Life after a break-up

The last month was empty. Empty of joy, empty of support, and loneliness and bad feelings were knocking on the door, eager to fill the void I was creating.

The house I live in on my tiny London street has lost the title of Home. Even though I try not to hate, there’s a lot of other negative characterization I would give that house. Sullen, depressing, dry of all its magic and charm.

There are two kinds of people living in my house. One group has constant work schedules, waking up at 8 am and driving out into the day, parties on the weekends and most of the weekday nights; good friends that moved in not three months ago. The next group is a pair of ex-lovers, refusing to talk to each other, look at each other passing through rooms, standing in the cold, dried up swimming pool they had swum in the summer before. Though we don’t mention it, we’re both trying to make it through this dark chapter in our lives. I’m finding friends to give me life again, I’m not sure I can say the same for her.

She haunts her room most hours of the day, and her computed plays her endless stream of podcasts like a broken record, in an attempt to compress the voices in her head telling her she’s worthless – she doesn’t use headphones. She wears old pajamas when sitting down to knit, procrastinating all of her studies. She only goes to class when she can afford to be around less than 20 people, and she fears busses and her larger lectures. I haven’t seen her in the 300 seat room we had one class in since early October. No, I wasn’t taking notes for her.

As if her absence proves that she doesn’t have much of a life, she epitomizes the negative interpretations of the phrases like, “If you want to get to know someone, go into their house,” or, “You are what you eat.” Her cat follows me into the living room each morning, sometimes at noon, to remind me she hasn’t been fed yet. Normally, there’s a pizza box left beside the trash can, though the recycling bin is 10 lazy paces and 4 downward steps away. She goes grocery shopping with her mom whenever she arrives in town to visit, and although they bought her a car, she’s recently taken to ordering groceries online. This is what living alongside someone with BPD and depression looks like. I hold my ice cube of empathy for her, but all sympathy has melted away.

My least favourite moments come when she talks to the cat as if she was on a stage. It’s easy and comforting to talk to pets; they’re your source of innocence, joy and (if they are a dog, which there is none here) unconditional love. But when she talks about something I have a stake in like dishes or an upright toilet seat, I have to keep it together and remain as still as a broken boulder. “Look, Rowena, I’m contributing to our househould!” she’d say in her I’m-so-insecure-and-I’m-going-to-make-sure-I-impress-you voice to her cat. I’m on the couch in the other room, somewhere between guilty, confused, and livid.

When I told people, “I got over her very quickly after our breakup,” I thought was telling the truth. The truth is that most people think they’re right when they’re angry. Seeing as she’s the topic I’m choosing to talk about, and this is my lifestyle journal, I don’t think I’m as over her as I thought. I think I was talking about being over our relationship. Now I’m not over her life choices. They’re really, really upsetting for me. I’m too stubborn of a person to do anything about it: to talk to her, to try and make things better, I’m too stubborn to leave and move the name from the bills.

It’s made me uncomfortable to play anything in the house. I’ve spent some nights and days in the practice rooms in the Music Building on campus, though I have an upright piano at home. I’ve spent my best nights when she’s not here. Reflecting on my thoughts on her, I feel I’m very embarrassed to be around her. I’m ashamed and frightened and not in control. I’ve spent several months of my life actively trying to make her life better, and not only have I failed and left it, I wasn’t aware that the whole time I depended on her happiness.

So many good things are outweighing the cons to breaking up. The most notable things to happen from our breakup for me included a shouting match where I brought up her dead brother, seeing people for coffee, an inconsistent meditation habit, finishing three novels, giving myself a haircut, and more walks. As far as I can see, she can only brag about how much she binges on podcasts, her week-long record of not showering, hooking up with two guys the week after we broke up (of which they only lasted an hour and a half each), and never cleaning her room since the breakup, but hey, she had finished knitting a pair of socks!

