Enjoyment for Its Own Sake

I’m at the fire pit again today, and unlike last time, when there were a few people at home but none with me, this morning, I’m the only one home.

It feels a bit weird because I should be working on things around the house. Maybe I should hand some of the paintings. Maybe I should finish painting the sitting room. Maybe I should wash dishes. Instead, I’m just sitting here.

I’ve just been journaling and trying to soak up the atmosphere, because I don’t often do things without having a friend or my husband along to support me. It feels like there is value in doing this, in validating myself by choosing to do something simply because I want to do it. It’s odd, and it’s a small step, but maybe it’s enough for today.

The little girl next door likes to talk to me, and their dog loves to race Dora up and down the fence. Now, the dog from the other neighbors has come out and she’s baying at both of them. I could ask my neighbors if their dogs could come over to play, but I won’t. I’m not feeling that social.

My journaling hasn’t really led me anywhere, but it’s good to write things down. I wish the issue I’m wrestling with were simpler, but people are complicated. Life is complicated. Even if pure truth were to be revealed to me, I’d still only be happy if it turned out I was right after all. Otherwise, I’d probably need to stomach the inescapable reality.

Time to extinguish the fire and go inside. We’ll see what the rest of the day holds.

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Alone in a Social Space

For me, campfires are social places, and I can’t put my finger on why that is. I suppose that it’s simple: I’ve eaten around them with others, grabbed firewood for others, built fires for others, chatted over them with others, and so on. Maybe that’s the whole reason that I feel lonely right now.

I built this for myself. I stoked it myself. I’m sitting at it alone. I keep thinking of people I could invite over, but it’s not practical today. So I’m quietly enjoying my own fire.

Or maybe I would be enjoying it if I weren’t lonely. I’m somewhere between content and ready to cry, so it’s hard to read.

Last week, I had to make a difficult phone call to a friend of several years. I had been dreading our weekly phone calls for more than a month, and I’d simply endured them in relative silence. She started a relationship a few months ago, and some of the things she’s told me about him make me nervous for her safety. Some of the things I know about her past make me unsure about why she’s in the relationship and whether or not it’s an unhealthy coping mechanism.

So I called her. And we talked about my concerns. And she patiently explained to me that I was wrong and that if I lived closer and got to see them interact with one another, I wouldn’t think what I think.

Ouch.

On top of that, she’s been unreliable since they started dating. We had been watching a K drama together and chatting about the characters and plot- just hanging out like we used to when we lived close to one another. For a while now, every week, she’s told me that she didn’t have time to watch the next one, but that she definitely would get to it before a set date that week, and I believed her, and then we repeated it the next week. I understand that she’s got a lot going on, but I wish she would just tell me that she didn’t have time for it instead of… essentially lying to me every week. I know it’s not intentional, but either way, I still have to choose between believing her at face value and getting hurt every week or not believing her at all and being left with a wistful desire that we could be more honest with each other.

After 4-6 weeks of this, I’ve picked the second option because I can’t afford any more pain over something like this.

I don’t wish her harm, and I’m not angry. She’s an adult and she can do what she wants. Right now, I just have to accept that we’re growing apart. I cried a lot last Saturday and then some on Sunday, but the rest of this week has been peaceful, and I almost feel guilty.

Part of me thinks that I shouldn’t be able to let go of her or that there should be a path forward.

  • We disagree on some key issues, so neither of us is open to the other’s input on significant topics any more.
  • We aren’t able to interact on a casual level because she doesn’t have time for our shared interests any more.
  • This is her first relationship and she’s still in the emotional tidal wave stage, so it’s all she wants to talk about. My thoughts on her relationship aside, we don’t talk about her upcoming grad school program, her job, her friends, or her mental health any more.
  • I miss her complexity and depth. I don’t want to hear that the only thing in her life is some guy. It’s hard to accept that she’s withdrawing from things she’s used to love.

I can’t find a path forward.

It’s hard to lose the vulnerability and depth that we had. It hurts like losing an arm.

