On Love

Who are all the people you love?

Love is give and take on a bedrock of vulnerability.

Love is expressed when you give of yourself to others. It is said that giving lovingly means that you don’t expect anything in return. But there’s more to it than that. Not all giving is loving even if the intent is well meaning. Behind the giving must exists a vulnerability, that you are giving something of yourself.  To give that without expecting vulnerability in return, that is a loving act. I think that’s what they meant in church when they said that “that he so loved the world he gave…”.

Huh. Who was it that said, “I don’t know what I think about something until I write it down”? Because that just happened.

What was your recent #lifeepiphany about love? Tell me in the comments.

On Telling My Parents Their Divorce Didn’t Cause My Depression

“Hey Siri.” Ding. “Dial Mum Mobile.”

I was in the car when I called Mum, a few days after reaching enlightenment. I had been sitting on the couch in the living room of my Life Coach when the wormhole he guided me down dawned into a rushing realisation.

“Hey Mum”

“Oh, hi darling”

Mum has a way of lengthening the vowel in “Oh” which sounds at first as though she could be doing anything more constructive than answering the phone, yet at the same time like she’s been awaiting the certain inevitability of this very call.

I wasn’t sure where to start so I did what I always do: bore my audience with background information in an amateur effect to build context.

I cut to the chase. “Mum I saw my Life Coach,” I braced for an audible eye roll. There wasn’t one. “I think I figured out where my Bipolar Disorder came from.”

I recounted a memory. It wasn’t a special memory; it hadn’t been repressed to come back in a brace of cold sweats. It was myself and my 2 years younger sister, Lisa, playing in the dirt in the back yard. We’re dressed the same in turquoise tracksuit pants and matching tops, matching navy and white-velcro shoes. Mine were on the wrong feet, having dressed my three-year-old self as I usually did back then. We were two cherubs with stamped foreheads and sticks in the mud, Lisa’s chin and ruddy cheeks suspiciously brown with dirt. There’s a dusty photo of this scene somewhere, both of us giggling uproariously.

In the guided meditation this memory bounced onto another one, perhaps 12 months later. The sodden green grass and rich dark earth gave way to freshly laid brick pavers, its summertime in this scene and Lisa and I are playing in a makeshift sandpit. It was actually the bucket or two remainder of the sand underlay that had been dumped onto the hard ground, we pair grabbing our beach pails and little fistfuls of sand. We lived nearly 100km from the nearest beach and laughing, we smiled for a photo. I don’t recall how long we played like this but my next memory was of looking around for more sand. My imagination was whirring and I had endless ideas I wanted to create with my hands in front of me, with my best imagination partner right there, reliably willing and able to help me create whole new imaginary worlds and hours and hours of completely absorbing play.

I knew immediately that there was no more sand. This was all we had and this wasn’t enough for me. My ballooning imagination that had been rushing to fantastical heights slammed shut. In that moment, I realised that my world wasn’t big enough for me and I was bound in. My little body felt a visceral stress response of that sensory depravation.

I realised that the physical panic of that moment had been with me ever since. The understanding of that moment hit me all at once like a tonne of bricks. I opened my eyes. I was crying.

My tone was conciliatory. “So you see Mum, it wasn’t your divorce that caused my depression,” Mum paused before responding.

“Well,” she said carefully, “it didn’t help.”

On The Topic of Dull Methodologies

I’ve come a long way since I realised I had a problem. Its taken me a while but the pointy end has been more recent so those who may not have known me for that long can’t see the evolution over time. Standing atop that mountain and looking over the spectacular view ahead of me, I reflect on the journey I took to get as far ahead as I have. Much like building tremendous strength in lifting, I maintain that only with putting one foot in front of the other and trudging up the trail can you ever get anywhere. The road to something amazing is spectacularly dull, as it were.

I was a shy kid who grew into a socially awkward adult that couldn’t read faces and had trouble understanding other people’s emotions because I didn’t know how to have feelings. I felt disconnected all the time. I’d look up at the sky and know that the world was beautiful but couldn’t actually feel it. I’d say it to myself over again that something was pretty and significant but nothing truly captured my heart. My high school sweetheart, an artist, was a hopeless romantic and always creating something or doing small kindnesses but they were all lost on me as I just accepted everything at face value and couldn’t see the emotion and feeling behind any of it. He stopped doing those things eventually.

