My so phony aunt.

We haven’t talked about therapy in a while, right? There’s a reason for that. The last time I visited therapy was about 18 months ago. Wanna know how long ago that was? The Pawdcast was still going, people were dressing up as clowns and terrorising the public. Pokemon Go was still a rampant phenomenon. It may as well have been another lifetime.

Why so long? The same reason therapy was even an option in the first place: Work. Firstly, there was a merger, our benefits got shrunk down. While we previously had $1500 per year to contribute towards a psychologist, under the new structure that became $500. Or rather, almost three sessions. Secondly, there was a merger, we moved building. My therapist was no longer an eight minute walk from work, but instead transit to and from therapy would take an hour in itself. This meant a therapy session would involve missing two hours of work in a day. Altogether, this meant therapy had become an obstacle. While it was immensely helpful, getting myself there (both physically and emotionally) required just enough work that it stopped happening. My therapist was accommodating and reduced my rates in order to fit with my downsized benefits, but I didn’t make it back there.

Until now.

Why now? Misophonia. The more I talked about my misophonia symptoms, the more I realised it was something I needed to take action on. If this is your first time hearing the word “misophonia”, here’s a brief rundown of what it means to me. When I hear certain sounds, my brain goes into fight/flight mode. My heart rate races, I start to sweat and rapidly oscillate between a need to escape and/or attack the source of the sound. It feels like a triggered traumatic response. My assumption is that it’s psycho-somatic, because as soon as I stop hearing the sound (by putting on headphones and listening to music, for instance) all the panic disappears instantly. I figure it’s the kind of thing that, if I let it run rampant for the rest of my life, will only get worse. If I have the resources at my disposal to do something about it, why wouldn’t I? I figured my therapist could possibly have coping techniques, exercises or could examine and work through the source of the trauma. Why settle for a band aid if I could treat the underlying condition, right?

As the session approached, I found I was getting excited. I’d missed my therapist, which made sense. Obviously if there’s someone who listens to your innermost fears and anxieties without judgement, you’d warm to that person. Isn’t that a narcissist’s dream in a nutshell? She’s always been incredibly proficient at pointing out new neural pathways to work me past cognitive loops and the process has felt collaborative. It suddenly seemed strange that she’d been absent as a force in my life for so long and I was looking oddly forward to catching her up on everything.

The session started and I laid out my misophonia issue. We chatted about it for a couple of minutes. She said she was unfamiliar with the particulars, but was curious as to how it presented for me. I gave her a brief outline. She said she had a couple of thoughts, but was curious about how I’d been since we’d last met up. I harnessed all the coffee I’d consumed and gave her a 180 word per minute rundown of the past year and a half in ten minutes flat. It was a roller coaster, as indicative of the 18 months I’ve had. I finished up and like an assassin, she took what she’d heard and zeroed in on particular stresses and successes. She asked about my anger responses in particular, where I thought that was rooted. She queried the elements of helplessness that I felt in these instances and wondered if there were memory banks I could access in order to find correlatory emotions. I posited that I had an innate struggle with asking others to tone down behaviour for my benefit, especially if the behaviour wasn’t harmful or aberrant in itself.

She narrowed it down to a particular co-worker that I’d mentioned, who ate around 30 baby carrot sticks in the mid-morning. His loud crunching (and the sheer number of fucking sticks) sets off my misophonia in a pretty aggressive fashion. She asked me about the frequency and severity of my responses. I told her it was almost daily between 11.15am-11.45am. She asked how long he’d been eating the carrot sticks and did this correlate to my triggers ramping up. I did the math and figured that yes, the two were intimately related. She asked me why I’d never spoken to him about it. I replied that he really wasn’t doing anything wrong, that I felt bad about trying to get him to cease something he enjoyed. I mean, he eats so many of them, he must clearly love the fuck out of them. She asked what I thought he’d say if I spoke to him. I told her he was a nice enough guy, that I was sure he wouldn’t lash out in any way, but I’d still feel like I was asking something unfair of him.

