Dicky-Dancing

I take too much responsibility for other people’s feelings.

I’m excruciatingly tuned in to how other people are feeling. It took me a long time to learn that a whole bunch of those feelings are nothing to do with me. People are complicated creatures living complicated lives, and they didn’t just emerge from the abyss a second ago to enter into this conversation with me. They’re carrying stories and problems and worries. That is mostly where their feelings come from. Sometimes, I may remind them of those stories and problems and worries, but I didn’t create them. It is fairly rare for their feelings to be directly or solely caused by me.

Now, even though I know that, if we take a look at my behaviour we’ll see I still dicky-dance about a lot trying not to cause anyone undue hurt. So, why, exactly, do I think dicky-dancing is required to avoid causing undue hurt? It seems an awful lot like I might have spent too much time around people looking for a reason to get hurt. People who were going to get hurt regardless of what I said or did.

Anyway, dicky-dancing is a terrible method to resort to. Just asking for some stepped-on toes.

In Spirit

My last post made me feel a little bit vulnerable. Like I wanted someone who actually knew Adam to tell me it was okay to talk about him like that. Like the idea of showing it to them made me want to crawl into a hole and cover myself with mud.

I have learned throughout my life that I am highly unusual in the way I experience love, and the way that I communicate about it. This is mainly because love to me is – very viscerally – an intense, free-flowing, transcendent, abundant, radically inclusive sensation. I feel it powerfully, for lots of people, at lots of times, and it isn’t correlated particularly to whether anything ‘warrants’ it. The way I experience love, on a day-to-day basis, is the way other people describe love when they’ve taken mind-altering substances. And, unlike Adam, instead of learning to embrace it, allow it, and let it flow through me, I encased it in layers of sickening shame from a very early age so that it had no choice but to explode out of the fissures at inopportune moments.

So now I am weird.

And I often worry about coming off as a creep, or intruding where I’m not welcome, because of how many times I have tripped over my own clown feet trying to navigate the dichotomy of intense love and intense fear living in the same house. My house. My confusing, inappropriate house.

It may be that I never learned to operate the dial that people have, to moderate their feelings to appropriate levels. Maybe I don’t have a dial. Maybe I don’t even have a switch. I spent a lot of my life trying to hide my whole house-full of flashing feelings under my skirt with a flushed look on my face. Constructing an artifice of unconvincing stories to justify my awkward stance and panicked, darting eyes. It was exhausting, ineffective, uncomfortable, and really, really weird.

By the time I met Adam, I was enacting a life experiment; to accept and integrate my radical version of love. And I was being pulverised by it. But Adam was the first person I met – possibly the only person I’ve ever met – who embodied that radical version of love. And so I learned it was not only viable, but also vastly preferable to anything I had ever known before. And so I kept going.

Nearly six years on, I’m comfortable that how I love is how I want to love, and it’s pretty easy for me to allow that. Until I have to walk on these creepy clown feet. But at least I’m there in spirit. Which I guess is where he is, too. Begging the question: Does it actually even count at all if you’re only there in spirit?

Impossible possibilities

One day, in the autumn of 2017, I was sitting in the cafe of the local library with my boyfriend and our few month old son. My coffee was too hot, we didn’t have much to say to each other, and I was scrolling through Facebook.

The world around me went quiet as I lighted upon a post from someone I’d stayed with in Texas, back in another life. I went still and silent for long enough that my boyfriend asked me what was up.

“Adam died.” I said, quietly confused and surprised by the words coming out of my mouth.

“Who’s Adam?”

Who’s Adam? Who is Adam? Who is Adam to me? Who am I to Adam? How do I categorise Adam? How do I answer this truthfully? How do I answer this accurately?

“You know, the guy I was…kind of…seeing for a bit in Austin.” I came up with.

“Well you weren’t really seeing him, were you?” he scoffed with a note of condescension and maybe defensiveness. He was right, though. I was not seeing him. That wasn’t remotely the right word. In reality I had probably spent less than a week staying with Adam and his housemates. Was I supposed to say the guy I had a fling with? The fucking holiday romance? Was I supposed to bypass that entirely and just say one of the people I stayed with? Someone I used to know? That all felt ridiculous. I needed something to portray the level of intimacy we’d shared; the multi-layered nature of our connection; the importance of our encounters on the trajectory of my life. And, honestly, in that moment, now that he was gone, I needed to feel like I had, in some way, at some time, mattered to him as much as he mattered to me. There wasn’t an adequate explanation for who Adam was.

