The concept of health in a broken world

I’m in this endless pursuit of this mythical idea of health, and I’m not even sure what that means.  I picture myself hanging by my legs upside down from a 20ft tall geodome as a teenager with no fear of falling, of my body when I was a dancer and could see the muscles beneath my skin.  I picture being able to climb a tree without a second thought.  But what I don’t picture is how much time I had back then, how I climbed that geodome during a summer where I worked and played outside all day every day.  How I was a dancer in high school where walking home from school, between classes, to the metro to go hang out with friends, was the norm.  How I had time every day once school was over to do 200 cruches each morning and night, and how there was really no stress constantly looming because fuck ups were inconsequential and slipped off the glassy surface of my mind without leaving large jarring scratches.  When I climbed trees with no second thought I was carefree, and time outdoors was plentiful, weekends were jaunts in the woods full of energy that didn’t require caffeine or a sugar high.  My ideas of health are all colored by the backdrop of childhood, lack of stress, abundance of free time, everything falling into place with no schedule.  My ideas of health are colored by an absence of trauma responses and chronic pain.  My ideas of health neglect to remember that half the time I was obsessed with numbers on a scale and numbers of calories burned and eating less then 200 calories a day when I could get away with it.  My ideas of health forget the years where I could go the five days in the school week subsisting on mountain dew and nothing else, and the weekend living on two taco hell burritos and feeling like that was too much.

I want the energy and exhilaration I had in childhood.  I hit puberty so early, so I was this tall and at my healthy adult weight by the time I was a teenager, even a little bit before.  So my whole idea of what this shaped body I have now should be able to do, is based on a concept of a thirteen year old with no cares in the world.  When I try and imagine fitness at this age, I can only picture the lean muscular elderly folk I see running the trails at the park.  They’re in their seventies and eighties and probably in better shape then I’ve been in for over a decade.  I think about the ideal of mental health.  I don’t know anyone mentally healthy.  My generation is all people who are traumatized and fucked up beyond belief because we give voice to the problems of the world and they weigh on us like bricks.  How can you be mentally healthy when watching the rise of fascism and the death of your peers for loving a different gender then expected or being a different gender then expected?  How can you be mentally healthy when you see the earth that you want to reach to for sustenance, becoming a ticking time bomb counting down to the extinction of your species, because of the greed of corporations and the wealthy few in power?  For that matter, how can you be physically healthy when there are another hundred cleanses and fad diets birthed each day?  When you are constantly told that health looks like photoshop lies, and comes from on of the thousand one true ways to decrease in size that is marketed violently and splashed all over any physical or virtual environment you step into?

So I wish I had a conclusion to this, but I’m not there yet.  I’m just at the -the world is fucked and my brain is too, but I need to get to a better healthier place, and that’s hard and I have no idea how, but I’m gunna do it anyway- point.  I do hope to offer more insight if I get there though.

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To succeed, you have to do it for yourself…or do you?

“To really succeed, you need to do it for yourself, not for someone else”

I can’t remember the first time I heard this message, but it’s something repeated often, and for many different circumstances. I hear this especially when it comes to mental health or addiction.  When you decide to get sober, it is a choice you have to make for yourself, not one that you can be doing to please others.  If you’re doing it for other people, you’ll inevitably fail.  When you seek treatment for mental health, it has to come from finally acknowledging your problems yourself and loving yourself, not from wanting to please others. If you’re doing it for other people, you’ll fail.  Does this narrative sound familiar?  It should, it’s fucking everywhere.  It’s also utter bullshit.

When I tried to stop drinking, I had deeply internalized this message.  I tried to stop for myself, or I said I did, but I also tried to stop to save my relationship.  My ex-fiance had cheated on me, had been cheating on me for months by the time I found out, and I knew that part of it was because I had been such a shitty partner.  The responsibility for his actions is still on him, but he was looking for love from someone who was compatible and healthy for him, and I was not that.  I gave myself the challenge of going from drinking around 12-20 beers a night, something I had been doing consistently for about three years, to going 100 days sober.  I did it, and our relationship still fell apart.  He cheered me on, but was still cheating on me the whole time while claiming not to be.  I backslid some then, after making it my first hundred days.  I tried to transition into drinking in moderation, and I was not ready for it, and the circumstances were poor since I was getting out of a six year relationship with someone I had been engaged to, that had ended with betrayal.  So doesn’t that prove the point that you have to do it for yourself, and if you do it for someone else you’ll fail?  Fucking nope.  It does show me that doing it to try and save a relationship that was already failing and beyond saving, without even evaluating if that relationship was healthy for me (it wasn’t), was a mistake.

