Day 365

One year.

I have been writing every day, for one year.  The chronicles are lengthy and deep, laugh-inspiring and dangerous, loving and deadly, long-winded and diminutive.  365 steps in the direction of recovery, that’s what that means.  But perhaps not.

Yesterday, my wife had a risky yet eye-opening foray into job-people-asshole-relationships.  This foray showed us that her next steps require some sort of job search, career path.  I am on board; ultimately, I want her happiness, for her to be grateful and appreciative, above all else.  I love her and we will make it work.  Luckily it was just a warning shot though, a burnt orange instead of a bright red, one that will allow us to take the next steps – while tenuously – on our own terms.  Given how things have been articulated here, recovering herself would be a way to frame this.

As for me, I am currently stepping into a new form of self-reality (I know that self-actualization is a more proper term, but the douche factor requires a less-accurate synonym), stepping into a new understanding of myself.  I started writing because we understood its value as a recovery tool for me, because we were looking for experts on me when we were the only two true ones.  As a result, we know many more of my triggers, warning signals, agitators and alienators than we did one year ago.  We also know that when stress gets away from me and us that dire consequences ensue: judge and jury, I give you broken hand.  I also know many more of my feelings, my loves and desires, my cares and Tz’u, my purpose as Don and my hopes and faith.  I feel more comfortable being who I am after 365 days, partially because we have expanded the me version of me, but also because we have explored the me version of me, which has given us an understanding of shoulds and the parts of me that are me, not black.  As we discussed earlier in the week, my wife and I know that my next steps in recovery include rest and managing the inevitable stresses of living on the edge, of giving 100% to do good and be beautiful, amazing and loving.

Odd thing is, if I hadn’t been pushed off the edge two weekends ago, I wouldn’t have had cause to have the difficult conversation with my aunt last weekend.  And if my wife hadn’t had her encounter of the fucked up kind, I would not have gone to my aunt for counsel about college teaching (a reach out that wouldn’t have happened without the difficult conversation), she would not have seen her potential for vivid expansion and I would not have found a potential perma-support in Kind Science Work Friend.  So is this really about recovery?

Through blogging, I have learned so much.  By writing, I have faced demons with my wife, with her affair, with my family, with my brother’s illness, with my blackness.  Like our summer before life happened, writing allowed growth beyond belief.  However, I will stop blogging after today and this is my final Tale as the Recovering Recoverer.  Not because I don’t love writing – I will continue to do that as a tool.  But given the acquired understanding of the last 365 days, I now understand that this is not a path of recovery, not solely.  Don’t get me wrong, I don’t think I am recovered by any means.  I will continue to understand that I am recovering from anxiety and hyper-vigilance, perfectionism, orthorexia and disordered eating – my personal blackness.  I understand that the potential for that blackness taking over will always be there.  I understand that we will need to face every day one day at a time, with serenity and courage and wisdom.  I understand that I and we will continue to adapt our vivid to fit the current lines and colours, to use my tools and support system and stay vigilant against the blacknesses within us.

But I understand that this is only a part of me.  I have realized that I have not been writing about a path of recovery, not solely.  This is not a story about recovering from a deficit; this is a story of growth.  No, there is not an ending here, but that’s because this is a tale of a different sort – this is 365 days of life.

Day 360

4PM:

My wife has a great saying on one of her motivational chalkboards = hard work is hard for a reason, so work hard.

Last night, after receiving an overly-transparent check-in text message from my aunt (yes, the aunt of last weekend) in the afternoon, I called her.  I knew it would be hard.  Hell, I usually know what conversations are going to be hard.  That doesn’t mean not having them is the solution.  Mom and the middle sister haven’t spoken in a quarter century.  That’s because the hard conversation didn’t happen.  The middle sister’s daughter, my cousin, practically grew up with a piece-meal family as a consequence.  That’s because the hard conversation didn’t happen.  Both Mom and the middle sister feel like the black sheep as a result, feel hurt and abandoned – both of them feel that way.  That’s because the hard conversation didn’t happen.

I called my aunt knowing these things.  The hard conversation happened because even though it has come to the point that the benefit of the doubt no longer swings in their favour (as their honest mistake from last week demonstrated), even though she didn’t call after a couple of awkward and frosty encounters that fueled that pendulum of doubt swinging in the wrong direction, even though I was able to maintain an awesome relationship with their kids through it all, I love them.  I love them for everything they have done for me, for all that I believe in them for, for the people that I know they are.

