Saturday, November 7, 2015

Finding Meaning

I didn't really know whether to post this here or on my Canada blog - it's more of a Canada reflection I guess, but probably too heavy for the fluffy Canada-adventure readership.

You can define your own meaning in life, and I’m completely aware of that. After a really tough year of heartbreak, hurt, and wrestling with my own mind, I knew I had to try and change something. But I think maybe I changed things in the wrong direction, initially.

Sometimes it’s tough to be hardwired for drive. I’m really stubborn, and when I want something, I get really, really fixated on it. I ruminate, I turn over every possibility in my mind, and I try to work out everything I can do to get it.

Being hardwired for drive means that sometimes your scope gets so narrow you forget about other important things happening around you. And how do you decide what requires most of your attention?

I guess this was the mistake I made with Honours. Well, perhaps the real mistake was working several jobs and dancing while doing Honours and trying to maintain a social life. Perhaps I should have dropped the jobs and stuck with Honours and friends. But then would I be in Montreal right now?

But anyway, I was so dead set on getting First Class Honours, that I didn’t dedicate enough attention to some very important people and areas in my life. Being spread thinly does not sit well with someone who is obsessed with doing well.

In fact, I convinced myself that there was no way I was getting First Class, which pre-empted a pretty awful few months, which fed into worsening my closest relationships, and everything turned into a downward spiral pretty quickly. It was hard looking at my Honours supervisor, whom I really admire, and thinking “But how is she so busy and yet still so successful, happy, and sane?”

I don’t like the thought of not being able to do all the things.

After an ultimatum from someone I love, I agreed to go to a counsellor. Which helped with initial circumstantial hurt (I’m being vague, I know, but I don’t want to make anyone involved uncomfortable).

Even before I went, I had always subscribed to the thought that, like anti-depressants, not all counsellors and psychologists are created equal. Like drugs, there can be negative side-effects, and some prescriptions just don’t sit well with your body – or in this case, your mind.

I think my counsellor helped in the beginning. He empathised, which was something no one else could do for me at that time.

I had few people I wanted to speak to about the acute hurt I was experiencing, because (here’s the perfectionist again) I thought it would reflect badly on me. I was imagining conversations along the lines of, “Oh, that happened to Siobhan?” “She must feel so stupid,” “She obviously deserved it,” “Well she has always been too –“

So this was a good outlet, initially. I’d tell him the things that had happened, were happening, and he’d agree with me.

“That is abuse,” he’d tell me, “What a bitch,” he’d even say occasionally. At a time when someone I loved was crushing my heart and soul, he was a good sounding board.

People don’t understand depression very well if they haven’t experienced it firsthand. I eventually told someone that was relying on an answer from me that I was not ready to make any life-changing decisions at present, and confided in them that I wasn’t very well. The (kind of) shocking reaction I was met with was anger. Anger that I hadn’t told them sooner. Anger that I was ‘taking out’ my depression on them. Anger that I didn’t let them help me.

Well, mate, you just proved why you weren’t the right person to ever tell.

I think one of the reasons that stopped me from telling anyone for so long was because I felt like my depression wasn’t valid, and that it wasn’t severe enough. Like, if I didn’t actually want to kill myself most of the time, then I really shouldn’t be complaining.

Once you get into an actual cycle of depression, it’s not really that anything is causing it. For me, I think there were a whole lot of triggers. It was a process. A process that spiralled out of control very quickly.

I went through a lot of phases, but a huge part of my sadness was socially oriented. I withdrew because I thought people didn’t like me, then people stopped liking me because I was never there. The worst part was when, in the midst of my self-loathing, my fears felt like they were totally confirmed when someone I loved told me they couldn’t handle my depression any more, that they had to look out for themselves, and that they were going to leave me.

This is hard to write, because I’m not writing this to blame – this has been something I’ve been wrestling with for a long time, with the aftermath. My anxiety has really only been totally gone for 2 months. In the last 2 months, I have felt like a totally new person.

In the 2 months prior to that, a dear friend of mine told me I was like a new person after I’d left Dunedin. Which might be true, I’d improved. My anxiety was less crippling less often.

But now, I really feel like me. And I really wish she could meet the real me.

