on my life.

Thankfully, over years of blunders I know I can count on my family to be honest with me. That is important, because that’s what I need. I trust myself. And I am confident in who I chose to have with me. These are the three things I wish I could teach any person that relates to the berry farmer more often than the corn guy, or… The utensils guy.

Trust yourself; chose your people confidently, for their honesty and hopefully, loyalty.

Part of the problem is that these situations of “come-back,” I’ll call them, take so much mental restructuring for the berry farmer. They are typically the type of person who would feel bad and consider how they may have hurt the other party, apologize and owe up to their part, and then hope it’s done.

If someone doesn’t release them then, and instead uses that kindness as a sinkhole for their other shit that isn’t so easily resolved, everyone gets hurt.

Everyone. Guys, everyone gets hurt when these things aren’t dealt with. Sometimes you can’t walk away from the come-backs. Sometimes, you just have to fortify yourself and be able to move with the waves that bash around you. I have always managed to extricate myself from these situations, come hell or high-water. I’ll repeat, it does mean I have been lonely, a lot. But I like being alone more than I like feeling like everything I believe in is compromised by someone else’s misguided weigh-ins.

“Save your skin from the corrosive acids from the mouths of toxic people. Someone who just helped you to speak evil about another person can later help another person to speak evil about you.” 
― Israelmore Ayivor

“If you truly want to be respected by people you love, you must prove to them that you can survive without them.” –

Michael Bassey Johnson

Happy long weekend to our Canadian readers, and regular ol’ beautiful Sunday to the rest of you. I have not had the motivation to write for a while. The last mini post I did was an effort in self-dedication and an attempt to clear my mind of things that were swirling around in there. Since All things, a lot has happened. I am sure if you’ve read it, you could see there was a lot going on before then too.

What I want to explore today are the cruel people you stumble across who are supposed to be in your camp. The people who, as the days go on, have their mask eaten away by the sun, as their ‘moves’ are unable to take affect like they used to. The person I am thinking about, once getting to know the other side of their bright, always smiling, good-time personality, has reminded me of the Queen of Hearts. A sole-focused individual whose motivations have always seemed sinister. I won’t go into the details but suffice to say I watched them storm over things I consider foundational to be a good person and had to keep my mouth shut.

I can’t give you details. Not because the person who would be affected matters any longer. Nor because it is someone in my loves’ camp, though it is. I don’t want to give you the details, because I am embarrassed that it took me so long to really, truly, see them for what they are.

May is an interesting month to me. As a Canadian it is a time filled with fluctuating feelings on weather, waking up one day, able to wear shorts, the next, the toque is back on. As a farmer, it is a glorious month; fraught with worry over certain aspects of growing, but overall a beautiful time of blossoming. I’ve noticed this year there has been a lot more… In focus. We have sharp-shinned hawks nesting in a tree in our backyard, which has been an interesting thing to watch as a family who is doing its damndest to build a nest as well. There is also a giant Cooper’s Hawk who has started swinging around, baring his chest to us in the mornings. Peoples’ motivations have also been in shaper focus.

As the birds awaken and dust off the winter, so do the people. Between allergies and colds; S.A.D and just general grumpiness at living in fifteen hours of darkness a day for eight months, people just come out of winter… Different.

This person though… It now feels like they had been lurking, working out new patterns of destruction while we tried to get through Aisha’s back (still not healed, in fact we may be going back to the Doc on Wednesday it’s gotten so bad again), duder’s school bumps, finding and buying a house, and all we’ve tried to keep you up-to-date on, waiting for a chance to cut us down.

I find it interesting that in the threads of my recent posts there has been an undercurrent of ‘hope,’ of ‘trust’ or ‘connections’ and what I am about to tell you combines all of them, and why they make me wary. Have you ever been in a situation where you are othered, obviously or not, for a time, and then suddenly, it becomes more obvious? Like, that growing awareness that… Whoa, man… I don’t think I’m welcome here. And the next thing you know, the proverbial fist is crashing through the darkness and landing square on your face? I am very aware of these moments; I’ve had a lot. My expressed thanks in previous posts at my ability to now adapt to them are honest. It’s just that… Well guys, I was sucker punched.