So I kept working at moderation, and at times I took another 30 days or 100 days of sobriety.  Ex-fiance moved out, I started school, life continued.  I told myself over and over that I had to stop drinking for myself, it had to be for me, or I would continue failing.  I came out and began transitioning, I worked hard on getting a degree, I really started to love myself with a depth I haven’t known before.  I still struggled with moderation and sobriety.  I did the work for myself, because I truly wanted to be better, and for some people that is enough, for me in this instance it didn’t work.  I got an okay handle on things though, over the next three years I went from the daily 12-20 beers from before the first time I tried sobriety, to drinking just on weekends, then to drinking once a month, then to drinking every few months.  I still felt weak, like I was fucking up, like I couldn’t do it.  I was doing it just for myself and I was feeling like a failure.

One of those times when I drank, I broke the other rule I had for myself, even when I had been a constant alcoholic.  I had made a no hard liquor rule at the beginning because I saw how much I was beginning to drink, and I knew I’d be dead within a year of accidental alcohol poisoning if I didn’t set myself that limit.  Well, this one time, a few years into moderating, I went to a barbecue with Kelev and had hard liquor, and much too much to drink.  I made a complete ass of myself, I was rude to Kelev, I needed help getting into the car so he could drive me home, I was just a complete shitbird that night.  The immensity of how badly I’d fucked up hit me like a ton of bricks the next day and I realized that while Kelev had been an ever patient and supportive loving force, and extremely understanding because he had a history with alcoholism as well, that it might be a matter of time until he said enough and left.  Even if he didn’t, what I was doing was hurting him, directly on nights like that when I was a rude fucknob, and indirectly as he watched me hurt myself.

When I decided to take a full year of sobriety, I did it for him.  I did it because I didn’t want to fuck up the best relationship I’d ever been in, I did it because I didn’t want to hurt him with my behavior, and I did it most of all because I wanted to make him proud.  And you know what, it worked.  I made it a year sober, and so many times he would glow with pride and tell me how amazing my efforts were, and that was what I needed to keep pushing through.  I got out the other side, and every previous time after I had hit a goal like that, I would go back to drinking after.  Less each time, I had gotten to a point of moderation where usually I only drank every few months, and rarely too much like I did at that barbecue. But there was still always that relief of my sobriety stretch being over, and I celebrated with a drink.  This time I had no desire to.  I had him by my side telling me how he was so proud I’d actually made it, and I felt better then I had in so many years.  I still haven’t drank since then, and I may eventually decide I can handle moderation someday, but I’ve had no interest in that day coming anytime soon. I had decided to throw away the notion that I had to do it for myself.  Instead I had to find -a reason- important enough for me, and do it for that.  I found that, and that is what mattered, having a driving force that could support me through the hardest moments and push me forward.

Yesterday I was talking to my partner D, and she was telling me how her other partner, the Brit, had taken an important step forward for his health.  How he had done so without her prompting, but because he wanted her to be proud of him.  She said how she wished he had done it for himself.  It reminded me of my experiences, and of the trope we buy into that we have to do things for ourselves for them to work, or to be healthy, or to love ourselves.  Sometimes when it comes to physical and mental health, one of the biggest barriers is not loving yourself.  Low self esteem and self regard can really hold people back in seeking help.  Apathy or self destructiveness can feed into the most unhealthy behaviors.  That is where the trope that you have to do something for yourself becomes harmful, it can hold someone back from seeking help because they can’t muster up enough love for themselves alone, or desire to exist, to push forward.

It is okay to get help because of external motivation.  If you are doing something that is good for you, because you want to make someone else proud, or for any other external reason, you are still doing something good for you.  That is important, that is valid, and it still pushes you forward.  In fact, that is still even a form of self love.  When you decide to take care of yourself because you want to make someone else proud, you are still doing so because you enjoy the feeling of them being proud of you.  You are still on some level seeking out a good feeling, and that is loving yourself enough even just a little, to seek something you enjoy.  Even if you only are getting joy from the happiness of someone who loves you, you are letting them love you and take pride in you, and that is an act of loving yourself.  From there you can move on to acknowledging that you deserve that love, as you succeed for them you can build yourself up and build confidence in believing that you may actually be worthy of that support because you are succeeding in what you are doing.  This isn’t just that the ends justify the means, but that in trying to improve for other people, you often create a healthy cycle that feeds your healing.