I called them because while they should have been aware of these things, who’s to say what “should.”  There is just what is.  The door is open, the awareness there, the seeds planted and our tears have fallen to help them grow.  Blind faith in them, because that’s what it nearly has come to, has the chance now to be faith, to see.  That’s because the hard conversation happened.  The hard conversation of 58 minutes and 59 seconds; no longer will an hour will be spent without love and care.

My wife and I have to talk tomorrow about our recovery direction, about how we will move forward after last weekend’s breaks.  We will speak of hope for recovery, of reclaiming our dreams, of rest and stress management, of reclaiming healthy minds, bodies and souls.  The hard conversation will happen, because the beautiful things are never simple and the blackness cannot scare us away from them.

The beautiful things are beautiful for a reason; the beautiful things are always worth it, so love hard.

Day 352

3:30PM:

You used to stem the tide, now you cause the flood.

You used to be the solace between the tears, now that you’re silent, you cause them.

You used to be…

Now, you made me cry in a grocery store.  Only two others have made me do that: my wife and my job.  Two things I gave my soul to, bared myself wholly; two things that at one point or another, broke my heart.

I’ve written about my Aunt and Uncle before, when there was an email birthday message and an apology for a neglected birthday phone call.  They were the ones I had during my trying years of parental alcoholism, neglect and forgetfulness – my safe place.  Not because it was physically away or a land of perfection, but because it was brighter, kinder.  It was an early conception of vivid – not perfect, but perfect for me.

The recent years have not been kind.  The guise of commercialism as professionalism became professional-grade commercialism.  It took away their -ness, their kindness, their vividness, their T’zu-ness.

Now, they tell the eating disorder-recoverer in front of them that the ham and mac-and-cheese was made just for me; that as they take food out of the oven, they beg forgiveness for forgetting about me; that at their most intentioned, they look to feed the conception of me and not ME.  Now, they look for me to stand out in the cold.  Let me tell you, your place is no more warmer, not anymore.

I write this knowing that I will talk about it [AN ASIDE: I write this and have decided what will happen after 365 days = there will be a 366.  Even though it is sometimes hard to keep it up, by structuring it every day, writing is there when I need it – lines to bring my colour into focus, into vivid; a tool of recovery to avoid becoming a fool to the blackness].  I will talk about it because there is a future, I have hope and faith in that.

It’s a risk, but so is giving all I have to two others that have broken my heart.  It’s a matter of hope – hope that we will all fit again, hope that the tears forming in my eyes as I write this will be never again, hope that we will be stronger together that apart.

I love you both dearly, and that’s why this hurts so goddamned much.

Day 351

8PM:

At the end of August, I decided that it would be helpful to re-gig the August Greatist Challenge, continue it for the months to come as loving, supportive inspiration to my wife on her journey of recovery.  In October, it was less a day-to-day set of lines to structure.  It became more of an “open in case of emergency” situation.  Having a shitty day?  Check out the Greatist calendar and breathe five times.  Work using you like a punching bag?  Check out the Greatist calendar and name five things that make you happy right now.

Well, work has treated me like a punching bag for the last (insert what-I-wish-could-be-a-hyperbolic statement HERE [but it won’t be hyperbolic until there is care to remember that I am volunteering for the benefit of the school on a Saturday and that I asked for their blessing in stretching my professional limits for the benefit of my professional development]) and my back appears to be completely fucked either by lack-of-outlet stress or by working out to compensate for the stress, so I looked at the calendar and here are five things that make me happy right now:

#1: I am able to gloat about my grandfather, about the connection that he and I have right now.

#2: I have the means to be a little bit stupid.  And the universe knows it will make me happy, so it went from 10% to 40% to 50%.  Not making it any less stupid mind you, but somehow increasing the right-ness of it.  In setting the stage ever-so-snuggly, the universe made it fit ever-so-snuggly.  I can’t wait.

#3: As a supplement, being in the spirit of happy, of giving, of loving and caring (even for an hour), the parts of my brain that often go unused (because of the whole frosty workplace element), kicked into overdrive.  It gave me a way to combine #1 and #2 that will be beautiful, amazing and loving.  I can’t wait.

