Being a good boyfriend

I hear women complain about their boyfriends everyday, and especially every night because we usually drink.

The thing that used to bother me is that women having these conversations don’t often think about leaving. They rationalize that their boyfriend isn’t a bad guy per se he just has some flaws, they still love him and know that he loves her.

I understand the fear of being alone, the fear of loss of a relationship but most of the time when I listen to people complain it doesn’t feel like they are simply scared to leave, it feels like they think their partner isn’t working on some aspect of themselves that they easily could be.

And that they are loving passed these flaws, not entirely in spite of them. Pretending the behaviour isn’t truly a part of the person they love, merely a mistake they aren’t aware of yet.

At the drastic end it’s this thinking that keeps people in abusive relationships for so long but acknowledging that not all imbalanced romances are inherently abusive I’ve given this some consideration.

I can sympathize with being flawed and loving someone, I know what that feels like, it discomforts. 

When you love someone they start to feel near perfect, they have flaws but they’re so amazing in their assets and grace that their flaws simply don’t effect how you feel. 

Which is scary when you think about yourself. Most people, no matter how they present publicly, see their own flaws writ large when they think of themselves and their merits as innate and basically ubiquitous. So the romantic equation people in love feel is I am so very flawed and they are so glorious this does not compute. It’s why love feels amazing, it feels lucky, it feels magical when someone loves us.

What happens to a lot of people though is they can’t feel secure because of that. If it’s just luck and magic that brought this loving person to you then it could just as easily go away.

This is what causes some people to act controlling, jealous, or needy. 

Controlling behaviour we all understand. It’s the boyfriend who questions the way you dress when you’re going out without him or the girlfriend who always wants to know where you are and when you’ll be home.

Good people don’t do that out of sheer respect for autonomy. 

(And if you’re rational enough you know there’s no point in trying to prevent someone from cheating on you, if they’re willing to then the relationship is meaningless whether they go through with it physically or not. Unless of course you think you’re partner is so gullible they could be tricked into accidently fucking someone)

The neediness issue is less obvious though. The other strain of complaints I hear all the time is how inept people’s partners are, how they can’t do or don’t understand the simplest chores, they don’t remember important things, etc.

I suspect there’s unconscious tatic there. If you can demonstrate how much, how deeply, you need your partner maybe they won’t leave you. This touches a bit on what I wrote about nice guys a while ago and wanting the depth or intensity of love to be the value of love. 

Once in the relationship it’s how codependency is manifested.

It’s of course toxic and awful and my insight might be overly sympathic but because I constantly worry that I’m toxic and awful I think about it a lot. If you don’t see yourself as desirable, and there’s such an imbalance of desirability, you’re going to come up with strategies to hold on to that person. And unconscious strategies are always path of least resistance, and are almost always time bombs, monsters hovering in your peripheral vision you tell yourself to ignore.

Therefore I have always taken concious action to be a good boyfriend. Not by simply not being controlling – which is the bare minimum and makes you a neutral boyfriend at best – but by trying to be desirable. Whenever I feel my girlfriend is so fantastic I can’t believe she really loves me I tell jokes, I have fun, I engage in intelligent conversation, I work out, I get dressed to look good, I engage my social circle – rather than try to ‘keep her now that I’ve got her’ I aim to win her over everyday. 

And, because that’s some saccharine sounding shit, it also liberates me from feeling she’s the only person who will love me.

Rather simply not being as bad as recognizably bad boyfriends I aim to be a good person, worthy of love instead of just trying to horde it.

Posted in Uncategorized

Writing about death

Josanna made a comment after she first met Olivia that it was a good fit, her working in the death business, because I need someone who comfortable with the amount I talk about death and dying. I hadn’t thought about that and I agreed.

I’m an artist, a philosopher, and also a depressive. I think and talk about death, about funerals, about lack of meaning, all the time. When I’m up, when I’m down. I enjoy it, it’s a philosophically and emotionally rich topic.