I guess this happiness, this fullness, comes a lot from looking out for number 1. Going on exchange is a very selfish thing to do, really. I am doing this entirely for me. I don’t know if it’s independence that’s making me happy, if it’s new experiences, if it’s meeting new people, travel, increasing my French fluency – or all of these things. Maybe it’s a fresh start. And I know I can’t run from hurt, I do.

I think even if I do have to return home, I will be much better for it. But for the moment, I have to say, I’m not really ready to go home.

I don’t think I believe in fate. Sometimes. I believe in a Plan. But it was kind of weird the way everything aligned for Montreal, and McGill. I’d been planning for France the whole time, and then when the time came to list my options, I had a whole lot of weird coincidences.

I was talking to my physio and he said, “Have you thought about McGill? I studied Kinesio there- it’s an amazing school.” We spent a fair bit of time behind his desk at the computer checking it out. The main thing I remember are the pictures of the snow.

Then when I went to chat to the head of the French department, she randomly interjected (for the first time ever- we’d spoken about my intentions of France many times), “Have you thought about Montreal?”

In my placement interview (where they determine if you’re suitable for exchange and select where you should go from your list of options), one of the interviewers said something about Alberta and the other said, “No, she’s going to Montreal.” So I guess it was already decided long before I got the letter.

During my Honours research I read a lot of great research produced by the McGill kinesiology department. I’d already been told several times by peers that I should seek postgraduate research out at an institution other than Otago. So I’d briefly mentioned this to people, saying perhaps I could scout out McGill, feeling in my heart that I probably couldn’t really afford it.

And then, my heart absolutely leapt when my Kinesiology professor mentioned a fully-funded masters position on offer in Rehabilitation Sciences here. The same way my heart leapt when I saw the ad posting for the flat I’m currently living in, actually! When I saw what the boys had written, I was like, I want to live with these people more than anything. When Tanja mentioned this position, I knew how badly I wanted it.

So the scary thing is having got through the screening phase and having an interview next week.

The scary thing is knowing that perhaps I’m so happy here because I’m in some honeymoon phase with Montreal.

When I think about the way my counsellor told me to fix myself last year, he told me to slow down. He told me to cut back on everything. When I said, “I’m trying to see people more again,” he said, “Why? Why are you relying on others?”

Well, you know what? I don’t think his advice was entirely helpful. I cut out a lot of things in order to get rest, but in doing so I cut out a lot of the things that fuelled me.

I tried to become less dependent on others, because he shamed me out of it, and in doing so I stopped socialising. I lost my connections (some of them needed to go, mind you – I’ve become pretty good at cutting out toxic people over the years).
I spent a lot of time trying to figure out what was most important to me in life, and I came to this really stupid conclusion that what I needed to do was give up on any huge, audacious dreams. I had been convinced by my counsellor (and others close to me) that being driven was a really negative aspect of my personality. That wanting to work hard and strive for better was really wrong, and I would only end up sad and alone. So I decided that I would not aim for anything high – I would become a personal trainer so as not to put strain on my relationships.

When I demanded a referral to a psychologist (that was awkward), everything got a lot better. But the real change came in being here.

I realised that yes, there are people in my life whom I love very much, but I can’t give up who I am in an attempt to placate. I knew I was unhappy, but I totally forgot what it felt like to feel happy until I got here.

The idea of making a huge change and staying here is the most exciting idea ever. I want it so bad. But it’s really fucking scary to think that maybe I would be making the wrong decision in rejecting home, friends and family for study, a career, and new horizons that I could be sick of eventually.

And it’s really fucking scary to think that this is something I want so bad, something that’s so important to me that even the thought of getting it terrifies me, and that I might not even get it.

Friday, October 23, 2015

Take me Home

James' car pulls away from the curb, our eyes as red as each others. I've seen James cry before, but never like this. I've seen one tear roll down his face. One night, he cried in the dark when we were in bed together. But this is the first time I've really seen his eyes rimmed with red, tears freely flowing down his cheeks.

I try to wave as he turns the corner, but I don't think he sees. I walk back inside, still feeling like this isn't quite real.

The next day, and the house feels empty. Our room feels empty.

I guess this feeling wasn't what I'd expected.