She pointed out that while that may be true on some small level, it likely wouldn’t be as big a deal as I was making it out to be. If it was a major source of trauma to me (and likely heightening my reactions to other people around me), it was something worth having a conversation over and that conversation didn’t need to be confrontational in manner. By minimising my feelings and emotions in the exchange (which wasn’t even adversarial in nature), I’d been doing myself more damage than a quick chat could ever do. Plus, she believed I had enough emotional wherewithal to not lay blame, to be open and honest without judgement and seek compromise. I replied that maybe I could get him to take ten minutes and eat them in the kitchen instead of his desk, or that he could even just give me a heads up so I could put on some music. She said she’d talk with colleagues to see if they had expertise in the area, but to take action and see if that helped. Also to not be a stranger and maybe drop her an email once in a while.

Have I unintentionally employed a doting aunt?


Let’s call it my 2 Unlimited potential.

The aftermath of my Austin holiday has been surprising. My typical response post vacation is to sink into a dense miasma of discontent. I’ll normally come back from my heightened experience to a jarring juxtaposition with my disappointing quotidian day-to-day. From the freedom and excitement that comes with exploring new territory unencumbered by schedules, to a regimented existence that sees me running on someone else’s timeline. It’s a harsh, brutal change that’s none too dissimilar from culture shock. In short, I have such a good time getting away from my life that it seems bleak in comparison.

Not this time.

Why? Is it because I had a shit holiday? Or that gravity relented when I set my foot on Canadian soil? Relief over the absence of open carry? I met a leprechaun in the hood and he gave me pot and gold chains?

I had an amazing holiday. I spent time with good friends and rediscovered parts of myself I thought long gone. Without the pressure and emotional weight of work, I felt lighter. My soul peeked out like Punxsutawney Phil and declared that whatever was bogging me down simply wasn’t worth it. To discover the summer of my heart in all that I saw. Everything the light touches, Simba. Etc. My sphincter loosened and I let go of all my tension. I felt at peace with myself and came away changed.

Returning from Austin I’ve come back in touch with my armchair social philosopher. I’ve been monologuing again and thinking about the human condition. I’ve looked at myself and wondered what’s been holding me down. The past week has left me charged and reminded me of something. I like me. I like who I am. I’m my number one biggest fan. I’m also quite okay with that. I think I’m more of a decent person than I’m not and I have no reason to not be okay with myself. I realise I’ve spent the past few years beating myself into submission. I’ve mitigated and minimised my personhood. I’ve softened my edges. I’ve been so afraid of making anyone else uncomfortable that I’ve compromised my larger than life existence. I know that I have the awareness and emotional cognisance to be as me as I want to be without dampening the light of others. It’s been as unnecessary as it has been damaging.

In short, I’ve grown tired of my shit.

There’s a fire in my heart that’s long been embers. I’m ready and stoked to bring it back to life. Gone is the mantra of “just get by” and back is the mantra of “making it happen”. I’ve been wasting the past few years of my life with the notion of contentment in lieu of fulfilment. I’ve been unfairly looking at how I pay the bills as a synonym for what I do. Frankly, I’m getting too old to care about the small stuff and I’m not old enough to settle for the little things.

I’m ready to be uncompromisingly me. Are you?

In that case, I’m sure we’ll find some other way to make fun of all those cumulosers.

As I occasionally do, I’m gonna cheat with today’s writing and start by reposting a Facebook comment I made. I’d seen a post about the discourse surrounding being overweight in our society and how nuance is so quickly lost in the shadow of fatphobia.

“A hill that I am willing to die on is that the apparent healthiness of your food intake is not a moral issue. The way that society has developed language around it is bullshit. An entire swath of foods is grouped under the label “junk food”, which automatically gets slammed with negative connotations and we start to associate guilt with our intake. It’s lead to a mentality where you’ll hear people about to eat something sweet and say “oh, I shouldn’t” or “I’ll be bad” and wink. This entire concept can fuck right off to the fiery gates of Mt. Fuck. It’s all predicated upon a ridiculous social fear of gaining weight, as if that’s the worst thing that could happen. What’s more, it only serves to entrench this view in people who have issues with moderation, leading to pointless and unnecessary self-loathing. Then others wield it like a badge, as if your ability to count calories says anything about your character.

Let people enjoy things. Their consumption is not your business.

Edit: Let’s also not forget that for many, cost is a gatekeeper to healthy eating. It’s entirety possible to have a nutritionally balanced diet on a low income, but it requires a ton of education. Nutrition is a minefield of information and most of us don’t really know what’s in our food. Pre packaged and manufactured foods are often far more affordable than their fresh counterparts and this has a trade off. So any kind of snooty moral superiority can take a fucking dip in the Arctic depths of Lake Fuck.”