But if there’s nothing left, what can I do? Just carry on one day at a time and open up to more people. Who knows what blessings the future holds?

EmoHero: Hope

This is based on a challenge I have joined on habitica, and I don’t know what to expect from it. The premise is to reimagine your emotions as people- heroes and monsters, specifically- and to describe them in more detail. I honestly have no idea what this process will be like, but I’m going to try anyway. All entries on this topic will be tagged with EmoHero, if only for my sake. If anyone is interested in looking at or joining the challenge, here it is.

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This challenge was created by Take This

Ok. My tasks are to “turn one of my positive feelings into a hero” and to “list my hero’s strengths and weakness.” Then, if I can find “small changes I can make in my own life to play to their strengths,” I’m supposed to include those as well.

So far, I’ve written about love, caution, and fear. I dropped off the challenge pretty early on, and saw other participants talking about the value of putting in the effort to create several heroes for themselves. Technically, the challenge has already ended, but I’m going to try pushing through. Here we go.

What other good traits or emotions do I even have? (That might sound dumb, but I think it’s pretty typical for people with chronically low self esteem to struggle with this question, so I’m not worried about it.) Moreover, love was an emotion that is essentially pouring myself out for others, so it’s not… I don’t have the words for this. Essentially, pouring out too much of yourself is unhealthy and focusing too much on others and crushing yourself into paste because you think it will help them is unhealthy. I need to find something that is just valuable in and of itself.

Maybe it will help if I list positive feelings in general:

  • love
  • joy
  • humour
  • relaxation
  • hope
  • confidence
  • kindness
  • acceptance

I’ve found a strange middle ground between states of being, emotions, and personality traits, and I’m not going to split hairs trying to divide them. It doesn’t seem worthwhile, and I’m more likely to wind up distracted by that task than to be helped by it. Maybe, Hope is a good choice. (As in other entries, bold is the hero, plain is the emotion.)

As someone who has been actively suicidal multiple times, my idea of hope is inextricably tied to the will to carry on. Hope isn’t really optimism for me, in that it doesn’t involve dreams, plans, or excitement over what’s coming. Instead, it’s something dense and strong, like an iron ingot or an uncharted diamond. Hope carries a huge burden without being damaged, and it is very hard to break. I’ll start with that diamond idea and see where it leads.

Hope the hero could have diamond powers, perhaps, but what does that look like? We have Emma Frost’s diamond skin that makes her invincible or Rarity’s temporary gem-based summoning powers a la Green Lantern. I can’t think of other precedents offhand. What does hope contribute to the total picture? Essentially, hope buys time for other emotions and people to turn the tide. No matter how dire everything else looks, hope keeps me going until I am strong enough to believe in the future again.

That sounds like a shield to me. Hope has the ability to produce and maintain a diamond shield over the rest of the team. Ok. That’s a fine start.

I had to go and check, but Love got shields and healing. If they’re on the same team, then the most obvious interaction I can find is when the heavy hitter goes down, Hope throws up a crystal shield and Love starts healing them. When things are most dire, this combo is pretty helpful, but does Hope do anything when the situation isn’t dire?

For me, hope is primarily active when everything else has failed me, but occasionally I’m doing well enough to feel hope even when things are going ok. I wonder if that sounds silly. I feel hopeful when I’m teetering at the edge of death, and I struggle to hope when things are neutral or going well. Honestly, I’m usually just waiting for the shoe to drop when my life is going well. I know it won’t last, so I’m just waiting for the good times to pass.

Yeah, at this point, I think that the best thing I can say is that Hope has latent powers, because I see the potential for them to take action at other points in the battle (and in my life), but they need to be mentored or trained to develop further. On an emotional level, I’m going to need to continue forward in a stable emotional state that allows room for hope and growth. I’m not sure how to do that except to just keep putting myself out there, keep trying new things, and keep pushing through old walls.

Hang in there, Hope. One day, you’ll know who you are and what you’re capable of.

