Man oh man

I don’t remember when I first realized I wanted to be a boy.

Not that I *was* a boy, mind you. But acutely aware that I was lacking something, and that I had to try to fake it. That there was some shield against the world that came naturally to these boys and, not knowing what it was, I would have to emulate all their ways to try to get at it.

However long it took, I’ve stopped wanting that.

“Toxic masculinity” sounds so alarmist, and yet it’s fitting.

Even in small doses it corrodes from the inside, men and women alike. Thrown into their faces, it’s hot acid.

Then again, anything is toxic if the dose is large enough.

Spend too much time around any one man (and most women) and eventually it will reveal itself.

“I’d (rather) kill myself.”

I look up at the TV; I hadn’t been paying attention. “Is he sick?”

“He’s crying.”

HE’S CRYING.

“Why was it OK the other night, when I cried, then?” I don’t really want to know.

A pause.

“I hold myself to a higher standard.”

***

“Microaggressions,” they call them. Some say the very existence of this word is all that’s wrong with our society.

How to explain to them the loss of hope when a thoughtful, caring person falters?

How it’s Not A Big Deal when your coworkers want to make the case for women’s beach volleyball uniforms but also you’re too tired to tell them that their word choices are doing their arguments no favours.

How you’re always too tired to tell them it’s wrong, lately?

***

Like those sandy thongs, some parts of this will never go away, not ever.

Sexual dimorphism is real. Most people are straight. The most enlightened society in the world cannot undo those biases.

So should we instead Lean In?

Should I objectify men Just Like A Man Would?

Despite my visceral reaction (NO) there’s just an impracticality to attempting such.

Should I deride “man-sluts” or should I be sex-positive to the point where fidelity is basically meaningless to me?

(I’ve done both btw.)

Should I push for Full Partnership Equality or should I accept that I’ve been socialized to make sure people are fed and take on that role (in exchange for not, say, cutting the grass, which I hate, hate, HATE to do)?

These dialectics defy resolution. Balance is the only answer.

And by its very nature toxic masculinity won’t admit such.

***

I have a limited supply of assertiveness that I need to ration very carefully.

When it runs out, I can only cower and avoid or domineer — “napoleoning,” in the lexicon of my life — until my batteries recharge.

My batteries only recharge with assertive actions.

This fixing a problem from nothing, I can’t figure out which archetype it fits: MacGuyver or my grandma? Adam’s rib or the miracle of birth?

I do know that I know few straight men who grapple with assertiveness.

I lift weights to get strong and my therapist tells me instead to jog away my stress.

I run from assertiveness and my therapist tells me it’s a muscle that must be flexed.

Then again, what does he know about it?

***

I’ve always been the one who sets the pace.

I’ve always been the one who needs space.

My depression hollowed this out of me and for the first time I felt the acute pain of femininity.

My recovery feels fragile. I’ve never been vulnerable like this before.

I don’t know how to be the woman.

I learned, in “the program,” to find mindful peace in cleaning.

I find solace in cooking and joy in feeding.

I don’t know how not to be the woman.

My only hope is to find someone who too considers these things so carefully.

Or is it?

***

“You interrupted me, again.”

I try to hide the hurt in my voice.

“I’m sorry,” he says. “I’ll try to pay attention to that.”

“No,” quickly. “No, that’s not the answer at all. I need to interrupt you, to get my point in edgewise, to insist upon being heard. It’s up to me.”

I want to believe that this is the way forward for those who’ve lost or never found their voices, for everyone to rise out of subjugation.

I want to believe I can learn to do this again while I’m somewhere safe.

I want to believe, because insisting is the only way to get back to my position of relative power.

***

I’m a man.

I’m the strong and silent type.

I skew logical and have a distaste for talking about feelings.

I hate when people know my business.

I want things to be done, my way, and then to move along.

I’m the big spoon, because cuddling isn’t my thing and because I need to be able to scratch myself, or take a drink, or leave forever without a moment’s notice or a goodbye. Whatever the situation calls for, really.

I’m toxic masculinity, too.

I’m working hard to try to soften these hard parts of me.

***

“You really are a dude,” my married friend says to me, as we do another shot of Irish whiskey and prepare to leave the party together. We were talking about my relationship with a boyfriend when he said that.