Of course there are situations like I had with my ex-fiance, where I was trying to improve to save something that was unhealthy for me and not worth saving.  But even then, if I had not started on my journey at that point, I may never have continued pushing until I found a reason that was strong enough to bring me through this, and I might not be where I am today.  So when you decide to make a big change for yourself, when you are facing a struggle and looking for a reason to improve, let go of the toxic trope that the only reason that will work is an internal one.  Let go of the idea that you must do everything for you and you alone, and that is must come from this already existing place of loving yourself.  Loving yourself may help a whole heck of a lot, but it is okay to seek external motivation as well.  What matters is finding reasons that are healthy enough and good enough for you, that are strong enough to pull you through the hard times.  If you foster love for yourself to start and let that drive you, it might be easier at times, or it might not be enough.  If you find the strongest reason you can and run with it though, the self love will likely come in time.  And you can succeed, don’t be afraid to lean on others for support and to seek validation and encouragement.  That is just as good of a reason and you will see that when you reach your goals.

How do you deal with unrequited love?

My first experience with love was a boy named Dan.  I was in sixth grade and he was in fifth. He had tousled dirty blond hair and a crooked smile, the sort of smile I’ve learned I have a weakness for.  I did not fit in among my class at all, though I went to a small school and everyone was always polite, it was the sort of place where in a class of 20, everyone was invited to birthday parties.  Dan had friends in his class, he wasn’t a popular kid, but he was well enough liked and had no shortage of people to trade pokemon cards with or chase around in a game of tree tag.  Some recesses, I was one of the ones he spent his time with, and it was the first time I craved a person, felt a constant burning desire and elation when I was around them, and a devastating loss when I was not, as though the world were a bit more empty.  I didn’t know before then that the quality of the world could change like that. I hadn’t realized that when a person occupied the same space as me, they could bring not only themselves and their presence, but could change the very air around them and the colors in a room, so it all was suddenly so much more alive.  We played hockey together, I got extraordinarily good at playing defense despite being someone who would have been more suited to an offensive position.  He was the goalie, and I wanted to be as near him as I could be at all times.  I never told him how I felt, though I wished every day to just be lucky enough that it would be one of those days that he spent time with me.  I used a birthday wish to wish that he would move in next door, and when the neighbors put up a for sale sign unexpectedly a few weeks later I was ecstatic, but a young couple moved in instead.  I went to a different school for seventh grade, and aside from a couple bar mitzvahs here and there, I didn’t see him again.

There was a boy named Han in my Japanese class in high school.  Another boy with a crooked grin, prone to laughter and easy with his smiles.  He sat behind me and I was the one he would often whisper his jokes to.  Walking into class and seeing him sitting there was so often the highlight of my day.  It was more then that, my world was a hell of depression, all flat like a paper cut out.  He rendered it in 3-D and brought the colors back, when my heart saw him and fluttered it felt like the first time that day I had taken a breath.  He confided in me about his crush on one of the girls in the class, it broke me a little to hear but I tried to encourage him to tell her and give it a shot.  I never told him the way he made my days bearable just by existing, or how I imagined his laughter in my dreams.

As I entered into the world of relationships, I connected too strongly, or not strongly enough.  I was a flurry of NRE (new relationship energy) and neediness, trying to finally satisfy my desperate cravings for a person of my own.  I wanted to possess someone, consume them, take in their brightness and hold it inside me so I would never feel that crushing loneliness that had lived within me again.  Often I made grandiose commitments and thrust myself into ill fitting partnerships without a second thought and found myself later trying to pretend that my love matched theirs.  As I was with one person after another who loved me more strongly over time while my feelings bordered on apathetic once the NRE had passed, I was wrought with guilt and overbearing discomfort.  The few times I felt a more enduring passion, I was paralyzed with fear of losing it and sought control just to hold on to my grip on the world. I was disgusted with myself for my needs, my desperation, how I saw myself leading people on more and more, the realization that I was failing to maintain emotional intimacy and was left in partnerships where I had to pretend or cause someone else the heartbreak I felt when my affections weren’t returned.