EmoHero: First Monster

This is based on a challenge I have joined on habitica, and I don’t know what to expect from it. The premise is to reimagine your emotions as people- heroes and monsters, specifically- and to describe them in more detail. This is my second post on the topic. All entries on this topic will be tagged with EmoHero, if only for my sake. If anyone is interested in looking at or joining the challenge, here it is.

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This challenge was created by Take This

Today, I’m going to write my first monster. The instructions are to “turn one of my negative feelings into a monster,” “to list its vulnerabilities,” and to describe “the most effective way to take it down.” Seems pretty straightforward, I guess. I will begin with fear. Just like last time, bold is the character and plain text is the concept.

Fear is… I wanted to say that it was large or hulking, but I honestly think that fear is probably rather small with deceptive powers. Like a toy next to a nightlight casts a giant shadow on the wall, fear is often harmless, but very convincing. I’m not sure how to approach this, because there are times when things are dangerous and fear is both accurate and helpful. I think that for the sake of this exercise, situations where it is reasonable to feel fear should be separated from the fear that I’m writing about. If I am in the path of an oncoming car, fear is actually trying to save my life by telling me to run, so in that situation, fear could be a hero if you think about it.

Argh! I’m just sitting here, stuck, because I can’t decide if I want to create 2 characters and reflect on the duality and the power that one draws from the validity of the other… or if I want to focus on 1 character and just avoid getting bogged down in complexity. Either path seems fine. I will try the duality route, I guess. Caution is the rational feeling, the one that tells you to run from things, people, and places that will hurt you. Fear is the irrational feeling that keeps you paralyzed by whispering danger in your ear, even when you’re safe.

Most people meet caution first. They encounter something loud, fast, hot, unfamiliar, etc., and it startles or even hurts them. Caution shows up and makes the child faster or stronger, and it enables them to escape. Caution stays by their side until the danger passes, and then it leaves. Caution is ready to come running at a moment’s notice to help us endure and avoid danger. As someone with a service dog, I admit that I can’t help but think of Dora right now. She performs several alerting jobs, so she watches and listens to me and responds when I need her. Maybe caution is a super dog! (Let’s just pretend that the ‘super pets’ phase in DC Comics’ history was a good idea for a minute, OK? Just roll with it.)

So, you meet caution, and it helps you, which means that when fear shows up, you can easily think that it’s caution again. That means that fear also looks like a dog in this scenario, but… I can’t imagine it as a healthy or friendly looking one. It also feels like I may discover its appearance on my own if I come back to this question later, so I’ll move on.

Fear is a weak creature with powerful illusions, which makes it an energy type monster. With most casters, energy wielders, and support characters, the key to beating them is closing the distance between you and hitting them- hard. Sure, Cyclops’ optic lasers can punch you through a building, but he’s just as vulnerable to broken bones as a normal human. It makes sense, then, if the key to defeating fear is to get close to it before doing damage.

Let me think. There was an X-Man with mirage type powers… Danielle Moonstar, maybe? She could show people their greatest fear, and her role in battles was usually to… disorient people, I guess. Sometimes, she bought time for her teammates, so they weren’t fighting outnumbered. If I write more of these, I need to look for any teammates that fear might have- things that follow on its heels and strike me when I’m already vulnerable.

What are fear‘s weaknesses? I often get scared of things like walking into a room full of strangers, writing 2 pages of a project, asking someone I care about to make time for me when I’m lonely, exposing a weakness to my husband, attempting a skill that I haven’t mastered, etc. Here’s a few things I have found that are stronger than fear:

  • Objective information- Sometimes, I can rationally see that the fear isn’t reliable or helpful.
  • Another perspective- Because I know that my sense of danger is skewed, there are a few people I trust enough to base my actions on their view of the situation.
  • Determination- Sometimes, I can also be too stubborn for fear to stop me from taking the next step.
  • Support from others- When things are going to be difficult for a while (like when I’m struggling through the long process of learning a new skill), having others who are willing to walk beside through the ups and downs makes it possible to push through.