It was a compliment.

So I succeeded, I guess.

Who am I, then, to dissuade others from such a safe position?

How can I tell these men, who have no reason to have to think about it, what it means to me to have gender politics glossed over in the name of getting along?

How do I explain to them the complex math behind that volleyball player putting on a thong?

Maybe I don’t.

Feminism isn’t just for me, I want to scream. It’s so it’s OK for you to cry. It’s so you can get under the anger and understand what’s really bothering you. It’s so the standards you hold yourself to can come from within, so they can make logical sense.

I say nothing.

Because … maybe it’s not my place.

Maybe only my journey was below the surface.

Maybe the toxins of toxic masculinity won’t be removed by more yelling, but by a million micro-acts of compassion.

A million microassertions. Displays of how to do the right thing.

Maybe it will take so much more strength to do it, silently, persistently, logically — like a woman would do.

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Fight or flight

“I’m fight or flight.”

You know what this means; you’re usually the one who says this.

It is a threat.

But then, so is “I love you.”

The thing is, “fight or flight” just isn’t true anymore.

Not for me. And not for researchers.

But it lives on because it’s so easy to remember. So easy to do.

“Fight or flight or fawn or freeze,” doesn’t have the same ring. Nor does “tend and befriend.”

This new model, including the quote-unquote “female” response, the PTSD response, the survivor response, rankles in its inherent passivity.

Worst is that I do them all, now.

“Give me anything and I can do it to excess,” I am wont to joke. As if over-reliance on any of these over-simplifications has a hope in hell of being constructive.

I’m far enough along to understand what it means to threaten someone with fight or flight, to push back (however ineffectually) against it.

Who sees in my own fawning responses a desperation to be loved and understood and finally taken care of by another human being.

But also sees: These are the tools I have. They were hard-earned. As my arsenal expands, I will use them less.

But for now, these are the tools I’m trying to use to make this work.


Flight

In the bad old days things were much easier: Come. See. Conquer. And flee.

I’m walking through a park with my most recent ex and we’re talking about why we don’t “do” relationships (as if both of us not “doing relationships” was not our problem).

We walk and talk around and around the idea that partnership means a dilution of the self.

And for someone who’s so recently begun to consider who that self might be, besides a collection of bad qualities, that’s disconcerting.

I read, in the avoidant attachment self-help modules, such frightening truths as: “Many flight types are so busy trying to stay one step ahead of their pain that introspecting out loud in the therapy hour is the only time they find to take themselves seriously.”

I realize that I am searching for anything to anchor me here, anything to help me stay.

I parrot back “I love you too” dozens of times a day now, as if that means something.

In my heart, I don’t think it does.

It could. I hope it will soon.

Fight

“I don’t want to always be the boy.”

I’m drunk and I haven’t spoken seriously to another person in weeks, and this is what comes out.

I am starting fights again.

Petulant, I am demanding to be heard on the smallest, the most petty, the meanest of things. No injustice, no interruption, can go unremarked.

I scream internally: “THERE ARE REAL THINGS FOR YOU TO BE FIGHTING ABOUT.”

But I don’t trust that those fights will be constructive, that they won’t blow this rickety proposition to bits. So I bicker and bitch about things I “should” be able to win. I am secretly delighted when later I am the one being fawned over. When he begs to be weighted down by me.

Of course, this isn’t the whole picture.

The frame, fogged up by passion, has yet to show what’s really going on.

 

Fawn

“Do you have a type?” my psychiatrist asked on the very first day I met him, crying at the Crisis Resource Centre.

“Passive megalomaniacs,” I replied, without missing a beat.

“There … can’t be that many of those.”

“Somehow, I seem to keep finding them.”

It’s such a burden to be awake to your own bullshit.

To know what other people are saying, even when they don’t, to try to get you to behave.

To know when you’re taking the easy way out.

Case. In. Point. I delude myself into believing that I am now in control of my relationship with my father. That I know how to manage him. (That I know how to manage others. That I know how to manage myself. But mostly I’m deluding myself about him.)