I'd expected emotion. Sadness, anger, frustration (well, that's there), anxiety. In a way, I don't feel as anxious when I'm museless. No need to worry as to whether I'm someone else's muse too. I can stay out. I can be me. I can run for four hours. I can stay out all night.

But I like simplicity. I don't want to go out. I like getting into bed at ten o'clock, making love whenever we want.

It's funny, because with his presence, I would get itchy feet.

"James, do you want to go out?"
"James, do you want to go for a swim?"
"James, what do you feel like doing?"

Why? I guess I was worried that my presence wasn't enough.

Was his enough for me?

Of course, this is just the doubt that comes with absence. Absence that makes the heart grow fonder, so they say. So why does absence make my heart grow blacker?

Thursday, October 22, 2015

The Prettiest Star

If this had all happened a few years earlier, things might have been different, and I think we both know it.
The sun is setting but the warmth's still there, and I rub sand into my feet as we look out to the water.

Sometimes I want to tell him that he's a prick. He admits it, though. The barbs of an accusation are removed if you readily admit your faults before anyone else can take a swing.

I don't think he really means it though. Well, he means to get there before everyone else does, but he doesn't believe he's a prick, in a way. He does, but he's so proud of it, that he doesn't really. He's a prick that everyone loves. People can't love a real asshole, surely.

And that's exactly why I don't love him.
"You're the least honest person I know."
He scoffs at this, brushing his hair out of his face.
"Bullshit. You're not even honest with yourself."
I laugh at this, letting sand slide through my fingers.
"Me? I'm not honest with myself?"
A noise of disgust comes out of his mouth,
"You haven't been doing what you've wanted for the last 5 years." He's getting annoyed now.
I sigh and look out to the horizon once more. The sun is setting and the sky is pink. Shepherd's delight.
"Paul, you have no idea what I want," I can't help but smile a little as I turn to look at him. I'm not sure why. Maybe I've finally escaped his grasp.
"You project your own life, your own experiences on to me constantly. You think you're never wrong because you twist everything to fit your own world view. You're full of shit."
"Fuck you," he spits back and he hoists himself up and lumbers up the sand dunes.

I turn my eyes back to the water and feel surprisingly content.

Wednesday, October 21, 2015

Take me to church

I do not believe in love at first sight. I am very picky.

How many times have I been in love? Twice, I suppose. Part of me wants to discount the first time- but I was, even if only for a little while.

What do I believe about love? Well, it's intoxicating. It's surely addictive. If it wasn't, we wouldn't do this to ourselves over and over.

One night I called a dear friend when it felt as though my heart had been ripped out of my chest.
"Lydia," he confessed, "Love is the most powerful drug I've ever been on."

What else do I think about love? Well, I don't believe in one true love. I think there comes a point in love where love becomes a choice. A lot of romantics find this thought troubling. But I'd say I'm romantic and realistic. A choice doesn't have to be un-romantic. It's just that after the honeymoon phase love requires effort, that's all. And that's not a bad thing.

Anyway, these are all the things I thought I knew about love. Until I met Jean.


My hair is drenched when I finally arrive home. Sudden downpours have become a regular occurrence, so drowned rat has become my new signature style. No matter - I have no one to impress. The weather changes so fast here - last week it was 30 degrees. This week it's 15.

After throwing my hair into a ponytail I make my way outside to meet Jean. We make our way down the street, chatting about inane topics to begin, quickly finding the bar we're after and escaping the dark night for the dark solace of a whiskey lounge.

We talk for 3 hours. Or so.

And at some point it suddenly hits me. The most shocking and yet settling thought I've ever had.

I want to marry this man.

I am slightly alarmed by the intensity of this thought. I don't know this man. This is the first time we have spent one on one.

I've heard of people feeling like this. Feeling like this about the people they eventually go on to marry. Is this man the one? The One that I never believed in? If I ignore all of my thoughts about this now, will I go on to live some unfulfilled life while my soulmate is with another?

My brain is so calm while it processes all of this. I continue leaning in towards Jean, nodding as he tells me about a festival he went to once. It's like there's a separate voice in my head, some part of me I'm not in contact with. I want to marry this man.

But why? You don't even love him? You don't even like him. Not that you remember what it's like to be interested in someone. Why do you want to marry him?