For history’s sake I’ll put this in the past tense: I wrote a status asking what songs people would play or like played at my funeral. And I cringed when I did it because I knew people (I wagered three and I was right) would miss the point and “express concern” simply because the context of the question had the funeral in it.

I’d like to be able to say I appreciate the concern except that isn’t remotely true. I resent people understanding me, and understanding what invitations for help look like, so poorly.

Last time I was suicidal I mentioned it in every conversation. My commitment to honesty never wavered. 

And I resent feeling like my language is being policed. Like I can’t talk about my favourite subject in any context without being punished with well intentioned misguided “concern”.

So yes, Livy is good for me. Her and I daydream all the time about my funeral, so much so that we’re planning a funeral themed birthday party so I actually get enjoy it.

Posted in Uncategorized

Working with people

I’m generally quite dismissive. There are people I like who’ve read my attitude as hatred because I’m often lost in thought and pleasantries disgust me. And there are people I loathe who refuse to acknowledge it.

Since the sexual harassment seminar last year when I really started thinking about consciously empathizing with different people in different situations (as opposed to typical empathy – what you feel accidentally when someone’s situation mirrors yours or your past) I’ve been focusing on treating people with the same respect whether I like them or not.

It actually started because I realized I’m quite nice to strangers. As a stranger very minor acts can elevate or depress a person’s interpretation of their whole day, that’s a significant power that’s easily managed.

And I grant a lot of patience and empathy to some very difficult people because I have to see them a lot and I feel like I’m reasonable enough to bear the burden of their feelings when they are not and there’s always a solution to be worked toward. And like I’ve said in the past it’s exhausting and at the worst of times feels like humiliation but it also feels important.

Yet I’m largely rude and indifferent to basically nice people whom I simply find annoying.

Maybe it’s that they don’t need help. I know someone who nearly incapable of delegating and runs himself to death trying to do everything so I’ll look for things I can do for him without asking. He has a weakness, I have an insight, we have the solution easy peasy. Annoying people are just taking from me, taking my time and burning up my extremely limited amount of pleasant I can allot for a day.

The trap starts when I do something spiteful and unethical then apologize to one of these people. There’s a honeymoon effect where we’re both a little more pleasant to each other which creates the burdensome illusion that I don’t hate them.

No one’s getting fired though and I can’t choose my friend’s friends so it’s still on me to find a sincere, productive way to deal with people. And the thing is, hating people is exhausting too. I light up a bit when someone I like enters a room and I anger up a notch round people I hate. My brain picks from any crowd the voices of people I dislike and instinctively tracks what they say just to rate how annoying it is, only in the hope of explaining and complaining to someone else and hoping they hate her too. It’s a complete waste of mind.

Everyone else just pretends to like people they don’t and I don’t know how they can stand themselves. Meanwhile I’m trying occasionally yet thoroughly to like people I don’t and that seems pretty futile as well. I guess it’s all pretending and I’m just more of a method actor.

Being nice to strangers is easy because they’re gone immediately, they have no follow up expectations. Being nice to difficult people is important because I’m a difficult person, I need to lead by example and need to not be a hypocrite – I can’t fault people for not seeing I’m in crisis if I don’t look for crisis in others when I’m baseline.

Annoying people though, they’re not empathizing either, they’re doing me the disservice of not gauging my response to their behavior. Annoying people have usually just learned that nice gets you what you want and if not to just be nicer. It’s tedious that I tailor my communication to the people I’m talking to in order to build and maintain rapport while other people just pirouette through life pretending everything is unicorn shit disregarding the wants and needs of others.

Posted in Depression & Suicide, Pragmatism

Quitting 

I walked past a book about quitting the other day, why we’re scared of it and so forth, and I thought that is one book I do not need, I’ve never been scared to quit situations.

In fact I wish often that I had more endurance when it comes to not giving up on unfulfilling projects. I’ve quit every job I’ve ever had except the two where I got fired. And it would be easy to say I got fired because I’d preemptively given up.

I’ve quit a lot of friendships, I don’t need to go down that road again for my long time readers.