You just can’t be assertive with him, I tell myself. That’s OK, that’s just his way. It’s OK to use subtlety and subterfuge and downright ass-kissing in just this one case. It’s OK that this spills over into all my personal relationships when Public Tessa has no problem being assertive.

We’re just too similar, you see?

You can only bash your head against the wall so many times before something gives.

Freeze

“But I love you.”

He is drunk. Not just drunk, ludicrously cartoon-character drunk, swaying and stumbling, yet — stripped down to bare id — shockingly strong.

He is not listening. They never do.

For one moment, you stop and consider everything that brought you here with eerie prescience for someone who’s still technically a teenager. For one moment, you know that you weren’t made “dirty” by another boy and that he did not “save” you. You know that what he has been doing is wrong and you are disappointed in yourself for the way you have handled it. You know you have the choice, right now, to be proud of your actions for the rest of your life, or to stay frozen by this for years to come.

While you stand, he strikes.

My way or the highway

There are two types of people in the world: Those who believe their type can change, and those who don’t.

I wake up every morning feeling like a shell of someone who’s come and gone, a new body to fill an empty place at the table.

I fall asleep frustrated that I will be the one to have to change, that I am up against a brick wall. My own stubbornness rankles and itches at the thought.

But this is what I choose. It was wrong all the previous times I chose it, but I have changed.

My words take sharper meanings now. My muscles are better defined. The points of my teeth can’t always be muzzled, but sometimes they can, and I’m learning when they need not be.

I can hold my self in one hand and my love in the other, and try to treat both the way they need to be treated.

“I’m fight or flight,” I stand in front of the mirror, trying to imagine myself saying, now.

Over and over, until my breath fogs up the glass, all that comes out is “I love you.”

 

 

 

Nothing to fear

I can’t imagine anything more terrifying than this happiness.

It’s so foreign. So portentous. So … easy.

I can feel myself giving into it, floating along with the current and being OK with not knowing where I am going. With knowing exactly where I am going.

For so long, I’ve defined myself by what I’m not.

And what I was not was happy.

So who am I now?

No longer someone who can write, it seems. Nor think clearly, nor maintain commitments, nor complete to-do lists. I’m far too happy for such ho-hum activities.

I’m probably in love, I guess. If I admit it to myself, if I stop second-guessing it.

But what does that even mean, for a mopey moon-baby like me?


“Wow,” says my therapist. “Do you realize? You’ve made it through a whole session without saying anything bad about yourself.”

“Well that can’t be right,” I self-deprecate.

It’s just easier when you’re afraid. Easier to accept your shortcomings, for one — of course I’ve failed again, you think. That’s what I do. 

Easier to work, too. The hustle consumes you. You know that you can’t stop, because if you stop your inner nature will take over, and your inner nature is a flaming pile of garbage.

So you don’t stop.

Fear is a superpower, says The Doctor.

He means it in a positive way, and he’s not wrong. Heightened senses, activated reflexes, a readiness to act decisively are all lacking in the happy-go-lucky.

Perhaps that’s why I reinforced it in myself for so long, whipping myself into the person I wanted to be through the language of fear. The only language I’d ever seen people talk to themselves in.

I’m unlovable, I feared, so I designed a life without a place for anyone else.

I’m worthless, I feared, so I pushed myself into extrinsic value.

I’m ruined, I feared, and so I was.


This is why the stereotype of the tortured artist exists. I still sincerely doubt that it’s possible to create without pain. I don’t know that you can pay for success except in tears.

But at some point, there must be enough pain. Pain reserves, carefully put up for the dry spells, to be pulled out and decanted as the blank page thirsts. Distilled, through time, to their essence — strong enough to be opened up, sipped, then stoppered back up when the light of day beckons.

But of course not. Of course there’s never enough. And of course this too will hurt, eventually.

The only question is will it have been worth it. 


Being happy means giving up power to that happiness. So of course the control freak in me has begun to panic.

Falling in love was painful, and disrupting, and I could handle that. It took all my newfound skills, but I could handle it.

I cannot handle being trapped again, I do not think.

The timing of things — of course, of course we do not choose it. I accept that.

There’s no good time for things, either.

But now? Right now?

“The person in whom invisible agony reaches a certain unendurable level will kill herself the same way a trapped person will eventually jump from the window of a burning high-rise,” writes David Foster Wallace. “You’d have to have personally been trapped and felt flames to really understand a terror way beyond falling.”

