In other words, a coping mech and isms

Hi. Hello. How’re you doing? Me? Not well. Thanks for asking.

It’s gonna be one of those. “Those”, y’know? Hours, days, weeks, months kind of deal. I’m in a place and I don’t know where that is, but it’s not a bundle of joy, bunch of fun or barrel of monkeys. I’m in one of my ebbs, while I wait for the tide to bring me back to shore.

That’s all very cryptic, so let’s put it in plain terms. I’m depressed. It’s not the first time and it won’t be the last. I’m in a rut where I’m having trouble with many, many things. It’s not a singular aspect of my life that’s shaky, it’s a culmination of factors, a couple of which I’ve probably never considered. It’s tangible things like being unfulfilled at work, unsure of the future, worried whether I’ll get there and what shape I’ll be in if I do. It’s also less tangible stuff like feeling rudderless and disappointed, hurt and without motivation. A general ennui that fluctuates between absent and all-consuming.

I think there’s a general public perception that depression means an inability to get out of bed in the morning. To not know how to do dishes or brush your teeth. That’s not how depression presents for me. I have no issue completing tasks. I’m not worried that I won’t be able to get out of bed or I’ll be AWOL for work without explanation. I’m not worried about failing to eat, or dishes piling up. I can be depressed and functional. I might just not be there all the time.

Depression, as I experience it, means having trouble being present. It’s a fundamental disconnect between action and true understanding. I space out for periods and lose purpose. I can see the logic of what I’m doing, but there’s no link between the act itself and my desires or objectives. I stop living because I want to and instead live out of obligation. I go to work because logically I know that I need money to stay alive, to keep a roof over my head and food in my stomach, but not because I can understand why I would want any of those things. I can do my job in a technical sense, but not because of any investment in the outcome. People need the work done, it’s my job to do it, so I’ll make it happen. I eat because logically I know that without food, my body would die. I know that there are times at which I’d regret that, so I eat out of obligation to my future self. I’ll still go to the gym, because I’m aware that it’s best for my physical and mental health to keep that up. I’m aware that depression isn’t all consuming either at the time of depression, or in other periods of my life to follow. It makes sense to continue with upkeep, so I don’t stop. I know that I need to do these things to sustain myself, I just don’t care that I am.

When depression strikes me, the hardest thing to deal with is time. Time keeps happening. There are so many hours every day to fill and they’re just gonna keep existing. I’ll keep performing the same activities whether depressed or not, but I don’t connect to them as I otherwise would. I’ll listen to comedy and realise that things are objectively funny or entertaining, but I won’t laugh. I’ll read articles, but feel emotionally unaffected. I’ll constantly refresh my Facebook wall and see my friends’ posts, but be unable to overcome this chasm of disconnect. I won’t be doing things because I want to, I’ll do them because if I don’t, time will continue to tick away and it’ll take even longer to do so.

The short way of saying any of the above is that I go on auto pilot. I’ll keep living, but I’m not there. I feel numb, like I’m unmoored from my body. Like I’m piloting a big machine that exists independently of myself. I lose all sense of purpose. It’s not that I want to die, but I don’t want to be alive either. I think, therefore I am, with no idea why.

The thing I want to drive home is that it’s not an absolute. I’ll come back for minutes, hours, days, or weeks. All different increments at times beyond my control. Maybe I’ll hear something that brings me back for a time. Or I’ll exercise and physically feel in my body. Or I’ll hear a song and cry for some inexplicable reason. Or I’ll write, read what I’ve written and find resonance. Then I won’t. There’s no pattern.

So this may be one of those, or it won’t be. I’ve got no way of telling depth or length from this vantage point. I’ll keep checking in every day. I’ve booked in my introductory session with a new OHIP supplied therapist, so hopefully that gives some traction. Things will blow over. Then they’ll be back. And that’s okay. I’ll still be here.

I might just not be here.

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All in a day’s doom

I want to talk about Pittsburgh.