As I was finding myself, I was subtly looking for a romantic engagement. I wasn’t sure if I wanted a one-off or a serious relationship, I think it all had depended on what they wanted. Now that I’m seeing someone as of late, I’m consciously reminding myself to maintain the life I’ve built for myself. The reason all my relationships have fallen apart was that we had depended on each other too much, or at least, I had moulded my life to compliment theirs. Especially because it’s so early, I want to give us each our own space so that we always have our lives to enter back in; we can continue shaping them and growing as individuals, until the next time we meet and we can share our time again.

(I don’t believe much people read my posts, so I’ll post this out of wanting to keep stories fresh. Maybe I’ll delete this if this site ever gets a lot of attention, but I wanted to have something after 6 weeks to share. Maybe it will be an incentive to write more positive posts, and move this guy to the bottom of the list.)

 

 

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First meditation session and its immediate benefits

For 15 minutes this afternoon, I sat down on my bedroom floor, leaning on the side of my bedframe, and meditated for the first time. I had been lying to people for weeks telling them I that I was getting into it, but in reality, I was just interested in whether or not to make it a habit, and I thought it would make me look good.

I’ve heard nothing but good things about meditation. Public figures and celebrities share that it becomes their ‘reset button’ throughout the day; the archetype of the artsy, inward-minded hippy friend praises it like the best music festival they went to last summer. Although that all sounds great, I’ve found that recommending meditation to friends and family is like recommending them to new music. It’ll be brought back to the forefront of their minds whenever they hear about it again, but except for those moments, it gets shrouded in their mix of thoughts and daily lifestyle.

After meditating once, and finding immediate results, I’m looking forward to the next time I can meditate again. It was very helpful for a brief 5 minutes after getting up to reorganize my priorities for the day and quickly get a couple of the small ones out the way. “Well, that was nice. Let’s fold my clean laundry. Let’s write some quick goals on my agenda. Let’s listen to a Regina Spektor album that I haven’t listened to yet.” Four tracks into the album, I went back to my distracted mindset, but there was a definite change.

There are many ways to meditate, and everyone will find a certain style. After all, I’ve found that meditation is putting the focus back on you. The way I’m currently meditating is by focusing on my breathing – the most basic function of the human body that we have the ability to control. I notice the sound of my breathing first, and it only gets deeper from there. With all the distractions that you might have during your sit-down, (it gets hard to sit cross-legged, doesn’t it?), your capacity to explore outside of your breathing will soon close into that world of your breath. After a few minutes of focusing on the sound, I noticed where it was hitting my nasal cavity, how my lungs and chest was expanding, and how I was breathing for longer periods (from 6 – 9/10 seconds/cycle – I have a clock that ticks in my room) to name a few.

I’m interested in how my lifestyle will benefit for the long-term from daily meditation. I’m really looking forward to my exploration of it. It honestly doesn’t sound like much, and it seems like you could spend 15-20 minutes doing something more worthwhile, but if anyone’s interested in it, you know that there’s already a lot of time you feel like you’re wasting – time trying to wake up, time on social media, even time relaxing after getting home from work. It’s worth it, and I’m optimistic about what’s to come with it.

All the coins

“By the time they were finished, both their mouths were an exaggerated red, and as they walked home, they reminded each other to keep their eyes peeled, in case they found another coin.

Naturally, they found nothing. No one can be that lucky twice in one year, let alone a single afternoon.

Still, with red tongues and teeth, they walked down Himmel Street, happily searching the ground as they went.” – The Book Thief, Markus Zusak (2006)

In the first two years of high school, I was a known coin-scavenger. For one reason or another, every day, there’d be at least one coin on one of its three floors as I made my way from class to class. I was late enough and scrawny enough to bend down against the lockers, often pretending to tie my shoe, and pick up two nickels or a penny off the dusty, grimy, tan and blue cement tiles. They were pathetic, euphoric victories.

This habit went on for a year, maybe more. Once I began to make more friends, hang out with them, and not travel alone anymore, I would cease my hawk eyes and try to revert my focus towards the teenage discussions of the day. Sometimes, I just would be in such a hurry to make a mental note of where that quarter was, and by the time I got out of class into that hallway, it was already cleaned by the custodians or another coin-scavenger. I think at least one kicker that made me stop doing it was how surprisingly unapologetic our woodshop teacher was at collecting all the coins. “There should be about $80 of floor coins in a jar in my office!” I just happened to find a coin when he showed up and he started that conversation. It was the only time I ever talked with him. I never had a class with him, either.

