Straight dude has hot take “for once”

I never really “got” the concept of hating all your exes. If everyone you dated in the past was a piece of shit, maybe the unifying factor is that you have terrible taste.

Or, like, stop dating men?

I intended the above statement as a joke, or maybe an intro/segue to some kind of stand up bit. I posted it on Facebook to gauge a reaction and, well, it got reactions. Mostly I think it was received in the spirit it was intended. Also friends chimed in with super valid comments on the complications abuse/trauma bring to the table in relationships. A friend mentioned the cycle of abuse and how it changes the way people see their own boundaries/what’s acceptable from someone you date. It can colour patterns of partner choice and cloud self-awareness. There are definitely shitty exes out there who take advantage of vulnerable people in frighteningly vampiric capacity.

Also many people are shit at dating.

I’m not saying I’m an expert by any means. I’ve done a bit and learned a lot. I’m extremely fortunate not to have dated any abusive, irreparably terrible people. For the most part, my past relationships have ended because of the realisation that we just weren’t truly compatible where it mattered. It sucked to breakup, but it was exceedingly better for both of us in the long term. We weren’t bad eggs by any means, we just weren’t good for one another. I’d wager that a lot of angry ex-haters probably fall under a similar boat without understanding it.

First and foremost, if you were dating someone in the first place, wouldn’t it be because you liked them? Who is out there dating people they don’t actually like on a fundamental level? If you don’t share interests or values, why would you be surprised and/or hurt when it doesn’t work out? I’m not knocking sharing consensual sexual engagements based on mutual attraction, but where in “we fuck good but don’t share values” is the part about realistic long term dating prospects? I don’t believe every relationship needs to be a forever one.

It’s 100% understandable to have shitty relationships that help you learn boundaries. Isn’t that the point of dating? It also makes sense that there have been some really raw past relationships that’ve burned bridges beyond the point of collapse. That said, if you point blank hate every single one of the people you’ve dated, perhaps that also says something about how you filter and choose the people you date? At some point there’s a responsibility on you to make decisions about whether or not a relationship gels with your needs/wants. If you’ve broken up with a bunch of people and learned nothing from them, it’s not entirely a potential shitty ex’s fault that you’re not considering who you are in a relationship.

The unpopular/unspoken truth of relationships is that a big part is being able to tolerate each other’s shit. Whether it’s being perennially late, dominating emotional labour, not doing their fair share of tasks, failing to consider their partner when making decisions that affect them, or whatever else it may be. We’re all flawed, we all have some modicum of baggage. We’re all just a little bit shitty; we’re human. I feel like part of a successful relationship is when people understand their partners flaws, their own baggage and accept them. They do the work of trying to find compromise while attempting to get better as time goes on.

Yes, there are 1000% shitty abusive behaviours that go beyond mere “flaws” or “baggage”. I do feel like a lot of us have blind spots, whether willingly or not, where we fail to recognise our responsibility in the degradation of a relationship and straight up don’t own our shit. Then when there’s a breakup it’s all the ex’s fault and personal culpability flies out the window.

I’m not saying it’s everyone all the time (and I feel like I know many, many considerate people who probably kick this concept in the arse), but I do think that a large proportion of people put everything on the other partner and when the ship sinks, put that blame in only one direction.

TL;DR – Check yourself before you wreck yourself.

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Was that enough of an info dump for you? Well now you know how I feel

I just had my first session with a new therapist.

This doesn’t mean I’m replacing my beloved current therapist, it’s just another potential option. My therapist is The Best. She’s incredibly perceptive and her style is very complementary to my way of processing. If I could see her on the regular I would. But I can’t. Or rather, I could but it would cost me a lot. She’s not cheap. So while my benefits can currently afford 3 of her sessions per year (which frankly isn’t enough to deal with a lot of things), I don’t want to not have those sessions. I do want to jump further into therapy as a means of finding ways to cope with unhelpful thoughts and patterns. I got a call a few weeks back saying that I’d finally come off the waiting list for an OHIP sponsored therapist. Today was the first of potentially a few sessions.

Introduction sessions with therapists feel kind of weird. There’s protocol and bookkeeping that needs to happen. They’ll tell you of the boundaries in place. Confidentiality is assured, except in a few key circumstances. Primarily this revolves around you being a potential threat to yourself or others. If you have suicidal thoughts that your therapist deems sufficient as a precursor to taking action, they can notify authorities and have you escorted to emergency to gauge whether you’re at risk. If children under your care are potentially at risk, therapists can also alert authorities. If you’re unsafe to drive in any capacity, whether that’s admitting to a habit of drink or drugged driving, being off certain necessary medications (like epilepsy medication. Which is fine to come off, but in that case you should not be driving), etc. If you could harm yourself or others, that is a valid concern. With that out of a way, the session turns over to you.

A therapist is only as good as what they can divine from what they’ve heard. The more they know about you, the wealth of information they can utilise to find ways to help. So they ask questions. It’s kind of like a first date, but a shitty one-sided first date where you’re monopolising the conversation. They keep asking questions, but you don’t get to interject. They’re also jotting down all of your answers too. It’s sort of checklist-y, but with good reason. It’s the most efficient method to get a base of understanding. An intro often happens over a couple of sessions where the therapist will dive into your background and mood.