Well, let’s take one step back from that. I don’t want to talk about Pittsburgh, but I feel like I need to talk about Pittsburgh. I feel like I need to talk about Pittsburgh because, somehow I’ve gone from basically forgetting Pittsburgh existed to that word bringing me roughly three seconds away from tears at any moment. I feel fragile and volatile and furious and scared. I’m reminded that there are myriad people in this world who have not met me, but want me dead. It’s not personal, but is an intensely personal feeling. It’s not about me. It’s not about most anyone alive today, but it’s very real. It’s about a legacy of hate charting back centuries that’s somehow survived nigh universal public condemnation. But private and public are very different things, and none of us can really know what’s bubbling between the surface at any moment.

Few people around me would know that for the past few days, even thinking of Pittsburgh has made my skin flush. You know that prickly feeling where you’re teetering on the edge of breakdown? For me it’s been an almost constant sensation. Why? I don’t live in Pittsburgh. I don’t live in America. I don’t interact with people who own guns, who hold open prejudice. I don’t interact with violence in my life. I don’t. I live in a bubble that innoculates me against the worst of humanity.  At the same time it’s knocking on my door constantly. I know that hate exists. I know that prejudice exists. I’m taught to fear. I see it every day on my social media feeds. In the news cycle. It’s hate, prejudice and fear all day long.

I don’t have personal reason to fear. Really. I live in a privileged position of security. I have a job that keeps a roof over my head, food in my stomach and my health in check. I live in a quiet neighbourhood with nice families around me. I don’t deal with outward aggression, unwanted advances or any kind of substantive threat. I’m a straight white cis male who hasn’t known the sting of real prejudice as so many others do daily. I always felt different, growing up Jewish in New Zealand. I was basically the only Jewish kid at my school. I hated it. I didn’t feel special, I felt weird. Mismatched. Unwelcome. It’s not like anyone really went out of their way to make me feel this way, I just did. Anti-semitism had a hard time surviving in a country where we had maybe 8,000 Jews max. We were statistically insignificant enough not to matter. Who would care? Auckland was a cultural melting pot of foreigners and misfits. I’m sure we all felt like outsiders. I was gently forced to go to Hebrew school on Sunday mornings. I hated it. I didn’t want to be Jewish. I didn’t want to feel different. I never connected to the religion and had no interest in it.

I felt connected to suffering though, with no real idea why. Holocaust stuff didn’t really have much to do with me, but it stung in a way that made it feel personal. It always has and I trust it always will. Anti-semitism seemed abstract, so far from my lived experience. I didn’t know why it hurt so innately, considering I’d never felt it tangibly. But it did. It’s always felt that way. I’ve never had a Jewish slur thrown my way with any form of malice. Still, I don’t know that it’s possible to be Jewish without the ever-present awareness of the legacy you’ve inherited. It’s just a fact of life. There are people out there who wished the Holocaust stuck the landing. I don’t even think they know why. I’m not sure they’ve had much real interaction with Jewish people beyond obnoxious sterotypes handed down from their forebearers. Hate is taught and I’m not sure if it can survive empathy.

Of course I’m not saying that suffering is uniquely Jewish. Far from it. Whether you’re black, Muslim, queer, outside of gender norms or in any way divergent from the paper thin definition people use for “normal”, you deal with it daily on some level. So many people out there have to tolerate far worse than me on a more regular basis. Suffering is known by too many and tolerated by many more. The worst thing is, it’s not going to get better. These feelings I’m sitting with, that people sit with constantly, they’re only increasing. It’s all reaching a fever pitch, which will only rise. As bad as we think it is, that’s how things are trending. We’re not there yet. Suffering will continue, as it always has.

We’re diverging day by day and I don’t know how that rift heals. There are sides and we all draw lines in the sand. We retreat from those who disagree. Why engage with them when we could have our own views reaffirmed? Now it seems like we’re living in dichotomous realities where we’ve each made monsters of the other and are jumping at shadows. We’re all scared of losing what we have, that everything is temporary. We don’t bother trying to foster understanding, because what’s the point in wasting effort? Empathy is trying and it feels impossible to teach someone how to care. I don’t know if we’re minutes from midnight, but it sure feels that way.