Even writing this I want to stop a moment and remark on it, since I haven’t looked back and viewed myself through this lens in quite a while.  Sweet gibbering fuckweasels I was unhealthy.  I was beyond a hot mess and the folks who put up with me through my teenage years deserve a fucking medal.

As I entered into adulthood, or at least left my parents home and began having more relationships that involved responsibility and cohabitation and emotional nuance, I began to take significantly more care in how I got involved with people.  I made a nice neat stack of mistakes in the last ten years as well, but I moved forward, gaining more self awareness and becoming more conscious of the commitments I made.  It took me many more years to work past controlling tendencies, but I started to improve, and I talked about in another piece how I learned to be honest and devoted myself to that ideal to an extreme. With that came a lot of one sided relationships.  I won’t say I didn’t love many of my partners, I did, but not to the extent they loved me or in the same ways.  It was something discussed to varying degrees, often times I was very blunt with what I could or could not provide, what could be expected of me, and where feelings matched up versus where they diverged. I began to see the effect of unrequited love on my partners, or at least an unmatched level of love and desire.

Over the years I’ve known both sides of unrequited love.  I’ve spiraled through a dozen ways of dealing with it, most of them terribly toxic.  Something changed in recent years.  When I was a teenager I was severely depressed for a handful of years.  Everything was constantly numb, and love was a brief blinding high in the flat twilight grays that were my existence.  As a young adult I was an alcoholic.  I had hated the numbness of depression, so I recreated it, because maybe without it I was too much.  I broke free of that, and I broke free of a lot of toxicity with it.  When I transitioned, when I embraced my independence and autonomy, when I learned what truly made me feel rooted and good, I was able to be a person with emotions that were often still too intense and too much, but that I didn’t need to numb down into nothing.  I studied mindfulness, it meshed well with my long held personal beliefs that there are few real negative emotions.  The emotions most people thought of as negative, sadness, lonliness, heartbreak, anger; they were all close friends that I embraced after years of solitude with nothing at all in my mind.  I learned to sit with them and trust them to just exist, to be, and then to move along.

These days I love the intensity of NRE as much as ever.  I’m careful not to make grandiose commitments during it, to try and spare the feelings of people who I am loving for a moment but maybe not for a lifetime.  When it passes I make my commitments sparingly, to the few people who capture me in such a way that I want to be drawn to them with that exuberant overzealous devotion.  Sometimes my feelings aren’t returned, or are mirrored back with a reflection that is far less intense and clear.  Where that once would have been devastating, it is now intriguing and tolerable.  My sadness and loneliness in those moments is exquisitely sharp but like a masochists pain, it feels good in equal measure as it does bad.  It is easily dispelled by the sheer joy of experiencing love well up from within me.  I can study my loneliness and the pain of unrequited love and be content just to let it exist.  No one is obligated to love me back simply because the intensity with which I burn for them is overwhelming.  It is no great tragedy if they don’t.  When I am the one loving less or with a different quality to my love, I try my best to be as honest as I can, make as few commitments as possible, so as not to lead anyone else down that road.  But these days the road of unrequited love is one I walk without fear.  Loving is the goal, being loved back is not a prize to win.  I would simply rather relish in the absolute joy of being in love, even when it’s laced with pain, than miss the journey of loving someone.

 

Productivity is my best friend and my worst enemy

I feel good when I’m productive.

Earlier today I was reading an interpretation of my astrological chart.  I’m not sure what my feelings on astrology are.  I have a cousin who is an astrologer, I believe he’s done it professionally for a long time and writes for a few newspapers.  I took an interest in it many years ago and he sent me some things to learn from, and then I read some here and there teaching myself a bit more.  I find it interesting, but like anything I relate to spiritually, I’m always skeptical.  I can believe in something, or in the possibility of something, while at the same time realizing that what I perceive is real in my mind, but not necessarily measurably real in the material world.  As the same time, I love aspects of spirituality as I do perceive them, and astrology is enjoyable to read from time to time.

Anyway, the interpretation I got on my full chart had this section in it.