I gave up on Caught Off Guard when I felt I’d always be a second tier band member. Because at first I was, I was playing songs that already existed and trying to fit into a team that had a dense history. And it was fun. Later when almost all my writing contributions got cut I realized fun was all it could ever be, never truly fulfilling and because it took up the vast majority of the time and energy I could put toward music in a week I had to quit.

Greystone was a bit different obviously but not as different as one would think. I wasn’t satisfied with the pace and the attitudes the others had about that pace and instead of seeing a path to fulfillment I saw a path to mockery. I saw it becoming a group in name only. We weren’t playing shows because we were recording and we weren’t putting out recordings because they all sounded high school. I felt like a phony. I felt like we were play acting being a band.

And it’s the first time I felt like my instinct to quit was wrong. I usually stay at a job for three years if it’s any good but I was too deadly serious about music and quit after 15 months. Especially after Caught Off Guard I was worried about throwing good time after bad and sticking with something that wasn’t working out of fear of having nothing else. After all I’ve quit everything else without knowing where I’d land so why wouldn’t this work out the same? I quit the diner because I felt under stimulated and futile with no plan and a day later I got the job at the gateway. A job I’ve repeatedly said I love.

The urge to be somewhere besides the gateway is kicking in now though and I feel a bit disappointed in myself. The truth is the team has changed, the corporatists have won. It’s quite likely going to turn into every other kitchen job I’ve ever seen with everybody taking frustration out on anyone who won’t fight back and only reporting things up the chain that make them look good, everyone blaming someone they don’t like or just isn’t there for anything they’re upset about, good people getting passive and the most volatile become defacto authority because no one wants to bother with confrontation, and the bean counters take credit for any good and blame the workers for any bad and never spend an hour in the kitchen observing how things actually work.

So of course I think about what I could be doing for work instead of watching this kitchen meltdown and I remember that my only professional skills and all my connections are in kitchens and I’d just be trading this one for another one.

And it takes ten seconds of osmosis for me to have no satisfying answer why I do anything at all. And let’s acknowledge that suicide is the ultimate act of quitting.

I think part of fear of the sin of persistence comes from a fear of ridicule. In my early days I was the permanent bottom rung of the social ladder, the kid it was always okay to mock and beat up when you wanted to feel better about your station. No matter what I did it was worthy of derision. There were no win conditions. So later when I moved away, grew up, got charming, worked on myself, worked on my art, and found varying levels of acceptance I still always felt that it could go away, that I could be hated by everyone at any minute, that anything less than perfection – any set back even – meant I deserved derision and mockery and hatred.

I heard once that white people commit suicide at higher rates than other races because other’s experience oppression and discrimination and it’s easy to blame the system for their unhappiness whereas white people, when the world which is supposed to belong to them and cater to them doesn’t fulfill them they’re inclined to believe it’s some intrinsic flaw with them as an individual.

While I’ve been dredging up childhood feelings here I realize I get my sense that I’m fundamentally broken from home. The most charitable way I can put the message I got there is you’re smart and you could do anything if you stop being an asshole and fucking everything up. Rather than feeling supported I always felt like, at best, a broken thing to be tolerated.

And it’s a message I still hear from people around me. Rather than being a good person gifted with intelligence and cursed with depression, the story of Alastair most tell is that I’m shitty person who needs to be different and should be smart enough to do it. The story I can’t help but tell myself is that no matter what little good I do for others it will never be enough to give me meaning and I every time I let someone down – even people I don’t like – it’s a sign of permanent disorder. I’ve been struggling my whole life to be a good enough person in any way I can and like I’ve been starting from scratch again every few years when everything has fallen apart. Now I’m thirty two and I feel like I just starting putting together the emotional and intellectual tools I needed 15 years ago to be anywhere near where I want to be now.

These days I’m just trying to be humble, to not want anything and focus on other people. And I’m focusing on not quitting even when things feel meaningless or I haven’t put effort into something for a depressingly long time.

