I feel like I look in the mirror on a daily basis, but then I see that my nose hair is hideously long and I’m pretty sure it didn’t grow like that overnight.
It is bulging. Its sides are reinforced with duct tape. It’s been reopened many times to accommodate just one more thing, haphazardly retaped each time. Its label says Keepsakes, when it should actually say DANGER.
But at 34 years old, this box is too heavy for me to lift anymore, and it’s too full to for anything else. It’s stuffed full of pieces of my life that I don’t want to think about, parts of me that I’ve carefully concealed. The things that bring me shame. The things that make me hide. The things that make every nerve in my body stand up when people get too close to it.
For a short while, I started putting these things into someone instead of the box, and I felt safe. I didn’t feel like I needed to hide or perform. I could just be. I want to stay this free and unburdened, but I feel the weight of my life and The Box I’ve been carrying around, and it is enormous.
I messaged my therapist and told them about The Box, and in that moment it finally gave out, spilling the contents all over the place. Huge manifests of things I’ve been and hoped to be still, little scraps of hopes and dreams, slips of papers with the lies I’ve told, a book of accounts that list all the hurts and outstanding apologies that aren’t coming. The lists of roles and expectations that I’ve abided by. All of these things are going to need to be inventoried before they can be safely recycled to be made into something new. It’s an exercise of taking taking them out and talking about them, piece by piece.
I cried when I got this. Not because of the pain, although I sat for five and a half hours in one go. I cried because I thought of all the shitty days that got me here. I thought of all the times that my mom sent me The Story of Ferdinand to remind me of my strength, to remind me to slow down and smell the flowers and to remember there is still beauty in the mess.
I thought about how we fought when she told me she was moving 1,200km away, and how she sent a physical copy of the book to me as a peace offering. It worked. I cried then, too.
I cried because this will be with me long after she leaves this world. I showed her and she was delighted. She said, “Always be you.”
Christmas is coming. Consider this a brief list of my favourite things that someone in your life (or you!) might like, too:
- Hammock with straps and carabiners that I hung on my patio. It packs down to a small pouch, and works equally as well when used between two trees, available from the evil corporation here
- Contigo travel mug. What makes this special? It does not leak when it’s locked. I have put this in my backpack upside down with my Macbook. The sealing mechanism flips open for easy and more thorough washing – no more gross coffee cream scum. Available from the evil corporation here
- Bamboo sheets from Daniadown. These feel like silk against the skin, but they’re lightweight and breathable, and they wash so well. Daniadown is Canadian! Available here
- Poetry books. I purchased 14 this year. My favourites were from Bianca Sparacino, Trista Mateer, Atticus, and Nikita Gill
- Anker Soundcore Mini bluetooth speaker. I take this everywhere. Available from the evil corporation here
- Roku Express HD Streaming Media Player. Don’t have a SmartTV? This is the answer. I also love that I can take it with me when I house-sit/travel, and I’m already signed in to all of my streaming accounts. Available from the evil corporation here
- Vessi Weekender shoes. Pricey, but they’re the most comfortable shoe I’ve ever owned, and they’re waterproof. Great for those awful, wet PNW winters Get $20 off with my referral link
- Stickers. I put them on everything – my laptop case, my Contigo travel mug, my Nalgene water bottle. Get every sticker your bold heart can imagine over at Redbubble I’m sorry in advance that you’ve reverted back to a child-like state and need to decorate everything. Actually, I’m not sorry at all.
- Did you take up sewing this year? These sewing clips were a game changer. Easy to use and less stabbing my fingers and bleeding on my projects is always a plus. Available from the evil corporation in a tub of 100 here
- Three port usb wall chargers for charging phones, sex toys, backup battery packs, whatever. I have two of them and it’s really nice to be able to charge everything at once instead of hunting around for charging cubes and fighting with the power bar for space. Available from IKEA here
- ROCKS! I love polished rocks. I like holding them, looking at them in the light, carrying them around with me when I’m anxious. I would normally nerd out at rock and gem shows, but you know, covid. Here’s another Canadian retailer with a great selection of rocks
- Flannel shirts from UNIQLO, so cozy
- Patches, pins, and prints from Stay Home Club
- Political, queer, and feminist shirts and pullovers from March for the Movement excellent quality, so soft. I get compliments on my tshirts from this shop everywhere I go
- 1-litre Nalgene water bottles. I almost always have one of these with me. They’re durable, and they never smell bad, regardless of how long I’ve left something in them. Available from the evil corporation here
- This constellation onesie from Tentree. Great for lounging, camping, sick days, and hangovers. It is by far my favourite article of clothing, and the company plants ten trees for every article of clothing purchased
I find it strange when people say I’m hard to shop for. Am I? Is it cozy? Can I eat it? Does it hold a beverage? Is it a rock? Sad girl poetry? Come on now.