If you’ve spent any time with my daily writing, you’ll recognise that these sentiments have been repeated ad nauseum. I’ve had to struggle with precious little in my middle class white cis male life. Body issues have been one of the few repeat offenders. While it may seem kinda ironic posting this in the middle of my tussle with the ketogenic diet (I’ve never professed that I’m doing it for anything but weight loss), my hope is that the two aren’t mutually exclusive. The point that I’d like to drive home is that your relationship with your body is a personal thing. Not all relationships are healthy, but neither are they the domain of strangers. In the same way that moral panic has been used through the ages to control mass behaviour (the concept of sexual pleasure outside of marriage as a sin, for instance), being outside a slim definition of physical norms has become aberrant. We’re told that irrespective of health, being overweight is cause for disdain. Hell, even the euphemism “overweight” implies a deviation from the norm. Fuck that noise. What right does a stranger have to cast judgement on your health or worth based on the way you look?

Turnabout is fair play, supposedly, and it’s easy to point the finger back to me. For the past 17 years I’ve pushed myself to the gym three or more times per week. I’ve tried diets, cut alcohol and run to work in order to drop weight. I’ve constantly fought with the scales, yet I’m standing here advocating against demonising people’s weight? I want to be clear, I’m not saying I’m any different or better than you. I have internalised personal fatphobia, I just come by it honestly. As a child I was teased and physically bullied for being fat. It hindered my ability to be confident in myself. I drank deeply from all the media messages telling me that to be successful and admired was to be trim and attractive.

I didn’t feel trim or attractive and as such thought of myself as pretty damn unlikable. At the age of seven I started to believe that if I was to be fat, nobody would love me, I’d never get married, then die alone and childless. I WAS SEVEN YEARS OLD. Isn’t that fucking ridiculous? The only thing seven year olds should care about is the wonder of the universe around them. Not their inevitable entropy. You know what? I bought in. I struggled unsuccessfully with weight loss for years. I started going to the gym at 5.30am three times a week before school at 14. I ascribed to the notion that I would never be liked or desired unless I fit a certain body type.

At 31 I’d love to say that I’ve grown out of it, but you read the keto diet thing. I know that in my brain and heart, I’ll always be fat no matter what my body looks like. It’s absurd, but therapy to unpack and dismantle all that trauma would cost more annually than my salary. My hope is that we as a society improve. That these attitudes die out. That we change the language and perceptions around the way people look to save future generations from needless anxiety.

Until we upload our consciousness to the cloud, anyway.

If I was drinking right now, this entry would be sponsored by Campari Sun.

Goddammit I’m tired of sneezing. Today was supposed to be a relaxing day off work. Instead I’ve spent it expelling transient innards from my nose. Did that sound like unnecessary roughness? It feels like it too. I was tired when I woke and I’ve kind of just deteriorated as the day has developed. My nose is running some kind of marathon that my body can’t catch up on. My brain is foggy and I feel sorta out of it. My stomach feels unsettled (which could also have just been an overabundance of cabbage). Also I’m vaguely cold, which could be solved by getting the thermostat turnT up. Overall, I could be better.

It’s looking like I might need to take tomorrow off for a legit sick day. I spent my day being productive and responsible and look where it got me. I went to the doctor and the gym. I booked a therapy session and a trip to London (the good one). I shovelled the path and took out the garbage. I was basically the paragon of an upstanding citizen. Is this some kind of divine signal that I need to abscond from my virtue and become a low down dirtbag once more? I can remember what it was like to be a teenager. Plus if I’d forgotten, Wheatus wrote a handy manifesto on it. Now where did I put my Iron Maiden?

The band. I know full well where my medieval torture device is. I lent it to Steve.

At times I do miss being a carefree early twentysomething. Then I remember how embarrassing a bunch of those memories are. Yeesh. The shit I said to unsuccessfully try and impress girls? Outbursts I would’ve had in school because I thought I was being funny? Edgy parental rebellion? I guess losing memories to ageing is sometimes a personal defence mechanism. It was a time. I wonder if anyone looks back at their teenage self without a grimace. I can think of people I always saw as onto it, cool and collected. I bet at 30 they now hate their teenage selves too though. I’m sure everyone who looked like they had their shit together really shat the bed as much as I did, I just wasn’t around to see it.