The weird thing is, we’re probably statistically in a better place than we ever were. Terrifying as the world seems every day, it’s likely not that way for most of us. The resonance of fear and hate has been amplified by connectivity. The more it resonantes, the more we hear of it. It’s not going anywhere either, because it sells. Suffering is something we can all connect to, so we share in it. We see more of it, because we’re attuned to it. Because we’re all attuned to it, it’s what we’re shown from all angles, but not with any nuance. We get soundbites and snappy phrases, but not depth. Because we live in a constant news cycle and we don’t have time for in depth journalism. Plus nobody really wants it anyway, when they can “understand” a headline so much quicker. And we’re not seeing principled journalism ethics at play, because news is just something to sell advertising by. They have overheads too and really, they’re just trying to do their jobs with what they have. So we’re all scrambling to hear from opinion leaders to let us know what to believe, but nobody knows what to say that helps. Everyone just wants to put their head down and get by. Plus we just want to hear what reaffirms what we already believe anyway. It’s all so much bigger than us, that doing anything about it is overwhelming.

So what am I gonna do about it? Probably nothing. It’s so fucking hard to deal with this stuff at all when it’s so simple to disengage and distract myself. So instead I’ll likely stay where I am and nothing will change. Despite any differences between myself and those I disagree with, we’re mostly the same in that regard. It’s more difficult to think about how to help than it is to do nothing.

So nothing gets done. And this is amplified. And we’re all doing nothing. And we’re all suffering. And we’re all distracted. And the ones who act out are scared and suffering too. And we’re all fucked until something shifts. But it won’t. So we won’t. So more will die. And this will continue. Until someone does too much. And there’ll be nothing left to talk about, because nobody is listening. And that’s why I don’t want to talk.

Because mostly, I’m scared. And it won’t help.

Hey, that’s a good name for my autobiography

Don’t worry, I had nachos.

Not only did I have nachos, but I did something I rarely ever do. I went to a local dive bar by myself and just hung out. To clarify, I didn’t socialise. I found a comfy corner table, ordered a large platter (read: too many nachos) and watched a couple of episodes of BoJack I’d downloaded with headphones on. It was bliss. The nachos were fucking great. To circumvent the sour cream dilemma I mentioned yesterday, they had little rammekins filled with toppings. Aside from a massive dollop of guac, that is. Servings of salsa, sour cream and dill dressing flanked a humongous pile of chips, cheese, beans and jalapeños. Honestly, for $14, it was an impressive serving. They even made the effort of layering, sprinkling an almost uncomfortable (hah, as if that exists) amount of cheese between chips and accoutrements. With the power to serve toppings as I wanted, I made concentric circles of the aforementioned sauces. The chips were crunchy, not laden with sogginess from ingredient overload. I was almost jealous. Instead I gorged myself way past the point of necessity and ate every single chip out of a feeling of completionism. Don’t say I never finish anything. A 3 speed lager on the side was refreshingly crisp, while the environs were warm and comfortably laconic. Hell, why wouldn’t I shill for them? If you’re in the area, check out Toronto’s The Gem Bar & Grill. If you go for Sunday brunch there’s often a massive friendly hound hanging out on the floor. You’ll like it or you won’t. There’s not much room for middle ground.

At work lately, I’ve started trying something new. Often when someone I barely know asks “how’s it going?” or “how’re things?” I’ve begun answering honestly. “Still hate my job” or “things are kind of a low level meh most of the time” are some of my go-tos. My first assumption was that this kind of response would breed unsure side-eye or a wholly negative attitude. You know how sometimes you’ll say something slightly out of the ordinary and people don’t know how to process it (since it’s not in their response Rolodex)? Then they’ll be sorta awkward or standoffish? Hasn’t happened as much as I thought. A lot of the time people will balk for a second, think about it and say something like “actually, me too”. They’ll talk about things in their life that aren’t quite going as they expected or desired. They’ll unload a little and we’ll share. It’s peculiar, but cathartic. As I said, I expected that people would shit the bed a little and treat me like a bad smell. I was worried about loading up (essentially) strangers with emotional baggage, but it’s been more comforting and collaborative than that. On most occasions I’ve found that both of us have walked away from the engagement a little bit closer than we were, but perhaps feeling understood.