Adam was the person I stayed up watching documentaries with until 5am the first night we met. Who I wordlessly exchanged dirty foot massages with long past 2am the night after that. Whose bedroom felt like the safest place I’d ever been. Who surprised, disarmed and utterly baffled me with the understated sincerity of his kindness toward me. Who shone a light on the absurd depths of my sense of unworthiness, and simultaneously made me feel worthy by association. Who pushed my boundaries in really uncomfortable, wholesome ways, with such expert grace and gentleness that the experience was enchanting. Who showed me what love could really be like, even though we were both in love with other people at the time. Adam was probably the best person I’d ever met. Adam was the person I most wanted to be like.

Over the next few days I quietly pondered how the news impacted my life in no tangible way whatsoever, yet gently rocked me at my core. How, if I ever returned to Austin, it would now be distinctly lacking. How there was no longer any place in the world I could go to find him. How his absence made the world worse, not just for me, but for so many people who knew and loved him. How, of all the people I knew, in a very objective sense, he was very close to the top of the list of people I would least want to die. How it didn’t change any of the memories I’d made with him. How, in many ways, he didn’t feel any more gone to me than he had been for the past two years, and that had never really bothered me. How, actually, I felt free to feel closer to him now. How, actually, he didn’t feel gone at all.

I also battled with my ‘right’ to grieve for him. And, even moreso, my ‘right’ to feel close to him. My ‘right’ to talk to the air around me as if he was there. My ‘right’ to feel guided by his non-corporeal energy.

And then I wandered through thoughts of destiny and fate. What if I hadn’t left Austin? What if I’d gone back? We wouldn’t have had a successful long term relationship, I was pretty sure of that, but what if I could have altered events just enough that he wouldn’t end up on that road in that car at the exact moment a drunk driver came along? Is that how much of a knife-edge we all live on? Or did all roads lead there for him?

Adam was an extraordinary human and, for that, he was blessed with the love and admiration of many people. To me, he was a full-spectral oasis of radiance in a desolate wasteland of disconnection and missed opportunity. To him, I have no doubt, I was just another person he chose to share some time with. It didn’t mean I didn’t matter to him, but the relative importance of me to his full, open-hearted life could never match his impact on my own.

For years now, I’ve sat with that understanding, and I’ve continued to feel close to him, and guided by him, and I’ve made sure to consciously allow that for myself despite the ever-creeping guilt when I think about the people who really lost him.

And he’s made my life better. Sometimes he plain made it bearable. Remembering him, and imagining him with me, imagining what he might say to me, drew me forward through a lot of tumult. And I doubt I would have given myself permission to do that if he’d been alive. And so the world’s loss has, in some ways, been my gain, which feels perverse. Then again, had he been alive, perhaps I could have heard what he’d actually say to me, and that would have been better. Perhaps this is just a story I tell myself to make it okay.

Last night, for the first time in a very long time, I felt drawn to find the video of a song he recorded the week I arrived in Austin. And, as I watched it, I sobbed. And I let myself feel true fucking brutal loss. Because I’d been there, with him, in that room, and he’d pulled that mattress down from the wall while I stood in the doorway. And he played me that song, and I was relieved to honestly say that I liked it. That was the version of him I knew. That was the version of him I touched. That was the version of him I kissed. That physical body, those exact human cells, immortalised in moving pixels. But he’s gone, and I miss him, and how can someone like that just be gone?

And, even more selfishly, I sobbed because I’m at a place in my life now where I’m so much more ready for a man like Adam to grace me with his presence. I couldn’t make the most of the time I had with him when I had it. If he were alive, at least I could fantasise about the possibility of reconnecting.

Maybe that was always the heart of it. I always knew what he was, and I knew I was on the way to it. And, regardless of what form it took, I wanted to be able to stand face to face with him when I got there. But he doesn’t have a face anymore. He’s not a man anymore. So I can’t.