Six days before my birthday, which is already a hard day for me, I find out that duder’s g-ma, once a friend of mine and A-bomb’s mother, whose “opinion, though not popular” is that I am not to be considered as a parent. In fact, looking back, both Aisha and I can see that she has felt this way, from day one. It could be due to our coming together circumstances; it could be because her life blew up at the same time Aisha and I found each other. I don’t know. All I know is, she’s lied to my face for about two years, now. She pretended to be my friend, to respect my opinion – nay, sought it out – during our hours in the hospital together waiting for Aisha. But all because I am just a way to manipulate the ones she truly cares about.

You see, friends, the thing about me is, I see people through rose colored glasses, if I am certain I should trust them. I have no idea, honestly, where the certainty has ever come from, considering I am usually wrong. But she was a coworker, then a friend, then a confidant, then… My in-law? So why would I not trust her?

I guess the part that I am still working through is the heartbreak I felt. Sunday, after reading her wildly off-base, out of nowhere text to Aisha something crumpled in me. We talked to duderonomy about the safe, and relative points, for clarification and then let it go. Monday morning, I woke up and that crumple had turned into a fold. Being with him, in whatever capacity that was (friend was my word for a long time, until he called me his stepparent and told me he loved me), felt like the first natural thing I had ever done. Literally. There were bumps and moments where I needed to jump onto Aisha for safety, but our connection was amazing from the get-go. We made each other feel safe, and happy. Somewhere over the past two years, I have literally put his every need above my own- and that somewhere wasn’t recently. As Monday moved into Tuesday, I awoke with this inability to even make my lungs work. I was suffocating.

Having a partner who is energetically inclined is amazing, no matter what the reason. As I fell apart, my head in her lap, crying, literally feeling my heart breaking, there was something else knitting in my back. I could feel it, against my spine- this weird, electric thing. Aisha had begun to rub my back with her palm, and when she neared this bundle it physically hurt me. Like, I felt a shock race down my spine. What happened next is fairly hippy-dippy and mystical, but apparently as Aisha moved her hand away from the spot (the feelings having only caused me milliseconds of discomfort) she said she saw a ‘sticky’ or ‘tacky’ like blackness come out of me, trying to attach to her. Thank god she has a calm head eh? I’d probably have lost my shit, but then again… I’m wondering how much she hasn’t seen. I wasn’t aware any of this had happened. All I knew was that the darkness that had slowly invaded my vision over the past two days slowly lightened, and my breathing began to regulate. Finally, it felt like I could maybe stop crying.

I can’t begin to express thanks to Aisha for whatever the fuck that was. For those of you who don’t know, the chakra related to self-esteem is the third chakra, or the solar plexus, which was where all that went down. I’m fairly certain the combination or depth of hurt, mixed with Aisha’s amazing intentions shifted something (wonderfully) permanent inside me. Within hours I was feeling calmer, more collected than I had in a long time. The problem is, I am just… Not happy yet. It’s coming, I can feel it around a corner. I can even hear its laughter ghosting down the halls.

The problem is that I am just tired of every one seeming to have a big, bad impression of someone or something else, in this case the number of people who can not seem to see that we are a good team, that this love should have ended already if it weren’t meant to be. I am tired of the loud-mouthed nobodies who spend time hating or judging, and I especially hate how affected I can get. Weariness isn’t even a word for the lack of surprise I felt, but the shock of reality sliding into place was old, uninspired. An, I should have known.

I am tired of people hurting us.