I riled myself up, hotter and hotter, delirious with fear, panicking. 

I’d done so much work to sift my own desires out from the flotsam of those I’d picked up along the way. I’d stared so deep and so painfully into my own soul, to get to know it.

I poured old worries on the flames and instead of being doused they toasted me back.

Now I was to trade my hard-fought independence from depression for the joy in giving up control?

But just a few degrees away from Wallace is Roxane Gay. “Love is the hardest thing. To allow yourself to be in love, you have to surrender so much. You have to accept that your heart is a fuller piece of flesh with this other person in your life. You have to surrender to not knowing how things will end, if things will last, if that love will be returned.”


I’ve been sleeping, lately.

Cozy hours at a time, that even when it’s not enough, it’s enough. Satisfying sleep. Come-back-for-more sleep, stay-in-bed-cuddling sleep, morning-sex-then-nap sleep.

Fuck-productivity sleep.

It’s eroding my sense of self in the same way that sleepless nights of depression did, by making me wonder if I’ll ever be able to not want this. If I’ll ever return to my lists, my goals, my dreams. Or if they’ve been muddled up, if I’ve opened too far, so wide I can now dream for two.

I fear the loss of myself — what I had thought of as myself — when the phobia of happiness comes to no longer define me.

“Fear is the little-death that brings total obliteration,” I think, as I come again and again and cease to care.


I have no idea how to live this way.

Bumbling blindly through uncharted, unimagined territory, I search for ways to cower back, to end this vulnerability.

I’m too far gone; this is happening. But the fear remains.

I fear the pain I expected this vulnerability to cause. I fear its absence.

 

My fear is logical, says my therapist. My fear is universal. My fear is based on specific life experiences.

So why does it no longer matter?


I’ve always been scared of people who don’t fear happiness. I don’t understand them.

To be happy is to have something to love, something that can be lost.

This is why they preach contentment over happiness. Contentment — the knowledge that if one area of your life falls apart you can use the other pieces to pick yourself back up.

Contentment that is anathema to love.

“Anyone who can meet my level of intensity can’t be totally normal,” says SoSadToday.

And yet I’ve spent the last few months being so counterintuitively content that I have not been my usual fearful self. That someone who claims to love me believes me to be chill.

This is irreconcilable. How can I be terrified and yet completely at ease? Yet I am.

How can I be boringly content and yet brazenly, audaciously, deliriously so, so happy? Yet I am.

Fortunately, for me, it’s the known and not the unknown that frightens.


The familiar worry thoughts return to comfort me.

Will it have been worth it? When will you ruin it? How? 

I’m not brave enough, it turns out, to leave them behind completely. I don’t want to.

After spending a lifetime self-sabotaging, it would be foolish to think I could move forward without them on the shelf, half-filled bottles ready should I need to crack them again.

It’s harder to have the bottles around, probably. Swearing off them entirely would be easier. Smashing them would be so very satisfying.

But I guess I’m no longer the person that avoids, that takes the easier way, that whips herself into submission with promises of failure.

I guess I have to push back against the fear every day, and that means not taking my eye off of it.

“Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate,” writes Marianne Williamson. “Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure.”

And so I watch the dust gather on my worries, and wait.

 

 

This post will self-destruct in 3 … 2 …

When I start pondering aloud if I might be OK after all, take cover.

That’s the No. 1 sign of an impending self-destruct.

It wouldn’t be so bad if I could just implode properly, entirely alone, affecting no one, collapsing in on myself. But I do that every day. When it’s time for fireworks, I find an audience.

This isn’t going to get better. This is fundamental to me — only pain can pay for happiness. No amount of healthy coping mechanisms and philosophical reprogramming can take that out of my innermost self.

My ablutions only seem to make the need greater.

Self-awareness helps. Until, that is, your therapist fucking calls it and says, now Tessa, I know what normally happens at this point in your pattern. DON’T DO THAT.

I FUCKING DID IT, DARYL.

I’m a petulant little child in my heart of hearts. She wants to watch the world burn.

I want to watch the world burn. Because it is too good for me and if I can’t have it then no one can.