It’s weird how focused on comparison we are. Humans sociability does so much for us, but concurrently looking at others is the source of so much self-directed negativity. Of course we shouldn’t be judging ourselves by the successes of others. Still, show me someone who abides by that notion and you’ve found a hidden psychopath. Nobody is that confident, regardless of their many victories. I bet Elon Musk still looks back at his teenage years and thinks of the time he vomited on his crush at a party. Cheer up Elon, it gets better.

I’ve been thinking about comparisons lately because of a conversation I had the other day. I was at a friend’s soiree meeting another friend’s partner. She said she’d heard of me at some other party, because two of my other friends were talking about me. Frankly, I won’t repeat the content, but suffice to say I was embarrassed beyond belief. What they were saying was 100% the nicest compliment anyone has ever given me and they were telling a total stranger, unprompted, behind my back. That seems pretty genuine, right? The reason I’m embarrassed is because (aside from the fact that I’ve misspelled “embarrassed” as “embarassed” several times this entry even though I keep telling myself Okay, I’ve got this now) they embody the epitome of what they were saying about me. The way they saw me was how I saw them ten times over. I saw myself as so lowly in comparison, but here they were speaking so highly of me. It was fucking unbelievable.

What it brought home was something that wasn’t news, but deserved reiterating. Whenever we’re looking at our achievements, they’re filtered through our failures. Everything we’ve done is mitigated by a “but”. Yeah, I travelled across the world, but I had citizenship and a family safety net. To me that doesn’t sound like success. I look to immigrants who’ve risked life and limb, made difficult choices. They overcame adversity. I just bought a ticket and got on a plane. Thing is, we each are fighting battles the other isn’t. There’s no point in comparing our accomplishments, because we didn’t face the same struggles to get there. Context and background mean so much, but when we look towards anyone else, we merely see the outcome.

Now how can I parlay this into a sick day tomorrow?

Bye bye Mr American Pie.

It’s easy to forget what it was like to be a teenager. With the wisdom of retrospection, I now openly mock the emotional struggles of teens. Wait, that sounds actively spiteful. What I meant to say is that looking back at some of the instances in which my hormones brought me to my knees, I can see how trivial they were. I was almost an entirely different person, chemicals viciously clashing through my body. My brain was a volatile beaker of testosterone, spunk and sadness. I saw the world with a mixture of curiousity, envy and anger. Why was it all chaotic and where was my part in that madness? The future seemed both distant and immediate. Moreover, I just wanted to get laid.

Perhaps that’s uncharitable. Having sex wasn’t the only thought on my mind. I also spent a bunch of time thinking about anime and Pokémon. Still, sex probably ruled 90% of my thoughts. Why?

Sex was everywhere. It was in the advertising I absorbed every day. It was on the internet (and how). Sex was walking past me every day at school (in short skirts, no less). Sex was in the shows I watched and the movies we’d put on when we hung out. Oh those teen sex comedies. In the tradition of Porky’s and Fast Times at Ridgemont High, the late 90s and early 2000s saw the resurgence of the genre. American Pie was the tentpole property (pun kinda intended), but it was far from the only one. Road Trip, The Girl Next Door, EuroTrip, Van Wilder and in a sterling example that both parodied and exemplified the genre: Not Another Teen Movie. My friends and I all loved them. How could we not? They were comedy and wish fulfilment wrapped into a single package. They also irrevocably shaped our attitudes towards sex and relationships on the path to adulthood.

On a whim, my girlfriend and I watched American Pie last night. In my memory it was just a typical teen movie irrespective of gender. All of my teenage female friends loved it, so I had no reason to think otherwise. It’s hard to see it the same way at 31. The women in the film are mostly without agency and almost exclusively seen as objectives. They’re tools through which the male leads can gain control over their sexual destinies. Prizes to be won. Personalities only as far as they can create obstacles for Jim and Co. It’s just dudes wanting to get laid. I mean, of course it is. I don’t know how the years dulled my notion that the entire plot was predicated upon that. It places sex on such a pedestal that all purpose for these guys pales in comparison to putting their dick in someone. Yes, the film has thinly applied lessons in the end. Oz discovers a different side to himself through his pursuit of pretending to be something he’s not for a girl. Finch’s plot resolution is maybe the most cringeworthy scene committed to celluloid I’ve seen in some time. It’s basically the personification of m’lady mentality and guys who think watching Rick and Morty gives them a genius level intellect.