The last hammer to the jar was an old bully of mine throwing coins to the ground as he walked with friends in front of me, looking back to see if I would pick them up, grinning beady-eyed and power hungry for something more than his cigarettes. Naively, yes, I did pick them up. That was when I made the commitment to stop. Nothing under dollar coins or bills, that seems like something few people will overlook on the ground, right?

Good enough.

Suddenly, there was a growing decline in coins on my high school floors.

I wasn’t until I read the passage from The Book Thief above that I remembered how I  suppressed that part of my life. I thought I had forgotten about it after all these years. After all, I look back at that time and see myself as a lonely person expecting more out of life, but not sure how to manage it. And also short hair *shivers*.

I can look back with a smile now and a story to tell, I think it was funny. I expect enough from others now to not identify me with my coin-scavenging days. But at the same time, it’s just taken a different form over the last couple of years.

Busking is the first example I can think of. Collecting change to make a pretty decent sum at the end of each night. A soggy, dirty sum. I also had a solid three-week stint of collecting bottles from nearby neighbourhoods with alternating recycling pick-up days. I had no full-time job at that point, so I considered it ‘work’ just as much as I considered it a hobby. What made me quit were the uneven weather reports, getting out of bed needlessly early, the stares coming from houses across roads, the sneaking, and people that were much older and brittler than me doing the same thing I was. I was hanging out with flies, odour, and the odd family of raccoons, going through bins to find a buck worth of cans. It was pretty easy to leave.

Busking was more of a mental exit. I noticed that my peak busking eras aligned with when I was single, or at least in an empty bed for the night. I noticed how much pressure I put on myself to play songs people knew so that they would be more likely to gratify me. I noticed the same old men walking up and down the street asking others for their spare change, and ignore me out of respect for work, still, occasionally there’d be some back and forth; change into their hat, change into my case. I didn’t like how events at Bud Gardens conflicted with time I wanted to spend practicing, studying, or with friends or my partner. I was often late anyways, struggling to set up in time for the rush. Nothing’s stopping me from having notes with me as I sing on Richmond. Nothing’s stopping me from throwing on multiple layers and just playing for fun. I just don’t want to do it anymore.

It just wasn’t about having fun anymore, it was about my result. My coin and bill thesis for missing out on studying, on a trip to the bar, on a night in, would always be that I’d rather make money than spend time with others. It was a really fun era, there were really fun experiences, but I’m past that for now. Maybe a change of scenery would be nicer, a new city or a new crowd, maybe my partner would be interested in having a hand in playing with me. In a cynical way, I know that only sounds interesting because no one ever does it, no one sees a couple busking together. No one wants to be that couple. It’s literally romantic. It’s just as romantic as wanting to learn how to play guitar, imagining yourself playing at your school’s coffee house, and find true love, combined.

Anyone who’ll busk knows that they are inherently an outsider, rich or poor, schooled or not. I was that outsider. In the fall and winters of 2016 and 2017, I was the loudest outsider in London. Now I’m content with only speaking when I have to, reading my books, writing my songs, watching my movies, petting my cat, living with my partner, and hoping to get something off of the ground one day (insert coin-scavenging joke here).

 

Scenes from a realist’s party

Downstairs, the two guys living downstairs live up their Friday night. Hip-hop Spotify playlists, bag of weed, unspoken permission to yell across rooms. The rest of us sit upstairs, ready to reflect in our heads, munchies in the bag, cans of cider on the table with her Laptop streaming The IT Crowd. None of us want to go down and ask if the can be quieter. None of us think it’s fair to ask.

Mitchell lies on the floor. With the back to his boxspring, he notices that he’s the only guy in the room, again. He could be downstairs, he has the choice to drink much more and be loud. He has hope that at some point around 2AM, that there’ll be another in the room with him, just them too, and finally there’ll be time to be quiet and reflect on life and love and friends. But what if it doesn’t happen? Here is more comfortable, maybe he’ll get relaxed and open enough; maybe after some time we’ll bring some weed up.