#4: Work sucks.  To escape, I went to my brother/sister/mother-in-law’s house after work today.  I was greeted at the door by my nephew, who’s initial reaction was to ask, “Are you staying for a visit?”  I did.  I didn’t because there were some ulterior motives.  I didn’t because there were political gains to be made.  I did because he enjoys the fact that I talk with him, at a level that is him, within his lines and colours, within his vivid.  I did because he enjoys that I read to him, and yes, he and I get impatient, but it is beautiful that he wants to know and learn and be immersed in something.  I did because he and I created love and amazing and beauty in that, because I get lost in that every time, because I got lost in that today.

#5: Work sucks.  To escape, I went to my brother/sister/mother-in-law’s house after work today.  I was greeted at the door by my nephew… no, this is not a repeat.  This deserves its own spot.  In sitting with my nephew, listening to him extolling the various Clash of Clans minutiae, my niece comes along.  Dressed as a beautiful princess (are there any other types at the age of two?), she found her nook = good lord, does she ever act like my wife (even her nose mirrors the cuteness of my love’s scratching and “stop iiiiiiiiiiiittttttttttt” [AN ASIDE: I LOVE IT!!!])!  Not only that, the loving side of this beautiful 831-day-old took her Mickey and Minnie dolls, made sure they were holding hands, snuggled them up to me, made sure they were holding hands, closed my arms around the three of them, made sure they were holding hands and found herself immersed in the comfy, began falling asleep.  I got to notice that.  I got to get lost in that.

#6 (because it’s been one of those mind-fuck days/weeks/fortnights/months/semesters): Even if the blackest parts of me don’t believe it (or the not-so-black parts of which the eating disordered, controlling blackness still has a hold), I can pass on the wisdom of my experiences to the next generation.  Even if the blackness-soaked parts of me scream differently, I can prevent further blackness, further destruction, further disordered thinking, further body dysmorphia and anorexic masochism, further self-hatred through the wisdom gained after being blackened…

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This means nothing

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This means everything

 

 

Day 310/311

The things we do for love:

Wake up at 5AM both days of a weekend

Wet socks before 8AM both days of a weekend

Tolerate an intolerable (I even hugged her!)

Drive through the smell of Hamilton (sorry Steel-town, but that HAS to be mentioned)

Sleep on a couch a few years shorter than the adult me

Smelling absolutely vile, caked in sweat and grease and blood and champagne

Pulled in 18 different directions, none of which care about the me version of me

I may not love the things we do, but I do the things for love.

Day 302

9PM:

I don’t want to seem bold, or arrogant, or martyrish.  I want to do the Don thing not for these reasons.

Hell, I don’t know that I am the new Don.  All I know is that I want to do it because I made my Mom’s life easier today.  I want to do it because we made my mother-in-law’s recovery easier.  I want to do it because I take pride in everything I put my name on, I respect myself.  I want to do it because I find value in that purpose, in helping others – finding purpose in love and care and Tz’u.

That’s why even though I’ve been up since 5AM (for the Don-ish reason of making sure that my wife’s yesterday ended well – and yes, I was partially to blame for that with the boundary-crossing and misunderstanding – which made me want to stay the night and leave in the twilight).  That’s why I ate my breakfast at 1:30PM.  That’s why I’m working 25 days in a row.

And it takes it out of me.  But hell, if I die with a smile on my face, it’s been a good life.  I would rather die with a smile on my face, acting like the best of me, than live as the worst of them, living a long and bold, arrogant and desolate life.

 

Day 285

5:30PM:

Finding value in others, in the challenge of strength training or marathon training; helping a friend; being there for my family, my adopted mother; holding on through the appearance of spousal blackness (coming closer and closer to getting ahead of it, but taking a whipping in the meantime – but more on that another day).

They have the ability to distract myself from, take myself away from the way I look, that ever-obsessive part of me.

Distracting the blackness?  Probably.  Crisis mode?  Definitely.

The only problem with crisis mode is that if I stay in it too long, it will take away the parts of me that are loved.  They will take me from the Don to the automaton.  From inside the world to outside, from of the people to for the people, but not with the people.

I have seen that before, and it is ever-the-more precarious given my increased responsibility at work, at home, with my potential Masters, in the family, in my head.

I am scared that no one will be there.  I am afraid there will be a repeat performance.  I want more than anything to have more than just my beliefs, my faiths that it won’t be like that.