Hey, don’t get me wrong. There was nostalgia in the rewatch. I didn’t hate it, but it felt great realising I’d grown past it. It’s not a good film by any metric, but there’s still some amusement in giving it a gander. Eugene Levy is a treasure. Plus I’d forgotten good ol’ John Cho gave worldwide public vernacular the word “MILF”.

The biggest revelation was how heavily I’d absorbed all the wrong messages it spread. American Pie and its ilk made me thirst for sex all the more. I was desperate for it. What’s worse is that I saw it as something I was owed, that was being kept from me. To teenage Leon, girls were gatekeepers of a treasure that was mine for the taking, but hidden within a locked vault. How do you think this shaped my attitudes towards the women in my life? It’s not like I treated them like trash. Still, underlying so many my interactions was the notion of looking for ways to unlock the opportunity for sex. As if ladies (m’ladies. Oh god, I did own a trilby), were a game to be played for the underlying goal of sex. Typical of someone my age? I’m sure. Still, gross as fuck.

As a teenager it never happened. You know what? Thank fuck. I’m glad I never put anyone through that. By the time I did start having sex I’d at least developed some modicum of emotional maturity. My heart was in the right place to treat women as people, not opportunities. Would getting laid as a teen have changed how I now approach the act? Would I still have learned to respect women in the same way?

Perhaps that’s an alternate reality I’m happy to not think about. At least I never got desperate enough to fuck a pie.

Ad-Just my type.

I lately feel like I’ve lost the ability to type and furthered my ability to typo. Why? Because I made seven typos in that first sentence. I’m not shitting you (and I swear it was by no means intentional). My fingers have recently become leaden and clumsy like a golem trying to tango. I wish it weren’t so, but I’ve clearly inherited a voracious brain disease and it’s chowing down on all my synapses. Sure, I never actually learned to touch type and that could be a large part of this whole mess. Maybe I’m just getting lazy and assuming my fingers will get to where they need to be without actually visualising the keyboard. Or perhaps I’ve gotten reliant on my phone’s swype functionality. Whatever it is, if you’ve been wondering why my entries have been shorter lately, it could be because I’ve used the backspace key more than any one letter.

When I was a kid I thought the “spacebar” sounded cooler than any other key. Escape was a close second. I had no idea what that little cluster of Insert to Page Down did. The F keys occasionally got used in games, but beyond that I was clueless. There’s no moral to this story or hidden parable. I just thought it was cute to mention.

I could probably fill a week with little “when I was a kid” anecdotes. Let’s put my money (a sliver of it) where my mouth is and see if I can do one entry.

When I was a kid I split more than one pair of pants by farting. I don’t know if I had a propensity for bending over and flexing the butt fabric as much as possible. Maybe I just lucked out. For sure though, I’d push those little seams as far as they could go and toot my way through. This wasn’t sabotage. I was mortified. It was quite possibly even psychologically damaging. Perhaps that’s why I started wearing almost exclusively track pants on my lower half.

When I was a kid I’d find toy adverts exciting beyond all else. Even toys I had no interest in. I just got excited seeing the child actors getting excited and that made me want to join in. Perhaps I was super empathic or something. In the event that I did get something advertised on TV there was this whole “monkey see” aspect. I’d repeat the action I saw onscreen. Then I’d usually become oddly disillusioned when I wasn’t having as much fun as the kids in the ad did. I remember interrupting an adult discussion of ads that deserved to win at the annual Fair Go ad awards. I told the adults in no uncertain terms that the Power Rangers toy ad was a shoe in, because it showcased the full line of toys and which looked fun to play with. What else could an ad possibly do? I mean, it’d worked on me, for one.

When I was a kid my Nana used to make the coolest jelly. It’d be three colours in layers, then have little bits of banana in there. As an adult I’ve thought about that jelly on a weekly basis, but I don’t think I’ve ever completed the simple steps of a) looking up a recipe or b) following through on that recipe. My Nana never had the internet and I’ve never had a good excuse.