I don’t know that it’s worth being a new auto-response, but it has reminded me that people can have the capacity to surprise you if you let them.

I think that’s me for today. Food and sadness.

Get this man a platter or there’ll be Hellapeños to pay

I’m feeling relatively fragile after my first all nighter in yonks. Be gentle, or something?

Goddamn if Halloween isn’t the fucking best time of year. Weirdo’s Christmas seems like the confluence of all my favourite things. It’s creativity and goodwill in abundance. People showing off the hard work they put into costumes, or even just the last minute hail Mary’s others luck into. The Internet becomes a nexus of inspiration and alley-ooping. Facebook, Reddit, Twitter, it’s awesome costume after awesome costume. Friends, friends of friends and complete strangers harnessing inspiration to cobble together something neat. Does it sound like I’m waffling and really saying nothing here? You’re probably right and I don’t give a damn. Here are some cool things about Halloween.

  • Candy Corn. Fuck you, Candy Corn is the shit. It’s got this bizarre dense softness to it that’s utterly pleasing. Also as a kid I just thought they were three coloured monster fangs.
  • Public transit gets better. When else do you get to see headless dudes and wraiths riding alongside disgruntled yuppies whose eternal mood is “busy”?
  • FOMO all the way down. Every night for a week or two there are awesome parties, quizzes, cult film screenings and seasonal drinks. There’s too much to do, which is among the best problems to have.
  • Feeling like a lazy piece of trash after excessive partying. It feels earned.
  • Nachos are appropriate for every meal. Breakfast? Breakfast nachos with eggs and baked beans. Lunch nachos? I dunno, some kind of nacho sandwich. Dinner nachos? Cook a steak and rest it on a bed of chips/beans.
  • Look, I kind of just want nachos now.
  • Has anyone ever tossed beef and cheese atop corn on the cob for deconstructed nachos?
  • Because I care, I’m gonna be honest. I’ve made the typo “nachoes” too many times in the past minute or two to accept that I really know how to spell it.
  • Are cookies covered in ice cream and sprinkles dessert nachos? You could even scatter candy corn around for extra festive flair.
  • Do I really have to wait another half hour for the local dive bar to open so I can get mediocre nachos and a beer? That is pretty spooky.
  • I feel like I drifted off topic a little, but hey. I promised you nothing right off the top.
  • Speaking of which, the sour cream dump on nachos always feels like a trap. Take one dip and you’ve lost all your toppings. The sour cream becomes a thick morass of salsa streaks and lost olives. I have used smooth cottage cheese instead and it’s 1000% better.
  • There’s a 0000% chance I don’t eat nachos after this post. Which I’m saying only in the hopes that I stay accountable to myself. Because if that isn’t self-care, I don’t know what is.
  • There’s a possibility that I just don’t know what self-care is. If it means nachos tonight though, I’m diving in with both hands.
  • Primarily because using cutlery for nachos is practically treason.
  • I’m starting to question the value of this bullet point format, but it does make it look like I have lots of things to say.
  • Seriously, if you looked at this page without reading closely, I’m sure you’d think I had a bunch of impassioned points to make. Turns out I’m just jonesing for some low down tortilla.
  • In summation, Halloween is great but also nachos are too? Get that cheddar!

I think my work here is done.

Walk a smile in their shoes?

Ever have one of those days where you smile and the world smiles back? MUST BE NICE.

Joking, really. Today’s been kind of the ideal Saturday. It’s been so good, in fact, that I might even spend this entire entry talking about how good it’s been. I have that power and I’m all too willing to abuse it.

