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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Oh fuck. This is a Drake song, isn’t it?

I’m Upset.

I got another job rejection. I know it’s not personal, but I’m taking it personally. I know it’s not about me, but it feels like it’s about me, y’know? It feels like if it wasn’t me, I wouldn’t have this problem. I don’t think logic has any place in where I am right now. Logic would say that 200+ people apply for every position I apply for and only one person can be the right person. Logic would say that disappointment is inevitable for n-1 people where n=the number of people who applied. Logic would say this this is another singular disappointment in a series of singular disappointments. It doesn’t feel like a singular disappointment. It feels like a cumulative pile of failure in which I haven’t been the right person for anyone. That every time I’m not enough. Not experienced enough or talented enough or smart enough or capable enough. It feels like I’m coming up on several years of feeling at the very least low key bone deep miserable at all times and just kind of holding it together. This time feels different.

Logic has told me time and time again not to get attached, but I do. When I get an interview and the interview feels warm and responsive I get attached. I start thinking about what it could be like to meet new people in an all new department/workplace. To grow my skills and gain satisfaction in having done something well. To see progress and development in my own aptitude and confidence. To show myself that I am capable and bring value to the world with my output. When inevitably this doesn’t happen, I once again doubt all of the above. Logic tells me that I have value all of my own and I do bring something to the world in how I connect to others. It’s been a while since any of this felt logical.

I’m not logical right now. I’m Upset. “Capital U” Upset. I feel like I’m at a point of nothing. I’m 31 and I’m drifting, with no idea of what the future holds and zero assurance it’ll hold anything. I feel like any skills I had were honed almost ten years ago and my relevance has just been fading year by year. I know a fucking job doesn’t mean anything but it means something to me. I know the way I pay my rent doesn’t define me but I want it to, at least a little. Emotional as I am I know that even a dream job is still a job that sucks like any other job. I’m not asking for a dream job. If there’s anything the past ten years have taught me it’s to dream smaller. I’m just asking to do work that I can feel proud of, that makes people feel happy or understood in some way. That makes me feel like I’ve given something of myself. To feel like I’m connecting at least a little with others. I’ve long since known that money isn’t a motivator for me, but meaning is and I’m running on empty. I don’t know what I’m doing or why. I don’t know why I’m still trying. I’m scared that soon enough I’ll just stop caring and I don’t know what happens then.

Oh, I’ve had affirmations. That it’ll be my time next time. That something is right around the corner. That this wasn’t to be, but not to worry because something will come. That I am experienced enough and talented enough and smart enough and capable enough. Affirmations are great and all, but they don’t mean a thing unless I believe them and I don’t know that I do anymore.

I don’t know what the point of this is beyond venting, but I’m venting. Things feel pretty shit right now. They have for a while, but just that little bit more at the moment. I *know* that other people are struggling with worse problems, but I also know that doesn’t invalidate any of mine. I *know* that on a long enough timeline this won’t matter, but feeling shitty and worthless for years on end seems like a timeline that’s been long enough already. I’m so tired. I’m so tired of getting my hopes up and getting let down. I’m so tired of getting another deftly worded email that essentially tells me to go fuck myself. I’m so tired of putting energy out and feeling like I’m wasting my life. I’m so tired of swallowing my own disappointment day by day. I’m so tired of people telling me that things will just work out and both of smiling like either of us actually believe it.

I just kinda want to stop existing for a while.

And I know this too will fade. That everyone else feels this way a lot of the time. That we all feel shitty and worthless and like we’re not enough. That we feel like we’re just beating our heads against something, tasting our own blood and shrugging. That treading water is technically surviving, but it’s not a life. That there’s a piece missing that’ll make everything click, but its absense feels like a hole within ourselves. I know we all feel like this, but I’d kind of like to just not for once.

So for today, at least, I’m Upset.