I didn’t know why I was that way, but I knew I had to stop doing it.

At the time I was in university studying applied science and without deliberately designing it that way, I started experimenting with myself. I’d have my control group (I’m a scientist, not an engineer after all) which was my baseline feeling. I’d monitor what was happening and then reflect on that to find a variable or a group of related variables such as my behaviour or thought patterns and change them. I’d then experiment with those changes and see how I felt before reverting to the original baseline or keeping them. I didn’t apply this methodology to lifestyle habits until more recently. Those things are bastards to change.

What then happened is that I started to notice things. Back in my early twenties I used to hang out with a very broad crew of so-called ‘outcasts’ – metal heads, goths, gravers – who all prided their selves on how damaged they were. For the most part, a lot of them did have legitimate mental health issues and thus with all these broken people I felt at home. However very few of them were doing much more than taking anti-depressants, if anything prescribed at all. None were in therapy. Almost all were living for the weekend (regardless of what day of the week it was) and for many, spending it dropping eight-balls with ice chasers wasn’t uncommon.

I realised that I was getting better and they weren’t. I had found an objective measure of success.

Looking back this seems like easy pickings: don’t use drugs to mask your demons. Easier said than done when you look at all the ‘normal’ regular people who mask their demons with a myriad of other things: work, reality TV, sex, having more babies, home renovations. Harder still is when that’s all you have by way of influences. I’ve experimented with drugs to see if it was for me and to attempt to fit in with anything at all, but ultimately I felt that when you’re losing your mind the last thing I want is to lose what tenuous grip I have on it. So, I don’t do drugs and try to avoid getting out of control drunk.

I guess what I learned from this is that without someone holding my hand and without having relatable role models there was still space to carve my own path. It took a committment to what I knew deep down was right for me, and then the courage to do it. I still follow that rule, even though now I have built so many good relationships with people I admire and I expose myself constantly to more inspiring humans than I ever thought possible.

But sometimes I’ll still find myself in that little space where I feel disconnected from everyone, unable to figure out why the sky is beautiful. Except now I have built an out.

On The Topic of Fear

I feel scared. I feel scared a lot, actually. When I am scared I give it a moment to wash over me and feel the feeling. Then I hold it in my hands and turn it over like some million-squares rubix cube, trying to figure out what it is doing there in the first place.

I feel alone a lot, too. I grew up pretty isolated, physically as well as emotionally. The hallmark of my adult life has been to hold tight to my independence with both hands and not let go. I think the reason for that has been because I don’t like rules. The other day I articulated myself poorly in saying that I don’t like to be told what to do. That’s not true, I love being told what to do because I don’t like having to organise myself. What I wanted to describe is that I don’t like rules. When other people’s rules are forced on to me I stop and I get off the bus.

Many of my childhood memories are stained with the word NO. No, you can’t do that or no, we are not doing this. I am a normal adult but I developed quickly as a kid and the other side effect of having been neglected is that I was constantly under-stimulated. I felt trapped all the time like I was in solitary confinement and the warden was drunk and terrifying. I remember being so hungry but so scared of leaving my room because I didn’t know what I would find on the other side of the door of our tiny, suffocating little house. There would be no escape for a few years yet. The boredom still lurks around sometimes.

My only escape was to shut it all off. A short time later I had my first breakdown, at 15. It was brief but returned a year later. Again brief but this time I was really present with it and I was scared. Everything went cold and under me was a dark pool of terror.

I stopped feeling anything all together for the next eight years. The only thing I could feel in that time was rage or nothing.

I smiled, I laughed, I looked for love and lived my life but it was hollow.

It scares me looking back at those words and realising the gravity of it all. When you’re young none of this stuff matters because kids bounce and you still think you’re immortal and all you know is that nothing is certain and nothing is forever. You just went along with it.

But as time goes on you realise that even with all the work you’re putting into getting better and with all the work you’re putting into trying to live your life despite it all, some things you can’t fix in time before they become rusted on.

This is where I am now. I’ve fixed pretty much everything else but this fear of being trappend and under-stimulated remains. Until this point I’ve been trying to solve this rubix cube on my own. After that meeting I had the other day, I realised the missing piece was that I can’t. I need someone to hold my hand. I don’t want to face that on my own.

Now, I’m ready to start.