It’s been a great Saturday, but not a long Saturday. Why? Because I decided that, post Rocky Horror Shadowcast, it’d be great to get 2am pork bone stew. IT WAS GREAT. It also meant that at 3am I walked home and, drunk as I still was from the work Halloween party, thought it’d be swell to play some Magic. IT WAS. I HAD ONLY GOOD IDEAS LAST NIGHT, apparently.

So my day didn’t start until about 10am, but it began with playing Magic, just like Richard Garfield intended. I drafted a sweet deck and, after a couple of games, thought it’d make sense to do an 11.30am Body Pump class at the gym. TURNS OUT IT WAS. THIS GOOD IDEA TRAIN KEEPS ON ROLLING. I don’t know why the caps are necessary, but if I’ve only been having good ideas, it must’ve been a capital idea.

Body Pump, like every other Les Mills class, has not changed. It’s comforting to know that no matter how many new releases they bring out, I can still sweat out toxins from the previous night. If you’ve made it this far without knowing what a Body Pump class is, it’s pretty simple. You have an empty bar and a bunch of weights. Each track works a different part of the body and you swap around the load depending on how large the muscle group is. The instructor will be all “we’re doing a squat track. This is your heavy one. Put two to three times your warmup weight on the bar.” So you do. And every track is murder. But you leave flushed with endorphins and it all seems worth it. Did you like how those last three sentences started with conjunction? I SURE DID. After that Body Pump class I’ve got conjunction in the trunk…tion? I go infrequently enough that I frequently forget how much weight I use for each track, so sometimes I get punished by my own ignorance. I don’t think I’ve managed, in my entire life, to make it through an entire class without skipping reps. There are just too damn many of them. I always shit the bed on the bicep track, because I have wimpy biceps and it’s a downright slaughter. Still, I left the class feeling like I could punch the goddamn moon.

Naturally after such a solid workout, I wanted a big feast. With everybody else busy, I resolved to make a massive sandwich and soak up any residual booze in my body. I bought ham and mushrooms, then set it up. The mushrooms were chopped and thrown into a pan with olive oil, garlic, a little chicken stock and red wine. The bread was topped with cheese and tossed into the toaster. I chopped sundried tomatoes and fried up an egg. Putting it all together was an altogether decadent experience. The toast was crunchy, the cheese gooey and the egg runny. The mushrooms had bite to them thanks to a hint of cayenne. The sandwich was dense, flavourful and walked the sweet/savoury line. I played some more Magic with my sandwich by my side for luck.

The day has already kicked every kind of arse and it’s still only up from here. I’m skyping with one of my favourite people, who I haven’t caught up with in maybe a year. I’m getting dressed up and going to a friend’s annual spooktacular Halloween house party. Then after that, my girlfriend and I are heading off to a Halloween themed warehouse rave. This is why Saturdays exist, so some of us can feel like we’re touching the divine.

You’re damn right the world’s smiling back. I better brush my teeth for good measure.

A one stop shop for all your premium Mal content

I have the words “Nightmare Beef or Christmas” in my head and I don’t know what to do with them. I guess it’s gonna be one of those days.

I was listening to the La La Land soundtrack this morning. Ready for the most lukewarm of takes? I still think La La Land was a grossly enjoyable popcorn film with a fantastic colour palette, gorgeous visual composition, likeable leads and a fun score. I think the majority of animosity it gets in certain circles comes from how critically lauded the film was when it was released and its friction with Moonlight for the Best Picture race. Moonlight was a better film, no questions. That doesn’t diminsh that La La Land has an enduring quality to it that leans on a successful musical formula with modern framing. Much as I loved the film, I don’t see why it was viewed as Best Picture material, and being overrated doesn’t inherently make the film bad. No, it didn’t really have anything poignant to say, but that’s also totally fine for cinematic escapism.