The thing is, the crazy thing is, this is integral to not just my psychology but the psychology of humanity. No, most people don’t take direct action to fuck up their lives. Most people are able to stop and think of the consequences their actions will have on others. But I believe that underpinning all of humanity’s achievements is a worry thought: this is too good, this is too much, what if this doesn’t last?

I take steps to alleviate that worry thought. Because I cannot handle it.

I hate, I hate, I hate that all this is is an assertiveness deficiency.

Why not just use less-hurtful, still-hurtful but less-hurtful words to blow up what needs blowing up?

Why am I such a fucking coward?

As I sit thinking through what I have to say, what I should say, what would be better to just go ahead and fucking say, it hurts. I feel bad before I’ve even done the uncomfortable thing. And then I feel bad about not doing the uncomfortable thing.

And my kindling words dry out, just waiting for some alcohol to fuel the flames.

I come with a fucking giant, flashing disclaimer that no one believes.

And I do this shit to people, this cowardly fucking garbage shit, and they have to go on in their lives wondering why I hurt them.

Knowing there’s absolutely no reason, the firebug smiles, and rises again from the ashes.

 

Girl meets god

I’m not one for prayer, but I’m learning to call on the One True God to get shit done.

Every email that I send, every renovation project I complete, even every — theoretically enjoyable — blog post that I write is a sacrificial lamb. The God of Productivity wants it all.

My god is not a kind god. He demands that I start writing this when my bedtime passes, to meet a deadline I chose to tie myself to. Failing to do so would result in guilt and shame at having mispleased him — rendering me even more incapable of meeting the next challenge.

My god is the god of efficiency. Doing something is not enough — it must be done expediently. Other goals fall by the wayside until I meet his needs (and then I find myself desperately picking up the pieces of underfed friendships and vending-machine dinners to return myself to fighting strength).

This works out in my favour when I use logic to argue that eight hours of sleep will make me more productive. When I find magazine articles stating that active leisure is the key to dynamism at work, or that Golden Age television stimulates critical thinking, or that running generates new neurons. He does want me to succeed.

How to reconcile this — the feeling of being controlled (even smothered) by my goals and the knowledge that pursuing them is my primary source of joy?

How to reconcile the push to jettison people and activities that get in the way with the realization that co-operating with others and spending time on them could be more efficient in the long run? Could make the work worthwhile?

How to work hard (hard Enough, good Enough, fast Enough) then shut it down at the end of the day?

How to be OK with taking a break?

How to be OK with the fact that I am in the process of inventing a religion to justify  workaholism?

I find myself calling new gods into service.

The God of History, ruthless in her inexorable march.

The God of Magic, alerting me when someone’s looking my way and getting me back to my car just as the meter expires.

The twin gods of Reason and Emotion, grappling for pre-eminence but forever unable to speak each other’s languages.

The God of Addiction. Enough said.

It’s getting crowded in my brain with all of these contrivances. They speak over each other, the din obscuring any real transmission of knowledge from their world to mine.

Until suddenly it’s quiet. They rush to the sides to clear a path for — who? Who could so unite and divide the mess inside my head?

“I notice you used ‘he’ for the God of Productivity,” she says. “I don’t want to alarm you, but he looks a lot like your dad.”

“Oh wow, I can’t believe you were ‘inside me’ the whole time,” I say to Wise Mind. “That’s kind of creepy, when you think about it.”

That’s the kind of thing you can say to the One True God. No matter how badly I fuck up, I’ll be able to find her again. It’s no three clicks of the heels — it’s hard work, and goddamn if I don’t need Productivity, sometimes even to corral Reason and Emotion, to get back here — but as they say, good help is hard to find.

“I’m kind of sick of your BS,” she says. “But leave me your problems and go to bed. I’ll think on them for a while.”

 

 

 

The yearn for magical thinking

When Uncle Cor was dying, I did everything I could to try and stop it.

Somehow, my heart said, if I stayed at the hospital every night and made sandwiches for everyone and and read book after book aloud to a man in a coma, somehow it would be Enough.

It would make up for all the times I wasn’t there.

It would stop the inevitable.

It would stop my pain.