Circadian Rhythm

I’ve reached the point in my life where I am ready to fully surrender to the idea that I need in excess of eight hours actual sleep every night, if the next day is not going to be a slog of irritable lassitude.

Thank you again, Surprise Christmas Fitbit.

I have been very interested in my sleep ever since I developed prenatal insomnia. I’d suffered insomnia and other sleep disturbances prior to this but I either wore them as a fucked up badge of honour or used them as an excuse to drink energy drinks. But by the time I was pregnant, I’d already conceded that sleep was important and valuable, and I’d spent the previous three years, if anything, having too much sleep. I’d even developed the ability to wake up in exactly the position I’d fallen asleep in – a skill I prized while frequenting the top bunks of youth hostels with laptop in hand as I meandered around the USA.

For the six months prior to my son’s birth, though, and the two and a half years following, sleep was neither a willing nor reliable companion. And I didn’t sleep AT. ALL. for the three days surrounding his birth. Which was quite the experience. So I often wondered, during that time, how much sleep, precisely, I was getting. I tried stealing my ex’s fitbit for the night a couple of times, but, well, I couldn’t sleep with it on.

Whether it’s the superior design of this newer fitbit or just the fact I’m in recovery I don’t know, but I can wear my Surprise Christmas Fitbit for bed. I’ve fallen out with it a few times for telling me I was asleep when I was clearly Googling random things that popped into my head for an hour in the middle of the night, but we’ve agreed to disagree now, and I think I’ve found a better fit to prevent that bitter quarrel from resurfacing.

What I can say with a fair amount of conviction, though, is that if Surprise Christmas Fitbit doesn’t display a sleep time in excess of eight hours, I am tired. And the lower it gets, the more pissed off I am about it. And the rule still applies if I don’t check the sleep score until the end of the day.

The power of metrics, ey.

I had a good run after Christmas, but I’ve only had two 8hr+ sleeps so far this year. So I guess I need to get more of those data points…

(Runaway) trains of thought

There are two main things I worry about unnecessarily. The first is my parenting decisions (especially the largely insignificant ones). The second is the wording of emails I send.

Last night I probably spent 3 hours wondering and/or researching whether refusing to give my son a bedtime snack when he said he was hungry was wrong. He’d had supper 15 minutes earlier. He seemed like he was stalling. But he hadn’t eaten much of his lunch and he didn’t have a big tea. So maybe he was really hungry. But it wasn’t going to kill him. But it might stop him sleeping well. But he was asleep now. But maybe it was bad quality sleep. But, worst case scenario, he might feel a bit tired tomorrow and he can have a big breakfast. But if I’d just given him a biscuit maybe this whole thing could have been avoided. But then I’d be wondering if the sugar in the biscuit was ruining his sleep. He couldn’t be actually hungry, he’d just had supper. But maybe he didn’t get enough calories throughout the day. Maybe I need to rethink my whole approach to preschooler sustenance. Oh shut up, he’s fine, give it a rest.

Then I woke up sometime around 3am and started thinking about how I was going to word an email I need to send today. Should I apologise for not sending it earlier? Because I really did mean to send it earlier. Or should I just explain why I didn’t send it earlier without apologising? Can’t always be apologising for everything, explaining is probably enough. How much detail should I go into in the explanation? Should I even explain at all or should I just ignore the fact I was going to send it earlier? As long as I send it now it doesn’t really matter, no point making a deal out of nothing. Should I outline everything I’ve done, or try to be as succinct as possible? I could save the details for the meeting. Should I estimate when I’ll be finished by or stick to where I’m up to so far? I’m going to have to estimate to schedule the meeting. Should I suggest a time for the meeting or wait to see what they suggest when they know where I’m up to? For the opening, should I include any details about my Christmas or should I just keep the niceties vague? IT’S NEARLY 4 IN THE MORNING AND YOU’VE BEEN WRITING AND REWRITING THIS EMAIL IN YOUR HEAD FOR MAYBE AN HOUR. WHAT IS EVEN THE POINT? IT’LL BE FINE, GIVE IT A FUCKING REST.

I’m not always neurotic, but when I am, I am it well.