Overall, there are two approaches to defeating fear. The first is to invalidate its claims or break its illusions, and the second is to take action, even though the illusions still hold you.

Actually, now that I think about it, taking the time to examine fear‘s illusions is also the process of distinguishing between fear and caution. It’s like holding up a flashlight near them and figuring out who is looking back at you. I haven’t found a picture-perfect description of fear‘s appearance or anything, but every time I try to find one, I see something like a skinny dog with thin fur, like it has mange. Courage is a dog with thick, lush fur… like a golden retriever, perhaps. Fear also looks like it should be pitied.

Why is that?

Maybe it’s because it can’t actually stop anyone from doing anything; fear needs you to believe it, or it’s powerless. If you don’t evaluate what it says or you don’t choose to move forward in spite of it, then fear can keep you trapped in a small life. If you ignore it or dispel its illusions, then all fear can do is watch you walk away and try to catch you later.

Now, fear has been one of the dominant emotions in my life, because I have been hurt very deeply, starting from a young age. Honestly, if you had asked me what I expected to feel at this point in the entry, it would not have been empathy, but I almost feel sad for fear. It’s hard to put into words, but it feels like…. I think fear has been hurt before, and so maybe it can’t go anywhere any more either. Like its leg is broken and it doesn’t want to be alone?

Does that make sense?

I think that if I encounter fear again, I need to walk up close, pick it up and bring it with me as I move into new territory. Because I probably will be scared, and the future will be uncertain, but I still need to move anyway. So maybe fear and caution can both come, and we can all go forward together until fear can recover and either dissipate or transform into something healthy.

Wow. This challenge is definitely more than I expected it to be. I think I will write a few more of these.

EmoHero: A Cathartic Exercise

This is based on a challenge I have joined on habitica, and I don’t know what to expect from it. The premise is to reimagine your emotions as people- heroes and monsters, specifically- and to describe them in more detail. I honestly have no idea what this process will be like, but I’m going to try anyway. All entries on this topic will be tagged with EmoHero, if only for my sake. If anyone is interested in looking at or joining the challenge, here it is.

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This challenge was created by Take This

Ok. My tasks are to “turn one of my positive feelings into a hero” and to “list my hero’s strengths and weakness.” Then, if I can find “small changes I can make in my own life to play to their strengths,” I’m supposed to include those as well.

I think I will start with love, because it’s an emotion that I can easily identify within myself. I will use bold when I’m referring to the character and plain text when referring to the abstract concept.

Thinking specifically of my husband and my closest friends, I think that love would be strong, but not offensive. I don’t think that it would possess attacks, or at least, the love wouldn’t use those first when trying to solve problems. I think that she (I’m using female because I’m female.) is more of a defender, the type of hero who would step in between her teammates and danger, so she could take the hit herself. If love has any energy-based powers, they would probably be shields and healing, both of which lessen the lasting pain caused by attacks. If love was primarily a physical hero (like The Incredible Hulk, The Thing, Colossus, The Flash, Quicksilver, Wolverine,  etc.), I think she would have more physical resistance than speed or strength. I don’t envision her throwing tractors or running fast enough to stand on water, but being the type of hero who can brace for a truck impact and stop it with her bare hands. (But then, I guess she would be strong enough to throw tractors anyway.)

So if I were to refine it a bit… love would probably have some sort of physical transformation to a tougher state (like Emma Frost’s diamond form or Colossus’s steel skin). But would she be able to change back, or would she always be in that state? My gut says that it would have to be an inherent state; that she would always be in the strong form, but that she still might not make the best choices. Someone who is strong doesn’t always use that strength for others, or for good. Love isn’t perfect, but she is powerful. Sometimes, she can hurt people, and sometimes, she can be selfish and not use her strength to help others. Yeah, that feels right.