Today was background. She asked about my upbringing, family structure past and present. She asked about relationships. Was I in one? For how long? At which stage? That kinda thing. She asked about my history of education and employment. What had I done to get to where I was? History of therapy and treating mental illness? Personal struggles? Drinking and drug use? How often? In what quantities? Did I have close friendships and a support network? Was I physically healthy? How did I think cognitive behavioural therapy would work for me? What were my expectations of our sessions?

You’d be surprised how long it can all take. There’s a little probing here and there, perhaps clarifying or asking for further information on something you’ve said. Going back to the first date notion, what the introductory sessions are used for is to see if the relationship of care would be a synergistic fit. Some people’s issues and personality don’t mesh well with particular methods of therapy. You want to find someone whose style complements your own. It’s the most effective way of ensuring the sessions are time spent wisely. If something doesn’t feel quite right, chances are it’s not. Intuition works pretty well with this sort of stuff. If you’re actively looking for therapy, please shop around and find someone who’ll be able to tailor their skills to your issues. Therapy is amazing. It can be life changing when it works. That said, “work” is the important word. It’s a lot on both sides, but it’s so goddamn worth it.

Let’s see how “date two” goes…

Did I just disappoint everyone who doesn’t live in Toronto? Don’t worry, I’ve disappointed most everyone in Toronto at least once too

I’ve been procrastinating over writing this for maybe the past 50 minutes. That shit has to stop. I have nothing salient on my mind and by gawd it’s gonna end up on this page.

I had brunch with a friend today. It was stellar. We went to The Gem, a local dive bar here in Toronto. I’ve talked up The Gem on here and I’m gonna briefly do so again, because you just *don’t* understand. The Gem is a dive bar, but really it’s the patron saint of dive bars. It’s the bowl of KD macaroni that’s on the box, but any attempt you make to recreate it pales in comparison. It’s the proto dive bar, entirely unpretentious. It’s less than “not fancy”, it doesn’t want to impress you in the least. It has decent prices and good portions of enjoyably cooked food. Their Sunday brunch runs from 11-4 and it’s a perfect way to do Sunday afternoon. Their pulled pork eggs benny is $7.95. That’s stupid cheap. It’s not like the pulled pork is dry and bland either, it’s probably like you’d cook at home. The atmosphere is ideal. It’s never densely populated, there’s old rockabilly music quietly playing in the background. Their chairs and cutlery are all mismatched. There’s a dog (with a skull possibly bigger than a human’s) lounging and walking freely around the place. The staff are nice and also just plain don’t bother you. They’ll give a cursory check in once or twice, but if you’re going to The Gem usually it’s cause you want some comfort food and to be left alone. The Gem is exactly what The Gem wants to be and if you want that, you should be there.

Anyway, after brunch my friend and I parted ways. I went off to the mall that time forgot, Dufferin Grove, to buy some zippers so I could get my winter coat fixed. I ran into my friend who I’d just brunched with. She had an armful of cat food and Captain Jack Pumpkin Liqueur. The first made sense, the latter sounded obscene. I knew another friend liked it, but still it didn’t make a ton of sense to me. She said she’d thought that, then after she tried it she couldn’t believe how great it was. The mall is gonna be paved for condos, so most stores have been doing liquidation sales. The liquor store was no exception. My friend had bought a couple of bottles of this seasonal beverage since it was around $10 off. I figured I’d pop in and see what they had. I decided to take a chance on the pumpkin liqueur (and a bottle of moonshine. It just makes me feel comfortably dirty, y’know?). Thing is, once I got home I tried it. It’s actually as good as my friends had said. Baffling, but delicious.

I was still in the mall and noticed I could get my free flu shot from the pharmacy. I figured that was a pretty good price, so I went in to get one. After filling out a form and a short wait, I was taken by a quiet man to a small consultation room. The door was wide open and I was looking out into the store. Two young women looked back and I think we were both confused as to why they were able to watch someone about to plunge a needle into my arm. The employee seemed a little nervous and unsure of himself, two qualities I hope to avoid in anyone about to fill my body with a compound of chemicals. He reached into a fridge and pulled out three small bottles. He looked at them for about ten seconds, as if trying to make his mind up. He put two of them to the side, and hesitantly filled up a syringe with the remaining one. He slowly moved towards me, but in a way that seemed like he was terrified of making physical contact. It was mildly alarming. I looked away as he put in the needle and slowly injected the vaccine over a period of 10-15 seconds.

Man oh man I hope he gave me the right one.

Is there a prolific Zen poet duo called the Koan Brothers?

This is brutal. We’ve lost access to the internet at work. Everything has ground to a standstill.

No internet access to pass the time is hard enough, but it gets worse. Email is down, so there’s no functional way to contact other departments and facilitate processes. The company decided to switch to a skype based phone system last year, so we have no phones. My phone also gets no cell signal in this building, so I can’t even use the internet there. So many folders on the network are impossible to access. The primary program we use to schedule also relies on an internet connection and we’re currently locked out. So it’s not like I could just do my job, y’know? Plus someone on maternity leave has come in to show off her baby, so I need to avoid the kitchen lest I get pulled into a conversation with someone I don’t care about who has a child I care even less about.