Around 1AM, Annie leaves. We know we can’t stop her, but we look up a little in sadness. There wasn’t a friendly, interesting conversation with them all night. But they were part of our group. Now there’s a break in the sanctuary, and 5 minutes past one, Burton leaves. We say goodbye quietly.

The same scene above, but there were plenty of interesting talks. Those with partners were able to talk and not be afraid of their partners’ judgment. It’s beautiful. Around 1AM, Annie gets up to leave. She said she had to leave because of an exam to study for, and she wanted to leave at 1. We say bye to Annie, looking up a little in sadness. Now there’s a break in the sanctuary, and 5 minutes past one, Burton gets up to leave. Mitchell, relaxed and lonely, stands along and says, “Let me come out with you to your car.”

Leah hasn’t lit up in a month. They don’t think about it, they don’t use it to self-medicate. They just know that tomorrow will be sluggish and in a daze, but tonight, it’ll be worth it. Mitchell notices that for the first time, they’re relaxing, but not swiping through their phone. They don’t need to. It makes his heart swell a size.

The two of them are on the bed at the end of the night, after the party, after the others are on the couch, dreaming of what tomorrow will be like, of the friends they got to immerse into their lives. What if it didn’t need a drug? What if there had to be a verbal consent to be open, unafraid. What if I was the only one that experienced the party as I did or if no one else was as relaxed as I was, were they ever feeling sad? “We’ll know the next we see them,” they resigned. “We’ll know the morning when we get through it.” The sleep was quick and warm.

Differences between happiness and pride

I am sitting on a couch at my family’s home with my family’s dog in my arms, and I’m happy to say that after the 7 minutes that I’ve been home, she’s stopped licking me and allowing me to type, with the caveat that her head must be on my wrist. Seems fair enough.

Today was a really happy day. I got to see my uncles and aunts and cousins and grandmother, I got to eat many courses of food, play football, climb playsets at the park and be king of the world, and spend $9 on a large popcorn with butter at the movies.

After some self-reflection, a few drinks, and an uncle who’s losing his hearing, I’ve come to the realization that I need to be more proud of what I’m doing. That’s a really hard thing to do. It’s easy to be happy and content with your family, the friends you have, or the city you live in, but to be proud of them? To look into the face of someone who shouldn’t know better and say that it’s an honour to share your life with them, to work alongside them, and to share good and bad memories with them. That’s something I don’t think about on a daily basis.

I’ll probably only think about my honour and pride if I’ve just come out of a movie about honour and pride.

I’m not one to wake up in the morning thankful of everything in my life. I’m certainly not thankful for my decision the night before to make the alarm clock go off so goddamn early. I’d rather find my way back to sleep before finding the beauty when I wake up and open my eyes to what I see. I could be seeing my girlfriend beside me, or the dawn, or maybe just enough minutes to get to work on time.

To take it one notch further, when I say that I appreciate something, I find that I’m saying it in dismissal in favour of a more personal point to prove. “I appreciate your effort, but I want to leave now.” Appreciation is something I can judge and observe, and if I don’t feel it at the end of the day, it doesn’t mean that I’m proud of how things played out. Maybe happy or content, but maybe not proud.

The more that I write, the more that I think building meditation and reflection habits are a good idea. I know the keyword here is ‘habits’. Man, there’s going to be a lot of habits to instill if I want to be the person I want to be. Maybe I’ll try to be more appreciative and proud of what’s in front of me, and if not, asking why, and then simply being content with the situations I’m in. We can’t be happy of everything, I know that, but can we be proud of everything? Can we be thankful and in debt to everything we have in this world – is that also what being proud of ourselves means?

Good questions to ask, I think. Hopefully, I can think about the answers when i wake up tomorrow…on time…Ugh.

If I was my best self

If I was my best self, I think I would be listening, practicing, loving, and working hard at all of these, concluding everything with a nice sleep, maybe a break with meals, with friends and my partner.