That gives us, let’s arbitrarily say, a steel-skinned woman with an average appearance. I think that love‘s character and actions are the source of her beauty, but I truly don’t picture her as a stick thin waif with oversized breasts and hips and lips, like you see in comic books. I think love looks like the girl you see in the coffeeshop, just wearing normal street clothes, with a practical hairstyle, more concerned with the nitty gritty business of living life and being genuine than she is with counting calories, makeup trends, or fashion. If she puts effort towards any of those things, it’s in a balanced way, as part of a holistic life, not because she feels insecure. Love is definitely secure in her identity; if she weren’t, she wouldn’t have any energy to invest in others.

Right. My “recaps” just make this longer. Let me try again.

  • Steel skin.
  • Average build and looks.
  • Confidence.
  • Vulnerability.
  • Deeply rooted selflessness.
  • Ability to create barriers and to heal.

I want to be careful not to make her too strong or to give the impression that love fixes everything; it doesn’t, but love can make it easier to endure pain, process trauma, overcome stress, make plans, reach out, and more. Love can empower others to be their best, and in that vein, I could have given love some sort of defensive buffs, but I picked shields and healing for a reason. Shields are for during the hard times in life, when having someone standing with you can help you make it through. Healing is for after the trauma is done, when you’re looking at old wounds and just crying, shouting, painting, singing, exercising, or fighting your way through. When you’re just in pain, but the only forward is through more pain, having people who care for you listen and be kind while you’re vulnerable is like soothing balm on a sore wound.

Ok. Great. That was… kind of fun, actually, because I enjoy hero stories, and I have a lot of fodder to choose from. I will definitely write up at least one monster, and see how that goes.

Last part… taking responsibility for myself and looking for ways to play to love‘s strengths. Yeah. Well, I can’t dwell on this too much, since it’s the opposite of the prompt, but the main weakness that I have in acting like love is selfishness. That’s a huge generalization, so I’ll try to be a bit more specific: I tend to act based off of my negative status effects (tired, hungry, frustrated, exhausted, scared, etc.) rather than the qualities of my relationship with someone (mutual trust, long duration, personality traits that I enjoy, level of connection to each other, etc.) or even the other person’s status effects (tired but they made breakfast anyway, busy but they made time for me, insecure about their worth, trying something new, etc.).

But how can I translate that into small changes? I guess that the two main things that I see here are processing time and admission of mistakes. If I can try to slow down my responses by a few seconds, maybe I will have more time to be kind and less time to say stupid things because I’m tired and I’m not worried about anyone else’s feelings. If I still make mistakes (ok, when I still make mistakes), apologizing to my friend and acknowledging that I should have treated them better reinforces my desire to act differently and it strengthens the relationship by removing the idea that I think treating them like garbage is fine.

Can I actually do that? I have no idea.

Moving Forward with Mom

Well, I actually texted my mom and asked her to make time to talk to me and she did. We met in a restaurant and talked for a while. I was really nervous about whether or not she had made any progress on being defensive, and she has. It was good, even though I didn’t expect it to be.

I brought along the book I’m reading. I told her that I’m nervous about integrating the pockets of emotion that I’ve separated from myself. (There are traumatic events that I can discuss in a flat, rational tone, because I don’t feel anything. From what I can tell, it’s not uncommon for people to become numb when they experience things that are too intense for them to handle. I need to begin the process of feeling those things, accepting the pain. accepting that the events didn’t shape my value, and moving forward.)

I asked her how she reconciled her love for her father with the pain that he caused her during the period of his life when he used alcohol to numb the scars he brought back from war. I listened to her talk through it, and it seemed like she understood that I would need to walk that path with her as well. I think she knows that it will take time, that there may be days that I’m angry, and that this process is more about me than about her. I don’t think she’s threatened by my journey.

Honestly, not much has changed since before we talked, but it was worth doing. If I had let fear make my choices for me, I never would have taken the risk of talking to her, and I would still feel alone and empty.

There’s still a lot of work to do. Healing is dirty and painful and long. Sometimes, things need to break again in order to heal properly. Sometimes, you have to pull out all of the pieces of pain you thought you had dealt with already, look at them again, make new connections or interpret them with new information, and then pack them away  when you’re done. Sometimes, you can move on once you’ve had enough new experiences that contradict your old expectations. Sometimes, you go a bit further down before you can climb again.