At this point, this project has basically become a second Facebook

Look, this is probably cheating, but I wrote this piece yesterday. I spent a really long time on putting together a rebuttal for a Facebook debate (it reads more like an essay) and I think I’m okay with posting it as my “today” piece. It centred around a Facebook friend’s “unpopular opinion” that being offended is a choice we make. That we should “grow stronger than any of your traumas and history and simply rise above it. Work towards better things.” That free speech should be fine up to the point where it causes violence. That hate speech, while disgusting and awful, should not be governed by hatecrime legislation. That people have the right to say whatever they want and face the consequences. I want to emphasise that I don’t think he’s a bad person in any way. I do, however, vehemently disagree with his opinion in this instance. I feel like I care strongly enough about it, that I want to have it publicly posted in this space. Here’s my response:

Cool.

You’re right that I disagree with your unpopular opinion. The reason why I don’t think dealing with hate speech is as “simple” as choosing not to be offended, or growing stronger than your traumas and history, is because not everyone is you.

You’re a physically able, tall, straight white male. You’re very capable of taking care of yourself. People of course are able to threaten you, but it’s much less likely than it would be for some others. Threats of a sexually aggressive nature are unlikely to be as impactful to you as they may be to a physically smaller person who presents with varying gender or sexual orientation. People of course are still able to physically attack you, but it’s less likely that people would engage in violence against you for fear of reprisal.

Of course you have been threatened in your life. I’d argue that very, very few people have gone through their life without physical, verbal or emotional abuse. You also say that you’re a bouncer, which is a position that comes bundled with the potential of abuse. You enter into that situation knowing that it’s an outcome. There’s a level of consent there that says, while you don’t necessarily welcome it, you understand that it comes with the territory. You make that choice when you take on the job. What about people who don’t consent to facing abuse?

What about outside of your job. How often would you face bouts of abuse in any form? I’d wager that the frequency or incidence at which you face this abuse is exponentially lower than it would be for some others. How are you to gauge how hurtful and oppressive hate speech feels when you most likely very rarely face it? What about sexual threats? I’ve had numerous femme/NB friends tell me about the constant barrage of unwanted sexual attention. Sometimes it’s loud and frightening. There’s often a disparity in physical dominance. My girlfriend told me she got hit on four times the other day and it made her feel uncomfortable and unsafe. She said that wasn’t even a high number. What if that was happening to you every day, multiple times a day? What if sometimes the manner of the other person was so threatening that you were afraid for your life?

What if you were of some minority in a workplace where hate speech was allowed? What if the use of it by even one co-worker on the regular made you feel frustrated or hurt? What if it was multiple co-workers? What if your boss spoke to you like a lesser life form because of your cultural background? What if you felt threatened by this behaviour and felt unsafe in the workplace? What if people with higher status than you felt that it was okay to try and make you miserable on the regular? Sure, you could brush it off, swallow the pain and just go on with your life. It’s just work, right? What if it followed you home? What if you were being belittled in the supermarket or other social spaces? What if people decided they didn’t want you around and felt comfortable expressing that? What if there were just some bars and restaurants where you knew you’d be regularly harassed? Or parts of town? Would that be something you could “simply rise above”?

Look, I’m gonna pull the Jew card, not because I especially want to invoke Godwin’s Law, but because it’s relevant to my day to day and I think it might be a decent way of highlighting how it’s not as simple as being bigger than words. Don’t get me wrong, I’m a physically able, straight white male too. Still, when someone uses the word Kike, it makes me feel fucking terrible inside and out. It reminds me that there are a lot of people out there who think that I don’t deserve to live. That word reminds me that for a lot of people, my personhood, achievements, personality, deeds, friendships and romantic connections are less important than the fact that I’m of Jewish dissent and as such, would be better off dead. This transcends people not liking me, this is ‘you should be culled’ territory. These sentiments exist out there and I know it, but I’m not always reminded of them. Which is a good thing, because despite being a physically able straight white male, I know that if these sentiments were given enough support, I would be given cause for concern.

