Premature Celebration

Interesting week. Overall, everything is more positive, but it's not over until it's over. I'm happy about our tax return, but it's only giving us a brief window of opportuntity to get things right. School's still in session. It's so close to the end that I can taste it. Sit tight. Don't unbuckle your seatbealt just yet, Jon. Sigh.

I caught a glimpse of the psychiatrist's notes at a doctor's visit this week. One thing she said was that I should stop pursuing a PTSD framework because it further entrenches me in a victim mindset. She mentioned that in our meeting some weeks back, but I was reminded of it when I read a bit of her note. Well, golly. If only I had to change my mind about suffering, then maybe I would simply stop suffering. It's all so simple! In fact, I had never considered myself a victim until I started talking to a therapist. They reflected a lot of my behaviours and tendencies back to me, sharing what healthy boundaries looked like, what healthy relationships did for people, and only once I realized I was a victim did I actually begin to heal. Never realizing or acknowledging that I was the target of mistreatment was what kept me in the cycle of abuse. It's similar to denial, but I wasn't resisting what someone was saying to me. I simply didn't know, and as a result, someone was picking my pocket and stealing my energy.

Someone insinuated this week that I should get back together with my nuclear family for my own good. I agree that the construct of family is healthy and helpful for a lot of people, but most people don't realize that the situation was toxic for me. If someone suffered from alcohol addiction and stopped drinking, you probably wouldn't encourage them to resume drinking again to deal with their problems. Carrie and the in-laws are my new family (and indie band name), but even if I didn't have any of them, I would still rather not be in contact with people who robbed me of my joy and life. Is it better to be alone or to feel alone in a relationship? How long could you last with either option? Family can be a source of strength, but they can also be toxic. I sound like a broken record, but I get the same problematic advice pretty often. I also get that not everyone reads this blog, but some do and still don't get it. Rest assured that I have a soft place to land with Carrie and her family, but even if I didn't, I wouldn't go back to mine. They still haven't apologized for anything.

I recently downgraded levels of suffering. I can comfortably live life without panic and adrenaline. That's been pretty much my whole existence through what little of 2017 we've traveled, and it's been a struggle to get here. Most people have their own personal hells that they live in. A lot of the advice I got was from people who've only ever seen the minor and shallow depths. I'm not in the clear yet, but that predominant fear and dread of near-extinction behind every action no longer prevails. It's like when you talk to a child, and they ask what's wrong. You simplify and explain a bit of the situation, and they respond "When I'm sad, my dad gets me a juice box to drink. That always makes me feel better." Yes, thank you for that helpful tip. I actually do that a lot too, but my juice usually comes with gin. Most people offer advice from a shallower level, which does indeed work when you have problems from that realm, but when your problems exist in the deeper, bluer part of the sea, those pieces of advice crumble under the heavier pressure. What really helps, but is harder to offer, is empathy. Just listen and say "Wow, that sounds difficult." No advice needed. Maybe even connect with a similar experience you had or that your friend had. We all feel the same feelings as humans, so it's not much of a stretch to identify when you felt a similar way. Alas, Carrie is showing up and my problems are shrinking at the same time, so I'm in a much better place these days.

It's been great this week. Not falling apart, not ripping at the seams. Things just get added to the to-do list, and there's no fear or terror about which one most desperately needs to get done first. For example, Carrie helped me the other day to take the car to the Honda dealership. I had avoided this option earlier because I wanted to avoid spending a thousand dollars on diagnostic tests. The initial tests were actually only $135, but that's basically the amount I paid for the new battery, which didn't fix the problem. The Honda people pointed out a bunch of problems, all of which I was aware of, but I wanted to just focus on the whole "engine-starting-and-not-having-to-boost-the-car-every-time" issue first. They actually had to boost the engine to move the car from the parking lot to the garage too, which was very validating when they said "That gets old quick." I'm sure you don't really care what happens to our car, so I'll just get to the point. Making these decisions on my own before we had any funds was stressful. Carrie had a lot of driving to do in order to get between her school and office on time, and I was preoccupied looking for work, applying for EI, taking care of the home. She also didn't like when I spoke ill of her car. "Beatrix has been with me since before you and I started dating!" The point is that it's easier to make these decisions together and when one of us isn't collapsing. She has a lot less driving to do now, and she just got a bus pass. It was nice going to the dealership together. I could bounce ideas off of her. We could plan and make goals. I wasn't left alone with my paranoid and anxious thoughts about every worst case scenario. Other areas have benefitted as well, like not grocery shopping alone. Great week.