But it only takes once.  It only takes one reinforcement of that belief, one glorious gloriousness to break through.  Getting ahead of the blackness takes practice.  In this case, practice makes perfect(ly imperfect).

Day 282

7PM:

I have had Workout Friend’s voice in head, especially after Wednesday’s post and particularly after the recent Don-ish musings.  If I am not waiting, even if I am and it is temporary, as the new Don of Tz’u, it means being invincible.  Scratch that…

The Don is not invincible.  The Don is not Superman.  These are illusions, but illusions that are part of the role.  The Don appears stone-faced, steadfast, without doubt or vulnerability, because it is from this that others gain strength and trust and security.

Truth is, the Don just makes decisions, uses supports and blackness-weakening tools, chooses to live so that this perception is possible.  For me, that means doing things and accessing supports that will allow me to be a better teacher, a better student, a better husband, a better son, a better employee, a better rock.  Better able to deal with family drama, with my mother-in-law’s impending surgery, with my wife’s thoughts about changing jobs or at least changing the make-up of her current one, even through the job I will face come September, the Masters for which I have gone all in, the house to keep mortgaging along.

That means taking it slow for a few days, recovering.  That means setting the stage so that physical rest can be restful, because physical rest is not restful if my mental health is unhealthy, is weak, is screaming the sirens’ song of the blackness.  Perhaps that means shifting meal-conception to allow for more regularity, more regular blood sugar and blackness-weakening strength spread throughout the day.  I tried varying the times and number of meals per day (trying to act on my natural hunger cues), but ended up eating certain amounts and not spreading it out.

Therefore, perhaps to be a more capable Don, I need to vary the amounts, but make the times more certain, more definite: eat too much at breakfast, eat a light lunch; not feeling hungry at dinner, eat something small.  This will also ensure that I am not drinking to gather up much needed calories (and suffering the aforementioned consequences).  Instead, allow my body to tell me the truth, provide the colour, but within the lines of breakfast-lunch-dinner regularity, and by doing so, finding vividness, strength against the demons inside, rest and peace, the appearance of being superhuman.

Day 276

6PM:

With this week on the job coming to a close…

This week on the job, taking the reigns, being aware to support my mother…

Doing this has led me to the following (or should I say continuing) thoughts: now, the starbursts of support may be in warmth or in echoes, while light years away the supernova has dwindled, used up its primary energies, become a secondary star.  Now, maybe I am meant to be the brightest star, the supernova that’s meant to provide the strength and courageous care – Tz’u.

It was me who called my aunt as the voice of reason, to make sure that she took care of my grandparents in my absence, ignoring her neglect (my birthday message to her that went unanswered out of “busy-ness”) and instead focusing on my grandparents and inspiring care.  It was me who has been my mother’s sounding board, her unwavering resolution through some trying marketing dilemmas during this job, her idea-bouncer-offer (and often creator).

It was me who has been bolstering my mother’s self-confidence this week, making sure that she does not feel obsolete, out-of-place, purposeless, but also balancing this with making sure she does not feel inferior, that she still feels like she is the best at schmoozing, at taking care of others, at being the silent upper-hand.  For example, last night she went alone to a schmooze-fest with another sponsor, much bigger than us.  I wanted her to go alone not only because I am fucking exhausted and sore (feeling it beyond my bones, but in my marrow, in my coldest physical parts), but because she needed to feel important, she needed not to worry about me being there, she needed to feel the best, she needed to feel “solo,” like she could conquer the marketing world all on her own and be seen as a super-woman.  Much of that is true, but much of that is about emboldening her and avoiding her feeling an iota of negativity towards herself.  I love my mother and would never want her to feel that way.  The difference is that it wasn’t about short-term pain for long-term gain.  It wasn’t about making her emotionally and intentionally healthy so that she could support my recovery, so that she could be the Don.  These intentions were about making her feel loved, feel cared about; these intentions were solely about her.

As such, I am led to the inevitable – no, the approached, not “rapidly approaching” – thought: am I the new dawn/Don of Tz’u?