When I was a kid I’d develop crushes on actresses and cartoon characters all the time. Cameron Diaz in The Mask, the Pink Ranger in the aforementioned Power Rangers. Lola Bunny for obvious reasons. Nala from The Lion King for less obvious (though I think I identified with Simba because… actually I don’t know. Maybe there was something in my brain about my name meaning “lion” and having some illusory kinship because of it?) reasons. Thing was, I’m pretty sure there was nothing sexual about it. I was immensely sexually naive as a child, but hyper-romantic. I fell in love with girls from school every second day from the slightest gesture. They lent me a pencil? SOUL MATES FO LYFE, YO. I didn’t even know what I wanted to do with that notion. I think I kind of liked the idea of kissing/being kissed. Holding hands with a girl was basically a tacit marriage contract. The concept of sharing something secret that existed only between myself and a girl inhabited this forbidden space walled off by shame and self-loathing. Of course they wouldn’t like me back, but a guy could dream, right? To be clear, this all kicked in around age six. I was a fast learner.

When I was a kid I never got my pen licence. My handwriting was abhorrent and I often had to stay after class to finish lines. I guess the educational system thought that rote learning could fix my aesthetic inability. I guess they were wrong. At some stage I wrote tiny letters and decided it looked neater, so from then on I made my handwriting tiny. To be clear, it was still borderline indecipherable. The habit, however, stuck. By the time I was in university, I’d be writing these dense essays that weren’t merely crammed full of polysyllabic words, but in joined letters with minuscule letters. I’m surprised I ever got a passing grade.

Maybe constant typos are my fingers’ way of getting nostalgic.

A pity party is still a party.

Happy birthday to moi. As is de rigueur, it’s been spent way up in a cloud of negativity. I haven’t felt special, I’ve felt shitty, insufficient. I’m at a place in my life that seems comparatively joyless. I don’t like my job and aside from fleeting distractions, my day to day adds up to a cumulative total of fine, I guess. I’m 31 now and feel like the only direction I’ve gone from 30 has been backwards. A year has passed and I have nothing to show for it. A couple more memories to file away, but it doesn’t feel like I had a year’s worth of experiences. I have nothing to complain about, but that doesn’t equal tons to celebrate. My grand plans for the day involve going to the gym, going home, eating dinner and in general wanting everything to go away.

I’d usually treat myself to something, but my patterns of celebration all revolve around consumption. I’d go out to a restaurant or drink myself blind, but keto has stripped the fun out of that. I’ve subtracted the enjoyment from basically my favourite thing to do, which likely forms no small element of my birthday blues. Still, going full humbug has been an anniversary tradition for as long as I’ve been making my own money.

For at least the past 10 years, birthdays have become a mire of self-examination. Another trip around the sun seems emblematic of how much I haven’t done. My lack of progress and general listlessness. It’s navel gazing at its most cruel. Creating unrealistic comparisons is always a fool’s errand, but like a fool I get sucked in every year. Of course I understand intellectually that my life isn’t a garbage fire, but that does little to lift my mood.

The smart thing to do, then, would be to have a paradigm shift. Instead of asking what have I done in the past year? I should be asking what would I like to do in the next year? Nothing as grand as where do I want to be? Something more along the lines of what would make me happy? What does happiness look like to me? What does “good enough” represent? The answers seem self-evident. Of course I want my work to fulfil me. I’d like to be more confident. Fitter, happier et al. The real question should be how do I decide where I want to be without resenting myself for not getting there?

Self-compassion is a skill that we’re not taught. Our society rarely makes a habit of celebrating mediocrity (outside of Rotten Tomatoes’ fruit based rating system) and successes are paraded around as inspiration porn. The side effect is that the yardstick we measure ourselves with goes way beyond our range. It’s unbalanced and the expectations we hold don’t match up to workable metrics. We’re told we can be film stars, entrepreneurs, artists, millionaires. The 99th percentile is achievable if only we try hard enough, right? Sure, for 1% of us. Most people aren’t them.

Look, I’ll be fine tomorrow, when expectations are back to their low bar. Something about the day always makes me feel like there’s pressure to be extraordinary and the surplus of ordinary really twists the knife. It’s a birthday, they come around every year. By the time I sleep I won’t have to worry about it for another sun cycle.

If that ain’t something to celebrate, I don’t know what is.