I would wake up at 6:30, stretch, and do some poetry, and begin to write a song, work on my craft. By 8, I’ll start going on a run, come back after listening to a new album, and then start to wake up my partner and then take a shower and wash up, really quickly. Then we’d make breakfast together, and start our days.

This might be ideal, but it hasn’t happened once as perfectly as I’ve explained. I don’t prepare well to do everything I’ve explained. I don’t know what I’m going to make for breakfast, I don’t that good of a dinner in order to get the carbs I need to have a run in the morning. I don’t have a place with pen and paper and instrument to write, and it’s all acoustic, so I’d be waking up my partner. I haven’t had two mornings that had been the same since I was working 4:45 shifts last summer, and I didn’t like that very much; it conflicted a lot with my time with them. I also stopped writing while I had that early, tiring work schedule. If only it had to do with music.

I think I need to journal what I do each day. In very brief descriptions, I should just describe what I do and when I begin it. If I like it, I’ll do it again the next day.

Maybe I won’t actually journal, but that’s the kind of person I’d like to be.

 

Friendships; lifting; the only two things

To myself a year before now.

Right now, you probably would still be attending marching band practices. Ella would have had anxiety fits that you didn’t know how to handle, and you were acting like you still were responsible for her. You’re having fun drumming and making new friends with the first years, but it’s not going to last. I hope you’re going to continue those friendships moving into my future, and yeah, you will in part. It’s getting better to keep those relationships when you move away from groups; your friends are more mature about things, you’re not going to be afraid to talk to them, in fact you’re excited to see most of them. I hope they’re all having a good time, all of them that were there with you.

To myself now.

You’ve done a lot of lifting and moving this weekend, not just with ShowPro, but with moving from the basement into Leah’s old room. Lydia’s gone, it’s highly unlikely she’ll want to talk with you again, even though you’ve cleared things up and you’re on good terms. If you see her again, act with your heart, not with fear. Fear that your partner will hate you for being excited to talk to someone they hate. And if you don’t want to talk to her, that may just be what your heart wants, do what you will.

Sam’s also gone, he left with Lydia. When’s that drink going to come with him? Maybe tomorrow for Rick’s night. Jaclyn’s gone too, she just wanted to live with Lydia and Sam, she tried really hard not to make it personal, and I don’t think it is. People are going to come and leave, and I’m not bitter about it, I’m just sad. And I am annoyed that she hasn’t come to pick up her stuff, even though she said she would for the last three days. Something tells me she doesn’t need anything she left behind – her two guitars, her clothes, her books, her organizers, her trash on the floor.

That’s the thing about people that live in excess. We all do, we just didn’t realize that we’d be moving all of our physical excesses at all.

I was looking at all of my possessions in my house in my new room before I unpacked it an organized it. I felt happy that I had it all, and I didn’t think that I had to get rid of it in order to achieve some higher purpose or state. I have a lot of books, a lot of cds, and a lot of 12″ records, and all three of these things will more than likely be for show. I won’t use half of them at all while I’m living here, but it’s nice to see things that I’m interested in, though I may not have time for. I see a lot of books like the Harry Potter series, my Arcade Fire records, or my Kendrick Lamar cds, and want to keep them with me wherever I go because they’re some of my favourites, but I don’t have to leave everything else to trash. I have space and time, and I’ve already decluttered a lot so I think I can afford to keep possessions.

But when it’s time for me to leave for a long time, and live off of essentials, I can handle it.

To me a year from now,

I think you can handle being on the road for long periods of time. I hope you’re driving well, and that you’re really good at it. Your G test is coming up soon, you should make sure you get that before next March – that’s when it expires. I know you’ll still be with Leah. I know it. You’ve had a lot of hard times the first 7 months, but the love for all the good times and for more good times to come is what’s keeping you and them together.

Wintertowne will still be a thing. Did the tour go really well this summer? Meeting a lot of new people and artists around the country must’ve been really exciting.

I want those two things to be the most important things in your life.