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.
unknown.

“I love that this morning’s sunrise does not define itself by last night’s sunset.” 

— Steve Maraboli

Ah, Sunday. Good morning to you, you overcast, chilly day. 

Sundays have become a favourite day of the week for me. Duder is usually away with his dad until the early afternoon, so Jo and I occasionally get the chance to sleep in a little bit and the normally bustling, busy street that our house sits on is actually… quiet?

This is an unusual occurrence in a typical week for our family; somebody usually has something on-the-go, somewhere to be, something to do… So we’ll sometimes try and pack a few things into our Sunday afternoon, considering it’s the only real “free” day we have to do anything fun with Broski. Most of the time though, he’s pretty wiped from his weekend away, Jo and I are feeling like we, too, need a break after a busy week — so Sundays usually result in a quiet, relaxed afternoon and evening at home.

This weekend has obviously been a bit different. As Jo mentioned briefly in Go back?, we had their mother staying with us for a couple of days so we could make the day trip to Stratford to house-hunt. Overall, I suppose it went well; Duder was great, as patient as an eight year old can be, and tackled what would normally be a “hang out with dad day” turned “5 hours of driving and boring meetings day” with the maturity of a teenager — still having blips of boredom but, in the end, being a relatively respectful, polite and well-behaved kid. For that alone, I am eternally grateful.

I think that the adults that were involved in the day, believe it or not, had more of a struggle than the bored kid. I have had a hard time all weekend; the driving, walking, getting up and sitting down, attempting to tackle stairs in potential homes to see whether or not I can realistically manage them — and, as much as I hate to admit it, it takes me a long time to adjust my living to newcomers. It’s a fault of mine that isn’t often an issue; Jo and I don’t have people stay with us much and I’ve had nearly the last two years to adjust my habits to mesh with theirs, and truthfully, when I have to stay with other people, I have no problem doing things “their way”. When it’s my home, however, and my routine — sometimes I can get a little sticky about it. It’s not even that I’m unwilling to adjust! I just need longer than four days to do so. 

So, in recognizing this as a major flaw of mine, as well as taking the time to reflect on the weekend; I was kind of a miserable cow. I got short with Duder on more than one occasion, my patience was practically non-existent, and I ended up doing some things I probably shouldn’t have (ie: climb a 14-step staircase, twice) out of the desire for some space. I’m really not entirely sure what the issue even was, guys — I usually try to be far more agreeable than I was this weekend, but something about it was just… hard. I am the first to admit that, frankly, I have a bit of a short fuse. Not in regards to my temper — I’m usually pretty even keeled and don’t get angry at much, but to put it in layman’s terms: I have a shit ton more pet peeves than most. It makes me think of the recent surge of people admitting to their utter disgust and aggravation at the sound of people chewing (also a pet peeve of mine); but I have the same reaction to a lot of things; actions, habits and behaviours, that even I’m unaware of until I’m almost vibrating I’m so annoyed.

I don’t need to tell you that this obviously causes problems in my interactions and relationships with people. I am particularly sympathetic towards Jo in this regard; the amount of patience I have for them and their habits, tics, quirks, etc. is infinite. Additionally, they hold the unique position of seeing me in a parenting role and observing the areas where I struggle with Duderroo, but also the instances where I can dig deep and find an immeasurable capacity for tolerance towards him, regardless of how many times he and I have had to have the exact same conversation (pet peeve two). I realize that, from the outside, this ability to self-evaluate can look relatively effortless, and I concede to the bias that I have towards the two most important people in my life. Why can’t I find even a portion of that for people outside of my immediate familial unit?

I ask myself this question a lot, especially on days when I’m feeling particularly snappy. My irritation and annoyance are emotions that I find very difficult to disguise and this disadvantage has a propensity to manifest in the tone of my voice — I, admittedly, have a proclivity for sarcasm. Jo approached me with this earlier in the week, having noticed a change in my demeanour and attitude and I have since recalled that I had to address the same issue when I was last prescribed medication for my ADHD (as covered in my last blog). Jo mentioned that they think I have just become more assertive, which, in my opinion, is entirely uncharacteristic of me, and that it was just going to be a matter of them adjusting to the shift in my personality. While this may be true — I don’t suspect that the things I’ve had to accomplish and the list of potentially uncomfortable situations I’ve had to put myself in to do so would have been as successful had I not found this… “tenacity”, if you will — I tend to forget that sarcasm is a life-long defence mechanism that I have been tirelessly perfecting for twenty-six years. 