I rise above a lot of it. Whether it’s jokey comments reinforcing stereotypes or my culture thrown out as a casual disparaging epithet that remind me that for some people, a religion that I don’t even follow is a large component of how they view me. That for others, noticing that aspect of me is enough to want me to be killed. I’m not an incredibly sensitive person, (despite how it might sound from the fact that I’ve been pointedly debating for hours) I’m really not. For the most part I live my life without major issues or cause to feel threatened. I have a pretty positive outlook a lot of the time. I try to be a friendly person and kind to strangers. I truly believe that people are more often ignorant than malicious and as such, I try to assume the best of most people/outcomes.

Still, it’s very hard to hear some of the recent alt-right sentiment and not feel at least a sliver of doubt that, if given more weight or the wrong people running with the sentiment, the floor could cave out and society could turn on me. That the words could become more than just words and people could act on them. That it could reach the tipping point where more of society decides that violence against me is okay than those who oppose this idea. That the overwhelming sentiment is that I’m a lesser life form and I don’t have the right to personhood. That it’s like killing an animal or something. That I don’t deserve the same rights as others.

It’s very rare for me to feel this way, because it’s not often reinforced. People are discouraged against this kind of hate speech, so the rhetoric stays bubbling under the surface. How often do I feel this? Not often. Most days and months go by without the thoughts even entering into my head. In fact, they come up so infrequently that for the most part I can ignore them and brush them off. It’s because hate speech is discouraged that it’s 99.999% easier to choose not to be offended, as you say.

I have a ton of resilience. If I faced hate speech day by day, I don’t think it would be as easy to be as resilient. I think that if people openly used racist words against me day in and day out, that my resilience would crack and it would be harder and harder to not be offended. I would be reminded a lot more often that a lot of people would be quite okay with me taking a gas shower. That my family, too, should all be dead.

But because hate speech is widely condemned, I don’t have to deal with all of that.

I honestly don’t think that most people out there are antisemitic. I do think that hate speech has a habit of multiplying negative sentiment. I think that people who have no horse in this race could be swayed to follow the hateful rhetoric. I think that a lot of people with these extreme feelings would feel strongly enough about it that they would try to amplify hate speech into hate sentiment, that things that were just words would become more than just words. I feel like the absence of hatecrime legislature would not lead to situations in which it would be as easy to rise above and not be offended.

I can envision these scenarios being played out over a myriad of cultural/sexual/gender identities that don’t affect me, but I sure as hell don’t want others to have to face a higher likelihood of dealing with this kind of thing. That sounds like a lower quality of life for all of us.

I guess normalised nudity is in my rear-view too

All good things come to an end. I mean, shit things do too, but that’s beside the point. We’re on the road, leaving an unforgettable weekend behind. Taking nothing but the memories and excessive quantities of snacks we brought. So long, and thanks for all the MOOP.

It’s hard to succinctly summarise such an expansive, weekend of endless experiences. I don’t have the wherewithal to explain the complicated feelings of sadness over leaving it all behind, while craving so much the touch of my partner and the four walls in which we’ve made our lives. Can someone make me a German compound word for it? I think there’s beauty in the transitory nature of such a vibrant ecosystem. I woke up this morning and looked across the vast fields of tents and structures. In eight hours it’d all be gone, the Leave No Trace team doing their damnedest to preserve the land that’d given us so much.

Hyperborea was like altered reality. An extended weekend with no egregious interactions. Everyone greeted me with a smile or a hug. Their generousity was bountiful, encouraging sincere reciprocation. Any time I could help a stranger or do a favour felt like a gift. Like called to like and I loved being able to give of myself. There was nothing but greenlighting. The principle of radical self-expression wholly invited offers of creativity without judgement. If someone was to strip naked and dance around the fire, cheers would erupt. If one was to start singing, others would join. A vibrant celebration of individuality and reminder that none of us are truly alone. An overabundance of affection and faith in the human spirit. How do I not embrace total strangers with a consensual hug and a peck on the cheek?