“The work that you do, and the services that you offer, are very important to your sense of identity. In order to feel good about yourself, you need to be busy with daily activities and to produce work you can be proud of. Focus on finding a suitable and rewarding avenue for expressing this part of you, being extra careful to choose an occupation in which you can express yourself. You are sensitive to criticism about the work you do, and you work best when you can create your own schedule. Positive feedback for the services you render is important to you, but be careful not to over-identify with the appreciation you receive from others, as your work and your health suffers when you feel under-appreciated. Motivation to do a good job should come from within.”

Regardless of the accuracy or lack their of, of the planets and what they say about a person, this happened to be quite accurate to me.  When I came out of my years of alcohol induced haze and inactivity, what I did any given day became very important to me.  Productivity, usually in cleaning and de-cluttering my house, was my measure of success.  Then it was my ability to work.  When I got my first job as a vet tech, I unintentionally based a lot of my self esteem in my ability to handle that job.  I worked fourteen hour days, sometimes longer, with a head vet/owner who was verbally abusive at best some days.  The turn over at that clinic was frightening.  I remember one person who was hired and quit within two days, not because the head vet treated her terribly, she was still in the honeymoon period where our insecure boss was sucking up to her and trying to curry favor.  But the new tech saw how those of us who had been there a while were treated and left, with that as her reason, because she wasn’t willing to tolerate that sort of toxic environment.  I stayed for nearly a year, much longer then I should have.  I was miserable and stressed and almost at my breaking point, and even when I had other job offers at much better clinics with higher pay, I felt guilt for leaving.  Because I had based some of my sense of self in who I was there, in being someone who could stick it out and take the abuse, and in the first career in which I really got that satisfaction of productivity from my workplace.  I left before it fucked me up beyond reasonable repair I think…I’m not sure, it was a close call and it took another six months before I could de-stress to any reasonable degree.

When everyone moved out of my household over the summer and I had the chance to live by myself for a few months, I was the only one to do what had been chores we split between the whole household.  It was a huge boost to my mood each day when I finished all the morning chore list I had made for myself.  I measured my mental health, my self worth, my success, by my productivity.  “In order to feel good about yourself, you need to be busy with daily activities and to produce work you can be proud of.”  That is me to the letter.

These days I’m wondering if that is really a good thing.  It wasn’t really helpful when it kept me at a toxic job for long enough to come close to really damaging my mental health for a good long time, and doing a considerable bit of short term damage.  It hasn’t been helpful recently when I’ve struggled with an increase in the symptoms of my bipolar disorder coupled with a lot of difficultly getting enough sleep.  I’ve been less productive, my morning chore list goes half finished some days.  This last semester I did my best for the place my head was, but it wasn’t the best I could do for me at top shape.  And I really beat myself up for that some. I feel defeated many days because I do what would have been a whole hell of a lot for me a few years ago, but which isn’t close to as much as I did at my most productive times at jobs or when folks first moved it. For someone who gives few fucks about what others think of me despite death threats at times in my life, I’m terribly demoralized by a lack of cleaning the kitchen counter tops for a few days.

It can be a good thing.  It really motivated me when I was trying to stop drinking, it helped me stay sober because of how much joy I got from being a wonderfully functional being.  It pushed me to be better at my jobs, to seek a new career and pursue further knowledge and growth.  It helped me de-clutter and get rid of about 2/3rds of my material possessions when I was nearly drowning in useless crap. My need to keep myself busy and do a measurable amount of useful shit in a day to feel good get things done.  Until I hit a point where I need to relax and de-stress and can’t get things done for a bit because I’m just fucking out of spoons, and then it really isn’t helpful.

So I need a balance.  And I need to find a way to utilize this particular aspect of myself to my advantage without letting it hurt me.  Right now I’m a bit too much of my own worst enemy, and I’d like to be a fabulous rainbow of joy again.  I’m still figuring out quite how to do that, but at least today was a productive day, so hopefully I can start to do that tomorrow from a satisfied confident frame of mind.

What does adulthood mean for a Millennial?

When does adulthood begin?  I read an interesting article recently about a college professor who taught a class on adulting, all about coming of age in today’s society.  In teaching this class, the professor discovered that most of the students did not consider themselves adults, despite being over 18.  They were asked to write about what they felt were the markers of adulthood, something that has become increasingly unclear as we experience some major societal shifts as Millennials and now Generation Z are coming of age.  It got me looking inward and thinking about whether I feel like and adult and what I believe makes one an adult.  I also decided to do a little more digging into what the supposed markers of adulthood are.