But it’s hard to not-quit when you’re not really doing anything. Spending all day at work feeling defeated and thinking I’m squandering time isn’t anywhere near fulfilling either. If it’s important to keep fighting til you lose or you win how do you know when you’ve lost?

I thought a while I may be going through a period of extroversion (because everyone does go through periods of introversion and extroversion in their life). When Simone and I were moving apart and I decided to couch surf rather than find a place it was because I had a sudden dread of being alone. That has literally never happened before in my life. The thought of being alone in a room made me dread. 

But I don’t think it’s that I’m an extrovert these days as much as I know that having more than 20 minutes to think let’s the suicide fairy in. Anytime I’m in the prep hall at work I end up bummed out for the whole day because I can’t think my way into hoping for or about anything. I’ve been relentlessly focusing on not being sad for months now, and it includes being desperately social. But I can’t really grow if all I do is distract myself whenever possible.  I can’t grow by running away I’m sure of that but I’m not sure I like what I’d be growing into if I stay somewhere too long.


Posted in Depression & Suicide, Pragmatism

Lateness

I’m late often.  I’m habitually late. I’m increasingly late with increasing frequency.

My actual personality is quite meek, I avoid almost everything. Uncomfortable, difficult, unafffirming things get replaced by drinking, hanging out, blogging.

So when I see myself being later and later more and more often at the gateway – which I’d still surely insist is the most I’ve ever loved a job – it’s a dreadful sign.

And that word dread means a lot to me. I’ve always used it as a barometer of when to quit things. When I see myself wanting to avoid or minimize my involvement with something, start cherishing my time anywhere else. Start counting down to time away. If I dread Monday morning on Sunday night then I know I need to make a change.

Which I’m not yet. I’m not dreading work yet.

I didn’t used to have to give myself pep talks though, I didn’t used to blame myself for not having the ethic to do what needs to be done with joy or at least humility. I used to come to work early, talk openly and easily, take on responsibilities, suggest things, solve problems, I’d feel creative and vital and I didn’t think about the world outside or my futurelessness.

And I didn’t see creeping passive aggressiveness.

What I consider the core of my job, the single thing that makes all other aspects fall into place, is making other people feel like they are flourishing. When people, especially the particularly moody type of people who tend to work in kitchens, feel like they are flourishing they don’t need tons of lists and supervision, they communicate effortlessly and unconsciously, and rather than the dreaded passive aggressive silence you’ll see people scanning for ways to help one another.

And it’s actually exhausting. I have to try to care, to not fall into the passive aggressive silence, to not fall into thinking so far ahead that all feels meaningless. My tendency to give up, to avoid, to think I’m not good enough to really help anyone or anything, is always floating around wanting attention.

Keeping other people positive when I almost never naturally feel positive at work anymore is my full time concern. Keeping the team strong is the cornerstone of any decent thing worth doing.

Trying to be humble and trying to make everything about others is often thankless. Like being a parent who so nurtures their child that the child doesn’t see them at all, simply thinking the safety they enjoy is the state of the universe.

And like any parent I can feel accomplished when unnoticed and I can fucking lose it when I feel like I’m spinning everyone else’s plates and all I’m getting is repeated tedious new plates to spin.

The problem with dealing with a lot emotional situations is giving someone solutions to one melt down often means giving them the same solution to the next meltdown and struggling to word it differently.

And sometimes I could really use a meltdown but there’s no one trying to nurture me, no one to care-take the caretaker. It’s not ignorance per se, it’s that I’m notoriously moody so everyone shrugs me off without gauging if I do honestly need space or if I could really use some empathy.

Meanwhile work has become so dehumanizing and meaningless. It’s harder and harder for me not to put my head down and just wait for the day to be over, wait to be swept aside slowly and at best become an object of nostalgia. To be used up and spit out for the sake of a good staff discount.