I don’t know how I’m supposed to sit in a cubicle tomorrow. What does it feel like to not live communally? To hold in thoughts and not speak your mind liberally? To be so bound by social conventions and polite niceties? To have to wear clothes at all times? To hide your individuality behind the shell of who people want you to be? Who am I when I’m not being me? Or is the real question, how do I be the most me I can be while playing inside the structures of others? I was wrestling with identity while staring into the burning effigy. Now I’m contemplating what parts of me were sparked by the events of Hyperborea. What path will this take me down? Are there lessons to take away in order to enrich my life?

The trip isn’t far enough in my rear-view for me to see how I’ve changed, but I know for sure that I have. As we watched the temple burn last night I looked around the circle. The air was still and quiet. I traced the faces of all assembled, diving back into endless transient memories. Conversations and meals shared. Dance and massage partners. Experiences both ephemeral and lasting. As I gave of myself, so too did they leave part of themselves with me. Much as this all sounds like nonsense, I did preface it by saying it was hard to explain. If this is my self-expression, I don’t want it to be anything less than radical.

‘Cause Hyperborea surely wasn’t.

Good ol’ fashioned effigyniality

I’m not entirely sure what I expected out of a Burn, but I don’t think I could’ve planned for any of it.

It’s been so interesting entering wildly different spaces. No matter the theme camp, the unifying factor seems to be an overwhelming generousity of spirit. An excess of gifting, both emotional and of tangible goods. Walking through the grounds, I find myself hustled over by well meaning folk. “We’re having a bacon party” they’ll say. An array of treats greet your eyes. Bacon wrapped marshmallows smothered in chocolate. Cream cheese bacon dip, chocolate covered bacon bit shot glasses filled with vanilla and apple whiskey. An angel stops by the camp every morning with home baked cookies. A cornucopia of culinary delights. Spicy tequila shots, distilled spirits, sangria, midnight poutine, crepes, cold brew and that’s just the fucking tip of the iceberg. Oh, and iceberg lettuce in the free salad bar. My stomach and heart have been so gosh darn replete.

The generousity of activities are a marvel too. Octomassage was something else. Eight people rotating giving the person in the centre a simultaneous massage. Eight sets of hands on your body was an enveloping sensory experience. Everything was consent based, with participants aiming to give the massagee their desired physical release. Having hands on your shoulders, upper back, feet and butt at the same time was unreal. There was such a sense of goodwill, with no ulterior motive outside of making the face down participant feel as great as possible. Especially after having received such a boon, it was gratifying to be able to give back and help others access the same joy.

The most intense experience, however, was the burning of the effigy. I came in cynical about city hippies coming out to the country to set shit on fire. When it came time for the effigy to burn, I was taken in completely. Seeing ashes blow into the night sky, strata falling apart, all consumed by the encroaching flame, it stirred something inside. I began to question the person I needed to become and what I’d have to give up in order to get there. The pain of separation a thousand times over. A life of constant death and rebirth, finding myself again and again. One of our blissful connections, a French Canadian dude, came over to talk to me about the Maori gods. It brought up feelings of regret, guilt. Had I abandoned my homeland? What had I taken with me? Was I too proud to admit the pain of separation? Had my resolution in leaving been the right path? I stared into the flames and wept uncontrollably, wondering when it was I’d find my path in life, instead of the purgatory of aimless drifitng. I found comfort in the arms of my friends as I sobbed into their shoulders. I unravelled, cut open to the world with a vulnerablity I’m not sure I’ve ever felt.

Something in me shifted, and I’ve got no idea how it’s settled. I feel different this morning, attuned with my body and trusting that my mind will follow. I spent time in the sauna, sweat dripping out of my pores. As my bodily fluids drained, I felt something leave me, as if a possession had lifted. I’ve remained naked throughout the day. I joined friends in the field doing naked yoga. I lay bare underneath the sun to feel connected. I’m starting to feel centred. As if I’m coming back to rediscover who it is I am. I’ve got no idea what it is I’ll find beneath the surface, but I know I’m ready for something different.

With no concept of what’s burned away, I’m excited and scared to know what’s left.

Being grounded doesn’t mean six feet under

I feel ungreat.