When I’m feeling insecure, my normally light-hearted, playful, humorous, though sometimes backhanded satire can quickly become caustic and hostile. Though I never have the intention of offending anyone or legitimately hurting their feelings, I notice the blatant similarities between my behaviour and that of the quintessential bully of my childhood. I have vivid memories of my mother sitting me down, quickly mopping up the puddle of tears I’d turned into; quieted my uncontrollable sobbing after the mean kid that lived across the street had angrily bulldozed me into a rose bush. “People who bully others; people who put others down are only doing it to boost themselves up”, she’d said; and I think she was right. I mean, it’s been proven time and time again that the majority of people who pick on others suffer from low self-esteem, or have negative feelings about themselves for one reason or another.

I don’t consider myself a bully and I know that my sarcasm and the defences I put up are not malicious. I used to be the type of person that would insult my “friends” as a means of “showing my affection”… I know this practice seems to be today’s norm, with a new “Roast Of…” premiering on a regular basis, inflicting physical pain on others being a recurring theme even in “kid’s shows”, and, one that really grinds my gears: prank videos — and the terrifyingly high number of adults creating said videos who are now involved in child abuse/neglect/exploitation lawsuits, all for the “enjoyment” of their subscribers. 

[ side note / random facts: apparently, over five million youtube videos are watched each day. I’ll save you the math and just throw out this number: one trillion eight hundred twenty-five billion — which is a very loose estimate, but is the rough number of views youtube receives in a single year. In 2015, prank videos alone accounted for 17.7 billion of those views. ]

I think the normalization of abusive language, obscene and abrasive behaviour as a show of friendship and/or endearment as well as our desensitization to it, and acceptance of it as appropriate interaction within our society overflows into countless other areas — the doofus that is in charge of running our province, and the other doofus in charge of our neighbouring country are both perfect examples of what happens when we, as a society, laugh off offensive and inappropriate behaviour. In saying that; on a smaller scale, I realize that I have also been desensitized to the level and intensity of sarcasm that I use when I’m feeling threatened, overlooked, unheard, etc. and that those feelings lead me to behave in a way that doesn’t necessarily speak for who I am otherwise. And I have to admit, moments are coming up more and more often that make me wish I could find some way to teach this capacity for self-reflection on a broad scale. Imagine what the world would be like if we could eradicate the concept of ego and, instead, people weren’t as resistant to acknowledging their flaws. When we aren’t feeling self-conscious and defensive of traits that we perceive to be “less appealing”, we are less likely to project that onto the people we interact with — and when the feeling of being “lesser than” no longer exists; the covetous emotions like jealousy, envy, greed, etc. are also quickly disqualified. In my case, I get my knickers in a knot when I believe that someone else is perceiving me as less than. Whether this means not including me in discussion, interrupting me (pet peeve three), brushing off my input, etc, etc. 

It’s ridiculous, right? I get antagonistic because I’m not feeling confident in my position, opinion, physicality, whatever… Then project that onto the people I think are most likely to feel the same way; this weekend, for instance, that included Jo’s mother, the realtor we worked with and even Duderroo, at times. It’s a lot easier to be sharp and terse with others, blanketed under this predetermined (though inaccurate) belief that those people are opposed to you for some reason, than to take a moment to sit back and recognize that the only person responsible for your feelings of inadequacy is you. It takes some serious mindfulness to be able to notice these things in the moment, but I’m trying to at least recognize my trip ups after the fact — like having negative feelings towards Jo’s mom, literally with no cause other than that she gets nearly all of Jo’s focus when she visits and we spend the majority of our days together; so I was jealous. Still had nothing to do with her, but I twisted it around in my mind to look like she was being too demanding, or whatever. Or, when we spent the entire day walking around, getting in and out of cars, etc. and the only person who checked in specifically on my back was the realtor so, irrationally perceiving that my pain levels just “weren’t a priority”, I proceeded to trek up and down as many flights of stairs as possible, it seemed. I wish you could see me rolling my eyes at myself right now. What a cry baby, hey? 

(I also want to add in here that this previous statement is more than likely false; I guarantee that Jo checked in on how I was doing physically on more than one occasion, but there was a lot going on and when I fall back into old tendencies — specifically, dissociating when I sense tension, get overwhelmed, feel anxious, etc. — I almost “black out”, per se, and my memory and awareness of what is happening in the moment gets convoluted. So; I wanted to express what I was feeling at the time to give you an accurate and honest image of my perception of the situation, but also nip any criticism in the bud.)

There was a lot of tension swirled into the super-exciting-but-overwhelming combo of flavours we had going on. Having had a schedule mapped out a couple of weeks in advance (Jo’s doing; no surprise there), we felt reasonably prepared. This plan was kind of unexpectedly kiboshed at the last minute when an exciting part of our day was axed, which was disappointing, to say the least. I’m still trying to figure out how to sum up my thoughts on the delivery of that particular information, but it’s bubbling around in my brain the way an idea does just before the proverbial light bulb illuminates. The elusive Eureka! moment is coming, friends, I can feel it — when it does, you’ll be the first to know.