I didn’t really believe it, of course, but the allure of magical thinking is irresistible when it comes to so helpless an emotion as grief.

Yet here I find myself, again, running from errand to errand, focusing on getting my mother fed and my parking paid in a futile attempt to out-run the oncoming storm.

My grip on reality is weakening.

My metaphors become wild, my need to eat evaporates and I can no longer remember whether things happened in a dream, if I’ve slept.

This is the way we die, now. In a haze of planning and perfectionism. With TMI death plans and too little said about how we actually feel about it.

So I sit.

I plant my feet on the ground, my butt on the ground.

I let myself — make myself — feel the feelings.

It’s uncomfortable.

Painful, now, as they come into focus.

I had so much time but I didn’t use it right and now it’s too late. This idea bubbles up, encircling me and — … the bubble bursts, as I accept what’s happening.

So I try to use this time, to sit with my feelings and process them. So I can go back in tomorrow and leave the magical thinking behind.

So I can truly be there, for her, finally.

 

What I talk about when I talk about borderline personality disorder

 

I want to tell you about the best thing that ever happened to me.

Almost exactly one year ago, I was having a very hard time.

I’d been able to manage my moods publicly and live despite depression for years, but I was very, very tired.

Somehow, though, I convinced myself to go to the mental health crisis centre.

I talked to staffer after staffer until finally I was in a room with a psychiatrist and two of his students.

“Have you ever heard of borderline personality disorder?” he asked after about 30 minutes of questions on the cycling of my moods, my interpersonal history, my family medical history, the specifics of my suicidal thoughts that day.

He left the room to get me referral forms for a day-hospital program and I Googled it.

“Shit,” I believe I said. “My parents have this.”

“I have this.”

My vague recollections from Intro Psych included something about possible psychosis and “crazy bitch syndrome.”

Some people do have those symptoms, but that’s not really me — even though I’m TEXTBOOK borderline.

It’s more like … emotional overload.

I’m never happy. I’m ECSTATIC, GIDDY or BLISSFUL.

What might irritate a normal person INFURIATES me.

The line between “a bad day” and a black hole of despair is painfully thin.

Sometimes after the feelings, I get a feelings hangover. Anhedonia. The colour removed for the world, for days, weeks, months if it was intense enough.

The patron saint of borderlines, Marsha Linehan, described it thusly: “People with BPD are like people with third-degree burns over 90% of their bodies. Lacking emotional skin, they feel agony at the slightest touch or movement.”

Now that I’m feeling better, though, I don’t think of it in such negative terms.

Everyone has a double-edged superpower, and mine is the ability to experience the world in technicolour.

My readings of people are never superficial.

I can slip in between versions of myself guilelessly as the situation requires.

I am a master placater who always knows exactly how to push someone’s buttons … if need be.

So eventually the diagnosis got me into a day-hospital program, five days a week for five weeks.

All my life I had felt like an alien trying to collect enough data on how humans worked to pretend to be one.

But suddenly I was in a room full of aliens. MY PEOPLE. I hadn’t known they were out there, had no map to get me back to my home planet but neither did they, until they put us in a room and gave us that map and we helped each other learn how to use it. No feeling will ever compare to the realization that there are people just like me; so many of them, in fact, that I now find them everywhere I go. Alien-dar.

The world stopped being a funhouse mirror that day, the day I was handed the correct calibrations to fix my view, the language to use to put words on my distortions.

Still besieged by life event after life event after life event, I now knew how to tread water.

Not every day has been amazing since then. I stumble, I fall back, but now I have this hope that was never there before. That, quite frankly, wouldn’t have been possible without putting a Very Bad Label squarely on my forehead.

 

needs more about stigma, badness of bpd, technically what it is etc. underlying point is badness of diagnosis vs. goodness of diagnosis = same difference

 

Truthiness and its discontents

Answering questions is difficult for me.

There’s the obvious baseline of me not wanting to divulge any information about myself, to begin with. Then, there’s being put on the spot — not my forte.

But the trickiest part is always deciding exactly what to say.

I mean, I suppose I could talk about something for hours and come close to articulating all the myriad ways I think and feel about it. But even then the result would be framed by the way I chose to begin and end it, what I emphasized. And even still it would be hopelessly muddied by my feelings on dozens of different parameters at the precise time of speaking (and those feelings are very likely to change during the course of speaking).