It's as though my emotions are detached from the thought. My brain is matter of fact. I want to marry this man. My heart does not understand. How can I want to marry someone I do not love?

We laugh a while longer before we go our separate ways home.

Monday, October 19, 2015

You can sharpen your knife

It's cold outside tonight. In between drinks I had to nip back inside to grab a second jacket and gloves. No matter, the beer is warming. It's interesting trying to conduct a relationship of any sort in a second language, in a second culture. Sometimes I find I don't want to talk for fear of making a mistake. Sometimes he simply switches back to English for me. Neither of us are perfect in either of our second languages, so perhaps I should get over it and keep going. When we become tired, we usually switch back to our mother tongue for ease of communication. We both understand, we just find it harder to express.

My plan had been to sit on the porch for a couple of beers. Two exactly. Charles has other ideas. The gin comes out, and after one very stiff drink, the liquid in the bottle steadily declines.
"I thought you didn't like gin?" I enquire. "J'aimais pas avant mais là c'est chill."

I don't remember what it feels like to have a crush on someone. Is this it? Hands held in gloves, laughing about my accent? Or is this Stockholm Syndrome? Loneliness even? He is beautiful.

There have been at least two men before Charles that have told me not to look at them. They'd always gaze into my eyes for a moment then turn away with some sort of sly smirk, and ask me not to look at them. It's a confusing thing to happen. My eyes don't mean to do anything in particular. But after half a bottle of gin they do.

"What?" he says.
"Quoi?" I ask.

And then we dance. It's like some hazy movie scene with music dubbed over top. I'm drunk and so is he. He leads and I attempt to follow while Mike Patton's voice croons Easy into the fresh night air. I laugh as my feet refuse to listen to my head. A certain intensity comes over Charles' face. I don't really know what happens next.

I think his gloved hand takes mine, and we move inside in some sort of hushed silence, knowing what's going to happen without saying anything. Everything moves in slow motion, and I can only hear the music. The lights stay off, and suddenly we're close. I don't know if we've kissed before, but we have now. Occasionally I think I start it, but for the most part I'm surprisingly restrained. Layers peel off slowly and I find myself somewhat surprised. His chest is the perfect place to lay my head.

His lips find mine once more and after sometime I make my way out the door.

Monday, September 7, 2015

I don't want to jump in unless

Someone once told me that you can't run from your emotions. They meant it in the literal sense, too. But as I pound the pavement it quickly becomes very clear that they were wrong.

In fact, sometimes I wonder if taking this kind of advice was got me where I was; where I am. Putting on weight, socially anxious, hating my body, hating myself, finding all relationships devoid of connection.

Running is surely a coping mechanism for me. I won't deny that. As I run through 30 degree heat, through 60% humidity, through aching blisters, this is clear. The heat envelops me as my feet continue to fall forward, and I swear that this is the kind of ecstasy I feel when I dance. When I drink. When I make love.

That slightly narrowed focus, paying attention to only the moment you are in at present, where nothing else matters but one foot following the other, but sweat dripping off your body, but the pull in your calves.

Sometimes it can feel like you're running down a tunnel. You can only look ahead, because everything is dark around you. You look toward the light and you stick with it. It's in these moments I can understand others' choices of coping mechanisms; swimming, drugs, alcohol, sex. If an activity is all consuming, it's a pretty tempting state to put yourself into when everything is usually coming at you from all angles.

And so it is for me. I'm hot, and this is hard, but this is why I like it. I like the burn in my lungs. I like the redness of my face. I like the tension in my body. I like me during and after my run.

So I've been told to slow down in the past - and I gave it a go. I cut out what I could. Unfortunately, I cut out what fuelled me. I cut out dance. I cut out emotional connections. I cut out running.

And as the heat taunts me and my body thanks me, I know that this is not something I can live without again.

Tuesday, July 7, 2015

Datura Online Belly Dance Discount Code

Hey cool cats, click here (or copy the link below) to grab yourselves $5 off a Datura Online belly dance membership.

I'm a huge DO fan, so I figured I may as well share my Datura Online discount code with anyone else who loves it! (If you're a member already you should be able to find a link on your profile to share it with your belly dance mateys).