The last time I went on holiday I came back a new man. I don’t know what it was precisely, but it did for me what a vacation is meant to do. I felt renewed, confident and ready to tackle any opposition life could throw at me. The one bugbear in my life, my career (or lack thereof) taught me that by its status as my only real issue, stuff was going pretty damn spectacularly. I used this newfound vim to launch myself at everything possible. I made more time with friends and was enthusiastically present. I disregarded my displeasure for my job and instead focused on the things that fulfilled me. My attitude, which had been in a severe downwards spiral for the previous nine or so months (since returning from my trip to Portland), pulled out of its nosedive and ascended. Things were better than bad, they were excellent and I knew I had the personal provisions to keep up that momentum.

After returning from London, I feel the same way as I did post-Portland.

I’m miserable to be back at work. The job still sucks. It’s busier than it was and any motivation I garnered was dissipated by my disappointment that I never got so much as a reply about the job I applied for pre-vacation. I don’t feel renewed by my trip. I feel exhausted. I’m sick with a cold. 22 hours after touching down my ears still haven’t fully popped. I’m unbalanced (physically. I forgot how much hearing dictated your sense of balance) and all congested. I’m exhausted, because the cat decided it’d be prudent to meow outside our door literally all night. It’s Spring and the ground in Toronto is covered in snow. Physically I haven’t been active in a week and a half and my body is letting me know. In short, I’m a bit of a wreck.

What went wrong?

Honestly, I don’t know that I was ready for a vacation yet. My holiday in Austin was at the end of February. That’s only six odd weeks ago. Travel takes a lot of planning, which for me at least requires a lot of emotional energy. I didn’t muster up enough to make adequate plans and as such, the holiday suffered. Travel is expensive. My nine day trip to London, including airfare, cost about $1,800. $200 per day and that’s with free accommodation. The exchange rate from CAD to Pounds was brutal and my wallet felt the sting. Furthermore, aside from the wedding (the reason for the visit) and the allure of seeing old friends again, I wasn’t particularly excited about anything London had to offer. I just went to London back in late 2016. This time around, nothing was really taking my fancy.

Linking all this together, here’s what happened: I spent a bunch of money going on a trip I wasn’t hugely looking forward to. The pace of the trip felt off. I’ve gotten used to a certain style of holiday. I want to be on the move constantly, covering a bunch of ground, going to interesting local events, eating everything fascinating and having fun through spontaneous encounters with strangers. That to me is an ideal holiday. I just had my ideal holiday in Austin. London wasn’t my ideal holiday. It was too soon and didn’t scratch that itch. It burned more emotional energy than it gave and as a result, going on the trip felt more taxing than staying home. As shitty as it sounds to complain about a holiday, here we are.

I know I keep mentioning the finance aspect, but that really isn’t as much of the issue as it sounds. The fact of the matter is, I was in a really good place before going on holiday. I’d had a massive swell of personal development. I’d turned a corner on a truly shitty mire of anguish and anxiety. I felt like I could conquer the world. Now I feel like I’m back where I was when all of that started. It really fucking sucks. Maybe a good night’s sleep will make everything better in the morning, but I have an inkling that there’s something deeper at play here. Fingers crossed this is only temporary. If it’s not, I’ve got some work to do.

Aside from the shitty job, that is.

I remember that time that you told me, you said “Love is touching souls”.

I was listening to James Blake in the morning commute. No particular reason, I hadn’t heard him for a while. I figured I’d start with the Enough Thunder EP. When I got to “Case of You”, I put down the phone and really listened. I had a seat. The song’s outpouring of emotion had me stuck fast. When I got to the end I skipped back to the start, closed my eyes and listened again. I was pulled deep into a catharsis, releasing something held back by the stifling regimen of the commute.