This move (I’ve already packed the unused items, the winter items, and as many everyday items as I can sneak into boxes) doesn’t feel like a move. I think because while, like many others, we are moving in the hopes of better things, there are enough tarnished memories to make it easy for us, we also know that this one won’t feel… Alien. Even moving from the apartment to this beautiful house came with shocks. We may not know our street, or neighbors, but if it is too much, we now have people that we can only get to via phone momentarily.

I don’t feel heavy. I hope the drama we experience there is brand-spanking new. I hope it has little to no ties to the drama we are leaving here.

I felt my heart break like that, only one other time. I cried for eight-hours straight, grieving the loss of someone who wasn’t choosing me. I remember the desolate feeling, the emptiness I felt. Being told you do not deserve to be called a parent is a cruel thing to say. There are still huge parts of me that don’t want to be duder’s parent, but I am. I literally check all boxes, except the ‘blood-related’ one.

We can choose our families, our friends, and the inner voice we build for ourselves. We can choose positive ones, ones that motivate us and steer us in directions that lead to better, and brighter things. Sometimes, our choices are imposed upon us, and don’t seem fair. The quiet between Aisha and I was interminable this week. I know she adores my relationship with the broster. She wouldn’t be here if she didn’t. I know she respects my decisions and commitment to our co-parenting. But the hurt her parent caused… That is one we had to deal with separately. And I’m glad we can, honestly. I’m glad we have the trust and foundation needed to go to the places we needed to go. Because today, I can look at her, and feel my heart-trust again. Not that I hadn’t throughout the week, but her seeing me that weak, that vulnerable to someone I am trying to support her in standing up to, well… It’s embarrassing. And it just fucking hurt. And I was shocked.

It also makes me want to just put a gentle reminder out there to you all. Whether you are in our queer international family, my NB family, or just a decent fucking human being that takes the time to read all this, I just want to remind you that people are supposed to be good. Make you feel good, and welcome, especially in your home.

If they don’t have permission to be there, kick them out.

Sincerely,

Jo

All things are ready, if our mind be so.

― William Shakespeare, Henry V

I think it is appropriate, starting this post with a quote from Shakespeare. We are, after all, moving to a town dedicated in part, to his honor. I’ll take a moment to confess that one of my aims in moving home is to attend more theatre productions. I want to be able to reference his works, and the works of others here, as comfortably as I do other things. At this time, I appreciate his comedies, and always have; the romances took a while, only because their slow pace… Well, it seemed like everybody spent three scenes questioning the air; what, oh what in the world should they do, while the object of their affection is… literally sitting right behind them.

As I’m heading for forty, I’d like to get to know his tragedies, since I know I will probably never take in the histories. I think I could probably gain perspective if I sat through Coriolanus, or Titus. Hamlet probably deserves a revisit as well as Macbeth. I did not take the opportunity to get to know Shakespeare during my younger years, having needed time to live in fiction, fairytales, and fantasy. My mind was just too… something, for Shakespeare.

Moving on, I would like to say I am in complete agreement with him on the above statement. As you well know, I like considering situations from every angle I can find; I often get into a rant and then completely deflate myself with a solid opposing argument for the other side. I have just found that this prepares me in ways I can’t even express.

It goes beyond boundary establishment and maintenance. A longer quote I like to help highlight what I mean is:

“Another way to be prepared is to think negatively. Yes, I’m a great optimist. but, when trying to make a decision, I often think of the worst-case scenario. I call it ‘the eaten by wolves’ factor.’ If I do something, what’s the most terrible thing that could happen? Would I be eaten by wolves? One thing that makes it possible to be an optimist, is if you have a contingency plan for when all hell breaks loose. There are a lot of things I don’t worry about, because I have a plan in place if they do.”
Randy Pausch

I like that Pausch states this is his pattern, even though he is a great optimist. I just think that we can be optimists living this way, because there’s a plan for what worries me. Even if I don’t have a complete plan, acknowledging the potential removes the option to be caught unaware.