I’m so painfully aware of myself these days. Maybe it’s the new skin I’ve revealed under decades of wearing someone else, it’s still raw. I’m moving about the world as a fundamentally different person and I have no frame of reference for anything anymore.
I’m so painfully aware that I might not be good at relationships, that I don’t know what healthy attachment looks like, or how to give all of myself to one person. I don’t know when to bend or fold, when to stop talking, how much to say, or even if I should say it. I’m suddenly insecure and aware of everything I do.
Am I a healthy person for others to be around? Am I making their lives better, or worse? When is it my responsibility to exit someone’s life, do I get to decide that? Or will they kick me out when they’re done? I don’t want to make anyone’s life worse. I know every day isn’t going to add value, but overall? What if I’ve identified that overall I am bringing someone down? What if, despite all my best efforts, I am not what someone else needs? Is this what it is when love isn’t enough?
For so long, I saw myself one way. I am surprised and saddened when people reveal the ways that I’ve hurt them. I’m caught off-guard by the ways I affect people. I’m painfully aware that it’s not just me in the world, and that’s been a monumental shift. I spend a lot of time thinking about how to be kind, how to be stable and safe for others. How to be emotionally sustainable and not burn someone out. I worry that I am a hurricane, leaving a path of destruction behind me. There’s a poem about throwing seeds behind you, and not looking back, and trusting that things will grow and blossom. I want to believe that, I want something beautiful to grow in people’s hearts where I have been. I don’t want to leave people with hearts of darkness.
Maybe I give myself too much credit. It’s arrogant to think I have that much impact.
I look at my life and wonder when I’m going to settle down and be the person someone can rely on? Someone I can rely on and trust, too? I’m terrible unsure of myself. I don’t know where I end and begin these days.
I wanted to be good for you. I wanted to fill you with hope and warmth and instead I made the gaps bigger and the dark places darker. I never wanted you to feel like you had to set yourself on fire to keep me warm. I wanted to be good for you. I am sorry I couldn’t be with you the way I wanted to, the way you needed. You worried that you weren’t enough for me, but darling, it was the other way around.
When I give you a song, it is yours. And it will be forever, and forever is a long time. I may make someone else a playlist, but your song will not be on it. And one day, your song will come on when I least expect it, in an unlikely setting, and I’ll either soften with warmth or I’ll bristle with pain. That song is yours, carved into my being with your initials next to it.
Music is love in search of a word. - Sidney Lanier
We’re in the middle of a global pandemic. I’m navigating a separation. And living by myself for the first time ever. And I have a job with a lot of responsibilities that requires me to keep track of hundreds of things at a time (my work-life is ruled by spreadsheets.) AND I’M IN A SIX WEEK INTENSIVE COURSE ON TOP OF IT ALL.
Some days I feel so fucking great, I’VE GOT THIS! SLAYING THE EMAIL DEMON! SOLVING ALL THE PROBLEMS! I CAN SEE EVERYTHING CLEARLY, I KNOW WHERE ALL THE PIECES FIT AND I AM CHARGING FORWARD! DEADLINES ARE MY BITCH!
And other days my executive function evaporates and I feel useless and anxious and like a massive failure. I can’t focus, I can’t do what I know needs to be done, and I can’t commit to anything. I try very hard to redirect my attention to things I would rather do in the name of productivity. But… the pandemic makes this worse. Working from home makes this worse. Going through a separation makes this worse. Doing school work in addition to a full workday makes this worse. All of these things combined with ADHD, depression, anxiety, and bouts of insomnia?
It’s overwhelming. It makes me question my ability to do my job. It makes me question if I can be in project management long-term. Am I even any good at this? Some days, YES. Most days, yes. Bad days are allowed, I tend to forget that. I had a bad day yesterday and today isn’t great. Maybe tomorrow I’ll be back on track?
But my therapist reminds me that this is a lot, that all of those things would be hard on their own. But all at once? That’s next-level overwhelming, it’s NORMAL to feel completely swallowed. Most people aren’t doing all of this. Most people aren’t doing all of this with a brain disorder, clinical depression, anxiety, and running on less than five hours of sleep on a given night.
I’m actually doing really well. I’m still showing up to all of it. I may not be as productive as I want, and the timing might be all over the place, but the work is getting done. I picked the worst time to do a 180 on my life, but you know what? I’m HAPPY. I’m grateful. It still feels right, even though it’s overwhelming and stressful, and that’s normal. It’s normal.
for turning my disorder into poetry
for saying that I’m a work of art
for listening to the music I posted
for your art
for your words