I stepped away from the irritation of constantly moving my large bag so as not to inconvenience others, of contorting my body around other people and their baggage (literal and metaphorical). Of trying to be considerate of making space. Of encouraging other passengers to move into unoccupied areas of the train so potential passengers wouldn’t be stranded at the station for no reason. Everyone just wanted to get to work, so the best course of action was to make room for as many as possible. As Blake’s voice washed over me, I forgot all that. I thought back to when I first heard the song, working late nights at Sky TV. I thought of Joni Mitchell, who wrote the original. I thought of a Sunday morning post drinking at age 20. I walked into a room to find one of my friends peacefully listening to “Big Yellow Taxi”, humming along, blissfully unaware anyone else was awake.

I realised I didn’t know much of Joni Mitchell’s oeuvre and resolved to hear more. When I got to the office I put on Blue and went about my work. Something about the sound pulled me back to my childhood, to my parents. I’m not sure that my parents necessarily listened to Joni, but there was something in her sound that brought a scene to mind. In this mental snapshot it was night time. My parents must’ve been having friends over. We were all in the lounge. The long curtains and trusty old speakers stood out to me. The mood was jovial, adults chatting amicably, glasses filled with deep red wine. Plates were piled high and a couple of us kids were scattered around. The conversation was mostly going over our heads, but we were just excited to be around the adults that late. I don’t even know if this ever took place, but picturing it brought rise to feelings of safety, comfort and contentment.

As the album went on, it gave birth to some simple fantasy in my mind’s eye. In this fantasy my girlfriend and I go out to meet friends for lunch somewhere. We’re all a little older. The meal is great and laughter fills the table from start to finish. Phones are nowhere to be seen. We’re totally present and in the moment. We’re getting nostalgic over past adventures, stories we’d forgotten to the ages. It’s a long overdue catch-up and we revel in the affection we hold for each other. The warmth is abundant and it’s hard to keep from smiling. As we settle up and prepare to head on out, we all realise we have no particular plans. Maybe someone needs to run an errand in the surrounding shops and we decide to tag along and meander with them. The rapport continues as we mess around. It’s fantastic. Everyone’s doing bits and lifting one another up. We’re having a time.

The weather starts to take a turn and an idea sparks in my head. Why don’t we keep this party going, duck into a bottle shop and head back to ours? Everyone’s on board and we follow suit. We grab a couple of bottles of wine, order a car and pile in. The driver picks up on the vibe and turns out to be really interesting in their own right. We learn something new and by the time we’ve arrived, it felt like we shared a moment. It’s pissing down, so we rush the front door and get in as quick as we can. We’re all a little soaked, but the heat was left on. It’s beautifully balmy and inviting, despite our wet clothes. We figure we’re all friends and there’s nothing we haven’t seen of one another, so we all end up stripping down to various states of undress. Maybe someone’s still cold and they’re lent a plush garment. What we’re wearing doesn’t matter one iota, but what does matter is that we’re all abundantly comfortable.

My girlfriend grabs some glasses and I head to the stereo to toss on music. It’s something universally familiar, say The Big Chill soundtrack. Pillows and blankets are everywhere and we all cosy up with one another. We’re all chatting amicably, excited to be together. A song comes on and it sparks a memory for one of us. A long, heartfelt story is told, one we’ve never heard before, and we all feel privileged to be have shared in it. We realise it’s been a while since lunch and someone rounds up snacks while we all resolve to order takeout. We opt for candles in lieu of overhead light. The night continues in much the same vein. We lounge around, filled with wine, food, memories and song. The warmth we feel is in sharp juxtaposition to the storm raging outside. There’s an unspoken quality in the air that’s simply the representation of being excited to be together with the rest of the world on pause. The hours drag later. Wine swaps out for scotch and the music grows softer. Eventually it gets late enough that we realise we’re softly drifting off. It’s time to part ways. The storm has lifted. Nothing’s lost in leaving, because we’re all so filled to the brim with everything we could need. We don’t want for anything. A car is called and our friends get dressed to go. It arrives, we share long hugs and resolve to do it again sometime. There’s a note in the way it’s said that carries with it meaning. We know it’s not an empty gesture. Our friends head off into the night and we’re left with a warm, quiet house. One of us turns to the other and says “that was nice. Like, really really nice.” There’s no point in disagreeing.

That’s how I want to grow old.