The new plan supposedly meant that we were going to be able to zip through some houses quickly, break for lunch and be home hours before we’d originally expected, but also meant we were starting the day sooner and, therefore, needed to hit the road a bit earlier. Waking up at six thirty in the morning is really only ideal for one person in our house — me — and even then, I have to be the one choosing to wake up at that time. I used to have a habit of throwing alarm clocks; hence why I no longer have one. The house we had set our sights on ended up accepting an offer a few days before we were due to drive up, which was a bit of a downer, we were quite ahead of our new schedule nearly the entire day, so there was a lot of idle, sit-around-and-wait-for-the-next-one time (though I will say, our realtor took us out for coffee and lunch, which was very generous and left the four of us feeling well taken care of). The first house we walked through was adorable (and, based on photos, our number two pick), but tiny for the four of us; the second house we saw, Jo and I had to walk through alone because the smell of smoke was so overwhelming we didn’t feel comfortable having the young or elderly members of our unit in the house at all. 

The third house, however… Guys. Just wow. The owner is an incredibly talented artist, so her design style, though a bit old-fashioned for my taste, was so warm and welcoming — we walked in and it immediately felt like home. There’s some work to be done; we’ll have to renovate the basement a little bit to add in an extra bedroom, but I’m looking forward to doing that work possibly more than I am to move, period. After some awkward and snippy banter back and forth, a(n adult) tantrum or two, a bit of visualizing and then some carefully strategized persuasion, the four of us came to the conclusion that this little home was a near-perfect fit for us. Jo and I are moderately superstitious, so that’s all of the details I’ll reveal for now as I don’t want to jinx it for us, but my fingers and toes are so crossed for this to have a positive outcome that I’m worried I may not be able to uncross them again. 

In conclusion, the last few days have made me reevaluate my ideas and interpretations of family, if I’m to be honest. Familial relations are these ambiguous concepts that I can no longer comprehend and I don’t know how to build a place for myself within them. I have now been left out of more than one family get together without explanation, the people I had perceived as my “unit”, however spaced out they were, no longer take me into consideration unless they need me to facilitate their contact with Duder, Jo’s family is threatening to evaporate — but, on the other side of the coin, our little unit of three has been steadily fortifying and toughening, the progress in making this relocation happen has helped Duderroo and Jo reestablish their awesome step-parent/kid relationship and overall, the three of us inherently know that our lives are about to get so much better. 

Getting my shit together was the start. Getting my mental health under control allowed me to talk to my ex, inform the other members of my “family”, get myself semi-organized and manage a stressful weekend full of information, emotions, scheduling changes and the like, without having a full-blown meltdown. I’m proud of myself for that and grateful that I didn’t flare up while Jo was also experiencing the same, if not worse, agitation. But part of what I love about becoming more motivated to write for this project, and writing for this blog in general, is that I try to commit to authentically and honestly contemplating my behaviour and actions, because I feel like it helps me become a better person. I love that writing about our four day foray into the world of first-time (for me, anyway) house purchasing also brought my shortcomings into focus as far as my temperament and my approach to uncomfortable situations are concerned. Addressing these flaws and picking them apart, piece by piece, is what helps me identify my triggers retrospectively and recognize the moments when I’m at risk of going off the deep end. Maybe it’s years of therapy coming back to me in the moments I need it most, because this tactic doesn’t feel alien to me, but regardless, I appreciate having the insight, as well as the patience with myself to peel back the layers upon layers of learned self-preservation to just be comfortable with experiencing this life for what it has to offer.

Yowza; before I get caught up in getting philosophical, I’ll wrap this one up. I’m constantly learning about the many ways we, as people, function and relate to each other and how quickly that unity can turn to disconnect, even if only caused by something as subjective as our perception of the situation or the people involved. I, too, am guilty of this — obviously — but refuse to reject my potential for improvement. I think the excuse of “this is just who I am, deal with it” is a cop out; everyone has the capacity to be a good person, so rationalizing and excusing the fact that you’re an asshole only because you’re uninspired to do anything about it is no longer grounds for bad behaviour. The desire to stagnate needs to be made obsolete, not turned into an art form. We must strive to be better, whether or not the people we surround ourselves with are on board — because when you become better, the people who gravitate to you will be better; better friends, better lovers, better coworkers… Better people. End of story.

“Great spirits have always encountered violent opposition from mediocre minds.”

— Albert Einstein  

“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

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

“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)