I’m going to start by dispensing with the idea of turning 18 being the marker of adulthood.  We have many milestones of that sort, at 16 (or some places 14) you’re adult enough to work many jobs, at 18 you’re adult enough to vote and join the military, but at 21 you’re adult enough to drink, and only at 25 are you adult enough to rent a car, etc.  These are also relevant to the United States, but vary greatly in other countries, which does evidence in some ways how we’ve picked arbitrary lines to draw there.  Yes, they are a general guideline for when we believe a person can handle certain responsibilities, but they aren’t actually very helpful in determining what will make someone feel like an adult.

I found a few analysis of adulthood from a psychological perspective, with such traits meant to define adulthood such as rationality, and non-defensiveness and openness.  Well shit, that precludes the current President of the United States and a good many other political officials, many in their 60s, 70s, and above.  It also leaves out a lot of the shitty parents of folks I’ve been close to throughout my life.  People who have raised a now adult child, paid the bills, and often been little manipulative abusive shits who probably couldn’t grasp rationality and non-defensiveness anymore than they could bench press the Empire State Building, but there you go.  So maybe that isn’t the perfect milestone either in determining what would make the younger generations feel like we are adults.  Our elders certainly have not done a stellar job at modeling that as a determining factor in adulthood.

Going back to the article that started this line of thinking, there was a discussion of the students responses.  Many felt that marriage, having children, and home ownership were markers of adulthood.  I can certainly understand that, we’ve been raised by a generation that often followed a very clear life path, fit a certain mold, and taught us to do so as well.  I don’t remember a time where I didn’t just “know” that you were supposed to go to school, get into a good college, graduate, get married, buy a house, and manifest a few loin spawn to raise who would do it all over again.  There is a script to this, one many people in my generation haven’t been able to follow, or have decided to toss to the wind as we make our own path.  Which does explain why many of us are left not feeling like adults as we enter our 20s and 30s.

It is interesting, because many of the Millennials I know spend more time focusing on traits mentioned in the psychological articles on what makes an adult, than members of earlier generations I know.  That is of course not a conclusive study, just my personal experience.  Many of us suffer from mental illness, often times created by or exacerbated by our circumstances.  We are treated as children by the media and by older generations, accused of destroying industries when we don’t buy into consumerism.  We bought into the dream of college opening all doors to success in life and graduate with bachelors  degrees and 60k in debt, only to find our only job option is to be a manager at a Papa Johns unless we want to get even more in debt for a higher degree.   We put off marriage and having children because we can’t afford it, or we choose different ways of relationshipping or to be childfree because we recognize that we don’t actually have to fit every mold they made for us.  We find the middle class we aspired to has all but disappeared, so we work two jobs and still need food stamps to get by.  Then we wonder why we suffer from depression and anxiety in such high numbers.  We learn rationality because we have to fight irrational systems of oppression and crumbling aged lawmakers who refuse to understand that we are more interested in being allowed to express our love regardless of gender and make sure every town has clean water, then we are in corporations getting more tax cuts.  We learn to be open and non-defensive because we have to nurture each other and promote self care every day and across social media platforms or in person with our friends, because we have to wonder how many more friends we’ll lose to suicide this coming year.  This isn’t true of everyone in my generation, but its what I see growing around me in my small communities and in the thousands I connect with through online platforms every day.