It’s getting weird. People have left their desks and started roaming the halls. I heard someone saying they were gonna try the slide for the first time, but it’s closed. I think we may be an hour away from some kind of ideological turf war breaking out. Fingers crossed. If the workday dissolved into bedlam it’d make practically all my dreams come true. I have literally always wanted to get pulled into an office based melee.

I’m so bored that I stacked all of our rubbish bins into a tower. I figured I had the time, energy, and little else to do. Made sense. If things get really dire I might start leaving cryptic post-its around the building. Except in the kitchen, ‘cause Mrs Mat Leave might ask questions and then I’ll be expected to ask about her child. Bad end.

So here I am, with all of you. Kind of. I’m writing this offline and by the time I upload it I obviously won’t be writing it anymore. Perhaps forget that first sentence, then. I’m feeling a little more spritely today. Or rather, manic. My brain has been flushed with a frighteningly erratic energy, making constant meaningless linguistic connections. What does that mean? Puns, mostly. Par example, if Peter Frampton became super religious would he be all “oooh, baby I love Yahweh” everyday? I heard that Kiss were doing a farewell tour and became incensed it wasn’t called “The Kiss Goodbye” tour.

Time has passed, things are still down. Apparently a couple of people slipped off for a sneaky beer. I wish I had. We’ve had nothing to do. In our team we had a mini bitch sesh, then talked about movies. We tested the relative comfort of chairs around the office. We haven’t braided each other’s hair yet, but I’m sure it’s not far off. The managers are going around checking that we’ve at least done the bare minimum required for the logs to go to air. Mostly, we have. I’ve got about 40 minutes of work left to do in the day, but I’ve been down for about the past two hours. Maybe we should grab a drink.

Oh, look at that, internet magically arrived after I developed an exit plan. Sucks. Part of me thought the rapture was happening and I was more okay with that than I thought I’d be. Like, you know how good it is to cancel plans at the last minute, right? Imagine you’re supposed to go out and meet someone more out of obligation than desire or something. How great would it be to just ditch the plans, stay in and watch shit on Netflix? Now imagine cancelling all plans forever. Doesn’t that sound peaceful?

Oh fuck, did I just become a doomsday cultist?

Stink or swim

I woke up this morning in the same mental space as yesterday.

I drifted in between tasks, trusting in routine to get me to work. Zoning out and kind of dissociating, I caught my bus, transferred to the train and stood there, hazily noticing my forlorn reflection in the train’s window. I was lost, just totally gone. Not there in the slightest. Then I felt something. I didn’t hear it, but an unfamiliar sensation slipped out. I farted. It smelled noxious. Just a rough and tumble dropped guts. Brutal. My features stayed neutral, but something stirred beneath. I felt my skin, came into contact with my body. I noticed a couple of people looking around, narrowing their eyes. I stayed silent. I also stayed present, in the moment in all facets. The all-encompassing dread that’d inhabited my total being couldn’t hold court against that kind of injunction. I was myself.

Then the moment passed and I felt myself drift back into the aether.

I’ve been on and off today, as I expected. For the most part though, I’ve been better than I’d hoped. It helped running into a friend in the kitchen at work today, pushing away the gloom for long enough to get a tenacious hold on things. I’ve had distractions, which have all done their part. I dunno, dumb shit like wondering whether it’s an insult or not to say that a dead DJ was “spinning in their grave”. Sometimes that’s enough.

I was thinking about a good way to make this all understandable, what it feels like when I’m in a rough patch and trying not to constantly dissociate. Have you ever tried to fix your posture? You’ll force yourself to sit up straight, then five seconds later you notice you’re slumping again. So you’ll force yourself to straighten again, then slump. The cycle repeats ad infinitum. When I’m depressed to the point where my grasp on reality suffers, it’s because it’s hard to retain that grasp. I’ll notice that I’m in a regressive, negative thought spiral and try to push back towards positivity. It may help for a matter of seconds, then I notice I’m right back in the mire of negativity. I try again to think of nice things and maybe I do, which helps briefly. So I keep trying, and it keeps getting harder to get back there. So most of the time I stop trying and just give up. Occasionally it helps, and my mental posture is effortlessly solid. Or something dumb will knock me out of it (like the aforementioned fart) and I’ll wonder why I was so densely sad. So often though, it doesn’t and that’s okay. Much as it sucks to feel that way, I never tell myself that I’m wrong for it. I’ve at least gotten rid of personal stigma against depression and I think that’s far healthier than judging myself for it. It’s just a part of me and accepting that is pretty damn important, oddly enough, for my own mental health.

I guess that’s about what I was trying to say. I’ve got no real intention of turning this into a dedicated depression blog, but at the same time my goal here is to never be anything but honest. Depression may be a part of me, but dishonesty isn’t.

If you’ve read this for any length of time, however, you’ll know that toilet humour most definitely is.

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.

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.