I’m not expecting a miracle or a quick fix.

I expect to cry and journal, to laugh and paint, to fight and scream, and to break through every wall of pain and fear that’s kept me trapped here. It will be hard. I will need breaks to heal and restore my energy. I will have to take care of my needs along the way or I risk getting sick or falling into a downward spiral.

There’s a balance between taking care of myself because I’m precious and pushing myself to keep going through the pain because it’s the only way out. I will find it and I will keep it, to the best of my ability.

Guilt and Obligation

I don’t know what to say, but I’m freezing up, so I need to do something.

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Photo by Jad Limcaco on Unsplash

There’s going to be a baby shower in my family soon. It’s being held in a private residence, and the people who live there don’t mind if Dora comes, but the people that they’re renting the house from won’t allow it. It’s private space, so the ADA is a bit grey here, and if in doubt, I try to respect private space and the people involved. Access to public space is the intent of the law, after all, and I want to respect people’s choices about their own homes. It’s the decent thing to do.

So there’s some drama there because my cousin, who’s scheduling it, is like bending over backwards trying to find a way to make this work, and I appreciate that. She’s being really kind.

I also feel like I have to go, because I’ve never really been given a choice about these events. From childhood, I have been forced to attend every bridal and baby shower to which I’ve been invited, because, you know, I’m a girl. If I’m honest, really honest with myself, going to these parties has caused me more damage than I care to admit.

For years, I’ve been broken-hearted about my lack of a meaningful love life, and both weddings and bridal showers just served to reinforce my worthlessness. But I had to go, so I went.

And baby showers?

Do any of you remember my old entry called “Diagnosis”? Well, the lady in the painting is me. I received the diagnosis in… 2004, I think. It still hurts. Honestly, that’s mostly because I was basically like ‘nope. into the pain box you go. not dealing with you. nope. nope. nope. you’re just too big and complex and i don’t want to be honest with myself about this topic and no. bye!’

I say that, but at the same time, I got an onslaught of really horrible thoughts dumped into my head about how I was so fundamentally flawed, I couldn’t even be a woman right. Like, somehow the fact that I have glands and organs that just decided to stop working is a sign of how truly flawed I am as a person, since 99% of the females on the planet do not fail in even this basic way.

Add in the fact that my grandmother who is a dangerous, passive-aggressive lady may well be there, and perhaps you can see why my husband suggested that attending the event without Dora might be a bad idea.

So I told my cousin not to worry about it, that I was sorry that I was changing the answer that I gave her just last night, that I would figure something out. But now, she feels bad about the whole thing, and so does her grandmother (a kind lady who smiles easily). And I don’t want her to feel bad, so I should go without Dora.

But I don’t want to hurt myself any more because I already have mountains of pain and lies to dig through and process, so maybe I shouldn’t go at all. If I choose not to go, for my wellbeing, then everything with the location and the invitations she’s already ordered just sorts itself out nicely.

But I’m making people upset by not going, and I don’t know how to communicate ‘it’s ok; i didn’t want to go anyway because i hate baby showers,‘ without sounding rude or… whatever characteristic is associated with disliking things that I am supposed to like.

Yes! I know that I am supposed to be able to experience other people’s happiness with them instead of ‘making everything about myself.’ I have been told already. Thanks. I don’t know how to do that when the events in question are both bound up in unhealed traumas that I never get to make progress on because every time they surface, people essentially tell me that I shouldn’t have them in the first place, so I have to bury them again.

I just… ARGH!

Why? Just why?

I can already tell that I shouldn’t go to this. The healthiest choice I can possibly make is to avoid being hurt any further, whether that makes sense to anyone else or not. The only alternative I have is to go, sit silently, pretend that I’m having a decent time, and just marinate in my pain… like I always have, because it makes people happy to think that I am happy about the same things that they are.


I am so jealous of my husband and brothers for not being invited, not being put in this situation, and not being expected to enjoy this type of thing. It’s just difficult sometimes.