Day 274 & 275

Can someone use up their “good” years?  Their “strong” years?  I’m not talking about my wife and her mistakes or me and my blackness.  I’m talking about something else entirely…

My Mom talks about the connection she had with and the greatness in my grandfather, before he got old, before falling down (although temporary, because nothing could, even in death, ever truly keep him down), before the years took their toll.  She speaks to the end of his window of absolute strength, of absolute spectacular-ness.  He can still do magic, can still make your head spin, can still show glimmers, but has a little less Houdini, a slower spin, a briefer glimmer.

She’s not wrong.

He is 82 and his years of taking on the evils of the world with the unwavering-ness of an army general (and of getting kicked out of brothels, according to a long-ago story of sport travel to Poland, and surreptitiously running away to Scandinavia to play soccer) are behind him.  The years of him displaying that are someone else’s now.  But that is his impact, his legacy for when he passes = the physics-defying passion and courageous care he’s passed along, payed forward.  It is his time to bask, to still be involved as a fitness counselor, life simplifying-er, idea bouncer-offer, loving recipe researcher (so don’t get me wrong with that point), but he has shifted from Don to consigliere.  For this reason, his role in recovery, in supporting, in providing tools is crucial and his knowledge and care and intellect are vital, but his role is secondary.

I felt that the new Don, my mother, would be a member of the primary.  Along with my wife and I, my mother’s intellect (bolstered by me encouraging her self-confidence, especially in not being a reflection of an answer, but in tapping into her knowledge for the answer) and care (bolstered by my father’s true nature of never-ending love – when the flaws brought on by the blackness are not in charge) necessitate her as a primary, a central figure, the new Don, the Don of Tz’u.  Necessitate her as the unwavering one, the one to have perspective, throughout.  Necessitate her as the one to combine head and heart and soul, having vividness in perspective.  Necessitate her as the one appearing lovingly fearless, unshakably fierce, adaptable.  That’s why my wife’s letter in January was offered first to my parents – they were behind the looking glass, down the rabbit hole and to be holding a flashlight to give luminescence to our path of recovery.

And then came my brother’s fall, his regression into blackness.  My mother fought hard – we all did.  She stumbled at the start, but when the true test came, she was ready, stood tall, had fire in her veins and the courage of an army general.  She was the Don.  She called the cops, stood up to my father and stayed that way through the hospital and legal committal process.  Exhausted and worn down though we were, we stood together like a mountain range, holding together and protecting each other from the erosion of my brother’s illness.  After witnessing his return to self – medicinally regaining hold from his blackness – they have breath, they have air again.

However, during last month’s job, I saw the fatigue in her.  I had shared my recovery plan with her days before, reminded her that day and did not find support, I found neglect.  Neglect, though, that was a side-effect of fatigue.  I witnessed a fire in need of nursing; a lessened strength, fight to care, courage to be aware.  So I took the opportunity not to simply bare witness, but to be the nurse.  I took that opportunity to backseat my recovery, which was very much in need of an intentionally aware support system – a system of Tz’u – to nurse the Don of Tz’u back to emotional, psychological, intentional health.  Short-term sacrifice for long-term gain, regain, reclaim.  I supported that reclaiming of my mother’s health, of the Don‘s health.  I not only waited for the reemergence of that strength and courage, keeping a vigil for it, but I supported it with care and most of all, supported the rest for a tired little mouse.

Lack of Tz’u, that was a symptom of fatigue… right?  That’s what I chalked it up to, thinking the best and hoping that the phone call to the cops was not the supernova’s last, greatest, brightest moment, the one before living out its days as a beautiful star in warmth, never being what it once was.  But there are shadows, questions, maybes: uncomfortableness with confusion; driving without confidence (actually backing into me with the car – akin to backing into a table, a familiar sign from Habitating Family Friend; lacking awareness to model proper eating habits, not for her sake, but for mine; standing up for support as opposed to caving as an enabler….

I am asking a lot.  That letter pre-brother asked a lot, but not too much.  Now that we’ve clawed our way back, now that we’ve come back to it, what I’m asking may be too much.  Now, the starbursts of support may be in warmth, or in echoes, while light years away, the supernova has dwindled, used up its primary energies, become a secondary star.  Imperfections regressing not out of flaws or blackness, but out of the supernova bursting and fading, out of the natural path, out of the diminishing of a spirit through the circle of life.

Given that, was it an ebb and flow in the starbursts, with the brightest yet to come?  Or is it time?  When I was that unwavering perspective through my brother’s madness and held on, was the torch being passed?  Am I the new dawn/Don of Tz’u?