I feel like I should be more grateful for the improvement in my situation. The world has stopped sucking so hard for me, but I feel like I'm entitled to a suck-less life. It's an interesting thing when our brains police our emotions. Certainly, our emotions can be manipulated, but our minds can easily be tricked as well. I find it cute when some people try to reduce all of life's legitimate knowledge to only science and math. Everything that exists can be quantified, measured, and managed. If it cannot be measured, then it doesn't exist. How adorable. Surely, the scientific method is a powerful way of discovering insights, but Science is also run by humans with their own biases and evils. The rebuttal is that Science is self-correcting and will sniff out the truth to remove its biases, but that can only be done to an extent. The fact remains that it's a system that can be abused and manipulated if you know how. It's imperfect, like all our systems. Alas, the imaginary paradox between brain and heart is a double-edged sword. Sometimes we want to filter out our emotions and set them aside for a time to focus only on logic. The other times, it's okay to feel our feelings and to let them overwhelm us. It can be healthy to let our thoughts and feelings conflict with each other. Going back to the psychiatrist's note about my victim mentality, I never allowed myself to feel my dark emotions until I was an adult. Sure, it was convenient and even helpful to have a clear head when needed, like during an evacuation. But it made me a weird person. When I felt awkward, I ignored it and pretended I wasn't uncomfortable, which is a bit like driving a car that can't start without a battery booster because you can't afford to spend the time and money to get it fixed. I'm learning to catch on to social cues better and to be more in tune with myself. Science is prized partly for its predictive power, and I'm learning to wield that power in social and relational situations. Watch out, world, there's an engineer trying to scientifically act like a whole human.

Our minds like to latch onto simplistic explanations. Stories take certain shapes and arcs, which is a tried-and-true method to make them sink into people's minds. Kind of like how almost every comic book movie these days has the same storyline. A common simplistic explanation is the paradox, which we see at play in the whole "mind vs. emotion" dynamic. The reality is that they're all deeply intertwined and complex, but we like to filter out the nuances to make it into a black-and-white issue that's easier to comprehend. This tax return is one of the biggest breaks that I've gotten lately. We have a pretty decent buffer for income so that Carrie can come back into the fold, but I feel guilty for depending on it so much. It's not going to last us forever. I feel like buying everything, but I can't because we still only have half an income between two people. We'll both be looking for jobs soon. I want to celebrate finally getting some good news and holding on long enough to make it here, but my head tells me that I shouldn't feel too good because I might become complacent in the job hunt. The reality is that all these feelings and thoughts can exist at the same time. Yes, financially, we're still in the red and I still need to hustle to find work. Also, yes, emotionally, it's a huge break that I should use as leverage to ratchet my way back up to a comfortable place in the world. It's normal to feel like I want to spend it all to feel better. Certainly, that will bring us two steps back again. I'm spending a portion already on Coachella, so I should enjoy myself but not spend like crazy on swag and alcohol. Carrie will be done soon, but not soon enough. I feel all these things at the same time, even though they're mostly in conflict with one another. Still stuck in the middle and not quite finished with this game yet.

Last week, I started celebrating prematurely. I know it's not over until it's over, so I shouldn't stop working just yet. As a casual fan of Edmonton sports teams since I was a kid, it brought me great sorrow and little surprise when they inevitably let the other team tie the game in the final minute of play and lose in overtime. It was a classic formula. Those are some of the best videos and gifs, when someone celebrates right before the end of the race and then the second place runner sneaks past them for win. It's the blue spiked shell in Mario Kart knocking everyone out just before the end of the last lap. Carrie and I were watching together during that Superbowl where Seattle caught the last-minute hail mary pass to get within 1st and goal, and they still managed to lose the game. Mine's not finished yet. I'm still dead inside. After four years of this lifestyle, I still don't really know what game I'm playing or who I'm playing against, but I just know that I can't give up until it's done. I have a three-year resolution to hold onto until January 2018. Sigh.