In the vein of other musicals, I’m seeing a Rocky Horror shadowcast tonight. First time, “V” on face and all. It’s not my first viewing whatsoever. My best friend growing up was very into it at a possibly unsuitable age. When we were 7 or 8 we’d be watching the exploits of Frank-N-Furter et al, but I was mostly scared. I thought he was a vampire and, at that age, had no time for anything remotely scary. Though strangely I loved Aliens/Predator, so who knows what was up with that? I saw the stage show once, which was a fucking riot. Listening to the soundtrack this morning it all came rushing back. I can’t believe just how many lines are etched deep into my memory. I also somehow made it to this old without realising Susan Fucking Sarandon was in it. Frankly, I’m not even gonna try to learn all the callouts. There are way too many. This isn’t some filthy casual shit like The Room. Rocky Horror has enough of a history that it’s fine to be inexperienced. It seems like that’s half the fun.

My costume isn’t totally sorted. I’m halfway there. I saw a French maid costume at Dollarama and thought it was perfect. Easy Magenta outfit, right? I fretted over the size on the packet, working out which measurement was chest, hip, etc. Turns out it was just a fucking apron. So I currently have an apron, fishnet stockings and purple fishnet gloves. I own a colourful bra (because of course I do), so I think I just need to secure a skirt that fits and, ideally, some form of upper torso wear. If not, I’m basically wearing a bra and an apron. If it was any other event, maybe I’d need to worry about it, but when it comes to Rocky Horror, maybe not. I have friends that can help me with the makeup, which is most of the heavy lifting.

As for today’s work Halloween party (which starts in about 15 minutes), it turns out I owned enough on theme regular clothing to do a lazy Captain Mal Reynolds cosplay. Aside from having to wear a collared shirt to work, it’s just a burgundy shirt, tan pants, suspenders, a crooked belt, holster and gun. That’s all. I’ve done the costume once or twice before, but I now own nicer versions of the shirt and pants instead of incorrectly sized thrift store finds. Years after the initial costume, I’m still using a normal hammer holster (cannibalised from an Al Borland Halloween outfit) as a gun holster, but nobody has called me on it yet. Maybe one day I’ll swap out the burgundy shirt for something in flannel and go as Captain Mal Borland or something.

Would that be… an Improvement?

If Voorhees joined Lord of the Rings, it’d be a jolly good fellowship

Ever wanted to know what it’s like to be my Facebook friend?

I’ve been prolific with absurd puns/half baked jokes today (especially the one about pie). Frankly, I’ve probably spent most of my day doing it. This is what my feed looks like right now:

  • At Jason’s birthday does everyone sing “Voorhees a jolly good fellow”?
  • If there’s One Thing in this world that I know it’s by Finger Eleven.
  • If you’re a long-haired domesticated bovid that likes burning lettuce pies, are you a pieromaineyak?
  • Are there any puddings that are better dancers than tapioca?
  • Considering the amount of tuna I eat, is my mercury always in retrograde?
  • If you’re straight, is your mercury in heterograde?
  • If you live downtown, is your mercury in metrograde?
  • If you eat a high fat, low carb diet, is your mercury in ketograde?
  • If you live in Volgograd, is your mercury in Stalingrad?
  • Wait, if you’re a Russian dude called Peter, is your mercury in Pietrograde?
  • If all these puns are upsetting your stomach, is your mercury in peptograde?
  • If I stole all these puns from somebody else, would my mercury be in kleptograde?
  • Has anyone considered remaking Maria Full of Grace with Chloë Grace Moretz in the starring role?
  • I’m fine being late to the party, but being late to dinner peturbs me.
  • If Nicolas Cage started a rap career, would he have a ghostwriter?
  • If he was performing live, would his list of demands be his Ghostrider?
  • If he created a barbershop group would it be called Not The Bees Sharps?
  • If I ever hated the environment I’d get business cards printed with “Leon: The Professional”.

By this point, I’m practically sick from staring at screens. A co-worker’s appendix burst, so for the past week her work has been shared out amongst the three surviving team members. She might be patient zero, but seeing as it’s Thursday of the second extra workload week, my patience might be at zero. Halloween starts in earnest (though likely Scared Straight, if any of them) tomorrow and I managed to finish my costume last night. Tomorrow couldn’t come soon enough. I’m ready to let go and blow off all my steam.

I wonder if Jason’s up to anything tomorrow…