I hope it’s no longer perplexing, at the very least, that I choose instead to keep it brief.

Later, when those feelings change, I yearn to return to the answer. “Oh, about your question last week — I just want you to know that what I said was what really happened now feels empirically false and I would like to set the record straight.” And again and again forever, if I got started on the revisions.

I’m left wondering: If I had told someone about the bad things that happened to me when they were still open wounds, would I be able to compile my feelings about reality more efficiently?

If the people I did tell had believed me and validated me instead of saying, I can’t believe you stayed, saying, quote “I can’t think of you the same way anymore.”

I was weak, it’s true, and now I seek strength in my ability to bend the truth to my will.

And I do love to quote people. I memorize things they say to use as ammunition, finally certain that I’ve caught the true meaning of their communication in those words, manhandling them over and over in my head as I imagine re-doing the conversation with my current truth.

I guess it’s not surprising that I got into journalism.  I know in my bones that objective truth doesn’t exist, but I do believe we can approximate it by combining several people’s perspectives.

And, of course, I’m a pro at finding the best angle for the objective I currently want to meet. (That’s different from spinning, which I also do, and different from outright lying … which only happens accidentally, blurted out too quickly on matters of little to no importance).

It’s frustrating that while I don’t believe at all in the notion of truth, I continue to be bogged down by the idea that there is a right, and a wrong, and that my truthiness lies somewhere in this dichotomy.

The answer is, I guess, that I’m pretty sure I’m doing my best to do what’s right. And that includes telling the truth — to the best of my abilities.

My job, my self

Man, I have been down on my job lately.

Every crime story upset me to tears.

We couldn’t do things right and I was frustrated enough not to try. And frustrated with others’ lack of trying.

I thought a different employer might turn things around, but no dice.

And then …

And then I tried to fuck it up.

It wasn’t conscious. Consciously I was just having fun, doing what I wanted to do — not much thought was given to the repercussions. Until the next day, when I had a two-hour panic attack of guilt and shame.

How could I threaten myself like that? My identity like that?

Who am I, if not a chain-smoking, booze-swilling, black-humoured, workaholic editor and/or writer?

As I have begun, over the past months, to try to strip away some of those cliches I felt a pull back, but it only was the comfort of the stereotype that beckoned.

Not so this time. When I really and truly tried to fuck myself over I remembered that this is it, for me. This is what I need to do. This is the only thing I would do without being paid to do it.

I LOVE becoming obsessed with something different every day.

I THRIVE on the gossip, sure, but it’s being able to connect those dots to understand the big picture, even if I can’t solve it.

I NEED to know it all, to figure out how the world works, and not just one part of it, but every part of it — crime, sports, politics, culture.

And I want to help other people feel this way, too.

I want to do what I can — even if it means being glib, or dumb, or punny — to make people give a damn about this stuff.

That’s just — that’s who I am.

And that’s probably worth finding a way to not fuck up.

 

Me, too

The worst is when you don’t know if it’s you, or The Disease, talking.

Getting diagnosed was a big deal for me, partly because my chaotic life began to make sense, but also because it allowed me to externalize some of the blame. Not as an excuse, but as an explanation: There is this angry, scared little girl inside of me that I battle every day, and sometimes I lose.

But isn’t she me, too?

I certainly believed so, for many years.

I do laugh at her ridiculousness, sometimes. More often in retrospect.

I am envious of her childlike wonder.

I live vicariously through her passion.

But regardless, she and I are at war. It doesn’t much matter whether we were once on the same side; Oceania has always been at war with Eastasia.

I hate her cunning, her knowing just when my guards are down.

She breaks every single compromise we make, and yet I keep making them.

Because whether she’s me or The Disease, she’s here to stay. And I can’t just hate her out of existence.

I need to convince her, instead, that I love her. That her chaos has made my life meaningful, even as it pushes me from one meaning to the next. That I would be less without her. That her deep-seated fears that I’m not good enough and I’m not strong enough and everything is boring are the reason I am good enough, strong enough, and never boring.

If I’m ever going to achieve a detente, I need to convince her that she, too, is me.