There are minor and unbelievably major motivations for this post. The minor ones are what I will touch on today, as a way of organizing my brain.

I recently had the good fortune of line editing a novel, soon to (hopefully!) be published in Canada called, The Minimalist: Who is Not in Favor of Minimalism, and I was amazed to find out that I, too, am a minimalist. I think my minimalistic creed came from three factors: a) I have moved a lot, thus divesting myself naturally of things that would increase the moving effort b) I have never really been financially secure and c) there is less disappointment when ‘things’ don’t mean anything.

Touching on the third point for a moment, things do have value to me. There are some material items that I would be truly upset over loosing, but outside of my own ‘loses’ I have known two people to lose everything to a fire, and far too many more who have nothing they want to begin with. On those two extremes, the work I’ve watched the people do on the affect, has left me with almost no choice but to get there before it happens to me.

My sis and I were robbed when we lived in Toronto. It was within the first year of us living together on the main floor apartment of an 8-plex on a busy Toronto corner. They entered through our bathroom window (well hidden in a very accessible, also well hidden, old school fire escape) creepily organizing all our bathroom things outside on my smoking table in precise, organized lines. Being on the poorer end of life, we literally had nothing to give them except my sister’s tip-money she hoarded in her bedside table. They found that, and nothing else, when they completely tossed our rooms. At the time, I had material things I liked, and a lot of them were ruined, further devaluing their worth (on top of not being stolen lol). The feeling that incident left us with was… hollow. The violation so cerebral, and not… I don’t know, like they came in and ransacked our place, but we were safe, and my sister lost maybe $250. But opening the door for months afterwards involved loudly banging before loudly working the key in the lock and shoving the door open as I jumped back as far as possible (an astounding half-foot, I’m sure).

Anyway, taking life lessons to the extreme, if I were now broken into (knocking on wood), I would be confident in knowing they received no satisfaction. If they ruined my stuff, well, I have insurance! The violation would still be felt, I am sure. But, having felt it before, I wouldn’t be shocked and shock is the thing I hate most, I think.

Do you feel this? How old are you, and if you do feel this way, how did you come by it? I recognize that my experiences have resulted in me being a minimalist, and that makes organizing my life easier, for me. Moving, (not to belabor the example) is another area where I am prepared. We move in a month and a half and I’ve booked the movers, our place (I think) is rented, I will be calling services next week which means… when moving day arrives, all I will have to manage is my people and the people moving us. Pretty cool, no?

The value of giving yourself the room to go deep, and like Pausch says, explore the ‘eaten by wolves’ factor’ would probably surprise you at how comfortable you ultimately, end up being.

Wanting to stay light-hearted and quick, I want to end this on a linguistic note. Another means of being prepared is using language that accurately relays what you want to say. Working through ‘zones’ lately, I have reacquainted myself with the myriad of potential emotions a person could be feeling in combination. Knowing the vast lexicon available to you can also help pave your path of preparedness. I was once humiliated by a professor, but my fault entirely. During my cocky, early-twenties I was in a philosophy class. The prof asked, “what do you need to make fire?” Immediately I shouted out… “Wood!” Feeling pretty fucking smug at my speed, my camping days rushing back and inflating me with confidence. I can’t remember their exact response, but it was essentially, preparing to go out in the rain with an umbrella is like just needing wood,” turning away, thinking I would have learned my lesson at this point. I… a true stubborn bull continued, “IRREGARDLESS, you said ‘what do you need to make fire, and wood is needed.’” In sum, they turned around and asked me a series of scenario-based questions in which a fire took place, without wood anywhere to be seen; an oil spill catching fire on water, a brick house burning to the ground, tar pits, plastic. It was one of the most educational moments of my life folks.

Be prepared. Consider a few different things before charging ahead. It will help you be more confident and believable in the end.

DO WHAT YOU HAVE TO DO, UNTIL YOU CAN DO WHAT YOU WANT TO DO.
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