For me, adulthood begins with disillusionment.  It starts when we realize the lies we have been fed, that the boxes we were taught to fit in are unneeded, that the life path we were taught to follow was unrealistic.  It continues as we start to unpack all of that and struggle with the impact it has had on our psyche, our morale, our self esteem.  We grow more into adulthood as we gain the ability to remove ourselves from the system, to choose which pieces of it work for us, and which to discard as soon as we gain the power to do so.  Adulthood is that determination to find that power, within ourselves to stand up for who we are, and within the system as we elect as more and more of our number to office so we can change the way the oppressive system functions.  Adulthood is being able to kiss your same gender partner in public after years of fear.  It is taking a moment to breath into yourself after two retail shifts, telling yourself it is okay to break out a coloring book if that is your self care, as you bat away the dread that you’ll be doing the same thing every day for the rest of your life despite the shiny diploma tucked away in a box in the wore out apartment you share with three friends.  It is choosing to not have children because you are comfortable not wanting any, or because you desperately want them but can’t face bringing them into this broken world or know you can’t afford them.  It is having four children and having to coordinate between family who takes care of them as you each try and work the hours your employer pretends to graciously give you, wishing you’d be taught about safer sex during the abstinence only age.  It is getting divorced for the third time because you have found the inner strength to leave people who abuse you.  It is deciding against marriage because you love all three of your partners equally.  It is wanting to get married but knowing that disabled people still don’t have that right equally, because you can’t survive without the disability benefits that cover your life sustaining medication, and your partner makes too much for you to keep them, but not enough to cover the prescriptions if you wed.  Adulthood is rebellion, against all that we were taught, and it is finding our own way instead and paving a better way for generations to come.

Magical moments

The sky is a deep gray, almost black, with a hint of deep violet peaking through underneath.  The ambient light from the city is too persistent for the sky to ever hit a pure black note.  I drive across town at night more often these days, and there is this perfect moment that I capture almost every time.  Music has a certain quality when played in the car, it fills up the whole space with no apologies and you can lose yourself in it.  Usually when I feel as though I am losing myself in a sensation, I dissolve, which is what makes these moments so special.  With the sultry violins and deep drum tempos of viking metal, or Alice Cooper wailing out a song of heartbreak, or a bagpipe helping tell a story of a war once lost in Ireland, the music takes hold and gently guides my thoughts, and then I hit this magic point where the city around me crystallizes.  Suddenly everything is starkly clear. The colonial buildings with their discordant Victorian touches, some neglected and left to crumble after standing a hundred years, they are beautiful to me in this moment.  The city is trapped between buildings of rich living history, new cold modern growth, and the constant decay that permeates the low income neighborhoods of every town.  It feels raw, each person in the street with their own story, each brick laid by human hands, and driving through the puddles that muddy up the streets I feel a connection to everything around me.  I belong in the country, but the haunting quality of the city at night captures me in those moments every time.  There is an endless feeling of loneliness and connection in those moments.  Every time I lose myself in the feeling of realness, of a world with such clarity where the sights and smells and emotions overwhelm, I feel alive with a vibrating intensity.  It is a specific moment that I only seem able to capture in the city alone, with the music blaring, as humanity unfolds around me.  Somehow despite my life being filled with so many brilliant people who bring me joy and love, and so many exciting adventures and new growth, I cherish these moments just as highly.  They feel like magic.

There are other magical moments in my life.  Ones where the whole world seems perfectly in place, everything gains that shiny extra-real character, and being alive is the most wonderful thing.  I want to freeze the moment I felt when I found the perfect coffee cup, when I held it and knew it was just right.  I was bent on minimalism at the time, still am in my way, but that perfectly crafted material object that was completely the opposite of every style I normally like, fit into my hand perfectly and just gave me such profound joy.  A fucking coffee cup.  Every time I use it, I get a shadow of that moment replayed, and it enhances my day, subtly lifting it a bit above ordinary.

Once when walking I saw a patch of daylilies growing over someones garden fence.  I stopped and just stared while people walked by, I had forgotten the color orange could be so beautiful and intense.  I suppose depression plays a factor, maybe most people live in a world that is bright all the time, but I know that mine won’t always be and hasn’t always been.  The precious jewel of a moment where a flower becomes the center of the world and can take my breath away, I cherish that.

Lately I’ve recognized there magical moments more and more.  It started with driving home across town at night more often.  My life changed radically when a partnership that had centered around cohabitation suddenly became one of distance.  It was a good change, one that strengthened that relationship, and also pushed me into a focus on my own personal growth, but it was a hard change.  And nightly drives alone became a familiar trend, after I spent the day laughing with him at his father’s home where he now lived, or dropped him off after a day at our home where he still spends near half his time. Those magical moments when driving back happened more, and it clicked in my head that this was not something that had to be an infrequent gift of chance.  I could learn to cultivate these moments, but really immersing myself in my experiences and welcoming the world in.  I could learn to live in moments of beautiful clarity, feeling vibrantly alive wasn’t a passing fancy anymore.