I used to have things outside of work that acted as a lifeline when work itself wasn’t satisfying, even the months of girl trouble felt important. When I have nothing and I’m just standing at work absorbing the futility of everything I do and I have nothing else to think happily about I start spiraling. And if I get social and chatty I can get myself through the day, maybe even save my mood but if there’s problems floating around the kitchen or the staff room I can’t. Not when I can’t convince myself I’m just wearing depression goggles.

I feel like everyone thinks I never care but it’s more factual to say I’m burned out from over caring early in the day. From obsessing and worrying about microcosms.

A boss said something a while ago that stuck with me because I imagine it’s a genuine insight into how she thinks. She was thanking me for covering for someone on short notice and at the end she switched from her normal basic phony tone to something that seemed unguarded and said “Well, we are paying you so I don’t have to be that grateful.”

And that’s the thing I find disgusting and dehumanizing about modern meaningless wage labour. The idea that because you are being paid feelings don’t matter.

We have almost no turn over at the Gate. Other places I’ve worked it’s always been a matter of one good person leaving and being replaced that causes everyone to file out. I believe in teams, and I believe in nurturing talent, I believe when you’re on a team part it is helping each other grow as people not just as employees. Not as merely workers.

I sat down with that same boss lately and asked if she’d take two people who have a problem with each other into the office and mediate a conversation so they could unpack all the passive (and now non-passive) aggressiveness between them, for the benefit of everyone. And her solution – the idea she thought was better – was to trick people into being better workers. She literally used the work trick.

I spent my while life leading up to fronting my own band and by the time I got there I was so focused on my goals that I didn’t nurture my teammates. All I could see was how they were letting me down, I didn’t see their effort, their strengths, and I didn’t think about what they needed or what they wanted, I just thought it was all in or all out. So when I didn’t feel they were all in I went all out.

It’s a mistake I don’t want to make again. So I’m aiming to nurture this team, to nurture anyone close to me, anyone I can when I have the strength, and to not think catastrophically. Let bad days just be bad days and not a sure sign of a bad life.

However my fear of the sin of persistence and futile spirals is still omnipresent. It’s not a balance either. I don’t have moments of hope that make the hopelessness worth it or take away the sting. I just have to keep doing hopefully things no matter how hopeless I feel, the scales are already fully tipped.

Posted in Depression & Suicide, Pragmatism

Old friends, former friends, and ex friends

Simone said, when we met again for the first time after the move, that we were like old friends. It’s pleasant and social to see her and the feeling is that we’re connected through the past even though we’re not connected now, like my emotions are bending backwards through time and reaching around to now.

I thought about that again the next week when I finally picked up my gear from Rob’s. Instead of feeling the baggage of the current moment I let myself feel that we were former friends, that now didn’t matter as much as then.

There’s a lot of people I can’t be friends with. Some of those friendships ended badly even. But that doesn’t have to take away that those friendships existed.

I often feel that if it doesn’t matter now then it never really did (as the song goes) and I’m pretty sure I’ve written in the past about how I usually feel rather than a friendship ending I always think we never were real friends at all, we just thought we were friends until we found out we weren’t.

After Simone though I obviously can’t say we were never anything, the part of our lives where we’re romantic partners is over but we still have a relationship, even though it’s just the relationship that we used to have a relationship.

I wasn’t sure what to expect to feel at Dickens when Caught Off Guard played. I was so nervous I drank my face off all day though. There was a night at Vern’s where I was around a lot of the old scene again and it was the hardest night I’ve had in years. But I still had a fun nervous energy before Dickens, that’s my style.

And ultimately it was good to see those guys on stage again. It took me back as opposed to being in the now, my feelings bent backward through time.

I can’t be friends with them again, I can’t even really talk to them again, and there’s a lot of people I can’t be friends with but I can be old friends with, former friends with. People can’t let you down if you invest nothing in them and that makes it easy to be comfortable. I just wish people hadn’t treated me that way when I thought we were active friends.

I put a lot into friendships, it’s all or nothing, life is too short to have half-friends.

Posted in Depression & Suicide, Pragmatism

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Posted in Depression & Suicide, Pragmatism